The Leica R10
Andreas Kaufmann, Leica's CEO, had announced at an informal press briefing during the Photokina industry fair in September 2008 that his company was working on a new flagship for its R-series of single lens reflex cameras. The R10 was expected to benefit from the development of Leica's S2 medium format digital camera and feature a full-frame digital imaging sensor while gaining autofocus capability. It would thereby be able to accept a new line of AF-lenses, possibly including those developed for the S2, as well as the existing manual focus R-system optics. However, in March 2009 Leica announced that it would not pursue the development of the R10 and discontinue the production of its R-series of SLR cameras and lenses altogether.
The Leica press release (24 March 2009) read as follows:
For more than 40 years the Leica R-System has played an important role within the Leica product portfolio. However new camera developments have significantly affected the sales of Leica R cameras and lenses resulting in a dramatic decrease in the number sold. Sadly therefore there is no longer an economic basis on which to keep the Leica R-System in the Leica production programme. At the beginning of March 2009 authorised Leica photo dealers were informed by Leica Camera AG that the production of the SLR camera, Leica R 9 as well as R-lenses would therefore be discontinued.
Few technical details have been confirmed, but it seems likely that the R10 would have been equipped with many of the features later found in the S2 and M9. These include notably a full-frame (24x36mm) imaging sensor produced by Kodak with a megapixel count of at least 18 MP (that is the sensor size of the M9). Also, Leica had developed an autofocus module for its S2 and related lenses that could have been passed on to the R10. Size-wise, the R10 would likely have been based on the R9.
Omar Pirela Neuman, the author of a concept design video, goes further and suggests that the R10 might have also been equipped with the following features:
- symmetrical design to ease operation for left (and right)-handed photographers;
- ability to mount S-sytem and (via an adapter) legacy R-system lenses;
- two tripod sockets for improved balance with different lenses;
- two batteries in handgrip for increased autonomy;
- two SD card slots to provide for storage back-up;
- direct access buttons below the LCD screen;
- a four inch Amolet rear-screen;
- two large thumb-wheels to adjust sensitivity and shutter speed; and
- a build-in HDMI port.
In any case and apart from speculative design concepts, taking advantage of the autofocus capability of an R10 body would have required users to build up an entire new line of AF-lenses. The resulting expense would have been considerable. The costs of the body alone would have amounted to something between USD 7,000 (the price of an M9) and USD 23,000 (the price of an S2) and could have easily doubled with a basic set of new AF-lenses. Such a heavy price tag would have confined the R10 to a small niche market for affluent Leica R-system aficionados, as many studio professionals might have preferred the S2 with its larger 37.5 MP sensor. At the same time, the R10 would likely have struggled to attract photographers from other major brands. The full-frame competition from Canon, Nikon and Sony with their associated AF-lens lines would have been just too well established to sell significant numbers of R10s to former Canikony users. Hence, Leica eventually decided not to go ahead with the new camera. It was probably not an easy decision for management given the company's 45 year history of R-system cameras and lenses, but probably a commercially reasonable one.
A comparison of all the Leicaflex and Leica R cameras is contained in the Leica R compendium. A corresponding overview of R-series lenses with their headline specifications is equally accessible on this site. And if you have recently won the lottery and would like to treat yourself to the ultimate in tele-photography, check out the APO-Telyt 5.6/1600mm, which is thought to be the world's most expensive lens ever sold.