The alliance continues Leica’s close relationship with Panasonic (existing since 2001), but now involves Sigma in a joint program which will build a full-frame mirrorless camera system based on Leica’s L mount which was introduced with the SL (actually the second FF mirrorless camera on the market after Sony’s A7 series).

Image: Leica, Sigma, Panasonic

All three companies appear to benefit from the alliance which will give photographers the choice of Leica and Panasonic Lumix camera bodies mated with Leica, Panasonic and Sigma lenses. The L mount is a four-claw bayonet – emphasising strength and faster interchanging – with an internal diameter of 51.6 millimetres and a flange back distance of 20 millimetres. As with Nikon’s Z mount, the emphasis will be on larger maximum aperture lenses and Leica announced plans for three f2.0-speed primes for launch between now and 2020 – 21mm, 24mm and 28mm. This will give a total of 11 Leica L mount lenses to which will be added three from Panasonic (with another seven to come by 2020) and an unspecified number from Sigma, but it’s safe to expect that all the Art series lenses now in Sony’s FE mount will also appear in L mount sooner or later. It was interesting to note that Leica Camera AG’s chairman, Dr Andreas Kaufmann, praised Sigma for its optical quality – a very big compliment indeed coming from this company – which is one reason why it’s been welcomed into the alliance. Sigma’s CEO, Kazuto Yamaki, revealed the company was considering a full frame mirrorless system of its own – which would have been very brave – but that the L mount represented the “ideal system”.

Image: Panasonic

Panasonic followed Leica’s press conference, fleshing out its contribution to the L Mount Alliance which initially comprises two camera bodies and three lenses. Obviously keen to allay concerns about the future of the Micro Four Thirds format, Panasonic emphasised that its new Lumix S series cameras are “specialised for professionals” and that “… FF and MFT will co-exist and grow simultaneously”. Nevertheless, it is significant that Panasonic has made the move into a full frame mirrorless camera system, following Nikon and Canon, and consequently contributing to a rapidly changing landscape in ILC cameras.

Image: Panasonic

Panasonic’s new Lumix S series cameras are the S1R with a 47 megapixels sensor and the S1 with 24 megapixels on tap. As with Nikon’s Z series cameras, the two will share the same bodyshell, but differ in some performance specs. The S1 bodies will be “100 percent sealed” and also insulated, with dual memory card slots for XQD and SD. That’s another vote from the camera world for the future viability of the high-speed XQD card format. Other key features include Panasonic’s ‘Dual I.S.’ system (i.e. a combo of IBIS and optical stabilisation), a high-res EVF, a three-axis tilt LCD monitor and 4K video at 60/50 fps. The announced Lumix S lenses are a 50mm f1.4, a 24-105mm zoom and a 70-200mm zoom. Availability is “early 2019”.

The L Mount Alliance is a very significant announcement indeed and, of course, means there’s yet more competition for Sony which, of course, still has a significant head start on its chasers. Nevertheless with a group of camera brand ‘heavy hitters’ – Canon, Leica, Nikon, Panasonic and Sigma – committing to a full-frame mirrorless camera future, big changes in photography are once again in the air. Visit http://www.l-mount.com