Leica, the company best known for its soul-fryingly expensive, lovingly hand-crafted high-end rangefinder cameras, recently launched the Sofort. It’s a $300 Polaroid-style instant camera that aims to “make photography tangible.” When getting up close and tangible, it turns out that the camera is lovely and all, but ultimately too expensive and not as Leica-like as some photographers might like.
At the Photokina photography show, I had a chance to get my grubby mitts on the newest chip off the old Leica block. It was a moderately interesting experience. The camera is lighter than you’d expect from an item carrying the red-dot logo and I have to admit — the first impression I got was one of “gee, how the mighty have fallen.”
I hoped it was just a first impression, but the newest baby Leica failed to win me over. Maybe Leica’s brand extension it isn’t quite as bad as Hasselblad, who’ve taken to sticking bits of expensive wood on Sony cameras and calling it a day and lending its illustrious name to weird cameras that connect to the backs of cell phones using magnets, but it isn’t far off.
“The Leica SOFORT differs from other instant cameras in a number of essential aspects: the unmistakeable styling and look were developed especially for the camera by the Leica design team,” the company proclaims on its website. “A choice of colors in orange, white and mint reflect the light-hearted fun and fascination of instant photography.”
Awfully similar to Fujifilm’s Instax range
Sure, it’s a nice enough compact instant camera, but the same money buys you an Impossible Project I-Type camera (which includes Bluetooth remote controllability for creative effects and shoots on the original Polaroid-sized film) or a whole library of second-hand original Polaroid 600 cameras. Or three Fujifilm Instax Mini 70 cameras, which are really quite similar to the Leica camera — down to the selfie mirror on the front of the camera.
Now that I mentioned Fujifilm’s obvious competitor — the Sofort shoots on Instax Mini-compatible film. While Leica does sell film with its own branding, and what it claims are unique characteristics, the company was less than forthcoming about the exact pricing for the consumables. The film will be available in color and monochromatic varieties, which in itself is interesting from a timing point of view, given that Fujifilm themselves announced black and white film for its Instax Mini range a couple of weeks ago.
Look, don’t get me wrong. It’s a perfectly fine instant camera and, given it ships in November, it will no doubt find its way underneath many a Christmas tree this year. The main problem I have with the Sofort is that by its very nature it is a lo-fi-tastic product. Fun? Sure, but too expensive and not deserving of the Leica brand.
Of course, literally none of what I’ve written here actually matters. If you’re the kind of person who will buy anything with a Leica logo on it, you’ll already have added it to your Christmas list. Indeed, you won’t even be reading this: Either because you don’t care, or because you’ve already scrolled down to the comments to announce you will never read TechCrunch ever again.