While the new Nikon and Canon mirrorless cameras can use existing lenses with an adapter, Panasonic decided to take a different approach in order to launch a full frame mirrorless that already has several lenses available: the L-Mount. Leica, Sigma and Panasonic have created the L-Mount Alliance that allows users to mix bodies and lenses from different brands for full frame and APS-C cameras.
Like the standard Micro Four Thirds mount created by Olympus and Panasonic, the L-Mount alliance allows lenses from different brands to fit the same camera body. The upcoming full frame mirrorless Panasonic Lumix S1R and S1 will launch with eight Leica lenses already available. Sigma will also soon launch L-mount lenses, including lenses from the popular Art series. Panasonic is planning three lenses for 2019 and a total of ten L-Mount lenses by 2020.
The L-Mount, which is already used in the Leica SL, Leica TL2, and Leica CL camera bodies, will eventually allow photographers to mix and match Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma products. The move would make it possible for photographers to use lenses and bodies from the different brands without completely buying into a new lens family.
The L-Mount uses a short flange distance of 20 millimeters — that means the lens and sensor are closer together. That shorter distance allows the autofocus system to take up less space, creating more compact lenses as a result. Leica also says that the shorter distance between the lens and sensor also improves autofocus speed.
The L-Mount is designed for a full frame sensor, but can be mounted on APS-C sensors with a crop factor, allowing for additional versatility. The L-Mount is a bayonet mount made from stainless steel for better durability, the new L-Mount website says. Four tabs help hold the lens securely to the camera body. The electronic components allow the lens and camera to communicate, which is necessary for EXIF data and for updating firmware, among other features.
For now, the L-Mount includes the Leica SL, Leica TL2, Leica CL, and the upcoming Panasonic Lumix S1R and S1 cameras. Leica remains the owner of the L-Mount with Sigma and Panasonic as licensees. The partnership isn’t entirely unusual — Panasonic has had a partnership to produce Leica lenses for the G series since 2001, for example — but it allows for cross-compatibility across three different brands.
“The three companies are competitors who manufacture and sell cameras and lenses,” the new L-Mount website says. “However, when we consider each company’s standing point and strengths, there are very few areas where they interfere with each other. This is an exceptionally balanced partnership, and thus the three companies decided to form this alliance to utilize the versatile mount and provide a great benefit to various customers as the customers will now have access to a rich lens lineup and a comprehensive camera system. The aim of the L-Mount Alliance is to provide customers with a diverse and future-proof range of products previously unheard of in the premium system camera segment.”
While original rumors called for Leica, Sigma, and Panasonic to work together on a full frame camera, the new Lumix S1R and S1 is designed by Panasonic — it just uses the L-Mount as a result of the alliance. The group of companies does say, however, that jointly developed products are a possibility. The website also states that additional partners could also be announced.
“In the rapidly growing market for mirrorless system cameras, users seek increasingly greater product diversity to fulfill a wide range of different photographic needs,” said Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Leica Camera AG chairman of the supervisory board. “To meet these needs, we have decided to work together with prominent partners in the photographic segment. Our long-established partnership with Panasonic is a collaboration based on mutual trust, and the company’s expertise in the area of electronics is unquestioned. SIGMA is also a highly respected company that has become firmly established, especially in the areas of optical design and lens manufacturing, and is able to perfectly complement our existing portfolio of L-Mount products.”