"Can someone please tell me why Zeiss, Contax, Rollei, Leica, Voitander, Linhoff, Schneider etc dont all band together and create a new 30mm x 30mm specification for lens mount and film/digital backs (ala the 4/3 format by Olympus, except a larger sensor size)."
Remember APS? Kodak disc? The 110 format? Betamax? The compact cassette?
Voigtlander is owned by Cosina. Rollei is Samsung. Contax is Yashica which is Kyocera which may not be anything before long. Leica is controlled by Hermes and it's on the ropes financially. I don't know about Zeiss, Linhof or Schneider. But what's in it for any of them?
Their own fault
When I was in my 20's Leica, Linhof and Rollei were pretty much in the drivers seat. Hasselblad was just getting their foot into the American door. Leica was not producing any SLR cameras and neither was Rollei. It seemed to me that the had a smug attitude that played directly into the hands of Nikon,Canon, Mamiya, Pentax. The Japanese produced innovative cameras at more resonable prices. It is NOT my opinion that these Japanese cameras were as good as their German counterparts. A s an example, although I owned a very satisfactory Nikon SP with 4 lenses I did not then as I do not now believe it equaled Leicas M series. Leica did some early development of an autofocus back when Pentax/Honeywell was the only game in town. The showed a system as I recall Correctofoc. They never produced it. In the USA Rollei pretty much gave Hasselblad the USA market by being slow to introduce their SL66. I do not believe that Hasselblad SLRs are inately superior to Rolleis but the damage was done as far as the USA market is concerned...they have, thankfully been market leaders in Europe.. In fact the Rollei SLR cameras could rightfully be considered the most technological 120 cameras ever produced. Too little too late
So, Leica now has financial problems. Leica rangefinder cameras, as far as I am concerned remain the gold standard for camera quality and handling but they chose to put themselves into a niche and are seeing the result. It is really sad.
Zeiss with their Contarex produced a fine 35mm camera but I believe the fact that it did not offer ground glass focussing was a very grave error. It took Zeiss a long time to get out of their ivory tower and build auto focus slr
lenses. This I believe has impacted Contax sales. Rolleis 35mm slr cameras were another good example of too late.
I believe with the proper engineering and manufacturing that first quality cameras can be built anywhere in the world that has an educated workforce available.
this explains wy Mercedes benz cars have become so crappy lately?
the trademark "Voigtlaender" came a long way since it was owned by Schering, ZeissIkon and Rollei, but it was never sold to a japanese Company. Today it is owned by a german retailers/Photoshop chain "Ringfoto", Cosina just licensed the brandname and Ringfoto is responsible for parts of the distribution.
Rollei isnīt Samsung anymore. The true owners are unknown to me, but there was a management buyout in the late 1990s when Samsung pulled out.
It's a fact that many of the German makers are competing with Japanese counterparts, some of whom make products in Southeast Asian countries where labor costs are appallingly cheap. I mean appallingly because the wages these people are paid are a shade above slave labor. That's another discussion, of course.
As we know, as Japanese society became more affluent, manufacturing costs rose. There are so many factors that this could just go on endlessly: use of plastics, mass production vs. hand built, individual testing vs. random testing, and on and on.
However, I think the original post presents an interesting idea. Why not combine efforts to develop a product that could be successful and price competitive? Makes sense to me. It would make sense for Leica and Zeiss to jointly develop a digital M camera, for example. Each could still continue to offer their own lenses. But cost of research and development and manufacturing would be shared -- even if the camera is made by Cosina in Japan. Same goes for digital technology in other areas.
I mean, heck, most of Europe was able to agree on a single currency. That in itself was tremendous. I was talking with an Italian fellow a while back, and he lamented the loss of the Lire. I gave him some old bills that I have had for many years. He seemed very grateful.
Maybe they just lost the mentality of "there comes a time to shoot the engineers, and move the product out the door"?
I had the loan of an M3 once, and it was probably the second-nicest camera I've ever handled. Certainly the quietest, and easy to carry and focus, as long as it wasn't too bright. But, it was made in an era when it was meant to be high-quality, working, equipment. Now they're overengineered to impress dentists/lawyers, and no longer sold as 'work equipment'. (though they'll certainly trade on that reputation)
Personally, I'd like to see something like the CV R2/R3 from Leica, where they give in to the polycarbonate body, but keep the Leica shutter, size, and fast-handling. If it sold for even twice a CV, that would put it into the price range of the Nikon F100s, where it would probably find a market. Making it with a factory-interchangeable back so that it could be a d*l (sorry) as well, using the same lenses at a similar price would make it more desirable. One body for work and fast output, and one for film, more personal work, and that which requires film resolution/permanence/look.
As for what's wrong with Mercedes, maybe they're channeling the spirit of Chrysler's K-Car?