If you've heard of Leica, then you probably know your way around a nice camera... or at least a very expensive one. The German manufacturer, a private company that's over 150 years old, specializes in extremely well-crafted point-and-shoot and swappable lens cameras, plus lenses for a few other camera makers. With prices that start at around $1000 for the cheapest models and go up to over 20 grand for specialty and professional cameras, they're generally restricted to the most extravagant of luxury buyers or career photographers.

It's interesting, then, that Leica has announced a "strategic partnership" with Huawei, China's biggest smartphone manufacturer and a rising player on the world stage. From the press release:

Today Huawei Consumer Business Group (BG) and Leica Camera AG are delighted to announce the start of a strategic partnership, a co-operation with shared premium ambitions and spirit, which will see both technology and photography brands combining their shared ethos in a long-term commitment to the art of craftsmanship, meticulous engineering and the spirit of winning collaboration, to create a powerhouse in the reinvention of smartphone photography. 

The two companies have yet to announce any fruits of the partnership, but it seems reasonable to assume that Huawei phones and Leica cameras will benefit from the experience of the opposite partner. Leica-branded lenses would be a natural fit for a high-end smartphone, as with Nokia's partnership with Carl Zeiss optics and the resulting Lumia 1020. A super-premium cameraphone with advanced technology, like DSLR-style optical image stabilization or perhaps even a miniaturized optical zoom mechanism a la the ZenFone Zoom, is not out of the question.

But it's even more interesting to consider what Leica might gain from Huawei. While enormously respected, the camera company is somewhat old-fashioned, and has not integrated the latest digital enhancements into its camera line. That's doubly true for software. That being the case, imagine a device that combined Huawei's expertise in mobile electronics with Leica's mastery of optics and industrial design - it could be like the Galaxy Camera, only actually good. Just try not to imagine the price.

Press Release

Today Huawei Consumer Business Group (BG) and Leica Camera AG are delighted to announce the start of a strategic partnership, a co-operation with shared premium ambitions and spirit, which will see both technology and photography brands combining their shared ethos in a long-term commitment to the art of craftsmanship, meticulous engineering and the spirit of winning collaboration, to create a powerhouse in the reinvention of smartphone photography.  

In 2012, Huawei became the world's third-largest smartphone manufacturer and was the first Chinese company to sell more than 100 million mobile phones in one year in 2015. The first Chinese brand to appear on the prestigious Interbrand Best Global Brands list in 2014, Huawei soared to number 88 in 2015 whilst launching the globally critically acclaimed Huawei Watch and Huawei P8. In 2016, Huawei looks to build on its success with Leica Camera: a mutually beneficial collaboration with the most iconic name in the photographic world to bring joint superior excellence to consumers.

For over 100 years, premium iconic camera manufacturer Leica Camera has been creating lightweight cameras favoured by street photographer pioneers and world-class optical lenses, fulfilling the passions of its community. With ingenious optical engineering and formidable craftsmanship, Leica cameras, recognisable by their 'red dot' branding, are German engineering at its best, and continue to attract new generations of consumers who aspire to achieve "the Leica look" and own these masterpieces of design. In addition to making precision-crafted masterpieces, Leica supports prominent photographers and emerging new talent around the world.

Richard Yu, CEO of the Huawei Consumer BG said: "We choose our partners carefully, and with this extraordinary collaboration we are offering our wide customer base and consumers the best elements of two expert brands in harmony: combining innovation and design, enhancing the user experience and continuing to inspire amazing advancement in human technology through exceptional premium imaging quality. Leica is a legend in the world of photography; we believe no other manufacturer has revolutionised the industry as much as them. We, Huawei, take the utmost pride in exceptional quality and Leica is in a class of its own in its sector."

Oliver Kaltner, CEO of Leica Camera AG said: "The strategic alliance between Huawei and Leica Camera demonstrates the desire of two rapidly growing and globally active brands to continuously push the envelope of the technologically possible. In addition to innovative strength and premium standards, our two companies are united by the commitment to uncompromising quality. The technology partnership with Huawei offers Leica Camera an excellent opportunity to introduce its proven optical expertise into a new product segment and to unlock exciting business areas in the field of mobile devices. Smartphones make a very important contribution to the world of photography and open an important door for Leica to new target groups and fields of application."

"The legendary status of the Leica brand is founded on a long tradition of innovation, highest precision and craftsmanship. I'm pleased and convinced that the traditional German medium-sized company Leica Camera will bring its values and comprehensive expertise in optical engineering to the long-term partnership with Huawei in order to achieve the best possible imaging results in the field of smartphone photography - and to take it to the next level of quality", emphasizes Dr Andreas Kaufmann, majority shareholder and chairman of the supervisory board of Leica Camera AG.

More details on the culmination of Huawei and Leica's partnership, which will span research and development, design, co-engineering, user experience, marketing and retail distribution, will be shared as the partnership continues.