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3 times camera brands failed with phones – what the Lecia Leitz 1 could learn

Leica has taken the wraps off its first phone – and as you can probably guess the focus of the Android device is the camera.

Available exclusively in Japan and built-in partnership with Sharp, the Leitz 1 mimics the style of the legendary brand’s range of highly desirable cameras.

Leica is no stranger to phones and it has partnered with Huawei on multiple occasions before, slapping its branding across many entries in the P and Mate series.

This also isn’t the first time a big camera brand has tried to transfer its expertise to phones. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out particularly well in the past.

Will Leica manage to avoid joining these photography heavyweights in smartphone embarrassment? Only time will tell, but history doesn’t bode well.

Hydrogen One

Arguably one of the biggest smartphone failures of all time, the Hydrogen One was massively hyped by cinematography brand Red in the run-up to release in 2018.

The much-delayed device had a 3D display and a set of pins on the back that were supposedly there to allow you to connect a range of high-end camera add-ons, like a viewfinder, to the phone. These never materialised.

It was wildly expensive at $1300 and clearly disappointed many when it eventually saw a release.

The phone never arrived in the UK and we never managed to get our hands on one. In The Verge’s damning review of the Hydrogen One just about everything was criticised, from the camera performance to the poor display and bulky build.

You won’t be surprised to hear a Hydrogen Two was quickly cancelled.

Kodak Ektra

The Ektra was a 2016 phone that was supposed to take inspiration from the Kodak Ektra camera. As you can probably guess, it wasn’t very good.

Built in partnership with Bullit Group (the people behind the Land Rover and JCB phones), the phone had a decent look with a faux leather back that did sort of look like a camera.

Shame the photos captured by the Ektra were awful and the performance equally bad.

Hasselblad True Zoom

Hasselblad partnered with OnePlus earlier this year. The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro carried some branding and a camera app inspired by the Swedish brand.

While the results weren’t revolutionary, they were far from bad. So why has Hasselblad found its way into this list?

Well, the partnership with OnePlus wasn’t the first time we’ve seen that name emblazoned on something smartphone-related.

The Hasselblad True Zoom was an add-on for the Moto Mod modular phone system, a short-lived line of accessories for Motorola devices. The True Zoom was a camera attachment that added a 12MP camera, 10x optical zoom and a physical shutter button to compatible phones.

While it sounds like a clever idea, the result wasn’t great. In our True Zoom review we said, “While the Hasselblad True Zoom as a concept is great, the execution isn’t quite there. As you likely won’t keep the Hasselblad True Zoom permanently attached to your Moto Z, it’s not going to be vastly more inconvenient to carry a superior-performing compact camera around with you and you won’t also be sacrificing battery life of your phone.

Leica Phone 1

How can Leica avoid joining this list?

The obvious thing about all these phones and accessories is that they weren’t actually very good at taking pictures, usually going for style over substance.

While the Leica Leitz 1 certainly has style, it’s the substance and the skill of the camera that’ll actually make it one of the best camera phones around.

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