Leica reveals the Leica M and the stripped back M-E
Since the introduction of the Leica M3 in 1954, the German camera manufacturer has generally distinguished its flagship rangefinders with numbers – prompting generations of photographers to lust after the M4, M6 or M9. However, each new generation of M camera will now simply be known as the "Leica M". But the camera formerly known as the M10 isn't all about the name change, it's also the first M-series to boast a CMOS sensor, Live View and HD video.
Lecia also used Photokina 2012 to announce the release of an "affordable" rangefinder, the Leica M-E, which is essentially a slightly stripped back M-series camera.
Soon to be coveted by would-be Leica shooters the world over is the Leica M, the first Leica rangefinder to feature a CMOS sensor (the M9 and even the M-Monochrom used a CCD). This 24 megapixel full-frame 35mm format sensor is paired with a Leica Maestro processor, which is said to bring new levels of image-processing speed to the M-series. As such, the M is capable of shooting 3 frames per second and has an ISO range of 200-6400 (expandable to 100).
The other big first for the Leica M is the addition of Live View, a feature which has been deployed in DSLRs, and even compact cameras, for some time. What makes this a big deal in the Leica, is that it means for the first time images can be composed using the actual image produced by the lens (both M and R lenses) and that 1080p Full HD video is now a possibility at 25 or 24 frames per second.
Users can use either the LCD on the rear, or an optional Visoflex EVF2 electronic viewfinder to make the most of Live View, which also adds two additional focusing methods, "Live View Zoom" and "Live View Focus Peaking", to the new camera. In Live View Zoom, users can view a 10x magnification for precise focusing, while Live View Focus Peaking displays contours of a subject as red lines to allow easier focus assessment.
As is to be expected from a Leica M, the top and base plates are machined from solid brass, while the full-metal chassis is a completely self-contained, die-cast element manufactured from high-strength magnesium alloy. Rubber seals protect the camera body against dust, spray and moisture while there are all the direct manual setting options you'd normally find on an M-series.
There's a new layout to the menu interface and dedicated controls have been provided for the new features, video recording is activated by a button on the top plate, while Live View Zoom and Live View Focus Peaking can be selected with the new focus button on the front of the camera. On the rear there's a 3 inch 920,000 pixel screen which is covered with scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass.
A new Leica R-Adapter M, allows almost all Leica R-Lenses ever built to be mounted on the M, while the Multifunctional Handgrip-M adds GPS geotagging, a socket for an external power supply and an integrated USB socket. The Leica M will be available in black paint or silver chrome finish, from early 2013 at a price of US$6,950.
While the Leica M will gain all the new mod cons, the Leica M-E has been introduced to offer would-be Leica-wielders a more affordable way into the M-system, with Leica claiming the entry- level model represents the "essence of rangefinder photography."The Leica M-E uses the same 18 megapixel full-frame CCD sensor as the M9 and will instantly feel familiar to traditional rangefinder shooters, there's no Live View or video recording, but there is familiar manual focusing and exposure, along with the classic Leica build quality. The Leica M-E has an ISO range of 160-2500 and a burst speed of 2 frames per second.
The new unobtrusive camera features top and base plates finished in anthracite-gray paint and is finished with a leather-style trim to improve grip. On the rear there is a dated but functional 2.5-inch LCD screen with a 230k-dot resolution.
Sure there's quite a few features missing compared to the Leica M, but a big chunk of the price is also "missing" from the Leica M-E, it will be available this month for $5,450. That's a saving of $1500 if you can do without the Live View, CMOS and video recording … all things which Leica users have been doing without for years.