The new Leica M (2013) pictures and hands-on
There's something to be said for Leica cameras. The M-series is rather like the fine art of the camera world: the M9, for example, has its Pollock-esque imperfections, but they add to its charm. Pop a Leica lens on the front of the M9 rangefinder and, well, need we say more? It's imaging perfection.
So it's great to see the M-series getting an update, not to the "M10" as was expected, but to "the new M" which, although it sounds on paper like the new burger from McDonald's is, fortunately, a considerably more tasty prospect. And a more pricey one given the hefty £5,100 asking price for the body alone.
But it's a Leica, that's just how these things are: you pay for the materials, the exclusivity, the hand-crafted perfection and that German design. Okay, so it's a bit of a block, but those robust good looks are undeniably elegant.
The new name is fair enough, but when the next M-series comes out in however many years' time we'll be calling it by its release year in a very Apple-esque format. We might not like it, but we doubt imaging enthusiasts will sniff at the idea too much. It's not about the numbers, it's about the pictures.
So, to the meat of it: the new M is going to get Leica fans very excited. This camera has been totally redesigned and now includes an exclusive-to-Leica 24-megapixel full-frame (35mm) CMOS imaging sensor. It's not something that we've been able to test out here, but the use of CMOS rather than the M9's CCD construction has enabled 1080p video capture in the latest M. A movie-capture Leica M? Who'd have ever thought.
Live view is another new feature that allows the rangefinder to be used in an entirely different way, via the rear screen. It might not be the die-hard traditionalist's method of use, but the classic optical viewfinder still takes pride of place on this camera, glowing near-white crop marks (lens dependent) included.
For us it's the screen that's one of the biggest improvements. This Pocket-linter has had many a moan about how poor the M9's screen quality was - it seemed nonsensical to launch such a premium camera with a low-resolution screen. The new M fixes this issue: the 3-inch LCD screen is not only larger, its 921k-dot resolution is also far better than its predecessor and it's protected by scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass. Still, considering the price tag at the very least, we're surprised Leica doesn't go one step further and utilise a ground-breaking screen resolution; we're yet to see a qHD, 720p or greater resolution LCD screen on a camera. Perhaps a missed opportunity.
The camera's layout, while similar to its predecessor, has six left-side buttons to the rear instead of five (one is for live view), while the d-pad has been raised further up the body and sits near to a rear thumbwheel.
The new M's body is the teeniest, tiniest bit larger than its predecessor too, though it's hard to tell. Add the optional hand grip and it takes on a yet more dominating, weighty form. But we like weight when it's the good kind: something that the solid brass top and bottom plates coupled with the self-contained, die-cast magnesium alloy body bring in abundance.
As well as Leica M lens compatibility, the new M also caters for Leica R lenses.
It's far from a consumer camera, but we're suckers for quality, high-end camera gear. This Leica pretty much hits the nail on the head and tops our "would like to have, even if just to show off" list.