"Leica" and "budget" tend not to be words you see side by side or even in the same sentence. But the Leica M-E rangefinder goes at least some distance to trim back the price of this classic rangefinder series. Is that "E" for economy? Not quite, but here's what we made of the M-E model when we went hands-on at Photokina.
In short the Leica M-E is like a redressed Leica M9. It's still got the full-frame, 18-megapixel CCD sensor, and the design's the same too. It does, however, come in a fetching grey finish (almost grey-blue in the dim light of the exhibition hall where it was shown) that we thought looked very nice indeed and the leather-like finish is akin to the Leica X2 in some ways.
The grey is the only available finish it comes in though, so you can't quite pretend you have a classic black-finished M9.
One other thing that is new is what's absent: We are, of course, talking about the "price cut" compared to the M9. The M-E will be available for £3,900 (body only), which puts it a full £1,200 below the brand new M model, also announced at Photokina for a 2013 launch.
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The M-E is a very clever prospect then. You've always wanted an M9 but still haven't quite saved enough? Why not get a brand new M-E? It has all the features, but doesn't benefit from the larger, more resolute screen, live view or movie modes of the top-spec M model. Those last two points aren't necessarily going to concern many Leica shooters anyway.
So there you have it, an M9 on a budget. Shame about the so-so quality 2.8-inch screen, but we already know you can't argue about the exceptional image quality and "unique" rangefinder way of working. Hot stuff.