Leica Announces a Slimmer M—the M10, But Unfortunately Makes Your Wallet Slim As Well

Leica M10 With Summicron 50mm f/2

Leica announced their new M-series digital rangefinder today, the M10, featuring a slimmer body. I’ve always felt that the other M bodies have been rather thick compared to other cameras, so in a way, we can say that the M’s diet has finally worked. Being no stranger to marketing spiels, Leica dubs the M10 a camera that “embodies the essence of photography like no other camera before,” Leica says. It seems that every Leica body features some sort of essence of photography in one way or another, so I wonder what really is the difference.

Leica M10 Top Plate. ISO dial is on the left.

Being rather outdated in terms of technology by now, Leica brings the M10 slightly more up-to-date with the addition of WiFi—a first in the M series—allowing you to transfer images to your mobile device. An ISO dial has also been added to the top plate, allowing you to adjust your ISO setting without having to go through a menu system.

The rangefinder on the M10 is now improved, with a 30% increase in the field of view and the magnification has been increased to 0.73x (up from 0.68x.) The eyepoint is now 50% farther, making it much easier for specs-wearing shooters.

To be on the same level as their competitors, Leica has incorporated a new 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor with better dynamic range, sharpness, resolution and contrast in the M10. ISO range is now expanded, allowing photographers to shoot from ISO 200 through 50,000.

With a price tag of US$6595, your wallet will definitely be slim! You can pre-order one starting right this moment.

 

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Leica Runs Out of Ideas, Releases the LCD-less M-D (Typ 262) Camera

Leica M-D Back
Leica M-D (Typ 262) Back

What can you do when your company runs out of ideas? In the case of Leica Camera AG, they pulled all their marketing stops and came up with the M-D (Typ 262). The camera omits the rear LCD screen commonly found in just about every digital camera nowadays. Shocking!

It is touted to “embody the entire range of technical advantages perfected over decades in the Leica rangefinder system,” while intentionally leaving out “all but the most essential technical features.” Even Leica’s famous  “Red dot” has been eschewed from the camera’s facade to lend itself an “unobtrusive appearance”, in line with Leica’s spirit of “Das Wesentliche” (The Essentials). Obviously, the camera doesn’t have Live View or video capabilities, either.

Leica M-D (Typ 262)
Leica M-D (Typ 262)

Specs wise, there’s nothing much to shout about. It has a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor and a Leica Maestro image processor. All images are saved as DNG RAW files. The shutter and cocking system has been made quieter than the other Leicas, making for a truly inconspicuous shooting experience. It can shoot up to a measly two three frames a second. But Leica users are not known for rapid fire shots anyway, so this is no biggie.

This stripped down camera will be for sale at a cool US$5,995.

Leica fanboys are going to gush over this and wax lyrical about all that minimalism that it provides. But you know what? Why not take just about any camera, or even the Leica that you might have, or buy a used Leica M9 or something, and gaffer tape over that LCD? That will only cost you like $5.

As for Leica, we have some ideas for your next camera. If you do choose to adopt them, please remember to credit us!

  1. Limit the number of shots per memory card to 24 or 36. This will evoke a sense of nostalgia for the film shooters, bringing them back to the good old days of 24 or 36 exposure Kodak Tri-X film.
  2. While you are at that, why not lock the ISO to whatever’s set on the first shot? For example, if the owner set his ISO to 400, inserted a card and took a shot, all other shots will be locked at ISO 400. This also harks back to the good old film days of getting stuck with one ISO per roll.
  3. Have a feature which wipes out all the shots if < 36 (or 24) shots were taken on the memory card if the owner opens the memory card door. Perfectly emulates the case where you open the back of your camera before the roll is finished and ruin everything! Alternatively, the firmware can apply a random light leak/flare effect to the photos taken.
  4. Finally, since we are going back to basics with the “Das Wesentliche” movement, why not re-instate the film advance lever in a future digital M? You can even have two versions—single stroke and double stroke—perfectly emulating iconic Leica M3 film camera of yesterday. I am sure many Leica aficionados will be willing to pay for this!
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Leica Launches the SL—Pricey 24MP Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

Leica SL with Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4
Leica SL with Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4

German luxury camera maker Leica has announced the Leica SL, an entirely new mirrorless camera in the likes of the Sony A7 series. In fact, it does look like the Sony A7 series of mirrorless cameras. Although the Leica M series are also technically “mirrorless” cameras, Leica and its aficionados would object to that moniker, preferring to call it a “digital rangefinder” camera.

The Leica SL has a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor with a max ISO of 50,000. Like most modern cameras nowadays, there is no optical low-pass filter, ensuring the sharpest possible images at the expense of more chances of moiré.

Leica says that the SL has the “fastest autofocus in the market”, featuring a 2GB buffer that lets you shoot up to 11 full resolution photos in a second. It is able to save the images to the dual SD slot in both 8-bit JPEG and 14-bit RAW DNG formats simultaneously.

The most impressive feature of the SL is probably the EVF. It features a magnification of 0.8x and has 4MP, the highest we’ve seen in a mirrorless camera so far. This exceeds that of the Sony A7RII and the Fuji X-T1, both of which already have excellent EVFs.

Having said that, I really wonder if Leica really meant 4MP or 4 million dots. There’s a big difference between the two, since a LCD/EVF pixel is made up of 3 dots (subpixels.) If it’s really 4 million dots, the effective resolution is only 1.33MP, which is lower than both the Fuji and Sony.

Leica says that the EVF, dubbed the Leica EyeRes, has such a high refresh rate that the image will always be smooth and consistent. Pressing the shutter half-way lets you preview what the final shot will be like.

Leica SL EyeRes EVF
Leica SL EyeRes EVF

The LCD is a more common 1.04MP variety with a viewing angle of 170º. It is also touch sensitive and also scratch resistant. The Leica SL is built to be rugged and weather sealed, with a body made of solid aluminium. Other features include Wifi, GPS and 4K video.

Three lenses are announced together with the SL in what’s known as the “L” mount—a Leica Vario Elmarit SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4, Leica APO Vario Elmarit SL 90-280mm f/2.8-4 and Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4. The 24-90 will be available together with the camera, while the other two will be available from early 2016 and late 2016 respectively. Existing Leica T lenses will be compatible with the SL, while S, M and R lenses will be usable via additional adaptors.

Leica - 3 lenses
Leica – 3 lenses

Interestingly, there’s also a Leica SF40 flash, which looks exactly like a Nissin i40. Of course, the red dot edition will also cost you a premium over the Nissin.

Leica SL with SF40 Flash Unit
Leica SL with SF40 Flash Unit

One thing I’ve noticed is that the Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4, which has a filter size of 82mm. When used with the SL, it makes the whole combination look humongous. And isn’t the idea of using a mirrorless camera to have a small and lightweight setup? With this kind of size, I think Leica users are more likely to use a small and light prime instead.

The Leica SL (Typ 601) will be available from November 16, 2016 with a cool price of US$7,450. The 24-90mm f/2.8-4 will be available at the same time for U$4,950.

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Leica Q Image Quality

Yesterday, Leica launched their Leica Q full-frame compact camera, getting Leicaphiles all over the world excited. There was a press event here, and one of my friends Wilson Wong of WilzWorkz sent me a DNG file of a test shot that he has taken in the event. He was rather concerned about the presence of banding lines in the dark areas of the shot.  Here is the original file:

Leica Q @ ISO 100. Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.
Leica Q @ ISO 100, 1/4s @ f/2.8. Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.

Initially, I didn’t really see any banding, so I decided to boost the exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to +3.6EV. The following is a 100% crop of the area shown by the red box above. Wow! OH WOW. JUST LOOK AT THAT!!

10)% crop of Leica Q @ ISO 100 Boosted +3EV (Red box in the full shot above.) Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.
100% crop of Leica Q @ ISO 100 Boosted +3EV (Red box in the full shot above.)
Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.

We were also puzzled by a rather weird phenomenon. The bokeh “balls” appear to have some dust in them. Look at the black spots in the bokeh below. Since this was a ISO 100 shot at f/2.8 and it’s a fixed-lens camera, it is probably not sensor dust.

Dirty Bokeh from Leica Q (Yellow box in the full photo above.) Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.
Dirty Bokeh from Leica Q (Yellow box in the full photo above.) Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.

Just to give a comparison, here’s a shot from my Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600. First, the entire image.

Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600

Now, let’s look at the area in the red box, also boosted by +3.6EV.

Fujifilm X-T1 ISO 1600 Crop
Fujifilm X-T1 ISO 1600 +3.6EV

Let’s take it up to +5EV.

Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600 +5EV
Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600 +5EV

You can see that it’s mostly noise. Bear in mind this is ISO 1600 compared to the ISO 100 of the Leica Q.

Just for kicks, here’s a ISO 1600 image from a Nikon D100 shot in JPEG mode.

Nikon D100 @ ISO 1600
Nikon D100 @ ISO 1600

Here it is again, boosted by +3.6EV. LOTS and LOTS of chroma noise, but hardly any banding. Bear in mind this is a 13-year old camera.

Nikon D100 ISO 1600 +3.6EV
Nikon D100 ISO 1600 +3.6EV

Yes, it’s not the same lighting conditions, but regardless of that, the banding should not appear. This is not the kind of image quality which a US$4,000 camera should deliver.

I’ll be meeting up with Wilson to get a more hands-on experience and to get further tests done. But at the moment, it sure looks disappointing.

Many thanks to Wilson for letting us post his sample.

YS: Once again the Emperor has no clothes. I’m looking forward to the flames.

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Leica Launches the Leica Q 24-megapixel Full-Frame Fixed Lens Compact Camera With a 28mm f/1.7 Lens

Leica Q
Leica Q

While we are all getting excited over Sony’s new camera releases today, that German luxury camera maker has also released a new camera! It’s the all-new Leica Q (Typ 116) (CK: What’s with all these funky numbers?), a full-frame fixed-lens compact camera with a 27mm Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens.

The camera features a top plate machined from solid blocks of aluminium, a body made of magnesium alloy, and laser-engraved lettering and marketings seen on other Leica cameras.

The Leica Q incorporates a 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor capable of ISO up to 50,000. with a burst mode of up to 10fps. Leica claimed that it has the fastest AF among full-frame compacts, something that I am rather skeptical about. Many camera makers have also claimed to have the fastest AF, but are disclaimed with specific conditions in which that is achieved. And with the only other notable full-frame compact being Sony’s RX1 series which have ridiculously slow AF, “fastest AF” isn’t hard to achieve.

Moving ahead with the times, the Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens in front of the camera features image stabilisation. Leica claims that it’s the fastest among the full-frame compacts, since Sony’s RX1’s 35mm Carl Zeiss is only f/2.

The touch-screen LCD offers a resolution of 1 megapixel and lets you focus by tapping an area in the frame. You can also manual focus using a physical ring on the lens like any other camera. A switch lets you toggle between MF and AF.

The 3.6-megapixel electronic viewfinder has a digital frame selector function which display frame lines for 28, 35 and 50mm, allowing you to shoot at 28, 35 or 50mm while having a 28mm field of view, just like a rangefinder camera. In essence, it’s basically cropping the full-frame image, but you have the ability to store the full-frame DNG image.

Leica has put up some sample images of the Leica Q, so if you are interested, you can head over to their web site and take a look. If that piqued your interest and you want one, you can get it for just US$4,250 and comes with a free copy of Adobe Lightroom 6.

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Six More Cameras From Leica Announced At Photokina

Leica S-E (Typ 006)
Leica S-E (Typ 006)

I have never seen Leica release so many cameras at Photokina, Leica is really on a roll. Other than the two rangefinders – the M Edition 60 LCD-less digital rangefinder and M-A film rangefinder camera, Leica has also announced 2 medium format cameras, a couple of compact APS-C cameras and two rebranded Panasonic cameras.

First up, the pair of Leica medium format S-series cameras. The Leica S-E (Typ 006) is an “entry level” model in their lineup, featuring a 30x45mm, 37.5 megapixel CCD sensor with a 12-stop dynamic range. The 2GB buffer lets you shoot up to 32 full-size DNG photos at 1.5 frames per second before slowing down.

The Leica S-E has a dual shutter system, comprising of a conventional focal plane shutter which lets you shoot at up to 1/4000th of a second. Used in conjunction with the electronic shutter of Leica CS lenses however, and you can shoot at up to 1/1000.

The weather-sealed S-E also has a 3″ 922k-dot LCD display made from Corning’s Gorilla Glass to protect from scratches. Yours for just €13,000 or US$16,900.

Leica S (Typ 007)
Leica S (Typ 007)

The next medium format is the top-of-the-line Leica S (Typ 007) featuring a 30x45mm 37.5megapixel CMOS sensor paired with Leica’s Maestro II image processor. It’s capable of shooting up to 3.5fps in stills mode, and 4K, 60fps 4:2:2 video in video mode. The AF system has been improved for faster and more accurate focussing, and the camera also comes with Wifi and GPS.

Like the S-E (Typ 006), the S (Typ 007) also features a 3″, 922k dot LCD display made of Corning’s Gorilla Glass. You can pre-order yours from B&H for just US$25,400.

With the big guns out of the way, let’s talk about the smaller cameras.

Leica X (Typ 113)
Leica X (Typ 113)

The Leica X (Typ 113) is a premium minimalist compact camera with a 16.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor. It also does 1080p video at 30fps like any other modern compact. The lens is a fixed Leica Summilux 23mm f/1.7. Featuring full manual controls, it’s capable of up to ISO 12,500 and shoots at a maximum of 5fps in either JPEG or DNG. No viewfinder though, so you’ll have to compose on the 3″ 920k-dot LCD. Price? US$2,300.

Leica X-E
Leica X-E

The Leica X-E is basically like the Leica X but without the video capabilities and a slightly slower and longer lens in the form of a 24mm f/2.8 Leica Elmarit. The LCD is also smaller at 2.7″. It’s slightly cheaper, at US$1,800.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109)
Leica D-Lux (Typ 109)

Finally, we have a pair of rebadged Panasonic cameras. If you think the recently announced Panasonic LX100 is not classy or expensive enough for you, you can opt to pay US$300 more to get the red dot treatment in the form of the Leica D-LUX (Typ 109). Specs wise, everything is exactly the same as the LX100. It’ll cost US$1,200.

Leica V-Lux
Leica V-Lux

If you want both the red dot treatment AND a long zoom, then the V-LUX is the camera for you. This is essentially a Panasonic FZ1000, but with the Leica price premium. It’ll cost US$1350.

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Panasonic Announces Lumix CM1 Android Smartphone Camera With 1″ Sensor

Panasonic Lumix CM1
Panasonic Lumix CM1

Photokina: Smartphone cameras always had small sensors to keep their overall size down. Even the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom and the Lumia 1020 with 41 megapixels have puny sensors. Panasonic has just announced what’s possibly the smart phone camera to end all smart phone cameras – the Lumix CM1.

This Android smartphone is equipped a 4.7″ screen and a 20 megapixel camera featuring a 1″ sensor. The lens is a Leica DC Elmarit lens offering an equivalent of 28mm f/2.8 in 35mm terms. Settings such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO are controlled via the manual lens ring and there’s a dedicated shutter button at the top of the device.

The phone side of the device has pretty standard features – a 4.7″ Full HD screen, 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, 2GB of internal RAM, 16GB of internal memory and a microSD card which supports up to 128GB, as well as a 2,600mAh battery. It runs Android Kitkat out of the box.

All these does not come cheap though. The phone (or camera if you like) will be available in France and Germany only for now, at a cool €900 (US$1165). Don’t think the Leica aficionados are going to spring for this though. Leica has something more “exciting” for them.

YS: Probably US$900 then, Euro pricing and all. Not particularly enticed for some reason. Maybe it’s the price, or the fact that the battery is kinda tiny. After use the Note series I don’t want to go back to a phone with a battery with less than 3,000 mAh.

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Leica Unveils All-New, All-Mechanical M-A FILM Rangefinder

Leica M-A with Summarit 50mm f/2.4
Leica M-A with Summarit 50mm f/2.4

Photokina: Looks like Leica is on a roll. Not content with the LCD-less M Edition 60, Leica has also announced the fully mechanical film rangefinder camera in the form of the Leica M-A (Typ 127). In wanting to connect with the Leica M3 launched 60 years ago, the M-A eschews all forms of electronics and 100% mechanical. Like the M3, it also has no light meter. Even the shutter speeds take on the M3, with a top speed of only 1/1000s. This is even more “pure photography” than the Nikon Df.

The M-A has a lever to change the frame lines for 28/90mm, 35/135mm and 50/75mm. In a very fluffy marketing speak, Leica says, “It may have no monitor, no exposure meter, and no battery, but what it does have is a mechanical quality that makes Leica’s 100 years of experience instantly tangible. Photographers can read the shutter speed and aperture directly from the camera and lens and so concentrate fully on their subject. The acoustic signature of the shutter release of a Leica M-A is a delight that immediately reveals the precision-engineered excellence of its origin.”

If you can’t afford the €15,000 (US$19,500) Leica M Edition 60 and wants to get on the purer-than-pure photography bandwagon, the M-A is yours for just €3,850 (US$4,750) for the body alone. It even comes with a free roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 to get you started.

I really can’t think of why anyone would want this over say, a Leica M7. Or just buy a used M3.

YS: Or how about not buy them? Rangefinders are awful really; there’s a reason why the Japanese finally wrestled dominance from the Germans with the coming of the SLR.

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Leica Attempts to Sell You Less For More With the 60th Anniversary Leica M Edition 60

Leica M Edition 60 with Summilux 35mm f/1.4

Photokina: Leica is a luxury/boutique camera maker and is never associated with value for money, but this announcement really takes the cake. To mark the 60th anniversary since the release of the Leica M3, the German camera maker has announced the limited edition Leica M Edition 60.

This is essentially a M-P Typ 240 digital rangefinder, but in attempting to return to the roots of the legendary M3, Leica removes the LCD screen that is now ubiquitous with digital cameras. In doing so, Leica wants you to shoot it as if it’s a film camera. In a statement, the company said, “Working with the Leica M Edition 60 demands the same care and attention as when working with analogue models. The sensor and electronics represent the pinnacle of contemporary, cutting edge technology. It allows the photographer to indulge in complete concentration on the subject or scene and savour the instant of capturing a special moment. Without the distraction of superfluous technical features. This is what makes the art of photography so immortal.”

Superb copywriting there, trying to sell people less for quite a lot money. I am rather surprised that Leica has not gone a step further and made it an internal memory-only camera, with enough to hold 36-37 exposures, to be much closer to the film experience. And while they are at that, they should have based this off the Leica M Monochrom instead.

The stripped down Leica M Edition 60 sans LCD but with a Summilux 35mm f/1.4 will go on sale for a cool €15,000 (US$19,500) from October. Now, I wonder if David will be interested in getting one, but he’ll have to hurry as there are only 600 units available worldwide.

YS: This isn’t for photographers, but for collectors. Move along.

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Three Guys’ Picks and Pans of 2013

Introduction

Well, 2013 was a quiet year, mainly with the two giants not releasing much, and everyone struggling to stay relevant in times of weak sales brought about by competent cameras that reduce the need to upgrade and convenient cameras in the form of smartphone cameras that make it easy to share photographs. Still, it was not all bad, and we have a list of last year’s most notable products. Read on and find out what they were! Continue reading Three Guys’ Picks and Pans of 2013

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