This week at Photokina, Leica reminded us of their history and showed us their future. With more than half of their exhibit hall dedicated to a gallery show of iconic images created by renowned photographers using Leica cameras, visitors were immediately overcome with the spectrum of emotions a photo can elicit. Shooting a Leica isn't as easy as many other cameras, but the masters show us the difference extra effort can make. Honestly, I've never had the patience to command a Leica, especially when I'm so comfortable with an SLR. But that all changed when I got hands-on with the new Leica M flagship camera. By enabling a live view on the LCD screen and offering an electronic viewfinder, the options for shooting style have tripled. For the first time ever, I felt comfortable taking pictures with a Leica.
Most of the innovation that makes these new features possible comes in the form of the Leica Max CMOS sensor. Built specifically for the Leica M, the full frame, 35mm format sensor is the cornerstone that supports live view and 1080p HD video. Leica also brags that the CMOS delivers color and precision quality comparable to CCD sensors. A Leica Maestro processor gives the M high performance support, and can also found in the S series. This integration of custom-built lenses, sensors and processors is significant in that it allows engineers to control the entire process from lens to image file.
With the help of an adapter, the sensor and mount were also designed to work with Legacy R glass. This means more options for photographers when selecting their lens, especially in telephoto and macro shooting situations or utilizing zoom lenses for cinematic video shots. The user interface is uncomplicated and clean, accessible through a 3-inch, 920,000px monitor made from durable Corning Gorilla Glass. Leica's "Live View Zoom" gives shooters 10x magnification for adjusting focus during framing, which results in sharper images. Alternatively, "Live View Focus Peaking" highlights contours in red once they have come into focus. As one might expect from Leica, the body is rugged with a top deck and base plate made from machined brass as well as a diecast metal chassis.
The new Leica M will be available in black and silver early on in 2013 with pricing TBD.
Image of the exhibition hall by Josh Rubin. Images of the Leica M courtesy of Leica.