Leica Steals The Show
After all the effort that went into its 100th anniversary celebrations and the opening of its new factory in Wetzlar back in May, Leica could have been forgiven for taking things easy at Photokina. Instead it launched the most extensive range of new products we’ve ever seen from the famous ‘red dot’ marque. Count ’em… S (Typ 007), S-E, (Typ 006), M-A (Typ 127), X (Typ 113), X-E (Typ 102), D-Lux (Typ 109), V-Lux (Typ 114), M Edition 60, a new range of Summarit-M lenses (35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 90mm), a 100mm f2.0 lens for the S System and the two addition lenses for the T System (11-23mm and 55-135mm) that were promised back at the camera’s launch.
OK, so let’s sort out this little lot. Firstly, Leica has dropped consecutive model numbering so everything now just bears the prefix of its system (i.e. ‘S’,‘T’, ‘X’, etc), but you’ve still got to identify the model hence the ‘Typ XXX’ designation which, frankly, seems to be just a bit clunky. The idea is to preserve value in the superseded model, but Leica is doing this anyway by giving them a slight makeover and re-releasing them as a lower-priced ‘E’ variant. So the S-E is the previous S (retaining the latter’s Typ 006 designation) and the X-E is the previous X (and still Typ 102). The consumerlevel V-Lux and D-Lux fixed-lens models now also
adopt this model naming scheme, despite being sourced from Panasonic. Incidentally, the new D-Lux is Leica’s version of the Lumix LX100 which was also a Photokina star, combining a Four-Thirds size sensor with a built-in EVF and Leica-approved 24-75mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens. The sensor has an effective resolution of 12.8 megapixels and the EVF has a resolution of 2.76 megadots. It looks pretty enticing wearing the Panasonic badge, but is even more attractive as a Leica.
The new Typ 007 S joins the CMOS revolution in digital medium format camera systems, but its new sensor retains the same resolution as the Typ 006’s CCD. However, in concert with a nextgen ‘Maestro II’ processor, it allows for a much faster continuous shooting speed of 3.5 fps and it can also record 4K video. Maximum sensitivity is equivalent to ISO 6400. The new S also has a 2.0 GB buffer memory, a revised AF system with a predictive function, a built-in GPS receiver and dual axis levelling displays. Availability is from early in 2015.
Perhaps appropriately as the legendary M System celebrates its 60th birthday, there were some interesting new releases in this category. The ‘incognito’ M-P was announced ahead of the show and it’s essentially a Typ 240 digital M minus badges, but with a bigger 2.0 GB buffer memory, a manual image frame selector and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal faceplate on the monitor screen. Like the 35mm MP, the ‘Leica’ marking on the M-P’s top plate is the original classical script.
Talking of the MP, Leica is left as the world’s largest manufacturer of 35mm film cameras and actually launched a new model at Photokina called the M-A (Typ 127). This is the ‘road-going’ version of the limited edition announced in the very exclusive kit to celebrate the centenary, but it’s manufactured conventionally rather than machined from stainless steel blocks (although it’s still hand-built). The ‘A’, by the way, stands for ‘analogue’. Available in either black or silver, the purely mechanical M-A also has discreet badging and is priced at $5700 for the camera body (which is supplied with some Kodak Tri-X 400 B&W film, also 60 years old this year).
Perhaps the most interesting of the new M System models though is the limited edition released to commemorate the 60th anniversary. It’s a digital camera – essentially the M-P – but it lacks an LCD monitor screen so its operations are distilled down to just focusing, aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Obviously also lacking any menus, the M Edition 60 captures only Adobe DNG RAW files. Only 600 examples will be built and it has a stainless steel bodyshell with anthracite-coloured leather inserts.
Leica says the M Edition 60 avoids “the constant distraction of technical features and the checking of menu settings and controls”, but it’s hard to see anybody actually using such a potentially valuable collector’s camera. Room then, maybe, for a production version down the track? After the M-A, anything is possible from Leica. For more information visit www.leica-camera.com
Leica M Edition 60. Only 600 will be built.
Leica S (Typ 007).