The Leica M-E stands for quality, durability and simplicity. For decades the Leica M has been the most trusted friend for photographers who love to keep things simple, in essence capturing every moment worth a thousand words, enjoying the process while doing so. Ever since rangefinders been available in the market photographers have looked at the Leica M cameras with hope wielding it around their neck as an extension of their body using it as an extension of their soul.
Key features & specs
The Leica M-E is built on the same hallowed grounds that carry the legacy of the Leica M cameras. It is undoubtedly an attempt by Leica to make the camera more ‘affordable’ which we can safely say by looking at the comparative specs sheet and then comparing the same with the specs sheet of the Leica M9. Both the cameras have an 18 megapixels Kodak KAF 18500 CCD sensor and both don’t have the Optical Low Pass Filter resulting in sharper details. Both the cameras have a unique designing scheme in the sensor which is impartial to light from any angle. Size-wise both cameras share the same specification of 5.5 x 3.15 x 1.5”. They have the same weight when picked up.
So here are the main features of the Leica M-E
- 18 megapixels Kodak KAF 18500 sensor
- ISO range of 160 – 2500. can be further pulled to 80
- 2.5” non-articulating TFT LCD monitor with a resolution of 230,000 dots
- tough build quality (commensurate the Leica standard) with magnesium – alloy body with synthetic leather panels
- the top cap and bottom plates are made out of solid brass
- center-weighted TTL metering system
- continuous shooting speed of 2 frames per second
- manual shutter speed selector using a dedicated dial
- Auto exposure bracketing with selectable number of shots (3/5/7) and with increments of ½ to 2 stops.
Exposure modes – the M-E has the same exposure modes as the Leica M9 had, which in turn is the same as the M7. There are two exposure modes, Aperture priority, where you set the Aperture Value and the camera decides the shutter speed and the ISO and the second one is Manual mode where you set everything.
There is no such thing as a ‘cheap Leica’ (pun intended) but yet if you’re looking for an affordable one this is one of the cheaper Leica options that you can opt for.
Manual focusing is the best part of any Leica rangefinders. Forget your standard DSLR auto-focusing system, Leica’s manual focusing nails your shot each time and every time. if you know what you’re doing the difference between how fast a standard DSLR can auto-focus and you can manually on a Leica M-E can be measured in a fraction of a second!
For some reason Leica dropped the USB port from the Leica M-E. Big deal? No way. If you know how to transfer images from a compact SD card via a card reader you’re never going to miss it. But, on the good side you get yourself a $1500 discount!
Burst rate is only 2 fps and even then when you’re using faster shutter speeds. Buffer rate is a meager 8 frames max. Clearly this camera is not designed for sports or action photography.
Maximum flash sync speed is 1/180th of a second.
Definitely the Leica M9 is the nearest rival for the Leica M-E. But on the downside it is a good $1500 pricier than the Leica M. A slightly purist choice, that is if you’re inspired by the works of legendary street photographers like Garry Winogrand, Ansel Adams or Henri Cartier-Bresson the Leica M9 Monochrome is a good alternative, though no real comparison should be drawn as it has no color filters and it is pricier too compared to the M-E at around $8000. There was a limited supply of the legendary Nikon S3 back in 2000. Also known as the Nikon S3 2000, it is an excellent choice. However, there are not too many too find at this moment and they could fetch a fortune in an auction or you may have to sale of some of your body parts in order to afford it.
Should I buy it?
If you’re cost conscious, think in terms of “camera per dollar” then Leica and for that matter any other rangefinder is not for you. This is definitely for two people with two distinct pursuits in life, either for collection or for self gratification. Leica cameras serve both pursuits. But in this case we are bothered only about the second pursuit and even then only the ones who consider them ‘purists’. The M-E is definitely for those who have come a long way from half-pressing and letting the camera decide for them what’s best. It is a camera for serious photographers who prefer to focus with their eyes letting the camera do only the bit that’s asked from it.
Now that you realize what is capable of achieving using a Leica rangefinder here is the million dollar question, is the M-E worth it? Here is a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you’re looking for the Leica M9 which currently retails around $7000. If you’re given a chance to buy the same minus the USB slot and the viewfinder pre-selector button, for a price of only $5500 would you be interested? The frame line pre-selector button allows you to check what the frame line would be should you choose to mount a lens, without actually mounting it. The only utility for the later, as my assessment goes is to confirm a frame line so that you know what you’re going to get once you mount a lens. Kind of too fancy bordering on laziness rather than a real utility. Other than these two features rest of the camera is just the Leica M9 but in a Leica M-E case. You have my answer.
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