The Leica M carries on the legacy of the Leica rangefinder cameras and the precision and joy of being able to manually adjust focus and do everything else, instead of the electronics of a modern big fat DSLR doing everything for you. Rangefinder users have always advocated that these cameras are faster and accurate more often than even the best of DSLRs when it comes to focusing and making sharp exposures.
Key features & specs
- Range finder camera in a compact design
- Newly designed full frame 24 megapixels CMOS sensor
- 3” LCD screen with display resolution of 920,000 dots
- Corning® Gorilla® Glass screen protector for the LCD screen to prevent scratches
- Full HD video shooting capabilities using .mov and Motion JPEG formats
- Compatible with full frame Leica-R lenses when the Leica R-adapter M is used
- Top and bottom plates machined out of solid brass. Additionally the main body area is made out of a single block of high strength magnesium alloy
- Weather sealed to prevent dust and moisture and even rain to impact the camera
- ISO sensitivity of 200 – 3200. further expandable from 100 – 6400
- Continuous shooting speed of 3 fps
- Audio level controller when using an external stereo mic jack via the 3.5 mm mic jack
- Leica Maestro Image processing engine
The newly designed 24 megapixels CMOS sensor
The newly designed sensor features a flat pixel architecture. What it does is gather a larger amount of light when compared to traditional pixel layout. The result is superb low light performance, sharper images and greater detail. Additionally when Leica designed the new sensor they had kept in mind both Leica-R and Leica-M lenses would be compatible with it.
Live view and live view focusing feature
The live view and the Live View focusing are two new features in the Leica M. for the first time Leica users would be able to take advantage of the large LCD screen and use it to compose much as one would do on a compact camera.
True to Leica’s reputation for making sturdy built-for-life cameras, the Leica M is built using brass plates and the main body is made out of magnesium alloy. The camera is finally sealed using specially formulated rubber to ensure that there are no seepages. The viewfinder glass is made out of Corning® Gorilla® glass which is tough and scratch resistant. The Leica M is designed to last no doubt about that.
When the new Leica M was launched in Photokina 2012 it became the first Leica M series camera that came with video capabilities. With a full frame sensor and Leica’s legendary reputation things do look bright with the Leica M. at this point however the videos can be a maximum of 4 gigs or 29 mins only.
Full manual controls in video mode. The shutter speed adjustment option that photographers can use in their stills can be tweaked for video filming as well.
Dedicated video button for instant video recording has been provided at the top panel of the camera.
The Leica M is compatible with the Visoflex EVF2 Electronic Viewfinder. Together with a Leica R adapter users ca now use a Leica-R lens and use the EVF to compose just as one would do using a traditional DSLR.
The built-in mic for recording sound while shooting videos is mono. However an option to plug in an external stereo mic jack is available. There is no HDMI output. Lack of an HDMI output will impair professional cinematographers from using the camera to shoot videos with a monitor attached. Additionally consumers will find it difficult to project what they have shot on a LCD TV. Together Leica seems to tell its users that this is a serious camera for shooting stills and videos are just an add-on feature for the camera.
The Leica M truly stands in a league of its own. There is no dearth of APS-C sensor based prosumer compacts in the market such as the Fuji XPro-1 or the Sony NEX-7 but truly the Leica M stands apart from the crowd in terms of performance, durability and perfection. Even when compared among the full frame compacts such as Sony DSC-RX1, this camera is miles ahead. Sure you get a lot of cheaper alternatives, mostly with excellent image quality at a price that is a faction of the stiff price tag that the Leica comes with but then it is like settling for the economy class because it still takes you to your destination.
Should I buy it?
Rangefinders have always been around. They had gone out of fashion when DSLRs started getting smarter and gave consumers the convenience of letting the camera decide for them. But rangefinders are an acquired taste; they are like fine wine that can never really go out of importance, regardless of what the market thinks. For purists rangefinders are the only way. It really adds that extra joy of being able to make a picture rather than allowing it to fall in place using auto-focusing, electronically controlled zooming and other ‘smart’ features that literally threatens to take the joy of photography.
If you don’t like the way you have to manually focus everything or the actual process how rangefinders actually have to be focused, then the Leica M is not for you. That’s it. But if you’re a purist, a connoisseur, a street photographer who loves the idea of a full frame compact model that can only be focused manually, the Leica M throws some interesting possibilities and challenges.
At $7000 you can pre-order one of these which bring us to the question whether this is a camera that is out of bounds of most amateur and even professional photographers. Yes indeed. This camera is not meant for everyone. At the same price you can buy yourself a top of the line professional DSLR and a set of lenses to go with it so why bother for the Leica M? Simply because it is the ‘best’ when it comes to image quality and perfection.