Today Leica announced a new camera that is certainly surprising in many ways. The new Leica T marks the beginning of a new system for the German brand, and finds its place between the M and X systems. It features a 16mp CMOS APS-C sensor like the X2 but the image quality specs in this case are actually less important.
The Leica T features a unique construction. It has an aluminum body shaped directly from a solid aluminum block and then polished by hand for 45 minutes (you can actually watch the whole 45 minute process in this official Leica video). The camera’s excellent build and ergonomics seem to be one of a kind in its category, and the first hands on reviews seem to confirm this.
The obsession with a build that aims for absolute precision and perfection isn’t surprising coming from Leica. The build quality of its M cameras and lenses is legendary, as is the image quality they produce. The German brand wanted continue this philosophy for this mid-end system as well.
The second part takes us by surprise. Leica isn’t known as particularly avant-garde regarding the specifications and features of its cameras, as they were often lagging behind the competition. But the Leica T changes everything: most of the settings are accessible via a 4″ touch screen on the back where all the icons are customizable (including their position). The finger gestures used to interact with the touchscreen will be familiar to those who use a smartphone. You can swipe down to activate the playback mode, pinch to zoom, double tap, and so on.
The look of the interface seems elegant and intuitive. It isn’t an android system like some Samsung cameras but will give you many options including sharing over wifi.
The physical buttons have been reduced to a minimum: there is a shutter and aperture dial (but their functions can be switched to other settings as well), a shutter button, on/off switch and video recording button. And that’s it, all the rest can be set with the touch screen.
Another thing worth mentioning is the 16GB of internal memory in addition to the SD card slot.
Will it be a winner?
The design and concept of this new mirrorless APS-C system is certainly the most interesting and original seen in recent years. Leica has also prepared some nice accessories to go with the camera, such as traditional leather bags and innovative straps. Color personalization of the camera is also on the list. But will it be enough?
Despite the sensor, which isn’t new but can fulfill most of our needs, the camera is extremely expensive. $1850 for the body only and the 18-56mm lens (f3.5/5.6) will cost $1700! So body plus the ultra pricey “kit lens” will put you out of pocket by more than $3500!
The lenses are also new: two available for now, the kit lens and a 23mm f/2 (35mm equivalent). They have been designed by Leica but are manufactured in Japan (maybe by Panasonic?).
There is also the possibility of an extra EVF and of course an M adaptor for all the M lenses available.
It is hard to say whether that special build quality will be enough to convince the user without having tried the camera first. Certainly I wonder if this mix of tradition and innovation doesn’t risk producing a boomerang effect. For the new “smartphone” photographer generation, the price is definitely too high, while for all serious photographers that like dials and buttons, the touch screen might not be convincing. So the golden question is: is there another audience in the middle? We’ll have to wait and see to find out!