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Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Comments

Leica's back?

The sample shots in DPReview hands on are very poor in quality: moire problems and a strange red line the size of a pixel and a few pixel long in one portrait.

No, this is not the quality one would expect from Leica.

Glad to see an iconic brand back in the mix. But, I have to say, "what's up with the retro-grouch" look of these cameras? Straight out of the forties. And, whoa, the prices! Nothing is that good in the digital age.

My only criticism, and I'm sure this is something you're going to hear from many other people too, is that I can't help but feel that the aperture controls belong around the lens (like the long defunct Digilux2/LC1). That being said, if I owned the camera probably 95% of my shooting would be setting the aperture and leaving the shutter control on "A", it just seems a little odd to have that second dial there.

It's placement is almost reminiscent of the advance dial on old film rangefinders, so much so that it makes me wonder if it wasn't placed there intentionally to to evoke such a response. I only wonder how many digital-age shooters will recognize the reference?

Wow! The X1 looks gorgeous, I want one!
Seriously, if Leica have made a good 'un, it will give prospective buyers of the GF-1 (myself included) something to think about.
I'd better start saving straight away!

I'm drawn to the X1 as well and don't find it to be as overpriced as most folks are saying. It isn't the digital CL some folks wanted, but it may well be the digital Hexar AF.

Do you know whether the ring around the lens controls focus?

I wish they had omitted the flash and stuck an ISO dial right there where the flash currently sits.

Amin

The X-1 does look mighty tempting, but the thing that stands out on that top view you show - no depth of field markings on the lens. What gives, a nice fast fixed focal length leica lens, with no DOF markings. It's the one thing I have really missed since moving from my old Contax/Zeiss SLR system to Canon. This seems like a missed opportunity to refine this camera, allow even faster shooting using hyperfocal distance, and help justify the cost.

Congrats to Leica. Really pleased about the lack of a 'British penalty'.

Did they have to persist with the removable base plate?

Wonder how the 40mm Summicron will get on with it?

Terribly tempted...


I'm looking forward to the day I see someone shooting an X1 with a raynox converter lens.

The X1 is growing on me by the minute. Think about this...

In 2002 I traded in some gear and bought a Contax T3 to have something portable. Same lens specs. And a list price of about $1,200 CDN at the time ($1,400 in today's dollars?).

Makes the X1 look like a bargain (assuming the IQ is exceptional).

This spring I sold some gear and bought a ZI and the f/2 35mm Zeiss biogon. In part due to financial reasons, in part due to the fact that, surprisingly (to me), I've fallen in love with the 35mm, I haven't bought another lens. If the X1 had been around at that time, one could argue I would have had to make a very difficult decision (they are the same price).

It's a very interesting piece of kit and priced, I think, very well.

This was a pretty striking personal statement from the founder and director of the largest digital-camera review site on the planet (DPReview's Phil Askey):

"Before the [July 2007] M8 review I had no experience of rangefinder photography, something I considered relegated to history.

"During the review process (and thanks to input from those who had used rangefinders before) I gradually began to ‘get’ the advantages, being better ‘connected’ to the subject thanks to the huge bright viewfinder, and being forced to focus manually, always select the aperture, and think more about the shot.

"Not to mention in the case of the M8, the look from those gorgeous prime lenses (amazingly sharp at the point of focus fading smoothly to silky bokeh).

"Hence not long after posting my review I bought an M8 for myself (along with a bunch of lenses), and ever since (and unconsciously) all of my personal favorite photographs have come from the M8."

Hmm. Maybe the photographers who accuse Askey of having a bias "against Canon" or "against Nikon" are both right?

Yes, M9. Now everyone can exhale. Count me as a "DMD" dreamer too. So the X1 is more interesting to me.

Regarding that "equivalent" focal length of the X1, and the earlier discussions of what's-a-"normal"-lens, each of has a story: As a kid, my parents had these close friends who took regular vacations. The camera was an FTB with Canon FL 35mm lens. Never owned another lens as far as I'm aware. Always shot Ektachrome, bought the Kodak mailers and most slides were waiting at home when they got back.

In later years, still a kid but now armed with my Dad's abandoned FTBn, I once borrowed the lens but was turned off by having to meter stopped-down. My loss of course, as that focal length (in smarter hands) had produced a lot of great slide shows after dinner for years.

The X1 just looks like a ridiculously expensive Sigma DP1 or DP2. Add that ugly, clunky addon viewfinder, and the low res rear lcd, combined with a slowish lens, I don't really get it.

M9 looks the business though, even though its way out of my price range.

Glad to see the X1 priced out of the market. We wouldn't want every concerned photographer being able to carry a DMD in their pocket now, would we?

It's fine, Leica can do whatever they want, I don't have a problem with that. I'm just wondering why nobody is releasing such a camera to a wider audience (while building it in an Asian factory) in order to implement the economy of scale.

Any idea if we'll get an LX1 from Panasonic for $1,200?

Leica are back, and I like the idea of the X1.

Its simplicity of interface appeals, it looks like a well sorted Sigma DP camera.

I also hope the M9 works, now anyone want to sell me an M8 at a sensible price?

John

I'm probably showing my ignorance of rangefinders (I haven't used one for years) but wouldn't it be nice if the M9 had a live view feature on the LCD and a good zoom lens? You could use the viewfinder with fixed focal length lenses, and the LCD live view with zooms.

It seems that would make it nearly perfect as a walk-around camera. (Well, actually that and dropping the price by $5,000 USD or so.)

The setting of auto modes as the X1 uses it was first done by Minolta back in the mid-to-late 70s on the XD-7 - coincidentally during the time Leitz cooperated with them [giving Leitz the R-series from the XE-1].

While the X1 jettisons the changeable lenses the concepts seems to hark back to the CL, which would have been the correct choice for going digital - that is re-awakened - now and a few years back. Unfortunately the much improved CLE was not taken up bei Leitz; fortunately as a Minolta it didn't cost a premium for being a Leica.

Man, to think Leitz is still around and Minolta died ... Really shows that it's not innovation, superb service, good pricing you need for success.

Your roll-call of brands that have gone under saddened me. At one time or another I've owned a model from each (still have three Rolleis), and all were great in their own very different ways. I'm glad that Leica are resisting the tide of Canikon conformity so stylishly, even if I'll never, ever come close to being able to afford one.

Damn! Just from the looks of it, the Leica X1 seems too good to be true. Direct control of aperture and shutter speed via top-mounted dials, a high-quality optical viewfinder, an f/2.8 36mm-equivalent fixed focal length lens, a removeable handgrip on the front... If this thing produces great photos and is fun to use I predict Leica will sell all they can make, even at $2000 apiece.

I wish Leica all the best. I also wish that someone will post better M9 image samples than what DPReview has posted right now. They are underwhelming, to say the least.

Instead of saving up to buy a D700 (I have a D300), I think I'll save up to buy a Leica now...

Was just talking to friends about why would anyone buy a Leica. I thought the analogy of comparing Leica M to watchmaker's watches (IWC, Rolex etc) is very appropriate. You don't just buy those watches for telling time. You also buy the prestige, history, craftmanship and heritage that something like G-Shock doesn't give.

Here's hoping I save up in time just when M9.2 comes out :P

Great news from Leica and a very nice article , BTW. I wish to add one more casualty to the Digital revolution--- Polaroid. The name exists as a brand name only. Nothing is manufactured by Polaroid anymore.

Mike,

Is the X1 finally your DMD?

I want to use a Leica, but can't afford it.
I'm not a rich guy, but my pictures are better than lotta rich dudes who can afford a M9.
Will they listen to me and make a
M9 like rangefinder for me?
If they do, i will say they're back.

Mike,

Good news Leica is back. The X1 seems to be a gem and could well become a serious second camera for those who already travel with a DSLR, but need something discreet for the more casual street photography. 35mm-e is a fine choice for this kind of work. The sensor (which seems similar to the one fitting the D300) should deliver as far as image quality is concerend.

I might have missed something, but I am mystified by the choice of the screen. With 230000 pixels both the M9 and the X1 are behind the much cheaper D-Lux4 (460000), not to mention the increasing number of cameras sporting 920000 pixels screens.

CMS

Speaking of the other review sites, kudos to Phil Askey of dpreview for a crisp explanation of the Leica M's appeal. It's in his introduction to the M9 hands-on preview and worthwhile reading whether you're a Leica skeptic or admirer.

X1 looks like it needs a new home in Austin, Texas. Hello. We've got a vacancy.....

And will you look at that, strap lugs the way god intended! Almost as cute as the Rollei 35, without the awful film loading.

It's tough to play armchair quarterback when it comes to Leica, because I can't pretend to understand their market at all. However, I can say that while the new products are all too rich for my blood (not that I can't afford them, but I can't justify them), I still want them. These fall in the "if I won a shopping spree for being the millionth customer at B&H I'd choose them" category. I would happily shoot most of what I shoot with the M9 and a pair of primes; I'd take the X1 everywhere I go; I'd get back into landscape photography just to make big prints from the S2. And so it's easy to believe that other people will buy them.

I thought the Webcast was well done, and it didn't crash the server while I was watching it. Nice gig for Seal; a free trans-Atlantic ticket to NY, a brief spiel at the Webcast, and he got a new S2 for his troubles. I liked his story about his first purchase being a M6 and a Noctilux.

I do like those controls on the X1. None of this 'spin the wheel' nonsense where the wheel has no markings and you have to check the screen while you turn the wheel the right number of clicks, but proper controls where you know what you're turning them to and you can see the settings at a glance.
I'd like to see more manufacturers take a leaf out of that book.

Leica's back.
Too bad I can not afford it.

Sorry. Couldn't stop myself from writing this.

I don't understand X1 pricing. Does it include the photographer? :)
Its obvious that Leica isn't targeted at Joe Average but $2000 assumes the users are clueless.

For $2000 you could buy a GF1 and have $1000 to spend on a couple of good lenses.

Hi, first ever comment.
Regarding the UK penalty, it seems to be in fact a European penalty. Europe has always had bad deals regarding consumer technologies, namely Asian imports (and media content like music and films). Leica, being a European brand is probably more sensible in pricing for Europe.

Being this a first comment i must thank The Online Photographer for all the first rate content and writing on a very dear subject.

Luis

For me, this could be THE ONE.

I've never felt comfortable wandering around with my behemoth DSLR and paparazzo lens. If the image quality is good, and the camera is responsive, this is going to replace my favorite film setup (F2 + 35/2). I can't wait to read more about it.

Contrary to all the articles claiming that a new camera won't improve a photographer's work, this camera is going to reopen a world of possibilities that's been closed to me for a long time.

Viva Leica!

The M9 is likely to be a masterpiece. But I still want an M9m digital monochrome. Since I have about as much digital monochrome time as any one out in radio land (18 months), I can say without a doubt that an M9m at 18 MP would become a legend. And it would not take much for them to put it into production, as its basically the same camera---different image sensor copy (no bayer matrix) and a change of firmware.

Pete
PS Oh darn, I probably will have to "suffer" the M9 until the M9m comes out. If it comes out. If ever. If, if, if....

Hey, I am getting closer! My last major talk with Leica was why they did not provide 16 bit uncompressed storage format in the M8! I was told that "it was not necessary" by their math guy. I won! And I will on the monochrome too. :)

What with the date, and it being the M9 I couldn't, although I was sure I was wrong, stop thinking that it was going to be £9,000.

Doh!

But it being the same amount of money both here and in America was a surprise. Well done Leica, whose UK base is just down the road from me, here in roundabout town (Milton Keynes)

If the X1 is priced at around $2000, then it's going to be in the same price bracket as used M8 bodies (soon, if not already).

Since the M8's issues—other than the 1.3x—are pretty much historical (with dotted lenses, IR/UV filters and firmware v2.04 It Just Works™), it'll be interesting to see how the X1 fares against competition from used M8s and M8.2s.

(Since the M9 has an internal IR filter, there should be lots of cheap IR/UV filters on the market to go with the cheap s/h M8 bodies)

Gawd those things are beautiful.

But...

A non-professional's point of view: when Leica offers chip and circuit board upgrades there'll be reason enough to invest in a long lasting digital camera, otherwise what's the sense? Sense, not emotion.

Perhaps better to invest in an M7 or MP. My thinking is even if film is around only 15 more years you'd enjoy 15 full years with no reason to trade up; you're not hobbled to a static imager, your camera works just fine thank you very much, and there is plenty of good glass for it. In this sense you'd both get and take advantage of what you paid for - longevity.

The factory tour photos at dpreview show the chip and board of an M9 being put in place. Obviously swapping out chips at home wouldn't work, not with 1/100mm shims to set and gauge, but with a few standardized dimensions mightn't it be quickly done by technicians? 4 screws and alignment.

I've used Leicas since the early 1950s, and have owned virtually every RF model from the II to the M6.
I won't be buying any of the new products, and it's not just the high prices which turn me off.
Oskar Barnack must be laughing his arse off at these pathetic products (or whatever it is that angels have instead of an arse).

I wonder what the optional X1 view finder will cost. $800US? If the lens pop-out is motor driven I predict the first complaints from users will be failure/jam of this sub-assembly.

Son of a gun - they're here and the prices are not all that shocking. Probably because the prices of the Nikon and Canon high megapixel flagships are swirling around in my head: I am numb to anything under $7K. I want, repeat, want the M9. But, the X1 will fit in pocket and my budget much better. Hell, anything with a Leica lens on it is OK. Maybe I'll revisit Panasonic's Leica lensed minion...

The X1 is interesting to me as well, though I am not really a $2000 camera kind of person. And before people start complaining about *it* being too expensive, consider it is 2/3rd the price of the retired Epson RD-1, has double the pixels, and comes with a lens. And that important red dot.

As for the M9, one thing that sticks out to me that makes it special is the use of a CCD instead of CMOS. It being a Kodak part, my guess is that Kodak makes their 36x48mm sensors from stitching two of these together, as has been done on other cameras (some Canon and the Kodak DCS14 models). These days, CCD is the domain of the high IQ demanding Medium Format, which bodes well for the M9 (though I suspect absolute high ISO will not compare favorably to the current FF 35mm cameras).

Patrick

Yours is a very tolerant and positive take on that presentation, Mike; I admire your outlook. I'm not sure I've ever cringed so much and for so long since giving up on watching pop music award ceremonies (and for anyone who ever thought that Apple made us sit through some superfluous stuff, this was surely the punishment we deserved) but the products do look very good and it was great to see a real enthusiast like Seal on stage. His joy was infectious and I had to smile.

Like you, I'm really drawn to that X1—if it does what it's supposed to, it's going to be a huge hit. It looks great and there was a bonus: though it has been a day or two that the X1 specs have been around, I hadn't realised that (duh) APS-C plus 24mm is going to provide a 36mm-e angle of view so thanks for mentioning it. For me, 24mm is too wide but this is pretty much a perfect choice for a fixed lens. It's exciting to see these guys stage their comeback.

Leica is back. And how. Not only great new products, but also a fresh new way on how to market them. Love how they built momentum with todays event. Reminded me a lot of Apple.

After the long discussion about expensive, I must say the M9 sounds very reasonably priced. On par with top end Canon and Nikon cameras.
Although I will probably never buy an M9, I do hope Leica will succeed with the new range of cameras. The industrial world needs small(er) companies to nudge the big players.

The last few posts were thought provoking and an excellent read. Thank you.

Jeez, I hate to be a naysayer, but the market will determine whether or not Leica is back, at least commercially. This whole scene reminds me of a big Hollywood premier where mere mortals swoon at the sight of beautiful bodies on the red carpet. Frankly my dear... Really a little perspective would be nice.

So which M9 is everyone geting, the black one or the gray one?

I'm waiting for Panasonic's version of the M9, a GF-1 with a built-in optical viewfinder :-) I think I could even afford one.

So glad to see an end to the silly rebranding of mass market products. That was a losers attitude. The X1 is just the contrary. It asserts Leica's confidence in its ways. The dials remind me of the Minilux.

"I wish to add one more casualty to the Digital revolution--- Polaroid."

henry,
Thank you. I always miss one, on any list. I've made the change to the text of the post.

Mike

Any video mode on the new Leica's? Cannot think of any photojournalist buying these otherwise. Sorry if you don't like to hear that, but *the times they are a changin'* as the song says!

The X I looks like a winner. And as a recent rangefinder owner (I've started grabbing cheap Electro 35's off Ebay) I'm very glad that the M9 exists, even if its unlikely that I'll ever own one.

I can't get over how cheap-looking that plastic, collapsing lens on the X-1 is.

I want my "expensive" Veblen goods to look the business, not like they just popped out of some injection molds from the lowest bidder in Shanghai.

"But I still want an M9m digital monochrome. "

Leica have considered making a monochrome only camera. Don't know if it was a digital rangefinder or DSLR.

"Leica have considered making a monochrome only camera. Don't know if it was a digital rangefinder or DSLR."

Rumor I heard was that there was to be a B&W version of the original M8, but the ousted CEO--what was his name? I've forgotten already--Stephen something--nixed it.

Mike

No when can claim that a camera company is back. Not yet anyway.
Let's make sure there aren't any issues and the cameras work as we hope they will.
Cost aside, these do look very good.

I pre-ordered my M9 this afternoon from Amazon, so you'll be getting credit on that, Mike. I'll be keeping my M8 for long lens and IR work (and yes, I use it almost daily).

Regarding the cost of these things, I bought a Canon 1Ds in early 2003 for $7k and I'm still using it six years later. I plan to use it another six years or until it breaks. One reason that I can afford an M9 now is that I passed up the 1Ds2, 1Ds3, 5D, and 5D2, much to Canon's chagrin, I'm sure.

I'm excited! Not only will my 15mm and 25mm lenses now really be 15 and 25, but I also have two vintage Leica lenses, one from the 1930's and one from the 1950's that draw beautifully (to use Sean Reid's words) and should do even better full-frame.

All this griping about the price of Leica equipment is rather tiring. Leica is Leica and has cost a premium for as long as I can remember. If you really want one, you'll find a way to fund it.

Many people grousing spent several thousand dollars on a flat-panel plasma television a couple years ago. I really don't want to hear about unreasonable prices.

Furthermore, we don't seem to have too much grousing about Apple computers and they cost a premium too. In fact, a decent Apple workstation right now with top quality monitors is no less expensive.

Yes, the camera is 5X the cost of some commodity camera that every soccer-mom is shooting--so what. But compared to other things in our lives, like our entertainment centers, computers, cellphones, automobiles and stainless steel kitchen appliances, it's not unreasonable.

Cut out the daily trip to the coffee shop and disconnect your cable-TV. That'll save you around $2000 per year right there. When you buy or lease that new car, downgrade by an option level. That'll save about $5000.

There. Now you can afford the Leica M9 and a lens. With the cable-TV disconnected, you could buy a lens every year!

Choices, folks, choices. Just knock off the price grousing. Your grousing just tells me that your priorities are elsewhere.

The M9 and X1 appear, at this point, to be very nice products. But, i'm not in line to applaud Leica. Not for producing these things at these price points in this economy. T'he S2 is one thing. It's meant to compete with the Hasselblad H3, and for pros working with real budgets, the S2's price shouldn't be an issue. But, i will laugh out loud at the first 'hobbyist' who posts pictures of his dog, sleeping children, and banal holiday snaps, "captured" on an S2.

I kinda feel the same about the M9.

The X1, from the little video clip on LL, seems well-executed, at least, in comparison to the Sigma, which i tried and was quite disappointed by. But, we're talking about a compact APS-C digital. When it's available in January (or thereafter), i have a feeling there will be other options, at much more reasonable prices. At that point, we'll be able to see whether or not it's really worthwhile at $2000.

Either way, i'm left with one thought that consoles me at this time. It's a very exciting day for camera fetishists. I would LOVE to be able to put a new piece of gear on my shopping list. But, i need to remember that, despite the advancements, i still prefer the overall aesthetics of a picture shot on Tri-X with even an Olympus XA to any B+W Leica M8 image i've ever seen.

It is fascinating to read how passions are channeled through consumer products. I own more than my fair share of photo gear, but it still surprises.

Today's various announcements make me think of the first digital camera that I owned (a Sony something or other in 1999, just before my first child was born) and the incredible leaps that have been made in the last 10 years. I wonder whether there has ever been a time of comparable meteoric advance in imaging technology as there has been in the last decade. It is just amazing. I can't wait to see where we will have gotten by 2019! What an interesting time to be alive.

Ben Marks

If, as Leica claim, the lens is true to their high standards - 'The Leica Elmarit 24 mm f/2.8 ASPH. is a true Leica lens with terrific optical performance' - then the price might be worth it for just the lens itself. Shame about the low res 230k screen though.

If you remember the Sony R1, the first APS-C fixed lens camera, the lens attached to it was exceptional, performing much better than any camera+lens combination you could buy for the same price.

If the f2.8 is completely useable, and the high ISO is similar to the D300's sensor (stats imply they could be related), we could be looking at quite a performer.

I wish the popup thing on top of the X1 was a viewfinder instead of a flash. That would be cool, and way more useful.

"I pre-ordered my M9 this afternoon from Amazon, so you'll be getting credit on that, Mike."

PWP,
THANK YOU!!! And congratulations--enjoy your new camera when you get it.

Mike

I truly don't understand the obsession with screen resolution on digital cameras. Seriously, folks -- are you shooting, or are you chimping?

The M9 could have been a camera that I really wanted. However if I did buy it there is no way I could feel that i didn't get shafted. Yes i am sure this will be said a lot over the next week but this is just a rip off sorry to say it. Its $7000 dollars with out a lens, a quick look on the net shows there wide angles to be between $3500 and $6000. Ridiculous, I will state this as fact even if comparisons are yet to be done, the 5d mkII and the Sony A900 will take better images then this camera and even if they don't its going to be so close as hardly discernible. I have used range finders before and I can say as a professional that SLR is simply better, you may prefer shooting a range finder but if you have to get the best picture the SLR is going to give you that confidence. This is the smallest FF camera out there and it should be a premium price because of it. However its not that much smaller then an SLR considering the lens sticking out of it, Its not going to fit in your shirt pocket. I just cant see how they can justify this price at all. Gone are the days when a digital camera maker could rationalize the price by the savings you get on not using film. If I were really rich then I might get the M9 but I would really have to ask myself what the people in the know would think of me for having it. This may well be the most expensive FF digital camera for 2010 ( we will see what Nikon and canon do) therefore it should be the best camera in the field by a good margin. Features alone, its not we will see about quality.

I haven't seen a photo of the bottom of the camera. Do you still have to take the bottom plate off to get to the battery and memory card? That would be too bad.

Spiny,

Amen.

I was all set to pre-order both from your Amazon link, but I was abruptly jolted awake from a wonderful nap by the dog licking the drool from my face.

I know that this little peep will be lost in the din of this noisy thread, but hearty congratulations to Leica for an amazing year of new products, especially creating the full-frame digital M! I fully expected the latter eventually--where else could this camera go?--But I didn't really expect to see a full-framer for at least another year or two.

I also congratulate Leica on holding down the M9 price. Yes, I know a lot of people are bashing the price. But, hells bells guys, this is a very costly camera to manufacture for such a relatively small market. I was braced for a $8,000-$9,000 bill! In a "FAQ" sheet for the M9, Leica remarks that they skipped the costly "sapphire glass" LCD screen cover, for example, to hold down the price. Eliminating that top LCD and providing its richer functions on the main screen also knocked down costs at no functional sacrifice.

There was only one "someday" camera left on my shopping list; the eventual full-frame M. Check! I'm now finished buying serious cameras. I don't care what comes along next. Finis!

"I'm now finished buying serious cameras. I don't care what comes along next. Finis!"

Ken,
Right.

[g]

Mike

Bernard - "I wish the popup thing on top of the X1 was a viewfinder instead of a flash. That would be cool, and way more useful."

That would be brilliant! I wonder whether it could be done as an aftermarket item...

"But, i will laugh out loud at the first 'hobbyist' who posts pictures of his dog, sleeping children, and banal holiday snaps, "captured" on an S2."

Sounds like fun to me.

Don't be a hater just because some people have the money to indulge themselves. It's not actually about YOU.

After spending the entire day poring over this stuff I am mystified why people are commenting on the prices of the X1 and the M9. Leica WANTS you to pay more for their brand. In return, they promise to deliver excellent IQ and customer service. The M8 was a very flawed product released by an incompetent management team that is now gone. Despite that the company stood by the M8 and the problems have been resolved. I would buy one again without hesitation, and no, I don't own a Porsche.

If you want to spend $900 on your DMD then get a Panasonic GF1 or an Olympus EP-1/2. I am sure they are fine cameras perfectly suitable for 99% of us. Otherwise, if you can afford it the X1 appears to be an excellent alternative. Am I changing course? You bet! I’d be foolish not to examine all the alternatives. If you want that grab and go camera, if you want to simplify and if you can live within its limitations, the Leica X1 is the DMD. Kudos to Leica for following the road less traveled.

Perspective: A technician for a major scientific camera vendor just dropped off a new camera for my lab's microscope. The camera retails for about $30,000. It is a 0.25 megapixel EMCCD camera: 512x512 (albeit at 90% quantum efficiency and with a read noise of 0.1 photoelectron per pixel; CMOS can't touch those numbers). I attached it to a (seriously inexpensive, bare-bones) microscope "body" that cost $35,000. The objectives that I use range from $2500 to $8000. The optics are all made by Olympus, by the way. With this setup I rather readily detect single fluorescent molecules, one at a time.

One more bit of perspective: the M9 doesn't cost any more than a D3x did at release, and if you shoot wide angle lenses, the M9 takes better wide angle glass than almost anything that can be mounted to a D3x. As others here have said, nothing else on the market can touch the Leica 35/1.4 ASPH, and that's not the only example. Ask any microscopist or cinematographer or microchip designer: really good glass is darned spendy.

For some kinds of work the M9 is, unless it turns out to be a lemon, going to be the best camera ever made. One can say the same of a Phase One or a D3x or the camra that I just fitted to "my" microscope.

Buy the tools that will let you obtain the images that you want/need to obtain. For me that's a state-of-the-art EMCCD. For a commercial photographer it might be a Phase One or an 8x10 film camera, or a used Olympus E-300 (e.g., Kirk Tuck's recent choices). Maybe you don't need or want a D3x, or an M9, or an 8x10. (I don't.) But why criticize others for having different needs or desires than you do? Especially when we're tlaking about art, which presumably we are, it only makes you look parochial.

I was very excited about the X1 at first, but I'm less so after reading a bit more. First, the dimensions quoted turned out not to include the lens protrusion, so it's actually not as much smaller than the GF1/20 combo as I thought. Then one of the dpreview guys commented that it actually doesn't have image stabilization, despite what various places seem to say. And if I'm not going to get ultra small, and if I lose 1.5 stops of lens speed compared to the GF1/20, and if I get a worse screen, and if I get a non-interchangeable lens, well, ... I guess I at least get a red dot and some reasonable controls, but that's not worth $1000 to me. So my GF1 preorder stands, at least until the next announcement :-)...

Very disappointing. If anyone else released a manual focus camera with no image stabilisation and said it's ideal for capturing decisive moments, the correct answer would be "in what century?".

Then cripple its user interface with a 2.5" 230k low-res LCD that is smaller than the 230k unit that has been universally panned on the $800 Olympus.

Then design its chassis and form based purely on copying a film based form that was in its time based on the engineering necessities of film cameras. Ignore the potential to make form follow function within the constraints of digital camera engineering. In other words, abandon the former Leica principle of form follows function and become slave to one's own fashion.

Then install what is hopefully a good sensor (albeit of no advantage over a four thirds sensor for prints under 20x24", and of a generally more wasteful proportion), and a metal body, and charge $7000.

With no lens.

With no IS.

With no AF.

The decisive moment, I fear, has passed.

For perspective, may I ask anyone who has recently sold a five year old digital Leica, how much did the camera body depreciate in five years (in dollars lost and as a percentage)?

There is admittedly much I don't get around here, but I think the X1 totally makes sense.

Anyone ready to break the piggy bank to try one of those legendary Leica lenses would be looking at spending at least 2000$ (CDN) to get a 35mm lens--and would still need to put a body behind that.

For barely more than the price of that lens, the X1 provides what looks like a pretty up-to-date digicam to back it up, with 11-point AF and all... it even has face detection ;)

And with about 20 weeks advance warning, one "just" has to save about 100$ a week to make that a reality--in fact I'm thinking of doing just that.

It seems that Leica like Canon Apple and Ebay have realized that they can slug Australians with price premiums. UK£4850 for an M9 is not AUD11,995 as announced yesterday on leicarumors.com. That for those not familiar with the Aussie dollar the difference is AUD$2648.

That said the M9 looks lovely but I have read no mention of live view, much needed for macro work I guess the DSLR will still remain the best choice for many aspects of photography...

I agree with Ryan. The X1 looks like a terribly overpriced Sigma DP1 or DP2. Do photographers really want yet another point & shoot with fixed slowish f2.8 lens and no viewfinder? So it has a bigger sensor than a typical point & shoot, but that will just make focusing the camera that much more difficult without a viewfinder. The X1 looks like another anachronistic dud or deadend, with no real connection to the M system other than a slight resemblance.

The M9, on the other hand, looks absolutely fantastic. Leica should really concentrate all of its efforts on the M9 and the M system where it is uniquely positioned and where its strength is.

Why would I want a compact camera with a large sensor for 2000 bucks?

A slow focusing, point and shoot with only an LCD viewfinder and an APS sized sensor can't do anything a slow focusing point and shoot with a tiny sensor doesn't.

What's more, I like the small sensor in the Panasonic LX3. It gives me a very wide depth of field, even at F2. And at F2 and a 24mm equivalent with image stabilization, I can shoot in all but the dimmest light

In fact, the LX3 is so good, I don't even feel much temptation to upgrade to the GF1.

FWIW, I hope Leica stays in business.

I'm bloody sick of Nikon not making enough gear for the demand that actually exists. I hope Canon and Sony kick Nikon's ass so hard they're back down in the humble place they were when the D2H was their top of the line DSLR. The more competition against arrogant Nikon, the better. Let Canon and Sony take the mass market. And let Lecia take the boutique market.

I hope Leica stays in business the same way I hope there are people who can read Virgil and Horace in the original in 50 years.

In fact, if there were a Marxist revolution tomorrow and I were made head of the central committe I'd round up all the bankers who got bonuses this year, and, after toying with them for a few weeks, I'd release them under the condition that they all buy Leica M9s.

What I really like on the X1 is the control scheme. Not many compact cameras have nice manual controls and the X1 looks good here.

Even before Kirk Tuck wrote his article about a new strategy for buying cameras I decided to spend more of my money on lenses. If this was a m4/3s lens I probably would of spend extra money on it. I've really wanted a nice manual control scheme on a compact camera. I probably would of spent a bit extra just to get it in a m4/3s body. No matter how good the lens is, I'm not spending $2000 dollars on it if I can't move it to another body.

Digital has come a long way and cameras now are high quality, but it's still moving very quickly. I'm sure some will still be shooting with a X1 years from now, but the technology will be eclipsed in two years.

AF would still be an issue, but I wonder how the X1's reception would have been if Oly's 17mm had been a great lens rather than a so-so one.

"...can't do anything a slow focusing point and shoot with a tiny sensor doesn't."

I'm Curious Grey Scale - Yes, it can. Several things in fact. It can attain a shallower DOF for given conditions, shoot at higher ISOs with less noise, and attain a larger dynamic range. All things that at least some photographers want. If that's not you, so be it.

Has the X1 got anti shake ?

The X1 seems pretty aggressively priced to me
The sensor has about 20 times the sensor area of the D-LUX 4, (3.4 MP/cm² vs 24 MP/cm²) which is almost always sold out. It's probably a Sony similar to what's in the Sony A500 or the Nikon D300S.
It has a lens that would be $1000 - $2000 by itself. By comparison, the 24mm f/2.8 Elmarit in M mount is $3,795.00.
It has a nice metal brick of a body that look pretty nice without that silly hand grip.
It's rather extreme in the build quality to feature set ratio and is in the 12 megapixel sweet spot so it will probably have a long useful life. My Sony R1 is getting pretty beat up and I don't expect that Sony is going to continue to service it very much longer.
It's made with a lot of hand labor by well paid workers with excellent health care, which is important to some people.

Seems like a screaming bargain to me.

Sure would look good in hammertone paint like a M1


I believe that one of the main reasons for all the grumbling about the M9 price is that there is no alternative. Leica still doesn't have a tiered product line.

Either you cough up the $7000 for an M9 (no lens) or you don't play at all.

There are an awful lot of shooters out there, who's primary tool is the M-series and can't afford the M9. They are left out in the cold. In some cases these people have been using M bodies for decades or have film bodies and many lenses that were not cheap. They are all shut out of the digital game.

If Leica had something like a CL-D, with an APS-C or APS-H sensor in it at a reasonable cost (for Leica) a lot of the grumbling would go away.

The X1 is not that camera. It is a very expensive P&S with a big sensor and a high price tag. In terms of functionality it lacks the optical viewfinder necessary for serious work, regardless of what Leica's marketing department says.

I've never thought that a CL-D would be a threat to the M9.

- APS vs full frame
- Lower MP count (12MP vs 18MP)
- The RF unit would be good, but not as good as the M-series.
- Limited set of framelines (35/50/90 or 28/35/50/75)
- If it had a fixed lens, it would not have the flexibility of the M-series.

D300 sales have not killed the D700.
The 5D-II has not killed the 1Ds-III

Where's my digital CL-D, Leica? At the moment I see a used M8.2 and VC 2/28 in my future and no money from those sales in your pocket.

Very nice, but I think somebody should have told Leica (not only Leica, in fact) that aperture ring should be on the lens. Unfortunately, I only have one opposing thumb on my right hand. Maybe with (my) next generation this can improve...

"Rumor I heard was that there was to be a B&W version of the original M8, but the ousted CEO--what was his name? I've forgotten already--Stephen something--nixed it."

They mentioned it to me in the Spring of last year, when I saw a mock up of the S2 -literally under a table in a restaurant.

Marketing people, from Leica, were going around canvassing opinion on various proposed projects. I was contacted through Leica's PR company in the UK. Have to say, I thought the b/w only camera was ridiculous.

It can attain a shallower DOF for given conditions

With a 24mm (36mm equivalent) lens? I'd rather not have a shallow depth of field but even with an APS sized sensor, you're still not going to be that shallow.

shoot at higher ISOs with less noise

True but two points. If I'm going to be shooting at ISO 800 or above, I'm going to be using the D90 or the D700. What's more, with an F2 lens and imagine stabilization, it's pretty rare I have to shoot at higher ISOs with the LX3.

and attain a larger dynamic range.

True. The LX3's files don't have much wiggle room in RAW. Even at ISO 80, you pretty much have to nail the exposure. But, once again, if I'm going to want a lot of wiggle room for badly exposed shots, I think I'd rather have a D700. But this I think is the one legitimate point. I still don't see much reason to recommend this Leica over the Sigma DP-1 though.

Why in the world would Leica maintain the removable baseplate? Talk about useless... This is a point where nostalgic gets in the way of evolution. Yeeks!

Totally (non trivial) point.

Does it have an annoying lens cap on a string the way the LX3 does?

The dpreview hands on doesn't have a photo of the lens cap.

The lens cap on a string is the worst part of the LX3.

Since this new Leica is bigger than the LX3, if it has the lens cap on a string it's even less pocketable.

Put that viewfinder and grip on and it's like totally non pocketable.

The Canon S90 is looking pretty good on this score.

I haven't seen a photo of the bottom of the camera. Do you still have to take the bottom plate off to get to the battery and memory card? That would be too bad.

Yes, you still have to. And the bottom release lock is on the wrong side of the camera as well, just like the shutter dial rotates the wrong way...

Somewhere between the M6 and the M6TTL, Leica started installing mirrors in the design department.

But (t.i.c.) nitpicking aside, well done Leica. I'm very curious about the AF speed of the X1, myself, which has been the shortcoming of most (if not all) non-SLR AF cameras to date, I believe.

I looked on Leica's site. It doesn't address the annoying lens cap on a string issue.

I'm betting the X1 has a lens cap on a string and they're hiding it from us.

Lens cap on a string, grrrrrr.

"I believe that one of the main reasons for all the grumbling about the M9 price is that there is no alternative."

I really don't hear much "grumbling" about the M9 price from anyone likely to be in the market for one. Everybody knew a full-frame Leica was going to cost more than the $6000 M8.2, and a lot of people expected a price for the M9 in the $8000 range.

Harry, fortunately there is an alternative and your APS-H "CL-D" does exist. As you suggested, a used M8 fills all of your requirements, and they've dipped down to around $2000 recently on eBay, an absolute steal.

Better yet, the money you spend on that used M8 does make it into Leica's pockets, as anyone selling a used M8 this fall is almost certainly going to give the money directly to Leica for a new M9.

Let's not forget that Leica just introduced three hugely ambitious cameras (two of which required designing new lenses), cameras that are not matched by any other manufacturer, of any size. Considering how small a company they are, I doubt Leica would have had the resources to develop any more new cameras this year!

"I still don't see much reason to recommend this Leica over the Sigma DP-1 though."

Over on LL the comment that stands out is that the camer felt fast with a large buffer, it's the roported slow operation of the DP1/DP2 that has always put me off. I'd also expect a more solid build from Leica, so I suspect it will be a much more deirable camera.

I was at Luminous Landscape this morning to read first impressions of the new Leicas.

Was stopped by the caption to the first photo of the M9, "Leica M9 Celebrates Its Birth", and was reminded immediately of Athena leaping fully formed from the forehead of Zeus.

"I'm here, I'm here! Let the bells ring out and the banners fly! Feast your eyes on me, it's too good to be true but I'm here, I'm here!"

Which is, of course, the Genie from Looney Tunes, but close enough.

I also have an LX-3 and really like it a lot. That being said, the one place where its use of a tiny little sensor betrays itself is that even at base ISO whatever they are doing to avoid too much noise also completely destroys edge sharpness and even at moderate pixel peeping levels.

A bigger sensor would really help with that. But all of the current large sensor "compacts" have other compromises (cost, size, AF speed, lens field of view, lack of a decent wide angle) that make them not as desirable IMHO.

I also don't get the obsession with shallow DOF. It seems like if you are focusing by hand, or with dodgy contrast detection in bad light on a non-static subject you want all the help you can get.

And if the subject is standing still, why do you need the fast lens and the high ISO? Get a tripod or lens stabilizer.

On the third hand, if this X-1 thing can actually shoot fast frame to frame, that would be the reason it's better than a DP-1/2. There are very few compacts that have decent shooting responsiveness. One of the reasons I like the LX-3 is that is pretty damn good in that department.

Ken N: There are some of us (likely many) who did not buy the $$$$ plasma TV, do not go to Charbucks every day, don't spend a ridiculous amount on cable, own a Honda rather than a Lexus, and still hold that Leica is seriously overpriced. We are serious photographers (whether "pro" or not) and if the BEST tool for our work is a "full frame" RF, then we are SOL for digital.

For me it doesn't really matter, as TriX and Rodinal (substute you own preferences here) are still plentiful, and colour mostly bores me anyway now that Kodachrome is disappearing into a dark Rochester winter night.

Mike,

Would you extend eligibility for the Leica Year to the X1?

'I also don't get the obsession with shallow DOF. It seems like if you are focusing by hand, or with dodgy contrast detection in bad light on a non-static subject you want all the help you can get.'

well, in that case maybe, but, if you let your imagination run for a moment, how about isolating your subject when they are concentrating and relatively still so that they pop out from the background? Some people, and I am one of them, like to use this effect.

I was photographing yesterday in Burmese monasteries (very low light) using a 35/2 and an 85/1.8, (Canon 5D2) and I often wished I had my Leica 35/1.4 with me to give that extra isolation effect along with the speed and accuracy of the rangefinder. For me in this and many other situations (blacksmith's or weaving workshops, dark cafes) only Full frame will work effectively enough. I am very much looking forward to the M9 if it has relatively noise free 1280 ISO.

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