The Leica M
In a giant party at Photokina, Leica has announced that it will build a new camera for delivery early in 2013. It's a successor to the M9, but it's not an M10.
It's the "M."
Not only that: Leica also says that all Leica rangefinder-type cameras from now on will be called the "M." Just "M." I guess that's so that only initiates into the Secret Rites will know which model is which. (Either that, or there will never be any future models beyond the one coming in 2013. No, I suppose that isn't it.) It will be sort of like knowing the points of first editions, I guess.
I've been critical of many camera naming protocols (picking on Canon especially), so I look forward to lampooning Leica's affectations, also at some point in the future. (I laugh my evil laugh.)*
One thing this will do is completely screw up the established convention of referring to all the Leica M's—the whole line, from the M3 of 1953 to the M9—as "the Leica M."
Don't you hate it when the newsreader editorializes, and doesn't just give the news? OK, the news: The M10 (rats, no, just "M") will be along in 2013, quite possibly, and will have a 24-MP CMOS sensor made by the Belgian company CMOSIS. It will also have live view and focus peaking. That will be great for people who own R lenses, because you'll be able to slap an R lens on your M10 (rats again) and focus it. It will also accept the EVF that goes on the little fixed lens mirrorless camera of theirs, the name of which I can never remember. (X2.)
Of course, live view and focus peaking and an optional EVF also sort of takes it a lot closer to a conventional mirrorless camera and relegates the optical rangefinder, which after all is the whole raison d'être of the M concept, a whole lot closer to irrelevance—doesn't it?
Must be for the M user who is just pining to be able to make his RF camera into a passable imitation of an ordinary DSLR.
Sorry, I am being a rogue. The new features will allow options for shooters that will doubtless be very helpful and useful. (And anyway, aren't I the guy who always says you should never slam a camera until you try it?)
The new Leica M-only body will be weatherproof, too, which is great news.
The Leica M-E
Meanwhile, the M9 will continue in the lineup, more or less, but it will now be called the M-E (remember the R-E? I liked that camera. The "budget" R5). It will be a stripped down economy model that will reportedly sell for only $5,450.
OK. And how is it that someone will want a last-generation super-expensive luxury product but not mind foregoing the status of owning the good model? And who both really wants to spend $5,450 on a camera widely understood to be a status symbol but also wants to broadcast to the world the fact that he's too cheap to spend an additional $1,500? Doesn't make sense to me. Being not in the target demographic, I concede that maybe I'm not supposed to get this.
At least Porsche has the decency to charge more for its superlight 911, which has all sorts of parts taken out. That way the buyer can feel good about getting less.
The M-E sure is cool, though, with its "partial antipanda" looks. Always liked Leica antipandas. (In Leicaspeak, panda means silver with black knobs. Black with silver knobs is the anti-.)
The Leica S
Meanwhile, the Leica S2 (perfectly sensible name) got a minor upgrade and will now only be called the "S." This name crap is making me unhappy, so let's move on.
...To something that makes me even more unhappy. Along with the gruesome spectacle of the decline of Kodak, we are also being forced to witness the decline of Hasselblad. Whoever and whatever Hasselblad now is—I've had to avert my gaze—those responsible have decided to put out some digital cameras clad in ultra-"luxurious" casings of rare woods and gold and so forth.
Does anyone remember the name—model, make—of Andrew Wyeth's car? (Hugh?) It was some one-off, super-deluxe, overbuilt, extremely expensive, jump-the-shark wannabee luxo cruiser that was being offered at the time as a super-status-mobile, before sinking 'neath the waves. I think Wyeth was given one, as a prize or an award, and he said he liked it because he'd park it on a hillside in the Brandywine countryside somewhere with the motor running, turn up the heater, and then sit on the roof sketching or painting while dangling his legs through the sunroof into the toasty interior to keep his toes warm. Whatever that car was—I can't remember—the new Hasselblad horrors remind me of it.
No pictures. Please.
*P.S. I think Kevin P. called it in the Comments: Somebody else probably already owned the rights to "M10," and either wouldn't sell or license it or asked too high a price.
ADDENDUM: About the car, it finally came to me: It was a Stutz Blackhawk, a luxo-frankenmobile sold from '71 through '87 that had a custom Italian body on a GM chassis and drivetrain. Jalopnik said of it that it "would make even a pimp cringe":
Evel Knievel and Lucille Ball owned one, and Elvis had three, one with red leather and interior trim of real gold. The pictures above are from an Elvis website, although this wasn't one of Elvis's cars.
I even found a picture of Andrew Wyeth with his at Chadd's Ford, being offered as a print on Ebay by a seller called sirryan:
Although you can't see it in any of these pictures they had a spare tire in a housing mounted on top of the trunklid.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Slobodan Blagojevic: "New Leica naming policy? Not new at all. Car manufactures have been doing it for decades. Camry, Accord, Passat.... Able to distinguish them only by release year. So, the new Leica M will be known as 'Leica M, model 2013,' or, affectionately, M-13?"
Mike replies: True, but there's a very strong convention of distinguishing car models by year of introduction, which the car companies go along with in the model introductions. But in your "affectionately" lies the rub: now it will likely be up to individuals to decide how to distinguish one M from another, and, most probably, different people will do it lots of different ways, like the five or six nonstandard ways people refer to or abbreviate "Micro Four-Thirds." My guess is that it will just be an added annoyance.
Featured Comment by John Robison: "Hmm, just 'M' you say. Wasn't that a famous Fritz Lang film with Peter Lorre about a child murderer? Or the head of British secret service in the Bond films? I guess somebody will bring it to Leica's attention. After all they were the company that got all bent out of shape at the 1972 Photokina when Olympus introduced the M1."
Questions from Bryan Willman: "So, would the first sane person to lay hands on a 2013-M please look through the rangefinder part and tell me:
- Does it have frame lines? (The frame mask window is gone....)
- Can you change the frame lines manually? (The little-used frame mask lever is gone from both M-E and 2013-M.)
- Can you see some part of the fancy focus-peak in the rangefinder window with the camera to your eye? (Evolution of X100 tactics)?
"It could be, is implied by one or two weird sentences, that this camera has a startling advance in the rangefinder window. But there's so much nonsense about historic crap that you cannot tell. First M-mount camera I've ever seen announced without framelines listed....?!?"
Answer (to question #1) from Jonas Yip: "The framelines on the M(10) are illuminated with an LED instead of the illumination window."
Mike adds, to Slobodan: Note that just in these few comments here, we've already had "M-13," "2013-M," and "M(10)." See what I mean?
Featured Comment by Michel: "If I purchase my Hassy through one of your links will you issue a retraction? ;-)"
Mike replies: Yes.
Featured Comment by Jeff: "Well, I was considering a 5DIII to supplement my M8.2 for bad weather and use of longer lenses if the new M didn't serve those needs. And my wish list for the new M also included 2m frame lines like the M8.2, a quieter shutter sound (without the obnoxious re-cocking noise) and the Maestro processor (as in the S) for better processing than the M9. It seems I got all five wishes. That never happens when I really want some features in a new camera. They can now call it Shirley for all I care."
[Ed. Note: The following two comments came in one right after the other in the order they're presented. I didn't juxtapose them for effect.]
Featured Comment by Kenneth Tanaka: "Since I made no note of the Leica announcements earlier a fellow TOP reader asked privately what I thought of the M, knowing that I'm a Leica user.
"Frankly, on pure specs I think the M is probably a remarkable piece of engineering. No, there's nothing in it that isn't already widely available in many far less costly cameras. In fact yes, Leica is very late in offering such features in its products.
"But, jeez, pinch me. Live ttl view with focus peaking, an EVF accessory, and video in basically the same container that Cartier-Bresson (and countless other 20th century greats) used for their work? All in response to the demands of customers. How many other brands can you name that have made such an effort? How many other brands have survived to make such an effort?
"So will I buy an M? I don't know and am in no particular hurry to know. My use of Leica cameras has waned as other sharper and more versatile tools have become abundant. All that really counts is the image; the tool is only a footnote in service to that end. Nevertheless as a photographer who respects and enjoys good photographic tools I am eager to begin seeing reliable hands-on vanguard reports and perhaps even taking one for a spin.
Featured Comment by ch: "I'm at the end of the road with Leica. I have used film Leicas for years. My MP is still my go-to film camera. I bit on the M8. Pricey, good sensor, but frankly just a pain-in-the-ass to use. Plus—it was LOUD. My film Leicas just have a quiet 'snick' when the shutter is released. The M8 had a loud mechanical snap and whir. Plus the crop factor. WTF? All that good Leica glass being wasted. And don't get me started about having to buy UV/IR filters so my pictures weren't magenta.
"Used it a year. Got some good stuff with it. But I never bonded with it. So I sold it.
"Then the M9 came out. In a weak moment, I succumbed. Rationalized the purchase because of my stash of good Leica glass. The full frame thing was nice. Incredibly good digital files—when I got the shot. But another ergonomic and usability basket case. Kept it a year. Now it is gone.
"Now the M is out. I am going to pass. Got a D800 and even though the glass can't match what Leica makes, it is less than half the price, and with 36 megapixels and some Zeiss glass on it, it will kick the M's ass around the block. Plus it is easy to use. Has a flash system. In fact, it is a full system. And I get the shot 95% of the time.
"The digital Leica is like the Morgan motor car. Beautiful in some respects, idiosyncratic in design and construction, but ultimately only appreciated fully by a few well-heeled collectors.
"But, I still love my MP with the 50 'Lux and my M3 with the Noct. I'm going to keep those along with a 35 'Cron and keep shooting film in them. While it lasts."