Leica Goes Applesque

Leica T

Right out of the Apple playbook -- produce a high quality product, at the higher end of the price spectrum in their respective product categories, yet still affordable for those looking primarily at quality.  Leica announces a sexy new camera, at the right price point, with seemingly just the right set of features available in the initial version.  

Aethestics    This device is nothing, if not an industrial piece of art. Like the iPhone, the design clearly expresses functional simplicity.  In fact Leica's brochure calls out;  'Minimalism is the leitmotif.'  And in another nod to iPhone or iPad accessories, the T-System offers colorful (and simple) protective covers, which are different items than a conventional camera case, which is also offered.

Pricing    A new Leica T-System camera will be delivered May 26th at an entry price of $1,850 (body) + $1,750-1,950 (lens).  

Is this the most inexpensive Leica in modern times?  A sub $4,000 entry point is an entirely different price bracket compared the venerable M-series.    

Regular people will actually be able to afford the T-System!

With one swoop of the pricing pen, Leica has re-oriented themselves toward a much larger market.  What was unreachable, even unthinkable for many people in the $11,000+ starting price range for the M-series, has now been made affordable.  Still not for everyone - it's nowhere near the price of a Sony A6000, though I suspect they'll be two different beasts.  Of course, the RX1 and T-System do fall into a more similar price range, but can we compare an APS-C interchangeable lens with a full frame, fixed lens?  

Milled from a single chunk of aluminum

Body    The Leica T body is milled from a single piece of aluminum.  Sound familiar?  A Leica unibody?

Solid metal construction should render the body virtually indestructible and let this model last for years...  

How will a solid metal body work for those of us who like to take our cameras out in the extreme cold, or even the heat?  I routinely take my OM-D out in subzero temps, as I did with my E-PL1 and they both function just fine without camera or battery degradation.

For those of you who've ever sat near a fireplace or wood stove with a MacBookPro (unibody), you've found the unit heats up quickly!  This is due to the high heat transfer coefficient of a solid hunk of metal. 

What if the entire body is a huge heat or cold sink?  

I can't wait to hear about some real-world tests with this new T-System body, in other than urban / suburban conditions.  Hopefully my early speculations will be proven wrong.

Ease of Use    Just as Apple seems to think of all the little usability details which make their devices & software so easy and functional, Leica appears to be offering similarly well-thought out features.

WiFi is built in, so that pictures may be easily & instantly shared with your mobile device or computer. But that's not all.  Leica has produced a mobile app (IOS / Android) enabling the mobile device to act as a remote viewfinder and remote control.  The remote function permits selection of aperture, shutter speed and release.  So you can set up the Leica T, then step away to snap the picture when you're good & ready, standing in your group.

The 3.7" is not only large, but provides a touchscreen for compose, focus & review functions.  Have of us have taken out the SD card to download the pics, then taken our camera out, only to discover it's a no-go because the card is still back home?  Ouch.  The T-System comes with 16 Gb of built-in memory, so this will never happen.  Nice touch.  It still offers a slot for the usual SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.

Who enjoys mountain new straps onto a camera, then having to thread them back to double through the little security holders?  Leica purports to have solved this with some sort of innovative click-in mechanism for straps or other accessories.

Of course there is an available M-system adaptor for mounting M-series lenses on the T.  Apparently some 20 M lenses are currently compatible.

Selected Technical Specs

  • Sensor:    APS-C CMOS, 16.5 megapixels
  • Filter:   no AA filter
  • ISO:          100 - 12,500
  • Autofocus:  contrast
  • Shutter speed:  30 s - 1/4000 s
  • Video format:   MP4
  • WLAN:   802.11 b /g / n
  • Weight:   384 g / 13.5 oz.

Let's see if Leica delivers on the marketing hype with this unit.  Given the price, the possibility for regular photographers to own & shoot with a Leica should open an entirely new demographic as potential customers.  This could really invigorate the company and like iPhone users who then purchase iPads or MacBooks, could lead to so-called 'aura' buyers who then upgrade to the M series.


See Steve Huff's rave review of the Leica T.