Subtitle: I Want My M9 Lite.
Yesterday a rumor about a possible “mirrorless” Leica camera popped up on the Twitter account of Spanish photography publication, DSLR Magazine. This morning, that information was reposted by the Web site, 4/3 Rumors. The gist of the rumor was that one of the employees of DSLR Magazine had information from “reliable sources” about a new mirrorless camera from Leica. My standard position on camera rumors and rumor sites is polite distance. As a rule, I don’t share rumors or participate on any of the camera rumors sites. I know they’re there and I do pay attention. But my relationships with the camera companies are way more important than any rumors that might be floating around on the Internet. However, the way the Leica rumor developed is kinda funny and makes it a little different. So, please indulge me and read on…
The Micro Four Thirds / mirrorless camera category is hot – probably hotter than anyone expected (learn more on our Micro Four Thirds / EVIL Cameras Forum). Right now we’ve got cameras from Samsung, Sony, Olympus and Panasonic with third-party lens manufacturers trying to get in on the action as well. The idea of a compact, affordable, interchangeable lens EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) camera from Leica is very enticing. Since they have an ongoing relationship with Panasonic, who make the Lumix line of Micro Four Thirds cameras, a Leica-branded version of the Panasonic GH2 or GF2 cameras is not a total fantasy. We already have Leica versions of other Panasonic digital cameras, after all. Of course, what a lot of us would really like is a totally Leica-designed Micro Four Thirds format camera. So yeah, I’ll admit I took a peek at the post on the 4/3 Rumors site and got a little dreamy.
And then the fantasy came crashing down. Leica was very quick to respond to the “mirrorless” camera rumor. I wasn’t able to track down the official response but according to a post on the Web site of British magazine, Amateur Photographer (read their article), Leica pointed out that they have been, “producing mirrorless cameras since 1954.”
Oh yeah. That’s right. Remember those beautiful Leica M rangefinder film cameras? No mirror – not ever.
And that’s what makes this whole mirrorless rumor thing sort of funny. If you still don’t get it, let me make it totally clear. The rumor was about Leica making a new mirrorless camera. When, in fact, they’ve been making mirrorless rangefinder cameras for over half a century. And they’ll be more than happy to sell you one of their fine M9 digital rangefinders. Sure, it will cost you close to $8000 with a lens. But you’ll have a beautiful, all metal, full frame sensor, mirrorless camera that will walk all over anything Sony, Samsung, Olympus or Panasonic has to offer. I want one. Hell, I’ve been in this business for a long, long time – I think I deserve one. In fact, I want the limited edition $26,500 M9 Titanium! I don’t think that’s gonna happen, though.
For most photographers – even the pros – the M9 is purely an object of desire – a luxury camera. It’s not something we can actually justify owning. At the heart of the rumor is the desire for a Leica-quality camera that’s closer to the size and price of the current Micro Four Thirds / EVIL cameras. In fact, the original Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras, especially the Olympus E-P1 Pen, were compared to Leica rangefinders. What the people (me) want, is a compact, interchangeable lens Leica camera in the neighborhood of $500 to $1000, instead of $7000 to $8000. Such a camera would have to be suitably different from the EVIL cameras that are already available, though. I don’t think a Leica-branded GF2 would cut the mustard. I’m not really interested in a red-dot Panasonic. I want the real thing. My $500 to $1000 price probably isn’t realistic, though. For a real Leica, I’d guess we’d have to be prepared to pay more in the neighborhood of $2000. And I just might be willing to do that.