New Leica M-Rangefinder Adds HD Video

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New Leica M-Rangefinder Adds HD VideoLeica recently brought their revered M-rangefinder into the 21st century. It’s still a Leica M, but to keep up with the Joneses they’ve given it a new 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and added Live View so it can capture 1080p full HD video as well as still photos. They also changed the naming standard, saying they will, “omit the number suffix to emphasize the enduring and long-term significance,” of the M-rangefinder system. There are a few other changes but for the most part the “New” M remains blissfully anachronistic. There’s no auto focus, no scene modes, no zoom, no pop-up flash, and only a few external controls. Other than the fact that it now records video and images digitally, it’s basically the same manual machine it always has been. And that’s how it should be. Love it or hate it, the Leica M does things its own way. And in the hands of a photographer that knows how to use it, it has no peer.

New Leica M-Rangefinder - Front & Back

In the official press release, Leica makes it clear the new 24-megapixel CMOS sensor is not an off-the-shelf component they picked up and tweaked a bit. The Leica M9 digital rangefinder used an 18-megapixel CCD sensor that had image quality Leica was very proud of, but CMOS sensors are a requirement for HD DSLR video. In order to keep the image quality up to Leica standards, they needed a CMOS sensor with, “the characteristic advantages of CCD sensors, such as natural and brilliant color rendition and impressive reproduction of details.” To get that, they collaborated with Belgian sensor maker, CMOSIS. The message is we can expect the same kind of special image quality from the new M-rangefinder that photographers got from the M9. Some of that, of course, is from Leica’s excellent prime lenses. We’ll have to wait and see if they’ve preserved the same level of detail and subtle tonality in the new M. But it is interesting that they apparently made an extra effort to source what they believed was a suitable CMOS sensor.

New Leica M-Rangefinder Key Features and Specs:

  • New 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • Leica M-lens mount
  • Live view
  • 1080p full HD video
  • Focus peaking
  • Sensitivity: ISO 200 to ISO 6400 (ISO 100 “pull” available)
  • Maestro processing – same as Leica S medium format digital SLR
  • New 3-inch 920k-dot LCD with Corning Gorilla Glass protective cover
  • 3 frames per second max burst
  • New accessory port allows use of electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • Weather-sealed body

Besides the new sensor and HD video recording, some of the other improvements in the M-rangefinder are a new 3-inch 920k-dot LCD with protective Corning Gorilla Glass, an accessory port that allows photographers to add an optional electronic viewfinder (EVF), and the M-rangefinder gets the same Maestro processor as the new Leica S medium format digital SLR. There’s also a new “Leica R-Adapter M” that allows the use of Leica R legacy SLR lenses on the new Leica M. The ability to add an electronic viewfinder is probably the most significant secondary upgrade because it fundamentally changes the way the new M can be used. An EVF allows you to actually see through the lens – something you can’t actually do with a traditional rangefinder camera. It will be especially valuable for recording video because the electronic viewfinder allows you to monitor video while shooting and adds a third point-of-contact, helping keep the camera steady.

Here are a couple of videos about the new Leica M. The first is a hands-on intro from the Photokina tradeshow; and the second is an official Leica video with French Magnum photographer Jean Gaumy, talking about the new Leica why he uses Leica rangefinders:

The Leica M-rangefinder is arguably one of the most important cameras ever made – especially for street photography and photojournalism. It’s been around for almost 60 years and was used by the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jim Marshall, Alfred Eisenstadt and Annie Leibovitz to make some of the most famous photos ever captured. If you want to know more about what makes the Leica M-rangefinder system so special, read my article, My Dream Date with the Leica M9. And for a history of the Leica M, I recommend Thorsten Overgaard’s, The Leica History, Web page.

The new Leica M is scheduled to ship early in 2013. The price is expected to be about US $7000, without a lens.

New Leica M Press Release >>

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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Philip Verley says:

    Still love my M6 but this new M look very interesting. I like the brevity of this article. Also, I tried to check out the link for “My dream date with the Leica M9″ but it goes to the Leica History Web page by Thorsten Overgaard. Thanks for the article would have been nice to see some sample images.

  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks for the comment, Philip. I am sorry about the bad link for the “Dream Date” article. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. It has been fixed. As for sample images – I would have liked to provide some but this is a camera announcement / analysis article so I didn’t actually have a camera to test. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a camera in our hands for review, soon :-)

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