The Future of the Leica M (Cometh)

Exclusive La Vida Leica news! So, earlier in the week we dropped a little tidbit about the Leica Q (Type 116) coming in June. What about the Leica M, you ask? Many people have been thinking that there must be a megapixel monster lurking in the wings - to be introduced at Photokina 2016. Well, we have both good news and bad news - and in both cases, people are going to be talking about this for some time to come. Many will even say we're insane. But regular readers of La Vida Leica know that we've had many exclusive scoops in the past... The (new) Leica M Monochrom, M-E, M-A, T and X Vario to name a few.

Granted, some details are still a bit vague - nature of the business - but you heard it here first!

First, the good news. You won't need to wait until Photokina 2016... A new M camera is coming by the end of this year!

You might be wondering why this isn't coming out at Photokina 2016. Three guesses here; one is that it might be more of a "special edition" sort of camera like the Leica M60, especially if it lacks an LCD (more on this below). Second, we understand that Leica has been working on a "high megapixel camera" but it might not be ready for primetime (again, more on this below). There's also the fact that the Leica M-P came out in September, and we all know what that means... Finally, our source was clear - this camera was coming by the end of the year.

This new Leica M is going in a different direction in a couple of very major ways... One of those directions is something that people have complained about on digital M cameras since the Leica M8 was introduced in 2006 - that is, they wished the cameras were smaller and thinner and more like the film cameras of old. Your wish has been granted! A major focus will be trimming the fat off of digital M cameras.

Now we get into the grey area between "good" and "bad" news and it depends entirely on how you choose to look at it. Sort of like the glass being half full or half empty. One way the size will be reduced might be the end of the traditional Messsucher (optical rangefinder after which the Leica M is named) as we know it. Why? It's large, heavy, complex and sensitive to alignment and finally, expensive - costing $750 alone. It will still have an optical component (ruling out an EVF) but will now essentially be digital, similar to the Konost camera and its digital rangefinder at the least - or a hybrid like the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and X100 at best.

Either way, this is a radical shift in design and will surely be a polarizing topic. It fundamentally changes one of the biggest features that Leica M shooters have espoused for decades. Is this the end of the traditional Leica M camera that has existed, essentially unchanged, since the introduction of the M3 in 1954? Not entirely; just modernized. It simplifies the entire rangefinder - cutting the size and weight of the mechanism and lowers cost.

Now for a brief moment of conjecture. What will become of the rear LCD? Eliminating it would surely help to make the camera thinner (if the viewfinder were truly an EVF you wouldn't even need one). Alas, we don't think it's going away - but we just don't know yet. Consider how thin the Leica T is, and not only does it have an LCD, it's touch capable...

Now for a bit more "bad" news, again depending on how you look at things. This is no megapixel monster. Not yet, at least. Leica, for the time being, has fully adopted the Leica M/M-P sensor, the CMOSIS “Leica MAX 24MP CMOS Sensor” and extended its lifespan for at least two years. This is why it's at the heart of the new Leica Q (Type 116) camera (we learned it was very similar - but different)... And why it will be the heart of the upcoming Leica M as well. No additional pixels, peepers.

Honestly, we find the 18-24MP range more than sufficient for most purposes. More megapixels will just bring about increased storage demands (yeah, yeah, storage is cheap), slow down the camera and demand more from lenses as well as your technique. In the end, more is not necessarily better.

Speaking of lenses. The camera will accept all existing M as well as T lenses! One will require an adapter, obviously. What's not so obvious is how the auto focus and aperture electronics will be handled on the latter... Will we see AF on an M? As for everything else and much like the current M/M-P, you can bolt pretty much anything to it with the proper adapter.

So to recap...

  • Will arrive by end of the year
  • Smaller, thinner M camera
  • Optical/digital rangefinder
  • Same 24MP sensor as M/M-P
  • Will use Leica M and T lenses

We'll update you as we get more information of course, so stay tuned!

In closing, we'd like to take a moment to point out to those certain folks that always doubt us (as they are on the Leica Q (Type 116) details). Consider, for one brief moment, that we might know more than you do about these things. We stand by our track record, which if you dig a little - is pretty darn good!

Obviously, we don't claim to get every detail 100% right, every time. Again, that's the nature of rumors after all. But you can rest assured that if we post one... There's some meat there - and we deal with reputable (and varied) sources from around the world. We don't just post anything, like certain bottom feeders out there.

We are not a rumor site. Yes, we post them from time to time. But then, we are all things Leica!

So remember, you heard it here first.

Update (05/08/15):

Apparently, some clarifications are needed... Though we thought we were pretty clear? This is an upcoming M camera - not the Q (which is coming in June) and not a T or an X, or anything else. We are not guessing at anything here (except where indicated) - this camera will be coming as-stated in the bullet points, we're assured. We stand by our record.

Leica is putting the M on a diet. A "digital rangefinder" will be part of it; make of that what you will... As we suggested, it might be like the Konost, or it might be more like the Fujifilm X-Pro1/X-100. We don't think it will be an EVF as we were told it would retain an optical component. It will take M and T lenses, one of which will clearly require an adapter (we cleared up our text above on this).

One can also argue that this is "no longer an M camera" with the new rangefinder... But it should still work as usual - just different. Will it replace the traditional M, or will it be a parallel product? We don't know. We suspect the next iteration of the M/M-P (Type 240) will still likely come at Photokina 2016... Perhaps with some of the modifications mentioned here, perhaps not.

We urge you to look at the unadulterated bullet points up above; those are the key facts about what is coming. Interpret them as you will. And as always, we'll continue to update everyone as we get more information... It's early yet.

Feel free to discuss it below in the comments or in the forum.

From the current issue of Film & Digital Times (PDF) is an interview in which Andreas Kaufmann says on May 23, 2014:

Leica Camera is celebrating its 100th birthday. What’s coming up in the next 1 to 100 years?

We are thinking about something between M and S, but I can’t say more. It’s in the pipeline. At Photokina, we will show some interesting developments in lenses. We will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the M system. We’ll have a very special exhibition about the story of rock music and Leica M, the camera that covered it all. We have put together a nice exhibition for the event. It will be a celebration of the M system, and you can imagine that we might be also working on some ideas regarding future M models.

Update (05/11/15):

As we expected, the vitriol coming from certain people is strong with this one. Funny, one of them is under NDA with Leica... Work that FUD!

At least one site so far has shared this news (and without credit, we might add). DSLR Magazine.

Update (06/11/15):

As we've seen with the introduction of the Q, Leica is getting serious about EVFs (finally). What's also immediately obvious is that a full frame digital Leica can indeed be thin and light! Now, we're not suggesting that an EVF model will replace the optical viewfinder cameras outright (we never said that and Stefan Daniel of Leica confirms it). But it very much could mean parallel product lines.

If you're still doubting the veracity of our "rumors" then we'd like to remind you about the Q; which we were thoroughly vindicated on.

Update (08/05/15):

We're getting some confirmations on this story that we were the FIRST to tell you about months ago (a certain other site finally got around to copying us). For starters, consider this:

Leica patent for opto-electronic viewfinder

What you're seeing above are Leica Camera patents WO2014198245 (published on December 18, 2014) and DE102012009975 (published on July 23, 2015) for a camera with an opto-electronic viewfinder...

The invention relates to a camera having an optoelectronic range finder, a focusable lens and a visually observable display unit for displaying data and/or images. According to the invention, two electronic image recording modules (5, 6) at a distance from one another and having their optical axes aligned to a common target point are integrated into the front surface of the housing (1) of the camera as range finders. A microprocessor unit (12) is present in the housing (1) and connected to the signal outputs of the image recording modules (5, 6) in order to determine the phase difference of the images of the object space recorded by the image recording modules (5, 6) and to compare the determined phase difference to the values stored in a calibration table for the distances associated with different phase differences.

Camera with an opto-electronic distance meter, a focusable shooting lens and a visually observable display unit for displaying data and / or images, as rangefinder two spaced and aligned with their optical axes to a common destination electronic imaging modules ( 5, 6) in the front surface of the housing (1) are used to the camera and for determining the phase separation of the image recording modules (5, 6) recorded images of the object space and comparing the detected phase spacing with the values ​​stored in a calibration table the different phase intervals associated distances a microprocessor unit (12) in the housing (1) is provided and connected to the signal outputs of the image pickup modules (5, 6).

There's also some other information confirming this, but we'll keep this close to the vest - for now.