Leica Unveils the M and M-E: Beefed Up and Stripped Down Rangefinders

With much fanfare, Leica announced its new M and M-E digital rangefinders at Photokina today. The M breaks new ground by introducing some fancy new features that have never been seen before in an M rangefinder, while the M-E is the company’s attempt at offering an entry-level digital rangefinder.

Notice that Leica has done away with its standard naming strategy. Apparently Leica is doing what Apple did with the iPad: leaving out the generation in the name entirely. In future, we’ll be saying “Leica M” with “20th generation” in parentheses rather than Leica M20.

Leica M: A Revolutionary Update to the M Line

The Leica M is the first M rangefinder to feature Live View and 1080p HD video recording — two major changes for Leica, and a huge departure from the way Leica cameras are operated. Furthermore, the camera is the first to use a CMOS sensor instead of a CCD one.

The new Live View feature allows photographers to compose images using their LCD screen instead of their optical viewfinder. It’s a standard feature in most digital cameras, but one that Leica has avoided until now. Focusing with the Live View can be done with two new focusing options: Live View Zoom and Live View Focus Peaking. Zoom uses up to 10x of magnification to give the user a good sense of whether something is in focus or not, while Focus Peaking uses overlaid red lines to indicate sharp focus.

Other specs include a 24MP full frame sensor and a Gorilla Glass 3-inch LCD screen with 920K pixels.

The camera will be available starting in early 2013 in black or chrome for $6,950.

Leica M-E: A Stripped-Down “Affordable” Rangefinder

The Leica M-E is a stripped-down version of the Leica M9, allowing more photographers to jump into the M lineup for the first time (a big theme this year). Specs include an 18MP CCD full-frame sensor, an ISO range of 160-2500, a 0.68x magnification viewfinder, and a 230K dot 2.5-inch screen.

It’ll be available in late September 2012 for the cheap(er) price of $5,450.

Leica R-Adapter M

Along with the Leica M and M-E, the company has also announced a new adapter that lets photographers use their Leica R lenses on their Leica M body.

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    If affordable is $1500 (21%) cheaper than the flagship model…. i don’t know what is.

  • Dave Polak

    Live view and video on a Leica M? Sounds horrible and very anti Leica. What the hell were they thinking?

  • Ítalo Brito

    I was excited for the M-E, but the same outdated sensor from the M9? Not even a small bump in the screen’s resolution? C’mon, Leica, you just lost me.

    Remember when Leica M’s were a symbol of technology and high quality? Yeah…

  • E

    Imagen that, somehow the “cheap” version looks cooler than the top model! For me personally I think the features of the M-E fits my needs in a camera better too. ..and hopefully the second hand value of the M9’s gonna take a serious fall when the M-E is available.

  • destroy_all_humans

    the M on the front looks lonely

  • Zhemin

    Remember when Leica M’s were a symbol of technology and high quality? Yeah… NO!!!!!!!

    They were a symbol of simplicity and perfection.

  • Knur

    meh… Fujifilm X-E1 ftw!

  • Andrew

    Gorgeous. And not a bad price actually. I was expecting near 10k.

  • quickpick

    tempting products, no doubt, but i may never get to know the leica fascination in real life.. and how sad is that? could someone here describe in one’s own words what it is like to use and work with actually? :)

  • Simon Meisinger

    being born in 1985 i don’t and so don’t you.

  • Henning Nilsen

    It is like renting a vintage steam train all for yourself to travel 500 miles compared to travelig the same distance while being stuck in the cargo hold of a 747.

    Sure it’s faster to be in the cargo hold, but the amount of satisfaction and scenic experience from the train is unmatched.

  • Yiu

    Seriously, $5,450 for a “starter” model with this kind of specs???

  • sierrarobba

    Leica always about lenses,and 5450 for a new digital FULL FRAME leica not bad,okay you need a lens(es) but its fine.

  • zhi hang

    Why are u guys so broke ?
    Save for a year and bam you’ll have one…any leica

  • Young

    God save us. Tomfooleries like live view and video mode aren’t supposed to appear on a Leica. Such a disappointment

  • Jason

    for people who can spend 5450 dollars on a camera body..i dont think the extra 1500 gonna matter

  • freediverx

    If these cameras are within your budget, why would anyone consider the “cheap” version just to save 15%?

  • freediverx

    Even if I could afford one of these, the poor autofocus performance and image quality no better than competing products at half the price would make it a tough sell. Leica’s have become a designer camera, hence their tacky and silly “limited edition” models.

  • Ron Wayton

    Sad. I’d buy an Olympus EP – something if I wanted a camera like that.

  • Ron Wayton

    I was born in ’59 and I DO

  • jen729w

    Um. There is *no* autofocus performance.

    What there is is extraordinary focus performance that you perform yourself.

    If you’ve never owned a Leica, you won’t “get” this. Fine. If you have (current and active MP owner here), you’ll desperately want this. Simple as that.

    And no, it absolutely is not logical. It’s 100% emotional.

  • jen729w


  • John

    And still a lens will cost from 2000 usd and up…

  • CartierBesson

    I konw I’m gonna get the Leica M! I’ve been waiting for M10 forever!

  • Tohe

    I’m most worried about the change from a CCD to a CMOS sensor, but I trust Leica, so I will hold off any judgement.

  • Tohe

    My guess is that those who prefer CCD will opt for the ME. It’s not really a question of money, but of image characteristics.

  • Tohe

    Why not? Video is a fantastic expressive medium and Leica is all about capturing expressions.

  • patrujo

    They should lose that red dot on the M-E. Sharp looking camera, but how about an even cheaper one with no lcd, that’s even lighter and around $2500! I’ll do my chimping on my computer at home at the end of the day.

  • Mark B

    As a Leica M-system user since 1969, I can say it’s a great camera to learn photography with, the recent lenses have matchless optics, and the M-system costs too much. Yes, the way the lenses draw is superb for lovers of great micro-contrast and bokeh, but I get very acceptable results from Canon L-series glass. Most clients don’t care what you use – they just see the picture. Family and friends are the same way.

    The Leica rangefinder is a quick and easy way to focus. The digital M cameras finally offer a usable flash sync speed above the film M’s ridiculous 1/50 second. Aperture-priority automation works very well. But other cameras like the Fuji X-E1 do it better for much le$$, albeit without the rangefinder.

    Leica simply isn’t competitive to modern digital cameras for most mere mortals.

  • Pebbles

    What job do you work where you can save 500$ and more a month?

  • Dickles

    You have no idea what Leica’s are do you?

  • BL42E

    I don’t think the price for the M-E is THAT bad. The cheapest Sony RX1 I could find here in Norway is like $4,171.92, and it has a fixed lens.