Leica T: Starting to look interesting
The secret Leica T, much leaked as usual, is beginning to look interesting. Leica Rumors has a few more titbits today: a revolutionary strap, a hi-tech battery compartment cover, a very quiet shutter and deliveries starting in late May. I am not convinced that I like the brushed aluminium finish, which looks slippery and, possibly, prone to scuffing, but the Audi design offers something unusual. It's a complete departure from Leica tradition at a time when other manufacturers are doing their best to ape the Leica retro look.
The T will follow Leica's renowned simplicity, with direct access to aperture and shutter speed via top-mounted dials as with the X series. It will also eschew scene modes and the multitude of options that make modern cameras often so frustrating.
Everything will depend on the quality of the two original lenses, a 35mm equivalent prime and a 28-70 zoom. Both the X2 and the X Vario have set high standards, particularly with the superb 28-70 zoom of the X Vario. If the T-mount zoom can at least equal the lens of the X Vario in sharpness and full-range excellence, the T will be a system to reckon with. I cannot believe Leica would introduce a zoom that is in any way inferior to that of the XV and that is one good thing.
Ability to work with a full range of existing M optics will be another benchmark for the T. If lens profiles are included I can see great interest among full-frame M enthusiasts. The current 35mm Summicron and Summilux will make ideal companions for the T at a standard angle of view of 50mm.
There is only one real competitor for the T in the APS-C market and that is the Fuji X, a system which benefits from an enviably competent range of lenses. The Leica body is likely to be at least twice the price of the £750 X-E2 and probably twice the price of the £1,050 X-T1. If you add a lens, I would be surprised to find the Leica costing less than £2,500. This is not necessarily a bar to sales; the Leica name still carries a premium and the styling and quality of the T will be a compelling combination. We should also not forget that there is strong competition from cameras with smaller or large sensor sizes, the Olympus OM-D E-1 and the Sony A7 being the foremost contenders.
My big worry is that without a built-in viewfinder, the new T starts at a disadvantage. The viewfinder of Fuji's X-T1 is exceptional and the largest on the market. It is near to the experience of using a DSLR. Other manufacturers, notably Olympus, are forging ahead on EVF technology and it is clear that the T will be handicapped by having to add an accessory finder. It is also an additional couple of hundred pounds, even if you go for the cheaper Olympus version.
Only a few days now and all will be revealed. I am looking forward to the T which I see as a more versatile version of the excellent, if neglected, X Vario.