Leica M-P the buffer slayer
The interesting thing about the new and certainly predictable Leica M-P is not the sapphire screen, nor the ultra-discreet appearance. No, it is the additional features that address two of the known criticisms of the M since it was introduced in 2012. The buffer was too small, at 1GB, and even in normal operations there was sometimes a significant delay while files were written to disk. M connoisseurs will see this as a major improvement.
But the really surprising retrovation is the return of the frame-line lever. This was a feature of M cameras, film and digital, for over 60 years. It was unceremoniously dropped as superfluous when the M was sprung on us. With the electronic viewfinders, perhaps, Leica thought that no one would miss the facility to check your framelines without much swapping of lenses.
I have not missed this lever, I have to say, but I know it has been a bone of contention among traditionalists. I am not sure what value it has, but its reappearance will delight the faithful.
All in all, the M-P is a worthy addition to the range and will add lustre to M sales. Some fans had been expecting a new M at Photokina but the pre-emptive strike with the M-P rather rules that out. I suspect the M will eventually be upgraded with the extra buffer memory and the frame line lever but not for another year at least.
Another interesting aspect is the timing of the M-P announcement, barely three weeks before the start of Photokina. If this had been the main new product Leica would surely have delayed the launch until September 16. The fact that it has come now indicates that the company has something new and worthwhile to announce in Cologne. The two new T-mount lenses will almost certainly arrive at Photokina but what else is in store? Perhaps a Leica-ised version of the Panasonic FZ1000, the one-inch bridge camera that has won so much praise? There are persistent rumours of a new Monochrome based on the M's CMOS sensor but I have my doubts, at least for the present.
The arrival of the M-P will certainly lead to a spate of upgrades, particularly among those who have the financial ability always to go for the latest and best. There are many of them. It will almost certainly lead to a further softening of secondhand values of the current M and, contrariwise, it will make sense to go for the bargain here. I have friends, M9 aficionados, for whom nothing but the M9-P will suffice. I suspect the new M-P will be the incentive they need to make the move to the CMOS sensor.
CASES: Ivor Cooper at Red Dot Cameras points out that existing half-cases designed for the M will not fit the M-P because of the new/old frameline lever. It's a point worth bearing in mind when considering the cost of upgrade.