Leica APS-C: Could this be the new TL with built-viewfinder?
Leica has a new camera in the works, according to US telecommunications filings disclosed by Leica Rumors and the Japanese site Nokishita Camera. The camera is codenamed 5370M and is almost certainly a new APS-C offering. For anyone who has been wondering whither next for Leica and APS-C, this could be the answer.
With the recent deletion of the X models (except for the X-U underwater camera which is still swimming gamely) Leica has been left with the TL as the sole flag bearer for APS-C. Yet as we know, not everyone gels with the touch-screen interface and few love the idea of an external viewfinder. But even those who don’t much like touch control could be attracted if the TL had a built-in viewfinder.
Details of the new camera are scant. But we can speculate. There are two significant facts which lead me to conclude this is a replacement for the TL or, perhaps, an additional APS-C camera. It could even be a fixed-lens version of the TL (TL Vario?) but I think this is unlikely.
The dimensions are identical to those of the TL with the exception of height, which, significantly, is increased by 5.7mm (134x33x74.7mm). This is a good indication that a viewfinder could be fitted — the Leica Q, for example, is 80mm high and that camera, as we know, sports an excellent viewfinder; it also has to accommodate the much larger full-frame sensor. I can’t think of another reason to increase the height of the camera if it is still going to be saddled with a hotshoe-mounted finder.
The second fact is that the new camera uses the same BP-DC13 battery as the TL. This battery incorporates an aluminium baseplate, which avoids the need for a hatch, and uses the push-push release mechanism of the TL (and SL). This would seem to confirm, if dimensions were not sufficient proof, that the 5370M will continue the aluminium-block construction of the TL.
However, with the added height and the possibility of a viewfinder, there is also the outside chance that the touch-screen control will go in favour of a more traditional approach as seen on the X and X Vario (or, even better, as used on the M10 and SL). I hope this is the case but I feel it is more likely we will get a revised version of the TL’s touchscreen control system.
I do believe that Leica needs to grasp APS-C firmly by the neck and squeeze. The TL, worthy as it is, is just too oddball for the mainstream Leica user. It’s the prime reason Fuji is picking up customers who would otherwise cleave to Leica out of brand loyalty.
When I tested the original Leica T three years ago I was impressed with its performance and general handling. I liked the camera in concept but I was not happy with the bulk and inconvenience of the external finder. The touchscreen control was a novelty and, since then, it has been improved and speeded up. However, ultimately it was not for me and that is perhaps the main reason I never bought into the T system. Some friends, such as the former sports photographer Don Morley, love the T and are firm advocates. But I have no doubt that the combination of no viewfinder and an odd-ball control system has been the main reason this camera hasn't enjoyed the same rapturous reception as, say, the Leica Q.
Change is needed and, perhaps this new camera will bring it along. Is it too much to hope for a mini SL, making use of the already extensive and very competent TL lens line-up that developed in the wake of the introduction of the T?
Time will tell, but I do hope this is not just a rehash of the TL if Leica wishes to win back APS-C fans from other makes.