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Leica unveils X1, M9 semi-pro cameras

updated 10:45 am EDT, Wed September 9, 2009

Leica X1 and M9

Leica today added two long-anticipated upgrades to its more compact cameras. The X1 shares the rangefinder-like design of most Leicas but is deliberately designed as a cross between these and compact cameras: it has a fixed f2.8, 36mm equivalent lens but an APS-C sized, 12-megapixel CMOS sensor that the company bills as the largest ever in a compact. The combination of a zoomless prime lens and the large photo receptors give the camera a DSLR-like sensitivity to light (ISO 100 to 3,200) and reduced noise.

It also brings controls and other hardware touches more reminiscent of more advanced cameras, such as a thumb dial for manual focusing, multiple top dials, a pop-up flash and an optional true optical viewfinder to supplement the LCD.

Also arrving today, the M9 is a direct update to the long-serving M8 rangefinder and centers on a 24x36mm, 18-megapixel full-frame sensor that Leica believes makes the camera the smallest full-frame camera ever. The sensor is a CCD, but it's custom-developed by Kodak to work with Leica's removable M lenses both to avoid the vignetting effects that sometimes appear with full-frame cameras as well as to filter out IR and UV without the need for an add-on.

Only one tangible hardware change comes along and includes a dedicated ISO level control that provides quicker access to the settings, which on this camera ranges between ISO 80 and 2,500.

The M9 ships first of the two and is available today in the UK for 4,850 ($7,993) in either black or gray. The X1 isn't due until January and has yet to receive a price as a result, though it should cost much less than the M9. [via DPReview]

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999


    without and add on?

    Er...last time I looked, ALL digital cameras had an integrated UV/IR filter (commonly sandwiched with the anti-aliasing filter) that negates an "add on". This kind of ignorant reporting is akin to "Ford sells cars that include tires(tyres)!". Sheesh!

  1. andrewbw

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2001


    Then you'd be wrong

    Some (not all) fixed-lens point-and-shoot compact cameras do include UV filters; DSLR and high end compact cameras with removable lenses do not.

    The article also suggests that it is the Kodak-developed CCD that somehow performs or incorporates the filtering, allowing use of the removable M-class lenses without additional filters.

  1. ewelch

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2009



    Calling the Leica M9 a semi-pro camera is like calling Jennifer Frickin' Connely a somewhat attractive woman.

    Leica M cameras are the very definition of professional cameras. And not even because of their price. It's because of their capabilities. No SLR can focus as accurately as a Leica rangefinder with lenses of about 75mm and shorter. It's basic physics and the way optics work. The wider the lens, the larger the rangefinder base benefits the user vs the way SLR optical systems work. The quiet shutter, the gorgeous lenses. Many pros have built careers on Leicas and a couple of lenses. Or even just one lens. No SLR comes to mind that is so capable with so few features/components.

    If you look at the history of photojournalism, no camera has the storied history of the Leica rangefinder for its impact on the way the profession was practiced.

    So far, the only down-side seems to be the maximum ISO is only 2500. Not sure what they're thinking there. It's only a matter of some tests to show just how good the image quality is at high ISOs to see if this camera will justify it's price and the discipline it takes to use a rangefinder camera.

  1. bredlo

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 1999


    Thx ewelch

    Great points about the history of Leica, and where this fits in. Hopefully the low max ISO won't impact the overall performance too harshly, because they don't make changes too often to this line of camera, so every upgrade counts in a big way.

  1. ASIMO

    Mac Elite

    Joined: May 2002


    Bingo, ewelch.

    Semi-pro is a movie title, not applicable to the M9. I would love me some M9, but damn the man... it's priced way out of my league.

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