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]