It's taken Leica a while to get to grips with the digital age. Beginning with the early, unique, Digilux cameras it moved on to a series of rebodied Panasonics, before photography aficionados were eventually granted what they really desired, a digital version of the iconic rangefinder series, starting with the M8 (opens in new tab) in 2006. With Leica, innovation is subtle, quality is paramount and prices are high. That little red logo speaks volumes to those in the know, and once you've spent some time handling one it's hard to step down to a rival. Now, 101 years after the company created the very first 35mm compact cameras, Leica has launched its most innovative digital camera yet, the T Series.
Intended as a technological and aesthetic showcase, the T Series is built around the strikingly handsome and tactile aluminum body, hewn from a solid billet of the metal that has been shaped, routed and hand-polished before being stuffed with electronics and a sizeable flatscreen from which you control almost every aspect of reviewing pictures and setting up the camera. The camera launches with two lenses, a 23mm for portraiture and reportage, and an all-purpose 18-56mm. More lenses will follow, and there's also an adaptor for the raft of existing M-lenses, as well as a specially designed electronic viewfinder.
That aluminium body is silkily tactile, as are the twin dials that control exposure. It's all very pared back and minimalist, and works well once you've sorted out your preferred settings using the screen. There's always the danger you'll spend too much time admiring the camera itself rather than the photographs it takes, and the T is unlikely to spend its days as a professional's workhorse. As a piece of functional excellence, the T Series reigns supreme, and should keep its lustre for decades to come.
Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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