Leica this morning announced its rumored Leica T. At the same time, several Leica beta-testers and Leica-oriented bloggers published their reviews.
Very quickly: the T is a 16-megapixel, APS-C mirrorless - but not a rangefinder - camera with AF, a new lens mount and two new lenses available at launch. It costs $1,850. The lenses are a 23mm f/2 prime (35mm equivalent) at $1,950 and a 16-56mm f3.5-5.6 at $1,750.
Being devoid of Leica - or any other brand - love and lacking an enormous audience, I have not seen or stroked this new masterpiece. What I have done, my dear reader, is read a bunch of those reviews and come to some quick conclusions.
I will now speak as to what I consider is one of you, someone who loves photography for its joy and results and who appreciates a nice piece of gear. That's where I come from as well.
The following list might seem a bit harsh, but I'm going to try to cut through the usual excuses that always surround early Leica impressions and reviews, as if the brand deserves to be judged differently than its peers. To me, a Leica is a camera, not a show piece.
I also overlook the expressed beliefs that this Leica is not aimed at the competition in the mirrorless segment. It is. It has the form factor and the specs of a high-end mirrorless camera, just like the Sony A7(r), the Fuji X line, the Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four-Thirds offerings and it bears some of Samsung's gestalt.
So, without further ado and with putting the T in the market segment where it belongs, here are your considerations.
You should buy the Leica T if:
you are willing to pay a premium for gorgeous - or at least unique - design, just like many are willing to pay a premium for Apple products;
you actually care that your camera is made out of a single block of aluminum;
you prefer a touchscreen interface over buttons and dials;
you want to use your Leica M lenses on another Leica that doesn't cost you more than $5,000;
you want a relatively affordable Leica delivering 16 megapixels.
You should not buy the Leica T if:
you are not willing to pay that premium;
you prefer the newly popular retro looks of buttons and dials over a touchscreen;
you prefer the interface of all other high-end Leicas over a modern interface;
you want full-frame;
you want more than 16 megapixels;
you want segment-leading autofocus;
you want higher ISO than 12,800;
you want a tilting LCD screen;
you want a faster shutter speed than 1/4000 sec;
you want more than 5 frames per second;
you want a fast zoom lens;
you want a weather sealed body;
you want in-body stabilization;
you want a built-in EVF;
you want to pay less than $1,700 for native lenses;
you don't want to pay $600 for an external EVF.
Cameras from Sony, Fuji and Olympus offer better all-round performance than the Leica for lower prices. Other than 16GB of internal memory and that solid block of aluminum, the Leica really has little to go for it in terms of standing out in its market segment. If any other brand had offered this camera at this price point, it would rack up cons and be disregarded as quickly as the Canon M. It would be faulted for all it lacks, not heralded for the little it introduces.
I think that's the key element that's missing with this camera. It doesn't have anything real to offer over the competition. No camera is perfect, but in the serious mirrorless segment Olympus trumps with IBIS, Panasonic with video, M43 with lens selection, Sony with full-frame high-resolution sensors and Fuji with EVF and JPEG quality. The Leica T brings nothing to the table that makes it stand out among that crowd, other than its brand name.
And quite honestly, I don't care that it's a solid block of aluminum if Leica can't tell me why that matters in the real world. I have the Olympus EM-1, but apart from its IBIS, I could easily have gone with the Fuji X-T1. I have a Fuji X100s. And I have a Sony A7R, which I mostly use with Canon lenses. So, I'm actually a solid believer and user of mirrorless cameras and well invested in them, but I wouldn't know what to use the Leica for that any of the others can't do.
The reviewers all liked the camera, and I might like it as well if I were to use it. But seemingly at a loss to explain why Leica built this camera now, they write how Leica seems to go after a new audience here, one of well-heeled people who want a modern quality camera that isn't complicated. I'm not so sure that audience exists, and if it does, whether it wants a system with interchangeable lenses.
Reading beyond the reviews and delving into the forums, it all reminds me a bit of the launch of Abode CC, where most photography sites were either just factual or justifying Adobe, while their forums were filled with people crying foul over Adobe's move.
It's going to be interesting to read the reviews by people who don't have a special love or relationship with Leica and judge the camera purely on its photographic merits in the segment where it belongs. Here I've done it again: writing in such a way you probably don't want to rush out and buy the camera (I should really learn from Steve Huff), but in case you are interested, here you go (all B&H):
T Digital Camera (Black)T Digital Camera (Silver)Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH LensSUMMICRON-T 23/f2 ASPH LENSVisoflex Typ 020 Electronic Viewfinder for Leica T Camera (Black)M-Adapter-T for Leica T Camera
Finally, the review I recommend is the one by Sean Reid at ReidReviews.com, a subscription site. Worth it.