“The Perfect Digital Leica M”. Could it be the Leica Monochrome or is Leica Saving it for the M10?

March 23, 2012

I don’t blog much about camera specs, news or rumours but I just couldn’t resist writing this little article after reading Steve Huff’s latest post: “What is to come on May 10th from Leica”.

See, I’ve connected a few dots together and think you might be interested in even more rumours and gossip on what is to come from Leica, specifically the Leica M. Admit it, you do. Who doesn’t?

Even though Steve lost his crystal ball this time round, I’m confident he is on to something with the monochrome digital M. Admittedly, today was the first time I’ve read a rumour of the monochrome M materialising, but it certainly was not the first time I’ve heard about the idea.

I will refrain from mentioning names, but many months ago, a photographer was telling me his wishlist on “The Perfect Digital Leica M”. Not silly pixel-peeper demands like more mega pixels and lower noise levels at high ISO. Simply, his many years of experience with film Leicas transposed to form the perfect digital M.

“The M9 is only missing two things: One, an option of a monochrome sensor and two, a winding lever.”

He’s lost the plot I thought. What’s the point of a monochrome sensor when you can already convert colour images to monochrome with the touch of a button? I queried it and the response could not be any further that what I expected it to be. “When I use a film camera, I have a choice of sensors. Colour sensor, or B/W sensor. Each designed perfectly for it’s application. So the question is: Why not have a digital B/W sensor when I want to shoot B/W images?”

Alright, fair argument, but what about the winding lever? How can you possibly justify that? “Think about it, it makes sense. Saves heaps of battery because you get rid of the winding motor and the camera will be much, much quieter. So again, the question is, why not have a winding lever on the digital M?” Then I thought, damn, he’s right. Not only that, it would look good, feel good and finally have some counter grip when you’re holding the M with one hand. Well ok, I’m sold on the winding lever.

Now what if I told you this exact same conversation also took place between the certain individual and someone who has a huge say in Leica AG? Let’s say, around 10 months ago, at Leica Camera & Magnum event “The decisive moment” in Paris? The Leica boss asks in conversation, “How would you modify the Leica M9 if you had absolutely no restrictions?”. Hears the man,  likes the ideas, and takes them back to the engineers. Will we be seeing a B/W sensor? Will we be seeing a digital M with a winding lever? Is this even true?

All I know for sure is that a few months ago a German who works for Leica told me: “We have a few good things in the pipeline, things that have never been done before.” That’s all he said. He masterfully kept it cryptic and vague.

So here we are, months later and rumours of a monochrome Leica M sensor start to surface, first on the Leica rumour website, then by Steve Huff. Experience tells me that Steve does not need a crystal ball to get things right, so a B/W sensor is imminent. Could it all be a just a massive coincidence?

Will we actually ever see a winding lever on a digital M? I have a sneaky suspicion we will. But not on the monochrome M, that’s too much fun to handle in one go. As an option on the M10 however or maybe a special edition M10? I don’t know, but I have a good vibe about these two.

Well, that’s all from me. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on dedicated B/W digital sensors. Also, how would you like to see a winding lever on the M10? Cast your thoughts in the comments box below please!

There are 7 comments in this article:

  1. March 23, 2012Stuart Grout says:

    Probably Leica are the only camera makers with the balls to go for a small format digital sensor but it could be a good idea to differentiate themselves from the SLR mob where the pixel count is getting silly.

    Of course barring a lottery win I won’t be in the market for an M10 or M9+ but it might make some other manufacturers look at alternatives to pumping more pixels into the camera.

    With regards the winding lever. It seems completely mad but it is also something that I miss when using a digital. The action of winding to the next frame helps me mentally finish with one shot and get ready for the next.

  2. April 17, 2012Tyler Olson says:

    Interesting thoughts. I hadn’t thought about the winder before but you make some good points. Another pro may be that it would slow the photographer down a little, encouraging him (me) to be a little more thoughtful with the shot instead of snapping away like a mad man. I’m not sure I’m totally sold on the Black & White sensor but if the image produced was that much better it could be worth while. It’ll be exciting to see either way!

  3. April 18, 2012Christakis says:

    Tyler, I agree with you. I don’t have much interest towards the B/W sensor but I really like the winder idea. Just like you, I believe adding a winder will only enhance the Leica shooting experience.

    Stuart, LOL. You’re so right saying if there’s one company that might have the balls to go for a winder, it will be Leica :-) I hope you’re right and we see it materialise. If we don’t see it in a few weeks time, well, there’s always a suggestion box :-)

  4. April 21, 2012Monochrome Sensor and Winding Lever On New Leica M? says:

    [...] the next day, Christakis Schinis responded to Huff’s post with his own “The Perfect Digital Leica M” article, where he mentioned not only the monochrome M but also about a winding [...]

  5. May 8, 2012Richard says:

    I work primarily in B&W and use M9s with a sizable collection of Leica lenses. I’m with you all the way on this. I think an intelligently done monochrome digital M with a winding lever would suit me just fine. Let’s hope it all becomes reality Thursday.

  6. May 11, 2012Stuart Grout says:

    Looks like we got the sensor but not the winder so Leica didn’t chicken out completely.

  7. July 5, 2012simone says:

    i have an m9. curiously enough, three years ago, i wrte a letter to leica CEO with some “suggestions”… and both the monochrome option and the windog lever were among them! so I totally agree with you.

    now the MM is there. we only miss the winding lever.

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