Leica is teasing us with a new camera, the M Mini, to be announced on June 11. This is probably not what it seems, and it is significant that the company’s Facebook page positions the Mini M between the M Typ 240, the Micro M (X2) and the Nano M (D-Lux 6). The X2 and D-Lux have never been mentioned before in the same breath as the M series and this is certainly an interesting bit of market positioning. Let’s rather call it obfuscation.
Some eight months ago, well before the launch of the M240, there were rumours about a smaller M, not to be confused with the M-E which is essentially a cheaper edition of the old M9. Some pundits believe Leica will introduce a new interchangeable-lens system, possibly with the new mount, and based on the APS-C sensor, the same size as that used in the X2.
This is unlikely, in my view. Leica will be careful not to cannibalise sales of the new M, which is already in such short supply that dealers are crying out for stock.
Interestingly, there is one camera on the market that, with a Leica badge, could indeed be called the M Mini. It arrived after the launch of the M240 and has caused a big stir in the photographic world. It is the world’s smallest full-frame professional camera and it is a beauty. I know because I have had the chance to use both Sony’s RX1 and Leica’s new M240. The RX1, with its wonderful fixed 35mm Carl Zeiss f/2 Sonnar, gives the M a run for its large pot of money.
For one third of the cost of an M240 and 35mm Summicron lens, the Sony RX1 is built to Leica standards and produces results that many would say are as good as or even better than those of the Leica. It lacks Leica’s rangefinder, which in itself is an expensive device, and Sony users have to rely on the (excellent) back screen or the expensive additional electronic viewfinder. Despite this, the RX1 is a brilliant first for Sony and I have to say that it finds a place in my day bag more often than the much heavier and bulkier M240.
My money would be on a fixed-lens full-frame Leica on the lines of the RX1 rather than an interchangeable-lens APS-C device or, even more unlikely, a stripped-down M240. Another outside possibility is for a small full-frame camera with a fixed zoom lens. Leica have used a similar lens before (remember the 2003 Digilux 2 with its wonderful f/2-2/4 Vario-Summicron lens?) and such a Leica M Mini could be a winner, something different.
June 11, presumably in Berlin as usual, will be a day to watch.
by Mike Evans, 24 May 2013