Back in 2018 at Photokina, we got our first tantalising hints of a new French-made M-mount rangefinder, the PIXII. According to David Barth of Pixii, at the time, the new snapper was named after the French instrument maker, Hippolyte Pixii.
Well, contrary to suspicions, the PIXII is still well and truly alive, although still firmly at the bottom of the garden because we don’t yet have a release date. What I hadn’t appreciated, until I read the specification on the web site, is that this is not an M act-alike. It features a 12MP APS-C sensor which means that achieving 28mm or 35mm focal lengths will be relatively difficult for most potential users who don’t already possess 18mm or 21mm lenses.
In a sense, the PIXII is more CL or TL but with a rangefinder instead of an electronic viewfinder. And, too, we shouldn’t forget that Leica once produced a crop-frame M, the M8 with its APS-H sensor and a crop ratio of 1:1.33.
The optical viewfinder/rangefinder, with automatic parallax correction, has a magnification of 0.67x and independent backlit LED frame-lines for standard focal lengths of 28, 35, 40 and 50mm. We can assume this relates to full-frame focal lengths (as marked on all M lenses) and this results in actual focal lengths of 42, 53, 60 and 75mm.
The 40mm frame is interesting because this has never been offered on the Leica M system, although it was featured in the old CL film camera. But Voigtländer does make 40mm lenses and they should be easier to use on the PIXII than they are on M cameras (although, with the CL/SL this is an irrelevance).
The body of the camera is made from a dual block of machined aluminium and features a cold ISO accessory shoe, tripod socket, multi-purpose micro USB connector and strap lugs. Next to the viewfinder is a camera status panel with three LED indicators, while a top-mounted OLED screen displays exposure settings. Like Leica’s M10-D, however, the PIXII has to manage without a rear screen, although there is the option to link to a smartphone (as with Leica’s FOTOS app).
Light, but not on the wallet
The PIXII measures 138x79x33mm and is impressively light – just 460g, including battery. The camera will be available in three finishes: Silver anodised, space grey and matte black. Provisional price for the camera, including European value-added tax, is €3,490 (£3,113, $3,942). Net price, for deliveries outside Europe, is €2,920 ($3,298). We are assuming, at the moment, that the camera will be supplied directly to buyers rather than through the dealer network.
While rangefinder enthusiasts will be intrigued at the possibility of using their manual lenses on an APS-C rangefinder camera, with the added bonus of not needing an adapter, the comparison will inevitably rest with the Leica CL and TL (not to mention Fuji and Sony crop-frame models). By comparison, the CL body is listed at £2,135 while the TL2 is even cheaper at £1,660.
The complexity of a mechanical rangefinder is such, however, that we ought to expect a considerable premium over a similar camera with EVF. Leica has said in the past that the rangefinder mechanism of the M costs over £1,000 to produce and, to some extent, this explains the difference between the M10, at £5,750, and the cheaper SL2 with its large EVF and denser 47MP sensor at £5,300.
Whatever the pros and cons, this is a very interesting, rather niche camera that should gain a lot of interest. As the owner of an M10-D, I am in no way put off by the lack of a rear screen and I am definitely intrigued by the PIXII. It is limited in appeal, of course, not least because of the 12MP sensor with its limited sensitivity, but it’s something new to keep us busy.
My friend Hamish Gill at 35mmc.com has had a prototype PIXII in his hands for a month or two and has written a candid review of his impressions so far. You can find the full story here.