Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen several Leica rumours surfacing—some old, one new. The most interesting from my point of view is a leak of a forthcoming upgrade to the CL.
The Leica CL, first introduced in 2017 as a complement to the innovative TL, has been due for a revamp for some time. With a range of lenses lacking image stabilisation and with the body similarly disadvantaged, something had to be done.
It wasn’t the lack of stabilisation in itself—most existing owners are pretty happy with the status quo—it was the perception that the whole system is lagging behind the competition.
It now looks like Leica’s APS-C offering is going to get the update it sorely needs. Rumours are predicting a CL-2 in 2021 with will include in-body stabilisation and a 26MP sensor. Weather sealing and a redesigned body, including joystick control a la SL-2. Apart from offering a more compelling APS-C body, the prospect of IBIS would give some extra life to the existing lenses.
It is said that the new camera could arrive in the Spring and will cost around €2,700. See Leica Rumors for more details.
I’d rate the CL-2 as a pretty likely prospect at this stage.
Budget film camera
Whither the Leica film cameras? There is now talk of a new film camera which will be sold at a bargain price. Suggestions from Leica Rumors are that this could be a revamp of the ever-popular M6. With second-hand values having doubled in the past ten years, good examples of the M6 are rising towards £2,000 while the later TTL version is well over that figure.
For some time there have been suggestions that Leica might discontinue all film-camera production, but this has been denied. In fact, it looks like the MP and M-A continue to be in demand, even at the lofty price of £4,000. A remake of the M6 or M6TTL selling it around £3,000 might be enough to persuade potential buyers that new is better than old.
However, I suspect that such a price would not be possible, given the amount of specialist labour that goes into every M camera. The rangefinder alone is expensive and, apart from the brass top-plate of the MP, the doesn’t seem to be that much scope for economies.
I rate this one as relatively unlikely, but I would be delighted to be proved wrong. What is your view? Would you buy a new M6 or do you think the demand is fully covered by second-hand models from 20-plus years ago?
This is the hoary old rumour.
The prospect of an M-mount camera with an electronic viewfinder instead of the expensive optomechanical rangefinder (which is said to account for up to £1,000 of the camera’s price) has exercised many minds over the past five years. In theory, an M camera with EVF could be priced more attractively, and there has been a steady demand for such a beast. Judging by the popularity of using manual M lenses on other cameras, not just the CL and SL but with third-party mirrorless, there would be a demand for a Leica product.
Leica has repeatedly denied the intention to fiddle with the hallowed M rangefinder. Any move in this direction could be seen as the thin end of the wedge and lead to the current range’s cannibalisation. There have also been rumours about the possibility of a hybrid viewfinder, incorporating the choice of either mechanical rangefinder or EVF. Leica has looked at this over the years, I am sure, but the costs and technical problems have been cited as the reason for not progressing.
Unlike the Fuji hybrid in the X100 and X-Pro, any Leica system would have to incorporate the current rangefinder’s full capabilities. Fuji started from the electronic viewfinder and added a rangefinder simulation; with Leica, it would have to be the other way round. Having used the Fuji system, I soon got bored with the rangefinder view’s inadequacies and reverted to full EVF.
Of course, it is possible that Leica has already found a way of producing an effective hybrid finder and it is being held in reserve for the M11, which will become due in 2022 or 2023. That would be an interesting move and, I suspect, makes more marketing sense than producing a separate M body with EVF in place of the rangefinder.
If I were looking at this as a project, I wouldn’t start with the M body; I would be looking at a smaller mirrorless design with an M mount instead of L. The basis of such a camera already exists. It’s called Q2.
For the moment, then, I treat this particular rumour with a pinch of salt. What do you think? Are you a rangefinder purist who believes the M should be left alone? Do you feel that your EVF needs are best served by the SL or CL? or would you welcome a small M-mount camera with just an electronic viewfinder?
Whatever we make of these rumours, 2021 is shaping up to be a good year for Leica. The two-year-old L-Mount Alliance has put much-needed life into Leica’s mirrorless systems and the range of lenses now meets almost every need and at every price point.
Sigma, in particular, has faced up to the LMA challenge with a very impressive line-up of new lenses, while
Panasonic has consolidated its position as a manufacturer of L-Mount cameras which rival Leica but at lower prices.
Leica, serving the premium end of the market, now has a much firmer foundation to work from. Furthermore, entrants to the L system, attracted by cameras such as Pansonic’s excellent S5, are future candidates for future upgrades to Leica cameras and lenses.
The APS-C offering has been Leica’s Achilles’ heel over the past couple of years, and a new CL-2 will do much to put things back on track. This is what I most hope to see in 2021.