What to expect from Leica in 2024 and 2025? Our crystal ball article in November 2022 proved to be one of the most successful opinion pieces of the past two years, spurring links from many other publications. In general, the predictions were spot on, with one major exception — the M11 Monochrom arrived sooner than anyone expected. Read on.
Now let’s look at 2024 and 2025 and try to work out what cameras we are likely to see — cameras only because lenses are less easy to predict and could form a separate article. While most Leica introductions follow a well-documented template, I think there could be two major surprises which have not yet been mentioned.
Leica SL — the future?
I will start with the relatively easy bit — the SL…
The SL3 will arrive next month, as widely predicted (and as suggested by Macfilos as long ago as November 2022). If you want a date, let’s settle on Thursday, March 21. Leica’s new model releases (with no recent exceptions that I can think of) take place at 3 pm German time on a Thursday, so there are only four open windows in March. The 21st is the most likely, using tail-of-the-donkey logic. [Update 10 February: The betting is now on a launch on Thursday, March 7].
The new camera will certainly be built around the 60MP sensor already seen in the Q3 and M11. It will feature phase-detect autofocus, just like the Q3, and a simplified control array. We believe the SL3 will also have the limited up/down tilting screen mechanism of the Q3, will use the same battery as the SL2/Q3 and could feature improved stabilisation. The viewfinder on the SL2 remains one of the best on the market, so Leica’s boffins may not consider further refinements necessary, but it is something to watch.
One big question is over size and weight. It has long been suggested that the SL3 will be smaller and lighter than the SL2. While this will indeed be the case, the differences will be minimal to the point of irrelevance. Perhaps, by some sleight of hand, the new camera will just look more compact. We are certainly not going to see a camera as small as the Lumix S5II.
There have been suggestions that a smaller L-Mount camera is in the works. Thorsten von Overgaard covers this in his SL3 review, and he expects such a camera, perhaps giving a nod to the discontinued CL but with a full-frame sensor. While I have not heard this suggestion elsewhere, it would make some sense and would provide Leica with a lower price entry point in the mirrorless market.
The SL2-S has been successful and, despite (or because of) the 24MP sensor, it has probably cannibalised SL2 sales to some extent. The lens bundles have proved particularly popular. For the moment, I do not envisage a replacement for the SL2-S arriving at the same time as the SL3. Rather, it would make sense for Leica to continue selling the SL2-S for as long as possible to provide a clear distinction between models and to offer a lower entry point for the system.
The SL2-S has particular appeal because of the smaller file size and the feeling among many users that “24MP is enough”. As with the Panasonic S5II (and IIx) the lower density is considered a plus by videographers. Panasonic has established that there is room for both high and medium resolution cameras.
For the moment, then, let’s pencil in the SL3-S for early 2025.
Leica Q — the success story
The Q has been an enormous success by Leica standards. When the original model was introduced in 2015, even Leica was surprised by the level of demand. The Q2 and, now, the Q3 also performed spectacularly, with long waiting lists during the first few months. The Q3 was launched in May last year and has been on back order for the past eight months. Only now are dealers approaching the point where they can claim that the camera is “in stock”.
It’s interesting to note that two other fixed-lens compact cameras, the Fuji X100 and the Ricoh GR, have also been in great demand and difficult to find. Could this, together with the Q3’s success, indicate a general market dalliance with non-interchangeable-lens cameras. The versatility of the Q3 in particular, with its high-resolution enabling more useful crop-to-zoom photography, could be a good indicator.
The Q2 arrived in February 2019 and was followed in November 2020 by the Q2 Monochrom. If the same interval is applied to the Q3, we are due for a monochrome version 22 months from May 2023. So we can expect the Q3 Monochrom to arrive in the first quarter of 2025. However, if the change of heart over the shorter lead time in the M11 series is followed, we could see the Q3 Monochrom launched earlier, perhaps in the last quarter of 2024.
Leica M — the bread and butter
The three rangefinders
The M11 range is moving to completion much earlier than has been the case in the past. Just two years after the arrival of the base M11 model, we already have the two major variants, the M11-P and M11-M on the shelves. The big surprise was the early launch of the M11 Monochrom which, by rights, should not have come until late 2024 or early 2025. But, as I said in November 2022, there could be changes. And there were.
Earlier this year, I heard a whisper that the M11 Monochrom could come as early as Q3 in 2023, and I think this is now likely So far, I have heard nothing about the M11-P, and I suspect it will now launch after the M11-M but probably before the end of 2023.Macfilos in November 2022
This change in sequence of the Monochrom and P model could be an indicator of a general policy reversal. Whereas the progression had always been from M to M-P and then M-M, things changed this time round. With the M11 range, the sequence has been M, M-M, M-P. This is actually a sensible and popular move, giving buyers of the M11 Monochrome a much longer period of “currency” than in the past.
The move will give Monochrom buyers the confidence that they will have a long run before the M12 comes along. Part of the reason for the shorter interval between the M11 and M11-M, however, must be down to the delay in the launch of the M11 because of Covid. Work on the variants could therefore have been more advanced than usual, and we should be careful not to read too much into the current sequence.
All this means that it is increasingly difficult to predict when the M12 will arrive. Presently, we will stand by our assertion that the next M will arrive in early 2027 or, perhaps, the last quarter of 2026. The pending arrival of a new model is usually preceded by a flurry of special editions, so start counting down from then.
Note that the chrome version of the Leica M11 appears to have been discontinued, probably because potential buyers prefer to go for the M11-P version, which is not much pricier.
The missing link
There is currently one M variant missing from the line-up. When the M10-D was discontinued prematurely in August 2020, most people assumed the reason was lack of demand and a decision that the idea of a screenless M concept was a dead duck. However, it now appears that the real reason was that with the arrival of the higher-resolution M10-R, the original M10 platform, including the M10-D, had to be axed.
With this new insight into the real reason the M10-D was axed, the M11 becomes the missing link in the programme. Could we hope for an M11-D in 2024?
I was a great advocate of this minimalist screenless camera and owned both versions of the M-D. When the M10-D was announced in October 2018, I was ecstatic and dubbed it the “digital for the next decade” — a camera that you could buy and use for ten years without suffering from GAS. But the withdrawal of the camera little more than 18 months later came as a shock, and I felt pessimistic about a replacement. But I believe a -D concept is a desirable variant that should be part of the M11 range.
If there is to be a new M11-D, what should we wish for? The M10-D was just about the ideal as a simple, no-nonsense rangefinder camera without all the bells and whistles that seem to be obligatory these days in any digital. Shooting with the M10-D was as near to the experience of shooting film as you could get, but without the cost and 36-shot inconvenience of film. So I am not looking for much in the way of change.
From my perspective, the M10-D had just two questionable features which could be in for change. The faux advance lever, something that caught the imagination back in 2018, soon loses its appeal in use. The lever had a vague purpose as a thumb grip, but that didn’t work well. Had this lever returned to its retro roots as a cocking mechanism for the next shot, it might have made more sense. But such a restriction would soon have become an inconvenience. The idea would work only if the lever action could be turned on and off, and this is unlikely. So I expect a new M11-D will dispense with the “advance lever” altogether.
The other problem with the M10-D was the fiddly on/off switch on the rear dial. It was awkward to operate and made it more likely that the camera would be left switched on. So I would like to see a standard Leica power switch at the base of the shutter button.
If the general concept of the M10-D is followed, an M11-D will look very similar to the M7, Leica’s last and most advanced film camera. But other options could be open. Why not, for instance, style the new camera on the original M3 to help celebrate the ongoing 70th anniversary of the M and the 100th anniversary of the Leica camera? Such a move could add to its appeal.
If the M11-D does materialise, it will undoubtedly feature the 60MP sensor of the M, Q and SL (assuming the SL3 arrives next month as predicted). I am a potential buyer, and it could replace my current M11, which I have owned since day one in January 2022. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
The M with EVF
The concept of an additional M-Mount camera with an EVF to replace the venerable rangefinder has been bandied around for at least six years. It was mentioned during the Leica Society International conference in Wetzlar in October 2018 and again at the Dublin meeting four years later. At that time, Stefan Daniel suggested that Leica could be interested in producing such a camera if sufficient demand was there.
Later, I wrote an opinion piece on the subject, Leica M with EVF: Do we really need this camera? The idea of such a camera is considered heretical in purist rangefinder circles. Yet, there is no doubt that there is a demand for a mirrorless camera with M-Mount and built specifically to work well with M lenses. While M adaptors can be used on most modern mirrorless cameras, it just isn’t the same. And performance is not always flawless.
Since then, little has been heard about the M/EVF camera. But Thorsten has long been an advocate of the concept. In his SL3 review, referenced above, he mentions a possible interchangeable-lens M-Mount camera based on the design of the Leica Q.
While this is of course possible, I am not sure about the Q reference. The Q’s shutter is in the lens unit, and finding enough space to fit a shutter in the body would be challenging. That said, an M without the rangefinder is probably going to look rather like the Q, even if the dimensions are different.
The next two years will be characterised by a succession of special-edition rangefinders. The 70th anniversary of the M3 takes place in April 2024 while 2025 is the 100th anniversary of the Leica camera. Therefore, expect the special-edition department to be a hive of activity over the next 18 months.
Leica compacts — the entry point
With Panasonic backpedalling rapidly in the compact market, the future of both the V-Lux and D-Lux Leica models (which are both based on Panasonic compacts) is in doubt. Until recently, I had assumed that neither model would be replaced, simply because of Panasonic’s new policy.
However, it now seems likely that there will be a D-Lux 8. Even if Panasonic doesn’t replace the LX100, Leica could introduce a new, exclusive compact. There ought to be one to balance the range.
If the camera does turn out to be an exclusive product, it would sell even better than previous versions of the compacts. The compacts have always been hampered in image because of their Panasonic siblings lurking off-stage. It was always easy to suggest that they were just examples of badge engineering.
However, with Panasonic involved in the development, it is almost certain that the D-Lux 8 will follow the four-thirds sensor size used in recent models. Thoughts of an APS-C fixed-lens compact, despite the demise of the CL, are far off the mark.
As for timing, I believe such a camera could arrive soon because there is currently a vacuum in the Leica compact range. Leica has nothing to offer at a more mass-market-oriented entry price, and a new D-Lux would help dealers attract customers to the marque. Following the departure of the CL, anyone buying a new Leica must find at least 4,000 pounds, dollars, or euros, and this is a worry for many dealers.
In the past, we have not covered the Leica S range, but things might change with the arrival of a new medium-format mirrorless camera which is strongly tipped for launch next year. Such a camera could look similar to the existing SL full-frame bodies.
The above information is based on speculation and, in the case of the possible M11-D, wishful thinking. However, there is tremendous interest in Leica’s plans and our previous article, in November 2022, has been one of the most popular articles of the past year. It will be interesting to return next year to find out how our predictions have worked out. What do you think, and what models would you like to see from Leica in the next 24 months?
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