The first Leica M12 images have leaked – and it could be a revolutionary redesign

The Leica M11 camera on a blue background
The next Leica camera will likely see some big design changes from the Leica M11, above. (Image credit: Leica)

The first Leica M12 rumors have started circulating in recent weeks, suggesting that the premium camera maker's next model could get a design overhaul. And while there's still some doubt as to what the camera will be called, newly leaked images point to some impressive and surprising upgrades.

Leica Rumors shared design mockups that illustrate the potential exterior changes that, if true, would completely alter the way Leica's next rumored camera handles. Of those big changes, a potential all-new viewfinder design stands out the most, while tweaks such as 3mm being shaved off the M11 are likely to matter only to the most hardened Leica fans.

The Leica M11 is part of a series of Leica cameras famed for their rangefinder viewfinder experience. In fact, the M in Leica's camera's stands for ‘Messsucher’, the German term for a combined rangefinder and viewfinder.

Lecia M cameras use an optical viewfinder fitted with a split image to aid manual focusing, and through which you can see outside the image area. Seeing outside your frame makes a rangefinder ideal for the likes of street photography in particular, because you can see subjects before they walk into the frame, to help you time your shot better.

Fujifilm X100VI on a glass table front profile

The Fujifilm X100VI has a hybrid viewfinder, which would represent a totally new approach for Leica in its next camera.  (Image credit: Future)

Rather than sticking with a rangefinder viewfinder, however, Leica could make its first-ever hybrid viewfinder – similar to what the Fujifilm X100VI and X-Pro 3 use. Photographers would be able to switch between an optical rangefinder view with digital overlay, and a fully electronic viewfinder.

I'm a fan of the X100VI viewfinder, and the move would make a lot of sense in a Leica camera. You'd get the best of both worlds: the optical rangefinder viewfinder, or an electronic one that has exposure preview and isn't limited to wide and moderate wide-angle lenses in the way an M11 is.

There's also speculation that a number of external controls will be dropped to make way for a much larger 3.9-inch touchscreen that will dominate the rear of the camera. Such a design approach would follow in the footsteps of the minimalist Leica TL2.

That would be bad news for photographers who like to have lots of controls at their fingertips – apparently the ISO dial will be omitted, too. However, a new thumb dial might appear behind the shutter button, and this would presumably be customizable.

Leica often straddles the line between the traditional and modern camps, making cameras with an old-school aesthetic, optical rangefinder, and manual-focus only experience, married with modern minimalist touchscreen-centered operation. And with this rumored next model it looks like it'll double down on this approach.

If the rumors turn out to be true, a potential Leica M12 could be the most polarizing Leica camera yet.

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Timothy Coleman
Cameras editor

Tim is the Cameras editor at TechRadar. He has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo video industry with most of those in the world of tech journalism. During his time as Deputy Technical Editor with Amateur Photographer, as a freelancer and consequently editor at Tech Radar, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with cameras, educating others through news, reviews and features. He’s also worked in video production for Studio 44 with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi. Tim is curious, a keen creative, avid footballer and runner, and moderate flat white drinker who has lived in Kenya and believes we have much to enjoy and learn from each other.