The new Leica M - the company is opting to omit product numbers - is the first camera to implement a newly designed and constructed CMOS sensor, and the first Leica M to include Live View and Full HD video recording.
Leica says that the new system is the most versatile Leica M camera to date, while it also accepts classic Leica R lenses.
The new 24 million pixel full-frame 35mm CMOS sensor has been designed in collaboration with CMOSIS and, according to Leica, combines the advantages of CCD sensors - such as natural colour rendition - with the detail reproduction capabilities of a CMOS sensor.
A Leica Maestro processor is included, while a high capacity battery is promised, which combined means that the camera should perform well over long shooting periods.
One of the new features of the camera is Live View and Live View Focus. A 3-inch, 920,000 pixel screen can be used to compose the image. The screen itself is manufactured from tough, scratch-resistant glass.
Two additional focusing methods have been incorporated onto the camera. Live View Zoom enables up to 10x magnification for precise assessment of sharp details. Live View Focus Peaking is also included, which displays the contours of a subject as red lines for simple focus assessment.
Build quality and interface
Leica has manufactured the camera according to its strict quality standards. This sees the top and base plates constructed from solid brass, while the chassis itself is a full-metal, die-cast magnesium alloy.
Rubber sealing protects the camera body against dust, spray and moisture.
A new layout and menu interface has been designed to make the camera simpler to use. There are dedicated button controls for Live View Zoom and Live View Focus Peaking on the front of the camera. An ergonomically formed thumb rest, which features an integrated setting dial, is also part of the design.
Accessories, price and release date
Lots of new accessories will be available for the Leica M, perhaps most notably the new Leica-R adaptor M, which enables you to mount almost all Leica-R lenses on the camera. An electronic viewfinder, handgrip with GPS module and a microphone adaptor will also be available.
The Leica M price will be £5,100 (around $8,289) with a release date of early 2013.
Meanwhile, the Leica M-E completes the rangefinder trio of cameras available from Leica. Inside is a full-frame 35mm CCD sensor, boasting 18 million pixels.
Other features include a 230,000 dot 2.5-inch TFT screen and a new leather-style trim.
Leica describes the M-E as an "entry level" camera, though of course it's still not cheap compared to offerings from other brands.
The Leica M-E price will be £3,900 (around $6,338), with a release date of September 2012.