We were impressed by Leica's stand at this year's Photokina event in September, the range of cameras now available and the German company's new air of approachability.
Leica cameras are still jaw-droppingly expensive, but in the past the company has traded rather heavily on its heritage and exclusivity. Leica cameras were things you simply read about. The average photographer could look, but rarely got the chance to touch.
Now, though, Leica UK has arranged with high-street retailer Jessops for stores in Reading, Birmingham, Glasgow and London Oxford Street to have 'shop-within-a-shop' areas for Leica cameras. This is significant not just because end users will get the chance to see these cameras for themselves, but because Leica has chosen a camera chain for the masses.
Leica doesn't just make rangefinders
Leica is famous for its 35mm rangefinder cameras, the icons of 20th Century reportage and documentary photography. Externally, these rangefinders have changed little. Internally, they've made the swap to digital technology while retaining compatibility with existing Leica lenses.
But there are other cameras in the Leica range, including the Leica X, which has an APS-C sensor and a fixed 35mm equivalent f/1.7 Summilux lens, and the smaller Leica X-E, which also has an APS-C sensor, features a 35mm equivalent f/2.8 Elmarit lens, and is the replacement for Leica's older X1 and X2 models.
And then there's the cutting edge APS-C format Leica T, milled from a single piece of aluminium, and the Leica S medium-format digital SLR, with a sensor measuring 45 x 30mm – a 56% increase over a full-frame sensor. This camera is no retro revival, but a deadly serious bit of professional kit.
Leica also makes compact cameras… sort of. Its V-Lux and D-Lux models (replacing the V-Lux 4 and D-Lux 4, confusingly) are produced in partnership with Panasonic and are essentially rebranded versions of the Panasonic LX100 and FZ1000 respectively. These are both great cameras, though, and the extra cachet of the Leica brand, a copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and a three-year warranty do give the Leica versions a particular appeal.
On paper, the technology often looks unremarkable and the prices make you gasp, but Leica must be hoping that when people get to pick these cameras up and try them out for real they will get to understand the engineering and design that's gone into them.