The new Leica M-E

There was no mirrorless camera announcement today, instead Leica Camera reveled the M-E: an new "entry-level" digital rangefinder that has the same 18MP CCD sensor found in the original M9. The price of the Leica M-E is $5,450 and is available for pre-order here.

Press release:

The fascination of M-Photography reduced to essentials

Solms, Germany (September 17, 2012) - Leica Camera presents a new model in the Leica rangefinder system, the Leica M-E. Possessing the high level of technology perfected in the nearly six decades since the M-System’s introduction, the Leica M-E represents the essence of rangefinder photography. Rather than offering all that is technically possible, it is limited to only those functions that create a better image. These essentials include the M-System’s typical rapid manual focusing with the viewfinder/rangefinder and the focusing ring of the lens, as well as the option of selecting automatically determined or manually set shutter speeds. It is the ideal entry-level model for photographers wishing to experience the fascination of M-Photography or require a secondary camera that performs at an optimum level without fail.

Advantages of rangefinder photography include the ability for photographers to become a part of the action and frame whatever they wish to capture in the viewfinder, while still perceiving what is going on outside the viewfinder frame. The crucial moment becomes predictable, and can thus be captured at precisely the right instant. Featuring the proven, high-resolution, 18 MP CCD sensor in full 35 mm format, the Leica M-E offers maximum imaging quality. Perfectly attuned to its role in the extremely compact M-System and the superior performance of M-Lenses, this particular sensor type possesses a high sensitivity to light. These characteristics lead to an unmistakably individual kind of photography.

The Leica M-E’s most distinctive feature is a minimalistic, purist, design statement. The top deck and base plate are discreetly finished in unobtrusive anthracite grey. The application of a new leather trim with enhanced grip characteristics ideally complements the camera’s timeless design.

The Leica M-System portfolio provides perfect tools for capturing a moment discretely, silently and without hesitation, allowing photographers to become a part of the scene. Together with the new Leica M and the Leica M Monochrom, the world’s first digital black and white camera in 35 mm format, the latest digital generation of the Leica M now offers three rangefinder cameras.

Additionally, the Leica M-E package includes the latest version of Leica Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to assist photographers with viewing, editing and managing digital images. The Leica M-E is available now from Leica dealers, including the Leica Store Washington DC.

About the Leica M-System

Since 1954, the Leica M system has stood for an unmistakable, individual kind of photography and a very conscious photographic style. Because, with a Leica M, the photographer becomes a part of the action in the process of capturing challenging and creative images. The rangefinder frames precisely the shot the photographer envisages while allowing a clear view of what is going on outside the viewfinder frame. This allows the photographer to predict the decisive moment and capture it discreetly and reliably at the right moment – in all fields, from photojournalism and ‘available light’ exposures to discreet and aesthetic fine-art images. The functions of the Leica M rangefinder camera are consistently constructed for extreme robustness and a long working life. Highest quality materials, elaborate manufacturing processes and painstaking manual assembly guarantee functional reliability for decades to come. Full backward system compatibility – almost all lenses of the Leica M range built since 1954 can still be used on the latest M camera models – is an important factor in the enduring value of the M series.

(Last revised September 2012 / We reserve the right to make technical changes) LEICA M-E
Unique ProductName: Leica M-E (Typ 220), anthracite grey paint
Camera type: Compact digital view and rangefinder system still camera
Lens mount: Leica M bayonet with additional sensor for 6-bit coding
Lens system: Leica M lenses
Top Cover: Milled brass top cover with classic Leica M design
Material: All-metal case made of die-cast magnesium; synthetic leather covering. Cap and base plate made of brass
Image Sensor: KAF -18500 18 MP CCD Sensor
Number of effective Pixels: 18 Million Pixels
Sensitivity range: ISO 160 – ISO 2500, Pull 80 available, Auto ISO
Imaging Platform: DSP based computing platform with Leica imaging algorithms
LCD Monitor: 2,5” TFT Display with 230.000 Pixels
Shutter: Closed type focal plane shutter for classic image exposure, with external cocking mechanics
Shutter Speed: 1/4000s – 240s (in Bulb), 1/180s flash synchronization
Burst rate: approx. 2 fps
Self timer: Off / 2s / 12s
Storage Media : SD / SDHC Memory Cards
Imaging functions
Image File Format: DNG™ (RAW data uncompressed or nonlinear compressed), JPEG
File Size: DNG: 18 MB (compressed)/36 MB (uncompressed), JPEG: Resolution and image content dependent
Available JPG Resolutions: 5212 x 3472 (18 MP), 3840 x 2592 (10 MP), 2592 x 1728 (4.5 MP), 1728 x 1152 (2 MP), 1280 x 846 pixels (1 MP)
Color Spaces: sRGB / Adobe®RGB
White Balance: Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade /Tungsten / Fluorescent 1 / Fluorescent 2 / Flash / Manual / Kelvin 2000-12800
Other functions: Saturation, Contrast, Sharpening
Exposure Control
Exposure Metering: Through the Lens (TTL) metering, center-weighted with variable apertureCenter-weighted TTL metering for flashexposure with system-conformant SCA-3000/2 standard flash units
Exposure setting: Manual shutter speed setting with direct dial, A-Mode with direct dial
Exposure Modes: Automatic shutter speed (A-Mode), Manual Exposure (M-Mode)
Compensation: -3 EV to +3 EV, 1/3 f-stops
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  • Mark

    Price: One Billion Dollars!

    • Trovi

      ridiculous price for shutter speed just 1/4000s and 1/180s flash synchronization…

      • Trovi

        oops, comment for wrong entry level FF camera, sorry… 😉

  • cy-man

    What is the difference to the M9?

    • Fewer features – like live view, smaller full-frame sensor.

      • MG

        there’s no live view in this.
        the sensor is the same size as the M9

    • Andrés

      No “M9” badge, I guess.

    • Carlo

      That’s the good question.

      If you read the specs it’s made of cheaper materials, only the top is of brass, with same poor display.

      This is not the answer awaited from me for a camera in this range of price.
      I awaited a Leica M/R without an optical rangefinder but with integrated EVF, Flash and other things that are standard from other manufacturers. (like the Fujifilm X-Pro-1 vs X-E1)

      • Geeen

        If it only had an evf it wouldn’t be a rangefinder, so you might as well just buy an nex of xpro and use an adapter. Why exactly do you want a Leica? you can still use the lenses.

  • Maiko

    Well… it’s a M9, right?

    • J Shin

      It’s Leica’s answer to all those people who didn’t want any bells and whistles. Probably the only real difference is the absence of the EVF / HDMI connectors. Maybe it has live view, but no video.

      So, yes, it’s the M, probably with a better sensor.

      • J Shin

        The Leica-Camera site has pictures of the cameras from all angles. Check out the little dial on the back of the M. There is also a picture with the R adapter and the EVF.

      • same same

        It is the same sensor as the M9 “KAF -18500 18 MP CCD Sensor”

      • J Shin

        The M-E has a CCD sensor. 18 MP. So, it’s the M9.

        The M has 24 MP.

      • J Shin

        The EVF-2 has 1.4 MPx.

        The Adapter-R seems to have ROM contacts, and the M will have lens profiles. Diaphragm control is unnecessary.

      • Maybe an easier analogy is this is M-P of the digital M (e.g. M7/M-P, M/M-E)

        Now we have M, M-E and Monochrom. Been much time since last time three M-series bodies in a row. Wonder how long before Hermes version come out.

  • E

    Very interesting!

  • Me too

    I would like to know as well. WTF is this camera? A rehashed M9?

  • Bryan Campbell

    Not seeing any difference between this and an M9

  • pooh

    They change the name and color of the previous (three-year old) flagship and label it an “entry level camera”.

    Such genius and shamelessness is unheard of. Bravo Leica, made the history again…

    • Nick

      I guess you don’t follow consumer electronics very much. Apple follows this same model with astounding success. They introduce a new phone (e.g. iPhone 5) and offer the previous two flagship phones (e.g. iPhone 4 and 4s) at reduced prices in order to hit all points. The iPhone 4, just two years old, is now free with 2-year contract.

    • Nick

      A lot of people would have been thrilled if Nikon had lopped a few k off the D3 and kept selling it when the D4 came out!

      • Nick

        Posts by two different Nick’s above btw – but the other Nick it talking a lot of sense – what’s in a name, hey?

  • KO

    It’s a strip down M9 which is rumoured to be cheaper.

  • Frank

    So does this mean we will be able to upgrade the sensor in the current M9/M9P in the near future?

  • Vaclav

    M9 without frame-lines selector and USB …

    • zd

      The selector is the only thing I miss. I can’t care less about the USB port.

    • No frame lines…..yeah, why let composition get in the way of a good photograph lol. Brilliant.

      • patrick

        frameline selector.

        big difference. the framelines (from my best guess) is no longer selected by a mechanical flange on the lens mount, but selected electronically from the 6-bit code on the lens. less cost to make. less time to assemble.

        still, my M6 framelines can get gummy, and I have to manually flick between them to loosen things up a bit. I’m a little hesitent to buy an ME over an M9 because of this. but not like Id ever have enough to buy an M9 in the forseeable future.

        • Robert

          If framelines are no longer selected through the lens mount but only through the 6-bit coding, then how about composing a shot with a Voigtlaender or Zeiss lenses??

          • zd

            All M-mount lenses has a mechanical sensor in the mount to pop up the correct frameline. Leica wouldn’t want to kill 50 years of lens compatibility by requiring every lens to be 6-bit coded.

          • Jei

            Surly the framelines will also activate through the manual lens selection in the menu.

  • Cristian

    5450 for Leica ME
    6950 for Leica M.

  • Cristian

    5450 for ME
    6950 for M

  • ptr

    disappointed they didnt have classic black or chrome. gray body with chrome dials just looks ridiculous. poor aesthetics. now to wait for the price!

  • Kede


  • Bill Rennaker

    Leica has lost it.

    First an MM that blows highlights.
    Now two new cameras that just blow.

    Gimme a break….
    Hello Nikon

    • Mike

      I’m a Nikon user (D3s & D800) and these Leica’s look stunning to my eyes. What a great time to be a camera fanatic. I’m curious though, in the M-E…. If one can afford a $5500 camera, what’s another $1500 for the M? If you’re that close, you may as well go full monty. Maybe thats the idea.

      • Nick

        Not sure that’s true. A Leica will be a stretch – why stretch that much further. Especially if a lot of the cost in the extra is not worth the difference to you – I don’t want an evf, don’t use R glass, won’t use video, wouldn’t shoot my M for anything needing live view, am not fussed by the extra 8 MP and can use the 1500 bucks on the lee filter system I need for the Nikon 14-24 I am considering buying.

  • Jei

    Brilliant move by Leica. Something for everyone and not TOO expensive.

    • Banksie

      I agree. They listened to their traditional M user base (those who grew up on the film Leica M system) and to the newbies who have never used a rangefinder or a Leica before but were interested partly because of the quality optics. Now both sides of the fence can be happy. Also those with R lenses can now put them to use with the M form factor.

      btw, download the tech specs and you can see the differences between the ME and the M9/M9P. One big difference is the new shutter that’s much quieter (like the film M.) That was a complaint by many traditional M users with the M9 and M9-P, myself included.

      The M9 and M9-P will retain their value and spare parts will be around for a long time (it’s also the same CCD sensor.) The original M9 will be a classic digital M for a while longer now.

      Also the pricing is decent (and better than the original M9 pricing.) I’ve found that people who constantly dismiss Leica are primarily people who would never buy one anyway. And so their opinions don’t count. Users of Leica who complain about issues with the brand normally have constructive criticism to offer and are worth listening to…..

      • Jei

        Yeah I find myself very happy with my M9 even with these new cameras. I love the pure,simple focus of the M9 in taking stills, and also see the value and angle that the M is coming from. All I want now is the MM!

      • Carlo

        I like the rangefinder but I’m selling my M8. I’m not happy with the fact that they are problems of back focus. The after sale explained me that the camera has to be adjusted with the lens (only with Leica lens). I find the M a better alternative for the overprice of 1500$. I’m happy to not have an M9 (M9-P is an other thing) as it wills never be possible to resell your body over 4000$ on second hand market when the M-E is so cheap.

        • Banksie

          Carlo, that’s incorrect. The lenses do not need to be adjusted to a specific body. The lenses and bodies need to be adjusted to a factory spec. If it were that each camera and lens needs to be adjusted to themselves, then there would be no such thing as interchangeable lenses. You would need a body for each lens.

          The issue between digital and film cameras is that the sensor is perfectly flat whereas film is not and has an emulsion with varying thicknesses. It doesn’t need to be as precise as a flat digital sensor.

          If your lenses are back focusing then you need them adjusted. The reason Leica will also ask for your camera to adjust is because they want to make sure it’s not out, too. If the lenses are perfect and the rangefinder is off then you have to fix the rangefinder. That’s the only reason both are usually adjusted at the same time. But if your rangefinder is good then it’s the lens, or vice versa, or both.

          And the M9-P is the exact same camera as the M9 except for the top plate and the LCD cover (sapphire versus plastic.) Leica will upgrade the M9 to a M9P by replacing the top and bottom plate and covering (if you have a silver M9) and add the sapphire LCD cover. Then you have an exact replica of the M9-P plus an extra one year’s worth of warranty added.

    • bmmau

      I agree. It’s about time camera manufacturers returned to their roots and produced cameras with digital full frame (or larger) sensors for stills photography only. Of course these cameras would be part of a model lineup in which other features such as video are included.

  • I like this camera. Obviously just an M9 but the M9 is their most popular camera ever..why not keep rolling with?

  • ProtoWhalePig

    Wow. They really did buy a lot of those 230k dot screens.

    • Andrew R

      … not to mention KAF -18500 sensors!

    • Joe

      They must have a lifetime supply.

      • Nick

        They do – of the screens anyway. Didn’t they confirm they would have enough M9 screens to replace them all for the lifetime of the purchasers?

        • Banksie

          For the next ten years, not for the lifetime of the owner (or the camera.)

  • george

    Leica digital as usual, (only a few years behind everybody else). Pro cameras have had 20-24 mega-pixel sensors for years now, and 30+ will be the standard before anybody gets the new M. This best is just not. Just average at best. The lenses are the only thing that are the best and far ahead of all competition.

    • Carlo

      In term of optical excellence not sure. Today with the sensors on the market if your lens is bad, you’ll see it. (with the D800 not all lens of Nikon range are compatible).

  • huh

    Am I losing it? No frame lines? Leica users compose using the force now?

    • ProtoWhalePig

      Just pre-focus and shoot from the hip. In monochrome. On the subway. You’ll be all set.

    • zd

      Frameline selector. Read again before you post.

      • Banksie

        Don’t bother explaining anymore. Non-Leica users don’t know the difference between the frame line selector and the frame lines. Plus they only want to complain.

  • john

    So what is the actual difference?

    • ProtoWhalePig

      About $2,000

  • Guru

    A budget camera for rich people, or a camera for rich people on a budget. Beautiful! How ingenious! How big must the crisis be? Where is the world going if even rich people can’t afford a Leica any more? Oh what a pity!

  • Sam Kanga

    The ME – has no USB port (OK with me) and loses the frame line Preview lever (I’m fine without it). You will still have frame lines that will show up as you attach the appropriate lens.

    Banksie mentioned earlier that it will have a quieter shutter, a good thing.


    • Banksie

      And if one doesn’t like the blue-grey color and the silver shutter dial, I bet you can get the M9-P top and bottom plates and the shutter dial instead (for a bit extra of course.) They are interchangeable.

      I can do without the frame line selector since I know after decades of using Ms where the frame lines are and don’t need to check composition before I change lenses. Plus I don’t use the M tethered and I use a card reader, too. So I even like the idea of no USB door on the body (makes it appear nicer and more minimalist looking, imho.)

  • Price for M-E, anyone?

    • Mark

      It’s about $5500. So JUST past that price to make it a worthwhile purchase for a lowly wedding photographer like myself. Thanks Leica! I would be your loyal customer if you weren’t so obsessed with rich people.

      • ProtoWhalePig

        Why? There are so many better options for less money.

  • etr brony

    well done leica! both new m cameras look great

  • mr.chips

    Am I the only one who thinks that is one butt ugly paint job? It seems they designed it that way to signal “not quite an M(10)” which I think is a shame for a $5500 price point camera.

    No thanks. I’ll wait to see what Hasselblads digital XPan looks like this week.

    • Banksie

      Well, the Hasselblad pics are now out. Definitely not pretty. What were they thinking?

  • Steve Chang

    its amazing that a company can sell a product with 8yr old technology at this eye watering price. and here there are still ppl applaud leica’s comeback. its not about affordability its about whether its worth the money. wait for next yr sony will tell us.

    • Nick

      8years old tech? What?

      Besides, last a checked the wheel is thousands of years old, but people still buy cars…

      • Banksie

        I have a brand new car with all the latest tech. But it still has rubber tires.

    • E

      Funny how people must be always behind the last thing in technology. Why? There are fantastic technologies from other ages. In prehistory there were technologies for things that we don’t know how to do now. So what is this technology thing about? I’m still shooting film. It’s a 150 years or so technology? None of this cameras gives me that feeling and look that I want and like in my pictures? So, it’s good technology for me. In the other hand very recent technologies are gone and your investement is in the basket.

    • Rob

      Worth the money and Leica in one sentence?

  • john

    Seriously what’s the difference between this and the M9? Can someone make an actual list without “silly” comments.

    • Banksie

      1) color of the top and bottom plates (blue-grey; no silver or black chrome or black paint offered as of yet.)

      2) silver shutter speed dial

      3) no USB port (no port door on side of the body anymore)

      4) no frame line selector (frame lines appear only after mounting a lens)

      4) marketed as a quieter and different shutter (we’ll have to wait to be certain on that but somebody at LUF who was at Photokina claims it is smoother and quieter than the M9/M9-P)

      5) costs less than the M9 and M9-P current pricing

  • JJ

    This is why fujifilm will do very well with their x-pro 1 and the new x-e1. They even offer a M-mount adapter for all of us leica lovers.

    • Snapshot

      I think this will seal the deal with fuji and put my Summilux from my M6 to my future Fuji XPro-1

  • Thiago

    Red dot is bigger. Why?

  • Andy

    I think they have set the pricing completely wrong on this one. I don’t understand why anyone would pay this much for a camera with hopelessly outdated technology when they could pay just 30% more for the M.

  • ad1452

    It’s got auto focus right?

  • Snappur

    What does the ‘E’ in Leica M-E stand for . . . . . Economy?

  • camerageek

    Well after reading about the Hassy Lunar, this M-E seems like a bargain. Hell the new M seems like a bargain!

  • Ronaldo

    I guess M-E stands for More-Economical

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