Monday, April 1, 2013

SENSATIONAL NEW LEICA SM






Solms, 4-01-2013

Leica Camera AG today announced an entirely new camera to their lineup, the brilliantly designed Leica SM.  Full details are still sporadic, but here is what we know:

It is a large format camera with a sensor similar to that of the Leica S. It has the same size of 30 x 40 mm, but with a higher resolution of 50 megapixels.  The camera body features a collapsible front standard which makes the camera extremely flat when collapsed, only 42mm without lens.  This is very convenient when transporting the camera.  The front standard is connected to the rear of the camera via a bellows. 

Several means of focusing are available, a folding electronic viewfinder, a large viewing screen in the back with live view, including a folding hood for better viewing in bright light, and a built-in rangefinder.

The camera accepts the same lenses as the Leica S which work with the built-in focal plane shutter.  But in addition, the camera also has a built-in leaf shutter to allow the use of lenses without shutters.  This opens up the possibility of using a variety of lenses which otherwise would be useless.  All of the Leica S lenses have the same functions on the SM, including autofocus.  But most other lenses will have autofocus also when used on the SM.  This is achieved with a high speed worm drive which moves the support of the front standard of the camera.  In addition, a large focusing knob at the side of the camera can be used to move the front standard from the infinity position to allow for close focusing beyond the standard minimum focusing distances of the lenses used.  The layouts of the electronic controls are all positioned in the back of the camera, similar to the Leica M and S cameras.  A convenient handgrip is offered as an accessory.

The Leica SM also features a seemingly old fashioned feature, a frame finder.  This allows following even extremely fast moving subjects with substantially greater speed and easy than most other viewfinders would.

Leica SM with 70mm f/2.5 Summarit-S.
The settings for the leaf shutter are clearly visible, as are the folding electronic viewfinder and the rangefinder.  The frame finder is folded up and the camera is equipped with the hand grip on the right side of the camera.

The back of the camera, showing the large viewing screen with its built-in hood opened, the elctronic controls and the folded electronic viewfinder.


The focusing movement on the bottom of the camera

The close focusing adjustment knob on the side of the camera

We will report more in depth about this camera as soon as additional information becomes available.  Stay tuned...  




30 comments:

  1. You continue to amaze me with what you are able to come up with.

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  2. I think the camera would look better all black.

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    Replies
    1. I am sure the latest word on this camera is not in yet.

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  3. Isn't the label "SM" misleading since it is also used for the older Leica screw mount cameras?

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    1. Maybe we shouldn't over-analyze this, especially in view of the fact that the SM abbreviation has never been officially used by Leica Camera.

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  4. What is the lever above the manual focusing knob on the left side of the camera?

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    1. That allows the built-in leaf shutter to be cocked manually. Thus the shutter remains operational even without battery power.

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  5. Shouldn't you mention that this is an April fools joke?

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    1. Why, isn't the 4-01-2013 date enough of a hint?

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  6. Reader iedei wrote:

    haha! nice.

    the sad thing is....i actually want one!

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  7. I don't want to go overboard with this, especially since it is April 2 by now, but the concept of the folding electronic finder intrigues me. Would such an item be possible?

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    1. I see no reason why not. The screen in the front would be a high resolution monitor and the folding eye piece in back would be designed to give a magnified view of the monitor for greater focusing accuracy with manual lenses. The possibility of switching to an enlarged portion of the whole viewfinder field could further increase focusing accuracy. The eye piece could also have built-in diopter correction.

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  8. What camera is this actually based on? Obviously you did a lot of photoshop work to transform it into a Leica. The overall layout of the camera appears to be from the 1930s.

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    1. I am surprised that nobody asked before. It is one of the most amazing cameras that I have ever owned, the Plaubel Makina. It is a medium format camera with a maximum negative size of 6 x 9 cm (2 1/4 x 3 1/4 inch). The camera offers a rangefinder as well as ground glass focusing. The interchangeable lenses all work with a built-in leaf shutter that operates behind the lenses. Besides 120 roll film, the camera will also accept sheet film via single sheet film holders as well as 35mm film in a special, interchangeable back. The folding, optical viewfinder has markings for the normal as well as telephoto lens. For wide angle use a special wide angle converter slips over the front of the viewfinder. The viewfinder also has provision for parallax correction. In spite of its relative age and uncoated lenses. the camera displays an amazing level of performance, even by today's standards.

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    2. How is it possible to use ground glass focusing with the various backs and film holders of the Makina?

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    3. It requires the use of the camera on a tripod. You focus on the groundglass and then remove it and put the film holder or filmback in its place. For faster, more instantaneous operation you use the rangefinder for focusing and then the folding optical viewfinder for framing.

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  9. I understand that the camera has interchangeable lenses. Is there any coupling of the lenses to the rangefinder which allows the rangefinder to be used with the different focal lengths?

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    1. Yes, Plaubel offered a 73mm wide angle, a 100mm normal and a 190mm telephoto lens. None of them have any special coupling to the rangefinder. The rangefinder is calibrated to work with the 100mm lens. The 100 and 73mm lenses have different bellows extensions. When using the 73mm, focusing must be done with the bellows at the 100mm position. Then the bellows is collapsed to the 73mm position which registers automatically. No further adjustments are necessary for picture taking. With the 190mm focusing is similar. You again focus with the bellows at the 100mm position. Then the distance information is transferred to the distance scale on the 190mm, which has its own (additional) focusing mount. Definitely not as convenient as on a Leica, but it does work.

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    2. That seems to be quite awkward.

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    3. By today's standards it is. But we must not forget that this camera was made in the later part of the 1930s. At that time, Leicas too had a separate rangefinder. As a matter of fact, the built-in viewfinder was only for the 50mm lens. All other l;enses required an auxiliary viewfinder. While the interchangeable lenses did not require any separate settings of the rangefinder, groundglass viewing, for closeups and long telephoto focusing, was only available via an accessory of which several were available.

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    4. What accessories were those?

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    5. The most sophisticated one was the PLOOT which later evolved into the Visoflex line. They essentially converted the camera to a single lens reflex camera. However, infinity focus was only possible with lenses longer than 135mm and with a few lenses shorter than that with a special focusing mount. However, the Ploot/Visoflex did overcome the basic shortcomings of a rangefinder camera in terms of using long lenses and doing closeup work. Another, less sophisticated accessory, was the focoslide. It could only be used on a tripod or camera stand. It consisted of a sliding stage that held the camera on one side and a ground glass on the other. The lenses were mounted on the opposite side. With ground glass in position, the lenses could be focused correctly after which the camera could be slid into position to take the photograph. These were the most popular ones. However, there were other devices offered by Leitz for closeup photography like the NOOKY and its derivatives. This was essentially an extension tube with a viewfinder correction built in. It allowed close focusing with the rangefinder. The later Dual Range Summicron 50mm f/2 functioned very much the same way. It had an extended focusing mount which, in order to function in the closeup range, required a viewfinder corrector to be put in place.

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  10. I thought this was supposed to be a Leica blog.

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    1. It is. But if someone asks a question to widen their knowledge about cameras and photography, I will answer as best I can. I am not one of the stuffy Leica crowd that pretends that nothing else besides Leicas exist in the world of photography.

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    2. Good reply. Someone needs to loosen up.

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  11. This turned out to be a very interesting post. I must admit, initially you got me. The date never sunk in. But that is part of the fun. The amazing thing is that several of the features actually make sense and I find it amazing that a few updates can actually make a camera of this age workable. Do you own a Plaubel Makina?

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  12. Yes, I own the camera used in the pictures of this article. It is the camera my dad used to start his photography business with. Of course later on he switched to different camera equipment, Leica for 35mm and Hasselblad for medium format. In addition he also used a Plaubel Peco Universal which was able to use 4 x 5 as well as 5 x 7 inch size sheet film. It took me several years to talk him into giving the Plaubel Makina to me. Every time I went to Germany for a visit, we went through the same conversation which circled around me asking for the camera and him telling me that he was not yet ready to let it go. Then, one year, shortly after we arrived, I went into the studio and looked at the place where the cameras were stored. The Plaubel Makina wasn't there. This was shortly before Christmas. At that point I knew what at least one of my presents would be.

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    1. I never received Christmas presents like that. Jealousy is setting in.

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