One of the big shortcomings of the Leica M cameras has always been the limited number of lenses and the limited close-up capabilities. Granted, for what the camera was and is intended, it is virtually without equal. But it would definitely be nice if it were possible to extend its versatility beyond that intended use.
Leitz/Leica solved that problem already in the 1930s with the introduction of the PLOOT, the first reflex viewing attachment. It allowed virtually unlimited close-up capabilities and the use of lenses longer than 135mm. The Visoflex, as it was later called, culminated in the Visoflex III which essentially converted the Leica M cameras into a single lens reflex. Yet it was always plagued by a certain clumsiness with the consequence that it did not allow rapid shooting as it was possible with real single lens reflex cameras.
Enter the upcoming Photokina and a bit of crystal balling, or dreaming, if you prefer. Please keep in mind, this is pure conjecture, but it does paint a pretty good picture.
It is generally assumed that Leica will introduce an updated version of the M9 in form of a new camera, generally referred to as the Leica M10. In May of this year Leica introduced the new Leica X2 and along with it, an electronic accessory viewfinder.
Let’s continue to dream what a similar electronic viewfinder could do for the M10. Just like on the X2, it would allow full frame viewing with virtually 100 percent accuracy. In addition the camera would, of course, maintain its rangefinder focusing with the standard M lenses. Why the addition of an electronic finder? Two reasons, for one thing it would allow for another means of focusing for any of the M lenses. But, and this is where it gets interesting, it would also allow accurate viewing and focusing of other lenses. With an adapter, any of the Leica R lenses could be used. In addition, because of the relatively short lens to sensor distance, with an appropriate adapter a whole slew of other lenses could be used as well. Close up photography would no longer be a problem. With other words, such an electronic viewfinder would convert the Leica M to a complete system camera while maintaining all of the attributes of the M cameras in general. The only fly in the ointment would be the fact that there is no autofocusing. But let’s not get too greedy, let’s take this one step at a time.
I am sure that some will argue that the electronic finder adds some bulk to the camera. While that is certainly correct, the added bulk is essentially no different than the prism housing on conventional DSLR cameras and it does have the advantage of being removable when not needed.
All of this sounds almost too good to be true and this bit of wishful thinking makes the upcoming Photokina that much more interesting, because then it will finally be revealed what great new items we will be presented with by Leica.
Postscript September 18, 2012
To see what the rumored M10 actually turned out to be, go to;
THE NEW LEICA M
And For a comparison between the imagined M10 with the electronic Visoflex and what really appeared at Photokina, see:
LEICA M vs. LEICA M10 RUMORS