Leica at Photokina

It seems at any trade show, when you meet up with a colleague inevitably one of the first questions is “Have you seen anything exciting?” or “What’s the big thing?”

Leica’s announcement of the S2 certainly falls into that category, every time that you looked at their booth it was crowded with people looking to catch a glimpse of the new camera. Since I knew that I would be at the show for all six days, I was able to relax a bit and wait to get some “quality time” with the S2.

(I know that news is news if you are first to report — it seems pretty obvious as I witness by the tumbleweeds drifting through the press room on the third day of Photokina, but I sometimes wonder what it matters being first to report the news if the product won’t be available for some time.)

But back to my time at the Leica booth. While the S2 I examined was strictly a prototype, it did give a good idea of what the finished model may look like. It is solid (some would say heavy) and feels good in the hand. I was immediately stuck by the OLED display on the top of the camera. The color made the small display very easy to read.

The menu system was easy to get around as there aren’t menu categories. It does require you to scroll through more items though. If you are coming from working with a Nikon or Canon full-frame sensor camera you will be struck by the lack of buttons on the body — it is a very clean form.

I had overheard some comments earlier in the week about the design, with people wanting this or that. But when I was using the camera I was reminded of when the Soviets unveiled the design of their version of the space shuttle. (Bear with me, I won’t take this too far) The design looked almost exactly like the NASA version of the space shuttle. Then I heard an interview with a rocket scientist (okay maybe it was an aeronautical engineer). He said that when you have to design something that will be launched one way and then have to fly back home, it pretty much has to look like the NASA space shuttle, otherwise it won’t work.

So as I held this camera in my hand I though about the design parameters that Leica chose, namely that it has to be higher resolution than a 35mm sensor camera (56% larger — 37 megapixels) and it has to be a Leica. I’m not saying this to put them on some higher level above everybody else, I’m saying that because if you look at how their cameras I don’t think I could imagine a Leica version of a 35mm SLR. So what I was holding in my hand made perfect sense — it had to look like that.

While the specs are not finalized, they did show how the camera has a secret access panel (not so secret now) that could be used for additional connections like wireless or GPS.

While looking at the S2, the Leica folks decided to pull out their new “fast” lens. I do mean fast. f/0.9 is fast. It is a pretty amazing feat. When you take the lens caps off it looks like there barely anything holding it together its all glass.

They also brought out the D-LUX 4. Now I don’t do much writing about compact digital cameras, and I’m sure that I should report on some of the specs of this camera, but what was interesting was that if has a little handgrip accessory that screws on the tripod mount to give the camera a really nice solid grip.

Lastly they brought out the M8.2. The M8 was launched in 2006 and this model should be available now (if not backordered). With a new shutter, and more scratch-resistant LCD the M8.2 adds a new shooting mode called “S” which I think means “snapshot”. This mode is good for when you hand the camera to someone who is not used to using a Leica. It automatically adjusts exposure and give hints to help you set focus.

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