Hybrid Choices - Leica T (Typ 701)

Now I'm not going to pretend that it will be easy to be objective about my favourite ever camera, but I'll give it my best shot. And many I'm sure might be surprised to find the Leica T (Typ 701) included in a series of articles about hybrid cameras. However, it does shoot 1080 HD video, so it can be seen as an option for shooting stills and video.

THINGS I LIKE

  • The overall look, feel and design. With a minimal external control system, all the menu is touch screen only. Most of this of course doesn't impact on it's capabilities as a hybrid camera.
  • The quality of the EVF and screen. I use the camera in full manual mode when shooting video on a tripod and the screen works very well for this. For hand held work I use the EVF and again this is sharp and clear in good light.
  • The video has a software stabilisation system (similar to iMovie) which works very well.
  • The quality of the lenses. For me the best mirrorless / CSC / EVIL lenses out there.
  • The overall simplicity and unfussy way the pared down menu is laid out.
  • No AA filter. Nice sharp images but this does mean some moire for video.

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

  • A moveable screen would be very useful.
  • Video could be a lot better.
  • There are occasionally AF and touchscreen glitches.
  • The Leica T app. is very poor. Nothing like the excellent Panasonic clone for the D-LUX (Typ 109) Whoever decided that I have to connect my camera to my iPad using an external wi-fi connection instead of directly from camera to phone / tablet needs a lesson on how, when and where we as customers would want to use something like that. Dreadful.
  • It's not cheap!!
  • The future - does it have one?

In terms of stills, the 16MP sensor in the Leica is a very good one. And for an APS-C sensor it's a good compromise between the number of pixels and high ISO performance. Leica's decision to leave off any AA filter also has implications. For example, this is, from what I read, the same Sony sensor as in the Fuji X cameras. Fuji add on their X-Trans filter which results in better high ISO performance. Certainly the Fuji X cameras produce less noisy images than the Leica T. But and it's a big BUT, this has an impact on overall image sharpness. Especially when you add in in Fuji's very conservative approach to noise in terms of their own raw developing software and what happens in Photoshop and Lightroom. In this article - https://www.soundimageplus.com/soundimageplus/2015/2/2/leica-t-typ-701-and-fuji-x100s-comparisons?rq=Leica%20Fuji%20X%20comparison I compared the Leica T (Typ 701) to a Fuji X100s and tests revealed that the Leica T produces sharper results with better dynamic range and if noise reduction is added to the raw files, then the Fuji X Trans sensor has no real advantage in terms of high(er) ISO settings.

And it's important to realise that. This has been one of my constant issues with Fuji X cameras, in that I want to make the decision as to how much noise reduction (if any) to apply to a file, not have it dictated to me. And that is why I much prefer the Leica approach. Now this does impact on the video. As you will see from the sample below, Leica T footage is very attractive and has lots of visual impact. However, there is moire present, though this can be removed in video software.

In terms of the video offer, the Leica T is pretty basic. Like Fuji, they don't seem to put a lot into this. But unlike Fuji, the basic footage is actually pretty good. In many ways I prefer it to what comes out of my other, more highly regarded cameras. Broadcast quality? Well probably not, but for what I and most other users would want, certainly very acceptable. Let's face it, how many of us are going to be shooting for TV or the Movie Industry. I'm certainly not. But I do make money from shooting video footage and the Leica would, even as it is, do the job for me. But it could be better and that's something I'll discuss in the following section, which is I think quite important.

THE FUTURE FOR THE LEICA T SYSTEM.

I suppose the fundamental question is does is have one? And if it does, what do Leica want to do with it? As I'm sure you are aware, there are waiting lists for Leica M cameras. But then for this kind of camera, i.e. 'full-frame' rangefinders, Leica have no competition. But for an interchangeable lens CSC / Mirrorless / E.V.I.L system there are lots of other options. And cheaper ones at that. Plus more extensive lens systems. So I doubt that the Leica T system is racing off the shelves. But then Leica won't be intent on turning out container loads of these anyway. Looking at the specs. for example, many people may well be loathe to consider spending the sums of money involved for a product that they perceive as offering less than what Panasonic, Olympus and Sony have on offer. And I'm happy to admit that what I see as the Leica T's advantages may well be regarded by many as marginal at best.

So if I make the assumption that Leica T sales won't make their accountants hearts beat faster, then can we assume that there will be a T MK II? Because, if sales have been disappointing and I have no evidence either way on that, then perhaps this may be a one-off. But then Leica now have the mount and they have a basic set of very good lenses. They also now have a foothold in the CSC / Mirrorless / E.V.I.L market. It remains to be seen however, just what they do with that. One thing is for sure, they won't compromise on quality and the chances of a budget T are pretty slim. For me, if this is it as far as the Leica T goes, then I'd still be happy with what I have and continue using it. However, if Leica do decide to take this on then there are a few things they might consider.

Firstly, since they use Sony sensors, I'd love to see my T lenses in front of the 24MP unit in the Sony a6000, without AA filter of course. I suspect the results from that would be quite spectacular. Secondly, the video option in the Leica T is surprisingly good but basic and if the software image stabilisation was more widely publicised, I'm sure it would get more attention. Now Leica don't have any reputation for video. But then they didn't for EVF's, Screens and Touchscreens either and they have close to the best out there for all three of those now. So why not video?

So, leaving aside the fact that I love using the 'T' and almost everything about it, I have to concede that it's not the 'real deal' yet. But it is, if Leica want to pursue it, full of potential. Up the pixel count, improve the video, give us an app. that §connects directly and add a moveable screen and the next generation Leica T (Typ ???) could be a serious contender at the top end of the CSC / Mirrorless / E.V.I.L market. And for me, it would be a particular tragedy if those superb lenses didn't have the chance to strut their stuff on an upgraded camera.