Above - Leica T (Typ 701) with Leica APO-Vario-Elmar-T 55-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Lens
Despite me making it one of my cameras of the year for 2014 and pretty much raving about it ever since I bought it 15 months ago. it seems very few share my enthusiasm for the Leica T (Typ 701) It's got fabulous image quality from a combination of four amazing lenses and an AA filter free sensor, it has the best live view screen on a digital camera and one of the best EVF's, it looks good and in Leica terms isn't that expensive. (Yes I know it's all relative!) But despite all this it gets a constant rubbishing on the photographic internet and doesn't look like it will become one of Leicas best sellers. And it's unfortunately pretty obvious why.
It is a very modern concept and I think Leica were brave to attempt it. With it's minimalist design and moving virtually all the controls to touchscreen control, it is about as un-Leica-like as it's possible to be. And of course leisure photographers and the photographic internet can't cope with that. Because they like certainty, a sense that things are as they were and Leica means M bodies and M lenses. The Leica Q (Typ 116) got a lot more approval, because, hey it looks like an M series rangefinder, so it must be good, right? Much as I like the Q and it's extraordinary image quality, it is a backward step. Even though it is actually technologically well endowed, it looks old school, whereas the T doesn't. And so all is right with the world, Leica is Leica again and everybody can go back to some cozy notion of what cameras should look and function like.
Sure, the Leica T isn't perfect, what is? and there would be things I'd like to change. I'd like better manual focusing options, I'd actually like it to be a bit bigger, I'd prefer the EVF to be built in, the AF to be faster and I'd certainly have liked the (admittedly optically wonderful) Leica APO-Vario-Elmar-T 55-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Lens pictured above to be smaller. But, even with those reservations I still think it's a great camera. And the main reason for that is I can use it in a variety of ways. Putting the 23mm f/2 on the body and leaving the EVF off I've got a small light camera that attracts no attention and works exactly like a smartphone or small point and shoot. And with the ability of that screen to work beautifully in even the brightest sunlight, it's a pleasure to use. And I can go from that to a fully kitted out interchangeable lens system. No fast zooms, but boy are they superb. And don't believe some of the nonsense you read, they are extremely well-made (as is the body) and they are durable , reliable and very good looking. Every bit the equal of those overpriced M lenses. And I love the handling of the camaer and despite the reservations of others I think the touchscreen control works just fine. And setting up the camera how I want it is a breeze, leaving me to get with the important stuff, taking pictures.
So what happens next? Will Leica persist with this and try a T Mk II, or will they just abandon the concept and retreat into retro styling like they have with the Q? Because it seems that people don't want a 'modern' Leica. There are rumours that the next Leica M / interchangeable lens camera or whatever it's going to be will have some way of accepting the T lenses. And it would seem sensible for Leica to use the existing T lens mount. Even if this new camera is full-frame, using the T mount would allow the use of the lenses in crop mode, though I suspect that it may be possible (like with some Nikon APS-C) lenses to get a larger frame out of them than a 1.5x crop. So hopefully these great lenses won't be destined for obscurity. And hopefully Leica won't give up on the idea of continuing to be innovators. It would be easy for them to just concentrate on the luxury brand, retro, old-school M series. But from what they have been doing lately it seems clear that they don't want to do that, even though they don't seem to be able to take the camera buying public with them.
An announcement is apparently imminent and we will be able to see what Leica are planning to release next. There is of course the possibility that the T and it's lenses will be 'orphaned' and left to fend for themselves until Leica clear their stock. That's OK by me. I did have a suspicion that this might happen and it will turn the system into a collectors item in a few years time anyway, But I do think it would be a real shame if Leica abandoned the technology they have used in the T. Apart from anything else, there are a lot of other companies out there turning out lookaleicas and my Panasonic GX8 probably looks more like an old school rangefinder than what's coming out of Solms these days.
However come what may, I'll still be using my T and enjoying every minute of it. It is, like the Q, one of my 'personal' cameras, that I buy and use for my own pleasure primarily, when I let making a living take a back seat. I can afford to have the system sitting on the shelf and if this Leica looses me money then so be it. I refuse to put a price on the pleasure it gives me and life is too short to conduct my photographic life dictated by a balance sheet or whether or not the photographic internet approves of my choices. It would be nice though if some of the reviews of the camera were actually accurate, but then I've been around the internet long enough to realise that is a hope rather than a reality and the hidden (commercial) agendas of many of the primary review sites mean that Leica is always destined for a hard time on many of them. And as I always write, I get to use the camera and all those who criticise it (whether or not they have used it in any meaningful way or not) don't.