Hands-on with the Leica M Edition 60: An $18,500 way to cure your chimping habit


posted Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 10:30 AM EDT


Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the first Leica M rangefinder -- the M3 was introduced back in 1954 -- the German camera manufacturer introduced a special edition of their venerable M-series digital rangefinder at this year's Photokina trade show. While that fact is not all that striking, as Leica's introduced numerous special limited edition cameras over the years, the M Edition 60, however, is rather unique compared to other digital cameras, and not for the vast array of features, bells and whistles, but rather the lack thereof.

Paying homage to traditional film photography, Leica stripped away one of the biggest features that makes a digital camera a digital camera: the rear LCD screen. Sporting a clean rear face with only an ISO selector dial right in the middle (as you'd find on Leica's film rangefinders), Leica's new 60th anniversary digital M rangefinder does away with one of the hallmark features of digital cameras -- the ability to get instant feedback and viewing of your photos as you take them.

Instead, you treat the Leica M Edition 60 as a film camera pure and simple. Set your aperture, ISO sensitivity and shutter speed, and then focus and compose your images with the optical viewfinder as you would on a digital rangefinder. However, this new digital camera brings back the elements of surprise, discovery and anticipation that comes with waiting for your photos to develop as you would with film… or until you upload them onto your computer, in this case.

Given the lack of menus, settings and other options, the M Edition 60 is quite simple to operate, with traditional manual rangefinder focusing and mechanical dials for shutter speed and ISO. The guts of the Audi Design-created M Edition 60 are the same as the standard Leica M-P Typ 240, with a full-frame 24MP CMOS sensor, standard ISO range of 200-6400 and shutter speeds up to 1/4000s. There is a small, unlabeled "info" button on the right side of the shutter button that will display some exposure settings in the viewfinder. Not surprisingly, images are captured in RAW format .DNG files only -- you don't have "compressed" photos on film cameras, so no compressed image formats with this camera either.

Constructed out of gunmetal-grey stainless steel and textured black leather trim for grip, the Leica M Edition 60 feels outstanding in your hand -- like a solid, chunk of metal carved into the shape of a camera. Bundled with the camera body is a specially designed Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lens in matching gunmetal-grey color.

If you're ready to get your hands on one of these limited edition kits, get in line quickly as only 600 will be produced -- each individually numbered. However, if you think a stripped-down, LCD-less Leica digital rangefinder camera will be relatively affordable, think again. This special camera and lens will go on sale starting in October at Leica Stores and Boutiques for around 15,000 € -- or around $18,500 USD.