Leica Debuts 18MP Full-Frame M9 Rangefinder

Last week's leak couldn't have been more on: Leica's officially announced the their full-frame followup to the retro-fabulous M8, as well as some chum for more mainstream users, in the form of the APS-C-sensored X1 compact, for "beginners."

The M9 looks almost exactly like the M8, and for that matter, the 50-year-old M3—it's the same black and silver body, same rangefinder sensibilities, and same lens system. What isn't the same is the full-frame sensor, which is a first for compact cameras like this. The 35mm-equivalent sensor was designed in collaboration with Kodak, and burns an 18-megapixel image. Low-light performance and general image quality should be better than the M8, but more importantly, the larger sensor means wide-angle lenses will really shoot at wide angles.

The X1 is intended for beginners—which means something a little different to Leica than most camera makers—meaning that it's smaller, has a fixed lens, and shoots with a consumer DSLR-sized APS-C sensor. As far as point-and-shoots go, the spec sheet is impressive: photos come in at 12 megapixels, the lens opens to f2.8, displaying on a 2.7-inch LCD.

In what sounds like a great offer, both cameras come free with Adobe Lightroom for processing their DNG RAW files, but this should be a clue as to the kinds of prices we're talking about. The price for the M9 will exceed $US7000 when it ships in a few days, and the X1—due in December—will more than likely come close to $US1000. But hey, Leica! Hands-on and impression to come. [Leica]

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