The marketing speak in the brochure for the new Leica T reads like a hyperbole: it is a brilliant system that will forward you fast into the future, a seamless synthesis of form and function, precision engineering, intelligent innovation, incomparable craftsmanship, minimalist ergonomics, exceptional handling, unmatched performance and now I am only on the first paragraph of the brochure.
Leica has always been pride of its innovative capacities. The truth is that Leica has been a very smart integrator of the inventions and ideas of others. The M3 is the best example: every feature of that classic camera was already on the market and available in other products, but not one of these had all features. The innovation of Leica was the engineering feat of integrating these components into a fully functioning instrument. The only true innovation by Leitz that was successful was the Leica I. Two other innovations, The M5 and the M8 failed in the market, but these products showed new features not found elsewhere.
The T system follows the design rulebook of Apple word by word. The unibody design is also found in he Macbook with which I am typing this blog. The focus on new material and sharp contours can be seen in the original M camera that Jonathan Ive created for the company and the design style of Audi is also visible. The ’new’ feature is the inclusion of a touchscreen with finger movements in iPhone style.
Jaron Lanier wrote in a short book, titled “You are not a gadget” that the most important thing about a technology is how it changes people and the way they work and think. He is enthusiastic about digital technology and its progress, but also attentive to the consequences.
The Leica T, in my view, begs the question why photography should become different when using this camera and its finger movement interface. The pictures shown in the brochure and the website could have been made with any Leica camera or for that matter with any current camera on the market.
The Leica T, unquestionably, will produce excellent images that can match the performance of the X, M and other cameras in the Leica camera range. Why it should provide a different experience and make available a different style of photography is another matter.
The Leica T is a most interesting product, not for its features, it is the iPhone of the mirrorless camera breed, but for the signpost it sets for the design direction of the Leica company.
The often heard complained about the T(yphoon) is the almost reluctant autofocus performance. This can be compensated by the human operator when an anticipatory style of photography is being used.