The Leica T, one of the most beautiful photographic cameras ever made has been granted important Awards for Best Design During 2015, among them the prestigious IF Gold Award in the Product Category and the TIPA (Technical Image Press Association) 2015 Award for Best Design.
To all intents and purposes, these prestigious awards are a very significant international recognition to the Leica T, an APS-C camera featuring huge personality, exceedingly reduced size and weight, minimalist shapes, smooth and rounded surfaces, great beauty of lines and a state-of-the-art constructive level, since it is manufactured from a block of aluminium which is milled by the most advanced precision CNC machines currently existing in this scope and very sophisticated techniques, it all providing this photographic tool with a great solidity, unutterable feeling while being held in hands, remarkable sturdiness keeping an almost flawless appearance after years of intensive use and a truly imposing presence.
The back of the Leica T is dominated by a 3.7-inch fixed TFT LCD touchscreen with 1.3 million-dot resolution working as a smartphone and displaying an icon-based control menu system incredibly easy to learn and customize.
Minimalism to spare at the service of the decision making by the photographer, in a camera that though lacking the integrated viewfinder, very advanced electronics, lightning autofocus speed and image stabilizing systems featured by different models of cameras from other brands of the APS-C domain (nowadays the most disputed one in the photographic market) clearly superior in those sides, it isn´t a hindrance at all for the Leica T to be able to create great images — as a matter of fact, a very high percentage of the most iconic pictures in history were made with simple cameras regarding their electronic specifications but excellent in optomechanical quality — and it can turn into an exceptional photographic tool in the hands of a professional photographer or advanced amateur, firmly backed by its impressive constructive quality, solidity and working reliability, in symbiosis with Leica T lenses boasting a very accurate and more than sufficiently fast AF along with superb optical quality, with the added chance of using the comprehensive range of ultraluminous Leica M lenses for 24 x 36 mm format through the special M-Adapter T, which utterly supports functions like exposure metering, aperture priority mode and manual settings.
Here we can see the Leica T coupled to a 9 elements — two of them aspherical ones — in 6 groups Summicron-T 23 mm f/2 ASPH, with difference the best equivalent to 35 mm lens in the world in APS-C format, delivering exceptional values of resolving power and contrast, together with an excellent bokeh and whose MTF curves place it between the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH and the Apo-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH in terms of optical performance.
The M-Adapter T greatly expands the operative possibilities of the Leica T and enables to get a stunning image quality connecting the wide assortment of highly luminous Leica M lenses featuring an amazing degree of miniaturization for its full frame format, with very small size and weight and an exceedingly reduced front lens diameter, in such a way that they thoroughly synergize with the uncommon compacity of the Leica T, keeping the proportions and preserving the exceedingly reduced dimensions inherent to the Leica T System.
Here we can see a Leica T camera with a Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 ASPH, equivalent to a 52.5 mm f/2 ASPH lens — almost identical to the focal length of 52.3 mm featured by Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 — and whose optical performance in association with the 16 megapixel Sony CMOS sensor is excellent as a traditional standard lens.
The beauty of this binomium is difficult to explain with words.
A professional photographer using a Leica T attached to a Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH, equivalent to a 75 mm f/0.95 ASPH, which both as a portrait lens and a spawner of pictures with available light shooting handheld, even under the most extreme luminic conditions, has no match in the APS-C scope.
Close-up of the high resolution electronic viewfinder attachable to the Leica T sliding it into the hotshoe. In spite of not being metallic, it is made in high quality plastic and is very light, with a conspicuous and very practical futuristic profile enabling to get pictures with the camera at eyes height instead of looking through the large back screen, and enhancing its fully professional use, with the added advantage that its swivelling design makes possible to shoot with the VF oriented upwards and the camera located at the height of the chest, in those situations needing maximum discretion.
Leica T in professional configuration with Summicron-T 23 mm f/2 ASPH coupled to its excellent shade and with the Visoflex EVF inserted in the hotshoe.
The design of the Leica T (Typ 701), fruit of the collaboration between Leica Camera AG and Audi, has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of the worldwide photographic industry since its introduction in May 2014 until presently, and and exceedingly painstaking attention has been paid in it to every detail, with a stunning finish and polishing of the aluminium whis is the benchmark hitherto and increases very much the production cost of the camera body.
It is therefore a product built on the keynote of an uncompromising quality, only reachable by means of abundant mostly handcrafted manufacturing stages in combination with state-of-the-art machines and technologies within this field, not entering megapixels wars or the adoption of electronic advances that albeit being relevant and useful, are not indispensable for the creation of good pictures.
A professional photographer shooting handheld indoors without flash with a Leica T coupled to a Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH (equivalent to a 75 mm f/0.95ASPH) through the Leica M-Adapter T.
The photographic possibilities of this pretty compact combination — in spite of the weight of 700 g and dimensions of 7, 3 x 7, 51 mmfeatured by the Noctilux lens — when it comes to creating images with available light and getting a great level of detail and contrast in them, even in contexts of extremely low luminosity, are commendable.
But the historical and conceptual significance of the Leica T goes even far beyond, because it has been fruit of a brilliant initiative by
Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Leica Camera AG, and the main driving force of its genesis, as a homage to the Ur-Leica (created by the genius Oskar Barnack in 1914 and the first camera using the 24 x 36 mm format)
This way, the similarity of shapes and lines of the Leica T is more than remarkable regarding Oskar Barnack´s Ur-Leica, with the exception of the grabbing zone of the Leica T forward right area which features a protrusion to do it more ergonomic.
However incredible it may seem, the digital Leica T from XXI Century includes abundant DNA from the Ur-Leica made by Oskar Barnack in 1914, a revolutionary photographic camera whose fundamental cornerstone of very small size and exceedingly low weight body in association with a tiny lens delivering very high optical quality and great images would enable the photographers — since the launching into market of the Leica I by Ernst Leitz II during the 1925 Leipzig Spring Fair — to make a much more agile and dynamic kind of reportage photography, shooting hand and wrist in every environment and exposing small negatives of the then called 24 x 36 mm " miniature format " .
But the huge influence of the Ur-Leica from 1914 throughout the XX and XXI centuries hasn´t only been on photography, but also on design and concepts belonging to the realm of technology, architecture, art, and many other fields.
Not in vain, when Steve Jobs presented the iPhone 4, he said:
" You gotta see this in person. This is beyond the doubt, the most precise thing, and one ot the most beautiful we´ve ever made. Glass on the front and back, and steel around the sides. It´s like a beautiful old Leica camera ".
Steve Jobs referred to the screwmount Leica cameras manufactured between mid twenties and 1960, all of which had got a common forefather:
The Ur-Leica from 1914, to which the Leica T pays homage and that anticipated in nothing less than between 16 and 24 years to breakthrough shapes, concepts and historically iconic objects and buildings which would mark the decade of thirties like the Cartier Paris Art Deco Lighter With Watch 1930 made in lacquer on silver and movement manufactured by Watch & Clock Co., Inc, the Clock Streamline Art Deco designed by Gilbert Rohde for the Herman Miller Clock Company in 1933 and exhibited during the Chicago World Fair held that year, the Manchester Express Building incepted by Sir Owen Williams in 1936, the Beolit 39 Bang & Olufsen valve radio from 1938 — - first one made in bakelite by the firm — , the Marlin Hotel Art Deco in Collins Avenue (Miami) built by the architect Lawrence Murray Dixon in 1939.
Even more amazing is the fact that it foresaw with more than eighty years of anticipation future profiles, contours and designs of the audiophile and home theatre spheres like the media center receiver (featuring CD player and AM/FM tuner) of the Bose Lifestyle 12 Home Theatre from 1994 — the first one of the firm — and other subsequent CD System and DVD System Music Center models; the multiband FM/MW/SW analog transistor radio Sony ICF-F12S from 2009; the small personal mobile stereo speaker Orbitsound T3 from 2010 featuring airSound technology and linkable to iPods, iPhones, portable computers, desktop computers and handheld videoconsoles; the audio docking system base speaker + alarm clock ipod/iPhone Sony ICF-DS11iP from 2011 with digital AM/FM tuner and stereo Megabass sound; the front area of the Unison Research Simply Italy stereo integrated valve amplifier from 2011 created by Giovanni Maria Sachetti and made in black colour cherry wood with circular inserts surrounding the dials; the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth III portable speaker from 2014 and many others.
It all does undoubtedly prove the amazing visionary nature and huge historical significance of the 1914 Ur-Leica design and the brainstorm of Oskar Barnack, its creator.
The Leica T design features an uncommon exquisiteness.
In this image of its upper right panel you can see from left to right: the stereo microphones, the built-in flash hidden inside the camera body, the shutter release button, the on/off switch concentric with the shutter relase button and which has got a third position to activate the aforementioned flash, the small button for recording Full HD 1920 x 1080 video at 30 fps and the two control wheels that enable to select the desired f stop and speed in manual mode, with the further possibility of customization of the left wheel to modify the most used options and settings such as ISO, exposure compensation, white balance, focus mode, self-timer and flash mode.
The integration of flash, grooved control wheels and button for video recording inside the camera body boasts an indescribable precision, with a praiseworthy mechanizing of the command dials and shutter release button, enhanced by the finish and level of perfection of the aluminium which are truly extraordinary.
Sean Cranor, CEO of Camera West and one of the most experienced distributors of top-notch quality photographic products from different brands in the world.
From the very moment of its presentation, he grasped the remarkable historical significance, unmatched level of craftsmanship, excellent optomechanical quality of lenses, far-reaching design and exceptional timeless beauty of the Leica T, a camera he strove after making it known through different seminars and events, among them the Leica T Party held at the Leica Boutique in Rancho Mirage (Riverside County, California) along with other training courses at his Camera West shop located in Walnut Creek (East Bay area, near San Francisco), which paid off.
Here we can see him holding a Leica T with Vario-Elmar-T 18-56 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH zoom (equivalent to a 27-84 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH) and the nice silicone strap stretched.
Sean Cranor holding the smart proprietary locking pin connecting the strap to the Leica T through a click into the camera
© Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza