The Leica M12 rangefinder camera is coming. Even though the Leica M11 was only released in January 2022 (I got one in the first week) I know that it stands to reason another flagship Leica M body is going to replace it in Leica’s line up. I love my Leica M11. Just like I loved my Leica M10, and the MP240 Safari and M240. But, as soon as the Leica M12 is available I plan to buy one and sell my M11.
It is currently October 2022. Normally with digital Leica Ms, the product cycle is 3 to 4 years, so I’m estimating the release date of the Leica M12 to be January 2026. When it comes to Leica gear, there is no point in wondering if you really want a new part of their range, just buy it. Because just buying it and owning it is better than continual wondering.
Sure, we are likely to see a Leica M11 Monochrome, an M11P, and probably some other limited edition/special M11s before the Leica M12. But the M12 will have to offer some big steps forward in camera technology and in the design of the body just like the M11 did over the M10. So, for now, let’s speculate and I’ll share what I think might happen, and what I want to see happen.
Leica will make a Big Innovation with the M12
This is obvious. Leica is all about big innovations in cameras, and perfects them. Leica is responsible for the use of the 35mm frame in a portable camera. So everyone who shoots 35mm ‘Full Frame Digital’ has Leica to thank for that.
What was the first interchangeable lens mirrorless camera?
Leica has been making interchangeable mirrorless cameras for a century. But who released the first digital mirrorless interchangeable lens camera? It was not the Panasonic DMC-G1 in 2008 with a Four Thirds sensor. It was the Leica M8 in 2006. Leica’s innovation.
What was the first full frame mirrorless camera?
It was not the Sony A7 in 2013. Rather it was the Leica M9 in 2009. Leica’s innovation.
Leica is all about photographic innovation. Other companies just jump on board for the ride.
So What Could a Leica M12 Offer?
Thinking about what I want to see in the next Leica M. Leica, are you reading this? Please consider these points for the M12.
A Revolutionary Viewfinder that is both a Rangefinder and EVF
This ground-breaking idea could be far-fetched, even for the Leica M12, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it could be a great, and useful, practical and enjoyable feature for the next generation of Leica Ms. I am a massive fan of the rangefinder viewfinder. I get on well with the focussing patch and it works well for me. I use it, and don’t plan on buying a Visoflex because I wouldn’t use it. Not just because I can’t see myself using it to focus (I don’t really like EVFs) but I just don’t want it on top of my camera. But, I would like to see a way where with the flick of a switch, I can turn my rangefinder viewfinder into an EVF that works just like the Visoflex, and is built into the body.
In Built Sensor Cleaning
I want built in sensor cleaning in the Leica M12. While it is easy to do, I do not enjoy cleaning my Leica sensor because of the fear of making a terrible mistake. Also, mirrorless cameras, rangefinders, are susceptible to dust on the sensor. With the Leica M because you only have prime lenses that don’t zoom in and out, you tend to change lenses a lot, so dust gets into the camera. Dust is a fact of life with photography, if you don’t want to get dust on your sensor or lenses, then just don’t use them.
I think the Leica M11 is less susceptible to dust than the Leica M10. The M10 I had to clean every few months as dust always appeared on the sensor quite often, but with the M11 it hasn’t really happened yet, and the camera has had considerable use. I have a little dust, so maybe with a dust reduction system I’d never have to worry about cleaning my Leica M sensor again.
I want dual SD Card Slots…and Built in Memory
The Leica M11’s in built memory and SD slot is a great idea. The 64Gb means even if you forget your SD cards and can’t get any you can still take photographs. And, you can shoot with 1 copy of your image going to the internal memory and 1 to the SD card. It is great. No worries about accidental erasure. That was a bit improvement of the Leica M11 over the M10. But, I want to see Leica take this further with the M12, and offer 2 SD card slots where one can backup the other. This is because I want to see an ever expanding amount of memory available, and not be locked into the internal storage of the camera.
I don’t want to see IBIS in the Leica M12. I’m glad it never made it into the M11. For me, my photography is too pure. I just don’t like stabilisers, which always in my view trade off clarity for stability. That said, here is an interesting comment made by Stephan Schulz in an interview with Thorsten Overgaard: “On in-body image stabilization, it’s really obvious that it’s a question of body size. We have a priority on the body size, which has a great heritage, particularly for the Leica M, and having image stabilization needs some space in the body to move the sensor.
“We cannot talk about future products in our strategy, but you can be sure that we have a close look at in-body image stabilization. We think if it’s helpful for our customers, we may one day do it.”
That said, currently, with IBIS the actual sensor pane could mean slight shifts in the sensor’s position. That means the accuracy of a ‘third party’ focussing system, eg, the rangefinder itself is adversely affected if the sensor is wobbling on its axis with an IBIS system.
USB-C in the Leica M12?
Absolutely. Yes please! The USB-C port in the Leica M11 is perfect for downloading images and charging. It gives me a backup charger which has proven itself useful already.
The Camera Body will become more minimalist
Safe to say the Leica M12’s body will look like an M. But there will probably be more buttons removed from it. I agree with Eric Kim the FN button on the M11 is not useful, and can be merged with the select button on the arrow dial for most of its uses. I’d hope for a skinnier M body as well. And, that Leica will keep the option for the brass material. I like the hefty feel in my hands, it helps me keep the camera stable. And yes, a choice of chrome and black. I’ll always pick silver chrome, because I love the look.
The Leica M240 was a fat beast.
The Leica M10 was a return to a skinnier body that was easier and felt better to use. It was more enjoyable.
I don’t agree with Eric about removing the frame line lever. I use it a lot because I change lenses and want to preview different focal lengths when out and about. Eric Kim says, “nobody uses that lever in the front of the Leica M rangefinder camera,” remember Eric, just because one of us might use or not use a feature, doesn’t mean it is the same for everyone else in the Leica users community.
Base ISO of 64ISO
We got that in the M11, and I hope that Leica continues the low base ISO in the M12. We always hear about camera manufacturers boosting their top ISOs to higher and higher numbers (still they are not usable past 32,000ISOs) but there are significant uses of lower ISOs. They let me shoot wide open with fast lenses at slower shutter speeds in daylight for a unique look. And the tonal range from lower ISOs just can’t be beat.
Video Recording in the Leica M?
I doubt we’ll see the M12 have the capability to record video. Don’t get me wrong, it will have the technology (sensor, processor) to be able to record 4K or 8K video, but the M system is a purist’s camera. Leica removed video recording of the M240 with the M10 for that reason.
The Touch Screen and Connectivity
We will have the usual WiFi, improved touch screen with an updated user interface in the M12. The current interface in the M11 is good, but there are improvements that could be made, especially in the size of the buttons you can touch and interact with.
The elephant in the room. How many megapixels will the Leica M12 have? On the one hand, I think it’ll have the same resolution as the M11. Don’t get me wrong – it won’t be the same sensor. By the time the M12 is released, Leica will likely have made some massive strides in sensor technology and will blow us away with something new and revolutionary. But, I don’t know if they will see the need to increase resolution. Will it be needed? The 2012 Leica M240 was 24 megapixels.
The 2017 Leica M10 was 24 megapixels too. The M10-R was a stop gap with higher resolution, until the 60 megapixel monster M11 came out.
I think we’ll see Leica keep the 3 levels of resolution in the M12 sensor, just like the M11, offering different levels of dynamic range. It’s a great feature of the M11.
Even if Leica does increase the sensor resolution in the M12, the argument that the resolution will be too high for the lenses is moot. Not only has Leica been bringing out new lenses with higher resolution sensors in mind, such as the 35 and 50mm Summicron APOs, and the new 35mm Summilux, but even the current line up of lenses is great.
In an interview with Thorsten Overgaard, Leica lens designer Peter Karbe said “We got rid of the worry of such things, the higher resolution and all. The new lenses are prepared to work with higher resolution.”
Yes I would like to see a boost in sensor resolution in the Leica M12. But also in other areas of sensor performance. I don’t know what they could be. Currently the Leica M11’s sensor is the pinnacle for me, but I would want to see Leica keep the M’s sensor current, and at the pinnacle of sensor technology with the M12. That said, as Peter Karbe mentioned, “Of course, if you are doing pixel peeping and such … It’s like looking at the thickness of the paint. But, Look at the picture.”
“Look at the Picture”
That is the important point. Who really cares what technology the Leica M12 will offer? No one cares what camera you use to take a stunning photo. Be it a phone, a compact, a disposable, or even a Leica. It is the emotion they feel when viewing your photo that counts. And the camera used for it doesn’t matter. What do you want to see in the Leica M12? What do you think there will be? Please let me know.
I have no insider information about what Leica is planning with the M12. This is purely my predictions, and wish list after having enjoyed their digital Ms since the M240 and the film MP. I’m a prolific Leica shooter, and can’t imagine using another camera system.