Leica unveils M-Monochrom black-and-white rangefinder and X2 premium compact

Leica M-Monochrom

Leica announced a fleet of new products today, including the world's first digital camera built from the ground-up to shoot in black-and-white. The new M-Monochrom rangefinder takes the body of the familiar M9 but replaces the guts with an 18-megapixel, full-frame sensor that doesn't "see" colors — Leica claims it records true luminance values, which results in significantly cleaner and sharper images than you'd get converting color photos to black-and-white. ISO ranges up to 10,000, which is a nice improvement over the M9's 2,500 limit. Pricing is unsurprisingly high — the camera is expected to retail right around $7,950, putting this out of the hands of all put the most serious (or wealthy). If you're interested, it'll be available from Leica dealers starting in late July, along with a new APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH lens that'll retails for around $7,195.

For those with more modest budgets, Leica also released two new compact cameras — the X2 and the V-Lux40. As to be expected, this update to the X1 is fully manual, features a fixed 24mm f/2.8 lens, and a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor. There's also a new accessory socket for a 1.44M dot electronic viewfinder. Autofocus has also been improved over the X1, and it keeps the same starting price of $1,995. The smallest of the new cameras is the V-Lux40, which appears visually similar to most other point-and-shoot cameras. However, it has a 20x optical zoom lens, improved from the 16x found on the V-Lux30. Other specs of note include the 14.1-megapixel sensor, 3-inch screen, and a price point of $699. Of course, this isn't a "true" Leica — the company often sticks its brand on Panasonic's point-and-shoots, and this one appears to be a remixed Lumix DMC-ZS20 (which shares the same sensor, lens, and layout). Both cameras are available from Leica dealers now.

Lastly, for those who have more money than they know what to do with, Leica's releasing a special edition of the M9 — the M9-P Hermès special edition. This $25,000 package was designed in partnership with French fashion designer Hermès; it includes a custom M9-P covered in ochre-colored calfskin leather (with a matching shoulder strap) plus a Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens. Only 300 of this set will be made, but there's an even more exclusive set of 100 that adds a fancy case and three lenses: the Leica Summicron-M 28mm f/ 2 ASPH, Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH, and the APO-Summicron-M 90mm f/ 2 ASPH. The multiple-lens set will sell for $50,000, and only 100 will be made. If you're one of the few who might be able to justify this purchase, make your way to a Leica boutique. The single-lens edition is available now, while the most expensive will be released in June.

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