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Leica T: Design and Performance

By Paul Nuttall



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Leica T: Design

So on that note, let’s talk about the design. The Leica T is crafted, pretty beautifully, from a single block of aluminium (another leaf out of the book of Apple, who make their Macbook laptops this way).

The level of craftsmanship in the design and build of the Leica T is something to behold – you may have seen the video advert that did the rounds recently showing someone painstakingly hand-polishing the metal of the Leica T for more than 40 minutes. It’s dedication to craft, and it pays off handsomely.

You could be forgiven, though, for picking up the Leica T and wondering if you’d accidentally been sent a pre-production model that nobody got around to putting the buttons on yet.

There are no buttons or dials on the rear, and only a handful on the top plate. Almost all of the settings and features are controlled via that big iPhone-esque touchscreen on the rear.

This means the camera pretty much lives or dies on how well the touchscreen performs. Fortunately, it acquits itself well. It’s very simply laid out – there’s no getting lost in sub-menu after sub-menu. Tip: if you can’t find the function you’re looking for, it’s probably hiding behind the ‘ ’ button, which isn’t too obvious at first.

You could be forgiven for thinking initially that the camera is simply missing several key settings, but once you get familiar it starts to make more sense.

What few physical controls you’ve got to play with are all located on the top plate. The two dials control shutter or aperture, dependent on priority mode, while the other can control a variety of modes such as ISO sensitivity or exposure compensation, depending on the user’s preference.

AF point is set via the touchscreen, and this is something that has worked very well ever since its inception. The only oddity with the Leica T is that once you’ve selected the AF point via the touchscreen, you can’t refocus with a half-depress of the shutter button, meaning if you want to make a slight compositional correction you have to touch-select the point again, which does get annoying.

One thing that’s a little surprising is that the door for the memory card and USB ports is made of a rather insipid and flimsy plastic. It sticks out against the finely crafted aluminium that comprises the rest of the body.

The battery door is plastic as well, and while we wouldn’t normally take up too much of a review talking about a camera’s battery door, the Leica T has an exceptionally strange example.

You can’t simply slide the battery out – once you’ve unlocked the battery cover with a simple lever, you have to then half-push the battery and the cover back into the body, thereby releasing a catch that then enables the battery to come out.

It does stop the battery falling to the floor, but in truth it feels a little laboured.

Leica T: Performance

Eschewing the recent trend for hybrid AF systems, the Leica T opts for tried and tested contrast-detect AF. We have no complaints here – the contrast-detect AF is confident at finding focus and more than fast enough for pretty much anyone’s needs when in good light.

In low light it does struggle, and you’ll want to employ the AF illuminator on the front of the camera for these situations, though it’ll only help for subjects that are no more than a few metres away.

While face detection and multi-point AF modes are available, you’ll probably find yourself mostly sticking with selecting the AF point via the touchscreen.

The Leica T has spot, centreweighted and evaluative metering modes, the latter of which Leica refers to as ‘multi-field’.

Multi-field metering produces good results in all conditions, from overcast dark skies to blazing sunshine. It rides the edge in terms of highlights, leaving well-exposed midtones, dark shadows and a good level of contrast.

It’s a really impressive metering system, and you can confidently leave the metering on multi-field mode and know it’ll take care of almost any situation.


April 24, 2014, 4:29 pm

Leica is obvious taking the B&O route - i.e. technically substandard products marketed at a high price to the fashion victim segment.


April 25, 2014, 12:16 am

When inadequate people can't afford something they seem to feel the need to convince everyone else that it isn't any good.

What sort of insecurity is this. Does it make up for the feeling of failure in not being able to afford the product in the first place?


April 25, 2014, 11:10 am

I think they are two sides of the same coin. Why buy a Rolex? Because you can afford to. Why not buy a Rolex? Because it is (deliberately) so overpriced for a watch that you can't justify buying one, even supposing you could just about afford to.
I don't see that there is any personal inadequacy either way. I find characterising people as inedaquate or failures on account of their relative lack of wealth is distasteful.


April 25, 2014, 12:45 pm

I feel you are missing the point somewhat. It's not these items are over priced, or that it's about owning something that few can afford. Granted, some, but not all expensive desirable things are overpriced, but most, thankfully the good ones, are not over priced for the sake of creating desire and scarcity. Take Rolex for instance; a stunning hand made watch that will last a life time and at least holds its value. They are robust, every day watches that just so happen to be expensive because of the craftsmanship and the quality of materials used. The same is true for Leica. You are paying for their exceptional optics and the build quality. This can be carried over into any area; Apple Macs up until recently used to be classed in much the same boat. High end audio, such as NAIM, again very expensive but the quality is in the build and sound produced. Plus a multitude of examples in car manufacturers, designer labels and more. I agree that it's not inadequate to not afford something, but it is ignorant to place an assumption that luxury items are expensive for their own sake, not because of the quality of the item itself. Most people, from experience, who believe that, soon change their minds when they are either presented with the item in question, or get the opportunity to own it themselves. Till that point, most simply use it as an 'excuse' to not purchase it, based on that they had a choice, when in reality they had no choice whatsoever.


April 25, 2014, 1:30 pm

I think you are missing the point. I described a Rolex as being overpriced for a watch, not just plain overpriced. You can buy a highly capable watch for a lot less than a Rolex. The price of a Rolex is nothing to do with it being a good watch. In fact Rolex go out of their way to build cost into their creations for reasons which have nothing to do with keeping and displaying accurate time. So as a watch a Rolex is overpriced.
As a Rolex, sure the price is justified by all the costly materials, mechanism and craftsmanship.


April 25, 2014, 1:55 pm

You are saying that it is deliberately overpriced. Rolex watches keep perfect time and are exceptional watches, I know I've owned for for 10 years. To use an example in reference to an equally expensive item, you are creating the assumption to the reader that you believe that 'all' luxury items are deliberately over priced and not worthy of merit based on their ability to perform the task designed for to a better means than something much less in price. It's the old argument of why buy a Ferrari? Because it's one of the best cars in the World, for the experience, the workmanship, the performance. Yet we all travel on the same roads, at the same speed and we all go from A to B. Why bother, when you can do that in any car. Which is always the argument for those that simply can't, rather than the few that can and do so, not because of any feelings of superiority or one up man ship, but based on the facts that it is essentially better.


April 25, 2014, 2:19 pm

By definintion, luxury items are overpriced when valued in terms of their functionality. Of course it is deliberate. Rolex could not survive making watches competing on price and performance in the mass market - that is not their expertise. Their expertise is in mechanical movements, and once quartz watches came along the game was up in terms of exploiting their expertise to compete purely as a watch. Very wisely, they chose not to, deliberately.
I've never said they are not worthy of merit, nor that they are overpriced for what they are.


April 25, 2014, 3:32 pm

I object to Rolex, regardless of price, because it claims to be a "Superlative Chronometer" when it is so much less accurate than it could...and should...be. A thermo-compensated quartz watch, like The Citizen, gains or loses in a year what a Rolex gains or loses in a day. That's a factor of 365!

Coline Russelle

April 25, 2014, 9:37 pm

Until the recent past I did buy B & O and Leica because of their long lasting quality and style and they were expensive but not to the degree that they are now. There was a definite price choice by these manufacturers and it was to go way way up.

My Leica outfit went when they declared that they would never make a full frame camera to take M series lenses nor would they make any wide lenses for the miserable small APS-C sensors, how dumb of them was that?

I see that you have not dared show the price of the essential viewer...

Coline Russelle

April 25, 2014, 9:51 pm

Almost no digital cameras are solidly made and desirable like so many film cameras were. Then again film was an established format and a purchase would last for years, decades for something like a leica , my lifetime if you are talking about my Rolleiflex... Until the digital market stops being a yearly change and update market that is a very expensive piece of disposable jewellery and you have not even added the cost of the viewer.

At that price i would hope that zoom lens is the first properly corrected lens for a digital APS-C camera and not the usual " fix it with software" design...

harry lime

April 27, 2014, 6:36 pm

Are we talking Rolex or are we talking photography?


April 28, 2014, 4:39 pm

It wasn't I that introduced Rolex ...I was merely commenting that the comparison wasn't valid because Rolex could do a whole lot better but chooses not to.
Reverting to the Leica, I don't know whether it is priced as it is based on costs or as a sales technique, but if it's the latter, I wonder how effective it is? Do people buy things just because the object is very expensive, or despite the cost?

Bjarni Mohr

May 9, 2014, 3:57 pm

Been thinking about switching to Leica for about five years now. I will wait for the day when Leica will send a M-type camera on the market where i only should change/update the "image machinery and not all the camera. It's time for Leica to re-invent their digital systems, and not just try to get as much money from us as they ever can. When a new camera has been launched, i bet they're already working on a new model where we should buy a whole camera and not just the "image engine".


May 10, 2014, 6:14 pm

Why not mention the top of all wrist watches Patek Philippe?
At the same time a Swatch, the cheapest there is from Switzerland. Both of these display the time very well.
All this is about taste and feelings. How much is an interest or a feeling? Priceless, only our ability to pay set the limit.

Harry B

June 6, 2014, 1:17 pm

So when's the Panasonic version coming out?

Harry B

June 6, 2014, 1:20 pm

Rolexes might hold their value but the vast majority of them are mass produced. Rolex make around a million watches a year.

Harry B

June 6, 2014, 1:24 pm

No mechanical watch 'keeps perfect time'. A 10 quid quartz watch from the local garage is more accurate than a mechanical watch. One of the best timekeepers in the world is "The Citizen" by Citizen. 5 seconds a year. NO mechanical watch comes anywhere near that.


July 2, 2014, 5:23 pm

what has this to do with Panasonic ????

Harry B

July 2, 2014, 6:32 pm

Leica V Lux 4 vs Panasonic FZ200. Spot the difference (apart from the £200 little red dot).

Harry B

July 2, 2014, 6:34 pm

What craftmanship? They make Rolex on a production line. They produce around a million a year.


December 17, 2014, 3:16 am

It has nothing to do with Panasonic then Camera is made in Germany and the lens is made in Japan (NOT by Panasonic) so no Panasonic versiion will be offered.

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