Leica’s New T-Mount Lenses (and some new camera too)

Leica T LensesI don’t usually cover too much still photo lens news but let’s face it.. It’s all merging these days. Yes, I’ve devoted my entire professional life to cinema lenses. Yes, there’s a large difference in design, manufacturing, and application between photo in motion lenses. But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t equally interested (and invested) in still photography. I believe a bit of background is due before we get to the news. I’ve shot with a good range of cameras just like most hipste… I mean, people… Everything from a 120 twin lens reflex camera, to Leica rangefinders, to my shiny new Fuji X system. At the moment, most of my personal lens investment is in the Fuji X System including Fujinon, Zeiss, and Rokinon lenses. Leica is a system that I’ve always loved but never had the means to dive into beyond a vintage M3 with 50mm ‘Cron. I used to feel that Leica had lost some of it’s magic in the recent past due to it’s partnership with Panasonic. But I’ve since come to learn that some organizations make better products than others and when you recognize the quality and efforts of a fellow manufacturer and are able to collaborate successfully, it can sometimes lead to magical new products that consumers would otherwise never had access to. On top of that, Leica has proven that they still have the magic touch when they unveiled their Summilux-C Primes – one of the most advanced, highest performing cinema prime lens systems one can wish for. That said, the new products announced by Leica today are a gesture to the rest of us that Leica is paying attention to what photographers want and injecting it with a bit of that Leica design and manufacturing that has set them apart from their competition time and time again.

T-Mount Lenses

Leica is launching the new system with two lenses; a 23mm f/2 prime and an 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom. As one would expect, the optics are very nice. The build quality is fine considering their compact, portable form factor – reminiscent of the older Leica R mixed with Panasonic Lumix / Leica lenses in a way. The new lenses which, needless to say, are designed for the new camera. When I say they are “designed” for the new camera, I don’t mean that they’re custom tailored to some unicorn sensor that benefits from a uniquely manufactured lens… All that really means is that these lenses are APS-C format. Leica designs and manufactures lenses for a variety of other formats including their compact point and shoot cameras with tiny little sensors, Micro 4/3 sensors in the form of their Panasonic partnership, 35mm Full Frame that everyone knows as their vintage R Series and broad range of M Series lenses, and of course their medium format S System lenses. These two new lenses are designed specifically for the APS-C T Mount system of their new camera which somewhat new territory for Leica (unless you consider the Super35 format Summicron and Summilux-C primes as APS-C). Personally, I think this is a great intro to an underutilized format. APS-C (very similar to Super35) is the standard in the motion picture world but it gets a bad wrap in the world of still photography which is why everyone is still comparing APS-C lenses to 35mm equivalents. I won’t go down this path too much because it’s a topic that has plagued the motion picture industry and fueled countless internet forum wars and I simply can’t stand all of the incorrect, uneducated information that is floating around. I digress.

Future Leica T lenses

 More Lenses to Come

Two lenses at launch isn’t really anything great but you have to start somewhere. Fuji did the same thing with their X system and even now after a few years only offers a limited selection of lenses. Leica also showed two additional lenses that are begin developed which are a 11-23mm f/3.5-4.5 and 55-135mm f/3.5-4.5 due out later this year. You can bet that Leica has a few aces of their sleeve including some fine Summilux and even Noctilux primes in the near future. In addition to the new T Mount System, Leica is also supporting their legacy M Mount lenses with a very nice adapter. I’m sure with it’s mirrorless, shallow flange depth, there will be plenty of other adapters to come from other manufacturers as well. Here’s some of the nerdy specs we all love:

Leica T Type 702 with Leica M series lenses usable with Leica adapter
Leica Summicron-T 23mm f/2 ASPH specs:
Compatible cameras All Leica T models
Field angle (diagonal, horizontal, vertical) Approx. 64°, 53°, 35°, corresponding to around 35 mm focal length in 35 mm format
Optical design
Number of lenses / groups 9/6
Aspherical surfaces 2
Position of entrance pupil (at infinity / at close up limit) -22,7/10,5 mm (in direction of light incidence behind /in front of bayonet mount)
Distance setting
Setting / Function Electronically controlled, mode selectable using camera menu: Automatic (AF) or manual (M), in AF mode manual override possible at any times with setting dial
Focusing range 0.3 m to ∞
Smallest object field / Largest scale Approx.: 295 x 196 mm / 1:12.6
Aperture
Setting / Function Electronically controlled, adjustment using dial on camera, third values also available
Lowest value 16
Bayonet fitting Leica T quick-change bayonet with contact strip for Leica T models
Filter mount / Lens hood External bayonet fitting for lens hood (included), internal thread for E52 filters, filter mount does not rotate
Finish Black anodized
Dimensions and weight
Length to bayonet mount Approx. 37/69 mm (without/with lens hood)
Largest diameter Approx. 63/73 mm (without/with lens hood)
Weight Approx. 154/186 g (without/with lens hood)

 

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 specs:
Compatible cameras All Leica T models
Field angle (diagonal, horizontal, vertical) At 18 mm: Approx. 75°, 62°, 41°, At 56 mm: Approx. 28°, 23°, 15°, corresponding to around 27-84 mm focal length in 35 mm format
Optical design
Number of lenses / groups 10/7
Aspherical surfaces 4
Position of entrance pupil (at infinity / at close up limit) At 18 mm: -37.8/19.9 mm, at 56 mm: -28/49.7 mm (in direction of light incidence behind / in front of bayonet mount)
Distance setting
Setting / Function Electronically controlled, mode selectable using camera menu: Automatic (AF) or manual (M), in AF mode manual override possible at any times with setting dial
Focusing range 0.3/0.45 m (at 18/56 mm) to ∞
Smallest object field / Largest scale At 18 mm: Approx. 312 x 207 mm / 1:13.2, at 56 mm: Approx. 110 x 73 mm / 1:7.5
Aperture
Setting / Function Electronically controlled, adjustment using dial on camera, third values also available
Lowest value 16
Bayonet fitting Leica T quick-change bayonet with contact strip for Leica T models
Filter mount / Lens hood External bayonet fitting for lens hood (included), internal thread for E52 filters, filter mount does not rotate
Finish Black anodized
Dimensions and weight
Length to bayonet mount Approx. 60/99 mm (without/with lens hood)
Largest diameter Approx. 63/73 mm (without/with lens hood)
Weight Approx. 256/287 g (without/with lens hood)
Leica T Type 701

The camera is what it is. There will be a new one to replace it in a few months. I had a chance to play with it and I really do like the build quality. The mono chassis that Leica is touting so much really does make this a solid, well balanced camera. The large touchscreen at the rear is a nice way to keep the camera clean and uncluttered. The optional EVF is a bit on the sluggish side especially when compared to something like the XT-1 from Fuji.  Overall, this is a very strong camera with some impressive specs and quite an attractive price. I think this camera line will keep Leica competitive in the current camera space for at least the next decade or so. Here’s the specs:

 

Leica T detailed specifications:

Camera type Leica T (Type 701)
Lens connection Leica T bayonet fitting with contact strip for communication between lens and camera
Lens system Leica T lenses
Sensor CMOS sensor, size APS-C (23.6 x 15.7 mm) with 16.5/16.3 million pixels (total/effective), format aspect ratio 3:2
Resolution JPEG: 4928 x 3264 (16 megapixels), 4272 x 2856 (12.2 megapixels), 3264 x 2160 (7 megapixels), 2144 x 1424 (3 megapixels), 1632 x 1080 (1.8 megapixel), DNG: 4944 x 3278 pixels
Picture data file formats / compression rates Selectable: JPG Superfine, JPG Fine, DNG + JPG Superfine, DNG + JPG Fine
Video recording format MP4
Video resolution / frame rate Selectable: 1920 x 1080 p, 30 fps or 1280 x 720 p, 30 fps
Storage media 16 GB internal memory; SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, multimedia cards
ISO range Automatic, ISO 100 to ISO 12500
White balance Automatic, presets for daylight, cloud, halogen lighting, shadow, electronic flash, two manual settings, manual color temperature setting
Autofocus system Contrast based
Autofocus metering methods Single point, multiple point, spot, face detection, touch AF
Exposure modes Automatic program, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, manual setting, scene exposure modes: Fully automatic, sport, portrait, landscape, night portrait, snow/beach, fireworks, candlelight, sunset
Exposure metering Multiple field, center weighted, spot
Exposure compensation ±3 EV in 1/3 EV increments
Automatic bracketing Three pictures in graduations up to ±3 EV, adjustable in 1/3 EV increments
Shutter speed range 30 s to 1/4000 s
Picture series Approx. 5 fps, 12 pictures with constant picture frequency, then depending on memory card properties
Flash modes Automatic, automatic / red eye reduction, always on, always on / red eye reduction, slow sync, slow sync / red eye reduction
Flash exposure compensation ±3 EV in 1/3 EV increments
Flash synchronization Sync time: 1/180 s
Guide number of built-in flash unit for ISO 100: 4.5
Recovery time of built-in flash unit Approx. 5 s with fully charged battery
Monitor 3.7″ TFT LCD , 1.3 million pixels, 854×480 per color channel
Self timer Selectable delay time 2 or 12 s
WLAN Complies with IEEE 802.11b/g/n standard (standard WLAN protocol), channel 1-11, encryption method: WiFicompatible WPA™ / WPA2™, access method: Infrastructur operation
Power supply Leica BP-DC13 lithium ion battery, rated voltage 7.4V, capacity 1040mAh (based on CIPA standard): approx. 400 pictures, charging time (after total discharge): approx. 160 min
Connections Micro USB port (2.0 High Speed), Leica flash interface with integrated connection for optional accessories; battery charging via USB connection possible with max. 1A
Charger Leica BC-DC13, input: AC 100-240V, 50/60Hz, automatic reversing, Output: DC 8,4V 0,65A, Weight: approx. 90 g, Dimensions: approx. 96x68x28 mm
Body Leica unibody solid aluminum design, two removable dummy plugs for carrying strap and other accessories, ISO flash shoe with center and control contacts for connection of more powerful external flash units, e.g. Leica SF 26, or for attaching the Leica Visoflex electronic viewfinder
Tripod thread A 1/4 DIN 4503 (1/4″)
Dimensions (WxHxD) 134 x 69 x 33 mm
Weight Approx. 384 g / 339 g (with / without battery)
Items supplied Camera body, carrying strap, 2 carrying strap release pins for detaching the carrying strap, battery (Leica BP-DC13), charger (Leica BC-DC13) with 6 adapter plugs, USB cable
Software Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® (free download after registration of camera), Leica T app for iOS® (remote control and image transfer, free download from Apple® App-Store®)

If you’re looking for more details on the new Leica T Type 701 Camera, head on over to Leica Rumors for some more in-depth coverage. If you have any feedback, please drop a comment below. If you’d like to see more non-cinema news such as this, please let us know so that we can load you up with news of other new goodies coming down the pipe.

SALT III – High Speed Prime “WFO” Results

Welcome to the 2013 Southland Alternative Lens Shootout “Wide F%$@*^G Open” Edition. This was a coordinated effort between the following individuals: Will Keir, Phil Holland, Matt Uhry, Matthew Duclos, Jeff Whitehurst, Evin Grant, Ryan Patrick O’Hara, Luke Edwards, Charlie Pickle and myself. I’d like to begin by thanking our Sponsors who not only donated their time, but their facilities, insurance services, and their lens sets: Continue reading SALT III – High Speed Prime “WFO” Results

Zeiss Reveals New 25mm f/2.0

Not exactly the most unique lens to be introduced in the past decade. What a boring focal length, 25mm… The current 25mm ZF is an f/2.8 and really doesn’t do anything special except make clean images. It doesn’t perform really well in low light, it’s not some crazy wide focal length, and it doesn’t even focus automatically for you or stabilize your image. You might think, hasn’t this been done over and over again? Not really. Zeiss knows that people are carefully criticizing their ZF/ZE line of lenses these days. With all the attention they are getting for motion picture use, Zeiss is really stepping up the quality of their lenses. Some of their current line-up is what I would consider sub-exotic, like the current 25mm f/2.8. This new lens, with it’s dual aspherical element design, practically eliminates chromatic aberrations and distortion, according to Zeiss. I don’t usually believe press release claims especially when the samples provided are absolutely useless… But Zeiss isn’t usually one to claim false features. I’ll be waiting to get my hands on one of these bad boys as soon as they hit the market in late November with an estimated price of $1,700, at which time I’ll take some more conclusive sample photos that really show off the features of the new and improved 25mm f/2 Zeiss. Continue reading Zeiss Reveals New 25mm f/2.0

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