Leica MT (typ 245) Silver Chrome Front

Exclusive Scoop: Newest Leica “M” System Camera Announced

Overview

Description
Leica “MT” dig­i­tal rangefinder cam­era
Availability
Street price
$8950 USD
Manufacturer No.
10855

COLOGNE — 

Leica Camera AG announced their lat­est dig­i­tal rangefinder this morn­ing, and it’s a doozie. The Leica “MT” builds on the Leica “M,” which only began ship­ping , by adding a fea­ture that every pho­tog­ra­pher has wished for at 1 time or another. The sug­gested price is $8,950 USD, with pre-​orders expected in early . The cam­eras will begin ship­ping in .

Exclusive Scoop Result of 6 Month Long Investigation

Leica MT (typ 245) Silver Chrome Back
Leica MT (typ 245) “Tempo” Silver Chrome Back

When we began hear­ing rumors about a Leica project code-​named Chronos in late September last year, we assigned a small team of reporters to dig deeper. After we obtained inter­nal Leica com­pany doc­u­ments con­firm­ing not only the devel­op­ment of a new cam­era, but also detail­ing the ground­break­ing new fea­ture asso­ci­ated with it, we reached out to Leica prod­uct man­ager Stefan Daniel, offer­ing him a chance to go on record before we broke the story.

Revolutionary New Technology

The cam­era has the same specs as the cov­eted Leica “M, which was announced at last year’s Photokina and just began ship­ping, but the MT is priced $2000 USD higher. For this sub­stan­tial pre­mium, pur­chasers get exactly 1 new fea­ture. On the cam­era back, above the “Play” but­ton, is a mys­te­ri­ous new con­trol — a but­ton fea­tur­ing an open cir­cle with an arrow­head on 1 end, some­what rem­i­nis­cent of the ani­mated “load­ing” icon on some stream­ing media play­ers.

According to inter­nal Leica emails obtained by Mercury Photo Bureau, the but­ton is known as the Wiederholen Knopf für die Zeit, or “replay time but­ton.” When we asked Daniel about it, he told us that the but­ton addresses a prob­lem every pho­tog­ra­pher has faced: the lost shot. It’s basi­cally a do-​over but­ton. When the pho­tog­ra­pher misses the shot, she sim­ply presses the but­ton and cre­ates a small time bub­ble, about 50 metres [164′] in diam­e­ter, 15 sec­onds in the past. Our research shows that’s enough time to lock expo­sure or man­u­ally set the speed, focus and recom­pose, and get the shot — in our tests, the sub­jects recov­ered the lost shot 19 out of 20 times. Of course, the more expe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­phers did bet­ter than the newer ones.

The time bub­ble col­lapses after 15 sec­onds, and every­thing inside it jumps for­ward to rejoin the present. A vari­able time gra­di­ent at the bubble’s outer edge ensures no nasty phys­i­cal col­li­sions between the 2 time spheres. Thus, one need not fear hav­ing one’s arm inter­sect a mov­ing object in the inter­val between depress­ing the rewind but­ton and the bubble’s col­lapse.

Engineering Challenges

Rewind Time Button, a.k.a. Wiederholen Knopf für die Zeit
Rewind Time Button, a.k.a. Wiederholen Knopf für die Zeit

The cam­era pre­sented many unique chal­lenges, but nei­ther over­com­ing physics nor ensur­ing user safety were the biggest. The hard­est prob­lem was siz­ing the new com­po­nents so we could keep the basic form fac­tor of an M-​system cam­era, said Daniel. We solved the time-​space prob­lem in the 1940s, but only recent advances in minia­tur­iza­tion allowed us to deploy the tech­nol­ogy. The new cam­era is the same size as the 2 cam­eras we announced last year, so it’s com­pletely com­pat­i­ble with all of the acces­sories for those cam­eras, includ­ing almost every lens Leica have ever man­u­fac­tured.

Inspired by the Sands of Time

Credit for the idea goes to the company’s leg­endary founder, Ernst Leitz II. During a round of golf in 1932, he hit a ball into a sand bunker on the Wetzlar course where he was enter­tain­ing an American vis­i­tor, Hank Sonnenfeld. Turning to Leitz, Sonnenfeld asked, Why don’t you take a Mulligan?

According to papers in the Leica archives, Leitz brought up the hereto­fore unknown-​to-​him golf cus­tom at din­ner, won­der­ing aloud what it would be like if it could be applied to other mun­dane sit­u­a­tions. The next day, he approached Oskar Barnack with the idea, think­ing they could incor­po­rate it in the Leica III. It would be another 13 years before they fig­ured out how to rewind time, and another 6 decades before the tech­nol­ogy found its way into a cam­era.

A New Era for Leica

The intro­duc­tion of the Leica M8 in 2006 marked a new begin­ning for a com­pany that many observers con­sid­ered irrel­e­vant in a fast chang­ing world of dis­pos­able con­sumer goods. With the addi­tion of the MT (the “T” stands for “tempo”), Leica once again prove that being for­ward think­ing can some­times mean look­ing to the past.

— Chris J. Zähller

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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