Leica T is out, but for who?

Started Apr 24, 2014 | Discussions thread
MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,347
Re: Leica T is out, but for who?

I certainly do not belong to the target market for this camera, simply because it clearly isn't aimed at people who would like the most "hands on" approach possible (not that it's impossible to do so with the T, only not as conveniently as with a typical DSLR like the 5DIII), but I don't mind that Leica tries to cater for a different way to take pictures, a more "compact / smartphone / easy to use - like" way if I could say so.

What I find problematic though is that, if this assumption is correct (it may not be after all), I think this camera is falling short in a number of ways for that target market, at least in absolute terms.

For example, the jpeg engine seems like, as other Leica cameras, it could do with an update - it doesn't seem like it's going to be able to match the ones from Fuji, Olympus or Canon for example. And I believe that when you're targeting the smartphone crowd, jpeg is important - how many people will actually use raw ? In addition, I'm not sure the automatisms (exposure, white balance) will be as good as the ones we can currently have on many smartphones or other mirrorless cameras.

Also, as pointed in the review, the touch AF needs a lot of refinement before it's able to ape the way a smartphone operates - and as far as touch AF goes, that's the current benchmark.

I also think the touch interface isn't that well thought through, although it seems like one of the first touch interface that doesn't plain suck, so that's a start. Just to put things in perspective, Panasonic has been doing touch interface for years now on its mirrorless range and still is left in the dust by Leica's first attempt at doing touch interface - that should really tell you how poor camera designers are in general. Still, I'm not sure the grid layout Leica is using is the right thing to do. On a smartphone, no big deal as you'll usually have two index fingers available to touch things on the screen. But on a camera with a normal grip and your left hand most likely holding the lens (at least with zoom lenses) you're left with your right thumb and your right thumb only to operate the touch screen. I believe trying to concentrate most controls on the right side would have been preferable (except in playback mode of course when you'll hold this camera like a playstation controller for example, so your two thumbs will be available). I also suspect people will quickly get annoyed by scrolling the menus (even the customised one) to get to the option you want to set up. Obviously then there are the traditional issues with touch screen controls, like compromised operations in bad weather, lack of positive feedback, the corollary of which is being almost impossible to use with a viewfinder, or when not looking at the screen, etc., but this will mostly annoy us Dpreview readers. Possibly more problematic is that in fine the touch interface doesn't bring much innovation on the table - it's just like one would have expected a rather unimaginative but good touch UI to work - but at least it sort of works, that already is an achievement.

Video seems a little lacklustre too. Of course the sensor / processors might be at cause here. Weirdly enough, I suspect this camera would have made more sense as a concept with the Aptina 1" sensors and its extremely fast readout - I would have easily seen the touch interface then mimicking Apple's 5s camera application, with video editing or very fast burst mode for example.

Finally there isn't much innovation in terms of file sharing capability. What we would really want is the ability, at the press of a button in playback, to instantly upload a picture to our phone, in maximum 10 seconds. I don't see how the current wifi + app system fills that criteria. In addition, the reverse operation, that is to say download a picture from the smartphone, will also be cumbersome as the camera will have to be powered on. IMHO camera manufacturers really have to cooperate with smartphone manufacturers to be able to keep their camera in constant connection with smartphones and develop a sleep mode - I think the time when your camera was on or off has passed, now a camera should have various power modes depending on the user's needs.

Despite these caveats I suspect it will sell pretty well, at least for a Leica niche product. And I don't think it will only be because of the Leica tag or the design, but also the relative state of the market : all other "easy to use / smartphone - like" cameras simply aren't easy to use at all and not very close to smartphone operations anyway. I see this as one of the very few cameras one could pick up and instantly use without reading the manual - in an era of absolutely rubbish camera user interface that's enough to seduce people.

Now if the first assumption isn't correct (targeting the smartphone / compact camera / easy to use crowd), then this camera doesn't bring much to the enthusiast's table. In fact it's got all the stupid flaws one can find on most other cameras, such as the inability to use exposure compensation in M mode, a rather lazy auto ISO implementation, lack of custom modes, obstructed view by on-screen info, lack of AEL / AFL button, the list goes on for miles, mostly constituted of the sort of apparently small ergonomical / design / user interface mistakes that add up in a big, giant snowball of annoyance. The glass then better be brilliant, other wise there isn't much for it. I'm even questioning the use of aluminium. Although I really like the unibody approach, I'm not sure aluminium would be my first pick for a durable material, but there are different grades of aluminium, so let's see.

I also particularly like what Leica is doing with accessories. It all started with the Leica M 240 and its very interesting "finger strap" (I wish all camera manufacturers were doing this), and now we're seeing a second attempt in what, 40 years (the first one being the Canon M), to try to innovate strap lugs - wise, and I won't complain about that (although from what I gather a pin needs to be inserted in a hole to unlock the mechanism, I wish it had a quick release system).

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