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Apple's Jony Ive to design limited-edition Leica M camera

updated 07:40 pm EDT, Tue September 18, 2012

Special project is a one-off, will be auctioned for charity

Hot on the heels of its announcement of five new cameras in a wide range of price points at Photokina, German camera maker Leica has revealed that Apple Senior Vice President of Design Sir Jonathan Ive will create a special one-of-a-kind edition of the new Leica M camera which will be auctioned off for charity. The Leica M, a high-end rangefinder that will retail for $7,000, is part of the company's high-end series and features its original 1950s look. Only one copy of the Ive-designed version will be produced.

Ive, who has been knighted in his native England for his services to design, has won numerous awards for his iconic designs. His work, often inspired by the principles espoused by Braun designer Dieter Rams, emphasizes a feeling of simplicity and elegance that imitators such as Samsung have a difficult time truly replicating. From the 20th Anniversary Macintosh to the iPod, from the G4 Cube to the iMac, the Mac Pro and the iPhone -- regardless of their level of success, the designs are highly-regarded and generally set the tone for the entire market segment each product occupies. While tablets existed long before Apple introduced one, Ive's design for the iPad embodies a magnetic attraction that turned a product pundits initially couldn't find a use for into the defining archetype for tablets, and crushing the competition more completely than in any other arena in which Apple competes.

The Leica M (seen below) is near the top of the line for the expensive but innovative camera designer, and features a 24MP full 35mm sensor that is custom-designed to take the best of both CCD and CMOS sensors, combined with the company's Maestro image processor chip. Despite the now-retro styling and machined brass elements, the camera is fully modern with its ability to shoot 1080p 60FPS video, a 3-inch full-image viewfinder with live view and Gorilla Glass as part of a weather-sealed body, a traditional viewfinder and more. As with most of Leica's designs, Panasonic may license it to produce a slightly cheaper Lumix version.

Leica also brought out its even higher-end Leica S, a $22,000 medium-format camera that features a remarkable burst shooting of up to 32 full-resolution (37.5MB) images at 1.5fps, integrated GPS and a new predictive auto-focusing system. The S also has a full lineup of new optional lenses to support it, many of them costing as much as most other manufacturers' DSLR camera bodies. The M and S series cameras are expected to appear in early 2013.

Alongside the new M camera, Leica also introduced a "budget" version called the M-E (which still sells for $5,450). It offers most of the features of the M but uses an 18MP CCD sensor rather than CMOS, and offers full manual focus without any scene modes, video capability or other extras beyond the basics of pro photography. Also updated was the company's D-LUX and V-LUX lines, with the new V-LUX 4 superzoom offering a 12.1MP CMOS sensor offering just-below-DSLR quality and 24x optical zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture and a burst rate of 12fps. The zoom is also available for 1080p video capture and the camera offers an ISO range up to 6,400. The V-Lux will sell for $900 and arrives in November.

Rounding out the announcements, Leica is also offering a compact camera, the $800 D-LUX 6, which features a flexible aperture and modest optical zoom in line with most compact cameras, but uses a CMOS sensor (1/1.7-inch) and ISO up to 12,800. Like the V-LUX, it improves on the previous version with Full HD recording and dramatically faster glass. It will also be available in November.

The Ive-designed one-off version of the Leica M will be auctioned for charity, Leica President Andreas Kaufmann told a crowd at a press event, reports PetaPixel. According to rumors, Ive was originally scheduled to be at the event, but could not make it in time. Kaufmann did not reveal the intended charity -- though U2 lead singer Bono is involved, suggesting it could be for his (RED) charity, which leverages consumerism and specially-branded products to raise money for AIDS programs.

The date of the auction has also not been revealed, though as the design process is just beginning, the auction may not take place until sometime next year. Since joining Apple 20 years ago, Ive has not been known doing much outside-the-company design work, but given both Apple's and Leica's strong use of machined metal and elegant design in their products, the collaboration is likely to produce a remarkable and unique edition. [via PetaPixel]

by MacNN Staff



  1. Me1234

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-18-12

    "The Leica M, a high-end DSLR that will retail for $7,000, is part of the company's "rangefinder" series and features a retro 1950s camera look."

    1. The Leica M is not a DSLR. It's not an SLR at all. It's a Rangefinder.

    2. The "rangefinder" is not a series, it's a camera type. Learn some history.

    3. "retro 1950s camera look" Leica does not have a retro look. They have not changed the design since the first M in 1954. It's an "original" look.

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 04-05-11

    Thanks me1234, for your knowledgeable insight.

    But I'd like to add,
    would the foray into the Leica cameras mean that Sir Ive is getting bored of Apples rather limited line of products?

  1. Me1234

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-18-12

    Does anybody really care if he's bored with anything?

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01


    Thanks for the corrections, I'll let them know.

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