In a surprise announcement, Leica has unveiled the X1 - an APS-C format fixed lens compact camera, with 12 million pixels.

Alongside the widely rumoured full-frame M9 rangefinder, Leica also announced the X1; A 12-million-pixel APS-C format fixed-lens digital compact camera.

The X1, which features a 12.9-million-pixel CMOS sensor (12.2 million effective), comes equipped with a fixed 24mm f/2.8 lens that gives a field of view equivalent to 36mm. In normal shooting conditions, the minimum focusing distance is 60cm, but this drops to 30cm in macro mode.

The Leica X1 offers full manual control, as well as aperture priority, shutter priority and program modes, and an equivalent ISO sensitivity range of 100-3200. Three metering modes are available, ?Intelligent Multiple?, Centreweighted, and spot metering. Exposure compensation is available, in 1/3EV steps up to +/-3EV.

Despite its compact dimensions, the X1 features a retractable built-in flash, and a hotshoe for Leica?s SF 24D and SF 58 system flash units. There is no optical viewfinder built into the camera body, but we understand that an optional brightline viewfinder will be available, alongside an accessory handgrip. Images can be reviewed on the 2.7in, 230,000 pixel LCD screen on the camera?s rear.

Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but the X1 is expected to be available in the UK from January 2010. Watch out for more detailed comment and analysis in AP very soon.

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