INTERVIEW Leica ranks its new T compact system camera (CSC) alongside the legendary M. But the firm tells AP that, in business terms, itu2019s a risky move as it bids to win over an entirely new audience.

VIDEO (above): Includes AP interview with Leica boss

Designed in a tie-up with car maker Audi, the first in the Leica T series features a new bayonet mount (‘Type 701′).

The 16.3-million-pixel model carries an APS-C-sized imaging sensor, a built-in flash and a 3.7in (1.3-million-dot) fixed touchscreen.

The camera is milled from a solid piece of ‘high-grade’ aluminium, with each unit hand-polished for 45 minutes at a factory in Portugal.

Due out on 26 May, it will cost £1,350 body only. Two lenses will be available at launch: a Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph (priced £1,250) and a Summicron-T 23mm (equivalent to 35mm) f/2 Asph, costing £1,350.

The Leica T has no built-in EVF. Instead, a 2.4-million-dot tilt-and-swivel EVF will be available as an optional accessory, attaching to the camera via its hotshoe. The 
EVF (Visoflex Type 020) 
costs £400.

Also available will be an optional adapter for attaching M lenses, priced £300, and an external flash (SF 26), which is expected a month after launch.

Features of the Leica T also include an ISO range of 100-12,500, full HD video and built-in Wi-Fi – a first for a Leica system camera.

Leica says the camera body is engineered in Germany while the lenses are made in Japan – though not by its long-standing compact camera partner, Panasonic. When pressed, officials refused to name its lens-making associate.

The company is keen to win over those who have so far not had Leica on their radar – professionals, designers and those who use Apple’s iPads and iPhones.

Asked to describe the T’s target audience, Leica Camera Limited managing director David Bell told AP: ‘I think they will be people who maybe aren’t into serious photography at the moment.

‘They haven’t come from DSLR ownership but are interested in image making. I think this camera will appeal to them because of the design-style, the method of use and the [touch]screen on the back.’

Leica admits that its M system can be a struggle for rangefinder newcomers.

Maike Harberts, product manager for Leica T system and X cameras, sees a big opportunity amid the picture-taking explosion heralded by smartphones.

She concedes that the M and S systems attract a ‘small group of people’.

Two more lenses are due to be showcased at the photokina trade show in Germany in September, for launch later this year. They are a Super-Vario-Elmar-T 11-23mm f/3.5-4.5 Asph and Vario-Elmar-T 55-135mm f/3.5-4.5 Asph.

The camera will be out in black or silver and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software will be bundled with the kit.

The Leica T took 2-21⁄2 years to develop.

Leica first hinted at plans to launch a consumer CSC in 2011. A year later, Leica bosses steered journalists away from the idea, stressing that the ‘M family’ would be high on its agenda at photokina 2012.

In an interview with AP at photokina, Leica said it would never make a ‘£1,000’ CSC.

SEE AP’S FIRST LOOK ARTICLE AND VIDEO HERE