Released simultaneously with the Leica M, the M-E is pitched as Leica’s entry-level rangefinder, but at £3,900 it doesn’t come cheap. Richard Sibley sees how it fits into the range. Read the Leica M-E review...
The truth is that there is very little difference between the M-E and the M9. In fact, all the key features are unashamedly one and the same: the sensor is the same KAF-18500 18-million-pixel, full-frame CCD unit with ISO 80-2500 sensitivity; images can be saved as JPEG files or as the almost universally accepted DNG raw files; and the shutter speed ranges from 1/4000sec to 240secs (in bulb), with a burst rate of 2fps.
There are, in fact, just three differences between the new M-E and the M9. The first is that the new camera has no USB port. This may seem like an odd decision, but I don’t know any photographers who actually use a USB port to transfer their images as most will simply remove the memory card and use a card reader. This has obviously been considered by Leica, because the new top-of the-range Leica M also lacks a USB port. Its absence on the lower model isn’t necessarily a cost-cutting exercise.
The second, and most significant, change is the removal from the M-E of the rangefinder guideline selector switch. On the M9 it is used to select which guidelines are displayed in the rangefinder when different lenses are used. Most modern lenses have a small code that is read optically (not digitally) by modern Leica cameras to automatically change the rangefinder guidelines; on digital cameras this also applies lens data and basic lens corrections to images. Older lenses that have not had this code added will no longer have the guidelines changed automatically in-camera and, as there is no switch, this may be a problem for those with older Leica optics.
This feature has also been removed from the Leica M, although it is less of an issue on this camera because its CMOS sensor means the M has live view and the option for an EVF. This is clearly where Leica is distinguishing the M-E from the M9 and M. Those with older lenses are far better suited to the more premium cameras.