Leica cameras never get long in the tooth–the M1, which came out in 1959, still sells for thousands of dollars at auction. Still, we were waiting for the successor to the beautiful M9. Today, Leica unveiled two new lust-worthy cameras at Photokina.

In a move reminiscent of Apple’s iPad “3” announcement, the Leica M drops the numerical suffix and assumes its place as Leica’s flagship camera.  It’s packing a full-frame sensor (35.8mm x 23.9mm, the same size as 35mm film) that produces 24 megapixel images, an improvement over the M9’s 18 megapixel output. In addition, Leica’s improved the camera’s image processing and it gains the ability to film 1080p video at 30 fps.

The most surprising thing about this camera’s announcement is the Leica M’s improved autofocus, which is almost sacrilege for the rangefinder specialists from Germany. The Leica M should be available next year. If you’re wondering how much it costs, you probably can’t afford it, but since you asked, it should cost around $8000.

Leica also debuted the M-E camera today. The M-E is basically a stripped down M9, using the M9’s excellent full-frame sensor in a lighter and smaller body. You lose some features, such as the ability to record video or use the LCD screen to frame shots. Also, the camera’s screen has been downsized. On the other hand, this is an opportunity to buy a camera with legendary Leica glass for only around $5500. This sounds silly, but that’s a bargain for a genuine Leica rangefinder camera. Better start saving, because these are the cameras you’re going to be lusting over for the next few years.

Filed in Photo-Video. Read more about Cameras and Leica.

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