Leica has just unveiled its new flagship digital rangefinder, the Leica M. The M is the latest version of Leica's venerable rangefinder series, and features an all-new 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, enhanced focusing features, and the ability to record 1080p HD video. Despite the modern improvements, the M still carries the traditional Leica look and feel, and wouldn't look out of place on the shelf of a 1950s camera store.

Leica says that the new sensor was designed from the ground-up for the M and its M- and R-series lenses. Replacing the CCD sensor that was used in the M9, the new Leica Max CMOS chip is said to have the same color characteristics of the old sensor, while providing improved low-light capabilities and better power management. Images captured by the new sensor are run through Leica's Maestro processor — the same chip used in the Leica S SLR cameras. This new sensor and processor lets the M shoot 1080p HD video — a first for Leica's rangefinder cameras.

1080p HD video, full-frame sensor, Live View focusing options

The M's metal chassis with machined brass elements should look and feel familiar to anyone who has seen or held a Leica rangefinder before, but it does feature a new, 3-inch, 920,000 pixel display with Gorilla Glass and Live View. The new Live View feature comes with two focusing options: Live View Zoom and Live View Peaking to offer photographers more options when capturing images. Of course, the traditional viewfinder is available for framing and focusing as well.

Leica plans to offer a full line of accessories and add-ons for the M, including an electronic viewfinder, handgrip with integrated GPS, and microphone adapter set for improved audio recording. The new M is expected to be on shelves in early 2013 in either black or silver finishes. As with many of Leica's products, the M won't be cheap, at $6,950 in the US and £5,100 in the UK. We will have hands-on and further impressions of the Leica M in the near future, so stay tuned.