If you've ever shelled out a few thousand dollars (or more) for a Leica, you've likely kept it far away from pools, lakes, or even puddles. That won't be a problem with the company's newest camera, though.
Announced today, the Leica X-U is waterproof, shatterproof, and costs just under $3,000. The X-U can be submerged up to 49 feet, and is made to withstand other extremes, too. Leica's winterized it and dust-sealed it, meaning you can bring the X-U just about everywhere you were afraid to bring any Leica you've ever owned.
The ruggedized exterior is protecting what appears to be a typically great camera, by Leica's standards. In fact, it's pretty much a dead ringer for the Leica T. The X-U pairs a 16.5-megapixel APS-C sensor with a fixed Leica Summilux 23mm lens and a fast f1.7 aperture. The camera can also record HD video (up to 1080p at 30 frames per second). There is no viewfinder, though, so you'll have to frame up your shot using a 3-inch LCD screen on the back.
Of course, people don't just buy Leica cameras for the internals. The X-U also borrows from the T's design, but skews a bit thanks to all the work that has been done to ruggedize the camera. Leica once again leaned on Audi's design house to come up with the look, which is is dominated by a bulky grip on the right side of the camera and a flash ring on the end of the lens.
It's not the prettiest Leica ever, but there's a reason for that
The top plate and the control dials are made from aluminum, and the body is covered in an anti-slip thermoplastic elastomer material. The rear LCD screen has a protective cover, while the buttons are integrated into the body — there's no gap for sand or water to sneak through. The battery and memory card slots are also protected with a double locking system.
The X-U is certainly not the prettiest Leica ever made, but it will likely please photographers who want something that can take a beating. Ever since Leica introduced the Digital M series in 2008, the company's been slowly working its way toward making digital cameras that approach sincere affordability. The X-U may not be for everyone, but Leica has packed some particular value into the $2,950 camera. It will be available at Leica stores and with Leica dealers by the end of January.