[B]Leica to unveil a mid-sized camera on 11th June[/B]

We will have to wait just over two weeks before Leica opens the enigmatic box that is currently a teaser on its website for a new and smaller alternative to the Leica M range of interchangeable lens rangefinder cameras, called Mini M.

Leica's X-series of fixed lens compacts are referred to as Micro M cameras, so it is logical to speculate that the Mini M will be smaller than a traditional Leica M and larger than a Leica X compact. But it's anyone's guess as to what the sensor size will be and whether it will have interchangeable lenses, or even if it will be a completely new system.

One remote possibility is that it could be a Micro Four Thirds derivative. Panasonic, re-engineered the Olympus Four Thirds DSLR platform into the Micro Four Thirds mirrorless compact system camera standard and makes compact cameras that Leica re-badges. Leica also sold a re-badged Panasonic Four Thirds DSLR, the Digilux 3, a few years back. But the word is that Panasonic is not involved in the Micro M project. Anyway, it might be a bit weird that Leica's X-series compacts, which use APS-C sensors, would have larger sensors than a Micro Four Thirds Mini M.

Another suggestion is that the Mini M may simply be a redesigned M-series body. Although there was a time when M-series cameras were described as compact compared to SLRs, today an M-series camera is relatively big and heavy compared to compact and even compact system cameras. Re-designing the body to make it more compact, possibly doing away with an optical rangefinder and relying on a good quality modern screen on the back of the camera, with an optional electronic viewfinder, could be the solution. This would retain a full frame sensor and compatibility with M-series lenses. However, this would mean the the M-series' weaknesses of no autofocus and no electronic communication with lenses would be sustained.

Whether Leica has the resources to completely engineer a new and up to date camera system with interchangeable lenses is a moot point. So another potential scenario is that Leica could upscale the X-series, maintaining a fixed lens but endowing it with a full frame sensor. Sony has managed this successfully with the RX1, for example.

You might argue - who cares? Whatever will be unveiled on 11th June is likely to be very expensive and most of us will never be able to justify the cost of purchasing one. But that hasn't stopped Leica before!