Leica’s Slick New Waterproof Camera Only Costs $3,000
Leica’s cameras are really good. Unfortunately, they’re also prohibitively expensive. You have to be a special kind of rich to buy one, and you’d have to be a special kind of crazy to bring one of Leica’s uberfancy shooters underwater.
Not anymore, amigo! Leica’s new fixed-lens shooter is waterproof and dustproof. It costs just under $3,000, so while you still have to be pretty rich to buy one, at least you won’t ruin your camera when you cannonball into the pool with it.
The Leica X-U (Typ 113) is the company’s first camera designed for underwater usage, and it gives the no-nonsense, $800 Nikon 1 AW1 its first real competition. The X-U is rated for dips down to 50 feet, and it’s also shock-resistant, weather-sealed, and resistant to dust. Perhaps most importantly, it should live up to the Leica name even when it’s used on dry land, at least from the looks of Leica’s sample photos. True to the “Leica look,” the pictures are characteristically sharp and vivid—although strangely, none of those sample shots were taken underwater.
Don’t expect a full-frame sensor or the ability to swap in M-mount glass, but the X-U’s specs are pretty great for a subaquatic shooter. It’s built around a 16.5-megapixel APS-C sensor, and its non-swappable lens has a fixed focal length of 23mm (that’s a 35mm equivalent focal length due to the camera’s 1.5x crop factor).
Low-light and shallow depth-of-field shots should be no problem, thanks to a generous f/1.7 maximum aperture. It’ll also shoot video, but the specs there are pretty paltry: 1080p footage at 30fps. No 4K shark videos for you.
Co-designed by Audi Design, the camera features a unique aesthetic trait: The on-board flash is mounted right on the top-front edge of the lens barrel. Beyond that, the durable aluminum body is protected with no-slip thermoplastic rubber, and its 3-inch LCD monitor (there’s no rangefinder peephole on this one, Leica fans) can be protected by a hard cover while you’re shooting underwater.
Leica says the camera has an easy-access button for quick underwater snaps, but it’s also designed for manual-minded shooters. There are top-mounted shutter and aperture dials for dialing in exposure settings when you don’t need to worry about the bends.
The Leica X-U is surprisingly affordable for a Leica, but you still might want to look for a treasure chest while you’re swimming around with it to help foot the bill. It’ll squeeze under the 3 grand mark at $2,950, and you can head to your local Leica boutique to pick it up in late January.