Today, Leica has announced a new addition to the X System: The X-U (Typ 113).
This is Leica's first go at an underwater and shockproof adventure camera, and it looks to be quite the first effort. Based off of the excellent X (Typ 113), the new model features an attractive and rugged exterior clad in flexible TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) armoring, with aluminum top and bottom plates. Under the hood is the same proven APS-C 16 MP CMOS sensor, paired with the stunning 23mm f/1.7 (35mm equivalent) lens, but the construction is entirely new and has been tweaked to provide proper functionality while submerged.
Chunkier shutter speed and aperture dials have moved back and overhang for easy operation underwater or with diving gloves. Similarly, the rear buttons around the LCD are enlarged to improve accessibility. The rear dial of the X is replaced with +/- buttons. The flash, now cleverly sits atop the front the of the lens, in order to facilitate underwater macro photography, in conjunction with a very usable 20cm minimum focus distance. I'm impressed that the manual focus ring has retained its functionality, even under water. This should make close-up photography of underwater flora and fauna (or fast moving children) a lot faster, as you can just prefocus and shoot when ready. There is also a new UW (Underwater) button on the back of the camera, placed at the bottom of the D-Pad, which automatically compensates for water distortion and color cast.
The X-U is more than dust and splash proof, offering rated waterproofness down to 15m (50 ft) for 60 minutes. This should prove more than adequate for reef divers or resort outings, as well as splashing in the surf, horsing around in the pool, hiking through a rainforest, or for a day out on the boat. The X-U is also protected from shock, rated for a 1.2m (4ft) drop onto a hard surface. So, while it's never a good idea to toss your camera around, the X-U can stand up to a lot more abuse than most.
All in all, the X-U looks promising. With the outstanding image quality of the X113 and its adventure-ready durability, this new model could prove to be very popular for any casual outdoor photographic pursuits. Living down in Miami, it sure makes a lot of sense in my family, where a day at the beach can be a virtual death sentence to most cameras.
The X-U (Typ 113) will be available next week for a price of $2,950. You can pre-order the camera at Leica Store Miami. Click through for full tech specs