Don't have the $6,500 to spare to pick up a Leica M9? You might consider the freshly announced M-E, which carries a similar feature set and a slightly more palatable $5,450 price tag. The camera includes the same 18-megapixel sensor as the M9, but drops relatively minor features like a built-in USB port (you'll need to pop out your SD card to download pics). It's nearly identical to the pricier model, with a low-res (230k-dot) 2.5-inch LCD and an ISO range of 160-2500. Unlike the "new M," announced alongside the M-E, the latter model does not offer live-view functionality, so you'll only be using the LCD to make settings adjustments and for reviewing images, anyway. Shot framing will be handled with the 0.68x viewfinder, positioned at the top left of the camera.
Aesthetically, you might find the M-E to be a bit more pleasing, with a muted gray/black color scheme -- we found it to be quite nice during out hands-on at Photokina. The camera itself looks like an M9 with a hint of Michael Graves-esque simplicity -- there's a silver shutter speed dial up top, with soft numbering and positions that range from bulb to 1/4000 second. There's also a matching power toggle/shutter release, along with the standard suite of playback and ISO controls on the rear. As we mentioned, the 2.5-inch display offers a bit lower resolution than what we'd like to see, making it less than ideal for verifying image sharpness, for example, so if the LCD marks high on your list of priorities, you'll probably do best to wait for the "new M" (M10) to hit early next year. Otherwise, the M-E appears to be a capable camera, but M9 owners should hang tight -- there's not much to see here. The M-E is available for purchase now, for about $5,450 (or €4,800 in Europe), and you can sneak a peek in our gallery below, and the hands-on video after the break.