In Tokyo this March, Epson reentered the digital-camera market with panache by introducing the R-D1. A collaborative effort with optics maker Cosina, this advanced 6-megapixel model is the first digital camera to use a coupled range-finder viewing system. And the R-D1 takes Leica lenses, too.
Upside: SLRs dominate the R-D1's expected price category, but a digital range finder has the potential to provide several advantages over them: a more compact design, quieter operation, better low-light performance, an uninterrupted view during shooting, and longer battery life. The Epson's viewfinder shows a life-size image, although only 85 percent of the frame is visible. The R-D1 is compatible with high-quality Leica range-finder M- and L-mount lenses.
Downside: The biggest potential problem is that Leica lenses designed for 35mm film range finders won't produce good results when paired with the R-D1's APS-size CCD. Also, you won't find autofocus, continuous-shooting or scene modes, video-clip capture, fully automatic exposure, or a shutter-priority mode among the Epson's features, and its LCD doesn't work as a viewfinder.
Outlook: Epson hasn't officially announced U.S. pricing and availability, but Digital Photography Now reports that at least in Japan, the R-D1 will be sold this summer for about $3,500 (body only). That price reflects the camera's potential to be either a finely tuned tool for serious photographers or an oddity custom made for collectors.