Leica is an icon, especially in the camera and lens market. Known for the highest quality – but also high prices – the Wetzlar-based manufacturer has been defying cheaper competition from the Far East for decades. Entering the market for laser TV sets (actually: short-throw projectors) with the Cine 1 is surprising at first glance.
Leica partnership with Hisense
Leica presented the Cine 1 at IFA 2022. For the already surprising start in the market for laser TV technology, the German manufacturer then also entered into an unequal partnership with the Chinese brand Hisense.
The collaboration is long-term. It aims to bring together the multimedia technologies of the Chinese engineers with Leica know-how in lens and lens manufacturing.
At second glance, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched: Hisense has relevant experience in projector development. And Leica? Likewise! For decades, the manufacturer built slide projectors, a related company for the supplier of high-quality optics, which is also used in a projector. Are today’s home theater projectors the legitimate successors to the slide projectors of the 60s, 70s and 80s? That’s how you can see it.
Leica quotes the chairman of the supervisory board and majority shareholder Andreas Kaufmann as follows:
“Leica has had projection under the Pradovit brand for a long time, so entering the laser TV segment is a logical step.”
And then Leica is not working with Chinese suppliers for the first time. In terms of smartphone photography, the company’s optics have already been used in the top smartphones of first Huawei and now Xiaomi. For example, on the hump of the Xiaomi 12S camera phone, there is a Leica letter.
With the Cine 1, Leica is now the driving force; only the well-known red logo of the camera manufacturer can be seen on the housing:
The Cine 1 should come in two versions that can project an image width of 80 inches or 100 inches onto a screen or wall.
According to the announcement, there is no variable projection ratio, so the purchase already determines how large the Leica projector outputs the image.
Cine 1: Same housing, different performance
Whichever version you would choose: both Cine 1 models are in the same housing. It is quite compact at 60 x 37.8 x 14.9 cm and relatively heavy at 13 kg. The reasons for this are the aluminum housing, the complex computer technology and the lenses in the projector.
At the heart of the projector are the three lasers, which are used as RGB light sources. Leica specifies the longevity as a high 25,000 hours, the brightness is 2,500 or 2,100 lumens, with the 100-inch model shining brighter. With this brightness, both projectors could also be used in bright daylight, but not the pinnacle of bright laser TVs on the market.
For the resolution, the engineers use a simple trick. The Laser TV uses an innovative pixel shift to interpolate the native 1080p resolution into a 4K image – Leica and Hisense call this XPR (Expanded Pixel Resolution) in their marketing language. And that’s a little disappointing. Because in the price range in which Leica works here, buyers can expect a higher native resolution, actually even a native 4K resolution.
Meanwhile, the Cine 1 supports HDR signals and covers up to 95 percent of this color space. As for the audio system, Leica and Hisense rely on integrated Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital Plus, which sound through two 20-watt speakers.
Special screens that Leica plans to offer at the market launch are not included. They should reflect the light from the projector particularly well – and soften areas that are too bright.
Cine 1: Lots of connections, no Android TV
As for the system, the two collaboration partners agreed on the Vidaa 6.0 developed by Hisense. On the one hand, that’s smart, because it’s an established platform that is optimally tuned to the hardware and supports some well-known streaming apps.
On the other hand, that’s a shame, because with Android TV, for example, there is an alternative that guarantees a much larger choice of apps and is future-proof.
It is also known that the tuner integrated in the Cine 1 supports DVB-C, -S, -S2, -T and T2. There are two HDMI 2.1 and one HDMI 2.0 ports built-in, as well as USB connections with specifications 2.0 and 3.0.
Ethernet LAN, WLAN function, ARC support and a slot for the CI+ module can also be found and make the Cine 1 a multimedia all-rounder. Incidentally, it is currently impossible to say how the connections on the back are arranged. Leica simply does not provide any footage yet.
Premium laser TV at a great price
Projectors are also today’s multimedia technology because they bring an authentic XXL cinema feeling to your home at a really low price. The Xgimi Elfin costs little as an entry-level device, but throws images up to 120 inches on the wall. The sister model Xgimi Halo+ can also be used on the go and costs only slightly more. And Samsung is also on the market with The Freestyle, among others.
All three devices are available for less than 1,000 euros.
Leica, on the other hand, plans to release the Cine 1 for a hefty €6,900 (80-inch version) or €8,000 (100-inch version). This is well above what other manufacturers charge for their laser TVs and what a TV with a comparable diagonal costs.
Leica has always been more expensive – fans of the brand didn’t have to compromise. That is why it is a pity that the Cine 1 – as already mentioned above – has to do without native 4K. That would have justified the high price.
The Cine 1 should be available from May 2023, so you still have time to save the needed change.