Leica Australia has confirmed that its high-end Cine 1 Cinema TV will be one of the stars of the Australian Hi-Fi Show 2024 in Sydney. It’s a unique chance to spend time with this complete entertainment system with outstanding 4K image resolution, immersive Dolby Atmos surround sound and unmistakable Leica quality.
A home theatre projector might seem a side-step for Leica Camera AG, the global manufacturer of high-end cameras and lenses, fine mechanical and medical instruments and high-tech devices of the highest standards in imaging. But perhaps not so much – home entertainment has long relied on high-quality lenses, and far earlier than video projection. Many was the 1960s home where a big screen was illuminated by a stylish Leica/Leitz Pradovit slide projector, the height of home entertainment with its cabled remote control which could shuttle the 35mm slides forwards and backwards.
So in some ways, the Leica Cine 1 sees the German company reclaiming territory long ceded. And this ultra-short-throw projector includes both a video streaming module and TV tuners inside, and has a built-in sound system. You can plug in additional sources, but the Cine 1 already provides everything in one: a deliberate alternative to a television.
Masters of glass
The convenience of a projector placed close to the wall is undeniable, but the technical challenge of delivering an even spread of light and accurate imaging from such a position is considerable. Chief among the challenges is the quality of the lenses, both within the internal imaging and especially at the exit lens, with its unenviable task of delivering a rectangular image thrown up from below.
The potential advantages of having Leica-standard glass are considerable, and here the sophisticated Leica Summicron lens uses four aspherical lenses in combination, each manufactured according to Leica standards, and precisely matched to the image size. Leica’s own image processing is also employed – Leica Image Optimization (LIO). This brings ‘special algorithms’ to bear with the promise of “particularly natural colour rendition, richly detailed colour gradation and an outstanding contrast ratio”.
The smart interface is VIDAA, as used in Hisense’s Laser TVs and televisions, and includes voice control, direct access to streaming platforms and terrestrial catch-up apps (Freeview). The TV tuner is triple-headed, and there’s Apple AirPlay available too.
Another undeniable bonus with Leica’s take on projection is the gorgeous cabinet, its timeless look seeming entirely 21st century while still triggering thoughts of those Pradovits of the 1960s.
Indeed it seems Leica sees the Cine 1 as representing more than its return to home entertainment: it notes how this ‘Cinema TV’ also completes a movie-making circle for the company. It was back in 1914 when Oskar Barnack, chief developer at Leitz (as Leica was officially called until 1986) came up with the idea of using 35mm cinema film as a standard for still photography, doubling the single-frame format from 18×24 mm to 24×36 mm. At the other end of history, Leitz high-end cine lenses are still manufactured in Wetzlar, Germany today, “designed to accompany cinematographers in the masterful creation of their visions around the world”.
So who better to put the lenses in the projectors that bring those visions back off the recording medium? As Leica puts it, its business is “moving people through imagery,” and the new projector allows it for the first time to deliver moving images to the living room.
The Cine 1 can do that in two sizes: 100-inch (price $13,999) or 120-inch ($14,999), with ambient-light-rejecting screens and custom installation options also available.
You can experience Leica's Cine 1 at the Australian Hi-Fi Show 2024 in Sydney from April 5th to 7th.