With a real rangefinder, Pixii brings film favorites to digital in odd mash-up

Digital cameras have long found inspiration from film, but one French start-up is going beyond the faux leather wraps. The Pixii is an interchangeable lens digital rangefinder camera that keeps the true rangefinder focusing and ditches the screen in favor of the one already in your pocket.

While some mirrorless cameras have taken inspiration from the rangefinder and moved the electronic viewfinder to one side, the PIXII is an actual rangefinder. Like a film rangefinder camera, photographers focus by shifting two images together; once the images line up, the shot is in focus. Developed by a startup of the same name, that manual focusing style is done through an entirely optical viewfinder, not an electronic one.

The Pixii is digital, but doesn’t have that usual LCD screen at the back. Instead, the images are automatically sent to a smartphone, where the Pixii app “develops” the images, the startup says. Images can then be edited and shared from the smartphone. “Photographers know that lenses are generally safe values. However, the software and the screen of a camera quickly get outdated,” says Pixii founder David Barth. “Instead, we can offer exceptional extensibility and durability by virtualizing the camera software and using the performance of smartphones and their display.”

The Pixii isn’t entirely screen-free — an OLED control screen at the top of the camera displays essential shooting stats. The Pixii will also use both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and have either 8 GB or 32 GB of internal storage.

The Pixii uses M-mount lenses, a mount created by Leica but also produced by Zeiss and Voigtlander. The camera also shoots RAW images and includes manual exposure and aperture priority modes.

While the camera was teased earlier at Photokina and is already in testing, the startup hasn’t yet shared full specifications. There’s no word yet on the sensor size, but the company says the sensor is a CMOS design with no low pass filter and a 100-6400 ISO range.  The camera also includes a global electronic shutter.

The Pixii is one of the more unusual cameras teased this year, alongside other oddballs like the Zeiss ZX1 with Lightroom built-in. While some may cringe at the manual focusing and lack of a screen, others may argue that the rangefinder design and absent screen will feel more like using film despite the digital sensor inside.

Pixii says the price and availability date will be announced in the next few weeks.

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