Home Features Leica M-D and M-A go out in the noonday sun

Leica M-D and M-A go out in the noonday sun

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Excitement this Saturday morning in London. It’s the first outing for the new Leica M-D and Adam Lee has come along as well to give us some film I input. We are here at Leica Store Mayfair borrowing an M-A to take out for the day. Comparisons later.

Almost all (mostly ill-informed) comment on the new M-D concentrates on the lack of a screen. But this is just a byproduct of simplification, not an objective in itself. No, the real story is in the simplicity, the sheer single-mindedness of the camera.

Let’s face it, 90 percent of the bloat on a normal digital camera, both in terms of menus and buttons, is entirely down to in-camera processing. Strip down to RAW and there is in fact little tweaking you need to do before taking a picture. 

This is the way I use all my digital cameras. I disable as many buttons and dials as possible and concentrate on RAW shooting, usually in aperture priority mode. So what need do I have for all these features? Despite this, I am always pressing those buttons my mistake. 

I am not alone. Most of my friends operate in the same way. We don’t need in-camera processing.

So the M-D offers us everything we need in a rangefinder camera. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy using the SL, Fuji X and other digital cameras. I do. But for the pure experience, especially for street work, give me the new M-D any day.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Mike

    The deed is done. I left RDC today with my M-D. It now sits on my desk, battery on charge.
    We had quite a few people visiting RDC and calling today, interested, and some orders too. It’s also good to see Leica getting new products on the shelves so quickly. Of course, new products always create a frisson of excitement but the M-D is, I believe, something special.
    I spent most of today in the shop thinking about my own use of the screen and had a session philosophising about this with Frank Dabba Smith who popped in for a natter.
    As far as the naysayers go, I couldn’t care less; I’m going to enjoy this camera. It is a thing of real purity.
    Regards

    • Congratulations. A good decision. I’m sure Frank will get one also! I had a message from Kai Elmer Sotto in Singapore: He was up at the crack of dawn and had one in his hands by lunchtime. He has sold that brassed M-P that we featured in an article a few weeks ago.

  2. Hi Mike,

    I enjoyed vicariously John’s decision to purchase the M-D yesterday. I hope that John really enjoys using it and that it will add something different to his photography. (Potential creative inspiration/renewal is what it’s about, I think.)

    The M-D is an astute and courageous offering by Leica. The camera itself feels just right in my hands and is more ‘grippable’ without the screens and associated buttons. I do, however, find the screens on my M-P and 246 very useful as I am, perhaps, a fairly ‘deliberate’ operator. They are very useful in helping me to determine whether to keep working/struggling at something or to move on having a bit of confidence that I’ve probably done the best I can at that point.

    I’m wondering if the M-D 240 succeeds in sales if Leica will introduce an M-D 246, also.

    Very best,

    Frank

    • This is a very fair point, Frank, and it is possibly my only reservation in relation to the M-D. While I seldom resort to the screen and am delighted to be free of all those buttons, there are occasions when a quick glance could offer confirmation. For instance, when out with Adam Lee yesterday I suddenly got cold feet. What is nothing is being written to the card? Have I wasted the day? In reality, however, this can happen to a film shooter as well. We just have to rely on the electronics to do their job (as they have always done on the M, so I see no real cause to worry). There is a write confirmation LED hidden in the bottom right-hand corner of the camera back, just so you can be sure something is happening.

      My attitude to the M-D is that it is a specialist tool but one that is capable of being used every day. It feels and acts like a film camera. The SL, on the other hand, offers a full digital experience and works so well with M lenses that it is an ideal second body (or first body, whichever way you look at it). As long as I have the SL I do not need an M240 or M-P. On the other hand, if I didn’t have access to the SL I would probably wish to keep an M-P as well. I know you like to carry two bodies of everything, so an M-D and M-P would make ideal bag mates. Nicht wahr?

      You, I, John Cartwright and dozens more we know are a different breed. The camera reviewer for Mashable.com will never understand what makes us tick.

  3. Hi, again, Mike,

    You’ve got me thinking: is there such a thing as a pocket-sized and decent image viewer than one can stick an SD- card into and then view images? I could easily imagine using the M-D (for its superb handling) and then keeping a small flat viewer in my trousers or shirt pocket for the times when I want to check that my efforts aren’t faulty (or deluded) before getting back to base and loading images onto my MacBook Pro. For me, the ability to review the image on the spot is a huge advantage of using digital rather than film. It’s instantaneous and there are no added costs.

    Speaking of reviewers, my favourite person of all time was BJP’s Geoffrey Crawley. Not only was his approach sensitive and fully informed but he wrote beautifully. I recall that he urged owning/using two of the exact same cameras as this would enable a photographer to keep working as intuitively/seamlessly as possible if one camera failed.

    All the best,
    Frank

    • Frank, that’s a good question. Funnily enough I was thinking the same thing. I suppose an iPad could do the job. I have made a note to investigate, although RAW could be an issue.

      My old friend Don Morley always had two identical bodies when he worked as a photo journalist, right from two IIIfs up to the latest. Even now, in retirement, he will buy two M bodies because he feels more comfortable that way. Makes sense, especially if your job depends on getting the shots.

  4. Thanks for the early information. I have/had resolved, the M-D was going to be the first new Leica camera I would purchase. But, about two days ago, I received one of Luigi’s Leicatime cases for my X1- the first such case I have used on any camera. It took about an hour to dawn on me, this X1 with the Luigi case (depriving me of easy access to the LCD and buttons) seems a whole lot more like basic photography, i.e. use of IA or standard, than it did before. Which got me wondering: will the M-D be a whole lot like using an M9 with a Luigi case covering up the controls and LCD? I mean, even in all of its spartan glory, the M-D will still offer aperture priority AE. I would be interested in knowing whether such idle musing could have any basis in fact.

  5. In reply to Wayne, I went out this afternoon with a yellow ‘post-it’ sheet stuck on the rear screen of my M240. This was more as an ‘aide-memoire’ than an actual barrier. I do a bit of film photography but, as I said previously, I mentally regard digital photography as a different process to film photography. I know that they are, essentially, the same thing but my approach to the actual taking process is different. Anyway the photos were, generally, fine when I looked at them and seemed to have improved as the afternoon wore on.

    This was not a cheap-skate approach; I was just trying to see what it would be like not to look at the back screen

    William

    • I do not know why, but when it comes to some things, e.g. accessories, I can be a bit of a cheap-skate. I was able to convince myself to go for the Luigi case because it was about half price. Now that I have used it, I am going to spring for a new one for my M8. Aside from the fact that it is a nice case, it changed the whole shooting experience.

      Oh yeah, the leather smells nice, too. Every time I bring the OVF to my eye, I inhale that smell, and it takes me back to when I was a youngster playing baseball: it smells just like my old catchers mitt.

      • Hi Wayne, for real intoxication I can recommend the hand-made Arte di Mano cases from Korea. Superb and a good smell too.

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