Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica M-D: New firmware solves battery drain problem

Leica M-D: New firmware solves battery drain problem

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 Leica M-D, the street photographer
Leica M-D, the street photographer’s dream camera. Now it should also have a dreamlike battery life. 

Leica has released updated firmware for the screenless M-D to address owners’ concerns about battery drainage. The camera was introduced with the auto-power-off function deliberately disabled in the interests of every-ready action. However, the resulting rapid drainage of the battery soon became a problem.

This unusual step was taken initially because there is no way to set power-off parameters in the absence of menus. The technical staff at the factory assumed owners would prefer power to stay on permanently, in the interests of rapid startup, and that they would get used to physically switching off when the camera was not being used. 

Clearly that led to many problems. I was probably the first in the UK to get my hands on the new camera and I identified the battery drain problem almost immediately. I have a habit of forgetting to switch off a camera and was astonished to find the battery flat after a few hours. I highlighted the issue in my quick first-weekend review of the camera and explained the factory’s well-intentioned decision in a later article.

 No screen, no menus: This caused some practical difficulties such as how to set the parameters for automatic power-off. Leica
No screen, no menus: This caused some practical difficulties such as how to set the parameters for automatic power-off. Leica’s original solution, to disable power-off, turns out to have been a mistake. Now the camera shuts down after ten minutes. Just what owners needed. 

Following pressure from some owners, including me, Leica has now issued firmware version 1.0.0.4 which re-enables power-off after a period of ten minutes’ inactivity.

I have downloaded and installed the software this morning (the instructions are clear and the operation is straightforward) and my first impression is that the problem is now solved.

The framelines and exposure meter continue to switch off after 12 seconds (which, subjectively, is slightly earlier than on the M240 although I don’t have a camera here to measure accurately). But, surprisingly, there is no real power-up delay even after the ten-minute switch off. The delay is marginally longer than before power-off, but certainly not the sort of delay you experience with many digital cameras. The M-D remains ready for very quick action and, in most respects, is just as quick to use as a film camera. So far, to me, this looks like a win-win situation.

You can download the new firmware here.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Mike,

    from your description it would now seem to operate in the same way as the M60. I find the wake-up time plenty quick enough and the battery usage to be light. Have fun.

    John

    • John, you are absolutely right and I cannot fathom out why someone thought it necessary to fiddle with the existing formula. The whole thing has been something of a self-inflicted injury and the auto power off should never have been disabled. I am not sure if the M60 Edition is set to ten minutes or something shorter. It will be interesting to find out if the new firmware is also applicable to the M60. If you find out, let me know.

    • As I thought. I suppose the shorter time on the M-D will further increase battery life. I am looking forward to seeing how many shots I can get from one charge. The M and M-P is good in his respect, so he M-D should be better.

  2. Too bad there is no way to confirm firmware version number after an installation…. Because there is no screen display, there is no way to tell version number before and after a load. Such a case, I assumed the installation went OK based on the following observation. However, not quite 100% matched the description per the instruction.
    1. When started the installation, UP was displayed on the viewfielder; back LED also lighted up — This part matched the instruction.
    2. After the installation (only lasted for a few minutes), the back LED went out. The UP display also went out (forgot when…). Per the instruction, UP "permanently lit up". Is this real or my own misinterpretation?

    The framelines and exposure meter switched off almost 35 seconds after a shot? Is this an improvement?
    I do not get the 12 seconds as claimed in this article.
    So, again without a screen, I’m not sure whether I got the firmware updated correctly or not though power-up delay after the ten-minute switch off indeed is not significant.

    Is there a way to verify the exact auto shut down and power up difference after this firmware installation?

    I don’t think the raw DNG contains firmware version number neither ….

    • See my other reply. The only thing I am not 100% sure about is the delay between last use and the extinguishing of the framelines. I need to measure it to be sure. On the standard M the framelines go out after about 30s and on the M-D is was 12s. It is conceivable that the M-D now has the same behaviour as the M, although I assumed otherwise. I agree it is confusing not to be able to verify the currently installed firmware so try my test by leaving the camera switched on for as long as it takes to run the battery down.

    • Yesterday afternoon I took my M-D to Leica and we checked the operation against a standard M240. After power down (which on the M-A we assumed 15 minutes to be on the same side) and power down on the M (which we set to 5 minutes) the delay is imperceptibly longer than before power down (which is almost instantaneous). In fact, the power-up cycle on both cameras is so quick as to be no problem. I am or ring what all the fuss was about in the first place, why did they need to cause all this hassle by disabling power shutdown?

  3. I tried reinstalling the same firmware from the same SD card again, the installation (e.g. UP display via viewfinder and the back LED display) passed by quickly. I had to assume the camera recognized there was no change to the "already" installed version 1.0.0.4. Hence, no re-installation happened.

    • The installation process in my case was quicker than the instructions estimated (I think about four minutes in all). Since there is no way of checking the currently installed version I wondered whether it had worked. So I tried again. This time the UP and red light didn’t come on so I could assume the latest firmware was already installed. To make absolutely sure I left the camera switched on overnight and the battery has NOT drained as before. It is down to about 95% which I would regard as normal behaviour for any camera since a battery charge gradually depletes even when not used. So give it a chance. I am leaving the camera switched on, with occasional wakes, to see how many days it lasts.

      • Mike, I did the same thing last night because of the uncertainty. I left my M-D switched on overnight and the battery is now 80% down from about 85%. So, no battery drain.

        • That’s also my experience, Michael, let’s see how it goes over the next day or two. I am satisfied that the battery drain problem has been cured and, from now on, the M-D should behave very much like the M or M-P with power off set to ten minutes. It will also be an opportunity for us to see how much better the battery life turns out to be. The M is no slouch in this regard (after all, that enormous battery was designed to cope with movies) and the M-D, with no live view and screen, should improve considerably on battery life.

  4. Mike, for the M-D, how can I tell the difference between auto turn off after 10 minutes and display off after 30 seconds?
    I know in both cases, you re-enable the camera by tapping the shutter release …

  5. After research, I recognized that LR.6.6 does show Firmware/Software # under Metadata section when EXIF is selected.
    My M-D is confirmed with 1.0.0.4 installed.

  6. I have one question about the camera’s behavior after you’ve updated the firmware. With the firmware update installed, if the camera auto-powers off after ten min, does the power-up cycle happen just by touching the shutter release button or you do need to turn the power switch off and then back to on to use the camera again after it has auto-powered off?

    • Francisco, you are right. Just half press the shutter button and it wakes. The fact is, though, the delay is very slight and almost unnoticeable.

      • Thanks very much for that info. I was on the fence about updating and if you had to turn the switch on and off that would have ruled it out entirely for me. Truthfully, I’m surprised so many people have trouble remembering to just turn the power switch off and a firmware update ended up being needed at all. After all, Leica disabled auto-power-off based on feedback from M60 users in the first place. That user sample is clearly smaller than the M-D users who forget to switch off the camera I guess, hence the update. I think I’ll opt not to update even if the power-up after ten minutes is still very short since I have no problem turning the camera off when I’m done shooting. I absolutely love the instantaneous performance of the camera as is and I would hate to see that affected at all, even after ten minutes of non use. Realistically, I wish I knew someone else with the camera with updated firmware so that I could see the difference firsthand. I tend to be very picky so my fear is that ‘imperceptible’ to one might be painfully noticeable to me. Thanks for providing your experience with this.

        • Well, I have to admit that I was one of those people who forgot to switch off. That’s how I discovered the problem in the first place. But I don’t think you need worry. I checked the M-D against an M with the power off set to 10 minutes and it behaves exactly the same. Even after sleep, the wake up time is almost instantaneous.

          The problem of slipping a firmware update, for whatever reason, it that you might miss out on other changes. In any case, subsequent fire are updates would incorporate the earlier changes so it doesn’t make sense.

          I hope you are equally happy after the update.

          Mike

          • Yea, I held onto a copy of this firmware update just in case and future updates require it (which is unlikely anyway). If there are future updates that incorporate other changes that matter more to me, then I’ll likely suck it up and accept the reintegration of the auto-power off. Until then though, I’m completely happy with the camera out of the box. Thanks again for your thoughts on all of this. Take care.

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