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Leica brings back film experience with Leica M-D (Typ 262)

Create: 04/29/2016 - 20:27
Leica M-D (Typ 262)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • M-D (Typ 262) uses 24-MP CMOS sensor
  • No LCD monitor, Live View or video recording
  • No multimode autoexposure modes

Leica has taken minimalism to a new level with the Leica M-D, replicating the film experience by stripping away nearly all commonplace features found in digital cameras, including the LCD monitor.

Leica refers to it as “a step back to the future.”

It’s the first Leica M digital camera to not have an LCD monitor, as well as being the first digital camera since the late 1990s to not have this feature. The display screen is being replaced by an ISO dial, which has appeared on all Leica M film cameras.

Leica says the full-frame M-D (Typ 262) is based on the Leica M (Typ 262). With both models sharing the same “Typ” number – 262, buyers will need to make clear which camera they are purchasing.

Without an LCD screen, photographers won't be wasting time reviewing their photographs. It also means there are no menus for the myriad of settings that are typical of all digital cameras today. That’s just as well, because there are only a handful of settings in this digital camera.

There also appears to be no frame counter, although the viewfinder display will indicate when the memory card is full.

This means that digital photography has been altered so dramatically with the Leica M-D that it is very close to a film experience. The only thing missing is film.

For example, the camera offers just two exposure modes: aperture-priority automatic and manual. Exposure compensation is possible when the camera is set to autoexposure. There is no program, intelligent auto, shutter-priority or "art" modes.

FULL-FRAME SENSOR, LIMITED ISO RANGE

The camera uses a full-frame 24-MP CMOS sensor, which has an ISO range of 200 to 6,400. There is no ability to extend it in either direction, as the ISO is set by a dial and not a menu function.

The M-D has a metal vertically traveling shutter with speeds running from 60 seconds to 1/4,000. The shutter speed dial can be continuously rotated, although it shouldn't be set between the marked speeds.

Leica says the M-D’s shutter-tensioning system is very quiet when the camera is set to “S.” Discrete photography has been one of Leica’s hallmarks, so longtime fans will appreciate this.

The photographer can select either “C”ontinuous or “S”ingle shot mode. When set to “C,” the camera can record three frames per second. Start-up time is about one second.

For focusing, there obviously is no Live View, because there is no LCD monitor. Leica uses its established rangefinder system. The eyepiece does not have built-in diopter adjustment. Accessory eyepiece lenses are available.

Images are recorded in DNG RAW format, according to Leica’s website. Although it should be clear, there is no ability to record movies, which Leica did away with in the M (Typ 262).

There also are no white balance selections. White balance is always set to automatic and can be adjusted later in an image editor.

The owner’s manual says the camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, but only up to 32GB. If true, this would be an surprising limitation when card capacities have reached 128GB as of the date this article was written.

The Leica M (Typ 262) reduced the size of the Leica red dot on the front of the camera, and the M-D does away with it altogether. In its place is a rather unattractive slotted screw head. Hopefully, Leica will come up with something to cover it.

LENS COMPATIBILITY, INCOMPATIBILITY

Nearly all Leica lenses can be used with this camera except:

  • Hologon 1:8/15mm
  • Summicron 1:2/50mm with close-up
  • Elmar 1:4/90mm with retractable tube (manufactured from 1954-1968)
  • Some versions of the Summilux-M 1.4/35mm (not aspherical, manufactured from 1961-1995, Made in Canada) cannot be fitted to the camera or will not focus to infinity.

There are also limits on other lenses, which are detailed in the owner’s manual.

Despite having fewer features and no LCD panel, the M-D still manages to weigh more than its Typ 262 sibling, the M. The M-D weighs 25.4 ounces (720 grams) compared with 21.2 ounces (600 grams) for the M. Both have identical dimensions: 5.5 x 1.7 x 3.1 inches (138.6 x 42.0 x 80.0mm). The difference in weight is likely because the M-D uses a brass top plate compared with the use of aluminum for the M.

Leica hasn't yet set a price for the M-D (Typ 262).

Watch Leica's promotional video for the Leica M-D (Typ 262):

About the Author

Mike Elek is a longtime journalist and was one of the original editors for The Wall Street Journal Online. He also has worked as a reporter and editor in Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Vineland, N.J.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; New York City; and Hong Kong. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He shoots with film and digital cameras.