The new Leica M-D
Leica M9 shooter and TOP reader Benjamin Marks thinks about the new M-D
The short announcement at Engadget got me thinking. Hmmm. Would have to think hard about this. I see the logic of keeping it simple. But how do you do firmware updates with no way to interact with the camera? Maybe you have no firmware updates. Or maybe the interface is all on my computer?
I am thinking about how I actually use my M9. For all of its flexibility, I actually keep the thing on a set of settings and do most of my manipulation after the fact. For me:
- RAW only
- ISO 400, unless circumstances dictate otherwise
- Color space set to...I can't even remember. Adobe RGB?
- Image size: Set to max
- Motor drive: 3 fps
So, OK. As far as it goes, Leica has more or less standardized my choices as the only choices on this new machine.
This raises the question: So what do I actually use the screen for? Well, I do have some lenses that back-focus, or for which the DOF changes unevenly as they are stopped down. The 50mm ƒ/1.5 Sonnar comes to mind. Checking focus is easy and has eliminated the little note cards I used to keep with each problematic lens back in my film days.
Also, I use some lenses—like my 15mm and 21mm's without an auxiliary finder, and have been checking what is actually in the frame using the M9's screen. So I'd have to change that part of the workflow.
I also tend to share the best of a series with the subject in real time...sort of like: look how good you (or your child or your pet or whatever) look. Without the screen, the camera is less of a social device. It would be OK for street photography, maybe. Say goodbye to the whole "but you weren't even in the picture..." tension-diffuser with a mad member of the public, or a cop, or whatever. Also, the "is that a digital camera?" question/answer gets a little more nuanced. "Yeah, it is digital, but you'll have to trust me...."
Ironically—and maybe this is why I have devoted any thought to a camera I can't afford and won't consider purchasing until I am looking at a used one in seven years—this camera, in terms of workflow, is more or less what I imagined I would be using back in 2000. I thought—insanely incorrectly, as it turns out—that for our Manual M's we would have a drop in focal-plane sensor with the "cassette" space taken up with a small battery, storage, and associated electronics. Ironically, the battery and storage pieces of my cockamamie future-proof idea are "there" (have you seen the size of the storage chips most phones take? Sixteen MB on a chip the size of my little fingernail...and this is the "old" tech). I just never imagined how quickly film would go poof as the medium of choice. Shows what I know/knew.
I also imagine that by cutting out the screen and its battery requirements, all firmware except one preset set of settings, etc. that Leica may actually have a better profit margin on the M-D as a unit than their current M-of-the-year that has to have a team of engineers thinking about how all those pieces fit together, and how they will be upgraded, and supported etc. I will be listening for sales reports with a bemused sense of detachment.
©2016 by Benjamin Marks, all rights reserved
Originally published at Rangefinder Forum (RFF).
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Featured Comments from:
Mark Roberts: "If you shoot strictly raw you are quite right to have ignored the color space setting: It affects only in-camera JPEG."
Wolfgang Lonien: "Mike, 'Zahnwalt' would come to mind—a made-up word out of 'Zahnarzt' (dentist) and 'Anwalt' (lawyer). That is also the group which is usually getting the biggest and baddest Harleys—they can't really ride them; it's more about the possession (and on Germany's roads at least, a small Ninja-like fighter motorcycle would drive circles around them anyway)...."
Kenneth Tanaka: "No camera company indulges in past-tense pretense more devotedly than Leica. 'Step back to the future.' 'Focusing on the essential.' 'The joy of anticipation.' Who gets up, eats breakfast, and goes to work to write this stuff?!
"Of course the central thesis at the core of this facility deprivation design is that your pictures are lame because you spend too much time fiddling with your camera's nasty digital digital controls and looking at that new-fangled peep show screen on the back of cam as these days.
"Raise your hand (or open your wallet widely) if you really subscribe to this thesis. No, my hand is not up. In fact I'm thrilled that Leica recently converted to those new-fangled CMOS sensors, thus enabling live-view in that peep-show screen on my M-P (240)! It has eliminated the need for old-fangled special viewfinders for wide lenses.
"The Leica M-D was inevitable after the model 262 which kept, but severely censored, the camera's peep-show. It's a digital film camera. It's a camera designed around a strict fundamentalist philosophy of photography. If 'great' photographers of yore didn't need 'it' you shouldn't need 'it,' either.
"Leica is just about the only camera company on Earth that could, and does, indulge such deprivation whiffs*. My initial reaction is that the M-D is the most ridiculous such indulgence yet. But that's badly misguided. Leica has long realized that amateur photography among its clientele is 90% about the experience of photographing. As an admittedly weak analogy someone flying an Airbus A380 all day might feel more 'connected' flying something like an old 1930s Fokker on weekends. So for an earnest price, in this case six thousand dollars, Leica will give you that Fokker experience in the age of the Airbus. There's nothing wrong with that.
"Now if they follow-up with an M-D that limits you to just 36 shots per memory card...."
*[Not quite—Porsche sold a 911 that was lightened by taking lots of non-essential stuff out of it. For instance, removing the door handles and replacing them with leather straps. Of course, the lightened Porsche cost more.
Lightness does have a positive virtue in sports cars, and making one-offs can be more expensive because it departs from the main production run. —Ed.]
Stephen McCullough: "Well I like it. I rarely use the screen on my cameras. This has the controls I need and nothing more. Oh, and one small point: this Leica shoots DNG only. No JPEGs. Nice."
Gordon Cahill (partial comment): "Like the Monochrom, Leica have identified a tiny customer group that no one else caters for and made them a camera. Certainly it's a small group and the cost of entry is high, compared to some others. And a camera like the M-D won't make sense to many. But lots of people said Leica were crazy to make a camera that shoots only in black and white and yet here we are on the second version because the first was so successful. What Leica are becoming, once again (finally) is the camera company not afraid to take a risk."
Gaspar Heurtley: "I'm part of that 'bridge generation' between film and digital as a mainstream (I'm 34), so I've always had a film approach to photography. I shoot with an Olympus E-M5 full of features I couldn't care less about (went through the menu once, set it the way I like and never looked back) but I rarely look at the screen and I use buttons instead of the touchscreen. I always thought that Leicas where made just to show off (you know, 'look at me, I have a Leica'), but this is the first time they have something I really long for: pure simplicity. No other company is ever going to do something like that, unfortunately."
Ed Hawco (partial comment): "We're witnessing extremes. Most digital cameras have mind-boggling sets of options, beyond the point of distraction, but this Leica M-D is too far in the other direction."