A new Leica rangefinder, eh? I bet those zany German lens-meisters have pulled out all the stops with this one!
Well, that depends on your way of looking at things, because the Leica M-D (Typ 262) does not have an LCD screen. We'll say that again. IT DOESN'T HAVE A SCREEN. It’s the first full production digital camera in the M series not to slap a big ol’ display on its backside, so that means...
...no menu screens, no live view, and no looking at the photos you’ve taken until you get home and whack the SD card in your PC?
Precisely. All the settings are handled by physical controls – there’s an ISO adjustment dial on the back of the camera and a shutter speed dial on the top, while aperture is set on the lens. You compose your shots using the viewfinder (it’s a rangefinder camera, so it’d be sacrilege not to anyway). And yes, you can’t look at any of those shots on the camera itself. Oh, and there’s no video recording either.
Has Leica gone Luddite?
In Leica’s words, these design decisions have been taken so that the M-D “focuses on the absolute essentials of photography”, and that its lack of a screen “brings back the anticipation of discovering the results later in the process, as when shooting with film”. The idea is to force the user to consider the basic principles of taking a photograph: aperture, distance, sensitivity and shutter speed. And composition, obviously. The rest, as they say, is noise.
I could achieve that by sticking a load of gaffer tape over the screen of my Nikon DSLR, though…
You could, my friend, you could. But it probably wouldn’t look as elegant as the M-D, which comes in always-fashionable black-painted metal with a full-grain leather strap. And it probably wouldn’t perform quite as well either – this thing has a 24MP full-frame sensor, works with Leica’s beloved range of M lenses and shoots exclusively in RAW.
Wait, it won’t turn out JPEGs either? Leica is going out of its way to make this hard to use!
That’s one way of looking at things. The other is to see this whole “adding friction” deal as a way of making the photographer more invested in the process of creating images. If you know you have to process each shot from RAW in Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture or whatever, you’re going to put more thought into taking it, and you’re probably going to be more fussy about which photos you keep and which you toss out. Just as people were in the pre-digital days.
I bet Leica hasn't reduced the price along with the feature list…
Haha, good one! But no, of course it hasn't. The M-D will cost a whopping £4650 (around US$6800) – and that’s without a lens. It’s a camera designed and built to last a lifetime and provide stunning images, of course, but even so it’s aimed at a very specific market: rich people who like to work hard for their photos. We want one nonetheless. Look out for it in shops from May 2016.