Leica M-D Typ 262
First, a bit of background on the MD's older brother - the M60.
I must admit that I was very excited when I first learned of the Leica M60. I've always had mixed feelings towards the necessity of an LCD screen at the back of the camera. On one hand, I got used to CHIMPING, but on the other hand, I was disappointed at myself for CHIMPING - since it really wasn't necessary. The minute you hit the play button to see if you got the shot, the next elusive shot is lost, since your attention is obviously on the screen and not the viewfinder. In that way, shooting film was better, in that it forces the photographer to be more disciplined - especially in trusting one's own ability.
Mind you, I have no illusions about film being better. It isn't - as I have already written in a previous article, A Eulogy for Film. For one thing with film, the photographer is stuck with one film speed for an entire roll of film. In our digital age, we can change film speed, or rather the ISO whenever we want. The only problem is the user interface in changing ISO. Except for the Nikon Df, the Fujifilm XPro 2 and the Fujifilm XT-1, all other digital cameras rely on the LCD interface to change the ISO setting.
So when I found out that the M60 was going to replace the LCD screen with their film body ISO dial, I was very excited. I knew that this was the camera for me, until I realized how much Leica was going to charge for it, with two lens in tow - no less - which I didn't need or want. For a split second I had considered getting it. But then I noticed that the M60 came without strap lugs - so obviously, that was a deal breaker. I just had to wait a little longer. Then came the M-D typ 262.
I've had the camera for a week now. There really isn't much to review, since it is pretty much the same as the M240 I have. And from what I have been told, it appears that the MD 262 is exactly the same as the M262 - except that the MD 262 doesn't have an LCD monitor. And since it doesn't have an LCD monitor, it has no need for an on board computer for all the settings. So without the LCD, there's no computer menus to set up. The only thing you can set up is the time and date, which is done through the viewfinder, function button, and the scroll dial. All images are shot in RAW. There's no video, no live view, and no way to play and delete image files. And the only other thing that you can do with the function button, through the viewfinder and the scroll dial is check the battery level and set exposure compensation when in Auto mode.
As for finally using the MD 262 - well, it was a little unnerving at first. You had to trust your own photographic ability. But after a couple of shots, it started to be fun. Mind you, you're curious for the whole day, but when you finally upload the images onto your computer, you're strangely surprised that your images were mostly okay, factoring in framing discrepancies inherent to rangefinder photography. But after that first day without CHIMPING, it's not so much a big deal anymore. I mean the curiosity is still there, and so is that feeling of finally seeing the images on the computer, but the fear of uncertainty is gone.
Long story short - it just feels a lot like shooting film - only better - in that after a long day of shooting, you don't need to finish the roll, you don't need to develop the film, and you don't need to print the images. You can just upload all the image files from the memory card onto the computer, and fix them in post.
There will be haters out there arguing that you don't need to spend so much money, just to not CHIMP. You know, I have to agree. You don't need to spend this absurd amount for another digital M body, just so you cannot CHIMP. I hear duct tape is very effective in covering the LCD screen. But CHIMPING, or rather reviewing is only one function of the LCD screen. Much of the camera relies on the menu settings viewed on the LCD. So covering it up can become a nuisance - especially if you need to change the settings.
Still, that's a lot to pay for avoiding the inconvenience of duct tape, or even a simpler inelegant solution of a cardboard cutout and some removable adhesive. However, what a lot of haters fail to understand is that the LCD is only one thing that Leica removed from the MD 262. Without the LCD, there is no way to include a user interface for setup options. But that is part of the beauty of the MD 262. You really don't need all those options. You just need to shoot raw, and fix in post. You don't need geotagging, you don't need different JPG settings, nor do you need to see the histogram. All those other things you can see once you upload the image files onto the computer.
One thing I did notice about the MD 262 was that the battery drains deceptively fast. Like the Leica M262, the MD 262 is always on, and therefore always on standby and doesn't need to be awaken after being idle for a long time. As such, battery life isn't as long as you'd think from a camera that doesn't have a computer to power. You just need to remember to check the battery level and carry a spare battery - which I already do.
As for the ISO dial - that was a bit of a disappointment. It's pretty tight, so you can't change ISO with only your shutter hand. You need help from your focus hand. With that said, having a manual ISO dial is still better than going through a digital setup through the LCD screen or even through a button and scroll wheel interface. And to be fair to the MD 262, I do find the ISO dial better than the ISO dial on the Nikon Df. I cannot comment on the Fuji's, but from what I've heard, they shouldn't be better than the MD 262.
Yes, the MD 262 is very expensive - just for the sake of not CHIMPING - or rather - for the sake of optimizing the certainty of the decisive moment. But I remember the same haters saying the same about the Leica M Monochrome - that it was ridiculous to have a camera that only shot black and white, when one could just as easily desaturate color images to black and white - at no further cost - let alone the cost of an additional inflated M9 body. However, Leica has proven those haters wrong - which I will also detail in a later post.
Bottom line: the MD 262 is a joy to use.
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