The Leica MD Type 262 was a bold move by Leica Camera AG to remove the LCD when adding it to the current lineup.  This came after the release of the Leica 60 special edition tested the waters.  One of the additional changes with the Leica MD was the removal of the electronic port underneath the hotshoe.  This meant the Electronic View Finder, or EVF, was not available to aid in focusing with the Leica MD.

Using the APO Telyt 135 with the Leica MD

So, today, I wanted to explore how I would overcome the lack of an EVF when using long focal length lenses.  I decided to use the longest focal length in the current Leica M lens catalog – the APO Telyt 135.  While it may not seem like a 135mm focal length with a starting aperture of f/3.4 would have a narrow depth of field, in fact it does.  Using the APO Telyt at full aperture provides results much like the Summilux 75 at f/1.4 with the field sharpness of the Leica APO lenses.

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Fresh Graffiti on Inner Building Foundations

EVF or No EVF?

Before going further, some background will help set the stage for my analysis.  The initial purchase of a Leica M Type 240 was so that I could use the EVF to assist me in focusing the Noctilux and Summilux lenses, or the longer lenses like the APO Summicron 90 and the APO Telyt 135.  Not only is the EVF helpful for aging eyesight, but also because of the limitations with physical rangefinder properties and very, very narrow depths of field.  This makes the desire for the LCD-less Leica MD a strange occurrence for me.

Nonetheless, I made the plunge.  So far, I have not been disappointed in any facet.  I have continued to compare the use of the Leica MD to film bodies like the Leica M3 or Leica MA.  When using long lenses with the Leica MD, the film experience is equally important.

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Preservation Sign with Morris Head Light

The Importance of Magnification

Not until I had over a decade of experience with Leica film bodies did I understand the draw to the Leica M3.  In addition to the heightened craftsmanship, the viewfinder is equivalent to a 0.92 magnification, whereas the standard Leica film viewfinders today are 0.72 and Leica digital viewfinders are 0.68. This may not seem like a big difference, but I can assure you that using lenses of 50mm or longer focal length, the ability to focus properly is greatly enhanced by magnified viewfinders.

By applying the same principle of the Leica M3 to the Leica MD, obtaining better focus will require the use of a viewfinder magnification greater than 0.68.  Fortunately, Leica created to viewfinder magnifiers that work with all Leica M bodies since the Leica M3 (which was made prior to the Leica M2).

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Railroad Vines at Old Coast Guard Station

Non-Electronic Viewfinder Attachments

Leica offers a VF Magnifier 1.25x and a VF Magnifier 1.40x magnifier.  They are made well with metal barrels and screw into the viewfinder on the camera body.  Additionally, the viewfinders have threads on the front to accept  diopter adjustment lenses the same as the camera body.  For added protection, each viewfinder has a small chain with a clip that can be attached to the strap lugs on the side of the camera body, or a ring from a camera strap.  Storage in a small leather case makes everything easy to store in a camera bag and accessible when needed.

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Stickers at the Edge of the Trees

The Leica VF 1.25x takes a 0.68 digital finder to 0.85 and the Leica VF 1.40x takes the 0.68 digital finder to 0.95, which is almost 1:1.  Note that the viewfinders cannot be stacked.  Only one can be attached to the camera at a time.

Both of the viewfinders have different applications.  The VF 1.25x is great for using the 50mm focal length and is very close to the M3 magnification of 0.92.  Using this VF magnifier with the Summilux or APO Summicron 75mm lenses also works well.  I have had success using the VF 1.25x with the APO Summicron 90 lens as well, although it is tough to focus every shot well.

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Stickers Bathing in the Sunlight

Conclusion

When using the APO Telyt 135mm I used the Leica VF 1.40x.  The only frame line I could see was the 135mm (and the 90mm if it were selected).  The viewfinder was clear of other clutter.  Truthfully, I also added my -2.0 diopter on top of the VF so that I could focus without my glasses on.  The lesson here, though, is that using Leica’s two longest focal lengths of today’s M series without an EVF is not only possible, it is not difficult.  The number of images with perfect focus will depend first on the calibration of the rangefinder, but second on the magnification used.  Using the VF 1.40x is highly recommended for the 90mm and 135mm lens lineup.  The VF 1.25x works great with the 50mm and 75mm lineup.

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Morris Head Light with Reflection on the Beach

All of the images here were taken with the Leica MD Type 262 focusing through the VF 1.40x.  I didn’t nail the focus on every image with fast moving subjects.  But slow or stopped subjects showed crisp focus.  I used f/stops ranging from wide open f/3.4 to f/5.6, keeping the depth of field very narrow.

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Fresh Graffiti on the Old Beach Foundation

About The Author

David taught film photography and development for 3 years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1989-1991). He began using Leica cameras in 2000 and still shoots 70-100 rolls of film through a Leica M3 and Leica MA while enjoying the challenges of the Leica Monochrom and the new Leica MD 262. David has written about photography and is working on several volumes documenting changes and artistic merit throughout Old Town in Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA. His full-time job is as a CPA, but spends free time with a camera at the ready.

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