Simplicity is the word Leica Camera AG uses to describe their bold move in the Leica M market.  The Leica MD Type 262 has no LCD screen providing feedback immediately after a photograph is taken.  This lack of an LCD has provided much controversy about whether a professional could use the camera and whether using black tape to cover an LCD on an existing camera is the same thing!  Simplicity.

Settings on the Leica MD 262 are not really different than using a Leica M Type 240 or Leica M-P.  The difference is you must look through the viewfinder rather than look at an LCD on the back of the camera.  The Simplicity of the settings is that you only have the option of setting the date and time, which is stored with the image.  There is no JPEG option, so contrast, white balance, black and white versus color do not matter and hence, there is no setting.  Once the date and time is set, you really never have to go back.  Simplicity.

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Shadows and Light

Taking photographs with the Leica MD 262 involves the same thought process as using any other digital Leica M.  The standard exposure triangle is used – f/stop, shutter speed and ISO.  With the Leica MD 262 this means rotating the f/stop ring, rotating the shutter speed dial and rotating the ISO dial on the back.  If the process of shooting an image were on a recipe card, those would be the instructions and the final line would say ‘Press shutter when ready’.  Simplicity.

There has been much discussion among users of the Leica MD 262 about battery life. In fact, one commenter on this blog even indicated they returned this model to their Leica store because the battery drained too quickly.  Leica was responsive to this concern and on June 13, 2016 released the Leica MD 262 firmware update 1.0.0.4 which puts the Leica MD 262 into power save mode if not used for 10 minutes.  This should drastically improve the battery life.  Use the link above to get this firmware update and find instructions.  In order to see the battery life remaining or the number of images that should still fit on your SD card, press the function button.  Located beside the power switch, this button cycles between battery life and free space on your SD card showing the results in viewfinder.  Simplicity.

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Presentation of the Colors

Robust is the word I use when describing the build of the Leica MD 262.  The same brass top and bottom as well as the magnesium / aluminum body used in the Leica M 240 or M-P provides solid construction.  More importantly, less places for dust, dirt and water intrusion exist in the Leica MD 262 because no LCD is present.  Less electronics are used and less items to fail exist on the Leica MD 262.  If you review the first Leica digital M, the Leica M8 (and M8.2), you will see that the LCD is one area that fails on these now vintage bodies.  One thing is for certain – the Leica MD 262 will never have a failed LCD!  Simplicity.

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Shadowed Wall

Some circles believe a professional photographer that needed to be certain images came out would never use the Leica MD 262.  I disagree with those circles.  Long before digital photography, professionals used film to capture those same important images.  Life Magazine, Time Magazine, National Geographic – all those professional photographers had to wait until after development to see if their images came out.  This discipline required them to understand the exposure triangle.  This discipline required professional photographers to understand setting exposure for their film.  Professionals had to be able to quickly focus a manual focus lens. The only addition to a very manual process was an electronic winder allowing fast succession of shutter pushes.  Photographing with the Leica MD 262 is no different from the film cameras professionals used Pre-digital.  If a professional will not use a camera like the Leica MD 262, they either do not understand exposure and focusing, or they need something the Leica MD 262 does not offer.  Long lenses are difficult to focus properly on a rangefinder.  This has always been a limitation of the physical makeup of a rangefinder.  (Note that I use the Leica VF 1.25x and 1.40x when using long lenses, see the article on Using Long Lenses with the Leica MD 262)  Simplicity.

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Outside Dining

The CMOS sensor in the Leica MD 262 is the same quality and image output of the Leica M 240 and M-P.  I used very high contrast lighting for the images here to really test the ability of the sensor in street photography or documentary photographer.  Using any digital sensor in diffuse lighting is easy because the contrast range is so little.  Here, the contrast was severe and I wanted to test my exposure ability to keep the highlights and not lose the shadows.  The built-in light meter and common photography sense allowed me to get exposures that work.  This is another testament for me that the Leica MD 262 provides a film-like experience.

I cannot help but think that Leica picked the right word to describe the digital M with such few choices available.  Simplicity describes the essence of this design that other manufacturers would not dream of presenting to the public.  This is my new favorite Leica M digital body – because it is simple.

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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