This is crazy, right? A digital camera that deliberately dispenses with the one thing that makes digital cameras so effective. The Leica M-D has no screen, so you can’t use it to check images you’ve just taken or even navigate camera menus. The only way you can check your photos is to copy them across from the memory card to your computer.
Now it’s very easy to dismiss this camera as a faddish exercise in marketing, especially given Leica’s heritage as a money-no-object camera maker rooted in tradition. But actually, I think Leica’s got something here.
Leica’s assembled a bunch of rather telling phrases: “A step back to the future”, “The joy of anticipation”, “Complete concentration, maximum clarity”.These do actually have some resonance.
The thing that most struck me about using this camera was that I didn’t particularly mind not being able to check my pictures as I took them. I paid more attention to the settings before I pressed the shutter release, but otherwise I found I was actually paying full attention to the photography and not swapping constantly between creator and editor modes.
There are no distracting options and settings, either. You can shoot in manual or aperture-priority mode, that’s it. There’s no autofocus, so you have to relearn the focus-shoot reflex from pre-autofocus days. That might take a while, admittedly. You don’t mess with white balance, picture styles or a whole host of other image settings because the M-D only shoots raw DNG files, not JPEGs. Even the image processing is down to you.
It was like shooting with an analog film camera again.
It turns out, though, that I’m not best suited to rangefinder photography. After decades of through-the-lens viewing it’ll take me a long time to get used to the imprecision of a direct vision viewfinder, and while I know some of the world’s greatest photographers adore rangefinder focusing, I think it’s a skill and a craft that takes more than a few days to develop. You need a feel for the camera and its lenses that doesn’t develop overnight.