Thursday, April 27, 2017


It is not unusual that the introduction of a new Leica camera is met with immediate discussions of its merits.  This was especially the case with the  Leica M-D.  A digital camera without the customary viewing screen in the back seemed almost sacrilegious to many.  Yet there was a good reason to market the camera.  Especially among Leica users there is a large group that is holding on to film cameras for various reasons, a major one being that these cameras force the user to think, simply because there isn’t the instant feedback of the viewing screen.  This is the point of the following article…

By Marc Menningmann

How to test something that cannot be tested


“My not-testing of the Leica M-D”

How to test something that can not be tested

Thanks to the Leica shop in Berlin I had some days with the newly released Leica M-D. If you have not heard about the rumors before release, this camera is a digital Leica rangefinder M-type camera, but without a display on the back. The lack of a display of course is the reason, why this camera comes with no menu for selecting from a set of options, with no review option after releasing the shutter, and with no film or live view capabilities. Instead of the display as it can be found on all other M cameras like the 240 or the Monochrom, the Leica M-D has a large ISO-dial similar to what can be found on analog Leica film cameras.

Leica M6 and Leica M-D front

As the sensor of the M-D is the same as you find in the Leica M 240 there is nothing to test here. As there are no menus, because there is no display, there is no software that can be tested. As this camera basically lets you only set ISO and exposure time, the only thing to tell is that the dials are working great. But well, do you really need to test this on a Leica? As all M cameras, this Leica M-D is with the same overall quality as any other “Made In Germany” M Leica. It is perfect. Period.

Leica M6 and Leica M-D top rear

So what do I do with this camera? Well…
How about taking it with me and take some photographs? You may have forgotten, but this is what cameras are usually made for. Go out and shoot. There is no Bible-thick manual to read through before being able to switch this thing on. If you know the basics of photography (exposure, aperture, ISO) this camera is a no brainer.

Leica M6 Leica M-D back

Although I am not chimping a lot (or better: I thought I don’t do it a lot) it was a little strange at the beginning. I know the feeling to not be able to see the picture you just took immediately from my analog M6, but when you take out a digital camera it seems like every photographer demands instant results. It takes a while. A few hours for me, but after that I completely forgot being out with a digital camera. I started to see the photo I want to take BEFORE pressing the shutter button and reviewing the result. I painted the pictures I want to take, before even having the camera in front of my eye. 

You invert the process of the work with a digital camera. You skip the trial and error part and go creative immediately. This camera is not a gimmick. It is a real tool that forces you to take pictures again. Not to “try to take a picture and try again if the first one was not so good”. You can not review. So you can not see if the picture you just took was good. You have to imagine the picture first, then take it, and after that hope that you got the three parameters to meet your basic idea of the picture.

Leica M6 and Leica  M-D - top

I took less pictures. When I tried to find the best composition with a series of several photos when I using other digital cameras, I now went through the options before even touching the M-D. And then I took one picture. To take more than one simply does not make sense. I would love to use this camera for my HANDS project, too, by the way.

And then you go home, load the files into your computer and find much more “keepers” than ever before. And that you didn’t test a camera, but only tested yourself. I found out that I do not think enough about the result before pressing the button, although I thought I do. I love this camera, and If I would be in need of a camera that takes color pictures, this would be my choice. But I had to learn that I only want to do black & white photos. So Leica, if you do a Leica Monochrom M-D please be sure to send one my way. Until then I try to avoid using the display too much…

And as I said above, the image quality – when pairing the Leica M-D with a decent Leica glass – is without any question. Here are some examples.

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  1. Excellent review, you understand the essence of the MD.

    1. Thank you for your expression of "the essence of the M-D." It is exactly that what escapes many of the nay sayers, totally ignoring the fact that Leica is the ONLY company that caters to that segment of digital photograpers.

  2. Excellent non-review review. I agree with you 110%.

    I use the original M Monochrom as ,y primary camera, and am fortunate to have this new M-D for color work.