Leica M-D: Spartan warrior unboxed, first camera in Britain
The first M-D to arrive in Britain came my way this afternoon, several days earlier than expected. It is one of only two received by Leica's Mayfair store, the other has gone on display. While I don't normally go for unboxing features, I'm making an exception for this unusual and rather divisive camera. Judging by some of the comments to yesterday's announcement, the M-P is going to polarise opinion and will be the butt of Leica haters' jibes for quite some time. Whatever your views, I already love this camera. So there.
Let's get the unboxing bit out of the way first. The packaging is bog-standard M, with the camera box on the top shelf of the little cabinet and the two usual drawers below—one for the literature and another for the accessories which include the charger, leather strap (a bonus compared with the M and M-P) and cables.
Now to set up the camera. First, set the date. A quick check of the manual and I discover that a long press of the chrome function button (the video button on the M and M-) brings up a series of digits in the viewfinder. The sequence is year, month, day, hour and minutes. The values are adjusted by means of the rear dial and the move to the next value is made by a short press off the function button. I found the camera already set up on Wetzlar time, so all I needed to do was twiddle the hour backwards. This is simplicity itself.
There are no other settings as far as I can see (other than a similar procedure for firmware updates) and if it is possible, I have yet to find out how to format an SD card. There is no white balance to set, no user profiles, no copyright information. Nix.
I slipped in a spare battery and attached a lens before trying the advertised "quiet" shutter. So far I can detect no difference in volume between the M-D and M-P but then neither is what I would call loud. I also couldn't really hear much difference when I tried the M262 in February. Time will tell on this.
A Gordy wrist strap completes the ensemble and the MP is ready to rock. Tomorrow will be its first outing when Adam Lee and I go for some more film street shots. I plan to pretend the MP is an M7. Adam, of course, will not be convinced.
Before attaching accessories I thought I'd better check the weight. Despite the M9-like stepped chunk out of the brass top plate and the absence of screen and buttons, the M-D contrives to weigh exactly the same as the M-P, a precise 700g. This is about 80g heavier than the earlier M262 but the use of brass for the top plate and bottom cover explains this. I would have thought that the missing screen and buttons would have accounted for more than zero grams but, then, what do I know?
Wizards of Wetzlar
It occurred to me that the Wizards of Wetzlar could have had the last laugh by stuffing screen and associated gubbins back inside the body to fill up the space. I will never know for sure. As you can imagine from this, however, the M-P feels very similar to the M or M-P in terms of handling. With my Match Technical ThumbsUp grip attached, it is just right.
Despite the lack of weight difference there is a perceptible sense of separation between the screened and unscreened cameras. The M-D feels smoother (it is because it ain't got nothing there) and the right thumb can roam around the entire back without any danger of pushing a button. This is nirvana because I have yet to meet a modern camera that doesn't play tricks when my wayward digits get to work. The central ISO dial is commendably stiff, just right in my opinion, and there is absolutely no chance of moving it my mistake. It can be operated by one finger, however.
All this taken into account, I notice an immediate improvement in handling over the M-P which is sitting by my side as I write. The M-D feels like a film camera and could almost be mistaken for the M7 which, in reality, is slightly thinner and 70g lighter.
Tomorrow, then, the M-D has its first outing. It will probably be the only M-D to be seen in London. I will have just four things to remember: ISO setting, speed set to A for aperture priority, aperture and focus. What could be simpler, and it's basically the way I treat all the Ms. I already know from testing the M60 Edition that it will work out just fine. More details will follow, including some test shots (not that you will tell the difference between the M-P and any other M240-series camera).
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