Thursday, April 28, 2016

Is An LCD Screen Necessary On A Digital Camera? (Leica M-D Typ 262)

Leica announced yesterday the M-D (Typ 262) digital rangefinder. What's unusual about this camera is that it doesn't include an LCD. Really, the camera is about as simple as a digital camera can be designed, with absolute minimal controls and features (but with all of all of the essential controls and features). You compose using a built-in electronic viewfinder,

I got really excited about this camera. It seems as though someone (finally) designed a digital camera with me in mind. That is, until I saw the price (nearly $7,000, and that's just for the camera body). Leica cameras are always way overpriced.

What would be the point in removing this major feature? Why wouldn't I want to review my photographs on the camera? One reason is that you can easily get caught up in what's called "chimping" which is spending time reviewing the images instead of capturing images. You capture an image, then you review it to make sure that everything is good, but in the meantime you miss something unexpected that happened--the decisive moment. This happens frequently, and you might be completely unaware because, while chimping, you lack situational awareness.

Besides that, simplifying the camera makes the photography process more enjoyable. Simplicity is better in photography (and much of life, as well). Having just the controls and features necessary, and removing the tons of extra (often unused) stuff, allows the camera to be less distracting, and it makes it all feel more organic and less, well, digital.

If I had the Leica M-D camera, I would capture a bunch of images--fill up an SD card--then file that card away for three-to-six months. Procrastination is good when post-processing because time helps remove your own bias towards the exposures, allowing you to better recognize which ones are actually good and which ones are not. I wouldn't even see what I had captured for several months.
The back of a FED 5c 35mm Russian rangefinder that I own.
Of course, I could do this the old fashioned way and just shoot film. I own a couple of 35mm rangefinders that don't look all that much different than this upcoming Leica. But film has become expensive (to buy, develop and scan) and digital is more convenient. I would like to be able to do this digitally if I could.

Another thing that I could do is put my digital camera in manual mode and just have self control to not review the images that I've captured. This would essentially accomplish the same thing, but in a less-well-designed package. I might give this a try and see how it goes.

What would be great if some other camera manufacturer made something similar (but much less expensive). Fuji seems like the one most likely to do it, but it could be any of them--Ricoh could modify the GR pretty easily to accomplish this. If the camera could be purchased for under $1,000 I'd consider buying it.

I said something similar to this when Leica announced the M Monochrom. So far nobody else has released a black-and-white only digital camera. I doubt anyone else will make an LCD-less digital camera similar to the Leica M-D.

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