So while I was posting this trip down memory lane with my beloved Leica M9 this past week, I was also sneakily awaiting something special to be delivered!
Everyone meet Doogie!(and I have a shiny nickel to whomever can connect why I called it that)
Doogie is a new (to me at least) Leica M-D (typ 262) and it’s claim to fame is that it is about as analog a Leica you can get while still being a digital camera.
This camera is part of the Leica M (typ 240 & 262) lineup that came after the M9, M9-P and the M-P. This camera which was released in April of 2016 was the last M (typXXX) model before the M10 lineup that was announced the following year and is still currently the flagship Leica Rangefinder camera.
Now despite what it looks like, this is a digital camera. It is unique as it is a digital camera that has no on-camera way to see (chimp) the photo you just took, or change/set the camera settings, or well do anything other than just take photos. Where you would normally find a 3” screen brimming with thousands of nit’s and packed with pixels there is instead an awesome ISO selection wheel which is quite reminiscent of the film reminder dial that film cameras of old would have.
In fact other than setting the date, which you can do via a system of holding buttons and spinning wheels all while standing in a circle drawn from the blood of an elite hipster mixed with mashed avocado toast, there is no way to go through any of the other settings, because well… there isn’t any… there is nothing else to set.
You can see how much battery you have left and how many photos you can take via a seven segment VFD readout (think numbers in an older digital alarm clock) in the viewfinder but that’s it, that’s all. No chimping, no live view, no shooting video, no bluetooth app to control your camera from your phone, nothing really, other than just taking photos. Really for all intents and purposes It is a basic film camera that happens to shoot digitally which is something that I have always wanted to see happen. (if your interested in this concept there is a Kickstarter campaign right now for exactly that)
While this seems like a gimmick used to lure hipsters out of their hard earned avocado toast money, it is actually quite a freeing way to shoot. I Love Love Love shooting with analog cameras, I really really do. There is something about the satisfying Click that they make, the need to focus the photo but getting exactly what you want. The care and attention to frame it right and then deliberately taking a photo as opposed to spray’n’praying and weeding through it all after.
There is something about the feeling of excitement of the ‘shot unknown’, the idea that you will be worlds away from this moment when you get to look at it again. Just that idea that you will have to wait to see it, wait to know if it turned out, wait to reconnect with that photo that you just took is infuriatingly wonderful.
Don’t get me wrong looking back I couldn’t wait to grab on to digital in a big way, the real time feedback of seeing what you just shot and how it worked, or didn’t was an absolute game changer in how I learned photography. But if you started shooting with film like I did, you know the excitement when you would get a roll of film developed. I remember that I used to be so giddy to see my film rolls that after picking them up I would spend another 45 min at the lab using a loupe and a lightbox to see each frame one at a time because I couldn’t wait until I got home, I needed to see them right now.
When shooting with digital I would come home and dump memory cards into the endless abyss that is the 350,000+ pile of personal art photos that I like to call the archives of the institute.”look at them? I already saw them.”
There is no excitement. There is no overwhelming drive to look at them critically. Heck there is no drive to look at them at all. They just accumulate and become an ever growing monument to work that needs to be done.
While I have only been shooting with Doggie for the last few days and because of Covid It has been limited shooting at that. But I can honestly say that I AM EXCITED TO GET HOME AND SEE THE PHOTOS AGAIN!
Still reading!? Did you need more convincing on the beauty and simplicity of the screenless Camera? Well one of the criticisms that I would hear and agree with for the M9 was it was an analog camera poorly pretending to be a digital camera. I am not talking about the Imaging sensor or the internal engine of image processing, that was all fine and dandy for 2012. What I mean is the implementation of the other digital aspects felt amateur and almost shoddy when compared to other ‘modern’ DSLR & Mirrorless masters like Canon, Sony or Nikon.
Going through the menus and using the digital aspects of the Leica M9 would feel like I was about 10-15 years behind the times. The LCD was horrible, you couldn’t determine shots focus or exposure with it and the menu system was more akin to shuffling through the menus of my first 2003 Canon 10D DSLR then a boutique priced modern digital camera. And while I overlooked this all and used the camera as it was meant to be, I couldn’t help but wish it was different. What I love about the Leica M-D is that instead of spending a long time upping their digital game, which they arguably did in the M10, they instead doubled down on what makes a Leica a Leica.