Leica Runs Out of Ideas, Releases the LCD-less M-D (Typ 262) Camera

Leica M-D Back
Leica M-D (Typ 262) Back

What can you do when your company runs out of ideas? In the case of Leica Camera AG, they pulled all their marketing stops and came up with the M-D (Typ 262). The camera omits the rear LCD screen commonly found in just about every digital camera nowadays. Shocking!

It is touted to “embody the entire range of technical advantages perfected over decades in the Leica rangefinder system,” while intentionally leaving out “all but the most essential technical features.” Even Leica’s famous  “Red dot” has been eschewed from the camera’s facade to lend itself an “unobtrusive appearance”, in line with Leica’s spirit of “Das Wesentliche” (The Essentials). Obviously, the camera doesn’t have Live View or video capabilities, either.

Leica M-D (Typ 262)
Leica M-D (Typ 262)

Specs wise, there’s nothing much to shout about. It has a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor and a Leica Maestro image processor. All images are saved as DNG RAW files. The shutter and cocking system has been made quieter than the other Leicas, making for a truly inconspicuous shooting experience. It can shoot up to a measly two three frames a second. But Leica users are not known for rapid fire shots anyway, so this is no biggie.

This stripped down camera will be for sale at a cool US$5,995.

Leica fanboys are going to gush over this and wax lyrical about all that minimalism that it provides. But you know what? Why not take just about any camera, or even the Leica that you might have, or buy a used Leica M9 or something, and gaffer tape over that LCD? That will only cost you like $5.

As for Leica, we have some ideas for your next camera. If you do choose to adopt them, please remember to credit us!

  1. Limit the number of shots per memory card to 24 or 36. This will evoke a sense of nostalgia for the film shooters, bringing them back to the good old days of 24 or 36 exposure Kodak Tri-X film.
  2. While you are at that, why not lock the ISO to whatever’s set on the first shot? For example, if the owner set his ISO to 400, inserted a card and took a shot, all other shots will be locked at ISO 400. This also harks back to the good old film days of getting stuck with one ISO per roll.
  3. Have a feature which wipes out all the shots if < 36 (or 24) shots were taken on the memory card if the owner opens the memory card door. Perfectly emulates the case where you open the back of your camera before the roll is finished and ruin everything! Alternatively, the firmware can apply a random light leak/flare effect to the photos taken.
  4. Finally, since we are going back to basics with the “Das Wesentliche” movement, why not re-instate the film advance lever in a future digital M? You can even have two versions—single stroke and double stroke—perfectly emulating iconic Leica M3 film camera of yesterday. I am sure many Leica aficionados will be willing to pay for this!
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Nikon Launches the Flagship D5 and D500 DSLRs in Singapore

Nikon D5 and D500 with AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G
Nikon D5 and D500 with AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G

Nikon Singapore has launched the flagship D5 and D500 DSLRs today (13 Apr 2016) at the Aura Skylounge at the National Gallery of Singapore. We were there at the launch event and managed to get a hands-on session with both the cameras.

Sunny Ng, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager of Nikon Singapore
Sunny Ng, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager of Nikon Singapore

The launch started with an introduction by Sunny Ng, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager of Nikon Singapore followed by a rundown of the D500’s features by Albert Yap from the Asia Technical Office. Some some strange reason, there wasn’t any talk about the flagship D5. The talk focussed on the Nikon D500.

Albert Yap, Asia Technical Office, Nikon Singapore
Albert Yap, Asia Technical Office, Nikon Singapore

Wildlife photographer C.S. Ling then talked about her experience shooting the D500 in Borneo and how it managed to capture her wildlife shots in vivid detail and very low noise, despite her having to use very high ISOs some times.

Wildlife Photographer, C.S. Ling
Wildlife Photographer, C.S. Ling

We then had a short Q&A with Nikon Ambassadors Bryan Fong and Elliot Lee, who briefly shared about their shooting experiences and how they felt about the two new cameras.

Nikon Ambassadors Bryan Fong and Elliot Lee
Nikon Ambassadors Bryan Fong and Eliot Lee

To allow us to test the D5 and D500, Nikon has kindly gave us 16GB CompactFlash and SD cards (Sandisk Extreme no less!) so that we can bring the images back. One of the much touted features of both the cameras are their excellent high ISO performance, and Nikon has specially constructed a dark box for this purpose. It simulates a lighting condition of -4EV, in which the naked eye can barely see anything. However, the D500’s centre AF point is sensitive enough to still be able to AF in such conditions. Previous cameras like the D750 can only AF down to -3EV, so the D500 is a stop better in this regard. I wasn’t able to achieve an AF lock using Live View though.

The Nikon Dark Box
The Nikon Dark Box
Taken inside the dark box
A scene taken inside the dark box using the Nikon D500 at ISO 51200.

Here’s a YouTube video by local photographer Alex Ortega showing the camera achieving an AF lock under this lighting condition. Pretty cool, I’d say.

For testing the high-speed burst modes and fast AF speeds, Nikon got two bartenders to give bartending performances. Both cameras were able to capture this well. I don’t really shoot a lot of bursts myself, though.

Bartending Demo
Bartending Demo, shot on a D500. 1/200 @ f/4, ISO 1600.

There was also a section set up on the balcony to let us play with the AF-S 800mm /f5.6E, AF-S 400mm f/2.8E and the AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lenses. It was bloody hot outside, so I didn’t stay out there for long. I took a couple of shots on the D5 and it was expectedly good. This is a given, as just about any modern camera would have produced a good shot in good lighting nowadays.

Outdoor testing areaa
Outdoor testing areaa
Nikon D5, 1/200 @ f/11, ISO 100.
Nikon D5, 1/200 @ f/11, ISO 100.

Anyway, back indoors, I attempted to test both the camera’s high ISO performance. Since low ISOs are no longer a challenge for most modern cameras, I started from ISO 1600 and worked my way up to the maximum. “Unfortunately” it wasn’t dark enough to reach the ISO 3-million of the D5.

Expectedly, ISOs within the non-expanded range (i.e. below H.01) were all very good, particularly on the D5 which didn’t show much noise until about ISO 51,200.

Nikon D5 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D5 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D5 at ISO 51,200
Nikon D5 at ISO 51,200

The D500 that I was testing appear to have its Noise Reduction turned off or set to a very low level. So, the high ISO performance does not appear to be that great in the shots below. I’d still say it’s pretty decent, though.

Alex has also posted a set of high ISO images on ClubSnap and his appears to be much cleaner. I believe his test unit has the Noise Reduction turned on. We shot basically the same thing, and did not check if it’s turned on or not. Judging from his files, I’d say that the D500’s high ISO performance with Noise Reduction is pretty amazing.

Nikon D500 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D500 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D500 at ISO 51,200
Nikon D500 at ISO 51,200

One modern feature that Nikon has added to both cameras are touch-sensitive LCD displays. The D500 has a tilting LCD touch screen, while the D5 has a fixed one. Like smart phones, both allow you to swipe through images, as well as pinch to zoom in. Of course, you can also tap to focus during Live View. Unfortunately, you can’t navigate the menus via touch.

Another nice touch added to the cameras a little joystick controller for AF-point selection. This is available on both the D5 and D500 and makes it much easier to select the desired AF point. This is also seen on the newly-released Fujifilm X-Pro 2.

I am liking the D500 pretty much, but I am now too used to the size and weight of the Fujifilm X-T1. If Nikon made a mirrorless camera with the D500 specs, I’d be much more interested. Still, both the D5 and D500 are very nice cameras indeed. The AF speed is fast, high ISO performance is excellent and image quality is excellent too. There’s nothing much to dislike (except perhaps the price, especially for the D5.)

Here are a few more test shots.

Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/2.8, ISO 1600
Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/2.8, ISO 1600
Nikon D500, 1/200 at f/4, ISO 1600.
Nikon D500, 1/200 at f/4, ISO 1600.
Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/11, ISO 100.
Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/11, ISO 100.

YS: There are a lot of nice improvements, like the new joystick for AF selection, the position of the ISO button (though that will require some muscle memory re-learning for long-term Nikon users), the AF speed, and the AF demonstration in the dark was quite impressive.

Also, I’m particularly looking forward to how Snapbridge works. Finally, a way to connect with your smartphone that doesn’t require the two-handed juggle that always happens? During the presentation Nikon implied that the camera will retain a low-powered Bluetooth connection even when the camera is off.

It’s a pity Nikon took such a long time to release this. I’d have jumped on it immediately as a replacement for my then-D300.

CK: At the time of writing, pricing and availability dates are not known.

UPDATE (26 Apr 2016): Nikon Singapore has announced that the D500 will be available from authorised Nikon retailers at S$2,999 for the body alone, or S$3,999 bundled with the AF-S 16-80mm f/2.8-4E E VR kit lens.

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Panasonic Announces the Lumix GX80/GX85 Micro Four Thirds Camera

Panasonic DMC-LX85
Panasonic DMC-LX85

Panasonic has announced the Lumix DMC-GX85, also known as the GX80 outside of North America. (What’s with naming things differently in different regions anyway?) This is cost-down version of the GX8, featuring a 16MP Live MOS sensor and no AA filter. It also has a redesigned shutter mechanism and 5-axis Dual IS consisting of both In-Body and Optical Image Stabilisation. Panasonic claims that the removal of the anti-aliasing filter supposedly improves fine detail resolution by 10%. The magnetically-driven shutter mechanism reduces the shutter sound as well as the vibration caused by shutter shock.

The GX85/GX80 features a Live View Finder (LVF) with 2764K-dots and 100% colour re-production, covering field of view of 100%. The rear LCD is a large 3.0″ one with approximately 1040K-dots with touch capability. It tilts up by up to 80º and down by 45º.

As with the trend these days, the GX85/GX80 features 4K at 30p or 20p video recording in addition to good old full HD at up to 60fps. There are also 3 different burst modes which allow you to: capture up to 30 still images at 8MP, record 30 frames before and after you capture a shot, and finally, a 4K cropping mode which lets you extract HD video from a 4K recording, adding zoom and pan effects within the camera.

A novel feature on the GX85/80 is Focus Bracketing. This is a Lytro-like “Post Focus” feature which lets you select the focus area after the image is taken. Other features include an ISO range of 100-25,600, WiFi and RAW recording.

The GX85/80 will be available with a 24-64mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens for US$800 in late May.

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