Digital Cameras

Leica M-D 262 Review – A Love Affair – by Ong Sien Hong

May 3, 2019

The first time I saw the Leica M-D 262, I almost instinctively knew that I’d got to have it. I love the way it looks. Stylish and minimalist for a digital camera. I couldn’t afford it brand new so I waited to snag a used one at a reasonable price. Sure it shares the same body and sensor as the Leica M240 but it doesn’t quite feel the same holding it in the hand. Furthermore, it comes with a quieter shutter sound. I’d read about how, because of the lack of LCD screen, when you hold an M-D 262, it feels slimmer (not that it actually is slimmer); it’s all true, that was how I felt the first time I touched it.


My Photography History

I enjoy taking moments of how people interact with one another or sometimes with me, the photographer. I picked up photography after a vacation to Cambodia. Some friends suggested we do a photography trip and I bought my first digital DSLR only two days before the flight. A Nikon D90 together with its kit lens 18-55mm lens. That was November 2009. It was in Cambodia where I fell in love with photography. The sunset, the people and Angkor Wat.

I once told friends that when you know what you can do with a DSLR, you are never going back to taking photos with a point & shoot digital camera. Now I tell others, once you tried a rangefinder, you are never going back to DSLR.

I have since tried different cameras, mostly digitals, some film cameras; the rangefinder is what truly captured my heart. I have used many rangefinders, a Leica M8, M9 (and it’s variants M-E/M9P/MM), M262, M240P and of course most recently the M-D 262. Of all the mentioned digital rangefinders, I enjoyed the M-D the most, with perhaps the MM coming a close second.

Love using the 35mm and 50mm lens for street. Pairing the Leica 35mm Summarit or Summicron with the M-D 262 feels like a dream for any street shooter. I even went as far as trying out 28mm (Zeiss 28mm F/2 Biogon) with it, and I don’t usually shoot with 28mm.

Some of my favorite photos were taken with the M-D 262.


The Intangibles of M-D 262

Every time I saw a moment, I have to garner up some courage to take the photo of the person(s). Too many times I lament the fact that I allow moments to pass by because I was not daring enough to put a camera in front of them.

Yet for some unexplained reasons, I felt emboldened walking on the street with the M-D. I wanted to have a conversation with the people I took the photos of, to tell them how this camera that looks like a film camera is actually digital. I wanted people to see how beautiful this camera is.

I felt like no one should object to having their photos being taken by the M-D.

Love the anticipation of wanting to see those moments you have taken with the M-D. I cheated a little sometimes, transferring the DNG files from my memory card into my phone so I could peek the photos, to see the composition, etc. Despite this option, by and large, M-D does gives you a feeling that you are shooting with a film camera, except you can afford to be a little more trigger happy; ever so slightly.


Bones to Pick?

So what do I not like about the M-D 262? Can I share what I don’t like about the M10-D first? No, I have never used an M10-D. But really, I am one of those people who complains about the fake lever. It is such a brilliant idea for Leica to come out with the M-D 262 but the fake film advance lever on M10-D just kills it for me.

I want everything about my camera to be genuinely purposeful. I was really disappointed when I found out that the lever has no other functions but for a better grip.

Back to the M-D 262. I love everything about it except that the images it produces are digital. All my photos are post-processed with Lightroom to make digital photos look a little more film-like. But digital grain doesn’t look as good as film grain, digital colors can never emulate film colors – not yet at least, not in my opinion!

Maybe I shouldn’t have but I eventually sold it because I wanted to go back to film. I wanted to use a roll of Kodak Ektachrome E100 and more of Kodak Portra 400.

I will, however, remember my time with the M-D 262 fondly.


Perhaps one day, I will go back to the M-D 262…

Sien Hong.

You can read Hamish’s review of the M60 here – a post where he goes into more detail about the feeling of shooting a digital camera without a screen

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  • Reply
    Daniel Fjäll
    May 3, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    If I’d ever go with a digital Leica again this would be it. Or if the M10-D dropped in price enough at that point. I wouldn’t hesitate to simply remove the lever from the M10. It might be necessary to replace the lever with an appropriate spacer.

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      May 3, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      Exactly my thoughts. So you don’t agree with the lever on M10-D too? A camera shouldn’t feel like its a toy, having that lever with no other functions, I’d rather have it taken out.

  • Reply
    May 3, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    Great article! I have listed over this camera for some time. I love shooting film and love my M2 but am impatient and, since I no longer have access to a darkroom, film getting costly. Your submission is the first honest appraisal I’ve seen regarding this camera and a film one. For now, I’ll keep saving,, but you have given me something to think about. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      May 3, 2019 at 10:41 pm

      Hi Pete, thanks! And even now, I sometimes wish I didn’t sell it. Hopefully, you get an opportunity to try it.

  • Reply
    Michael Hohmann
    May 3, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Oh no, Sien.
    Do me a favour and try the M10-D out.
    I never used a „thumbs up“ or fingerloop or what soever.
    But I tried the M10-D and used the „advance lever“ for a few pictures. And I have to tell you, the rest of the time, the lever was in the outside position as it was comfortable to shoot with.
    It remembered me on shooting with my M5 and M7. I was so impressed by the „D“, that I ordered one a few weeks later and hope to have it in my hands in a few days.

    We all know, that Leica is doing sometimes crazy things for the collectors. But in my opinion, the M10-D is a really good tool to shoot with. And the lever is made for us. It‘s a very nice camera. And it is something special, like the M-D.

    Thank you for your nice review.

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      May 3, 2019 at 10:56 pm

      Hi Michael, to be fair, M10-D is an upgrade to M-D262 in every way. And I have no doubt it will give me similar feelings to that of M-D with the comfort of having a “thumbs up”. I just wish the upgrade goes without the lever, Leica could have done (having the lever) that for M-D262, they didn’t. Having said that, I will definitely give it a try if given opportunity.

  • Reply
    May 4, 2019 at 12:15 am

    1 – Buy Sony A w/ev.
    2 – Turn off LCD.
    3 – Disable image review & info display in ev..
    4 – Save $5,000

  • Reply
    Ashley Carr
    May 5, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    I have zero desire to shoot anything digital outside of ‘work’ work but if film/chemical production stopped over night it would have to be the M-D I’d move too.

    If they made an M-D Monochrom that would be even better.

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      May 5, 2019 at 4:30 pm

      Agreed, I will say this, tho it’s digital, it really does give you the feel of a film, the main difference I find (besides the obvious, the images) with film, you will give more consideration with each taken shot knowing you only have 36 frames. With the M-D, I am really a lot more trigger happy.

      • Reply
        Ashley carr
        May 5, 2019 at 7:10 pm

        Agreed. It’s the main reason I don’t shoot digital. It’s not the look of film that keeps me shooting it it’s the many limitations film imposes on me. These limitations work in my favour. When presented with all the options digital presents I find the consistency I enjoy with a film workflow quickly evaporates.

  • Reply
    Julian Love
    May 5, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Thanks Sien for the interesting experience report. I have two M6 TTLs that are my main hobby cameras and I’ve quietly lusted after an M-D and now an M10-D ever since they came out. However the only thing that stops me pulling the trigger and buying one is the very thing you identified – that at the end of it I’ll have pictures from a digital sensor, and part of what I love about shooting film are the colours and grain… An M10-D costs £5000 and that’s a lot of film and processing – so I’ll stick with my M6s for a bit longer.

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      May 6, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Thanks Julian, glad you like the read. You are right, if film grain and colors are what you’re pursuing (like myself), the most natural thing to do is to stick to shooting film.

  • Reply
    Stephen J
    August 27, 2019 at 8:50 am

    I am in an unfortunate position of having been forced to retire through ill health, but not being old enough, or sick enough to receive much in the way of benefit, or pension.

    I have managed to build up quite a good camera fund over the years, so I have bought the camera in question as a second hand buy through swapping out a couple of other machines, and I made the conscious choice to pick this model rather than the M10-D. For me, the sensor and the output is of the same quality and in my view reaches the 24MP “sweet-spot”.

    There are a couple of things about this camera that I prefer over the replacement. I prefer the location of the ISO adjuster, on the back where the ASA adjustment was on light-metered Leicas. But mainly I like the non-involvement of Leica Fotos.

    But the main reason is that I cannot afford the consumables for my film cameras… My Texas Leica and my Leitz CL will have to remain lurking at the back of the wardrobe.

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      August 27, 2019 at 9:26 am

      Hi Stephen,

      While I have never used an M10-D, but like you, I also like the ISO adjuster at the back. Truth is, if I could afford M10-D, I would prob go for M10p which is of the same price. So the Leica M-D would still be my preferred choice of a “digital-film” camera. Sorry to hear about your health. Hope you feel better soon.

      • Reply
        August 27, 2019 at 10:53 am

        Thanks Sien, my only point about my health was that it meant that I don’t have good cash-flow, so the digital camera makes sense, once bought no further running costs. We know that film has advantages over digital, but beggars cannot be choosers in my case.

        But when it comes down to it, it is a Leica….! I am not that badly off. 🙂

        • Reply
          Sien Hong
          August 27, 2019 at 11:29 am

          and the MD makes the best of both worlds. Good choice.

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