The Leica M262. Now with More Leica Fairy Dust

$$$Internet camera reviews are funny things. They’re usually either uncritical raves – “best camera ever!” – emotionally based, without much factual basis, or they’re just plain incoherent. And then there are the Leica reviews.

Leica has just released the M262, what looks to be a nice attempt on Leica’s part to offer a digital M with the simplicity of their iconic M film rangefinders. No fancy live view, EVF, movie mode etc. Just a 24mp digital rangefinder with the M form factor. Were I shopping for a digital camera (I’m not) I’d give it a look.

No fault of Leica, but the reviews have been the usual nonsense.  This from clapway.com, under the heading “Entry Level Leica M Is Better than 10 G7x’s“:

When you think of Leica cameras, you possibly consider its price, then possibly adhered to by its high quality. Without a doubt, Leica cameras and lenses can take some pretty stunning photos (quality-wise, structure is an entirely different story), however, its price tag has consistently been an obstacle to entry for numerous a photographer.

I’m not sure what that all means, but then again, I’m not sure I should expect much from a website called Clapway.

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I’d expect more from WIRED, however. This from their website:

IT’S HARD TO think of a $5,195 price tag on a camera as “cheap.” But in the realm of Leica products, that cost places the new Leica M (Typ 262) at the entry-level end of the company’s pricing spectrum. Leica made this new model for people with bank who just want a damn good, relatively easy-to-use rangefinder camera with a full-frame sensor. Forget all the other frills…..

The camera’s features have been pared down on purpose, and not just to make it (relatively) more affordable. Anyone who has shot with a Leica rangefinder knows that the experience is unique; it’s slower and a lot more manual of a process to get the exposure and focus precisely the way you want.

So far, so good. But then, this:

 But when you get that perfect shot, it looks distinctly incredible—the famed “Leica look”—and makes you want to shoot more and more. 

Oh boy. Trust me: no one, I mean nobody, absent peeking at the EXIF data, will be able to differentiate a shot from this camera from, say, a shot from a nikon d610. Its not as if the Leica sensor has been infused with some ethereal something that creates the Leica look (although I would argue that the M8 CCD sensor, with its extended IR sensitivity, does come close to giving you a unique look.)

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That somebody vetted by WIRED could fall for this nonsense shows, in addition to the author’s weak capacity for independent judgment, the seductive power of a branded narrative in service of parting people from money. Otherwise rational people,  in denial or ignorance of the facts, are always vulnerable to those who tell them what they want to hear. And usually, people tell you what you want to hear because they’re trying to sell you something, or trying to justify the exorbitant price they’re asking. I get that. But when supposedly objective reviewers start spouting this nonsense, I can only shake my head.

So we now have a new digital generation prattle on and on about the Leica look, now transmuted to the cameras themselves. Exactly what this “look” is is all quite mysterious. Depending on who you ask at any given moment, it might mean anything from low contrast images showing pronounced astigmatism and chromatic aberration to contrasty, tack sharp photos. Whatever it is, of course, it is a function of a camera’s optics, not the camera itself, so it’s particularly curious when these characteristics somehow get ascribed to cameras and not lenses.

But then, back to this:

With this new M model, Leica strips the shooting experience down to its bare essentials.

Yup , thats it. Why couldn’t you have stopped there?