Guest Post: Aaron C. Greenman’s vision for a digital Leica MP.

As most of the visitors of this site know, I have written an Open Letter to Leica requesting an updated CCD sensor on a future Leica M model.  Thus far, over 200 of you have signed it.

Today’s Guest Post by Aaron C. Greenman will likely generate some discussion because, in addition to requesting a CCD sensor, Aaron goes further and requests a digital iteration of Leica‘s iconic MP film body.  Although several elements in Aaron‘s post have been previously circulated in various fora online, Aaron distinguishes himself by proposing a cohesive vision of his ideal camera — a camera which represents a sort of anti-modern photographic device for the photographer placing simplicity, quality, and reliability above all.

Although I cannot say I agree with every facet of Aaron‘s articulation, I certainly admire the consistency of his vision, and therefore wish to sincerely thank him for this contribution to the Leica community.

—Peter.

Aaron C. Greenman writes:

“Peter,
 
Firstly, I wanted to thank you for your work on the Open Letter to Leica.
 
It is important for the company to know that there is a reasonably sized photographer community that still prefers the CCD-based Leica digital rangefinders for their rendering style. As Trusense Imaging (and others) are still developing and producing later generation full-frame CCDs, the sensor architecture is anything besides obsolete to photographers looking to dedicate themselves to high quality “stills only” work. Later generation sensors are bound to offer higher resolution than the 18MP in the Leica M9, coupled with 1-2 stops better ISO performance (making ISO 1600-3200 useable in color, even higher in B&W). Coupled with summilux and summicron lenses, such useability would easily cover 90% of normal shooting requirements, while still preserving the wonderful low ISO rendering style of M9 files.
 
It is also clear, based on the better than anticipated success of the Monochrom, that Leica customers above all are interested in embracing what they believe to be the best photographic tools, with little regard to features that they simply do not need or ancillary specifications that are sometimes included for true progress and sometimes included to motivate planned obsolescence/unnecessary purchase upgrading. So with a relatively modest commitment to further research and development, Leica could create a real alternative to its “M(240)” product line and at the same time a successful, profitable and unique (counter-culture) item that would generate revenue and profit for the company.
 
While I agree with your letter, I believe the time is right for Leica to go even beyond your request, toward a true and faithful next generation (i.e. digital) version of the Leica MP:
 

  • Body with same indestructible build quality and exact dimensions as the current MP, offered in both high gloss painted black and chrome silver (no paint) and weather sealed.  With the A7 and A7R, Sony has proved that it is technically possible to sufficiently condense the depth of the camera body;

  • Identical viewfinder to the MP, with a la carte options for different magnifications and single framelines

  • Aperture priority mode as in Leica M9

  • High resolution (36MP or more) Truesense CCD – could even be produced in color and monochrom-only versions, which would effectively carry forward both the M9 and Monochrom product lines;

  • no video;

  • no rear LCD;

  • small top info screen (like frame counter on MP or M8) for battery charge and shots remaining, could even be mechanical dials similar to Epson RD1;

  • manual MP-like dials on rear for ISO (auto + each manual setting) and exposure compensation;

  • only RAW shooting, auto WB only;

  • extremely low power usage, long battery life;

  • manual shutter re-cocking with lever (like Epson RD1)

  • no “motor drive” to save battery life (could have an optional motor drive that replaces the bottom plate);

  • Ideally a 1/8000 maximum shutter speed, though this should take a back seat to low power usage and manual shutter re-cocking; and

  • Frame preview lever.

 
While the world moves toward EVFs, the above would offer a real alternative and reinforce the heritage and mechanic quality of the Leica M rangefinder. I, for one, am waiting.”
 

Leica MP - Black

Leica MP - Silver

Leica MP - Top Plate

↑Camera body photos © Leica Camera AG.

Aaron C. Greenman has been a photographer for over 25 years and has lived and worked on four continents. His online portfolio is available for viewing at acuitycolorgrain.com, and his work has been published in various places online including The Leica Camera Blog. His first monograph is now available for the iPad.

[Note:  Aaron was previously a Featured Photographer on this site.]

9 thoughts on “Guest Post: Aaron C. Greenman’s vision for a digital Leica MP.

  1. andygemmell says:

    Great to see Aaron you have a vision and the passion for photography and the tools to go along with it and nice to hear/read your thoughts.

    A 36MP sensor…..a 35mm “close” to medium format camera such as the D800e!! For producing prints that would certainly be a big plus!!

    I was one of the first to support this letter, and still believe in Peter’s (and my own) eye when viewing hundreds of images each week. The CCD is special. The simplicity and ergonomics of the current M9 and MM are unique amongst other camera offerings. No doubt. The M240 certainly offers Leica users modern improvements and maintains those ergonomics. Choice is always nice particularly when they have the lens choice to go with it!

    The 1/8000th is the main feature I’d like to see included given Leica’s lenses.

    There certainly is a trend back towards manual iterations and ergonomics in other brands such as the Nikon Df and Fuji XT1.

    In fact of all the cameras released in the last year or so, the only one which I’d choose out of those (I’m not though it’s a hypothetical) would be the Fuji XT1. No need to delve into the menus and ergonomics at least which I’d enjoy. Yet it remains to be seen if Fuji have improved on “other issues” that have bugged their camera’s since the launch of the xPro 1. The whole EVF thing can certainly be more distracting rather than adding to the experience in my opinion.

    Anyway for now I still sit on the sidelines waiting for a colour body, which might tick enough boxes.

    • Andy,

      I’m no gear expert but a few more thoughts on your comments.

      I have tried the XPro1, which many consider an M alternative, and I couldn’t get my head around it. A fixed window camera that you can’t manually focus with the OVF? Fatally flawed.

      Out of curiosity I spent 15 minutes with the XT1 yesterday. For all the internet hype, the EVF is just an EVF. And having tried it side by side with the OMD-M1, not as good. That being said, the digital split prism feature is pretty decent.

      My reactions to EVFs are in many ways the same to LCDs. The process of close focusing your eyes on a flat panel television and readjusting to “see the scene” is distracting. Why is everyone so obsessed with 100% coverage and having all the info in the viewfinder? Is it really necessary to get an exact preview of an image that is less interesting because you can’t concentrate in the decisive moment?

      Give me a DP2 Quattro (now I’m opening up a can of worms) with that beautiful looking detachable OVF or a Leica M any day.

      Aaron

  2. […] Digital Leica MP – Next Generation Guest Post: Aaron C. Greenman’s vision for a digital Leica MP. | Photographs by Peter […]

  3. Andy Gemmell says:

    Well there is one certainty…..you and I are on the same page. I agree with all your comments! Now the Merrills…that is a can of worms and if they have improved some features here Ill be more than curious to explore further.

  4. I too signed Peter’s letter asking Leica to continue producing a CCD based M camera. Leica has already shown with the improvements they’ve made with their S2’s CCD that with today’s technology the same could be done for the M. I still prefer an LCD screen to review exposures. I also prefer the option to manually set my white balance in tough lighting situations. This helps me speed post processing.

    I too have no interest in video and all the bells and whistles that are included in every other camera made. The only simpler camera I know is my iPhone, but then that is no comparison to what can be done with our digital Leicas.

    Thanks for sharing Aaron’s thoughts as I too am hopeful Leica will continue with a simple to operate M without all the extras.

  5. I’m bought on the idea of Leica being given almost an easy reversal to seemingly dumping the CCD via a new MP, or the M-E-P or whatever….
    Whilst I agree that a simple MP design and ethos would be preferable to many, I feel the removal of the LCD and inclusion of a wind lever to re-cock the shutter would turn a hefty percentage of those away. I’ve heard a number of the RD-1 users exclaim that although at first it was a novelty to still wind between shots, in practise it just became an unnecessary annoyance.
    Perhaps the a-la-carte service could be fired up, with a choice of sensor, body type etc. etc. Yes prices would go up for more bespoke cameras but more folk would be getting what they want.
    I’m 100% sold on my M9, it’s been with me a good while now and still gives me what I want and need. Many other cameras have gone through my hands and nothing holds a candle to the work I produce with the M9.

  6. Linden says:

    I would buy one. I wonder though if at least a little strip of real estate could be given to histogram display. But I could live without it. You could, for example, simply connect the camera to an external viewer like an iPad.

    I would quite like too to be able to keep my camera body and have the sensor swapped out for an upgraded one a few years later, but otherwise leave the rest of the camera alone.

    All this, of course, needs a market however.

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