Who Needs a Display! Leica Walks the “Perfect Understatement” Talk

“Perfect understatement,” “perfectly understated” — do these marketing terms ring a bell? Leica M, right. The German boutique camera maker just announced the Leica M-A, a purely mechanical camera reduced to the essentials of photography with no monitor, no exposure meter, no battery. Alright, we have to bear with marketing phrases such as “the Leica red dot has been deliberately omitted to emphasise the classic restraint of its design as an ultimate expression of understatement.” Truth is, you get a noticeably slimmer camera than the M-A’s digital counterparts — and on top of it you get a Kodak Tri-X 400 film roll. Leica calls this black-and-white film a firm favorite and a classic for art and reportage photography. It’s all about the essentials and basics. Who needs a display? That brings us to the truly ingenious Leica M Edition 60:

Digital minimalism at its extreme -- Leica M Edition 60.
Digital minimalism at its extreme — Leica M Edition 60.

Say what you want, but this camera’s “reductionism” as a celebration is just brilliant. The mark the 60th anniversary of the Leica M, the Germans introduce the limited special edition set that includes not just a Leica M-P (Typ 240) with a Leica Summilux-M 35mm F1.4 ASPH, both special versions created by Audi Design. No, though the camera has the inner workings of the Leica M-P, the handling was changed radically:

The 60 years jubilee edition has no display. The photographer can change only the bare functions required for digital photography: shutter speed, aperture, focusing and ISO sensitivity.

Lovin’ in. No monitor. For, well, €15,000. But this camera is not about the price. This camera is about the boldness to force the photographer to focus again and not waste any time monitoring the monitor.

This camera reflects radical concentration on the basic essentials required for photography. In the place of a monitor screen, you find only an ISO setting dial. All exposures are saved exclusively as RAW data in DNG format.

When Leica meets Audi... another impressive M variation dedicated to functional minimalism.
When Leica meets Audi… another impressive M variation dedicated to functional minimalism.
Working with this camera demands the same care and attention as when working with analog models, allowing the photographer to indulge in complete concentration on the subject/object or scene — and savour the instant of capturing a special moment. Without the distraction of superfluous technical features.

Reductionism as a celebration of photographic art. A moment, captured by photography’s four essential functions: shutter speed, aperture, focusing and ISO sensitivity.

Sadly though, hardly any of the 600 units produced will ever be used. These special edition Leicas are something for collectors and fanatics who take pride in owning old and new, expensive cameras with not a single shutter actuation and not the slightest wear and tear. These special edition cameras are not meant to be used.

But just imagine what a pleasure it would be to actually use such a digital camera stripped down to its essentials with no display and gimmicks. Untouched by the march of the digital era. Concentration on the essentials — which in a way is how I’m using my cameras. Hardly ever touch the menu. Hardly ever alter a setting. It’s all about time and light and sensitivity.

Maybe this special edition will later be offered as a regular camera. My wish? A camera maker with prices for most mere mortals taking heed of this “concept” of an anti-digital digital camera.

Care to enjoy some Edition 60 unboxing? That’s right, and now I am sarcastic, always wear gloves when handling the camera…:

  • doe’s this camera have/need a battery?

    I imagine, this will be placed in a collection and never being used for creative photography.

    no counter,
    no date for EXIF and
    not even any
    control of +- exposure correction,
    no battery control,
    no format of the

    Shoot and go home and find out, that most images are useless. We know that from the analog times. And don’t shoot in bright sun or snow!

    If they where really cool, they would built in a neutral gray screen on the back side, no buttons, only touch buttons. If you don’t use the screen, it is gray like the rest of the body….. o.k. I am afraid, this would be too much electronics for Leica (my M9 is in Wetzlar since about two months waiting for a new sensor – the second one already and new electronics :-( )

  • Rich

    For Leica it seems to be all about how to separate people from their money. Sadly, your thoughts about not being used is all too correct. But I am sure it will sell out. Not to working photographers, though.

    And I agree with your thoughts on use (“Concentration on the essentials — which in a way is how I’m using my cameras.”). Since leaving the newspaper biz and selling all my dSLR gear in favor of lighter mirrorless (Fuji X-System), I have gone back to using manual focus and metering the light with a handheld meter. I recently shot a high school football game (“tryout” for a staff job with a local newspaper) and my granddaughter’s volleyball games. Shot with manual focus and metered with my Sekonic L-358.

    Did I get a lot of misses as per dierk’s comment? Yep but it brought back memories of the film days. And I am sure with some time and practice my hit rate will go up. Sure is making my photography a lot more fun these days…..

  • Not Impressed

    Frankly it’s a waste of preciously saved money. I have owned a few Leica products years back. A black M4-P, a Focomat and even a Pradovit. Appreciate the quality but could only afford to get them secondhand. This antipodean M-A without so many digital components SHOULD be less costly but being Leica, they buckle the trend and throw logic out of the bathtub. To the market, Leica shows the finger again and say, “Here, suckers, pay over the odds and get this dumpling.”
    Really, it’s time we really move on. Analogue is gone the way of dinosaurs. It was a great era but we’ve got to work around what we have today. I too hate the chimping attitude but I don’t have to go rob a bank to get a camera where I can’t do it. I simply delve into the menu and turn it off, which I do with the cameras I work with. What’s wrong with that?
    Have features you don’t want to use? Fine, don’t use them. Again, why pay more and feel stupid just for a camera that offers less? Makes no sense but then again, Leica depends on illogical buyers to survive. Otherwise they would’ve bitten the dust a long time ago.
    When Leica pulled out of FourThirds and then refused to join Micro FourThirds, I decided to say my goodbyes too.
    I prefer to invest in a camera maker who charges reasonably, who makes great lenses, who is practical but has a creative individualistic streak and not afraid to go against the trend to come up with bold but very workable designs. Leica isn’t that company.

  • PWL

    Why, it’s just like an MP! Except w/o a meter and about $10,000 more. Trust Leica to go forwards by going backwards… or staying in place. And then they wonder why the Japanese smoked ’em from 1959 on…

  • such a beauty. the concept. i really want one. but as practically all other working photographers i also cannot afford it. leica is not a photography brand since digital era began.

  • Dillan

    I want to say something clever, but I’m gobsmacked. This is so backwards, it’s innovative! It fits perfectly with the kind of people who like Leicas. I have to admit, I like it and I want it. I think I’d go for the Monochrom first, though. I just wish they were priced more like Pentax. From the way I feel, I guess I should stop denying myself and go buy a Fuji camera.

  • The thing with Leica prices: it’s a kind of MLM or network marketing system. Good product, but excessive prices — and lots can be earned along the food chain.

    The production cost of a Leica M (Typ 240) is roughly €2.200, a third of the price you pay in the store. Dealers and distributors earn healthy commissions. And I mean healthy. So Leica in a way is an end in itself.

    Add the Leica Stores, not exactly brimming with products, except for the growing list of all kinds of M variations, sub-cameras and accessories. I mean if you as a customer pay $4,500 for a Schedoni Leica System Case, the rent and the boss are already paid for…


  • Women have Hermes Birkin. Leica owners deserve luxury bags too, I guess.
    I wish I had the money to buy Leica, tho I clearly understand that these de luxe products have indeed nothing to do with the art of photography.

  • vr

    Buy M (240) than, if Leica M Edition 60 is not your cup of tea.

  • And Leica has a complete hall at Photokina, larger space than any of these fabulous Japanese. Must be doing something right…

  • PWL

    Well, I guess so–if you call building variations of the same 1954 model camera “doing things right.” So maybe Nikon should’ve just kept making the Nikon F forever& ever? Would note that maybe Leica may be “doing things right,” but most pros these days are shooting with state-of-the-art Canons & Nikons. Far cry from the ’50s & ’60s, when most pros had a Leica slung over their shoulders…

    Hmmm…. Maybe the Japanese don’t NEED a big hall at Photokina.
    Maybe they’re just happy to be selling cameras…. Lots and lots of them….

  • It depends on which way you look at it. As a photography looking for a great camera at a reasonable price, I’m right with you. But our aims & objectives are not Leica AG’s aims & objectives, nor indeed any of the Japanese (well, maybe Ricoh…). Their aim is to run a successful business with string growth & revenue, and Leica is certainly at the top of the camera business charts on those metrics.

  • Most of the Leica hall at Photokina is usually used for a Leica photo exhibit.

  • Yes, that’s called “marketing”, I think you’ll find. I’m sure Leica are paying for the floorspace, whatever they put in it, which is what I take as a sign of the health of their business.

  • Dreamer

    Can’t even attach a camera strap.

  • Why would you want to. It’s supposed to stay in the box.

  • Ray

    Can you cite some financial information? The last financials I saw were a 2012 press release that quoted EBIT. Anytime a firm quotes EBIT its pretty safe to assume the GAP numbers are not impressive.

  • Kirk

    Sadly, the model in the unboxing video forgot to wear his “face glove” and put the camera against his bare face ruining its collector value forever….sniff.

  • Ironymous

    Why not? Can’t you still take photos with them?

  • Ironymous

    Not impressive, maybe (it’s all conjecture for now), but much better than Leica in 2004, and still much better than some of the Japanese makers who have been trailing red. Me, I’m selfish: I’d rather Leica survive by selling their soul so that they can continue to service my film M and lenses for a long time to come.

  • Ironymous

    Right, let’s all only use the cameras you use, then. Groan. It’s called choice. People who have it, want to flaunt it. More power to them. Not a problem for me, I’m not a socialist.

  • you can carry vegetables and fish from the market with Hermes Birkin but they are made for something else. Most of luxury cameras are made for collectors.