The Leica M Typ 262 is a digital, full frame rangefinder. More specifically – it’s a pared down version of the M Typ 240 with fewer features and a slightly lighter body.
I’ve had it for over three years at this point and have become completely enamored with it. I’d even go so far as to call it my favorite camera.
So, I’ve been thinking about writing a full, long term review for quite some time. But, for a few reasons, I haven’t really felt I’ve had that much to say about it.
In part it’s perhaps since it doesn’t come with ground breaking features or cutting edge tech that’s easy to write and rave about. Instead it’s a camera offering more subtle strengths.
Besides, in the grand scheme of things it’s also a pretty subtle evolution on the Leica M9 that I reviewed in depth previously. I also written about many of the differences between the M9 and M 262 in a fair amount of detail in a previous article. Between these two posts, I feel like a lot of ground’s been covered already.
Still, as I’ve ended up liking it so much I still want to give it a bit of additional airtime here on the site and share some of my thoughts on it as well as a few tips and tricks that I’ve picked up while using it. So, I figure let’s give it a go and see where we end up, shall we?
We spend our first summer with our second kid at our country house. Lazy days come and go. After a while we take the ferry to another island and spend a week with friends.
I realize that a blanket statement such as the M 262 being my favorite camera isn’t really helpful in a wider context. So I’ll try to break down why I like it so much into a few common threads.
Now, these are all highly subjective aspects. I’m well aware that Leica M cameras are divisive and I’m certainly not trying to argue here that the M 262 is the best choice for everyone or even most people. What I’ll focus on covering here is my own perspective and why this camera has ended up resonating with me to such an extent.
To me then, the broad strokes of the appeal comes down to four things:
There are plenty of tradeoffs with a rangefinder – it’s not possible to focus closely, it relies on very finely calibrated mechanical interfaces and it’s not practical for use with very long or wide lenses.
As a result, they’re definitely not the most practical choice. However I personally enjoy using them immensely.
The quick and easy way to focus, the clear and unaltered view through the finder and the lack of blackout between shots are a few of the aspects that contribute to the specific experience of shooting a rangefinder. This keeps me in the moment to a greater extent than many other viewfinder arrangements.
The rangefinder in the M 262 specifically is great. The viewfinder is bright and comfortable (though the 28mm framelines are a bit hard to see with glasses). The rangefinder patch is clear and distinct, allowing for quick and confident focusing.
While we’re on the topic of the finder, let’s briefly cover the additional things visible through here, as they contribute a great deal to what the M 262 is like in use.
The viewfinder and rangefinder windows are clearly visible above. This viewfinder arrangement is a key aspect why I like the M 262 so much.
The setup allows me to stay in the moment to a greater extent than with many other types of viewfinders. This is an important aspect to me as I mainly shoot to document day to day life with my family these days, stuff I obviously don’t want to feel detached from.
Sample below shot on Leica M 262 & Voigtländer 50/1.5 II
The framelines in the M 262 are lit up using an internal light source resulting in a consistent and clear view of them.
The M 262 lacks a frameline preview lever, a somewhat useful feature present in most other Leica M cameras. I can’t say I’ve missed it much though*.
* The main reason to use it would be for shooting lenses with unusual focal lengths, such as the Zeiss ZM 25/2.8 that brings up the 35mm framelines (28mm would be preferable) or the Leica 40/2 or Voigtländer 40/1.4 that both bring up the 50mm framelines (here 35mm would be a closer approximation).
Beyond the rangefinder patch and framelines, there’s also a light meter readout present in the viewfinder.
In aperture priority mode you’re shown the selected shutter speed. In manual mode there are lights for over, under and proper exposure. This arrangement is the same as it’s been since the 2002 Leica M7.
It’s a barebones but functional setup. Occasionally I feel I’d prefer slightly more subtle readouts than the rather prominent red ones in the Leica’s. An addition of the selected ISO would also be helpful at times (when relying on the excellent auto ISO function for instance).
I find the setup great overall though and certainly prefer this slightly more reductive arrangement to one that’s overly feature rich and distracting.
Another key reason that I like the M 262 so much is the lenses that it’s possible to use on it. The M-mount is one of the most long lived mounts around and with it I have access to most of my all time favorite lenses.
That I can use anything from uncoated classics manufactured in the early days of photography to highly corrected contemporary options and everything in-between is a very compelling aspect to me. That most of them are exceptionally compact and well made certainly add to the appeal.
Now, it’s of course possible to use M-mount lenses on most other mirrorless cameras on the market. However they generally come with a thicker filter stack in front of their sensors, leading to more or less compromised performance. These other cameras also tend to offer a very different shooting experience, with a sometimes overwhelming number of features.
An image shot using the Leica M 262 & Voigtländer 28/3.5 – a lens that would be very hard to find a comparable alternative to in most other mounts.
Speaking of feature richness, the M 262 definitely goes against the tide in this regard. Even compared to the M 240 (which the 262 is based on), a camera that’s extremely basic compared to almost everything else on the market, the M 262 comes across as ascetic.
It offers no features beyond the bare essentials for photography.
In the current climate of a constant performance and feature rat race I personally find it refreshing with a camera so steadfast in its focus on simplicity.
When picking up the M 262 I know it’s ready for shooting, there aren’t any modes or settings to keep in mind or change beyond the very basics. So while it perhaps doesn’t help you out to the same extent as something more feature rich, it’s also less likely to get in the way.
Compared to most other cameras there’s a calmness to this entire approach that, to me at least, instills a sense of focus – the camera takes itself out of the equation, with only me and the moment remaining.
The M 262 is very stripped down, both in terms of features and in terms of controls. Most aspects of the camera are very transparent in purpose and function.
In terms of performance I find the M 262 fantastic and highly capable.
Back when I put together my full review on the Leica M9 I noted that it sat slightly uncomfortably in relation to technological advances. While the M9 is definitely capable of fantastic results and very usable under more conditions than one might expect, there were a few areas where I found the older tech was holding it back somewhat.
While the M9 still felt livable, the more sophisticated M 262 simply leapfrogs most limitations. For how I use it I now don’t ever tend to feel like the camera’s holding me back from what I’m keen to do.
There are a few different things that goes into this, so let’s look at them from two separate perspectives:
First off it’s about the use of the camera. The M9 had a few limitations in this regard.
For instance, it was a bit slow to operate. The shot-to-shot time, playback and navigating menus all felt slightly sluggish. The M 262 feels a lot snappier in this regard (though it’s certainly not a speed demon: an M isn’t really the platform for e.g. fast continuous shooting as it stands).
The more noticeable drawback with the M9 however, was the atrocious screen. It wasn’t really usable beyond checking that you’ve got an image and verifying that exposure was alright (with the help of the histogram of course, you certainly couldn’t properly gauge it otherwise as the screen was very inaccurate in addition to low res).
The screen on the M 262 perhaps isn’t what I’d call outstanding either, but it’s miles ahead of the M9 and more than fine in use. While I try to avoid excessive chimping, it’s certainly helpful to have the possibility to be able to glance at a reasonably accurate representation and check if you’ve nailed focus for instance (something that wasn’t possible with the M9).
Operationally then, the M 262 is just about free from major caveats.
If we move on to performance this is also an area where huge strides have been made compared to the M9. With the older camera I bumped up against both high ISO and dynamic range limitations a bit more often than I liked. With the M 262 those limitations are gone and I feel like I can shoot with confidence in almost any scenario.
To get more specific – the output out of the M9 started to break apart at ISO 800, but I use the M 262 comfortably at ISO 2500.
By contemporary standards that might still sound somewhat restrictive, but despite me being in the habit of shooting in poor light frequently the performance has proven more than sufficient for my use.
In terms of dynamic range it’s harder to quantify from practical use, but it’s definitely possible to shoot under very high contrast light and retain details in both highlights and shadows. Something that wasn’t quite possible with the M9.
Files are also very malleable in post, with a good amount of stability while editing. It’s possible to make larger changes to tonality before files start to break apart and it’s easier to work with more subtle tonal palettes. The flexibility also hold up well even beyond the base ISO settings.
Now, stating that a camera is more capable than one that’s 12 years old at this point is perhaps a bit low of a bar and probably not too informative in a wider context.
What I can say though is that both operational aspects as well the output of the M 262 holds up without reservation. That’s even the case when comparing it to much more recent cameras.
Now that’s not to say that I’ve made controlled, side by side tests or comprehensive comparisons. It’s just safe to say that from my perspective and experience the performance offered by the M 262 is great and never leaves me wanting.
The one aspect I’ve not touched on here however, is pure resolution. This is probably since I tend to feel like other properties contribute more to the look of the output of a camera than the number of pixels. Though then again I don’t tend to print particularly large*.
* However I’d like to note here that I’ve made great looking, very large prints even from much smaller files. So I definitely feel like the 24 MP resolution is plenty as long as it’s a solid file to start with.
But, if you’re someone that regularly make huge prints, perhaps a camera with a higher resolution sensor makes more sense for you.
Once summer rolls back around, she learns to walk. We now find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic. We’ve rarely been happier to have our little get away house, or that the kids have eachother.
That’s it in terms of the broad strokes. But there are a few additional points, adding to the appeal, that I’d like to touch on briefly.
While I wouldn’t call it tiny, the M 262 is among the smaller full frame cameras available. Thanks to the availability of very compact, fantastic lenses that compact size is also kept down more effectively than with most other systems. Even smaller options exist of course, but they generally have compromises in other areas.
It also feels well balanced in hand and the controls are laid out sensibly (though heavier than you might expect given the size). Something that’s not a given on smaller cameras (and often larger ones too, for that matter).
So then, for what it offers I’d say the M 262 is nice and compact, allowing me to bring it along even when not heading out specifically to shoot.
The build quality of the M 262 is impeccable. Material choices as well as the overall fit and finish are second to none. Controls feel well balanced and satisfyingly precise. The entire camera feels built to last and like a well engineered tool in use.
The battery life with the M 262 is outstanding. It lasts for an absolute age.
Even when I’m shooting a lot on a daily basis the battery has enough capacity for several weeks worth of shooting without charging (though I’ve come to realize that I’m a comparably frugal shooter, or in other words – your mileage might vary).
And just to add another reference point – I’ve gone on a few trips without even bringing the charger. This would be unthinkable with most other contemporary cameras other than D-SLRs. So even in a wider context, this is very impressive.
The massive battery is accesible through the removable base plate, as is the SD card slot. On the back of the camera there's a set of buttons with clear and dedicated functionality tied to them. There are a number of them I almost never use though, so it makes sense that Leica have reduced this set on more recent iterations of the M line cameras.
I always feel like the shutter sound is a strong contributor to the feel and personality of a camera. The M 262 is wonderful in this regard, with a subdued but distinct snick. Compared to the noisy M9 it’s way nicer.
A somewhat controversial change between the M 240 and M 262 was to manufacture the top plate out of aluminium rather than brass. The change saves quite a bit of weight.
To Leica purists the brass top plate might be more desirable – the shiny black paint finish looks quite premium and tends to wear in a compelling and classical way over time.
Personally though, I much prefer both the lower weight as well as the more matte, understated finish of the anodized aluminium.
The way a camera renders colors is another critical aspect of how the output is perceived. It’s an area which is hard to quantify though, and one that’s very subjective to boot.
So without diving too deep into this rabbit hole, I’ll simply state that I love the color rendition out of the M 262. To my eye it comes across as natural, competent (separating close hues clearly) and flexible (taking well to editing).
Compared to the M9 it feels more true to life and predictable. Pitted against a few other cameras I have at hand the color rendition out of the M 262 feels richer than the output coming from the Fuji X100T for instance, and more well balanced than that of the Sony A7.
There also seems to be some differences between the M 240 and M 262. I’ve not been able to find out definitely if the differences boil down to hardware or software changes, but either way, to my eye the files out of the M 262 tend to look slightly more natural than samples I’ve seen from the the M 240.
A nice peace of mind addition compared to the M9 is the inclusion of weather sealing. As someone that enjoys shooting outdoors regardless of weather, this is something that I now find essential on a day to day camera.
As mentioned the M 262 is a pared back version of the M 240.
Personally I’ve found the M 240 to feel a bit bloated whenever I’ve had a chance to try one, so the more minimalist feature set of the M 262 definitely feels more compelling to me. Overall there’s very little I’d wish to add.
One feature I’ve felt less adverse towards to though, is live view. I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily missed it on the M 262, but I still think it could be occasionally useful (e.g. for very precise framing or focusing).
Given a choice between a few too many and a few too few features I’d still go with the pared back option, but in this regard the more recent M10 might have struck a more sensible balance here by including live view but skipping video.
I think that one of the reasons that Leica’s are so divisive is simply due to them being expensive cameras. Many people seem to interlink price and capability. And consequently, as the Leica’s are less capable (at least in terms of specs) than many other contemporary options that logic suggests that it should also be cheaper.
Seeing that they’re instead much more expensive I guess ends up quite counter-intuitive, in turn leading to adversity towards those that still find these cameras compelling.
– Leica M 262 & Leica Summicron 50/2 V
There are a number of different counter-positions possible to take here, but I don’t really have much interest in diving into details in this regard. I think the waters are muddy enough as is.
However, there’s one added nuance that I don’t think gets covered often enough – the fact that second hand Leica gear holds its value very well.
It’s too early to tell where I’ll end up with the M 262, but if I were to use my ownership of the Leica M9 as an example it actually ended up way cheaper to own than any other digital camera I’ve had.
I had the M9 for almost exactly seven years between purchasing and selling it. The difference between what I paid for it and what I sold it for was roughly €500. That equates to just over €70 a year or €6 per month. I definitely don’t want to make assumptions about anyones financial situation, but to me that’s an extremely reasonable amount compared to a lot of other running expenses. At the going rate it looks like I’m on a similar track with the M 262.
Now, the situation would’ve been different if I had purchased the M9 or M 262 new of course, or even if I had pulled the trigger a few years earlier when prices were higher. But the point still stands, compared to most other cameras the Leica M cameras seem to hold their value very well.
From this perspective I think the price becomes more about how much money you feel comfortable having tied up in a camera, as well as questions regarding timing – i.e. at what point in time is it most sensible to buy one and how long is smart to hold on to it (as well as potentially getting a sensible insurance, in case of unforeseen events).
By autumn I’m on parental leave with her. It’s certainly a different experience than with our eldest as there are far fewer options on what to do. Still, spending so much time together is a treat.
Let’s talk a bit about what the M 262 is like in actual use.
As alluded to earlier, it’s extremely simple, so there’s not a whole lot to keep track of once you’re shooting. It’s more a case of working around the limitations imposed by the rangefinder and getting comfortable with the reduced feature set of the camera.
Ok, just to be thorough, let’s cover some of the things you need to get out of the way before starting to shoot.
You need to charge and insert the battery of course. As is customary with the Leica M cameras you access the battery and SD card compartments by removing the entire bottom plate. Some people seem to find this a cumbersome procedure, but personally I’ve never been bothered by it.
Once that’s done you might also want to go ahead and format the SD card. As the menu is pared back to just two pages, finding the right option is easy.
Next up, switch the camera on using the collar around the shutter button. Sliding it one step turns the camera on into single shot mode, two steps takes you to continuous drive mode and three steps enables the self timer. Nice and simple.
Next, it’s time to think about exposure. Aperture is set on the lens and shutter speed is selected using the large dial on the top plate. Very straight forward.
The shutter offers speeds from 1/4000s to 8s in half stop increments. There are also bulb (labeled B) and aperture priority (labeled A) modes.
The bulb setting has a somewhat hidden feature – if you turn the command dial in this mode you get access to a number of even slower speeds than those available on the shutter speed dial. Here you can set up an up to 60 second timed exposure. Neat!
I tend to use the aperture priority mode the vast majority of the time. You can see the shutter speed the camera recommends in the viewfinder and lock it by pressing the shutter button half way.
The meter is center weighted and not particularly intelligent. It can fail spectacularly at times. But the important thing is that it’s predictable and consequently easy to learn.
You can punch in exposure compensation through the menu, or enable the rear dial to adjust it immediately whenever turned. This is my preferred setup and I find it perfect in use.
The dial is easy to reach and turns with positive detents, but never changes inadvertently. While you’re changing the amount of compensation using the dial the selected setting is shown in the viewfinder, so it’s very easy to do with your camera to your eye.
The M 262 is more sensitive to over exposure than under exposure, so I tend to have at least a third of a stop under exposure dialed in more often than not.
There’s a dedicated button for ISO selection on the back of the camera. Pressing it gives access to a menu with the ISO options as well as settings for the auto ISO feature.
If you hold the ISO button and turn the command dial you immediately change the ISO setting and it’s locked in as soon as you release the ISO button.
As files out of the M 262 hold up really well even at somewhat high ISO settings I tend to rely on the auto ISO feature the vast majority of the time. I have it set to a 1/125th shutter speed threshold and ISO 2500 limit. This has proven to give me good, predictable results* most of the time.
* Though as mentioned it would sometimes be helpful to easily see both the shutter and ISO speeds the camera selects, but that’s a minor nitpick.
The exception is that if I find myself in low light and shooting a fairly stationary subject I often pick a slower shutter speed using the shutter speed dial (there’s an option to keep auto ISO on or off in fully manual mode, my preference is to keep it on). This approach is much faster and feels more intuitive to me than going into the menu and changing the shutter speed threshold temporarily.
Not much to say about focusing really – it works just as on any other Leica M rangefinder. The focus patch is excellent with great contrast and solid suppression of flare. With practice it’s possible to get really fast (depending somewhat on the lens) and it’s also easier than with most other cameras to use zone focusing.
The shutter button doesn’t have much travel, but there are distinct half and full press detents. As far as shutter buttons go, it’s great*.
* I feel like a bit a freak diving into more specifics here, but as the shutter button is the single most important control point on a camera I think it should feel great. Something that’s often not the case. The Leica M9’s shutter button, for instance, had way too much travel and felt notchy. Same with the M8. The Sony A7’s feel way too spongy. The one on the Fuji X100T that I have wobbles a bit. The Ricoh GR has one that’s just awful as it seems to move around in all sorts of directions. On the Canon and Nikon cameras I’ve used they’ve been ok, but a bit wobbly. My Hasselblad 500C feels nice, but has a bit too much travel to my tastes. The best ones I’ve used are perhaps unsurprisingly the ones on the film Leica’s. Both the M3 and M4-P have ones that feel great, though neither offers a half press detent. So yeah, giving it some thought the one on the M 262 is definitely among the nicest ones I’ve used.
It’s also threaded to accept a traditional cable release (though with the built in self timer and previously mentioned bulb functions mean it’s not necessary all that often).
An aspect I really appreciate with shooting a rangefinder is that the finder doesn’t black out when taking an image. It’s a subtle thing maybe, but to me it’s become hard to feel at ease when shooting cameras with longer black out times. It just feels odd to miss out on the moment you’re actually capturing. With a rangefinder, you’re still seeing things exactly as they happen. In practical terms this makes it easier to time shots and spot if someone blinks for instance. On a more fundamental level, this to me at least helps me stay present to a greater extent.
Alright, one last note connected to shooting the M 262. As mentioned earlier – it isn’t blazing fast, topping out at just three frames per second. So it’s not the best choice for scenarios requiring fast, continuous shooting*. It makes more sense to instead try to time your shots as best you can.
* A small curio is that the shutter sounds slightly different when shooting in the continuous setting compared to the single shot mode. I guess it’s resetting more quickly, but I don’t perceive it as louder, just different.
When it comes to reviewing images, things are once again straightforward.
As expected there’s an option to have images appear automatically after each shot is made. I prefer to keep this setting disabled and initiate playback on my own accord.
Pressing the Play button takes you into playback. Here it’s of course possible to move between images, zoom in to view details or zoom out into a grid view (this is intuitively achieved by turning the command dial).
You have a few different view modes as well, including a histogram overlay (with RGB or monochrome visualization options), over/under exposure warnings (with configurable thresholds) as well as a view of the extended shooting details. Nothing groundbreaking, but it’s all very well considered.
A little trick in playback is that if you’re zoomed in to an image, you can still step between images by holding in the Play button and clicking the arrow keys (maybe it goes without saying, but just pressing the arrow keys when zoomed in simply moves around the magnified area). This trick can be helpful to quickly check sharpness on a few different images without having to zoom back out and then in again.
It’s summer again before we get a chance to meet with my grandmother. We spend a few days down there, before getting back on the road for the long drive home.
Personally I find that the M 262 strikes a fantastic balance in terms of shooting experience and capability. To me it hits a very compelling price point too, compared to the options.
But what are the options? Well, depending on the reasons someone’s considering the M 262, those differ substantially.
The biggest fork in the road is likely going to be whether it’s a rangefinder you’re looking for or not. If it is, most of the other options are earlier or later iterations from Leica* – spanning from the old 1.3x crop M8 from 2006 to the just released M11. Here it’s mostly about finding a fitting balance between price and capability: newer iterations are more refined, but also significantly more expensive.
* There’s also the Pixii, that looks quite interesting despite being equipped with a smaller, APS-C sized sensor rather than a full frame one.
If you’re not necessarily going after a rangefinder the number of options increase exponentially. Here it’s also harder to give any advise as any criteria for comparison would be more far fetched. I will say that pretty much all other manufacturers are pursuing a very different design ethos, so nothing on today’s market really feels like a Leica M to shoot.
Personally though, if a Leica M wasn’t an option, I’m sure I’d get along swimmingly with just about anything else I could get my hands on. I have a soft spot for Fuji’s X100-line and find it hard to argue with the capability of recent Sony cameras. Ages ago I used to shoot Nikon’s professionally and their Z-line of cameras look excellent. Overall I think this is simply a good opportunity to say that my enjoyment of photography isn’t really hinging on which specific brand or model camera I’m using, even though you might occasionally get that impression from this site.
It’s winter by the time we get another chance to head down south. We take that same ferry to visit those same friends on our way down. I’m happy we managed to squeeze this in. Especially as there's another wave on the horizon, another variant causing havoc. Still, I guess this too shall pass.
Throughout this article I’ve been torn between two perspectives:
However, at this point I think it’s futile to continue to balance these two viewpoints. With how niche of a camera the M 262 is, I think finding appeal in it ultimately comes down to aspects beyond the objective and pragmatic.
Instead, to wrap up, I’ll simply take one final stab at articulating why the M 262 has become my favorite camera.
I enjoy the M 262 as much as I do because it’s capable of uncompromising results while still being incredibly transparent in use.
My kids on one of their very first days together. Documenting life’s moments, big and small, is what photography is about for me currently. For this use, the M 262 is just about perfect for my wants and needs.
– Leica M 262 & Voigtländer 50/2.5
It gets out of my way and allows me to stay in the moment to a greater extent than any other digital camera I’ve shot. Perhaps that’s also why it’s taken me so long to get around to writing about it. It’s not a camera that’s mind-blowingly impressive in any particular or specific way – instead its benefits and strengths are more subtle and nuanced. Consequently they’re not as easily summed up or raved about.
To me though, the M 262 is amazing. It’s an excellent companion for what I enjoy shooting these days – the places I find myself in, day to day life, friends & family. The transparency in use and beautiful results makes the M 262 just about perfect for what I want out of a camera in this context. It’s simple and limited, but to me that also makes it enjoyable and even inspiring to shoot.
I’ll close out by reiterating part of my bottom line from my earlier article on the M 262 vs the M9:
Perhaps the M 262 also won’t be the camera to end all other cameras for me… But then again I can’t see any reason why it couldn’t be. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to the ideal digital camera for my tastes.
All photos in this post were taken using the Leica M Typ 262 using the Leica Summicron 50/2 V, Voigtländer 28/3.5, Voigtländer 50/1.5 II, Voigtländer 50/1.2, Voigtländer 50/2.5 or Zeiss ZM 35/1.4.
Images of the cameras were made with a Sony A7 and Leica Elmar-C 90. Exif-data is intact. Open any image in a new window for a closer look.