Leica M 240 – It Wont Be Missed
..(& my Photography Journey so far)
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
My photography journey is now perhaps into it’s 8th year. I started with digital cameras and worked my way through a Lumix G1, Nikon D90, Nikon D700, Nikon D800 but still wanted something more. I tried my late Grandad’s Yasica MG-1 35mm film camera and then started looking at other film cameras. I bought a Contax 645 medium format film camera, ARAX-CM (Kiev 88), Mamiya RZ67 to name a few and then I bought a digital Leica M9.
The Leica M9 Kodak CCD sensor produced filmic looking images straight out of the camera without any need for hours of Photoshop or efforts in the dark room. The Leica M9 pretty much killed my film photography journey for perhaps 12 months. I then slowly started getting back into film cameras and new camera purchases included vintage 1950s Leica cameras like the Leica M3 and Leica M2. I also bought two large format 4×5 film cameras, a Pacemaker Speed Graphic and Sinar F2. I find I cycle between 35mm film, medium format and large format. Each format have their strengths and drawbacks.
Leica M 240
The next chapter in my photography journey was when my Leica M9 started to fail me. The rangefinder became misaligned, it was quite bruised and battered from so much use anyway and the sensor needed replacing. I decided to say goodbye to the M9 and part ex’d it in for a new digital Leica M Typ 240. Initially I was excited by the M240.
As quickly as the Leica M9 had killed my film photography I think the Leica M 240 has killed my digital photography. I would describe the M240 as producing equally unexciting photos as my Nikon D800. Both are good cameras with many positives but neither make me want to take a photo for enjoyment. The Leica M 240 is now only used on my model photography shoots for test shots and to warm up the models. The photos are fine and the girls use them for their portfolio images but I may only use one or two as preview images until the ‘proper’ film photos are developed.
At roughly the same time as my Leica M 240 purchase I was experiencing a string of frustrating film camera issues. The Leica M3 rangefinder also needed recalibrating, the Mamiya 645 was misfocusing, the Rollei SL66E film back was not taking the film, the Fuji GS645 had a sticking shutter, the Mamiya RZ battery always seemed to be flat. The list went on. I decided to get a more modern 35mm film camera, a Nikon F4 SLR. I liked the photos and camera to use but wanted more resolution. That lead me to buy another more modern film camera, a Fuji GA645. The Fuji GA645 images were excellent but the camera is not that exciting to use. The search continued.
During all the time I have been buying and lusting after different cameras I have not once considered a Hasselblad. I’m not sure why, I think I always wanted the greatest shallow depth of field so went for cameras like the Contax 645 and Mamiya 645 using faster lenses. Many Hasselblad lenses are f4 widest aperture and I was used to using f1, f1.2, f1.4 on the 35mm Leica cameras. I already had four 6×6 film cameras, ARAX-CM, Rollei SL66E, Fuji GF670 in 6×6 format and the Mamiya RZ with a 6×6 film back attached. Again, all nice cameras but none were perfect and I think it is that that lead me to a 500 Series Hasselblad.
If the Leica M 240 killed my digital photography then the Hasselblad 501C hammered home the final nail in the coffin. The Hasselblad has single handedly transformed my photography for the better. Of all the cameras I use I think only the Leica M9 had such a positive impact on my photography. So what changed?
I enjoy composing the 6×6 Hasselblad square format and the Zeiss lenses give me the high resolution film images I like. At f4 the subject detail is super sharp yet the background can still melt away. The camera size makes it portable for location shoots yet slow enough to be selective about the photos I capture.
After experiencing the quality of a Hasselblad camera I then bought a 35mm Hasselblad XPan rangefinder. (Blog post to follow).
The Leica M 240 wont be missed
So I started by saying the Leica M 240 wont be missed so where is it you may ask? If you saw my recent New York (II) workshop blog post you may have noticed I took a digital Leica M8 (and my new Leica M6 film camera) not the M240. Well in addition to losing all interest in the Leica M 240 images (due to the flat and uninteresting photos that require far too much time in post processing to create something worth sharing) I also noticed the M 240 rangefinder was out of alignment. My M240 is currently with the engineers in Leica Germany and so the Leica M8 has stepped up to the mark as my digital camera for model photoshoots.
I think for the first 6 months of using the M 240 I ignored the fact that the photos looked like the Nikon D800 CMOS sensor photos. Photos took a lot of work in Lightroom but I could usually get something from it to share. I then recently went back to shooting B&W JPEGs (plus RAW) in the Leica M8 and it brought back the amazing memories of how I used to shoot when I first bought the Leica M9. I could shoot 200+ photos with a model and have them emailed to her within an hour of her leaving the studio. That alone shows how good the Leica CCD sensor is, whether Leica M8 or Leica M9. Photos just come out the camera ready to share without hours wasted in front of a computer. When I am using a digital camera to test the last thing I need is to then waste hours editing before I can give the photos to a model when I want to spend my time developing and scanning film.
You might say at this stage well stop moaning about it and just buy another Leica M9 and sell the M 240 or better still sell the Leica M 240 and buy an enlarger to start printing my own film images with! The problem I face is some clients want modern digital photos in colour and for that the Leica M240 does a better job than the Nikon D800 in my hands. Until I can persuade all wedding couples to request only film photography images I plan to keep the Leica M 240 for wedding photography as the camera does have some advantages over the M9. The M240 is a nice camera it just has a very boring sensor.
The Leica M 240 sensor captures lots of information in a very flat way making images great as a project to work on for hours in Photoshop but not the instant gratification of the Leica M8 / M9 I desire. I like to create images in camera not in computer. The M240 is a camera where perhaps 50% of the image is created in camera, 50% in computer. The Leica M9/ M8 B&W JPEGs can be created 95-99% in camera and I would say my black and white film images are 88% in camera/film developing, 2% scanning, 10% in computer to remove dust and do any basic darkroom style adjustments.
I hope Leica can release a digital camera in the future that excites me as much as the Leica M8/ M9 do but at the moment the future for me is looking like film. As probably expected I have not missed the Leica M240 being away for repair. When I had the Leica M9 I don’t think I could have imagined not having it with me. (That is why I used the M9 for over a year with a faulty sensor). Big difference!
(Leica M8 images blog in the pipeline to show what M8 black and white JPEG looks like).