Leica M Typ 240 Arrives!..?
Matthew Osborne Photography
Over the last 3-6 months I had the oppotunity to meet various fellow Leica M photographers on my London photography workshops that were using the flagship Leica M (Typ 240). As a Leica M9 user the first thing that blows you away is the image resolution on the M’s 3 inch LCD display. I have toyed with the idea of ‘needing’ a Leica M before and written my thoughts on these blog pages.
So if the M9 works well why am I now looking for more?
I guess the more my photography matures the more demanding I become of my equipment in the quest for ‘perfection’ in my eyes (whatever that may be!). For Leica wedding photography the M9 is great in good light but I try to keep the ISO low at all times. When shooting wide open with the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 this is rarely a problem but if I want to shoot with say a f2.8 lens such as the 21mm Zeiss ZM Biogon then of course I need more light. Model photography is easy as subjects can be asked to stay static to let me using a very slow shutter speed handheld and get a crisp photo. For available light only documentary style wedding photography such as a bride and her father walking down the aisle a shutter speed of perhaps 1/125 is required to prevent motion blur. To do this I may then need to push up my ISO beyond ISO 800 and I am not happy to do this.
Leica M9 vs. Leica M 240 – What do I want from the M?
- Quieter shutter release – for candid wedding photography and church ceremony photos
- Increased image resolution – I can get more from my Leica M lenses mounted on a 24MP sensor. Especially new lenses like the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO
- Increased dynamic range – capturing more highlight and shadow detail in my images which us useful for wedding photos when I may need to recover shadow or highlight detail in post processing
- Higher usable ISO – perfect for available light photography in the often dull UK weather
- Increased battery life – very useful for both wedding photography and location shoots
- Exposure preview – I no longer need to take a photo to check my exposure, I can just half press the shutter release
- Ability to mount other lenses – this is a biggy even if not so much for my paid work. I can get creative with non Leica lenses such as M42 mount Zeiss Pancolar 80mm f1.8 and others
Leica M features that don’t really excite me
- Leica video function – in my view this should be dropped for the M10
- Leica colours – I have had no problem with my Leica M9 colours unlike many reports
- Additional optional electronic viewfinder – I prefer a rangefinder focus system
- Focus peaking – I am happy focusing the Noctilux 50mm f1 at f1 on moving subjects via the RF
- Hype – I buy on a practical basis not to have it as a fashion accessory
Have I changed my view since my last M 240 review?
- Yes. I had been concerned about :
CMOS sensor will lose the filmic look seen from the CCD M9 sensor
Increased dynamic range giving flat looking files
Increased resolution giving a clinical feel to my images
- Now I see these as :
The Leica M CMOS sensor gives images a look that sits between the M9 and a DSLR Increased dynamic range captures more detail to process in post. It doesn’t need to look flat.
Increased sensor resolution captures more detail resulting in a larger file size. A larger file size again gives more flexibility for post processing.
The key change in my view of the Leica M is ultimately it is the lens more than the sensor that gives the final look to an image. If I shoot with some of my older 1950s Leica M lenses such as the 50mm f1.5 Summarit or 35mm f3.5 Summaron the photos appear soft if the lenses are used wide open. A higher resolution sensor means I can pull more detail from each photo taken increasing their apparent sharpness. If I want razor sharp images I can use some of my newer Leica lenses such as the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO. My best portrait lenses are my Leica Summicron 90mm f2 (1973) and Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2. Both lenses give soft glow portraits which again can benefit from the 24MP M 240 sensor.
Another benefit of a larger file size is the ability to crop an image more heavily and still have a printable file size. I have been spoilt by the 36MP Nikon D800 DSLR sensor that lets you crop to 25% of the original image size and still gives a 9MB photo. I find the ability to crop useful for wedding photography when perhaps composition of a candid shot could be greatly improved by some simple cropping.
Leica M 240 vs Nikon D800
Why do I ‘need’ a Leica with a higher useable ISO and increased resolution when I already have the Nikon D800 that ticks both boxes?
I mentioned in another post that during the last 12 months the way I take a photo has changed. In the past focusing through the lens with either a SLR/ DSLR or micro four thirds camera was the norm. The rangefinder focus system was alien to me and difficult to use. It was hard to even image using a Leica for a wedding when I first got it. Now it is the opposite. I am struggling to nail focus on the D800 for subjects more than a few meters away by eye yet I can hit every shots with the Leica Noctilux shot wide open at f1. I use my Leica M9 for everything so I guess practice makes perfect! I like the clean images from the Nikon D800 but I always think i can do better with the Leica M lenses on a RF focusing camera. This is where the Leica M 240 will hopefully tick the box for me, for when I am doing freelance wedding photography for other photographers and they want me to use a camera to give a more typical DSLR look.
Will the Leica M 240 replace my Leica M9?
No I currently use the Leica M9 as my primary wedding camera and have the Leica M8 as a backup. In the past I used to shoot with two camera bodies a Nikon D800 and Nikon D700. One body had a wider lens and the other a telephoto. I like the simplicity of only using one camera body but sometimes I want both a wide shot and telephoto image and don’t have time to change lens for fear of missing something. Common examples include walking down the isle shot where what close up of the couple but then also a photo showing all the guests too, speeches for the same reason and also the first dance. I think my plan would be keep the Leica Noctilux firmly attached to my Leica M9 shooting it wide open and keeping the ISO low and then various wider lenses on the M 240 such as the 21f2.8, 28f2 and 35f1.2.
So after much research and deliberation I decided to take the plunge and invest in my most expensive piece of camera equipment to date. A barely used Leica M camera body on eBay for £4000. I rang the seller and agree a transfer payment amount of £3900 so I was happy with the purchase price. I was excited to receive it before my next run of UK Leica weddings where I knew the venues were dark inside. Next step was to buy the various Leica M – M42 adapters and other adapters to use non-Leica M lenses on a Leica body where I will be able to focus the lens with the LCD display rather than the rangefinder focus system. I thought I better wait until the camera actually arrived before buying ‘extras’ so managed to resist pressing buy.
..that was written in July 2014. The Leica M camera never arrived and I lost my hard earnt £3900 payment. 🙁
I later discovered the camera advert was a direct copy of another listed camera and didn’t even exist. I am waiting for the police investigation to conclude their inquiry but have been told not to expect any money back. I live day to day life on a no frills budget so I can afford these expensive camera luxuries so it is tough to accept when something like this happens.
Have I learnt from the experience?
1) Be careful who you trust when buying online regardless of how convincing they are and try to collect in person if high value.
2) Did I need the Leica M? No. Life has continued without it and the Leica M9 is still more than capable for my wedding photography. My focus instead shifted from new digital (Leica M) to medium format film rangefinder cameras with the arrival of first the older Fujica GS645 6 x 4.5 format folding camera and then once I was hooked in the newer Fuji GF670 6×6 / 6×7 folding rangefinder camera.
Film vs. Digital
No matter how good a photo I take with a digital camera I will always prefer it if shot on film. I like the imperfections of analogue photos over clean looking digital images and hence am so excited to develop the pile of exposed film in my fridge shot through 2014 on various cameras. I have just sent off 5 rolls of C41 film to the lab for developing so will start scanning that once it returns and then have 120 and 35mm black and white film to stand develop with R09 Rodinal now I have fresh stock and a new thermometer to replace my faulty one. On top of that I also have a stack of Fuji FP100C exposed Polaroid backs to bleach in the sink on my to do list if and when I get time.