Leica M 240 – Learn to Love

Leica M 240 – Learn to Love

Matthew Osborne Photography / @MrLeicaCom

May 2016

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Leica M 240

Having owned my Leica M 240 camera now for about 9 months I thought I better share my latest thoughts.  I wrote a review in January 2016 titled “Leica M 240 – It Wont Be Missed” (linked below).  Since then we have started to get along quite well and have learnt to live with each others quirks and flaws.  I am now happy to shoot both colour photos and black and white photos with the M 240 without commenting “It’s nice but it’s not as good as the Leica M9”.  I now like the M240 photos as they are and i’ve started to shoot much more colour digital photography even if my film photography remains mostly black and white.  I made basic Lightroom presets to apply to images, a few for colour photos and a few for black and white and that lets me quickly batch edit all images for models.

I used to shoot mostly wide open and in black and white and normally with a 50mm lens.  My current taste is to use 35mm lenses stopped down so the little Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens has lived on my Leica M240 for the last few months.  I used this setup for the Poland model photography trip and Ukraine model photography trip and am still using it now i’m back in the UK.

Here are a few digital sample photos from the Poland and Ukraine trips ahead of the film photos to follow, and also a few photos in the UK.  All photos shot with the Leica M 240.

Polish Models

Leica Fashion Photography
Leica Fashion
Leica M240 6x6
Greetings from Poland! :)
Poland Model Photography
Polish Girl
Leica M240 Fashion
Leica Fashion

Ukrainian Models

Leica M Fashion
Ukraine Road Trip
Ukrainian Model
Ukraine Model Photography
Leica M 240 - Learn to Love
Leica M240
Go Green!
Leica Fashion
Killer Smile
Light and Shadow
Loving the 35mm view

British Models

Leica Summicron 90mm f2
Leica Fashion
Leica M 240 in Colour
Leica M 240 Model Photography
Model Photographer

Conclusion

There is no digital camera currently on the market that I think would suit my needs better than the Leica M 240.  I love rangefinder cameras and I continue to enjoy the quality of Leica M mount lenses and the overall small size of the Leica M camera range, whether digital or film.  I don’t really lust after any digital cameras or lenses.  If I ‘need’ something new to buy to explore / test / experiment with I buy old analogue film cameras.  I am happy to use the digital photos for posting on the likes of Flickr, Facebook and Instagram but for me if I want to take a ‘proper’ photo I will always shoot it on film.

The Hasselblad 501C remains king (for me) until I find something that can ‘beat’ it!  See my last post comparing the Mamiya 6 vs Hasselblad for more detail.

Thanks

Matt

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Leica M 240 – It Wont Be Missed

Leica M 240 – It Wont Be Missed

..(& my Photography Journey so far)

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica

#excited 😁 I just found out that the Leica Summicron 50 DR with its close focus goggles will fit on my Leica M Typ 240! It doesn't fit on a M9 or M8. #result! #leicam #leicam240 #leicacamera #leicacraft #leicasphere #leica #summicron #summicrondr #ra

January 2016

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.

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.

Upgrading

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.

Hasselblad

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).

Leica M Typ 240 Arrives!..?

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?

Yes.
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.