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Leica M Monochrom In My Hands

Leica MM is here. Out shooting.

See previous notes and preliminary coverage in my Guide to Leica.

Initial bugs: won't work with 64GB Lexar cards, keeps telling me that my empty 32GB Lexar card is full. Isn’t this 2012 already?


The sensor quality is gorgeous.

<rant>OK back from shooting with 90% of Noctilux shots useless out of focus garbage (even at f/5.6) with bad backfocus— and I used a 1.4X magnifier— so it could not have been me— and my Noctilux is perfect on my M9P. Apparently use of a deep red filter throws off the focus just like infrared does, or at least that is my quick theory until I go verify under fixed conditions. Apparently I’m going to have to compensate somehow if red filtration is to be used. My shots taken at closer range without filtration are better. And maybe it’s partly the rangefinder in the Leica M Monochrom body (the lenses are fine on my M9P). Hard to nail down without further research.

But the nasty usage reality is this— when a high-res digital camera has no Live View feature and the bargain-bin ultra low-res blurry LCD is paired with brain-dead firmware that refuses to display anything remotely close to actual pixels (to check focus accuracy post-shot), the result is hours of wasted time producing a lot of blurred images (well, they are sharp somewhere well behind the subject). What a shame. And very, very frustrating.

Seriously, after 3 years, Leica M bodies still cannot zoom into actual pixels to allow a critical focus check, or even a crude 'ballpark' focus check, it’s that poor. With the MM, this is even more critical. I had a lengthy conversation with Leica USA on this 18 months ago, with my factual explanation of the problem utterly repudiated and rejecting, as if denying reality were a legitimate response (“Leica cameras cannot by definition have any shortcomings”, more or less). Leica doesn’t have the sense even to acknowledge the limitation, let alone fix the stinking firmware (it’s software Leica, fix it already!).</rant>

Anyway, looks like testing the Leica M Monochrom is going to be very hard work.

Well, the sensor quality is gorgeous. But not very colorful.

Martin D writes:

The examples look great. But doesn't look like a camera I'd want to wrestle with (for the reasons you supply).

The more I think about it, the more it feels the optical viewfinder is done. EVFs still aren't good enough to be pleasing to use, and manufacturers still can't consistently deliver the focusing tools that are needed, but optical simply doesn't cut it any more.

Sony's fixed half-mirror approach is seeming like a better and better idea, although the light loss is unfortunate. Focus peaking looks like a critical tool for many applications. Right now it feels comfortable sitting on the fence, watching.

DIGLLOYD: The unfortunate truth. Light loss with Sony is 1/3 stop or so— totally acceptable in my view, but perhaps another place to gather dust and dirt.

Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH
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