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24-Megapixel CMOS Leica M (Typ 240)

Naturally I will be covering the new 24-megapixel Leica M when it becomes available in my Guide to Leica, which covers Leica M, Leica S, and Leica R (lenses).

I hereby designate the 24-megapixel 2012 Leica M (Typ 240) the Leica M240, in defiance of the insane idea of dropping the model designation from the M line (more on that further below).

Of some surprise is not seeing any new 'M' lenses announced; I was expecting a new 28mm f/1.4. With Live View, there are no longer any serious constraints on blocking the rangefinder, at least from my point of usage.

Backfilling the functionality gaps

In general, Leica is taking the M line forward in a very useful way.

The various accessories (handgrip with GPS, Leica R lens adapter, EVF2, Live View, video) all contribute to a FAR more versatile and useful system that rewards those who have invested in Leica. KUDOS to Leica for moving the M line forward.

As for the Leica M-E, I suppose this is a good thing, but the same moldering 230K pixel LCD is used and no Live View, so I don’t see the point over buying a mint used M9 or M9P, which will flood the market when the M240 appears.

The Leica M-E pricing of $5450 suggests that the M240 will not drop in price compared to the M9.

Leica M240 24-megapixel rangefinder with EVF2

Leica R lenses

As a negative, I expect Leica R lenses to rise in price even more (should have bought all of them when they were selling for peanuts 3-4 years ago), but since I have four of the Leica R APO lenses, this does not perturb me much. And it means that I can use the Leica R 90/2 APO ASPH successfully at any aperture, and that I do not need to buy the 90mm M version. Good!

Feature Spec Comments
Product name: LEICA M (Typ 240), No wonder Leica wants to avoid model numbers with a name like this.
Camera type: Compact digital view- and rangefinder system still and video camera Takes M lenses and R lenses with an adapter.
Lenses: Leica M lenses, Leica R lenses with optional Leica R-Adapter M I would not want to tripod mount the Leica M given the weight of some R lenses and thus stress on the lens mount.
Sensor: LEICA MAX 24 MP CMOS Sensor 24 megapixels, 5952 X 3976
ISO 200 – ISO 6400, Pull 100 available, Auto ISO
LCD Monitor: 3” TFT Display with 920.000 Pixels, scratch resistant cover glass (Corning®Gorilla®Glass) At last.
Shutter: 1/4000s – 60s (in Bulb), 1/180s flash synchronization Too bad no 1/8000 for fast lenses.
Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXCMemoryCards Leica finally supports SDXC
File format: DNG approx. 20 Mbyte – approx. 30 Mbyte (compressed)/ 48.2 MByte (uncompressed), JPEG: Resolution and image content dependent Hopefully this is lossless-compressed.
Video: Single frame video compression (Motion JPG), Quicktime format (mov), 1080p at fps, 24 fps, So much for a classic rangefinder philosophy.
Focusing methods: Manual focus with optical rangefinder, Live View, 100% Live View Zoom, Live View focus peaking Will it work well? We shall have to wait and see.
Optical viewfinder: Large, light bright-line rangefinder with automatic parallax compensation, LED illuminated frame lines. 0.68x, same as Leica M9
EVF Electronic Viewfinder (EVF-2) Let’s hope it is high quality. Probable manual switch on/off, but maybe auto-eye-detect?
Weight 680g With or without battery?
Accessories Electronic Viewfinder (EVF-2), Multifunctional Handgrip M, Handgrip M, SCA Adapter Set for Multi-functional Handgrip M, Power Adapter for Multi-functional Handgrip M, Finger loop for Multi- functional Handgrip M, Size S / M / L, Leica Microphone Adapter Set, Leica M-Adapter R, Ever- Ready Case M, Li-ion Battery BP-SCL2, Battery charger BC-SCL2  

Analysis

Black and white

First of all, Leica M240 might match the performance of the Leica M Monochrom in resolving power for black and white imagery, we shall see, as we have already investigated the Leica MM vs Nikon D800E and Leica MM vs Leica M9.

Press Release

Rather than repeating the Leica Press release for the 24-megapixel Leica M in whole, I will instead dissect and comment on what I see as the key points.

The Leica M also marks the beginning of a new era in the Leica product naming policy. In future, Leica M and S model names will omit the number suffix to emphasize the enduring and long-term significance of the respective systems.

An idiotic way to eviscerate epistomology— without accurate terms one has to constantly explain what is meant. As is immediately apparent in the first three words of what follows.

The Leica M [which one?!] is the first in a long line of Leica rangefinder cameras to feature a completely new development in sensor technology; the Leica Max CMOS image sensor. This 24 MP, full 35 mm format sensor was designed and constructed in collaboration with CMOSIS especially for the camera and its use with M- and R-Lenses.

This new development successfully transfers the characteristic advantages of CCD sensors, such as natural and brilliant color rendition and impressive reproduction of details, to a CMOS sensor.

In combination with the high-performance Leica Maestro processor that is also employed in Leica S cameras, this new full format sensor guarantees maximum imaging quality and speed. Now, all elements in the image creation chain, from the lens to the image file, are under complete control of the Leica engineers. This guarantees the ultimate in imaging performance and quality. An additional highlight is the low power consumption of the components that, in conjunction with the particularly high capacity of the battery, ensures outstanding performance over a long period of use.

This all sounds promising. Which is what press releases are for.

The Leica M offers a multitude of new features. The first of these are Live View and Live View Focus. Image composition can now take place in real time with the view of the subject through the lens.

The sharpness, exposure and color content of images can now be precisely assessed on the camera’s large, 3-inch, high-resolution monitor screen with 920,000 pixels. The glass covering plate of the monitor screen is manufactured from particularly tough and scratch- resistant Corning®Gorilla®Glass.

The new Live View function allows photographers to have access to entirely new opportunities that, in combination with the outstanding performance of Leica M- and R- Lenses, go far beyond the classical capabilities of rangefinder photography. This applies particularly to macro and telephoto photography, but also allows even more discreet shooting.

In combination with M- and R-Lenses, the camera’s new 1080p Full HD video capability also opens up further opportunities to record memories as they happen. Ever in pursuit of capturing Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Decisive Moment,” the Leica M offers two additional focusing methods that can be activated quickly and easily with the new focus button.

M-Photographers now have even more options for capturing outstandingly sharp images. The new ‘Live View Zoom’ option enables up to 10 x magnification for precise assessment of the sharpness of subject details or the close focusing limit.

The second aid to focusing is ‘Live View Focus Peaking’. Here, contours in the subject are automatically displayed as red lines to allow simple and convenient focus assessment. Focusing precision can be assessed on the basis of the intensity of the lines displayed.

Compared to the Leica M9, this all sounds GREAT. Let’s hope Leica doesn’t pull a “Nikon” on the Live View implementation.

The top deck and the base plate of the Leica M are machined from solid brass blanks and the full-metal chassis is a completely self-contained diecast element manufactured from high-strength magnesium alloy.

Special rubber seals protect the camera body against dust, spray and moisture.

It’s not clear to me if this is new, but if this is weather sealing, I’m all for it. I’d personally like a carbon fiber or titanium option to keep the camera lighter.

Dedicated button controls have been provided for the Live View and new focusing functions. Live View Zoom and Live View Focus Peaking can be selected with the new focus button on the front of the camera.

For increased comfort in use and harkening to the film advance lever of Leica film cameras, the Leica M now provides an ergonomically formed thumb rest with an integrated setting dial at the top right on the back of the top deck. This ensures that the camera can be held securely in even the most demanding situations.

Sounds excellent, and I’m very glad Live View is a button.

User profiles can be programmed with any camera and shooting settings, stored under an arbitrary name. They can be accessed quickly whenever required for particular situations and can now also be saved to an SD memory card.

But is there a “My Menu” feature (sorely lacking in the M9), so that I don’t have to dig through the menus?

A wide range of optional accessories is also available for the new Leica M. A particular highlight of the range is a new Leica R-Adapter M that allows almost all R-Lenses ever built to be mounted on the camera. The use of Leica R-System lenses now opens up vast new possibilities for zoom, telephoto and macro photography.

 

As I’ve said since the Leica M9 was introduced, Live View solves a ton of issues and enables a far wider range of uses. But many of these lenses are HEAVY and in my view, it would be a bad idea to ask the camera lens mount to support their weight on a tripod (mounting the camera to the ballhead). But perhaps Leica has thought of this and added support for tripod mounting to the adapter itself?

Further accessories are the Leica EVF2, Visoflex electronic viewfinder and a multifunctional handgrip-M with an integrated GPS module that, in combination with optional finger loops in various sizes (S, M and L), helps to ensure safe and steady handling of the camera and lens system. The range also includes a Leica Microphone Adapter set for perfect sound with video recordings.

The new high-resolution Leica electronic Visoflex viewfinder (EVF2) has a resolution of 1.4 megapixels and a 90° swivel action for capturing images from unusual angles. When mounted on the camera it displays all significant exposure parameters and allows precise subject assessment, especially in brightly lit surroundings. In combination with the R-Adapter, R-Lenses and the viewfinder, the Leica M can be used independently from its monitor in the same way as an SLR camera.

he EVF resolution is the same as in the Olympus E-M5— good but not the best (2.4M dot OLED in Sony A99 for example).

The EVF2 a very good thing but won’t come cheap, and probably will offer the same egonomic manual on/off rudeness as with the Leica X2. Half a loaf, and no butter.

The integrated GPS module sounds useful.

The Leica M can also be connected directly to a computer workstation via the handgrip’s integrated USB socket, allowing full remote control of the camera with the ‘Leica Image Shuttle’ software package and the transfer of image files directly to the computer by USB cable.

USB version? USB2 and USB3 are so different in performance (about 15X) that it’s absurd to describe it without describing it.

As a special accessory for the 1080p Full HD video capability of the Leica M, the range also includes a Leica Microphone Adapter Set consisting of an adapter and a stereo microphone. The adapter also allows the connection of other microphones.

Thoughtful addition. Will it be used?

The Leica M will be available from Leica dealers, including the Leica Store Washington DC, in early 2013 in a choice of black paint or silver chrome finish.

Longer wait than I’d like, but I’m in. I doubt I’ll want my Leica M9P any more.


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