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Reader Comment: Leica M Typ 240 / M240 Features and Cost

Reader Des H writes:

I am eagerly awaiting more of your Leica M insights. Two or 3 years ago I got an M9, to make sense of Zeiss lenses I already owned from my film days, many good points with the camera, but the viewfinder I find totally annoying, the brightlines are virtually invisible after the Zeiss Ikon, and framing is hit and miss, the inaccurate framing leads me to believe that the M8 viewfinder has been carried over. The lack of any horizontal and vertical line in the v/f (and any accessory finder) makes levelling any wider angle shot a real challenge. The M240’s promise of an EVF gave me hope for far greater things.

So, when I had to pick up the M9 and a lens from Leica’s London store after being repaired, I took along a few lenses with intention of doing a quick shoot with their demo M240. Keen to see how the EVF works with the Zeiss 15 and 18 lenses, as well as the 75 Summicron, and pictures compare with the M9.

Needing to press three separate buttons to set it up was confusing, the ‘salespeople’ were unfamiliar with the controls, no great expertise there.

My own initial ‘quick shots’ with both M, and M9 for comparison were a bit inconclusive.

The EVF viewfinder is so much better, with those lenses. No grid though, disappointing, but maybe a firmware thing for future. Exposure with the M was more accurate (matrix against the vague centre-weighting?).

Quality/sharpness – I felt the M9 was better, despite being careful with focus peaking on the M. Something was not quite right – totally lacking the crispness of the M9. Maybe the camera is out of kilter – maybe it was me

Colour fringing – identical on both cameras, Leica claim the new sensor to be improved in that department, but could see no difference. In fairness I didn’t check whether the M was set to detect the 6 bit codes (both the Zeiss lenses are converted to 6 bit). If you have time to try a wide Zeiss lens, that would be valuable.

Just my own unscientific ‘quick and dirty’ test. I think I’ll hire one before committing myself. Finally:

1) my own feeling is that by having the tripod socket in camera is preferable to it being on the base plate, likely to give a more solid connection between camera and tripod?

2) that absurd label telling you not to put the camera in the refuse bin.... as if

3) camera manuals – Leica are quite the worst – verbose, with no sense of design, hierarchy, or clarity/readability to the text/font. The index on the Monochrom manual, is a direct translation from German – so it is no longer alphabetical. Have written to them saying that it’s a disgrace, and requesting a proper version. Watch this space

DIGLLOYD: my research on the relative sensor merits (sensor + lenses) is still in progress. The Live View feature is a godsend for composition and the EVF can be very helpful for focusing lenses that aren’t set accurately for rangefinder coupling or that have no rangefinder coupling at all.

Some good features certainly, but there seem to be some awkward things too, so I need more time with the camera to sort it all out. Then there are the really dumb things, like not being able to focus at 10X except in exact center and the absence of gridlines overlaid on the image in Live View— features I use constantly on my Nikon D800E.

The future

Can Leica take the M line forward in a compelling way? Where is my 36MP or 48MP Leica M360 or M480 and/or a Leica M Monochrom with 36MP sensor and EVF/Live View? And already the Leica prices are enough to make me blanch, and Leica keeps raising prices 5-7% per year, year after year, while the Japanese companies keep dropping them or at least raising the feature ante at the same price.

It’s a fact that already a D800E with good glass easily outperforms a Leica M system (even the Leica M Monochrom) at a small fraction of the cost. What happens to the value proposition with a 56 megapixel D4x and when the new ultra high performance Zeiss lenses begin to ship at about half the price of the best M lenses, and with superior performance on a sensor with 50% or 120% more pixels? That day is perhaps ~6 months off. Sure I like the M form factor, but it’s actually as bulky as a D800E once the grip and viewfinder are added. The lenses are smaller on the M, but they cost 2-4X as much on a relatively low-res sensor.

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