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Commentary + Reader Comments on Leica M

I am not done by any means with my review of the Leica M240, so I want to be explicit: on the whole I prefer the M240 because of its Live View with high-res LCD, and the EVF option; these are extremely useful, especially with the Noctilux. I am less sure about the overall ergonomics, to which my initial reaction ranges from ambivalent to unfavorable.

BTW, the M240 feels like a brick: over a kilogram (1016) with the 50/2 APO ASPH mounted. And that’s one of the lighter lenses. A Nikon D800E with Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar is about 1450 grams.

Value

Leica is raising prices again on May 1. Only 2-3%, but prices go up every year. And never down. Compare that to the increasing value proposition and generally lower prices from Japan, every year like clockwork.

Warranty? One (1) year. Any plastic piece of crap camera has a one year warranty.

Truly Leica is becoming a luxury good (if it wasn’t already?). The M is a serious camera for serious shooters, but price is rapidly transforming it into a camera for dilettantes who will buy for cachet alone, like buying a watch or jewelry an exotic leather belt. A camera as a fashion accessory. This can’t be good for Leica long term. Or maybe it is; perhaps that luxury market is long term reliable given the limited production capacity. Why not double the price and limit production to 5000 bodies?

Well, I get queasy thinking about having to pay $$10,000 for the privilege of having features that any $900 APS-C point and shoot already has (~$9500 with grip and EVF + 9.25% tax here in California). Just for a camera body with a grip and no lens that has image quality little different than the M9P and less good than my D800E. No trade-in program for M9 owners. The price-to-value ratio on an image quality basis is now sky-high (meaning laughable). A luxury good masquerading as a camera. I’m all for luxury goods, I am glad they exist. But that’s not the issue for photographers.

Leica M240 + 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH

Reader comments

Roy P writes:

My guess is, Leica wanted to avoid directly competing with the massive Japanese companies like Nikon/Canon. So they let themselves be kicked out of the 35mm DSLR domain. I think that was a strategic blunder. By staying in the 35mm digital game, they would never have made a dent in Nikon/Canon, but they would have still leveraged the overall growth in 35mm digital photography, and still grown as a niche player, like a Rolls-Royce or a Ferrari in an overall growing consumer auto business.

I think that's also why they created the S - at the high end, they did not want to take on PhaseOne head on.

Problem is, Leica has created these islands now where they think they can call the shots, but the islands are beginning to shrink because the mainstream that Leica tried to avoid is now beginning to flow right into Leica's turf. At the high end, the high end 35mm cameras (D800E, D4x) are going to be all over the S domain. At the low end, FF mirrorless is going to be a tidal wave that's about to hit the M line.

Absent Zeiss, Leica could have probably made their strategy work, but with Zeiss making the high res sensors in other cameras really shine, Leica will increasingly find itself up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Not a good position to be in, both price and performance-wise. This is the

Peter L writes:

Like Des H I was also eagerly waiting in the sidelines for your review but so far from your preliminary review this M240 is a non-starter for me. I don’t know if Leica will come up with your suggested M360 or M480. They have to (I hope sooner than later) as otherwise, excepting for the diehards, they will start losing some of their loyal customer base, like Des H.

Leica’s high premium prices is not really an issue for its customer profile BUT they have to keep up with the performance curve established by the Japanese. Selling based just on your legendary brand alone is not going to find Leica new customers like me who is willing to invest $40,000+ into the M system for personal use.

I believe Leica is using a customized CMOSIS sensor. CMOSIS currently offers a FF 70MP sensor, albeit at slow 3fps. Leica should leapfrog the competition and have the sensor company adapt this 70MP sensor to the M240 (actually M224) to be a M270. Even if Leica charged $20,000+ for the body, most of Leica’s clientele will not flinch and have a 12 month or more wait list.

I don’t know if the M240 can have its sensor upgraded when Leica improves the sensor’s pixel count. That should have been designed into the M system Use a business model akin to RED Cinema cameras, offering a 5K sensor upgrade from 4K for $7,500. The M240 video features ought to be an option because the still camera purist do not want the video feature in their M system. The video option has to be at least as good in performance as a 5DMk3 if not a Black Magic 4K cine camera. The latter also using a CMOSIS sensor.

I am really disappointed and was so anxious to purchase the M240. I will now wait on the sidelines again. The expectation for Leica’s performance is high and this M240 system is not meeting that expectation. In my opinion they are tarnishing the legendary Leica brand and diluting its brand equity. Despite saying that, I believe Leica will have more than enough M240 buyers whose purchasing decisions are not based on being ahead of the performance curve.

DIGLLOYD: I consider the Live View and EVF features of the M240 to be extremely helpful, especially with the Noctilux and the high-res rear LCD is a huge improvement over the one in the M9. The viewfinder drives me crazy: there are no frame lines unless I turn on the camera and the release button and mode “stick” and don’t work as smoothly s on my M9.

Sensor upgrades are “hard”: the generally would mean the sensor plus all the electronics and CPU support. And labor costs.

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