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Reader Asks: Buy the Leica M Typ 240?

Reader Bob H writes:

I thank you for your very interesting and well considered series of articles on the Leica M240 and would be grateful for your advice if you are able to give it.

In the middle of last year, I sold my Leica M9 in anticipation of the new M being introduced, retaining my collection of 9 M lenses which have been lovingly (and expensively) collected over the years (16mm through to 135mm). I attended Photokina in Cologne in order to see and handle the new M and I have to say I was very disappointed with it and decided to wait several months before ordering one in order to obtain a balanced impression of the camera from the internet reviewers.

My M system is reserved for travel work as, at my age, I find travelling with a medium format digital system less than enjoyable. Since selling my M9, to cater for my travel photography, I have invested in an Olympus OM-D E-M5 system which I find excellent if a little limited in resolution, dynamic range and RAW file flexibility.

My question, if you feel able to answer, is:

“Do I invest in the new M or abandon the M system completely and stick with m43rds, waiting for the inevitable new, improved m43rds offering from Olympus with more resolution and, hopefully, at least 14 bit depth RAW files?”

Leica M Typ 240 top view

DIGLLOYD: In this case there are special considerations: an existing M lens collection, but also reasonable satisfaction with a lesser camera (Olympus E-M5). Micro Four Thirds will certainly improve later this year, but the sensor size remains on the small side. That said the E-M5 is a fun camera to shoot.

Given the existing lens collection, the Live View and EVF of the Leica M Typ 240 would breathe new life the system (accurate composition and focusing).

To rent the Leica M Typ 240 before making a decision is an ideal way to go.

Rent a Sigma DP3 Merrill at the same time. It will yield a valuable perspective in between the Olympus E-M5 and the Leica M Typ 240.

Other ideas: small cameras like the Nikon Coolpix A are really outstanding in image quality (and very small). The Sony RX100 is another interesting choice for being really but also with very pleasing image quality (with some limitations).

Roy P writes:

Three changes to the story of your reader Bob H for myself:

“In the middle of last year, I sold on my Leica M9”
I sold mine in April, 2011, a year earlier, with the same expectation of an M10.

“Olympus OM-D E-M5”
Change that to Sony NEX-5N, 7

“… collection of 9 M lenses … (16mm through to 135mm)”
Ditto, although different focal lengths.

Make those changes, and it’s my story as well. And I’ve been grappling with exactly the same question: “Do I invest in the new M or abandon the M system completely…”

Only, Bob H. is thinking of improved Micro 4/3rds, and I’m thinking of an NEX-9 I can use with my Leica-R and Zeiss ZF.2 lenses.

A 36MP Sony NEX-9 + a Leica R lens or a Zeiss ZF.2 lens would look funny – a small camera with a big fat lens. But it would still be a smaller overall package than an M240 + a small M lens, after you put on the EVF on the M240. Currently, I use my NEX-5N with the add-on EVF, but the NEX-6 and 7 have the EVF built in, as will a future NEX-9. And for no extra money. And a hand grip, WiFi (no need to remove an idiot base plate), likely GPS, and autofocus (yes, there are times when this antiquated concept has some uses!), all for no extra money.

Tough question, and frankly, the Sony has more than a fighting chance to win this debate, IMHO. Especially when you consider that future generations of the E-mount system can evolve quickly and freely, without the albatross of having to support the legacy RF paradigm.

And all that, without even considering the relative costs of the two systems!

DIGLLOYD: the mirrorless option changes the game, though in general it is not safe to assume that rangefinder lenses (Leica M and Zeiss ZM) all perform well on mirrorless, due to ray angle to the sensor as well as the thickness of the sensor cover glass. See for example the Table of Ray Angles for Zeiss ZM Lenses in Guide to Mirrorless and the related coverage.

What seems odd to me is that Leica could offer a mirrorless option with just 2 or 3 lenses expressly designed for a mirrorless camera, which itself could be designed to support the highest possible imaging quality, rather than try to shoehorn lens quality into a camera format designed for film. Such lenses could be made a lot cheaper and achieve higher imaging quality simply by designing the system to eliminate impediments to optical performance. And I do not mean trying to compete at the low and mid range— I mean something high end which would deliver unrivalled image quality, possible even with a sensor larger than 36 X 24mm.


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