The 2013 Leica M Typ 240

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Previously in October 2012, I had a chance to handle the M Typ 240 (I’m going to call it the M 240 from hereon in) back at the Kuala Lumpur launch event, and produce a quick preview (that can be found here). At that point, the camera was a very early functioning prototype – yet the improvement over the M9 was clear. There was of course no way to get images onto a PC for review; the SD card was glued in and the grip had no USB ports. Frustratingly, things appeared pretty good on the new (and larger) rear LCD. But we all know that such small and limited-gamut monitors are not a good way to determine image quality at all; I was thus itching to get my hands on a camera, or at very least, some good files to play around with. I’m not really a fan of long waits to availability – whilst it’s nice to know what’s in the works, I’d rather not have to wait six or more months before I can actually buy one. By then, the world might just have moved on.

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In the meantime, we were given a bunch of rather ho-hum samples to which the internet community at large has been at best ambivalent, at worst, downright unimpressed by – I’ve even had multiple emails asking me if I thought it was a hoax, and expressing outrage – not that I have any influence over the camera makers. The bottom line is that the photographers weren’t amateurs, and thus the fault could be either of two things: the camera, or lack of familiarity with it. I’m not going to blame or defend either man or equipment, but I’ll say one thing: it would only be fair to use it myself before drawing any conclusions. I’m quite pleased with the output achieved here, even if there was some fiddling required in the process (more on that later). This was the mystery ‘extra camera’ I carried on my last trip to Yangon, in addition to the Ricoh GR1v and Sony RX100 (which wasn’t used at all, actually).

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Yes, I do my own product shots. No, you can’t use them for free for your site. I’ve had enough people ripping me off that I’m spending a lot of money on cease-and-desist letters.

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Disclaimer/ objectivity: I was involved in the testing process for the camera – thank you to Jesko Oeynhausen, Sunil Kaul, Mathieu Musnier and George Wong at Leica for the invitation. What follows are my detailed observations and thoughts from my period spent testing a near-final prototype. Whether any of my dozens of observations and suggestions were incorporated or not, I can’t say until the final firmware is out, but I do know that plenty of attention was given. Sample images in this review were shot with the Leica 50/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH, Leica 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH, Zeiss ZM 2.8/28 Biogon T* and processed via ACR (no profile) in CS5.5. I won’t be posting full size images as is my standard policy; there is just too little respect for intellectual property online and poor images are rather meaningless. Product images were shot with a D800E and various macro lenses. Note: please look at the original size images on Flickr (clicking through the images will get you there) – their resizing algorithm seems to introduce some haloes at smaller sizes. Original doesn’t show these.

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First off: the M 240 is an enormous leap forward ahead of the M9 in every area; in fact, it feels like several generations have been skipped. The shooting and usability envelope has been hugely expanded, and that doesn’t include the myriad improvements that have taken place everywhere else, too. We all know the core specifications – 24 megapixels, custom CMOS sensor collaboratively designed by both Leica and CMOSIS which is now capable of around 4fps, live view and 1080p25 video. The sensor also has an improved, flatter microlens array for both higher light collection and better cooperation with legacy lenses, especially wideangles. This becomes increasingly important at the edges as the sensor’s resolution increases.

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Aside from that, major changes – hardware/ ergonomic and firmware/ operational – include:

  • The LCD is now 3″, and has VGA resolution – color, detail and brightness are pretty much close to the OM-D and D800E, though not quite as good as the 1.2MP unit on my RX100. I’d say catchup with the competition rather than a huge improvement in this area.
  • The camera can now take an EVF via an accessory port under the hotshoe; it shares EVF units with the X2 (and some Olympus cameras, it seems). There are also other accessories that can use this port – notably an external microphone.
  • There are some extra buttons: LV to toggle Live View on the row under the viewfinder; ‘M’ to start video recording next to the shutter, and the focus assist button where the rewind interlock toggle was traditionally located on film Ms, under the shutter button on the front panel. Here, it activates peaking and magnification (adjustable using the rear dial); if held down while turning the rear dial, then it adjusts exposure compensation – which is also visible in the viewfinder information display.
  • The dial surrounding the D-pad has now moved to the back of the top panel, integrated with the new thumb grip.
  • The frame line illuminator window is gone, replaced by LED frame lines in either red or white (personally, I prefer white)

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  • The entire base area has been redesigned; the baseplate now attaches via a larger, more secure stud on one end, and the tripod mount is integral with the camera body instead of the baseplate. When mounted, the baseplate is thus sandwiched between the camera and tripod head, and is much, much more secure than the old solution (too many stories of the small metal flange breaking off). The baseplate covers battery compartment, SD card, and now also an I/O port that interfaces with the optional Multifunctional Handgrip M, which adds a GPS module for geotagging, AC adaptor socket, SCA hotshoe communicator, PC-sync socket and USB port. There’s also a dumb-handgrip which is purely ergonomic. Both handgrips have sockets to accept a similar finger grip system as was used on the M9 Titanium.
  • The M 240 uses a new, larger battery – it has double the capacity of the old one, charges much faster (new charger, of course) with a rapid charge function to about 80%; battery life is around 600 shots or so with the EVF or live view, and I was averaging close to 2,000 with moderate LCD reviewing and normal viewfinder use.
  • The shutter is massively improved: it’s crisper, quieter, better damped/ lower vibration and no longer has the buzzing rewind sound of the M8/M9. To match, the feel of the shutter button has now been similarly improved; it’s no longer notchy and ‘tight’. Instead, a half press activates/ locks the meter, and there’s a short but distinct break to a full press. The ‘discrete’ and ‘soft’ modes of the M9 are no longer available, nor are they required. This may not seem to be much of a big deal, but shutter feel matters: both to the photographer’s ability to handhold the camera at low speeds, as well as the enjoyment of using the camera.
  • The entire menu and firmware have been completely revamped; there are a lot more options, and as a result more closely resembles the X2 and S menus. You can still save profiles, have quick access to important settings via the SET button and a black screen, and check camera status with INFO.

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  • Oh yes, the D-pad now has a center button – it brings up camera status when pressed from a black screen, or serves as SET/ enter/ OK in every other situation except delete.
  • We’re no longer restricted to centerweighted metering: the M 240 has an ‘advanced’ mode that offers matrix and spot metering too. It uses the sensor to meter, which means both more precise metering, but lower battery life since the shutter is open and the sensor powered up and slight lag because it has to cycle the shutter – there’s no electronic first curtain. The matrix mode is excellent, but I found the spot mode a bit hit and miss – there’s no way to accurately determine the spot area in the optical finder. Works great with live view and EVF, though. The main centerweighted meter (that uses reflected light off the shutter curtain) still gets fooled somewhat by point light sources – though it’s nowhere near as bad as the M9 was. We’re talking 1-2 stops instead of 4-

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  • The frameline preview lever is gone – I must be one of the few people who actually used and now misses it.
  • There’s now a virtual horizon function
  • You can rename the filename prefix – very useful if you’ve got many files all titled with L-something from different cameras…
  • The M9′s left-side notch is gone; it’s now been filled in (presumably) by the microphone. Unfortunately, the placement of the microphone means that when you’re shooting with EVF and your right eye, the microphone picks up the sounds of your breath…shoot with the rear LCD or the EVF in the waist level/ 90deg position instead.
  • The camera is slightly thicker and heavier than the M9; presumably this has something to do with the new rear LCD or the thumb hook. You do feel it in the hand; it’s not quite as svelte as the film Ms (and probably can never be, given the sensor, board and LCD have to fit in the depth of the film, pressure plate and back.
  • For the DIY types, the vertical rangefinder adjustment now uses the same 2mm hex screw as the rangefinder infinity position (instead of the previous custom tool). People tell me I’m making far too big a deal of this.

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I think it’s safe to say that when you have to put in several images to visually break up the huge column of text, this is not a trivial number of changes. The overall feeling is not so much evolution as a completely new camera. Sure, the controls are mostly in the same place, it looks and feels the same in the hand, you use the viewfinder and rangefinder to frame and focus, but oh boy – the impression given in use is completely different. The M9 felt like a film camera that was missing a wind lever, but instead made a buzzing sound and produced an image on the back; it also wasn’t the most reliable of cameras (the well-known SD card issues, for instance). I suppose defenders will claim that’s a bit like the unpredictability of film, too – it’s not, film never cost me a large job. In contrast, the M 240 feels like a mature, complete, competent camera that can both be operated like the M9 – set everything once and just focus on the main controls, ignore the LCD if you desire – and feels like it integrates well with the rest of your camera systems. The good news is that it no longer eats cards; the bad news it does have an odd startup lag – up to several seconds – that seems related to capacity, speed and how full your card is – small, fast cards are best to keep this to an absolute minimum. You can of course turn standby off and leave the camera on, which speeds things up at the expense of battery life.

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At present, the M 240 is the only full frame mirrorless camera available; its short back-flange distance (the M mount is about 28mm, compared to 45mm+ for most SLRs) means that it’s compatible with just about every other lens out there via an adaptor. Of course, the M 240 with EVF and suitable adaptor is also Leica’s solution for legacy R-system users; not having any investment or experience in the R system, I was far more interested in how the camera would do with my Nikon F mount glass. The way I use my Nikon system now tends to be mostly tripod based with live view for critical focus; sometimes I shoot reportage with a lower resolution body/ body pair and/or an OM-D for more reach. You can see where this is going: it would be nice if I could condense my multiple systems and backup bodies down to just one or two.

I suspect that if the pricing is right, there will be a lot of pros taking a long, hard look at the Canikon flagships and wondering if this might make an interesting alternative: with the D4 and 1Dx being within 10-20% of the price of the M 240 – at least in Malaysia – it becomes a viable option. I know it’s something I’m considering. Lens cost may skew the equation somewhat, but then again perhaps not – you can use your legacy lenses via adaptors, and just get native M-mount glass (Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander) for the one or two critical focal lengths. Unfortunately, due to lack of time, location work, limited subject material, assignment schedules etc. – the one thing I didn’t get to test was the way the camera worked as a studio camera – and specifically, how it would fare for horological work with my Nikon flashes slaved in SU4 mode – can’t think why it wouldn’t work, though. I suppose that will have to wait for next time.

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The M system now has the advantage of being able to serve as both a backup location or studio camera, as well as an excellent travel setup. For precise framing and focusing with longer lenses, there’s now the EVF and live view – there is no longer any need for a visoflex or second system body. I plan to streamline my systems – or at very least the backup bodies – down to just one M now that it’s a viable alternative. On the subject of live view, the M’s implementation makes a lot of sense: for viewing, it shows a clean image; when the shutter is half pressed, it previews the shooting exposure. (Of course, you’re always looking at the lens stopped-down as there’s no mechanical connection between lens aperture mechanism and the camera body.) This is a very clever, useable implementation and begs the question: why do I have to choose between viewable image or preview only with my Nikons?

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I was left with mixed feelings from the EVF experience, though. On one hand, it’s great to be able to focus anywhere in the frame and have a magnified centre zone (apparently technical limitations with the sensor mean that live view magnification is restricted to the centre portion of the image only, which may cause issues when shooting fast lenses with field curvature wide open) – but on the other hand, it just feels wrong. If I use my right eye with the EVF, my nose goes into the optical finder window, which means that it becomes dirty and hard to see through afterwards; and then there’s the previously mentioned issue of microphone placement. (Why didn’t they just put it at the front of the camera where the RF frame line illuminator patch used to be?) Don’t get me wrong – the EVF itself is excellent; high resolution, of reasonably natural contrast and dynamic range, and with a pretty good refresh rate (though nowhere near as fluid as the high-speed 120fps mode of the OM-D).

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There’s also a bit of a wonky bug in the way the camera picks a display – it’s the last one used, not the last one used for a given mode. So if you were using live view on the EVF, it’ll playback there too unless you manually switch over., which can be rather annoying at times. Focus peaking works, but it could probably use a bit more customization – more or less sensitive, thicker outlines, the ability to change colors etc. Note that the sensor does not have an electronic first curtain, which means there’s a small but perceptible lag whenever you shoot in live view or use advanced metering with the rangefinder (it meters off the sensor) – for this reason I prefer to use the normal optical finder and classic metering (which is restricted to centre weighted). In short, there’s nothing wrong with it other than my preconceptions that this should still be a rangefinder camera. Fuji’s Hybrid Optical Finder would probably feel right at home here. Assuming of course that either party would play nice with technology sharing.

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I actually wonder if the appearance of the EVF on an M camera means that the rangefinder’s days may be numbered; the reality is that the system requires very precise calibration, is prone to drift, is limited when it comes to zoom lenses, long lenses or off-center subjects, and is manual focus only. It made sense back in its heyday, and personally I think there are enough advantages to it to make it preferrable – the size and clarity of the view, the ability to see outside the frame, and the responsiveness of hyperfocal/ zone/ manual focusing – but what we really need is something that’s the best of both worlds. Perhaps Fuji is going in the right direction after all. More interestingly, it seems that the idea of cross-system compatibility as a whole is coming of age; first with Micro Four Thirds and the other mirrorless cameras, and now with the full-frame M 240. We are no longer restricted to lenses from one manufacturer on one body – it’s great because it means we can cherry-pick the best of everything, providing you have the right adaptors and a short enough flange distance on the body you’re mounting things to.

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Of course, the idea of full cross-system compatibility and backup would be uselessly impractical if the non-system lenses – especially wides – didn’t play nice; I’m pleased to report that isn’t the case. Edge performance is acceptable for most lenses, and fairly close to the lenses on their native mounts for the more telecentric designs such as the Zeiss Distagons. I tested the Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/21 and 2/28 Distagons with no issues; the 2/50 and 2/100 Makro-Planars were also excellent performers. Out of curiosity and in the interests of science, I’m pleased to report that the Hasselblad Zeiss CF 4/50 FLE, CF 2.8/80 and CF 4/120 Makro-Planar all work well too…even if they look rather ridiculous due to their size and the need to use multiple adaptors (Hasselblad V to Nikon F, Nikon F to Leica M). This says that the redesigned microlenses are working: legacy M glass looks great, too – the images in this review were shot with the 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH, 50/2 APO Summicron-M ASPH (reviewed here) and Zeiss ZM 2.8/28 Biogon. Incidentally, the 50 AA really shines on the M 240′s sensor – if anything, it confirms the mastery of this optical design (if not justifying its very high price). Other lenses don’t appear to be any poorer, but it could also be because there’s very little difference in real linear resolution between 19 amd 24 MP.

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It’s only natural for me to want to compare this camera to the current benchmark in its sensor class: the Nikon D800E. I don’t think anybody would argue about that camera’s resolving power, color accuracy or dynamic range; it’s also a camera I’m very familiar with as it’s been my workhorse since it went on sale in April 2012. In short: the M 240 compares favourably. In fact, I think it outresolves the other 24MP DSLRs thanks to its lack of antialiasing filter; there’s a crispness present which certainly isn’t there on my D600. There’s of course no way it can beat the D800E due to sheer pixel count, but the reality is that the linear difference in resolution isn’t quite as much as you think – about 22% linearly. Far more important is the pixel-level quality of the files.

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The good new is the M 240 does very well here. It’s pretty close to the D800E in acuity; perhaps both cameras are pushing the limits of what can be squeezed out of a Bayer-type array. ISO sensitivities run 200-6400, with a PULL 100 mode. At base native ISO – 200 – I think useable dynamic range matches that of the D800E; depending on how you process the DNG files, you’re looking at somewhere in the neighbourhood of 13-4 stops. Rarely did I have situations where I clipped highlights or lost shadows, and this is shooting in bright tropical sun where ‘Sunny 16′ should be more like ‘Sunny 32′. Recoverable dynamic range from the raw files is definitely shadow biased; you might get 2-3 stops there, but only 1 (or less) out of the highlights, which clip with a moderately harsh transition if you pull the recovery sliders too far. Needless to say, there’s easily a gain of a stop or two on the M9, and you don’t get the abrupt ‘tearing’ or ‘bleeding’ artefacts seen when the M9′s CCD saturates – sun in center frame is a good example.

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ISO comparison series. Click here for the full size screen capture made up of 100% crops.

It’s a different story at higher ISOs, though; it seems that you’re basically losing one stop of dynamic range for every stop in sensitivity gain, and a bit more at the 3200 and 6400 settings because the noise floor increases dramatically; by the time you hit 6400 I’d say there’s no more than 6-7 stops of useable dynamic range. There’s also some faint shadow pattern banding at 3200 and 6400 settings. ISO 6400 is still useable if you expose properly – highlights remain clean – even if the shadows turn into a murky mess and must be crushed to reduce visibility of banding. Pixel-level performance is roughly comparable to the D600 and D800E (minus the banding), and about 2-2.5 stops ahead of the M9. Not bad at all considering the pixels got smaller, too.

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One of the bigger debates raging across the internet is whether anything will be lost in the transition from CCD to CMOS architecture; the former tends to have a much more filmic response than the latter. I know that the raw tonal response of the M8/ 9/ Monochrom – Kodak CCD based with the same architecture – is definitely more pleasing than the D800E, especially in the quarter tones, which just seem somehow richer. The D800E of course has much more latitude for adjustment, but it does require some work to get similar tonal quality. (As a result, output tends to look a little flat.) I’m definitely not a fan of the relatively unforgiving latitude and poor signal-to-noise ratio at higher sensitivities, though. It appears that the M 240′s new sensor sits somewhere between the two camps, even if the architecture is ostensibly CMOS.

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We have a sensor that has some of the tonal response – i.e. nonlinearity – of a CCD, which means it produces nice quarter tones; but some of the latitude and low noise of a CMOS. The tradeoff appears to be a similarly nonlinear decrease in dynamic range as the sensitivity gets turned up. In some ways, the rendering quality of the sensor reminds me of the Nikon D2H’s JFET LBCAST sensor – which itself was supposed to be a hybrid design – right down to the way you can have four perfectly clean highlight stops at high ISO, acceptable midtones, and then the shadows turn to mush. Fortunately, the usable ISO ceiling isn’t restricted to about 800 or so – on the M 240, that’s the point at which you start to notice there’s some noise in the shadows. It doesn’t actually ever become objectionable because the highlights remain clean, but it’s definitely there, and not always monochromatic, either.

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Saturated reds: a bit hot.

The jury is still out on color, for the main reason that Adobe has not yet released a set of profiles for the camera; as such, I’ve been looking at DNG files which have truly ‘raw’ color output with no grading or profiling whatsoever. In the course of testing and reviewing, I created my own color profiles to address this – the native response of the camera is to have strong yellow response and saturated reds that shift slightly towards pink. It’s not at all accurate, and requires some considerable work to correct. I can only hope that this improves once we have official and properly calibrated profiles to work with; I’ll reserve final judgement until then. Bottom line: as it stands, the M 240 doesn’t have the same color response as the M9, because my profiles for that camera produce slightly strange results when used on M 240 files. I would describe the M9′s files as ‘cool’ and ‘light’, with colors that tend towards richness when saturated. The M 240 is warmer and more saturated overall, but without the flatness of the D800E’s raw files; the tonal map is closer to the M9′s CCD.

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Interestingly, the M 240′s files are very good candidates for black and white conversion; straight desaturation of a raw file results in nice quarter tones and smooth tonal ramps. In fact, it’s not far off the M Monochrom in this area; although the Monochrom will still hold a slight advantage in resolved detail due to the lack of Bayer filter, the high ISO advantage it previously enjoyed over the M9 is gone: top ISOs of 6400 on the M 240 and 5000 on the M Monochrom look pretty much the same, both in terms of noise and dynamic range. Unless you’re a real low-ISO black and white connoisseur, I’d venture as far as to say that the M 240 can match the M Monochrom for the vast majority of situations, and with the added benefits of all of the other usability improvements and being able to shoot color . It also does no harm that it’s a bit cheaper, too.

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I’m not going to comment on video performance because it’s not my area of expertise; I’m going to leave this to others who are more knowledgeable about these things.

I admit that I was initially very worried about dilution of purity with the new M, which is admittedly a rather nebulous concept. I’ve always thought of the M cameras – film or digital – as the last bastions of pure photography, in that the electronics and extraneous features/ controls/ bits were always kept to the bare minimum. The M8/9s were perhaps the only cameras that retained manual focus only, mechanical aperture dials, and a direct shutter speed dial – you could shoot them without ever entering the menu more than once, if you so desired. My initial reaction to the M 240 was a slight queasiness and feeling that the line had somehow been bastardized by the addition of video and electronic finders (it’s a rangefinder camera! M stands for rangefinder, in German! What on earth were they thinking? Etc.) – live view I can live with, and is especially helpful for determining if a lens is soft or if it’s merely your rangefinder that’s out. After using the camera for some time, I think this is simultaneously true and untrue: I don’t like the EVF experience, but I suppose it makes sense and you have the choice to use it or not.

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In that respect, the M 240 delivers on a level that’s at least one, if not two, complete generations ahead of the M9; it finally feels like the M system has come of maturity into the digital age. Unlike the earlier digital Ms, the camera no longer feels like the limiting factor – barring startup delays – it really does feel like the time when Nikon went full frame all over again. Leica has come under a lot of fire for the limitations of the M8, continued limitations of the M9 and somewhat stopgap means of addressing high ISO performance with the Monochrom; I freely admit that QC issues with the M8 and lenses at the time forced me to abandon Leica at the time, and I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the M9-P – loved the tactility and experience of shooting it, hated the unreliability and high ISO performance. I am as impressed with the image quality as I am with how much difference all of the little changes make towards overall usability. Yes, there are still things to be improved – ergonomics (that damn right strap lug!), microphone placement, EVF behaviour, colour – but for the most part, the M 240 shows Leica are firmly back in the game. MT

I will be posting plenty of additional test images from the camera over the course of the next few weeks to my Flickr page – there’s a dedicated Flickr set for the M 240 test here.. Note: please look at the original size images on Flickr (clicking through the images will get you there) – their resizing algorithm seems to introduce some haloes at smaller sizes. Original doesn’t show these.

Update (23/2/13): Fellow testers Sean Reid and Jonathan Slack have also published their thoughts – you can find them at their respective links.

The Leica M Typ 240 is available here from B&H here in black and chrome, and Amazon here in black and chrome.

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Comments

  1. I think you meant 120hz instead of 120fps for the Olympus OMD viewfinder. If the camera could do 120 FPS, I’d probably have purchased 5 of them by now :D

  2. Dear Ming, I did enjoy the review on the new Leica M 240. In 1983 I fell in love with my Minolta XD7 and I still use my Minolta, which is still in great condition. After holding the Leica M 240 at the Photokina I did preorder it. I already did buy the Novoflex Minolta MD – Leica M adapter. I want to use the new Leica M with my Minolta Rokkor MD legacy glass. What do you think, is that a sensible choice or should I go for new Leica M lenses? Are the Minolta Rokkor lenses good enough to be used on the M 240? Is contempary Leica M glass much improved compared to my 30 years old Minolta lenses?

    • Honestly, no idea as I’ve never used those lenses before. It seems that digital plus legacy glass is a mixed bag – some lenses still impress (Hasselblad-Zeiss V glass on a D800E, for instance) and others don’t work well at all. It’s got a lot to do with how well the optical formula of the lens and the sensor microlenses interact. That said, modern Leica glass is for the most part excellent, especially if you get a good copy.

      • Dear Ming, Leica lenses are famous, and I am considering at least one of the fine Leica M lenses to use with the new Leica M 240. If you had the choice which is your preferred option: 35 or 50mm? And to make the question even more difficult, What would you prefer: a set of Summarit 35mm + 75mm or one Summilux i.e. 35mm or 50mm?

        • Depends on what you shoot. Personally I’m going with 28/2 ASPH and 50/1.4 ASPH, but if I had to pick one, I’d probably go with the 50/1.4 ASPH. Both 35/1.4 ASPH FLE (review coming soon) and the 50/1.4 ASPH are outstandingly good. I’d rather have one than two in this case. Or, I suppose you could go Zeiss and get a set of three (28/35/50) for the price of one Leica lens, without much compromise in quality…

          • Dear Ming, Just got my M 240 with 28/2 ASPH, 50/2.5 and 90/2.5. I did test some of my Minolta lenses. Mostly they disappoint, Leica lenses are so much better. Thank you for your advice!

  3. Nice solid review! And nice pictures from Burma. That’s the place where I gave my Fuji X-e1 a first try.
    I didn’t write a review but on my website and blog are some pictures. http://www.gregorservais.nl/fotografie/ (scroll down for the fuji X-e1 photo’s) (and some old rolleiflex photo’s aswell)

  4. Thanks for the thorough analysis. Some sticking points, you say the new M gains 2 to 2.5 stops in high iso performance, and that the color is strange, not quite like that of CCD, yet you conclude that the improvements are not 1 but two generations ahead of the M9? Pardon me, it doesn’t make sense. Also, metering in the M9 is off by 4 stops?

    Clarification here is important, specially for M9 owners who like me see the improvements in IQ as evolutionary, with other more marked improvements in areas that aren’t important for rangefinder use (i.e. video, EVF, use of R, F or V lenses on an M body). The main reason for using a rangefinder camera is simplicity, reading your review confirms that the new M is no longer simple, and also not substantially better than the prior generation.

    The new M now competes with DSLRs and will be appealing to DSLR owners, perhaps for the first time. I hope that the new strategy works Leica and that this move isn’t dilutive. A much better M to use with Leica’s superior M glass will continue to be a destination that I am interested in.

    • Please read the text again carefully.
      1. There are no final color profiles so I didn’t draw conclusions.
      2. It does gain 2-2.5 stops over the M9, and it’s on par with the D600 and D800E for noise performance. Considering the M9 was that far behind, this is a 2-generation leap especially when taking resolution gains into account.
      3. Metering on the M9 is fooled under certain circumstances. Point an M9 at anything at night that has a bright point source and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve encountered this problem so regularly on my M9-P that I go to manual at night.

      • Oh but I read your text carefully. You do draw a big conclusion, even in your reply text here where again the M is qualified as a 2 generation leap over the M9, a conclusion that compared to other reviewers (Reid, Puts) sounds over-enthusiastic. And the point on giving the M9 4 stops off in metering to make a point vs the M sounds also a bit hard sell. Look the new M is a leap forward in functionality and many are going to like and want this, but it is hardly better than the M9 from an IQ perspective. In fact not until final production version with final firmware will one be able to discern.

        • Again, you’re missing the point. Firstly, I’m going by what I see under similar shooting conditions to how I used my M9. There is a known and replicable issue with metering under a specific set of circumstances – which I encounter often due to my style of photography – where the M9 completely drops the ball. The M 240 doesn’t. And you’re looking at websize jpegs, which tell you nothing about file quality. My iphone images look the same, too.

  5. Amilcar Alzaga says:

    Great review, I love your photos, it’s really nice when there is somewone who not only knows technical aspects and how to write but more importantly knows how to make a good picture.

  6. Nice review! Looks like the EVF refresh rate and battery usage is a done deal, right?

    Were you able to track (fast) moving object with the EVF ok? How long does the battery gave you while you’re fiddle with all the options?

    • Thanks. Not sure what you mean by EVF refresh and battery usage being a done deal, but they’re definitely linked. I was able to track moving objects fine with the EVF (didn’t have the opportunity to shoot anything really fast) but I still prefer the optical finder – the same goes for any EVF. Shooting normally – viewfinder, moderate review – I could get nearly 2,000 images per charge. Can’t say for sure with everything on because I never shot configured that way for an extended period, but I’d say 5-600 or more should be easily doable based on extrapolation.

  7. Christian Roth says:

    Hello Ming Thein,
    EXCELLENT review, thanks a lot !!
    I have one question regarding the quality of focus peaking implementation.
    what do you think of the Leica implementation versus e.g. the Sony implementation?
    thanks a lot !!

  8. Thanks Ming!!
    I placed an order for the M 240 a while back. After seeing a few of the original samples from the camera, I had that sinking feeling like I had made a huge mistake. (I had already purchased 3 Lens while waiting for the new camera). Going with a camera like this is a big change for me as I have been shooting Canon dslrs for over 10 years.
    This article has given me back the confidence that I have made the right decision, and for that I can’t thank you enough!
    Well done!

  9. The very first (and so far the one and only useful) and comprehensive review / preview of the new Leica baby.
    Thanks for the effort!
    I just would have loved to watch the ISO comparison image at 100% level. But as long as it might be on par with the D800E (useful up to ISO 800 in RAW mode) the new Leica seems OK to me.
    Kind regards and thanks for the article!
    Reini

  10. John Robert Fulton Jr. says:

    Hi MIng–I’m a bit late to the party here. I am assuming, since it’s never mentioned that there is NO automatic sensor cleaner as almost every DSLR has today including Nikon’s super cheap, but great little D3200? Confirm or not. Also, I have yet to see a review that gives an idea of how large the cache file is. How many RAW files fill the cache and thus the camera stops to empty the cache. My M8.2 is about five or so. I don’t believe the M9 was any better. Thanks for your most interesting review.

  11. Hello Ming,

    I must offer congratulation and commendation for your diligence in providing this review. It is extremely well written and I personally appreciated your decision to trust your experience in not discussing video.

    I am presently an M9 owner, dependent upon Zeiss ZF glass, and a long ago user of an M4P. I like my M9 very much as it brings the feel of my long gone and much missed M4 to digital. While I shoot a variety of formats including 4×5 film still, my carry it camera is the M9. I have been disappointed by the noise level above ISO 800 and the poor display quality of the LCD, but have accepted these as part of the price of having and using the M9. Since the announcement of the M, I’ve been giving consideration to a trade up to the M when it is generally available here in Canada. I cannot say that other reviews were particularly helpful and the Leica site is not particularly useful. You’ve made the decision simpler to achieve, and I will be in contact with my dealer to be put on the list for an M.

    I would solicit your opinion on finish choice if you don’t mind. The M4-P and the M9 have been both finished in black. I have never owned a silver bodied Leica believing that the dark finish was less obtrusive when making candid images. In your opinion and experience will one finish outlive another? I am very careful with my gear, but a camera carried everywhere will pick up marks. I had other black over brass cameras in the seventies, and the black would wear off revealing the brass in relatively short order.

    Beyond those elements raised in your review, are there any cautions you might offer against trading my M9 towards an M?

    Thank you in advance for your consideration.

    Ross

    • Thanks Ross. Would be great if you could use one of my referral links when you do eventually get the camera :)

      Not having seen the silver in person either, I can’t really say – I liked my chrome M9-P, but not the gray paint on the M9. I don’t generally like black paint either – I must be the only person who doesn’t think brassing looks good – but the M 240 (at least the one I had) appears to be some new finish between the glossy black paint of the MP and the anodized black of the M8 and MM. I’m going with black, personally.

      Do it fast before secondary value of the M9 drops further ;)

      • drchevalier says:

        Thank you for your amazingly rapid response Ming. I will do what I can to support you. I appreciate your perspective on the finish, and I will be following up with my dealer when they open tomorrow to get on the M list.

  12. Ted Covey says:

    Hi Ming,
    What lens adapter were you using with the Zeiss 28mm zf.2? Thanks.

  13. Dirk De Paepe says:

    Hello Ming,
    It’s really a shame that I read your review only now. It was not before yesterday evening that I found time to read about the 240, so that was pretty nerve-racking to me. :-)
    I found your writing to be very interesting: systematical and really to the point, in depth and yet not too “laboratory-like”. And your pictures really add to the story – in a fascinating way. Always love them so much.
    Now it’s pretty clear to me: there are many important improvements to this camera, also in IQ. But finally it comes down to only one question IMO: do I really like what I see.
    Like for so many, also to me the first pictures that I saw from the 240 were really disappointing. I saw an “average” tone character, not at all popping. Bit by bit better pictures appeared and reading Steve Huff’s review yesterday evening already put me in the right direction. But I have to give you this credit: it was only when looking at the colors in your pictures that I experienced a kind of quiet waw-feeling. They are so well balanced and, yes, there’s a kind of “rich peace” to them. I think that everything one could be longing for is in those files. So I’m really believing that I can come to love those colors a whole lot and I’m experiencing a learning process here.
    Still, with the M9 colors, it was love at first sight. Blown away. I don’t know how this comes and one really doesn’t need to be blown away, especially when getting somewhat older… :-) But still, I miss that feeling a bit. Nevertheless, should I have to decide now, I’d definitely go for the 240 and it’s the IQ that’s decisive in this matter.
    Also to your credit: reading your review really added to Steve’s. Yours is more in depth, his is more “common practice” like. I love both.
    Thanks a lot for the review and the magnificent pictures. Some of them I find really outstanding, the others are just very very good… You do a wonderful job here, Ming, and I hope to see much more in the future.
    Dirk

    • Thanks Dirk there’s plenty of older but still relevant material in the archives. I evaluate from the point of view of a working commercial photographer, so my requirements are a bit different and more demanding to other reviewers. As for color…I was dealing with a beta camera and I profiled files/ converters, so I can only imagine it’s even better now. In any case, I have to get color accuracy and consistency above all for my work,so everything is run through my usual workflow (there are videos available in the teaching store link on the header bar).

      • Dirk De Paepe says:

        You know my time is very limited, so I really can’t follow too many blogs and sites. Still I will explore yours more in the future, and indeed also the educational stuff. Knowing you better and better (in a way of speeking) I’m convinced to find really interesting stuff there for a through enthousiast like me.

  14. Excellent review work, and wonderful images. The images here are sharp, but when I view the original size in your Flickr, they look normal like any other good camera.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mingthein/8449758172/sizes/o/in/photostream/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mingthein/8449760452/sizes/o/in/photostream/

    So I assume the pictures here are already sharpened by Flickr, and the original ones are not ? Thanks, just want to confirm. I was thinking that they should be a lot better than that, at least come a bit close to a Sigma DP2M quality. Or maybe because it’s a prototype …

    • All of the images are reduced web-size. Too many issues in the past with image theft and full size images. Can’t say how they’d compare to the DP2M as I haven’t used one, but at the pixel level, they’re better than the D600.

      • Thanks, Ming, just wanted to clarify, as the “original size” are actually very small sizes, shot at high speed, and f/4 and f/9 and yet they show such average quality, I thought something was wrong. Of course, I am looking at the technical side and not the pictures themselves (which are great, I wish I was there) … I guess something got lost on the way to Flickr.

  15. Niall Maguire says:

    Detailed review worth taking the time to read. It should now be possible to fit circular polarizer filters and judge the effects on live view. The microphone openings on the top of the camera by their nature cannot be waterproof.

    • Thanks. I raised the same points re. Microphone openings, but apparently there was no other space to put them. I don’t think that location was well thought-out at all; it picks up your breath when you use the EVF too.

  16. Sascha Sorbo says:

    Thanks a lot for this valuable review!
    I am (unfortunately) not yet a user of Leica M gear. So I am not interested in defending this “M” or that “M”.
    I played with the M, MM and ME at photokina, that’s all.
    But to my eyes, and not just slightly, the shots I’ve seen so far from you, or other bloggers, deliver results not even close to base ISO shots taken with the M9.
    Even with your skills in post processing that I admire since I follow your thoughtful blog. So, I don’t want to “blame” anyone, it’s just my eyes and certainly not basing on technical facts.
    To me it seems as if there is nothing comparable to the M9 up to ISO 400 with the right lens. With your skills in pp I would dare to say up to ISO 1250. The M 240 files look “sonyish” to me, what does not have to be a bad thing. But I clearly did like the look of the M9′s sensor more.

    Thanks for the best reviews out there!
    Best wishes from Germany

    Sascha

    • I don’t think you can form conclusions looking at small web jpegs…

      • Sascha Sorbo says:

        Sure, on the one hand you’re right, on the other hand I am just comparing small web jpegs from the M9 with small web jpegs from the 240. And again, to my eyes, 240′s files show lack of “gloom”, where the M9′s don’t (at base ISO).
        And I really don’t want to glorify the M9, as I don’t even own one. Well in the end you are the professional, and you shot with both cameras – so you know what you’re talking about. But still …

        • There’s obviously something to it, because you’re not the only person to say something similar. What do you mean by ‘gloom’? Is it a stylistic or processing choice, or sensor related? The Myanmar images are brighter than my normal style because of the amount of sun in that physical location…

          • Sascha Sorbo says:

            This is very hard to describe and obviously very subjective. Maybe it’s focus transition. It is definitely not to be influenced by post processing, I even saw it from Leica-shooters doing nothing but ooc jpeg candy-shots on Flickr.
            It could be the lenses, maybe the coating, as I owned a Zeiss Ikon Rangefinder with excellent zm lenses some time ago, and although I loved the setup and the “Zeiss-Pop” with slides or bw, I could never achieve such gloom. And, shame on me, I don’t think Leica lenses are optically any “better” than Zeiss lenses. But they definitely deliver something unique. What to my eyes appears to be gloomy, I did see very often with the 28 summicron asph, but never with the 50 cron for example. But certainly this could be coincidental.
            Now something weird: The only camera from which I saw files that remind me a tiny little bit of that gloom is … my Ricoh GRD III. Could it be the combination of a CCD with a special kind of coating and a wide-angle lens? I don’t know.

            • Hmm, if it’s focus transition, it shouldn’t show up on images that have no OOF areas. I didn’t use any overlapping lenses with the M9 and M 240 – could be the cause…

              The Ricoh GRD III has quite a uniquely ‘dark’ rendering amongst compacts. The tonal range seems to favor long shadows. My guess is it might be something to do with the way they’ve set up the A/D conversion.

              • Sascha Sorbo says:

                You obviously do not have much time to play with; but if you’re curious about that gloom, I think this setup could reveal it: A set of portrait shots with both the M240 and M9 with 2 different 28mm lenses, the 28 cron asph would be a must, and then let’s say the biogon. Distance not directly at close focus range, but maybe at the double. I’d say the first half of an hour after heavy afternoon rain would be ideal, but that could be a little exaggerated … :o). Maybe this could be something for the history books – the Leica-Gloom finally revealed … ;o)

  17. As a previous M9 user most using 35mm lenses, now upgraded to the awesome Sony RX1, I was considering buying an M240 to continue my love of M lenses, however I keep seeing, even in this very enthusiastic review, merely a catchup in sensor performance to the mid of the latest generation. The DR and ISO performance is not at the same level as the latest Sony sensors, although lapping at their feet. The banding is certainly last generation and all the evidence I have seen from owners is that ISO 6400 is not really usable in real life and 3200 is good but not as clear as a D600 or D800.
    Given the price, I am wondering whether its worth it, or whether I should buy a D600 for the 50mm and 90/100mm FL. The picture quality would be better or as good with a zeiss or nikon 85mm lens.
    This might sound strange from a former M9 user but IMHO the extra 100g of M240 weight has eroded somwhat that weight augument over the 6D/D800. Its a much more interesting world now of choice, but obviously more confusing :(

    • I’m actually enjoying my 50/1.4 ASPH on the OM-D as a 100/1.4 of all things. It was supposed to go on the M 240, but that hasn’t shown up yet. I’m actually not too bothered at this point…

    • +1
      When I tried the new Leica, I was shocked to see how heavy it was, definitely comparable with Canon 6D. Of course lenses for Canon are bigger than the Leica lenses, but if you just want to use one or 2 prime lenses, a 6D with those sounds better. – or maybe even an OMD with a few leica lenses.

  18. Excellent review, I do 100% B&W work but I still don’t know if I will rather vote for Monochrom or M240 what are your thoughts as you have been able to practice both ?

    • M240, you have flexibility in the channel mixer conversion which the MM won’t give you. It comes at the expense of some resolution, high ISO is pretty much the same though.

  19. Reblogged this on Modern art + style.

  20. The products shots of the M240 that you made are pretty impressive: in color rendition, smoothness, bokek, contrast! Were these taken with a Leica camera? They look far more interesting than the street or portrait photographs that don’t seem better than a good point and shoot.

    • No. D800E – none of the Leicas except the S2 are any good for product photography, and even then you won’t have TTL off-camera flash.

      You’ll find that my street images look similar because that’s the style of how I shoot and process. If you’re just looking for bokeh, look elsewhere – that’s an overused amateur technique that just requires you to buy a fast lens, not know anything about composition.

  21. Nice review – just one point. I wish it was only a 6 month wait for a camera. I ordered one in September, it was released in February and the nearest I have got so far is a demo sample in a shop !!!

    • There ARE cameras, but it seems that Leica are either recalling them (everywhere else) or selling them only with lenses (Asia). I haven’t got mine yet either – at this rate, it doesn’t even make sense for me to buy one anymore.

  22. nice piece on the 240… maybe one day I will be able to test it myself. Untill then, I’ll shoot my M9 and enjoy your blog! :)

  23. Matt Melton says:

    Ming – love your reviews and website. I am seriously considering your app for iPad. I am “thinking” about the M 240… I am new to rangefinders…I currently use D800 and bunch of different
    lenses. I just got back from Spain with my wife and thought it would have been nice to have something smaller, lighter (desirable) that produces very high quality images (a must). My question is this…I look at most of the images I can find on Flickr and elsewhere taken with the M 240 – and I’m completely underwhelmed. I mean really not impressed and certainly not enough for the $$$. Then I see your images..which are about 5 times better…are these Leicas hard to use? What’s the deal? Not sure if its worth the investment compared to other options. I would primarily use it for travel.

    Help?

    • A good camera doesn’t make a good photograph, the photographer does. The M 240 requires some experience to use and a healthy amount of postprocessing to get the color right. I’d look at the OM-D if I were you; it’s my travel camera of choice.

      • Matt Melton says:

        Well said. Do you like the Sony RX1? Or the fujifilm x-pro 1?? The RX1 actually looks like what I’m looking for…my initial lens purchase for a Leica would have been a 35mm. Thanks for your reply and for the good work!

        Matt

  24. Hi there, You have done an excellent job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m
    sure they will be benefited from this site.

  25. We have the best reviews on line at Pissed Consumer.

  26. Idiot spammer. With the emphasis on idiot. And spammer

  27. Somehow this one got past the filter. Removed!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Ming Theins review of the M240 The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 [...]

  2. [...] Thein on the Leica M Typ 240 Ming Thein's review is now online. Interesting reading – The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer __________________ [...]

  3. [...] Ming Thein's review M240 …und hier ist der Link dazu: The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer __________________ Ein Herz für [...]

  4. [...] Ming Thein‘s review is up, not to miss! Besides posting wonderful images, he provides the most in-depth analysis of the marvel of a photographic tool so far. Take you time to read the whole thing. Conclusion: [...]

  5. [...] Previously in October 2012, I had a chance to handle the M Typ 240 (I’m going to call it the M 240 from hereon in) back at the Kuala Lumpur launch event, and produce a quick preview (that can be found here). At that point, the camera was a very early functioning prototype – yet the improvement over the M9 was clear. There was of course no way to get images onto a PC for review; the SD card was glued in and the grip had no USB ports. Frustratingly, things appeared pretty good on the new (and larger) rear LCD. But we all know that such small and limited-gamut monitors are not a good way to determine image quality at all; I was thus itching to get my hands on a camera, or at very least, some good files to play around with. I’m not really a fan of long waits to availability – whilst it’s nice to know what’s in the works, I’d rather not have to wait six or more months before I can actually buy one. By then, the world might just have moved on.  [...]

  6. [...] Previously in October 2012, I had a chance to handle the M Typ 240 (I'm going to call it the M 240 from hereon in) back at the Kuala Lumpur launch event, and produce a quick preview (that can be fo…  [...]

  7. [...] moving subjects" gives me a pause. I get the impression from your and Ming Thein's write up (The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer) that the M 240 is the best digital rangefinder camera Leica is developing. It definitely seems to [...]

  8. [...] 3. Ming Thein — The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 Review [...]

  9. [...] Link: The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer [...]

  10. [...] Ming Thien's Review of M240 Has anyone seen Ming Thien's review of the M240. Seems quite comprehensive. The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer [...]

  11. [...] Re: Sean Reid's M9/MM/M240 Comparison Saw this to The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 [...]

  12. [...] New M review The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 [...]

  13. [...] I’ve had a number of people email me today asking my opinion of the sample images provided in Ming Thein’s review of the new Leica M (240).  Thus far, I’ve been responding to the questions individually, but given my previous [...]

  14. [...] Previously in October 2012, I had a chance to handle the M Typ 240 (I'm going to call it the M 240 from hereon in) back at the Kuala Lumpur launch event, and produce a quick preview (that can be fo…  [...]

  15. [...] have to confess I enjoyed reading Ming Thein’s working review of his experience with the M type 240. I could be wrong in saying this having never [...]

  16. [...] The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 (blog.mingthein.com) [...]

  17. [...] in the last week – I don’t know exactly when, because I busy replying emails about the Leica M 240 – we passed the 3,000,000 visitor mark. I certainly didn’t expect this within a year [...]

  18. [...] Previously in October 2012, I had a chance to handle the M Typ 240 (I'm going to call it the M 240 from hereon in) back at the Kuala Lumpur launch event, and produce a quick preview (that can be fo…  [...]

  19. [...] a number of readers have asked about the Leica M Typ 240‘s potential for black and white usage. I think perhaps a more accurate description of the [...]

  20. [...] trusted M9 (in all its flavors) as a reliable camera. Recent reviews and in particular one from Ming Thein, a real geek when it comes to cameras, raised my interest on the new [...]

  21. [...] In the same boat as you, not having received my M, but you may find Ming Thien's comments interesting. He mentions the shutter noise somewhere in the second half as being very quiet: The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer [...]

  22. [...] I just responded to another query about shutter noise with a reference to Ming Thien's review. He also has some interesting comments regarding image quality compared to an M9 as well as Nikon D800. The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer [...]

  23. [...] Ming Thein, a Kuala Lumpur based photographer, reviews the new M: [...]

  24. [...] o.k. finde. Einige Bilder sind aber schon (nicht nur auf der Leica-Website) aufgetaucht, z.B. The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer __________________ [...]

  25. [...] article for me requires around half a day to produce, and a heavy review/ test like the Leica M Typ 240, a day and a half just to write up – that doesn’t include the time spent shooting, [...]

  26. [...] about the new sensor, it’s really good. Judging by what real reviewers like Steve Huff,  Ming Thein, and Sean Reid are saying and showing, this is rather redundant anyway. The images are [...]

  27. The M240 says:

    [...] Excellent review I saw this morning from Tim Ashley: Tim Ashley Photography | The M (Typ 240) – Leica's new baby reviewed Other reviews from Jono and Ming: Testing the Leica M (240) The 2013 Leica M – Ming Thein [...]

  28. [...] even talk about the 50mms. It’s also the only full-frame mirrorless system, though until the M Typ 240 becomes widely available, none of them will have live view. The weaknesses of M rangefinders are [...]

  29. [...] about the different sensors, the in depth review, the ohhhssss and criticisms to him, him and [...]

  30. [...] ones of best pictures I saw from the M240 is from Ming Thein review: The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer IMHO I didn't see yet something similar on this forum – hoping this will be sorted soon… [...]

  31. [...] images were shot during my January 2013 trip to the city with a Leica M Typ 240 prototype (review here), the 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH and 50/2 APO-Summicronn ASPH (reivew here). As you can see, it may not [...]

  32. […] and on about the specs, but others a lot more qualified have already provided this information (see Ming Thein’s article and Sam Hurd’s take on this camera).  But why the excitement about all these functions that […]

  33. […] packs the same 16MP Sony-derived APS-C sensor as the X2, a body somewhere between the X2 and the M Typ 240 and a 28-70 equivalent zoom. Actually, it wasn’t any of that which caused the consternation […]

  34. […] Leica M Type 240 and Leica ME Digital Rangefinder Camera – First Impressions from Photokina 2012 The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru…php?forumid=68 __________________ […]

  35. […] hair-trigger feel of the M6 which you can modulate to the nearest ounce of pressure. The new M240 is a significant improvement over the M8/9, but still nowhere near as good as the mechanical […]

  36. […] not seen detail. For example Ming Thein's photos looks at least as good, as sharp etc on the web: The 2013 Leica M Typ 240 – Ming Thein | Photographer __________________ […]

  37. […] Leica M 240: From what I understand from people who do use the A7R and M glass, not all lenses are great; you […]

  38. […] Shwedagon, Yangon. Leica M Typ 240 […]

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