2015-05-27

The Leica M-240 - a field trial

Leica is synonymous with photography and many photographers ambition is to own a Leica camera.

The name Leica is a combination of the first three letters of Ernst Leitz surname and the first two from the word camera; lei-ca. The first 35mm film Leica prototypes were built by Oskar Barnack at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke, Wetzlar, in 1913. Intended as a compact camera for landscape photography, particularly during mountain trips, the Leica was the first practical 35 mm camera that used standard cinema 35 mm film. The Leica transports the film horizontally, extending the frame size to 24×36 mm, with a 2:3 aspect ratio, instead of the 18×24 mm of cinema cameras which transport the film vertically.

The Leica M (Typ 240) is a 24mp Full frame digital rangefinder camera and is available in standard form or the luxury MP model - which adds a sapphire crystal rear screen cover and increased buffer (2gb vs 1gb) as well as deleting the Leica Red dot and replacing it with an engraved top-plate. There is also a frame selection lever that allows you to preview framing for 28, 35, 50, 75 and 90mm lenses. 
The MP type 240 is available in Black, Silver and as a limited edition 'edition safari' together with a 35mm f/2 Summicron M, leather card case and matched strap.


If these features are not important to you then the Leica M 240 is considerably less expensive.

The Leica M type 240 is a striking looking camera and immediately makes an impression as a superlative quality piece of kit with its brass top plate and magnesium alloy construction coupled with rubber seals to prevent dust and moisture getting in to the works!

The sensor is a 24mp CMOS design coupled with a Leica Maestro image processor and produces images with low noise. The ISO range is 200-6400 with a low 100 settingAt higher ISO ratings there is noise present but it has a filmic quality - rather like film grain which is rather attractive.

Reassuringly solid, the camera feels very good in the hand and heavier than it looks at 680g. Controls are minimal with a shutter speed dial with A (aperture priority auto) setting on the top plate and aperture set using the lens aperture ring. There is also a 'M' button which switches the camera to HD movie mode. The shutter release (which has a lovely smooth action) is threaded for a cable release and has the drive mode selector around it allowing single shot, continuous at up to 4fps and self timer modes.

On the front of the camera there is a focus assist button - a press of this will activate either live view magnification or focus peaking when in live-view mode -or you can set focus assist to automatic and it will then engage when you turn the focussing ring. You can also have this button used to engage exposure compensation and then set the amount using the rear control wheel.

The rear 3" 920,000 dot screen is where you can access the menu system to customise the camera to work how you want it to. And, you can also engage live-view and compose using the rear screen aided by focus peaking to get the focus correct. There are options for Live-view zoom focussing - up to 10x magnification- or Focus peaking where the in-focus areas are highlighted in red. The screen is bright and contrasty

The real outstanding feature of the Leica M is of course the optical rangefinder. A bright line frame automatically appears in the viewfinder (you can choose Red or White lines) to show the area the lens attached with use and the surrounding area allows you so see what is around the frame or more importantly what is about to enter the frame. place the central square on to the subject you want to be in focus and by turning the focussing ring a double image will gradually become sharp and at this point focus is achieved.

The Leica M is a completely different way of working to a modern DSLR or CSC/Mirrorless camera. 

The M is a very inconspicuous camera to use - it does not attract attention when you are using it or when you release the shutter.

Performance as you would expect is exemplary with superb colours and contrast and generally excellent exposure when left to the camera. Part of this of course is down to the superb Leica M lens range - for this test I only had the 35mm f/2 Summicron-M but I found this to be a great general purpose companion.

Leica produce a fantastic range of M-mount lenses and with the new live-view facility you can now attach non-coupled lenses and still focus them via an adapter - so Leica screw and Leica R lenses for instance.
Reviewing the images afterwards, I was struck by the clean appearance of the files - there is plenty of information to work with and no problem recovering highlight or shadow detail from raw (DNG format) files. I was happy with the look of the jpeg output so would only use raw in difficult lighting situations or where the absolute maximum quality is required.

Battery life seems really good - shooting every day for 4 days the 1800mah battery still had plenty of life in it so I would guess around 1500-2000 shots using the rangefinder per charge.

Live view with Focus peaking also worked well and would be really useful if using non-coupled lenses via an adapter for instance.

So, the Leica M 240 and MP 240 are capable of excellent results and are truly modern day classics. If you can afford the body price and the cost of whatever lenses you want then do not hesitate - go for it!

Park cameras are offering a free spare battery with the Leica M and MP models while stocks last and have special pricing available on all Leica M lenses.

Leica also provide a 2 year 'Passport' warranty - the first year of which also covers you for accidental damage- plus a free copy of the latest version of Adobe Lightroom 6 (download).


























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