Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My journey to the Leica M digital begins

You know that I'm a proud Fuji's user but my heart is always on the Leica. I like Leica because of the simplicity(All manual Focus, aperture, shutter speed and shoot), the design(ratio and layout) and of course the Full Frame (FF) sensor. You may ask Fuji share the same identity as the Leica, but I don't think so. I love small camera, when Fuji started the X series, their lens are small and compact but they are not anymore, their premium prime like 14mm and 23mm are pretty huge in size. The size may due to the large aperture and autofocus motor, for my style of photography, I don't need autofocus at all.  My desire is the system has the best image quality along with the smallest package. That's the reason why I go for the Leica.

Even I love Leica, I still think it is way overpriced. I sold all of my gears to fund the M240. Also, I don't even have the money to buy a modern lens. Now all I have is the M240 and the 35mm summricron 6 elements 1969-79 lens.

When people talking about Leica, they all talk about the shallow depth of view with the silky smooth tonal transition.

Compare to the APS-C sensor, the FF sensor has noticeable better qualities in tonal transitions. When I'm using the Fuji, only ISO 200 can produce closer result to the full frame but still not at the FF level.

All M240 review images are shot at DNG and exported to Adobe Lightroom 4 with curve and minor adjustment according to my taste.

ISO 200 F/2 - Focus on the water droplet

ISO 800 F/2

ISO 200 F/2

ISO 3200 F/2.8 or 3.2

ISO 640 F/2

ISO 200 F/2

The Leica M force me to forget the autofocusing and more concentrate make a better judgement on the distance scale, aperture ring and the shutter speed, which helps me to become better technically and I really enjoy it. 

ISO 200 F/8 - Home view, focus on the mountain

Modern lens can't give you the sunstars like this and this is wonderful.

Also when I'm shooting at high iso I found out the rendering has film like quality.

ISO6400 F/3.2

Now about my experiences towards the M240 

The dynamic range
It is just tremendous, and the Fuji just cannot complete with the M(maybe this is the power of full frame). I feel the file from the M is just juicer and Fuji shots look kinda dry and harsh. Also the Full Frame sensor just gives more 3D pop and which is just not exist from the crop sensor.

The colour just looks right and beautiful. I feel the colour is smooth and subtle which is pleasing to my eye which is totally an opposite to the Fuji (which is over-saturated in a lovely way), but they are all really good.

Black and white
The grey scale is just astonishing. I really like the black and white output from the M240.

The scene below is really challenging with huge contrast of highlight and shadow, I still could managed to pull out great details from the DNG file easily.

ISO3200 F/3.2 - Lovely tonal range

ISO3200 F/3.2

Battery life
Which is pretty good, since the original battery is expensive and there are no any other cheaper alternatives, now I can only have one battery. The good news is the battery is has enough capacity for me to shoot a full day without a recharge. 

Live view
I use it occasionally and it is useful for landscape or shooting at a lower angle(hip or below). Some say it is wrong for Leica to put the live view function inside the M camera, but I think it very is handy in some situation and I believe it makes the M system a bit more versatile.

ISO 800 F-stop: F/2 or 2.8 - Home view at night

ISO 800  F- stop: Unknown

ISO 200  F-Stop: Unknown

Update: I just found out live view freezes the camera in after each shot, which is a flaw but it doesn't  affect my shooing experience much. 

Focus peaking
It is a nice thing to have when I'm shooting for landscape. Other than that, I don't use it often.

It is much better than the M9, but  If you compare the resolution to the Fuji, Olympus and Sony, the M's LCD feels quite low in contast and unsharp. Actually, I don't need a crispy clear LCD but I expect a better screen from a $6000USD+ camera. 

I don't want  to put any extra weight and size to the camera so I don't need it. 

Image playback 
It is a bit laggy when you press the playback button for the first time but overall it is acceptable. 

The legacy lens Leica 35mm summicron 6 elements Canada type II is still a really capable performer at 2014. The sharpness is good even at the wide open but the corner needs moderate aperture to get better resolution. The bokeh is little bit tricky here, I found the bokeh looks harsh when shooting at wide open and it gets better when stopping down to F/2.8 or F/3.2. My Friend told me it was the character of this legacy lens, some love it and some hate it. For me, it don't think it is too much of an issue. Also, I didn't add any vignetting to my images, they were all come along with the lens.

After some practice I found out I can't rely on the Rangefinder to focus on the landscape shot. When I first start I focused to infinity and the focus was spot on on the Rangefinder, my final image was out of focus. To solve it I need to use the live view to get all the landscape shot right. I ask my how do the Rangefinder user can spot on the focus for landscape when they are use the older Leica camera which without the live view support ?

Focus distance: 0.7 meters is almost the closest focus distance for most of the rangefinder lens, if you need a lot closer than that, rangefinder camera is not for you.

It is accurate and I'm using the Classic mode without much problem of it.

ISO performance 
You are safe to use from 200- 1600. 3200 -6400 are still very capable (if you expose the way that I mention later.). In more 90% of the situation, I don't need anything more than 3200 or even 1600, therefore the M240 ISO performance is excellent.

Auto ISO: After the latest firmware update , auto ISO works not only in shutter priority mode but also in every shooting mode, which fixed the stupid flaw and make it behave what every camera supposes to be.

ISO 3200: Color straight from the DNG file

ISO 1600 F/2

ISO 400 F/2

ISO 1000 F/2 1/12s  handheld

ISO 3200 F/2- It was a very dark environment

For ISO 6400: If you are shooting at ISO 6400 and underexposed, you would get banding on your image, which makes the image unusable. My suggestion is just overexposed the ISO 6400 shot by half a stop and tone it down during the post-processing.

The following shots had overexposed by half a stop inside the camera and fixed it during the post processing which is the method for me to create good result at the ISO6400.

ISO 6400 F/ 3.2

ISO 6400 F-Stop: Unknown

The shutter sound is discreet and without vibration, I can handhold with 1/15s without anything support. With support, I can make a clean shot with 1/4s, that's really incredible.

I just love it and I'm totally engage to the camera. The M is way overpriced, with flaw like freezing after each shot at the Live view mode, but it does has stunning image quality. Also the simplicity from the Leica M is just unbeatable which remind me of shooting like a analog film camera.

To be honest, even though some say Leica has the best optics,  I think you can get the same or better image quality from a ff camera like Nikon D800e and cannon 5D Mk iii if you put on some amazing glasses.

Camera is just an instrument, just use the one you love and shoot with passion is what is all about.

More images


  1. "...the Fuji just cannot complete with the M" - Being also a Fuji X user myself I can't agree more. Fuji is bitingly sharp, but often the area in focus looks like cardboard cutouts, whereas the Leica produces a silky transition from in-focus to out-of-focus area that is so pleasing to the eye. Great images in this post, especially the one taken on the bus - it looks like straight from a movie scene.

    1. Thank you for your kindly comment, Kevin. Yes your are right, it is so hard to go back after a taste of Full Frame.

    2. The pictures look very clean, sharp and so detailed. But of course you would expect it to especially since it cost so much. The pictures also really show your sense of adventure and exploration.

    3. Rockerlan, I like your honest comment. Photography is base on the content, the camera is just a tool to show it. Actually, from dollar to quality ratio, it is the worse camera ever and I believe most of the full frame camera can produce the same or not better image.

  2. You got a sharp eye, love the one with the mirror, I guess in Sham Shui Po ? Used to own the V2 summicron and foolishly sold it but looking back at my black and white pics, I think it's a stellar performer, will certainly buy it again. Keep up with the good work !

    1. Thx for the comment Romy! Actually, I was worried about the resolution of the old summicron combine with the modern day digital body, after a shot with ISO200, all of my concern were gone and felt the lens was amazing.

    2. Also yes, you are right I took the mirror shot at Sham Shui Po, which is such a gorgeous place for street photography and I can take photos there day in and day out without feeling bored.

  3. Wonderful selection of images. I have used the M a couple of times, not mine... and I could sense the quality in my hand. I have to admit that the rendering of in/out focus zones is just lush. Imagary aside, these shots are full of life and movement... wonderful.