When a new Leica M comes along it’s sure to raise eyebrows. As the German godfather of 35mm photography attempts to balance new features with traditionalism, Ian Farrell finds out if the M Typ 240 measures up as a serious photographic tool.
Leica M Typ 240 review – Features
Image: Colours straight out of the camera are bold, without being too saturated
At the heart of the Leica M is a 18-million-pixel, full-frame, CMOS sensor that replaces the CCD unit found in the M9. At one time it used to be argued that CCD sensors produced better-quality images at low ISO settings, but as the (cheaper) CMOS technology has been developed more and more, this advantage has become negligible. CMOS sensors score with higher ISO sensitivities, lower power consumption and faster read times, enabling live-view composition and video recording.
The M produces 67.6MB files measuring 5952×3976 pixels, and shoots open-standard DNG raw files as well as JPEGs of various sizes and quality. ISO sensitivity is somewhat limited compared to full-frame DSLRs: the M offers ISO 200-3200, with the ability to pull to ISO 100 and push to ISO 6400. The camera can shoot continuous bursts at 3fps, storing them on an SD card that slots into the underside of the camera. To get at this, the camera’s baseplate must be removed – a nice throwback to the days when film was loaded in this way. The M also now provides support for Eye-Fi cards for wireless file transfer to your home PC or Mac.
Other features that differentiate the M from the M9 include a new 920,000-dot scratch-resistant viewscreen, spot and multifield metering modes, live-view composition and the ability to shoot full HD video.
At first glance, incorporating live view into a Leica rangefinder camera seems a little like adding off-road four-wheel drive to a Ferrari. Yet while the traditionalists may tut and shake their heads, the M now offers new ways of shooting that overcome some of the limitations of the rangefinder format. Composing on the camera’s viewscreen gets round the problem of parallax errors (where the view offered by the optical viewfinder is not the same as that captured through the camera’s lens) and offers a preview of depth of field, white balance and exposure via a live histogram.
The same view can also be seen with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) that slots into the M’s hotshoe. The Visoflex EF2 is a 1.4-million-dot EVF that hinges up through 90° to offer shooting from unusual angles, and Leica says that it displays all significant exposure parameters and allows for precise composition.
Such precise composition could be great for those wanting to shoot macro close-up photography, although there is no macro lens presently in the Leica M-system line-up. However, Leica has thrown a lifeline to those who still have Leica R-mount lenses from the company’s film SLRs. These can now be mounted on M-series cameras using an adaptor. Bag a second-hand Apo-Macro-Elmarit-R 100mm f/2.8 lens (or its 60mm sibling) from eBay or your local camera shop, and you could soon be enjoying macro photography on your Leica M.