Leica M (240): final verdict.

Leica M(240) CMOSIS sensor

↑Leica M(240) CMOS sensor (image courtesy of CMOSIS).

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I’ve seen enough images now to finally go out on a limb.

My long-standing suspicions here, here, and in several other posts (too many to cite at this point) have been confirmed:  the new M produces CMOS-like images.

Not a profound statement, I’ll admit.  But true.

What do I mean by CMOS-like?

I mean smoother, more marshmallow-y, more… plastic vs. the crisper/more microcontrast-y CCD rendering from the M9/M-E/MM/M8.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is different.  As expected.

(However, the banding I’m seeing in the early M(240) images is disconcerting.  On a positive note, the files look richer, thanks to an increase in dynamic range.)

Now, in the end, does it really matter?  This film image I posted a few days ago demonstrates that such technical considerations ultimately sub-serve content/emotion so…

No.  None of the above really matters.

But, we all are free to choose our gear as we see fit.  And I’ve made my choice(s).

—Peter.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing my open letter to Leica.

Prosophos Open Letter to Leica

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37 thoughts on “Leica M (240): final verdict.

  1. Andrew says:

    In must admit…my initial look at Steves early samples SOC had me thinking RX1.

    • Prosophos says:

      Andrew, the RX1 is a terrific image-making machine, so that’s not a bad thing, of course.

      • Andrew says:

        I agree. Very nearly bought one though ergonomics felt too small. No more an observation that these initial images from Steve made me think of his RX1 images. Makes sense I guess given the sensor.

        • Prosophos says:

          I understood your original intent Andrew, and the honest observation you were making. I’m only being careful to clarify my view because I’m already being partially quoted (and hence vilified) on the ‘net for my “verdict”. The thing is, I trust my eyes – just like you – so of course I stick by my observations.

          As for the sensor and look, CMOS sensor = CMOS look… not very complicated really.

          • Andrew says:

            Certainly no issue in the clarification as that’s how I understood it. Clarification.

            Well you have your own skill and talent to thank for the fact what you say carries some weight….people are listening by the sounds of it!

            At the end of the day it’s just an opinion so I certainly hope your opinion is not blown out of context. And…..it’s just a camera!

            In fairness to Leica if they want to keep up, it seems there are not a lot of options anyway apart from CMOS (as far as i know) AND the way I see it they now have a lot of choice depending on the user across their RF products. So it’s all good in that respect. They should try and harness that position now IMO.

  2. Pieter says:

    Thank you!
    I felt like I was one of the few on the Leica/rangefinder forums pointing out that the emperor was not wearing any clothes. And since very few seemed to see it, I started to wonder if it was me.

    I agree, the question is no longer IF there is a difference between CMOS and CCD, but if you like the Leica CMOS or not. On that I’m not yet convinced.

    To me it looks like Leica saturated the colors and especially pink/red to make the M render differently than other CMOS cameras.

  3. Hmmm, now that I’m in the game as a new Leica shooter with the M-E I too have interested in what the differences might be. I’m sure those that have received and that are on the new M’s waiting are very excited. I’m still incredibly jazzed at the almost 4 year old technology I hold in my hands. The files this camera produce are amazing to me compared to what I have experienced.

    So far I have not seen that “pop” that I see in the CCD rendered images. Of course it’s hard to complain if one is only interested in higher ISO. Those Leica film or M8 shooters that stayed away from the M9 but not ready to buy the B&W only Monochrom must also be very interested in the new M for the higher ISO B&W images but also have the colour option in one camera.

    So far I’ve been very impressed with the M9’s B&W renderings. As yet I haven’t even tried any of my images in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro or Color Efex Pro. The files stand up on their own.

    • Prosophos says:

      Hey Duane, have a go with the Nik plugin, it should help you enhance B&W post-processing on the M9. Just stay away from some of the pre-sets that create a pseudo-HDR look… I see that sort of thing everywhere and it really looks “off” to my eye.

      As for the M(240), the new screen, processing power, etc., make it an appealing upgrade, but my comments are of course centered on image quality nuances. The M-E will serve you well in that department for years to come.

    • Thanks Peter, I will give my Nik plugins a try. I too could have waited for the new M but had no idea on how long I’d have to wait. Plus the price difference allowed me to afford the latest pre-ASPH 50mm Summilux in mint condition that I would not have been able to do. I’m quite satisfied with where I’m at.

  4. Luiz Paulo says:

    You were right since the beginning, Peter.

    • Prosophos says:

      Thank you Luiz.

      I had seen the same thing happen when Nikon made the switch from CCD to CMOS. I still own my D70, but not any of the subsequent CMOS models (sold all of them).

      It’s too bad that future CCD development appears unlikely…

      • ACG says:

        I will add to Peter that all us former Olympus users saw the same thing going from the Kodak CCD of the E-1 ( which I understand was very similar to the M8 chip) to the CMOS of the E-3, despite the doubling of resolution. There was nothing that quite captured that look, and hasn’t really been since for Olympus. The E-1 was magnificent, and if only they would work with truesense now on a 16MP+ replacement.

  5. bubuli says:

    So I guess you’re not getting an M240?

    I must admit, I really couldn’t say I’m not getting an M240…but not right now…there is just something off with the colors…there is a strong magenta shift in the samples I’m seeing, including the ones from Ming Thein (Huff’s samples are just too MEH to even look at)…not sure if this is something that can be corrected completely with firmware or are we looking at a Mark 2?

    and what’s with the banding on some samples?!?!

    • Prosophos says:

      Well, I’m old enough to never say never, but at this point I’ll be sticking with what I have. Leica should have success with the new M, but I’m not moved to abandon my current gear for it.

  6. Hilmar says:

    I absolutely agree with you, Peter. I contemplate whether I should buy another (used) M9 to have a backup. It is very, very unlikely I’m ever going to buy the M240 – and I fear any M in the next years to come will offer the image quality that I want and that the M9 offers.

    • Prosophos says:

      Thank you Hilmar.

      There’s definitely the M9(P) used market, and the M-E should remain for a while, and of course, there’s the Monochrom (not sure how long that will continue to exist). But even if these CCD-based cameras disappear, I’m sure we’ll all eventually be assimilated into the CMOS fold.

      Ultimately, as I’ve stated above, none of this matters in the context of producing memorable images. And, the ergonomic improvements (excluding the unwelcome increase in weight) will benefit us all.

  7. Ian Wakefield says:

    Maybe it’s just a feel thing with us as I agree with your comments I love using my M8 + M6 I could I suppose attach my 35mm Cron to a Voigtlander film camera and get the same image but it does not feel the same. It reminds me when Apple went from their early design laptops and desktop computers (remember the clamshell) and changed from Power pc processors to Intel and then released software to allow you to run Windows on the Mac I could not get my head around that Windows on a Mac. So a CMOS (Canon/Nikon) sensor on a Leica with video Something does not feel right with the emphasis on Feel.

    • Prosophos says:

      Thanks Ian. The “feel” of something, and other intangibles, are often underestimated as influencing factors in our decision making. In this case, I can actually see a difference in output, so there’s an additional component at play here.

  8. Ian Wakefield says:

    I don’t know if you do requests Prosophos but would love to see M and 800e shots side by side In Ming Thein review he does mention the 800e

    • Prosophos says:

      Hi again Ian. I don’t have any more Nikon gear (other than my old trusty D70), so I won’t be able to oblige. And, to be honest, it’s not something I’d undertake, given a DSLR and rangefinder are so different in use… in many ways, I’d still choose the rangefinder even if the image quality was sub-par.

  9. Matthias says:

    I don’t believe it until I see side-by-side comparisons shot with M9 and M240.

    • Prosophos says:

      That’s wise… just be aware that some things are not adequately captured by standard tests. For example, DXO ratings have always given the M8 and M9 sensors low scores, but the output from these two cameras can be spectacular.

  10. Ernie says:

    I am glad that I am not the only one who sees the different rendering of the images. And yes probably I will buy a M240, but I will not sell my M9P. The CCD of the M9 is so unique in so many ways that at basic ISO’s it’s still gonna beat a lot of other camera’s made by other brands.
    Ernie

    • Prosophos says:

      No Ernie, you’re definitely not the only one. I’ve had many people contact me, both on this site and directly via email, who feel as you do.

      Ultimately, the future is CMOS (until some other technological leap occurs), and I know I will learn to embrace it. I’ll have to.

      But for now, I’m sticking with my CCD cameras.

  11. It’s far, far to early to tell what the M240 is capable of creating. All I’ve seen is pre-production (and poorly exposed, Hi ISO) DNGs in my own hands, and they looked quite good, actually, for pre-production (poorly exposed) files.

    All the developed shots I’ve seen posted to date also come from Lightroom, and they all look like Lightroom to me (color and NR signature), more than CCD vs CMOS.

    As someone who owned a DMR, an M8, and still has a couple of M9s (and worked with an S2 and other CCD cameras), I know what they’re capable of, and why they’re great.

    But CMOS has come a very long way lately. On a parallel time path, I’ve seen Canon’s files go from mushy to weirdly coloured to downright spectacular in their last sensor and processor iteration. NIkon’s are still weird, colour-wise, IMO, but the detail is getter better there too 🙂

    So I would say let’s wait and see what the M240 is capable of creating, once the colour and the first few firmwares are settled out, and once something other than Lightroom really supports the raw conversion.

    • Prosophos says:

      Hi Jamie, I welcome your comments here… thank you.

      (Incidentally, for those readers not familiar with Jamie Roberts’ work, you should check out his photography).

      What you’ve written above, Jamie, is more than sensible.

      Like you, I’ve kept an open mind up until now, while freely admitting my “gut feeling” on how it would all pan out. Unlike you, I’m now ready to give my “verdict” – for lack of a better word. I believe I’ve made the correct assessment.

      In any case, we are spoiled by the camera gear riches around us these days, so – as I’ve consistently written – none of this really matters in the context of good photography.

      Thanks again,

      Peter.

      • Edwin San Nicolas says:

        “as I’ve consistently written – none of this really matters in the context of good photography”

        I always agree to this statement no matter who says it. If only its that simple to take out the sensor of my M9P and slap it on my RD1s i will be carrying my RD1s all the time over the leica. And the RD1 still gives me amazing photos as it is until now. The only thing I want on these Digital RFinders now is (even mediocre) liveview 😀 I dont shoot professionally I’m just a serious hobbiest. and my camera is used normally on outing with family and friends. Liveview would come in handy when i want to be in the picture. Its always a hassle having to give focusing lecture 101 everytime this happens haha. My sony RX100 now saves me in these situations. So I guess the M-240 can wait.

  12. miguelec1 says:

    I have been very licky. and got an M last saturday. I had a m9 before that i sold. I love the new M and i believe the upgrade is really worth it. I wouldnt enter into cmos and ccd discussions because i dont understand nor care. I had no chance to test the M extensively, but so far the images look to me as impressive to those of the M9 at low isos, much better at high isos while the camera is having a much nicer overal feel and reliability. I just posted a couple of shots in my blog http://www.m-journey.net in case interested, will try to put more over the weekend. So far i have used mostly indoors w the family.

  13. […] over a week ago, I posted my “Final Verdict” on the new Leica M (aka Leica […]

  14. Jon Streeter says:

    Re the villifications, it’s my experience that we, as a species, find it nearly impossible to listen to a question and answer only that specific question rather than volunteer information we believe is necessary to improve the understanding of the questioner. Likewise, when one offers an opinion, it’s like the bark that sets the neighborhood dogs abarking: people think of all sorts of tangential or even unrelated stuff and have no hesitation about offering it, including what they think of one and the horse one rode in on. It’s a pretty safe bet that when people resort to ad hominem attacks, they got nothin’ in the way of relevant facts.

    Now, getting down to cases, I’m sitting here wondering how it is people can look at your images and somehow come up with the notion that you don’t know anything about image quality. What am I missing here? This is planet Earth, right? Just checking.

  15. […] Moreover, if I type the search “Leica M240 vs CCD” on Google, that same post and my Leica M240: Final Verdict post are currently the top two search results.   In fact, any combination of the search terms […]

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