About the M240… the image quality is a step down.

Inspiration, Q&A, Teaching point

Yes, the image quality of the Leica M (type 240) is a step down from the Leica M9.

You have to ask yourself, why did I buy it in the first place, given all my rants about CCD vs. CMOS (and how I prefer the former)?

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 “About the M240… the image quality is a step down.

  1. Peter,

    I greatly admire your forthrightness and honesty regarding your option regarding the image quality (primarily at base ISO) of the M9 vs.the M240. I shot and compared the two when the M240 was first released and although color balance has definitely improved with the recent M240 formware, there was more to it. With certain kinds of images (not always predictable), the M9 had a certain dimentionality that M240 images often lacked. I’m talking about real world shooting, not test shots or brick walls, which do have their place.

    I’ve found the same thing when comparing my Pentax 645D medium format 40MP camera vs. The Nikon 37MP D800 camera.There is often a depth to the 645D images that are sometimes lacking in the D800. Make no mistake about it, the M240 and D800 are phenominal cameras with distinct advanatages over their CCD counterparts and their advantages are well established. If though its simply wanting to take ones time in capturing a base ISO image that has the greatest chance to elicit what I can only refer to as a viseral response to a great many images, I personally keep turing to the two aforementioned CCD sensor cameras.

    Dave (D&A)

    1. Hi Mike,

      It’s a very subjective thing. I find the files are devoid of life, right at the outset, and they don’t “firm” up, even with post-processing; in fact they often fall apart. And the colour in many circumstances is not salvageable, despite my best efforts (and post-processing skills) to correct it. Half the time, it appears that people are walking around with tomato paste smeared on their skin. Other times, the colour is uncannily correct.


  2. Peter, I have been debating with myself for months if I should sell my M9 for the M240. And then when I saw you do it, I was really convinced that it’s what I should do and for the same reason you did it–improving ISO. But I love the M9 and everything about it except for the ISO limitation. So, I have decided it’s a keeper, and I can live with its limitation. No matter what camera you have, their are compromises, and I am willing to accept the compromises I must make to shoot with the M9. I have never bonded to a camera like I have to it, and I don’t know that I ever will. It makes me feel good and gives me confidence when I’m shooting it–what more do I need, particularly with its lenses, the 35 Lux ASPH FLE and 50 Lux ASPH. There are times when it will not be able to do what I want it to do, but when it’s right for the photo opportunity, it’s really right. Good luck in your discernment. George

    1. George, you made the right decision in sitting tight.

      On a related point, my general concern about staying with Leica is, once the M-E disappears, there is no clear upgrade path (or replacement path) should your M9 fail. Unless the successor to the M240 is a CCD-based camera (unlikely, despite the poll results above), or unless CMOS sensors are further improved… and I mean improved BEYOND the D800/A7R sensor. Yes, I did just write that.


  3. I’m feeling your pain and frustration, is it terminal or can it be worked around?

    I’m sure I mentioned a few weeks ago that the M240 had slowly worked it’s way in to my thinking, I thought long and hard about this, however I stopped myself because of comment from my camera dealer of all people, not a technical comment I might add. – “Don’t fix what’s not broken” in my case this is correct.

    I realise your rationale for getting the M240 was sound, improved ISO but, it seems to me it was at the expense of the bond you had with the M9.

    I know you’ll resolve it quickly, one way or another. 🙂

    All the best.

  4. Not surprised at all…..unfortunately. I agree with SH where he’s mentioned that the a7r with M mount glass renders closer to the M9 than 240. From what I’ve seen I agree. Pity it’s not a rangefinder!

  5. Peter,

    Your statement isn’t a surprise at all, at least for me.

    I’m fortunate enough to live in a country with good weather in all seasons of the year. But we got nights or raining in Brazil as well. 🙂

    So high ISO capability is always welcome. But I’ve to say high ISO is, for me, only needed when the lights start to be weak which will produce not so good pictures anyway…

    For me, loosing the M9 look cannot be replaced by high ISO or dynamic range or anything like that. Rather, the M9 is a so strong keeper that, as you know, recently I’ve got a second M9 body…

    I’m very curious (as always) on your next move… 🙂

    1. My next move….? I’m thinking of never touching a camera again, or at least listening to my own advice about sticking to CCD sensor-based cameras. Unfortunately, they are a dying breed.

      1. It will be interesting to see what their (Leica) position is on the MM in this case in time?

        There might a nice M9 for sale out West of the prairies!,

  6. Peter,

    I’m afraid I disagree with you strongly, but everyone’s allowed an opinion (even me)… I don’t find the M9 better, rather the opposite. I’m very happy to have sold my M9 and replaced it with a M240.

    The view advanced reminds me of being on the Fujifilm forum on DPR, where many think the X100 is somehow superior to the more modern Fuji cameras (it isn’t). It does end up reading a bit like the refrain of “things aren’t as good as they used to be” in nostalgic newspapers.

    At the end of the day many buyers (or potential buyers) of the M9 thought the sensor was the weakness of the camera, sold or didn’t buy the camera, Leica responded and replaced the CCD with a (excellent) CMOS sensor – as a consequence Leica has sold a bucketload of cameras. Well done them. It just so happens the sensor IS a damn good one too, better than the M9 or the RX1. I much prefer the rendering to my D800E for landscape work as well. The colour graduation and DR is so delicate that the results are incredibly film like.

    Again, everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but I feel compelled to put an opposite point of view.



  7. Peter, I can understand what you’re saying about the M240 color rendition: it’s the same thing that I have seen by looking at countless pictures from the M240 and other CMOS sensor cameras that only highlight to me the uniqueness of the M9 color rendition. Yet discussion on this issue on the LUF has become pointless because many people M240 owners take any critical observation as “M240 bashing.”

    Looking at the M240 color pictures on your blog one sees that you’ve managed to produces excellent color. It would be interesting if you explained how you achieved this type of color in these M240 pictures: whether it’s through laborious processing or whether it’s only because of the light conditions under which these images were photographed.

    1. Hi Mitch,

      Don’t feel bad about the inability to hold meaningful dialogue at LUF. I have people writing me and, as a result of what I posted above, telling me that I should learn how to post-process properly. Nice.

      As for your question, the answer is: “laborious processing”. I’ve pulled my hair out trying to minimize that orange-red colour cast that seems to permeate many of the images taken with this camera. I’ve only partially succeeded at best, and there are some images that are downright un-fixable, unless you like that vintage colour-cast-vibe to all of your images.


  8. To add to my initial comments above, I personally see the issue as something more than just color accuracy of CCD vs CMOS as I have been able to profile and get very accurate color from a variety of CMOS based cameras. It’s a combination of somewhat elusive characteristics that often combine to provide many M9 images (and images from other CCD based cameras) with a particular visceral feeling upon viewing. Although I hate to use the word, many of the images seen from these CCD based cameras are sort of “organic” or “alive” in terms of presentation upon viewing. Of course subject matter, composition and all the other well known attributes that make a successful image are of primary importance but just achieving accurate colors isn’t enough.

    Since many like to make the analogy of high end audio to higher end photographic equipment, I see the development of the CMOS based camera almost analogous to the development of digital reproduction of music. In the early days, as clean and proficient as digital reproduced music was, it didn’t elicit the visceral response as analog reproduced music, although the digital version certainly had many advantages in use from the get-go. As time has gone by, digital reproduction equipment has certainly improved whereby many die analog diehards are convinced that digital reproduction is close enough for their enjoyment. Some of the most recent CMOS based cameras such as the new Sony A7r may also approach the reproduction qualities of the CCD based cameras…and thats something many are looking into.

    Maybe like audio equipment, where many analogue pieces of equipment are produced by numerious niche companies for those seeking perfection….maybe we’ll see niche CCD based cameras in the future, for those that are convinced that such cameras hold a superior edge for the type of imagery they are seeking to reproduce.

    Dave (D&A)

  9. Peter,

    I hope you eventually grow to love the M240. I’ll have to agree the M9 at base ISO is extremely hard to beat. Personally, I don’t think the M240 can beat the sharpness and bokeh rendering of the M9. With that said, the significantly improved ISO of the M240 & ability of live view (I use it for landscape) is what sets it apart. For my use, this is important and is why I’m glad I switched.

    In regards to color rendition, I actually prefer the M240 but I know many will argue.

    Speaking of Leica, I’ve been using my Leica S for a few weeks now and I absolutely love the images. It’s a CCD sensor and reminds of the M9 but with better IQ and colors. I now have this internal debate of what camera I should be using. One minute I want my M240 because of size, ease of use, better ISO, and to use the rangefinder focus. The next minute I want the S because of its astonishing image quality.


  10. Peter, I can’t say that I’m surprised, in part because of the evidence (the pictures you have been posting, while as lovely and heart-warming as ever, are missing something), but mostly because when I first read your post indicating your intention to switch I sensed a “wrongness” about it. I can’t put it any better, and I realize it’s a silly and unhelpful statement, but I was troubled in an odd way. A sixth sense, we’ll call it, I wasn’t convinced that you were convinced. Anyway, there you go, free advice from a stranger, albeit well-meaning and still appreciative of your talent and camaraderie. I will follow your saga with interest. Cheers. Mike

    1. Hi Mike. You don’t have to explain it “any better” because you’re correct. It’s just that every so often I like heading off in another direction. So far this year, I’m “0 for 3” with respect to bonding with new gear.

      Don’t get me wrong, the M240 is an ergonomic delight, it’s the image quality I find lacking. That’s a big negative, for a camera.

  11. Peter
    It’s good that you said it. Since you started posting your images with the M240, I felt something was missing, I couldn’t pin it. Maybe the window portraits came close, but still as if the soul was not there. But I didn’t want to bring it up fear to upset you. Quit frankly they had you written all over it and at the same time they weren’t yours, I don’t know if you understand what I mean?. Anyway, I respect your honesty. For me it was your recent images that more or less confirmed my decision not to buy the M240. And I believe after I saw Steve photos of sony A7 with Leica lens, it’s the way to go, they really come close to the Leica look, and it would be the perfect backup for the M9

    1. Dear Salim, no problem my friend. It’s not honesty that upsets me – I value that – it’s rudeness and incivility. Those are things I don’t associate with you, so feel free to comment anytime you wish.

      1. But please don’t keep this from stopping you. You have produced stellar images with other cameras and lens as well. One of my all time favorite photo of yours, is your daughter on a swing, of which I believe you didn’t use an M9 nor the Leica lens. It’s been and always be the person behind the camera

  12. To me, the M9 is also superior to the M240 is an important area – the “experience”. The M240 is larger than the M9 and it’s menu system lacks the M9’s pure simplicity. I don’t need video and while the larger LCD is nice – it tends to “dslr” the M240. The M9 is all about taking a picture and getting a great result – that’s it. The only real advantage I see in the M240 is increased ISO but until the M240 came along I never felt disadvantaged using the M9 and weighing all the pluses of the M9 it’s the camera I’m still using the most while the M240 lingers in my camera bag.

    1. I’m noticing a number of people are selling their M240’s from what I read. Obviously there will be more buying them, though it’s certainly a trend I’ve noticed.

      From what I can gather (I’m still new to Leica compared to other’s on this post so just an observation) the problem for Leica is that people wanted an improved M9. What they actually got was a different camera.

      Just to qualify….there’s nothing wrong with that, unless you don’t want a different camera!!

  13. Don’t give up too easily. This like a rebound camera after an amazing romance. It will take ages too fallin love again.
    Most probably it will never be as great as that previous relationship, but to move on you need to give it time. 🙂

    I suggest you focus on what you do enjoy about the camera first, like in your case it seems to be the black n white.

    I know the same frustration btw as I’m in the same boat at the moment. I’ve been trying to coach M8 like pictures out of the M files, but mostly fail miserably. Upping sharpness, contrast and clarity to desperate levels, but it never works. But then again it’s not fair to expect the new girlfriend to be the same as the old, is it?
    There are things that I see the M do better than the M8/9, but I have to learn to coach that out of the files more.

    Forget the M9 for while, as that’s a step backwards into old habits. I’ve decided to buy a M9 when the next M hits the market, for what I expect to be a very nice price. But meanwhile I’m gonna explore the M. Sure it may be a step backwards in image quality romance, but surely a top of the line CMOS sensor has to have something going for it? At least something that can be explored… Give ir time.

    Btw using a new camera is like visiting a new city. It’s not really fair to judge untill you’ve done it on a gorgeous day in spring. 🙂

  14. i have had my M240 since one week and my expierience is the same. the magic of the images is gone. every shot i took so far looks like i could have taken it with my d700. this, lightly overexposed. i seriously regret selling my M9 for this. i am actually considering selling my M240 again and get another used m9 or m9p.

  15. An audio equipment comparison was used in a post above and maybe, just maybe that is possibly the best way of describing the difference between the M9 and the M240.

    Maybe the M9 is the closest a digital camera has got to a top quality record deck and the LP in sound, or in this case vision/image and the M240 is like a top line Hi-Fi CD player and the CD?

    End of the day if you don’t bond with something, whatever that object is, it’s just not for you no matter what anybody else says.

  16. Peter, many people write about superior high-ISO performance of the M240 compared to that of the M9. In my view, however, that is a merely a technical judgment that does not take into account the color rendition. You may have seen the LUF thread that I started on night photography with the M9 using the “Shoot at ISO640 and push in LR4/LR5” technique, which, in my view shows that the M9 is a good camera for high-ISO photography with good color rendition Someone else started another thread on the same subject; and Jim Kasson, who is the one who has done all the detailed testing on which technique is based, has contributed interesting posts to both threads.

    I’ve tried to publicize as much as possible this technique on LUF, but, as can be expected, some people made sarcastic comments whenever I tried to do so. Nevertheless, the thread has had some 16,000 views, which is good because I think that M9 owners should be aware that good night photography can be easily done with the M9. Actually, someone wrote me that he had sold his M9 because “of poor high-ISO performance,” but regretted it when he saw the photographs in my thread.


  17. Dear Peter ,

    First of all , I hope that you recover as quickly as possible , your pleasure to photograph !
    Regardless of the material you’ll be prompted to use … ( “M” rangefinder matter what happens, I guess !) …

    It is difficult for me to read your disappointment regarding the M240 …

    It makes me sad, but I ‘m sure you ‘ll bounce back very soon !

    About me , I still owns my M9 , and as soon as I’m better, I can make a great comparison , recorded 2 camera . Same subject photographed with the same lens !

    As I wrote here , I find that the M9 is “Roots” , with that extra touch ….
    The M9 produces a file that , although the picture is not very interresting to see, it becomes just ’cause the rendered image and the bokeh with this type of color is nice to look at !

    To me, this is very subjective! I have a beautiful screen Eizo calibrated by a specialist , who came to install … And I think the colors of M rather realistic … This lack of magic, but this is what I could see when I was photographing …. Very realistic in the final …. ( Very neutral should I say ! )

    My favorite camera is the Leica Monochrom !
    My favorite camera is the Leica Monochrom! The resolution, the quality of the files is just beautiful … Also, high isos are just amazing!

    For me the color is a bit of “free-style” … unlike the black and white I want a little more in the state of the art …

    Now I put in your place! You worked long and hard to get a real and very personal signing with your M9 … Like I wrote, the M9 is not a M240 … And especially the M240 is not a M9 … But is also a magnificent camera in my eyes.

    I want to get everything in order for you quickly dear Peter!

    Your friend.


  18. When the M9 was first released, there were many magazines and internet reviews praising it’s color rendition, sharpness, etc. The main theme going was that it had a medium format feel to the files. What’s the common factor? CCD sensors.
    I own or have owned many digital cameras from many different manufacturers and the one conclusion I have come to is that my M9 renders in a way that I truly enjoy and because of this, I do far, far less post work on my M9 files than I do my other cameras. The worst was the x100, which was so flat and characterless that I would spend way too much time in post on them, and still not be happy with the output.
    The only other camera I enjoy (almost) as much is the Sigma DP2, which require a lot of post work to get what I want from the files but the end result is worth the extra work put in, as they have a very unique quality to them that no other camera can recreate. Again, another camera that does not do well when you venture far from base ISO… hmmmm. Of course the process of taking photos with the DP2 is not as enjoyable as the M9… not by a long shot.
    What it really comes down to is artistic preference. People forget that photographers are artists and we all have a differing aesthetics. You wouldn’t tell a painter that his paint is inferior to so-and-so’s paint, you would just appreciate his end product and let him enjoy using the materials that help him achieve his own personal aesthetic.

  19. I have followed your observations on this subject very closely.

    Few individuals are aware that CCD sensors actually have superior light sensitivity and lower noise characteristics than their CMOS cousins. The supposed “advantage” (of CMOS devices) is the result of very sophisticated noise reduction algorithms. In other words, CMOS output is more “cooked” than that from a CCD sensor.

    Humans are extremely sensitive to tonal and colour variations. There is no doubt in my mind, that after post processing thousands of M9 and M240 raw files, the differences you have observed between the two are very real. (Whether one is “superior” to the other is immaterial. What matters is the esthetic you prefer.)

    Personally, I have long noted the special (and very appealing) characteristics of M9 photos. While some of the output may be due to the glass, I am convinced that a great deal of the unique character is also due to the sensor. With the M240, Leica has released a camera whose output is very different from its predecessor. While some may prefer the new look, others may (rightfully) not.

    Hopefully, in the future, Leica will provide a choice of M models with both CMOSIS (CMOS) and Truesense (CCD) sensors.

    Meanwhile, I am going to look for a used M9! The M240 no longer has any appeal.

  20. I am by no means an expert, however if you type the following into Flickr “Leica X1 Portraits” you will be amazed at the stunning 3D “Leica Look” photographs you will find, this little camera is a 12mp CMOS sensor which produces the “Leica Look”. I was amazed !

    Now type “Leica M Portraits”, its a mix bag! Some good looking photographs, however nothing amazing.

    Lastly type “Leica M9 Portraits”. Sit back an relax and enjoy some truly wonderful photographs, full of pop, life, colour, depth etc…….

    I think i should cancel my Leica M order and go for M9…..what you all think ?

    Brian JC Osborne

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