Right, it’s final! My journey to full digital Leica is now complete. Last week, I ordered my Leica M Type 240 and thanks to Dale Photographic in Leeds, I also got a spare Leica battery for free! As a deal, I also saved £400 on my new Leica Summilux 50mm 1:1.4 ASPH! So all in all, I got one of the best Leica deals around UK.
This blog isn’t a review as I haven’t got much time with the M 240 and the lens yet but I am going to go through my thinking process of choosing this model rather than others that I mentioned in my previous Leica blog.
Previously, I did a rather unscientific comparison with the M 240, the M Monochrom and my own workhorse Canon EOS 5D Mark II. During that process, I rated the Monochrom very high. As a result, I contemplated to get the MM not only because of my recent love in monochrome photography but is ability to give me clinically clean and sharp images upto around ISO 4000!! However, if I ever going to make money through weddings, travel and portraits, then the restriction of greyscale photos just couldn’t make sense, despite the fact that 60-70% of my photos are now black and white. Lastly, that poor battery performance from the MM/M9 really put me off as a pro because I simply don’t know to carry 10 batteries and keep changing them while I am shooting important moments.
I also said that in terms of colour performance, my trusty 5D still trumps the M 240 anything above ISO 3200 but the fact is, from my own experience, I rarely shoot above 3200 anyway and that’s the fact. Yes, I would use faster ISO settings when I had to 2.8 zooms but now I am using faster primes and ultra high ISO has become a thing of the past. I also mentioned that at low ISO, M240 performs way better than 5D, especially the shadows since ALL Canon cameras suffer from some kind of chroma noise issue which is a nightmare to make a groom’s suit look good. Even at ISO 3200, the Leica fairs slightly better than the 5D. However, I am talking about using Apple’s dated Aperture RAW processor. I know for a fact that Adobe’s Lightroom 5 is now way better in processing CR2 files. (My comparison between the latest Aperture and Lightroom is HERE)
So these are the two main reasons for my decision for choosing the M240. However, there are lots of practical issues that I was considering as a pro. Cost, reliability, durability, resellability, Then there are sentimental and desirability reasons. First let me talk about cost. Yes, Leica is indeed expensive but those who think that Leica is not relevant in the photographic world are wrong. I often said that a £10 disposable camera doesn’t make you a crap photographer nor a £10000 Leica S2 is going to make you an instant star photographer. Cameras and lenses are tools for making pictures. Ok, so why would I spend ridiculous amount of money on getting the Leica then? First it suits my style of photography and second, the Leica optics give me the look that I simply cannot manipulate in post (something that I tasted and learnt when I was shooting my M6). More importantly, if you consider all the pro equipment out there, then Leica’s high price starts to make more sense. Consider the latest Canon EOS 1Dx or Nikon D4s. These two pro level cameras cost only a little less than the M240! Ok, you do get all kinds of fancy gadgets throw in but as I said, it’s the type of photography you do that decides which camera to buy. If I am a National Geographic photographer (who needs the ultimate weatherproofing and ruggedness for both bodies and lenses) or a sports photographer (Long lenses and super speed FPS!), then I wouldn’t even think about Leica. But if you are a journalists, a story teller, an artist or even a landscape photographer, then Leica makes sense.
So, I am already using a pro Canon body which cost £2000 when new. The new Mark III cost even more at just under £3000 when launched so anything in the pro arena is indeed expensive. Because pro cameras need the build and reliability for the daily assignment that the users put them through. M240 is consider to be a pro camera, in my view and I know some of you may disagree but I can justify it later. Its build is probably better than any Japanese top camera, all because the M240 feels like a solid metal brick! Apart from a few ‘plastic’ buttons, everything is metal. Due to the size of Canon and Nikon’s pro body, they use a lot of weight saving component to make it manageable for photographer. Despite its full metal chassis and body, the inside still has lots of polycarbonate components. Leica is all metal and glass.
Now I’ve covered cost and build. Reliability? Umm.. that’s the big question. I should hope that the M240 is as reliable as my 5D which has never failed me for the past 5 years. While I haven’t seen any long term report from any Leica users out there, I do know that the M9 had some issues but none that would stop a wedding pro using it. Fortunately, Leica UK has a 1-year passport and 2-year warranty scheme that should give me time to iron out every issues.
Well, now I want to talk about my hearts, not in a health way, but as a photographer. Ever since I picked up my M6 almost three years ago, I had been shooting with it almost exclusively (in film). Before that I barely use my now obsolete Canon EOS 1v since I switched to digital in 2005. What the M6 did to me was re-ignited my passion as to what pure photography means (not in the Nikon Df way). As the M is full manual, I have to go back to basic, to remember the days when I had to ‘read’ light rather than relying on the meter in the camera (yes the M6 has a meter but I usually preset my shutter and aperture before I focus when I use the M, that way its much faster and I use the meter to double check the exposure and adjust accordingly). Oh my oh, don’t I love that. Now, all modern cameras behaves like a point and shoot with the sophisticated computer that does everything. Manual focus isn’t a main issue for me because I don’t shoot sports, may be the occasional bird watching. I’ve learned zone focus for the past couple of years on the street so I can put it in practice and in most cases, it’s faster than auto bodies. Now with the M240, I am basically taking my next step to replace the film with a capable sensor but with all the manual goodness.
Many thinks Leica is a luxury item that only pleases the rich ones. Wrong!! In fact, I doubt that many ‘rich’ people will have the time to ‘use’ a Leica. They buy them for collection only. Leica still being used by pros around the world. In fact, Japan is one of those places that still adore the rangefinder technologies and many still use Leica. So Leica is for those who is dedicated, pure-heart photographers. I think I am one and I simply want to take good pictures, colour or mono, in the most natural way without too much Photoshoping. I want to make pictures in the simplest and purest way. Nothing but Leica will give me that experience and process. Ok, the fact is that Nikon and Canon, or even Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic can all produce exceptional images these days but none can match THAT handling and photo-making experience of a Leica M. I am serious and you have to try it to understand and believe it. Indeed it’s desirable to those who want to experience it, enviable to those who can’t afford it and think it’s a rich man’s game. The fact is, I am going to sell my whole Canon set up for the M 240 and a couple of lenses, I still probably have to put a bit more to top up the differences. So I am not rich but I am just a photographer who wants Leica and its experience. It’s a heart thing.
Last but not least, resellabilty, fortunately, Leica doesn’t depreciate as much as others. Unfortunately, digital bodies do depreciate because of advancing technologies but investing in good Leica glass is often consider as good investment. They often remain its value if not going up. Moreover Leica now has a general practice that their lens prices go up annually. So buying one now may make you money in 5 or 10 years. My M240 may now be with me for the next 5 years or more but the lenses will be there with me for a long haul, providing that they are not stolen. Mind you Leica lenses probably will outlast me!
There you go, my decision of going for M 240. My next few Leica blogs will be interesting because I will be testing it with my vintage Leica glass such as the Leitz Summilux 35mm 1:1.4 Classic, Leitz Summicron 5cm 1:2.0 collapsible, Leitz Summicron 90mm 1:2.0 version 2, Hexanon 90mm 1:2.8 M, Leitz Tele-Elmar 135mm 1:4.0. Then of course a full review of the legendary and my new Leica Summilux 50mm 1:1.4 ASPH! (Also a proper comparison with my 5D sand Sigma 50mm again!).
Watch this space!
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