Welcome to 2015 and my first review of the year!
First and foremost, I would like to thank all the readers who visited my site last year, you all have contributed to a healthy 300% increase in visit when compared to 2013. Although I wanted to spend more time updating this blog and review site, but given the fact that I am getting busier with my photography work and with my grow twins, I simply run out of time. There are many occasions that I hope there are 36 hours a day and 8 days a week. Nonetheless, I am not complaining. This site is very special to me because here I communicate to you, at a personal level.
Right this review is about the latest and best Leica M, the M-P, the same beautifully crafted and precisely engineered photographic tool as the M (Type 240).
Same camera, different camera
Last year, I wrote a review of my M240 and a couple of user reports HERE, HERE, including a wedding blog with pictures, revealing just how special and capable of the Leica M was. Yet, after a busy summer and a few thousand shots later, I discovered a few weaknesses from my M240 and that perhaps the newly announced M-P would overcome.
Bearing in mind that I am utterly happy with the M handling and the simply layout is by far the most uncluttered and intuitive for any professional photographers. There’s no multilayered menu, all the most important controls are on display so there’s operation is lightning fast. I agree that most new compact system cameras or professional DSLRs have customer buttons to suit individual needs but for me and trust me, for any true photographers, all you will ever need is the ISO, shutter and aperture dials. As I shoot RAW, I don’t care about white balance either, I just leave it at auto.
When it comes to the new M-P changes and how it differs to the regular M, here’re the list and my reason for loving it more choosing it over the M240.
First, cosmetic changes. As much as a wedding journalist and a street photographer, I WANT to be discrete and invisible. I wear black shirt, trousers and shoes most of the time, I taped out the red dot and the ‘M’ logos on my M240 so it looked more stealthy. The thing is, I don’t like tapes. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the red dot and the camera wears it proudly. I just prefer not to show it when I am at work, which is what my Leica does, work. To many it’s a status symbol and fashion accessary but I believe that most pros will appreciate the true stealthy appearance.
Then the frame line selector. I thought it wasn’t necessary at first because I never bother using it when I was shooting with my M6. Yet, during my last few weddings, I was always wondering what the picture would look like with a different focal length. Then I missed the selector. Then the M-P revived it.
Third, the sapphire crystal display. Ok, this is a subjective matter. I don’t think this represents a luxury symbol just because all expensive swiss-made watches have sapphire crystal cover, but I actually think it’s necessity. I personally think that all digital Leica M should have it by default, given it is suppose to be a high-end professional tool and the very high price. Yet since the inception of M 9P, it seems that Leica only reserves this special cover for the ‘pro’ models. It’s hard wearing and virtually scratch prove since only diamond is harder than it, I don’t need to use a protector and I hate scratches on screens. I don’t mind much about the body and I actually like a bit of brassing. But please not the screen. I just hate it. Please be aware though, having had a few swiss-made watches, I know that even though these sapphire cover doesn’t get scratches but the coating in front of it will get marked! So it’s up to you if you still want to use a screen protector!
Finally, the most important – 2GB buffer. Despite using one of the fastest cards available, Sandisk Extreme Pro, 95Mb/s cards, my M240 struggled at weddings when I took a lot of shots in succession. It hanged and I had to wait. It was fortunate that I also had my Canon 5D as my second for some tele shots, I was able to continue without too much of an interruption. But it really showed the real weakness of M240 in a pro working environment. Now that the buffer is double, I will wait and see if it’s an improvement but I am confident that it is when my wedding season starts later this year.
So many may think the M-P is only a cosmetic upgrade from the M240, far from it I think. After my busy wedding summer season in 2014, I wrote down a list of things that the M240 could have improved. Many of these weaknesses that I noted down were crossed off by the announcement of M-P. So there you have it.
If you are familiar with M240, then there’s no surprise here apart from the cosmetic upgrades that I mentioned earlier. Though, the crystal display actually feels different in hand, especially in cold weather. Perhaps it’s a characteristic of sapphire crystal, it feels much colder than the metal body. Of course it doesn’t bother me but it’s like having an ice sheet on the back of the camera! I never felt that on my M240.
But if you are unfamiliar with Leica cameras then you are in for a treat. It’s built like a German tank, literally. So solid in fact that you can collapse a wall with it. There’s also that German tactile feel. Every button and dials are made from metal, the brass top and bottom plate will reveal themselves as the camera wears from use, something that many true Leica fans love. It makes the camera more personal. The camera also weights more than it looks. Everything is precision engineered, fit together by hand and man, just a joy to handle it, like hold your wife close to you. To me, it even beats the solid Nikon D4s and Canon EOS 1Dx in terms of feel.
Using it in practice, good and bad
I don’t need to repeat what I’ve already said about the M240, which is M-P’s brother. There’s no obvious difference on the M-P in terms of handling and all the good and bad points of M240 also inherited to the new incarnation. Apart from the aforementioned frame selector and bigger buffer. You can read about my M240 review HERE.
Yet, there’s one point I want to raise and especially so for all the ‘P’ line of the M cameras. This applies to the film MP, M9P and the latest M-P. That massive screw which replaces the RED DOT?? That big fat screw that almost got hated by so many traditional Leica fans. I love it. Why??? It gives you bloody access to the vertical rangefinder adjustment screw behind! Of course you will need that special tool for any kind of adjustment but it’s available on evil bay. So the pro models allow the photographer to do some adjustments on site should you need to. With the regular M240 or other general M’s, you will either have to ‘peel’ off the Red dot to reveal the ‘hole’ behind or take out the top plat all together. It’s cumbersome and to all those perfectionist out there, trying to take out that red dot may damage the paintwork too! It’s a risky affair. So I love the new FAT SCREW!!!
Other than that, it’s a standard M that’s been around since the 1950’s. A classic rangefinder that’s fast, quiet and discrete!
I love Leica. Perhaps that I don’t need to upgrade further for a few years. I only did so because of the buffer problem that hindered me a little in operation during busy wedding ceremony. Under general street use, I never needed the big buffer. But all that upgrades seem to make sense to me personally and I think the M-P is a better fit for my work. The M240 was definitely one of the best cameras I’ve ever use and only this M-P tops it by giving me ‘MORE’.
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