So I bought this camera used in July of 2018 – almost a year ago. The previous owner only used it for about 2000 clicks and I paid about $4200 Canadian. Expensive, totally out of my price range… HOWEVER, a pretty fair price all things considered (I think).
I bought the M240 because I enjoy shooting with the M-System (film M4-P) and in a broader sense, I enjoy shooting with film cameras. Not because the process itself is ‘rewarding’ or ‘enjoyable’ (it’s not if you’re shooting 200+ rolls a year, which is what I averaged); I enjoy using film cameras because of the responsiveness of the shutter.
Now, I’ve shot enough digital cameras in the last 6 years to know that there hasn’t been a digital camera (interchangeable mirrorless, specifically) out there with a shutter that has the responsiveness of a mechanical film camera. I’ve always had to deal with some sort of shutter lag either because of the camera’s processing speed, or because autofocus kicked in. In most situations, it was because of the autofocusing. There have been two digital cameras that I’ve used that have come close to having virtually zero shutter lag – the Ricoh GR in Snap Focus mode, and the Fujifilm X-Pro series (1 & 2) with a ‘dumb’ adapted lens (no electronic contacts). The GR is a compact and I wanted to use my M-lenses for a mirrorless set up so… In my case, I had the X-Pro 2 mounted with a Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4, which is a great combo with a 32mm equivalent if you ask me. While that was good enough to work around, there were limitations. First of all, the crop sensor was an issue. I mainly shoot 28mm and there weren’t many options for a more compact 18mm M-mount than the huge and pricey Zeiss. Secondly, a lack of rangefinder patch does make a difference when trying to focus in low light situations. Trying to get decent focus in low light using the small EVF patch and the EVF with a wide angle lens at f4 was hilariously bad. Aside from these limitations, the combo seemed to do the job BUT it still wasn’t as familiar as using the M4-P with a 28mm.
That aside, from an economic standpoint, if you’re shooting more than 200 color rolls a year, the costs of film, and development add up. Yes, I process the film at home myself and it IS cheaper, but I don’t want to burn a hole in my pocket AND spend the large amount of time developing and scanning when I can use that time on something else. I’m better off spending that money towards a digital body that allows for color while getting instant results.
So… Finally… Here’s the review:
- shutter lag good
- price bad
… All joking aside, the shutter response IS IMO pretty damn close to using a film Leica. But lets face it, I DID spend an unreasonable amount of cash for ‘old and outdated’ tech – but hey, you pick your own battles. I’m prioritizing ergonomics/handling/familiarity over new tech so please take my opinions with a grain of salt.
For the ergonomics, if you’ve shot with a Leica then it’s pretty straight forward. A bit heavy, yes and a bit thicker, but I haven’t been bothered by the minuscule differences. Setting the ISO is a bit weird, but if you watch Kai W’s review on the M240 you can kinda figure out how he gets it going (hold ISO and scroll the wheel).
As I mentioned before, the shutter response is basically as fast as a film M. When you’re in Aperture-priority, the meter is constantly reading the scene and those readings don’t get in the way with the shutter response either. Leica did a really good job with their A-mode. However, if there’s a picture that you’re anticipating and you have your camera at your hip, make sure to half press the shutter to read the lighting before putting the camera up to your eye and firing. I’ve had instances where I fully pressed the shutter and ended up underexposed or having shutter drag.
When there are situations where the chaos of the subject matter is too overwhelming that you need to spray and pray in hopes of getting a decent frame, the buffer will slow down and then you’ll have to wait until it’s free. If you’ve been shooting film at 2 frames a second, you’ll probably marvel at this… Sports/action photographers, not so much. It’s not really a problem for me.
Coming from the Fuji line up, the shutter sound is louder on the M240. It’s more like a dampened DSLR clunk instead of the mechanical ‘swish’ of the film M-bodies and (to a degree) the X-Pro2. This was the only real annoyance I had but hey, you pick your battles – they all make noises in the end and people are going to eventually hear your camera.
Sensor tech is from 2012 (right?). Coming from the X-Pro2, I’ve been spoiled with the Fuji sensors. I remember getting DNG files which could be manipulated 5 stops in the highlights and shadows to get unreal, PRINTABLE results. Not so much with the M240. Push your shadows over 1.5 stops before they start getting a green color cast and that’s about the limit for what you can get before having to fudge with your color balance. Unless you’re converting the files to monochrome, you’re definitely not going to have great dynamic range. But hey, pick your battles… Get the exposure right and you’ll be aces, ESPECIALLY when you’re printing the files.
I’m not going to lie. the battery life is insane on this. I did a full day of shooting in NYC from about 9am until sunset and still didn’t have to pull out a second battery. I think I got about 500-600 frames of garbage that day, without viewing the LCD or using live view so depending on how much you rely on the LCD screen, YMMV. Switching batteries is pretty familiar with reloading film since you have to remove the base plate. What was it that Winogrand said?… “There are no pictures when I’m reloading“.. Yeah well, in this case, you don’t even need to reload at all. It’s more like, “there are no pictures when the buffer cache is freeing up“.
You think that since I dropped $4200 CAD on a digital M that I would probably be using Leica glass – or atleast, have some money in the bank to save up for one, right?
Without spewing out too much, if you’re shooting 35mm focal lengths, get the Zeiss Biogon. I’ve used the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35 and the color cast in the edges are pretty bad. Can’t say anything about the other 35’s that CV has to offer but you’re better off going with Zeiss.
As for 28mm, I’ve found that the Voigtlander Ultron f2 does a great job and is within your budget if you’ve no more pocket to burn through! I’ve used the Color Skopar 28mm f3.5 on the M240 and similar to the Skopar 35, color cast is terrible, which is a real shame, because I LOVE the Skopar lenses. If you’re worried about the focus shift on the Ultron, maybe opt for a Biogon 28. I think I’ve noticed a focus shift on the digital sensor whereas I haven’t noticed it at all on film… But hey, pick your battles, y’know? If it’s going to bother you, you better bank up for a ‘better’ lens. It hasn’t bothered me at this point.
Would I recommend the Leica M240? Hell fucking no. It’s outdated sensor tech, if it hasn’t been ‘obsolete’ already, it will be in the next decade. It’s heavy, and it’s out of the price range of any reasonable human who isn’t a rich one-percent-er. My recommendation if you’re shooting 28mm? Skip the M-system and just buy a Ricoh GR and be done with it… For the love of god, just do that and never touch the Leica M-system.
But, if you’ve already ‘invested’ in the M-system or is curious about it… As I’ve said many other times, pick your battles… As someone who mainly shoots with a rangefinder, I don’t really have much of a damn choice other than Leica. If Epson re-issued the RD1 for full frame I’d 100% hop on it. No, the X-Pro 2 didn’t cut it for me (with my style of shooting) and I wanted to use M-lenses without compromising the focal length due to a crop sensor. A Sony doesn’t have an OVF, is way too clunky and the UI is too damn confusing to navigate through. I could shoot film, but the costs (and physical storage space) will add up over time, not to mention the time spent developing/scanning for a slim hit/miss ratio… It just doesn’t really make sense – ESPECIALLY if you shoot like a mad man.
So now I’ve been left with spending a large wad of cash to something I have no business of owning into a hobby I don’t plan on earning a dime on. It’s absolutely not a smart move.
But hey, the Leica M240 feels familiar, and it responds the way I need it to respond. And after being almost a year into owning this camera, I haven’t had any regrets so far.