The Leica M Typ 240 Overview

November 10, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Canon 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, ISO 400, 1/60 @ f/5.6

In late August of this year, Leica Canada generously loaned me a Leica M Typ 240 for a couple of weeks.  This was was a perfect amount of time for me to get accustomed to the camera, and it also allowed me to shoot a number of different subjects, including a large amount of street and landscape work.  To put things in perspective, I shot just over 3000 images in the two weeks that I had the camera!  After a few months to reflect on my time with the camera, and the photos that I captured with it, I'm finally ready to share my thoughts.

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 1600, 1/250 @ f/8

I should preface this by saying that while I'm familiar with the M system (I own an M3 and M4-P), this was my first time using a digital M for an extended period of time.  Naturally there are comparisons to be made between the M 240 and the older M9/M-E, as well as film Ms, but due to my limited experience with other digital Ms, I will aim to focus more on my impressions of the M 240, rather than how it compares to previous digital Ms.  

Canon 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, ISO 400, 1/125 @ f/5.6

The first thing that you notice when you hold the M 240 is the build quality.  I have often thought that Ms are the perfect size and weight for a carry everywhere camera.  They're somewhat in the middle as far as size goes, in between P&S cameras and DSLRs.  The weight is noticeable when you pick the camera up (in fact, it's almost always the first thing people comment on when I hand a film M to them), but I find the weight to be reassuring, as it gives the feeling of solid build-quality.  The body itself is slightly larger than the M9's, but it is something that most people will quickly forget after using the camera.  The body has a small, new thumb rest on the back of the camera, which slightly covers the rear dial.  I found with a strap attached to the camera, this gave a firm enough grip that I wouldn't need to buy an additional thumb grip, something that was not the case with an M9.

​The M follows a similar design to previous Ms (with the exception of the larger M5), but there are a number of small differences when compared to the M9.  The first and most noticeable is the lack of a frameline illumination window.  The M 240 has LED illuminated framelines, similar to the ones found in the limited edition M9 Titanium.  I really liked the LED illumination, which can be configured to show either red or white framelines.  Due to not relying on outside light sources, the framelines are always easily visible.  The framelines automatically brighten or dim depending on if you're looking at a bright or dark scene.

​The frameline preview lever has also been removed.  Since I only had one lens during my time with the M 240, this wasn't a problem, although now that I own 35mm and 50mm lenses, I find that I regularly use the preview lever on my M4-P.  

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 400, 1/1000 @ f/2.8

The M 240's 3" LCD screen is an improvement over the M9's 2.5" screen.  I found it much easier to view in contrasty light conditions, and it allows for more accurate viewing of exposure and detail.

Two other major changes introduced with the M 240 are the additions of live-view and video.  I don't have much experience with video, so I won't comment on that.  I did use live-view on a regular basis, especially when taking landscape photos.  Due to rangefinders using a window viewfinder, rather than a TTL viewfinder, using filters (and especially GND filters) requires a bit of guessing with my film Ms.  This was much easier with the M 240, allowing for precise filter placement, and exposure through live-view.  Focus-peaking is available through live-view, although I mostly focused using the OVF, before activating live-view.

The M 240 also has the ability to use an attachable electronic viewfinder.  I didn't have a chance to use the EVF, but I can see similar advantages to live-view when taking landscape photos.

Canon 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, ISO 800, 1/80 @ f/4

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 200, 1/250 @ f/8

The M 240 is capable of shooting at 4fps, which is double the M9's 2fps.  I typically used the camera in single shot mode, and just repeatedly pressed the shutter release when I wanted to take multiple photos.  I found this allowed for better control over exactly when I wanted the photo to be taken.  The shutter release has been greatly improved with the M 240.  The shutter sound is much quieter when compared to the M8 and M9, and the feel of the shutter is very smooth, with a noticeable break between a half press, which locks the exposure settings, and a full press, which takes the photo.

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 800, 1/500 @ f/2.8

Canon 5D, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 OS Macro, ISO 400, 1/125 @ f/4

Like all Leica Ms, the M 240 has a shutter speed dial on top of the camera.  It allows you to select shutter speeds in 1-stop increments between 8s and 1/4000, or you can select the A mode, which places the camera in aperture priority mode.  The aperture is manually selected on the lens, in the same way that you would with a film M.

The M 240 is a manual focus only camera.  While a manual focus digital camera might seem odd to some, in my experience rangefinder focusing is quite easy once you get used to it.  For an explanation on how rangefinder focusing works (with photo examples), see my M3 overview.  In the 3000+ photos that I took with the M 240, there were probably less than a dozen out of focus photos.  

Because the M 240 uses the standard M mount, you can use the majority of Leica lenses from the past 60 years, or even older if you own a LTM-M adapter, allowing you to use screw-mount lenses.  You can also use Leica R (Leica's SLR system) lenses with the proper adaptor, although you will need to use live-view or the EVF for accurate focusing, due to the lenses not being rangefinder-coupled.

Canon 7D, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 OS Macro, ISO 400, 1/200 @ f/4

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 3200, 1/30 @ f/5.6

​The M 240 uses a newly designed 24 megapixel CMOS sensor, which is a fairly major change from the M8's and M9's CCD sensors.  The new CMOS sensor allows for the M 240 to have much better high ISO performance compared to the M9.  Noise is well controlled up to ISO 3200, and with minimal processing ISO 6400 is usable as well.  There is a somewhat noticeable drop in dynamic range past ISO 3200, although in most cases where I'm shooting past ISO 3200 I'm aiming for a contrasty photo, so I could almost see that as a positive.

The sensor doesn't have built-in dust removal.  This is also the case with my Canon 5D (and film!), and cloning dust ends up being rather time consuming, especially when shooting landscapes at small apertures.  You can manually clean the sensor, and in my experience this has to be done on a daily basis to be effective.  A "dry" cleaning only takes about 20-30 seconds to complete, so it's not that big of an inconvenience.

Canon 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, ISO 400, 1/200 @ f/5.6

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, Cokin 3-stop GND Filter, ISO 400, 1/180 @ f/16

The M 240 also has a newly designed menu system.  The menu is categorized into 3 sections, and it is easy to navigate.  There is also a new Set button which allows you to quickly change frequently used settings without having to go through the menus.  The only setting that I regularly changed within the menu was the ISO, which also has its own dedicated button, allowing for quick changes while shooting.

Battery life has been improved over the M9.  I typically got 8-10 hours of shooting out of a charge, although that was typically with minimal live-view or video usage.

Canon 7D, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, ISO 400, 1/40 @ f/4

I really enjoyed my time with the M 240!  It felt like a modern version of my film Ms, which are my favourite cameras for shooting the majority of my current work.  The only thing holding me back from buying a digital M is the cost.  The M 240 currently sells for around $7200, and while this is comparable to the price of Canon and Nikon's top pro bodies, it is still out of my budget at the moment!  

The M 240 is an excellent choice for street photographers, photojournalists, portrait photographers and landscape photographers who are looking for a small and light setup with some of the best lenses available.  The 24 megapixel sensor offers excellent resolution and dynamic range.  The camera itself is small and discrete, with a much improved shutter sound, and the EVF and live-view are excellent additions, especially for landscape shooters who frequently use filters.  

Since the M 240 was loaned to me, Leica has released a slightly updated version of the camera, called the M-P.  The M-P removes the red-dot, and they've added additional RAM to increase processing speed (something that I never had problems with).  I prefer the sleek, minimalistic look of the M-P, and it would likely be my first choice between the 2 bodies!

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 1600, 1/180 @ f/4

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 1600, 1/1500 @ f/2.8

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 1600, 1/350 @ f/16

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 400, 1/90 @ f/16

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 1600, 1/250 @ f/11

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 1600, 1/250 @ f/5.6

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 1600, 1/350 @ f/8

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 400, 1/750 @ f/5.6

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 400, 1/1000 @ f/8

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 400, 1/60 @ f/11

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, ISO 400, 1/180 @ f/5.6

Leica M Typ 240, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, Cokin 3-stop GND Filter, ISO 400, 1/180 @ f/11


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