Its been almost a month since my last post, a long time between drinks as the saying goes but to be quite honest the situation with Leica type 240 deliveries remains almost unchanged. However, personally I have not been idle I happened to be in Singapore on the day the ‘Mini M’ Leica X Vario was introduced I had a short time with this ‘really’ new camera in two of the three Leica shops. Visits to Singapore are invariably divided into work days and shopping days the former alone in high humidity dripping heat and the latter with nearest and dearest in air conditioned comfort. My opinion about the Vario X is simple, probably very good for some folk but not right for me!
That auto focus Vario Elmar is a very solid and well designed camera that will no doubt deliver high quality images for most users. The controls are wonderfully positioned for my broad hands, Olympus and Sony take note. The zoom feels very responsive. I use a lens with a similar specification on my recently replaced OMD but f3.5 is still a tad slow when compared to my normal Leica lenses. Unlike the Lumix and Oly offerings but similar to the Sony NEX7 for a fixed lens camera its quite large in an un Leica like way, the price of auto focus I guess. I had some high hopes that this new offering would have M inter changeable lenses a sort of digital version of the much loved and very much missed Leica CL. Everything I have read about the CL gives me the impression that it was a product that lacked affection from the factory for some reason known only to the gnomes of Solms. A shame because I have yet to meet or read about any photographer that has a bad word to say about the CL! Indeed, I recently watched an ‘as new’ in box Leica / Minolta CLE with two lenses, case and a few other accessories sell for almost AUD $1500, as new it may be, but its still almost forty years old. Its very convenient to have a live view CMOS screen for studio and night photography but such screens are totally a waste of time in full daylight especially in Australia’s bright light. The Leica X Vario has the Epson VF option but having used one on the Olympus EP2 I don’t like the way it sticks out. I wonder if any one has snapped one off while removing it from a camera bag? Which brings me back to my needs and my long LONG over due M. Singapore is a bit odd in someways there are three Leica Shops and three Leica dealers one of which I am on first name terms with. I gleaned that since the first Leica three lens kits arrived in the Leica shops there have been no more than 30 bodies delivered to the dealers 10 bodies each I presume with dozens back ordered. No one knows how many the Leica Shops have had but it would seem not that many. The Raffles Leica Shop is managed by the very efficient and lovely Silvia and she hoped they would have more M’s to sell very soon. A visit to SIngapore would be incomplete without at least one visit to The Raffles Hotel for a meal or just a pineapple cake and tea at Sunny Hills on the third floor above the Leica Store, Sunny Hills is a tranquil elegant space that sells only one product, Taiwanese Pineapple cakes which are truly delicious served with cold Oolong tea. The manager of the ION centre Leica Shop admitted that quite a few Australians had picked up Leica M’s from his shop! They also have a ‘special’ on S2′s if any one is interested a bit more than a thousand off list depending on the ex rate… One thing that Leica have in their shops in SIngapore that I have not seen before in Oz is a very good 140 page Leica M catalogue not so much a catalogue more a beautifully produced book really, all about the M system. I’m sure its available from all dealers if asked for and now certainly available as a download, a very worthwhile read. Many thanks Sky for this very classy catalogue.
Two weeks prior to my trip I had some product shots to complete for a web shop client and it dawned on me that perhaps a medium format camera just might serve me better for some of my work. (I used a Pentax 6×7 for quite a few years) Most of my recent work has been completed on a M4/3 camera since my M9 and other kit was nicked late last year. Then by sheer coincidence I saw a link to the Pentax site, so I had read about the 645D, followed that up by reading Ashwin Rao’s excellent article, at the current asking price its a bit of a bargain even with its few technical limitations. A few days later I had a quick fondle and a loan promise from Camera Electronics in Perth which I just might take them up on when the right opportunity for use arises. Hmm, the mind wonders when one has to wait…
I was curious to see what the Leica M type 240 at ISO 3200 was capable of. This was captured about half an hour after sunset in my back yard, a few stars or planets are quite visible. It was hand held at f1.4 1/12s with a CV 35mm Nockton, I braced myself against a tree. I am constantly amazed by the fact that it is possible to hold any M this still at such a low shutter speed and show almost no shake. I know I could not do it with a DSLR, I have just about equalled it with a M4/3 but a Leica M just seems to have the form and the balance that facilitates low speed hand holding. As I remember I could not see the small trees in the background with my naked eye, behind the lightest coloured Marri centre right. So I have to say I am impressed. I have captured similar images with a Canon 5D mounted on a tripod but I don’t honestly think they were quite as good as this appears particularly when considering the detail present. A 100% crop is noisy there is no getting away from it. Next time when I eventually take permanent delivery of this camera I will find the optimum noise adjustment to control the noise better.
Hmm when! By having my appetite wetted with two days use of this M240 camera the wait is becoming much more an exercise in frustration. My nearest an dearest has taken a liking to my temporary replacement a Lumix G3, if this wait persists for much longer I am going to have to buy another M4/3…
Sam Hurd a wedding photographer Washington DC tests the Leica M with a slightly different slant. He loves the Noctilux a very special lens. Its regarded as a portrait lens but last week I used it for garden work just it illustrate how good it is with textures which are my every day pallet of photographic elements.
An unconventional use for a Noctilux with a new Leica M the tree trunk is approximately 4.5 metres away at 100% crop the detail in that trunk is phenomenal… Printed it looks so real that one could dig ones finger nails in it and this has had very little sharpening.
There were a two remarkable revolutionary products that were introduced at the 2008 Photokina one went on sale immediately, that was the micro four thirds system. The other had a much smaller presence in a small vertical glass case on the Leica stand that remained to my knowledge firmly closed it was the first Leica S. I looked at this for some time my first thought was a digital R replacement but the mount and the lens on show looked larger. Hmm, Phase one and Hasselblad had huge displays and demonstrations, the latter in particular at one point had a greater affinity with a circus than a generally sober industry trade show. It occurred to me then that Leica wanted part of its professional market back that had been diluted with the wave of digital progression. Not having any affiliation with the fashion or top end advertising market I placed any lust firmly into the ‘not for me box’ and put the lid on it.
However when I eventually saw the images produced by the S series I was gobsmacked such quality was rare and perhaps only Leica could do it. I remember seeing a set of floral macro photos produced on a Rollei or perhaps Contax medium format with a Zeiss macro lens that left a lasting impression but nothing quite as good as the infinitely rich detail as produced on the Leica S that I have scribbled about in past posts. Now that I have had a little time with the new M I can see all the same hallmarks that are present in the S series and they don’t come much better than that. Forbes Magazine in the USA has interviewed Stephan Schulz, the Head of Professional Photo at Leica Camera AG in Solms and it makes for an interesting Leicaphilic read
Leica also has a special S professional showcase web site for S range users. Once into the site there is a list of all the current professional users of the S system. Not only is it a who’ who but some of the work illustrated is phenomenal pure inspiration for any one interested in or wanting to work in that rarified world…
There is now no doubt in my mind that the lessons that Leica learned while developing the S series sensor and the Maestro processor have been passed on to the M development team. In the few shots taken before this actual frame I realized that the over saturation I referred to in yesterdays post is quite controllable in camera. This is not to say that it can’t be done in other marques of camera, it can and I have done just this in the past. But the precision of control in the M combined with the fineness of the sensor and obviously the processing offers more impressive results. Consider that the lens being used in this post is the same 34 year old Canon FD 100mm macro as was used for the Malaysian daisy yesterday. It is not even a Leica lens and yet the resolving power is quite brilliant, those hairs around the tip of the stigma can barely be seen by my naked eyes and yet this combination camera and lens sees them quite clearly. This reminds me very much of the quality achieved by the Leica S2. Leica has done a very good job with this new M.
I don’t know how far away from delivery the official Leica R adaptor is, but when it eventually gets here it will be very interesting how the Macro Elmar will perform as I would rate it more highly than the 100mm Canon FD. Its going to be an interesting journey!
Soft and buttery and yet tack sharp it seems to come naturally with a good macro lens and a Leica CMOS sensor. I did not have an adaptor to trial any Leica R lenses which I am really looking forward to. In the last few hours that I had the use of the M type 240 I discovered that it has a slight over saturation with reds from post box red through to cerise. It is really necessary to pull back the in camera saturation controls. I have used this technique for getting colour right in the past in Canon 5D’s with limited success. With the Leica M do a custom white balance then adjust the RGB controls in camera. Its simple and brilliant…
Today I have been fortunate enough to have been loaned a brand new Leica M by Saul Frank, manager of Camera Electronic in Perth Western Australia. Much of today I have been ‘learning the camera’ and testing some of my own M and Canon FD lenses. Saul also kindly loaned me a 35mm Summicron and a 50mm Noctilux. With regards to the latter I have never had the pleasure of even handling this remarkable lens before so coming terms with what it is capable of really needs more time than is available so I will leave that for another day.
My first impressions of the M with a couple of dozen shots on the SD card are very positive. Everything that has been said about this camera thus far is true and correct. The menus are a little more complicated than I remember the M9 to be but nothing as convoluted as the mainstream DSLR’s always seem to be. The delight of Michael Reichmanns input into the initial design spec with Focus Peeking is without doubt the best implementation of this function I have used thus far. On all the M4/3 cameras FP is facilitated with minuscule buttons the M has one human finger scale button on the front just in the right place for my broad spread hands. The reason for buying an M is also related scale. Its smaller and lighter when compared to all full frame DSLRS and with the exception of the Noctilux nearly all the lenses are one tenth the size of the average auto focus offering. Personally for most of the work I have for the camera manual focus is preferred. The one thing I missed with the M9 was the ability to do 1:1 macro work with the M type 240 its a synch and this is my first result. The above image is approximately @x life size. I would have preferred to present a really good floral image for this first offering but the heavy rains we have had over the last week has wiped just about all of them out for a few days, hopefully there may be something in the garden tomorrow…
Saul Frank Manager of Camera Electronic introduces the new Leica M
On Friday night I was invited to the presentation of the first Leica M’s to arrive in Western Australia at Camera Electronic, who held a truly great reception party for this momentous occasion. Saul Frank the manager of CE introduced the very affable Ryan Williams the Manager of Leica Australia and he gave a short but interesting account about the M and the new Leica factory. Un be-known to yours truly Leica Germany allows factory visits that can be booked in Australia, I noticed quite a number of the forty or so invited guests nodding their heads in approval. One good piece of news that was announced by Ryan is that from now on Leica is an independent company that deals directly with Leica dealers. Previously Leica Cameras were distributed by a company that handled many other products and as such, service for Leica cameras in the past has been not as good as perhaps it should have. The new Leica Australia has a service department that will perform most of the service here in Australia whereas in the past in many instances cameras and lenses had to be shipped back to Solms in Germany.
As the gorgeous Joy Villa looks on I am sure that the maker of the print Thorsten Overgaard will be smiling as Ryan Williams Manager of Leica Australia delights us all with information about Leica Australia and the new Leica M.
The talk around the room was interesting most all thought Leica had really moved in the right direction with the new M a few people who currently have M9′s were concerned that the new CMOS sensor had qualities that are not the same and some of the unique M9 look had been lost. Everybody I spoke to agreed that the larger battery was a great improvement over the M9.
Another topic of conversation was the viewfinder for those who are not familiar with the Epson viewfinder it was a real revelation for many and more than a few were pleasantly surprised by the wonderful image quality especially when it was pointed out the door into the darkness. Woa I can see in the dark was one comment I overheard…
A 1957 Leica M2 in beautiful condition still in use.
A couple of days ago I wrote a Post about Adobe’s declaration of cloud only support for CS6 in the future that means all the Adobe CS6 applications will be available only in the cloud and not on your computer. Many photographers have justifiably got very hot under the collar about this (yours truly included) bold, and lets face it, arrogant decision.
Anyhow, I just signed the petition “Adobe Systems Incorporated: Eliminate the mandatory “creative cloud” subscription model.” on Change.org.
It’s important. Will you sign it too? Here’s the link:
Kristian Dowling who had the honour and privilege to take delivery of the first Leica type 240 in Australia has now written a very good review of his experiences and compares the M to the M monochrome and the M9.
This very readable ‘photgraphers’ review and the first to really do side by side comparisons where one can see tonal and colour capture strengths and weaknesses of the M type 240.
Kristian’s images and comment about the Dynamic Range are interesting in that a greater DR can be seen once the image is processed and where the clouds are considered he is dead right however.
Having spent a lot of time working with colour that nature produces as opposed to painted surfaces or artificial light it is very interesting to see that the CMOS sensor from the M type 240 suffers from what we used to call the Ageratum effect in the days of film. This is a phenomenon where that area of the colour spectrum between violet and magenta shifts generally towards the magenta side. The CCD sensor in the M9 was very good in this regard it handled colour ‘almos’t faithfully and better than most films ever did. This is very well illustrated in Kristian’s review. Of course this is one of the areas where the film diehards say that digital has difficulties. However what they are really saying is that each film had its own qualities which can’t be duplicated digitally. And that I would have no argument with, however I saw some images a few weeks ago that fooled me totally. A Provia setting on a Fuji X1 pro. From a JPEG I saw I would have sworn on a stack of bibles that it had been shot on film, it wasn’t!!
The downside of the Ageratum effect is that often it is tedious to correct in post. The upside of the Leica M type 240 is that one can use macro lenses so photographing flowers is much easier. The difference between the two DR sample images with regards to the handling of that bougainvillaea colour is that there is almost no difference – at least on this Mac book air monitor. The Ageratum effect claims another victim… But the point that Kristian makes with regards to the DR is correct the new M’s DR is impressive which was also corroborated by the DXO analysis.
I would also concur with Kristian that I suspect that Leica has some work to do in the are of white balance and I’m thinking that for the time being a custom white balance setting may be necessary for anything that is critical.
I particularly like that contra jour image at the beginning of the review that rim light is special.
All together a very good review from a very good and capable photographer a must read…