A little over a year ago, I was introduced to the Leica rangefinder when asked by the rental company Lumoid to review the M9. I knew absolutely nothing about Leica or their cameras, only that they were expensive and...unique. I took the M9 on vacation with me along with the Nikon D4S, which I was also testing at the time for SLR Lounge. Anyone who follows my work knows how that turned out, if not here it is - [Why I Chose The M9 Over The Nikon D4S].
When I sent the M9 back into Lumoid, I knew that I wanted to find one to buy, but I was also curious about the newer model M240. Before spending $4500 on an M9 body, I reached out to B&H and had them ship me an M240 model to try out. I shot with the M240 for a month with the option to purchase at the end, but I was still drawn to the M9. Two weeks into shooting with the M240, I purchased my M9 and sent the M240 back at the end of the month. There are tons of blog posts written up by photographers all over the internet regarding the differences of the M9 and M240, and a large group that had made the same decision as I did...choosing the M9 over the M240. There were also a large group of photographers that had done the opposite.
Over the past year of shooting the M9, I've had the opportunity to shoot the M240 a few more times and I never regretted my decision. I purchased the Sony A7II to shoot alongside of the M9 for when I needed better low light performance, or simply just a 2nd body to shoot my Leica lenses on. While I loved the A7II, it isnt a rangefinder, and I found myself using it less and less.
Over the past couple months I've read a few things and talked to a few photographers that had started with the M9 and were happy with their upgrade to the M240. Almost all of them agreed that there is no doubt a uniqueness to the M9 images, and initially they weren't overall pleased with what they seen out of the M240 either. This is where I found things to get a little tricky...
I noticed a lot of these photographers kept shooting with the M240 and found that the more they shot with it the more they liked it. They also found that while the image quality of the M9 was still different and preferred in most cases, it was only in good light when the ISO was lower than 1000. The rest of the time, the M240 shined, and along with all of its other features such as live view and improved buffer to allow for faster shooting, it began to grow on them.
Well, I decided to give the M240 another try. I wanted to see if I had been too quick to make a true judgement. I love my M9, and the images it can produce in good light have a uniqueness that is unlike any other camera I've ever shot. The problem is just that though, it is only in good light. This works out good for me because I have other cameras for low light situations, its just that they are my heavier and bulkier DSLRs. I also found myself getting annoyed by the speed at which the M9 needs to be shot, very slow. Something I loved at first, but there are times when I needed it to be a little quicker. The M9 will lock up momentarily after a few shots while the buffer gets caught up. I am also a fan of shooting in Live view with my DSLRs, something the M240 offered and the M9 didn't.
So, lets get to the point of this article. I ordered a blacked out M240 and it arrived last week while I was on vacation, ironically just like the first time I shot the M9. I've been shooting the hell out of it since it arrived, and so far I'm really enjoying it. While I don't think I will ever sell my M9, I have been really surprised by the images the M240 has produced and how much I'm really liking it this time around. Everything I loved about my M9 is there, it is an M after all, even though they are quite different. I've found a way to edit the M240 files to be pretty close to what I am used to with the M9, and while the M9 files still have a slight advantage in sharpness and subject seperation, I am able to shoot the M240 at higher ISO settings.
So what, who cares? Well, I get a ton of emails and messages from photographers that are really intrigued by Leica cameras, and ask me whether they should buy an M9, M240, or a Sony with an M adapter. The Sony is a great option if you are looking to shoot Leica glass. It's the best glass I've ever shot, and it is priced that way. If you want to shoot a Leica rangefinder and not just the glass, the M9 is going to be the cheaper option. You can get one used now for around $3k, but you the glass is important, so you will be spending another $2-3k on a Leica lens. Yes, you have the M8, but that is not a fullframe sensor, and I can't speak on it since I've never shot it. Bottom line, venturing into the world of Leica will cost you at least $5k, unless you go the Sony route. Trust me, if my Leica gear didn't bring something unique and different to my arsenal, I wouldn't have spent the money I did. My gear helps me pay my bills, it will be putting food on my table in a few weeks when I finally leave my day job behind. Creatively speaking, I can do things and create images that I simply can't with any other setup I own. To top it off, I simply love shooting with a rangefinder.
I plan on eventually writing up a good comparison between the two cameras, most likely after I have shot with both for at least 6 months. I wanted to simply write up an initial thoughts article explaining my decision to add the M240 after I have written on several occasions that the M9 was a better camera. I have since sold my Sony A7II, which really is an excellent camera, but I simply missed the rangefinder shooting experience when shooting it. I'll be continuing to add images I capture with both Leicas to the Leica image gallery HERE if your interested in seeing them.
Bottom line, a camera is just a tool, and I've said this before... pick a system that you like and go with it, forget about the rest and be a photographer.