Rangefinder

WPPI 2018 - Leica Camera Workshop

Last year during WPPI, I gave an hour-long lecture for Leica during a sit-down dinner that they treated everyone to. We had a great turn-out and everyone that attended really liked how it was done differently than all the other WPPI lectures or classes. This year, we decided to step things up a little and rather than just a lecture we would host a complimentary workshop out at the Springs Preserve. I loved that Leica was willing to switch things up this year and let me take a group of photographers out off the strip away from all the chaos and walk them through how I shoot an engagement session. We tried to do the shoot out at Red Rock Canyon where I had shot the day before but ultimately decided against it due to the permits and longer drive. Springs Preserve turned out to be the perfect spot for what I had in mind and was only a 15-minute drive from the Leica Store in Ceasars Palace.

Leica Workshop

A couple months before WPPI, just as I started planning for this workshop, I found out my good friend Mark Condon from Australia was coming over to the states to attend the expo along with his wife. Not only is he the creator of the popular website SHOTKIT, but he's also a pretty talented wedding photographer himself. After a little persuading, I was able to talk them into being the models for my workshop. 

Demonstrating creative use of harsh light and dark shadows

Demonstrating creative use of harsh light and dark shadows

We had 15 attendees show up which turned out to be the perfect head count for a workshop like this. I couldn't have asked for a better group of photographers, all asking questions and taking in everything I showed them. I went through everything from building client relationships, to posing, to shooting techniques and using natural light in creative ways. I also did things a little differently than I normally do at workshops and I let the attendees shoot a good amount. I would go through a few things, work with Mark and Elissa, then back out and let someone else lead. Overall, it was an awesome workshop and afterward, Leica treated everyone to a dinner while I went over some of my shots and post production. 

Photo by: Phil Cuenco

Photo by: Phil Cuenco

wppi-leica-workshop0006.jpg
Photo by: Phil Cuenco

Photo by: Phil Cuenco

I had a great time teaching this workshop and I'm hoping to do something similar again next year. A big thanks to Leica Camera USA for hosting the event, to Mark and Elissa for modeling, my good friends Bud Johnson and Jason Vinson for helping out, and John Kreidler and Phil Cuenco from Leica for helping me put everything together. 

Photo by: Bud Johnson

Photo by: Bud Johnson

Photo by: Bud Johnson

Photo by: Bud Johnson

Here are a handful of shots from the workshop. I only took a handful, so I'm glad that Bud and Jason took a few as well when I wasn't shooting. If you're interested in attending one of my workshops, I'll be teaching one in LA from April 20-22nd, here is the link to check it out - Leica Wedding Intensive.

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

SHOTS I TOOK WHILE TEACHING...



 
 

WPPI - Complimentary Workshop On Creative Portraiture

Click on the image to see more details! The workshop is already more than half-way filled up with only 8 spots remaining. If you're coming out to WPPI, this will be a great way to get out shooting, off the strip with complimentary Leica loans if you want to test out some of their latest gear. 

Leica M10 - First Impression Review (UPDATED)

INTRODUCTION

The new Leica M is out, and it's just starting to ship out to a handful of those that were quick to jump in and pre-order right away. As usual, Leica put the new M in the hands of some photographers and blog writers prior to its release, so there are already a few solid reviews out there floating around. Although I did take part in the pre-testing for the Leica Q and SL, I had to skip this release due to time constraints and not being able to get a review out in time for the announcement. With that being said, I did have the new M in my hands a few days after it was announced and I'm glad I took that route. I didn't have to send a test unit back. Instead, I was able to purchase one right away.

[Leica M10 + Noctilux Wedding Photos]

 

[UPDATE - May 11th, 2017] 

Still loving the M10, which has been my go to for personal work, and 2nd body for weddings. Added and updated some of the images in here with more recent ones.

 
 

[UPDATE - SEPT 8, 2018]

I had absolutely no desire to upgrade my M10 when the new M10-P was announced on August 21, 2018. Once I got to test one out the shutter alone was worth the upgrade. The touch screen is obviously a very welcome addition, but the shutter is a thing of beauty and I just traded in my M10 for the M10-P yesterday and am absolutely loving it. 

 

My Leica Presentation at WPPI - Leica M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux - ISO6400

Leica M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Although I still don't have the time right now to write up a full review, I did feel that I needed to publish something on my first impressions so far. I am prepping for a lecture at the Leica Store in LV this coming Wednesday so I wanted to get something out before my flight tomorrow. This is a quick, to the point, and honest review of the new Leica M. Within the first few weeks of having it, I got to shoot with it a good amount, including a wedding where I was really able to put it through its paces. Although I do have a relationship with Leica and work with them on different projects, I still shoot with other gear and do NOT get paid for these reviews. I make a living from my photography, so the gear that I choose to spend my money on are also the tools that I use to provide for my family. I appreciate those that trust the honesty in my reviews. 


THE BODY

Leica M10 + 24mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Leica M10 + 50mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH 

Leica M10 + 50mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH 

The new Leica M10 is a familiar face, an old friend that you're happy to see. There's something different this time, though. That old friend you haven't seen in a while looks even better this time. They've lost 30lbs, got a new job that they love, and ditched their coke bottle glasses for Lasik surgery. The M10 is a leaner, lighter, and sexier version of the classic M body that you're used to. It's also packed full of the most impressive engineering ever produced by Leica. But, after spending an hour with your old friend, you realize that you aren't quite as impressed as you first thought. I'll get to that in a little bit. 

Leica M10 - 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

The body itself is a home run in my book, I am absolutely loving it. There were obviously a lot of different ways that Leica could have gone with it, but they thankfully stayed true to the classic M roots. Since the release of the M3 back in 1954, Leica hasn't strayed very far from that same classic and iconic body style. Instead of going in a new direction with the new M10, Leica decided to pay even more respect to the classic body style of the original M3. The move of adding the ISO dial wasn't just for cosmetic purposes, but it definitely gives the M10 an even sexier look than the previous digital M's. The thinner and lighter body make it even more enjoyable to shoot with. 


THE BUTTONS - ALL 3 OF THEM

The Leica M is engineered in a very respectful way to be a simple camera, and provide photographers with only the essentials. Something that Leica M shooters truly appreciate, just as I do. There is very little to distract or get in the way. There isn't any fluff that you find with other cameras trying to appeal to the masses, with pages of menus, and covered from end to end in customizable buttons. Sure, some photographers like that, I don't. The M10 is no different, in fact it's stripped down even more than its predecessors. They simplified the menu even more, which I didn't think was possible, and there are now even less buttons. There are only 3 buttons on the entire camera, besides the shutter. The original and first digital M had 5 buttons, the M240 had 6, and the M10 only has 3. Compare that design to a Sony A7 camera and Sony looks like the cockpit of a 747. The only buttons remaining on the M10 are LV, PLAY, and MENU. I've yet to wish that I had more or felt that something was missing. Well done Leica.

Leica M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Leica M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Leica M10 + 50mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH

Leica M10 + 50mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH

One of the buttons that were removed, was the ISO button. With previous digital M's, you had to hold down the ISO button and turn the dial to make ISO adjustments. This required both hands and was the only setting that you actually needed to have the camera powered on to change. The new design of the M10 introduces an ISO dial that can be easily changed with your left hand on the fly. It can also be done without the camera being powered on. If you have shot with the M in the past, you should already know how awesome this change is. Plus it pays even more tribute to the classic 35mm film rangefinder bodies of the past, making the look even sexier than before. 


IMAGE QUALITY

Leica M10 + 50mm Summilux ASPH

To keep this short and to the point, the new M10 has one of the most impressive sensors I've shot with, period. This is the first M that I've owned that gives me that same unique rangefinder shooting experience that I fell in love with years ago, while adding a brand new sensor that allows me to pretty much shoot in the dark. This is new to me, and it will be to every M shooter out there. To be completely honest, I was shocked by what I saw when I first started shooting the M10. The previous digital M's were never known for their superb image quality in less than ideal lighting conditions. With the previous M, the M240, the dynamic range was way behind compared to the competition, and you had to be extremely careful not to shoot above ISO3200 unless you absolutely had to. In good light, the digital M's were all capable of producing beautiful images, especially when paired with Leica glass. They simply struggled in low light or not ideal lighting situations. The new M10 is a whole new beast. 

Dynamic Range Examples

RAW File - 50mm f/1.4 - ISO100 

Fully Edited +3 Exposure

50mm f/1.4 - ISO100

50mm f/1.4 - ISO100

Pushed +5 Exposure

Pushed +5 Exposure

ISO SAMPLES - ISO12500

RAW

Full Edited

RAW

Fully Edited

ISO COMPARISON

Canon 5D MarkIV - 50mm f/1.4 - ISO6400

Leica M10 - 50mm f/1.4 - ISO6400

Canon CROP

Leica CROP

For the first time, I'm able to shoot the camera that I love without restrictions. The M10 allows me to shoot in just about any lighting conditions, something I haven't been able to do in the past. I previously had to rely on my DSLR's once the sun went down. For a portrait and wedding photographer like myself, being able to shoot in low light is crucial. With the M, I won't have to reach for my bigger and bulkier DSLR as often as before. A couple things to point out real quick here, Leica did away with uncompressed DNG files, only compressed. This is fine though, since it is lossless DNG compression just like the M240. Lastly, the M10 has no low-pass filter just like its predecessors. The lack of a low-pass filter helps maximize sharpness, something that I have always loved about the image quality produced by the M sensors. 

RAW unedited DNG file

I would have bet money that Leica was going to use a tweaked version of the sensor that they used in the SL and Q. I was wrong. I tested and shot with both of those cameras extensively and the M10 sensor is not only different, it's all around better. The sensor used on the SL and Q was quite impressive, but I wasn't a huge fan of the colors it produced. Leica sensors were never known for having beautiful skin tones and colors. The biggest surprise I think overall with the M10 sensor has to be the colors. This new sensor produces some of the best colors I've seen, and not just in terms of the M family, but out of any camera. I would honestly say that I personally prefer them to the Canon colors that I love so much. Yes, they're that good. 

Leica M10 - 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

With all of that said, there is one issue that I have found with the sensor of the M10. Depending on how you shoot will dictate how much of an issue it will be. From the testing and shooting I've done so far, I've noticed that while the shadow recovery is excellent, the highlight recovery is pretty shitty. The Leica M sensors have always been known to have trouble with preserving data in the highlights, it's nothing new. With the massive improvement on DR that Leica was able to achieve with the M10, I was surprised to see the lack of highlight recovery. Not only recovery, but I have found that it can be pretty easy to clip the highlights when close to proper exposure in certain lighting situations, such as bright skies. This doesn't bother me a ton since I typically do like to under-expose, but it is definitely worth pointing out. Personally, I would much rather have exceptional shadow recovery, but it is something that I am starting to keep an eye on. 


PERFORMANCE AND FOCUS

Leica M10 + 10mm Voigtlander

Leica M10 + 24mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Leica M10 + 10mm Voigtlander

Leica M10 + 10mm Voigtlander

One of the benefits that the Leica M-P (240) over the M (240), was the improved buffer. While it was better, it still wasn't all that impressive. The buffer of the M10 is 2GB of memory, allowing you to shoot up to 40 JPG images. The M (240) allowed for 12 JPG images and had 1GB. Quite impressive, and it is extremely helpful in real life shooting. Leica also went with an all new processor in the M10 - the Maestro II.

Leica M10 + 24mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

As far as focus is concerned, the viewfinder is larger by 30% and it has a higher magnification which is like a breath of fresh air. Looking through the viewfinder is a thing of beauty and makes the shooting experience even more enjoyable. Even with Leica deciding to not include video functionality, the decision to keep Liveview was a biggie for me. I'm not a huge fan of using the attachable EVF, but I do use Liveview a good amount. With a much better LCD, and the ability now to move the focus point, Liveview focusing is now more affective and I no longer need to focus and recompose.


CONCLUSION

Leica M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

I'm a huge fan of shooting with a rangefinder, and I've been waiting to see what Leica had in store for us with the next M. The M10 is by far the best M to date, and I have to applaud the Leica engineers for a job well done. I really appreciate the fact that instead of trying to re-engineer their classic rangefinder into something to compete with the mirrorless market such as Fuji and Sony, they stayed true to their roots. Rather than adding a bunch of new fancy features, they actually stripped it down even more than it was. Simply put, they focused on giving M shooters the camera they have been waiting for. Leica knows that the M isn't for everyone, and they are good with that. I'm one of the few wedding photographers that built a brand around shooting with an M, and while it's certainly not a camera designed for a wedding photographer, I used it to mold my shooting style into what it is today. The new M10 now allows me to do even more, with less restrictions, and opens the door for me to shoot with it even more than I already had been. 

Leica M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

While I have been more than impressed with what the M10 is capable of, there are a few things that I feel could have made it even better. Liveview shooting is improved now with the ability to move the focus point, but it's slow, and I really wish Leica had given the M10 a touch-screen like the Q and SL. The battery life isn't great, and it's even worse when shooting in Liveview for extended periods of time. The last thing is the highlight recovery that I mentioned earlier. While none of these are a big deal, I think the biggest disappointment is the missing touch screen. Especially after seeing how helpful it is with the Q and SL. Whether Leica planned on saving that feature for the M-P version or not, it is a bit frustrating they didn't include it.

Leica M10 + 50mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH

Leica M10 + 50mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH

I will try to write up a full blown review in a couple months after I've shot with it extensively, but for now, hopefully I covered everything I wanted to. I'm finishing this up while waiting for my flight to board for Vegas, and it's about that time so enjoy! Thanks for reading! Please leave any questions in the comment area and I'll make sure I get to them. I also apologize for any typos, wanted to get this out before my flight, later!

MORE SAMPLE IMAGES

10 Image Pano - M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Leica M10 + 10mm Voigtlander

Leica M10 + 10mm Voigtlander

Leica M10 + 50mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH

Leica M10 + 50mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH

Leica M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Leica M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Leica M10 + 24mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Me - Leica M10 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Battle of the 35's - Nokton vs. Summilux

INTRO

With the continuing popularity of Leica glass being used on Sony A7 series mirrorless bodies, and the growing number of Leica shooters that follow my work, I thought this would be an interesting comparison to write up. If you missed my recent post about my current gear line-up, I sold my Sony A7II and upgraded my Leica M9 to the newer M240. I added the 24mm Summilux to shoot alongside my 50mm, but I still wanted a good 35mm prime for my Leica setup. I borrowed the Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron and the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux and after a month of shooting, decided to go with the more expensive Summilux. The Summilux is one of the most popular 35mm lenses on the market, some consider it the best 35 ever made.

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED

While I did like the Summilux, I found myself not loving it, and felt that it was a little flat at times. Yes, you read it correctly... flat. While the 24 and 50 combo is enough to get the job done, there is still part of me that absolutely loves shooting a rangefinder with a 35mm prime. I decided to pick up the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton for $900 and compare it head to head with the $4500 Summilux since I had heard some good things about it from other photogs. I shot with both for a few months, and ultimately decided to sell the Summilux which gave me a nice chunk of change back in my pocket. Money was not the reason I sold it though, and since I started to get asked a lot about the decision, I wanted to take the time and compare the two in a review.

Leica M10 + Nokton 35mm @ f/16

Leica M10 + Nokton 35mm @ f/16

I had B&H send me another Leica M and the 35mm Summilux to make it easier to test head to head, and I spent the past couple months shooting the two setups alongside each other. What I found through the testing was interesting, and while I still prefer the cheaper Nokton, I can understand why some would still choose the Summilux. Both lenses are unique in their own way, so it ultimately comes down to what you are looking for in image quality, and what characteristics are more important to you. Let me explain...

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED

BODY

The Voigtlander is a larger and heavier lens than the Leica Summilux, but it balances out nicely on the M240. Both lenses are built extremely well, much like little metal tanks that take a beating. The Leica comes with a screw-on hood that can easily be removed, but it looks better on, and the lens cap goes over the hood. The one big winner for me with the Leica is its little finger thingy on the focus ring like my 50mm Summilux. The finger thingy is a focus tab that makes it easier to focus with one finger, something I do love having, but the Nokton grip is easy to work with and the focus is smooth enough that it really isn't a big deal. If I had to choose, I prefer the body of the Summilux.

The F/1.2 Advantage

For fast prime shooters like myself, shooting wide open usually where we like to hang out, unless you are a street photographer. Shallow DOF and getting that 3D look is what we love, and the wider the aperture the better. With that being said, lenses that go wider than f/1.4 usually get us all geeked up and have us dreaming of razor sharp focus planes and creamy smooth bokeh. Most of the time, as in the case of the Leica Noctilux which is f/0.95, that extremely wide aperture comes with a hefty price, and the ones that are worth the money are rare. The two most popular f/1.2 lenses that come to mind, are the Canon 50L and 85L, both great lenses and on the higher end as far as price goes for Canon glass. With the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 being one of those rare lenses, I was curious to why it was under $1000. 

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - CROP

Summilux 35mm @ f/1.4 - CROP

When I first shot with the Nokton, I was very curious about the f/1.2 aperture and what advantages it might offer. Usually when lenses go wider than f/1.4, they're not only more expensive, but a little softer wide open than their f/1.4 brothers. It would also make you believe that it would have a more shallow depth of field than a lens at f/1.4. Being that this lens was only $900, I figured it was most likely going to be pretty soft wide open, but hopefully offer an advantage in DOF. Well, it was the opposite. The Nokton is surprisingly sharp wide open, and there isn't much, if any, difference in DOF compared to the f/1.4 aperture of the Summilux. With that being said, there's a catch that that, because the Nokton can focus a lot closer than the Summilux. So, to rephrase that, when both lenses are shot wide open at the same focus distance, the DOF is pretty similar. 

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED

Summilux 35mm @ f/1.4 - EDITED

MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE

One of the first things I noticed when I initially shot the Nokton 35, was that something was goofy with finding the minimum focus distance when shooting through the viewfinder of the M240. I thought that something was wrong with the lens, and considered sending it back since I couldn't find anything online. Well, there's nothing wrong with the lens, other than the fact that it has a minimum focus distance closer than the viewfinder of Leica rangefinders will allow. You can still shoot using the viewfinder, but once you reach the limit of the rangefinder, you can get in closer and still accurately focus using Live View. With focus peaking and focus assist zoom, this gives the Nokton 35 a nice advantage over the Summilux

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED

Summilux 35mm @ f/1.4 - EDITED

The Nokton just doesn't get slightly closer, its a good amount. The Summilux has a mimimum focus distance of 2.3', and the Nokton is at just over a foot and a half at 1.6'. Sure, your not always going to want to get that close to your subject with a 35mm lens, but having the ability to do so when you need to is pretty nice. You can see below just how much of a difference that foot and a half looks in real life, it's pretty impressive.

Summilux 35mm @ f/1.4 - At minimum focus distance

Nokton 35mm @f/1.2 - At minimum focus distance

SHARPNESS & BOKEH

Sharpness is one of those characteristics that a lot of photographers tend to look at as the most important, and while it's pretty important, a sharp lens doesn't make it a good one. Leica lenses are known for their sharpness, and they are the sharpest lenses I've shot. The problem is, there needs to be a good balance between sharpness, smooth out of focus rendering, and character. There are a lot of sharp lenses out there, but the bokeh looks like shit, or they lack character and have a flat look to them. The 50mm Summilux is a great example of a lens that is super sharp yet has beautiful and smooth bokeh, along with great character. 

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED

Remember, when I talk about sharpness, I'm speaking wide open, since this is the way I like to shoot my primes for portrait use. I'm willing to give up a little bit of sharpness for creamier bokeh and more character in a lens. One of my favorite lenses I own is the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, which is pretty sharp dead center of frame, but everywhere else it dulls down pretty good. While a lot of photographers don't like that lens, I absolutely love it, and could shoot with it all day long cause it fits my style and the images I like to create. It has some of the softest bokeh I've seen and has tons of character. 

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - RAW 

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2

Summilux 35mm @ f/1.4 - RAW

Leica 35mm @ f/1.4

The 35mm Summilux is extremely sharp wide open, and if you like sharp lenses, the Summilux is as good as it gets. The problem I found when shooting it, before ever trying the Nokton 35, was that the images just seemed to lack pop. They seemed to look flat to me. When I started shooting the Nokton, I could tell right away that it was more like the Nikon 58G. It was pretty sharp in the center, almost as sharp as the Summilux, but from corner to corner it fell short. What it did have though was much smoother and eye pleasing out of focus rendering and character that reminded me of old film lenses.

SAMPLES ABOVE: In the RAW images above, you can see the smoother bokeh in the grass. In the 2nd set of images you can see that the Summilux is sharper, although the focus is slightly off on the Nokton, but you can see the difference in the bokeh behind the focus chart.  

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED

CONCLUSION

While I realize this comparison isn't for everyone, being that they are compared mainly based on being shot wide open, I know there are a lot of photographers that shoot primes like I do. Sharpness is important when it comes to lenses, so is bokeh and character, but the bottom line is it comes down to what you personally look for and need in a lens. I get to shoot and test a lot of different gear, but the lenses I choose to own are the best. The best for what I personally want in a lens for the look I'm trying to achieve. 

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2

This isn't a lens review, it's more of a comparison between two popular 35mm prime lenses, one costing 4 times the cost of the other. I don't always compare lenses head to head like this, but I thought this would be a good one to do since I chose to sell the more expensive lens for the cheaper option. Not for the reason of saving money, although it is a nice bonus, but because the Nokton does a better job at giving me the images I am looking to create. 

Both lenses are excellent choices, and if sharpness is what you are looking for, the Leica Summilux is the winner. The Voigtlander Nokton comes pretty close to being just as sharp, but I found that it fell a little short. While the Leica is slightly sharper, it's out of focus rendering isn't as smooth as the Nokton, and it's images are flatter looking. One key point I'll make about sharpness though, the Leica isn't 4 times as sharp, like the price difference. 

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2

Both lenses have an equal amount of chromatic aberration and vignetting, so deciding between the two comes down to which lens fits your style more. Price aside, they are both great options, and if you look at the sample images below, it's sometimes hard to tell the difference even when you look close. While price didn't come into play with my decision, I'm glad I did this head to head test, cause the Summilux isn't worth 4 times that amount of the Nokton. Let me know your thoughts.

NOTE: I forgot to mention flare, something you expect to see me mention. Both lenses do an excellent job of keeping flare in check, your not going to get any creative and artistic flare from either one of these lenses.

COMPARISONS & SAMPLES

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - RAW

100% CROP

Summilux 35mm @ f/1.4 - RAW

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - RAW

Leica 35mm @ f/1.4 - RAW

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - RAW

Summilux 35mm @ f/1.4 - RAW

100% CROP

100% CROP

100% RAW

100% CROP

100% CROP

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED - Shot at minimum focus distance of the Summilux

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED - Shot at minimum focus distance of Nokton using Live View

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.4 - EDITED

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED

Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2 - EDITED

The Brothers M - Adding The M240

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. 

Leica M240 + 35mm Summilux

Leica M240 + 35mm Summilux

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.

Leica M9 + 50mm Summilux

Leica M9 + 50mm Summilux

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.