Leica M 240 or Leica Monochrom? By Dan Bar

Hi Steve

I had a huge dilemma, I own the Leica MM ( which I love) and on the other hand I was curious about the Leica M 240 ( I know how much you love her, and so does Thorsten Overgaard and many others). So on Wed Jan 8th my friend who owns the 240 and I drove to Jerusalem in order to try to learn about the M 240.

The first few hours I took his M and put in my SD card and he took mine. Than we changed again to our own cameras. From what iso, the M is a very nice camera, built like all M rangefinders which means good and solid , so it does not take much to understand the very few changes and get used to it.

I loved the new shutter which is even more silent than my MM, what I did not like was the wheel on the upper right side, I kept bumping into it not really wanting to but I am used to holding my MM there while taking photos.

One more thing I did not like was the line of knobs-5 – on the left side instead of 4 on my MM , as they added the LV- Live view, this does not leave enough space for ones fingers ( and mine are slim) so sometimes instead of pressing the play I pressed the LV.

The colours are nice and yet I saw some tendency to red colour , especially on the faces which i had to fix on Lightroom. All in all it is a fantastic camera , easy to manipulate , simple and yet gorgeous.

Here are some pics from both

Take care

Danny

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64 Comments

  1. I can’t decide which is better; they all are excellent photographs – thanks for posting then, Dan. Jerusalem is definitely on my bucket list!

    I have both cameras. I think the M 240 is the ultimate Leica – I can do rangefinder, as well as macro work I used to do with the R. The MM I love because it takes me back to the days in the 50’s & 60’s with B&W film and filters -yellow, orange, green red – to augment certain colors. And the files are SHARP. If I am planning on shooting generally, with some macro or long tele work as well, I’ll take the M 240, and convert if I want a few B & Ws. Really pretty darn good. However, if I know I out for serious B&Ws – soul searching ones – I take the MM. If I am working fro my car, I take both.

    I really think that we have so much to draw upon in the digital world that we should stop to count our blessings. Having the choice of two such superlative cameras is a blessing. As for the quality of the Leica ASPH lenses – don’t get me started.

  2. I am so used to seeing colour photographs that it has taken me a few days to adjust to black & white ones.

    Now I more clearly see is the beauty of this format.

    Just look at Little Man on The detail of the Monochrom article or some of Steve’s shots in the one hour in Berlin article (the 4 with the backs to the camera at the traffic lights being my favourite). Colour would distract in many of these pictures – it wouldn’t add, it would take away.

  3. Slightly off topic however it strikes me that the changes Leica have introduced on the M240: sensor from CCD to CMOS, addition of Live View, Movie capture, etc are here to stay. I cannot see Leica removing these features or going back to CCD when they plan the M240’s replacement. These changes (and I am not using the word improvements) are Leica’s view on the evolution of their M series camera and are here to stay. The M-E which is effectively a slimmed-down M9 is still available to buy new, for those that prefer the old system together with it’s 2.5″ 230,000 pixel LCD but I would suggest the depreciation curve on an M-E versus buying an M240 today would be much steeper.

    Also, cameras cannot be tailored/specified to not include the bits an individual buyer does not like or to accommodate features they say they would like. You cannot pick and choose, you take it as a package that only gets changed, again as a package, by the manufacturer every 3 to 4 years. Some things may be a change for the worst but normally the overall package is a change for the better – an improvement (I’ll now use that word now). I feel I can live without Live View, Video and the EVF-compatibility of the M240 but I would not buy a previous generation camera to avoid them.

    Lastly, and the point has already been made, comparing an M9 that people have had for years to get used to and taken 10k’s of shots with a newer M240 is not a fair comparison.

    Back on topic, I’m about to make the purchase choice and I’m going for the M240 (with a 50mm Lux or Cron lens) as this will be my first Leica and the MM feels too much an aficionado’s choice and personally too big a risk for me. Plus my wife would have a real issue with the MM, it would be like telling her I’ve spent £7,500 on a TV and, it’s B&W !!

  4. I had the Monochrom for a couple of months and loved it…decided to send it back and get the M240 after reading Steve’s side by side comparison,after seeing Mario Sorrenti’s T magazine cover shot with M240..see here, http://www.styleite.com/news/miuccia-prada-t-magazine-june-2013/
    I was sold, the difference is so slight. I would have had both if I was stinking rich (unfortunately I’m not) I’m a professional fashion photographer and I don’t use it for work, I will one day…..so for my money its the M240

  5. What caught my eye (besides the great pictures) is the instantly-recognisable look of Leica photos/lens in the colour photos. It’s a slightly under-exposed and high-contrast look, with slightly muted yet not washed-out colours. I find the look of the pictures from that perspective very pleasing. And, of course, the subjects and capture of the moment add to the package…

    Incidentally, the only other camera (between Nikon/Canon/Olympus) that I managed to get the closest to that look is…with the Olympus OMD – E5/12mm f2 lens and under-exposing a bit (I haven’t tried the new EM1, but I would expect the same).

  6. I really liked your MM shots . . . your narrative certainly points out that you felt more comfortable with it – and the shots reflect that . . .

  7. M9 or M240? One answer: M9 is unusable above ISO 1250. M240 is usable through ISO 6400. It’s like all your lenses just got 3-4 stops faster. How much extra would it cost if Leica offered the lens choice of f/1.5 vs f/4 in all your focal lengths?

    • Good point. This is another reason I switched from the M9 to the MM. The MM is capable of very high ISO and I like shooting very low light and night shots. Color actually has a habit of disappearing at night. M9 has great color, but on the “home front” I just could not justify having two such expensive cameras at the same time. So, I’ll be shooting color photos with one of the new smaller digital cameras, light enough to carry at the same time as the MM if necessary. Like having two film cameras, one loaded with color film, the other with black and white, and likely with two different focal length lenses as well. One will be the Sigma DM3 Merrill for sure. No better than M9 color images, just different and as good in their own way. Lots of nice choice and still a great used equipment market.

  8. Hi, Have owned Leica M´s for years and always wondered, after all the status hype, why most pictures shown on web sites nearly always look soft compared with other cameras.In my early days we considered out of focus bad technique today its called bokah……Only wondered!

    • I asked a Japanese friend “what does bokeh means?”. She gazed at me for a moment reluctant to answer my question. At my request finally she said “That means people with Amnesia”.

  9. I also choosed the MM (vs M 240) when it was time to choose and i’m really happy with that move. I’m also shooting a lot with 120 film roll with my Hasseblad for color and recently bought a M8 for portraiture, quite a nice camera too and very affordable (!). Now i plan to use 4×5 plan film for best and bigger color prints.

    http://moz-tumb.tumblr.com

  10. If you go the MM….put your M9 away for a few months. The MM is about getting something rewarding from black and white photography. If you try and use them together it’ll be just chopping and changing and I don’t think you’ll get as much from the experience of using the MM.

  11. Personally if I could afford it I would buy the m240 because its easy enough to convert any colour image into black and white and from the photos above I think the strongest images you took are all shot in colour and in the shade. 1, the 2nd photo of the guy sitting on the chair. 2, the shot of the 4 ladies all wearing similar outfits. 3, the shot of the door. 4, the shot of the woman sitting and contemplating. In your other shots I feel the sun is to strong and creating to much contrast without much of a focal point. Use whatever makes you happy though, I’m using a sony a7 and absolutely love it. You could try different shooting angles, instead of shooting everything straight on, up high down low etc. Im not sure if you live in Jerusalem but to me thats a city screaming for colour images.

  12. I think MM owners are much happier than the M owners interms of outcome result including myself. But there are times subject scream for colour. Now I’m trying fix that with Sony A7r and learning to shoot with it. Sony is not M but so far I’m loving the colour. I wish I could afford both but then again I rather spend on Noctilux than Leica M.

  13. Guys, seriously? Sell the cameras, buy a car and two rx100s. Looking at these pics, on automatic you’ll get most probably the same IQ output.

    • I tend to agree. There isn’t much going on here showcasing either vision or technical ability. Images are not given any level up simply because they were shot with Leica’s. The photographer doesn’t seem to understand that.

      • Also agree, most Leica owners are so full of their pride of ownership that they publish a load of crappy pics just because it has been shot by a Leica xxx-. I agree this is not true in all instances,but so many are not worth publishing. Forget the PR, we have today an abundant choice of first class cameras and it is the quality of the picture, not which camera is used. I have two Leica cameras and they have caused more heavy heart ache ( breakdowns and adjustments etc.) than all my other Nikon, Olympus, Mamiya and Hasselblad cameras put together.

  14. I really like these images. Beautiful tones, composition, just really nice. I’m sure the camera helps, but there is art evident here as well. Thanks for sharing.

  15. They are both unique cameras.
    I have both and find the M240 does a pretty good job with monochrome with the MM however the latitude and the CCD give it that special difference .
    The M240 grows on you after being an M9 user for some years but I could never go back.
    I believe you should use / buy the camera that inspires you to use it and produces the images you will look back on and be proud of otherwise you may have missed many potential opportunities.
    Just my .2

  16. I like most enjoy the camera blogs, but I have a dilemma with 2 of them. Thorsten Overgaard believes the newer M240 is best M digital camera and his images with that camera are stunning, the other is the Peter Prosphos site he believes the M9 is better and his images with the M9 are also stunning. So what’s the best CCD or CMOS here is my opinion (don’t take to seriously) certain Leica lenses work better with the 2 cameras, the amazing Summilux lenses no question are better on the M9 M8 sensor wow it’s probably the benchmark in image quality on the planet. But since the firmware upgrade for the M240 I have noticed images I have seen seen using the Summicron and especially the Noctilux 0.95 are truly amazing and connect with that camera. So if you have Lux lenses stick with M9 M8 and if can afford a Noc lens I would go for the M240.

    • Thanks Pi for the kind words (and Dan Bar for an interesting article)

      I believe both cameras are excellent and very lovable. Most Leica users have the “problem” that when something more exotic or newer exist, we want it. As in having a 35mm Summicron but wanting the more exotic (and twice as expensive) Summilux even the Summicron is a world class lens with almost surreal 3D look, color accuracy, detail rendering and high contrast.

      I see many M8 users who produces a continuous great output of images from their M8, and so does many who uses the Leica M9

      As I have written already in the first page of my Leica M240 article, it is not so much a matter of what the camera can do, but what you can do with the camera. It takes some weeks or months to get into a new camera and a new sensor. All cameras basically have a new sensor as it is a new model with a new sensor.

      It is easy to think that the change from CCD in the M9 to the CMOS in the Leica M240 creates a great difference and challenge. I think not, compared to other new models.

      Any new sensor takes time to get used to and to wrap ones workflow around to. I did’t really take the colors serious on the M240 till we got the firmware update. Now I am working on more articles on how to get the colors right. And I must say it is easy if one adjust the white balance. I recently did portrait assignments in Asia (Singapore and Taiwan) in very challenging artificial light and daylight, and the skin tones are spot on straight out of the camera when using manual white balance.

      When the M9 came out we had similar problems getting it right, but after a while it fell in place to a degree so people now talk about “the classic M9 colors”.

      I think it is ones dedication to get whatever camera one decide to use, to work, that is the important thing. For me, if the camera feels right and I feel the love, I go for it and will get it to work. One cannot “test and see” if it works. It takes work and dedication to get the right look consistently.

      I recently was very tempted to take on the Nikon Df and buy one to get it to work, but when I saw the camera it was just too ugly for me to take it on. But I am sure I could get it to sing if I liked it.

      So bottom line, any camera is the right one if it feels right in your hands and you want to spend enough time with it to make it work. It’s not an Excel worksheet calculation of features, prices and second-hand prices but how it feels in the hands.

      The idea that “the new model is better” and problems are solved I don’t believe in. That is how new models are sold and the consumer-cycle of getting new gear every 3 years is created. But fact is that many still create stunning images with the first model of the Canon 5D and many does the same with the Leica M8.

      It is always the user and not the camera producer who create the great images.

      If one could just stay with what works and not have that itching in the fingers to get the new and more exotic stuff, much headache and work could be saved. Unfortunately, I am not one of them 🙂

      • The Leica Monochrom is indeed a dream camera. I own the DF and while not as elegant as a Leica or classic Nikon, the black one is beautiful to my eyes (it grows on you). Especially compared to any other dslr. Used only with manual lenses the DF is a joy and the ergonomics are great. The viewfinder is has more contrast than any other Nikon and is easy to focus. The shutter release is only rivalled by the Leica M3 in my experience (yes really!).

        There is no shortage of DF hate on the web, but the owners must be some of the happiest camera owners around together with the lucky Monochrom people.

        And the files from the DF sensor are incredible! Never seen anything like it. Its magic how good they look.

  17. I like this post because I think a lot of people are still on the fence about getting one or the other, myself included, Currently an M9 owner I am leaning heavily toward the MM while keeping the M9. Thanks for posting.

    • I’m with you Skip. The M9 is such a great camera that only a B&W version of it can get my GAS going. However, these days I go back and forth between a second M9 body (to minimize lens changes) and a Monochrom. With the price of used MMs going for over $6k, I have plenty of time to contemplate this dilemma while I save the necessary cash.

  18. I also chose the MM. Bought the MM and was going to play around with it until the M240 became available for me to purchase. After a year with the MM and testing out a friend’s M240 and not “feeling” for its new sensor and seeing no need for the new added features, I decided to stick with my “old” M9’s and the MM.

    The MM is a pure classic that has become my favorite digital camera. It is a unique camera that I will never get rid of. I have decided to wait and see what the follow up model on the M240 is like and stay put with my “old” M9 and M9P for color work.

    The MM is just incomparable, the M240 is just not that unique to me – there are many cameras today that offer better image quality and better optimized modern features like live view, video, high iso, etc (obviously without the optical rangefinder experience – if that is important to your style of shooting there is nothing like it around).

    To me the M240 is a crippled Leica DRF with too many compromises in what it offers as extra features (not to mention the new sensor color/contrast issues and some operating glitches – again, a personal image character preference compared to the M9 and my limited experience with the new camera which I borrowed for two months when my friend went away on an extended sailing trip and didn’t want to take the M240 with him).

    My personal advise would be to stick with the MM and get an M9 (many 2nd hand models available at reasonable prices right now) with an eye for the next follow up model of the M240. Of course only you can decide based on your use of black and white vs color work. It is a tough decision – if money is no problem keep both 🙂

    Good luck on your decision and may the good light shine on your images.

    Regards
    Jorge

  19. I went Monochrom too. I played with the M240 and the design and shutter is nice. But I much preferred the CCD output of the M9 for color. M240’s colors look like Canon (to me).

    • I have both the M9 and the M240 and prefer the M240.I have been shooting the M240 for about a year. In all honesty, it’s not really very close –the M240 is a much superior camera in every way. Not like a Canon in the slightest.
      The M9 remains a great camera and I am pleased with its output whenever I use it. It takes the sane high quality images it always has. it is just not as accomplished an instrument as the M240.

      • Technically i have no doubt you are correct Jack. Far more accomplished photographers than I concur with you. However it’s not in the technical sense or greater DR/higher ISO way that really matters in this case……it’s purely about cooler high micro contrast (M9) vs warmer (M240) less micro contrast rendering.

        The M240 is only superior technically….when it comes to the output the M9 and M240 are just different products so one is not better than the other. They can’t be as they have completely different sensor. What might be superior for you is more about ergonomics and file handling…not the file itself.

        • I understand your point of view but I simply do not see the difference that you describe. The M240 files are of course deeper and easier to work with, but I see little or no difference in color rendition between the two cameras. Many of the early issues with reds and skin tones have been quite well addressed with firmware updates.
          I have taken thousands of images with the M240 in the last year. What I see is a superior product, and not just with respect to file handling and ergonomics. The M240 makes a better picture most of the time. That’s certain;y not to say that there is anything at all deficient in the M9. It was my favorite and it remains capable of superb work. When my M240 was “in the shop” for the lug problem last summer I went back to the M9 and it was wonderful.
          The other night, just taking family pictures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I used both the M9 and the M240. The M240 result was consistently better. The M240 also seems to pair with certain lens better than the M9, e.g., the Noctilux .95 and the 35mm Summilux FLE. I have tried the new Summicron 50 ASPH and it also shines on the M240.
          Now, if you want to talk about something that bests both, there is the MM. But that’s another story. And the new 50 Cron ASPH is a stunner used on the MM.

          • Well I’m biased as I only own the MM! As for M9 vs M240 I have just seen hundreds of images with both and although both products are very nice I lean on the M9 side….

            Anyway the main things you are happy picking your camera up and creating images…..

  20. What a rich feast of images! Very inspirational even for those of us who own humbler equipment. I love the compositions. Not keen on the blown highlights in some of them, but that’s only a little niggle.

  21. Nice Images I kept my Monchrom and bought a used M9 with 4K actuations and opted out of the 240.
    I really like the MM as I usually print B&W. Like Doug I have several other cameras for colour work, so it was a no brainer for me.

  22. It is a bit laughable having to choose between such great but expensive cameras. I decided to sell my M9, which I really liked, to finance the MM, for the reason mentioned above: to shoot b&w images directly rather than processing them from M9 color images. Very happy with the decision. But I’ve been working in PS on some of my landscape M9 images from Patagonia and really feeling the remorse. But then I transform them to b&w and like them just as much. I just could not justify carrying round 2 $ 7000 cameras (I got my MM used with 110 actuations on it). What clinched the decision was the outstanding color photographs I was getting with my very lightweight Sigma DP3 camera. It’s small and light enough to put it around my neck with the MM if I feel like it. What’s happening right now is the development of very high quality color cameras at prices that are much lower than any Leica lens. So, why make a choice: get one for b&w and another one for color. Oh, I should have mentioned the unbelievable low light photos that can be taken with the MM at night. Worth the price if that’s what you want to do.

  23. I also chose the Monochrom over the M240. I already had a number of great cameras that could shoot color and didn’t need another one. But I love B&W, so was drawn to the Monochrom. I’ve never looked back. I love it.

  24. I chose the LMM and never look back.. For those who have used Leica film cameras the transition to digital black and white capture is completely seamless. One suspects that Leica users from the early part of the 20th century would have very little trouble learning how to use the camera!

    For color work in which I wanted the quality and “look” of a Leica lens in a very portable and easy to use package the Vario has been perfect. I suspect that the Vario will receive more and more accolades as the nay sayers who have never used one-and who never will-are replaced by those who have actually used the camera day in and day out.

    Elliot

  25. Buy what you feel comfortable with. I have both the M and the M9 and use both side-by-side when shooting a job. I’ve not had any of the ergonomic issues that you mention, and I have big hands. I do use a grip with both bodies; don’t know if that would make a difference in how you hold the camera.

    CCD vs. CMOS? I can easily see the visual difference between the two. One is not better than the other IMO, they’re just different. None of my clients would understand the difference visually. For paying jobs, I find the features of the M to be superior; faster to react, better screen, much much more forgiving files, better high-iso capabilities, the ability to tether to a computer, which I use frequently.

    • Pretty much what I was thinking….. Gee, which camera do I like better….the $6500 M or the $7500 Monochrome…..Talk about first world problems.

      • It always amazes me how it only takes a seeming instant for someone to say something totally irrelevant about prices whenever there is a nice posting about a Leica. Envy is not a pretty color.
        These are nice pictures and I enjoyed them.

        • The comparison makes no sense objectively because we are looking at color and B/W images which are wildly subjective. A more logical approach is shooting with both cameras and converting the 240 to B/W with Lightroom or Capture One. But since the MM cannot do color, the test is flawed. As far as the color goes, they are so muted that they don’t offer the full gamut of chroma. price aside, Leica went out on a limb making such a limited MM camera. most people will likely bring both on a shoot. I will still continue to convert my M9 files even if they aren’t as sharp as the MM.

          • Well it sounds that the amount of information that M9 provides is sufficient for you but not for others. This is a huge difference.

            If possible you could shoot with colour filters and then convert and merge the images to color. The results would be at least amazing.

        • Jack….since when was price irrelevant??? If that we’re truly the case then the OP would just buy both cameras and be done with it:)

          • Price is of course relevant but the snide comments about it are not. Just let Leica people do what they want to do. No need to characterize a decision as a “first world problem”. The only possible relevance of such a tag line is a put down. It adds exactly nothing to a discussion of the merits of the cameras or the images presented.

          • Jack my man…when the leading 5 words of the article are ‘I have a huge dilemma’ and it is followed up by one’s musings over which absurdly expensive camera one should own….well I’m sorry but that is truly a ‘first world problem’. My comment isn’t a critique of the gear…just the mindset. Have a look on my flickr account, I used to own a Leica M8 so it’s not like I don’t get the appeal of Leicas.

          • Wow, Leica cameras are expensive! Who could have known? And I’m shocked to hear that most Third World people can’t afford expensive cameras! SHOCKED, I tell you! We are all dazzled by the brilliance of your insights. Tell us more, oh Wise One. Is it true that the Earth is indeed round and not flat?

  26. I have to agree. I’m also not a big fan of the M240 Body and prefer the M9 by miles for very similar reasons!

    And of course the MM is just gorgeous , sexy and brilliant. The ultimate Leica M.

    B

  27. They’re both great cameras. But, uh oh, here we go with an endless discussion of CCD vs CMOS. Bottom line? Use what makes you happy.

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