New Leica M 240 Firmware. Does it fix the Skin Tones and AWB?
Well, I downloaded the new firmware for the Leica M 240 camera and gave it a spin with my lovely Finacee Debby to test skin tones. As I mentioned in the past, the M 240 does not have perfect AWB or WB settings when it comes to skin tones. In my test of the camera when I was doing exhaustive work for the review many months ago I found that in sunlight or daytime shooting the white balance would run to a very warm side of neutral. Too warm. Skin tones could look red or orange and many times it was hard to fix. Well, after the new firmware update that promises improvements to AWB and WB and Skin Tones I can say that out of camera WB is still VERY VERY warm when shot in outdoor daytime light but it was easily fixable during the RAW conversion. I snapped a few shots with the M and new firmware as well as with the Olympus E-M1 to see if the Leica could match the AWB of the E-M1. Below are the results. Click each one to see larger/sharper/better versions:
1st test, Leica M 240, 50 Summilux ASPH at 2.8 – AWB
Wow, still VERY VERY off and orange here. Think it may even be more orange than usual! Out of camera from RAW (JPEG was the same).
and below after a quick one click fix (auto in RAW conversion, then added slight warmth)
Then I took the Olympus E-M1 and 17 1.8 and shot these at 1.8, wide open (This lens is amazing on the E-M1, an all new animal)
1st up, out of camera using AWB for the Olympus. Has some warm color but no where near as orange as the Leica
and below, auto corrected in RAW
Seems to me that Leica still may have some tweaks to make with AWB but it is fixable, and easily fixable IMO. The Olympus is looking damn good, especially for shooting the 17 1.8 at 1.8. If you click on those files you will see the larger versions..damn sharp for 1.8.
Below are a couple more images just for fun…
From the E-M1 and 17 1.8 – some contrast boost in RAW
The Olympus setup again, converted to BW
and the Leica converted to B&W using the Lux at f/2
Hmmm, just another case of that awesome 2013 era Leica quality control :-(. Whether it be the digitals they produce now, or the new Leica film MP’s, M7 they still make in batches the quality control is atrocious in Leica now. Beyond bad.
As i tell all my clients; if your want a great film Leica that actually works purchase pre 2005 for MP/M7 or just go for a 1990’s, 80’s M6 TTL/Classic. Don’t risk it with a newly made factory camera as it will be going back with a multiple of terrible QC issues.
I sell the new Leica stuff and every one, literally, has an issue of some sort. Really sad to see where they are heading in terms of their QC level…down,down,dow,down.
I liked the before photo and the after photo. The before one could have been taken in available light from incandescent lighting and the other one during the day.
I don’t think there is any ideal WB setting and I don’t know about the Leica but most cameras allow you to set the colour temp but each different available light photo should be assessed every time depending on the situation, that’s why outdoor photo shoots involve the use of lighting and someone holding a big circular reflector.
Some people I speak to adjust the sharpen and the WB and some cameras allow you to save special settings to a position on a dial.
My real life example, I thought I was pretty good at photography until a friend asked me to photograph her cat and I did it with incandescent lighting and she didn’t agree with the colour rendition of the part tortoiseshell cat who looked rather muddy. I imagined I’d have similar problems with wedding photos so I won’t give up my day job.
Conclusion: last two amazing and ultra expensive Leicas have serious problems?. The world is changing to bad.
I must correct what I have written above. The colors of the raws seen originally on Lightroom (vers 5) are very bad. When I look again at the monitor of the leica, there are better. I have to think about it. May be a misuse by me of Lightroom during the importation.
With artificial lights, the AWB gives also bad results for me. Different resulting températures (3.500-5200°) must be reduced to +- 2400°. And this is only the best global correction I can obtain but it should be refined depending the individual colors. I am very surprised.
Steve, I just wanted to let others get a different opinion from someone that has shot a lot of pictures with the new firmware and has a lot more experience with it than one set of photos.
The new AWB firmware is actually really good most of the time. Better, almost always, than the RX1 shot in the same situation. No AWB is perfect, but the new M firmware is very, very good. My experience, is that I am rarely making adjustments to my photos anymore.
And, I again, I have more than just one shot of someone standing in a doorway in mixed lighting to judge it by and quit a bit more experience with it in varied conditions. Get out and shoot it for a while and I think you will be happily surprised.
I have and have said it has been improved but still needs work, as it does. Its better and I never complained about it before as I was easily able to work around it. Now it is even easier. 🙂 The M has much more than the RX1 to worry about though, and for $7000 it should have class leading everything. Better, but not perfect. The E-M1 is much better in AWB than the M and if a $1300 camera can provide stellar AWB, the $7 Leica should be able to. But to sum it up, I have shot 300 images since the FW around town and like I said, see an improvement but not a huge one.
Thanks for the reply Steve. I’ve shot about 5,000 shots with the new firmware (in every kind of situation) and found the AWB to be as good or better compared to a like number of shots taken at the same time with the RX1. In my experience, the end point of the M240 provides a file with AWB color that is often a little better than the RX1, but has much more latitude for color adjustment in general. The M240 color is just so easy to work with. I would judge it to be class leading, and what I expect from a $7,000 camera. I will say, I have not tried the E-M1. But, I will say, both of your examples from both cameras don’t compared to what I am used to getting out of my M240 and my RX1.
Why did you shoot the Summilux at 2.8 and the 17 1.8 at 1.8? That’s hardly a fair comparison. I know it doesn’t fully explain or forgive for the poor WB on the M in this photo but if you’re going to make a comparison at least let us see both cameras with equivalent and reciprocal settings (including shutter speed).
Only then can we definitely judge or diagnose a problem with one or the other under certain conditions. I’m looking at an M DNG I took of my brother right now and the WB is fine.
Was not a comparison of sharpness but white balance. Aperture does not change AWB performance of a camera.
Not to change the subject and I don’t want to seem sexist, but your fiance is adorable.
Thank you, I agree. 🙂
AWB, AF = The camera controls you
MWB, MF = You control the camera
I prefer the latter. LEICA fortunately too.
Leica’s just checking to see if all y’all are awake…….
Seriously though, I’ve yet to come across a package such as an M9/50 lux which provides the same punch in such a small package.
Well, Leica never was famous for the camera electronics…..I have some fond memories about a Leica boef (of the I get invited to Wetzlar kind of fame), who insisted to take a group photo (of a group of photographers) with an R3….to make it short he wanted on the picture as well and 25 attemps (of the failed variety) and one slightly annoyed Leica photographer (of the I go to Wetzlar and give those dudes my 5 cents worth variety) later a Nikon F3 made the shot, first time……on the self timer.
I updated this morning and camera has frozen about 4 times shooting about 75 shots. Freezes in aperture mode with no shutter speed showing in view finder and indicator showing under exposure arrow. Anyone had the sam experience ?
Not yet, but it was freezing prior…I need to get out and shoot before I know more.
Steve, I would try the tests using a Whitbal grey card to see the differences relative to a proper white balance benchmark. I’m a Leica enthusiast, and have recently taken my M to Bhutan with a 50mm APO and 3.4/21mm lens combination. White balance was always tricky because of all the different scenes, however, I found using the grey card helped me standardize my white balance in the 400+ images that were finally short-listed as final images. While white balance is not spectacular on the Leica, as adjustment seems to always be required whether before shooting using the greycard setting or processing in LR, I think the final image’s ideal WB really does depend on the composition and what you want your picture to look like.
Sure, we can do this with any camera and get good results. But many rely on the AWB or WB presets. (in fact, the majority do). So this was showing just that, the AWB. There is an improvement but it is far from perfect.
That’s fair enough. I tried it. Before and after firmware update, also using the greycard as perfect WB benchmark…there was no difference. It was very off, with the exact Kelvin number before and after the update! That being said, LR5 auto-WB didn’t fix the problem either. When shooting indoors, using incandescent lights, it is impossible to get AWB to work. You simply just need a greycard, and set WB properly that way. In any event, the image quality was LEICA perfect 🙂
Just to note, the image I posted as an example was outdoor light – daytime. She was on the back patio in front of the door. The light hitting her was from the outside and in the shade.
If you look at the bokeh ball in the M240 example, it seems to be white balanced. The camera has very little information in this shot from which to properly judge the WB, and did the best it could. In the EM1 example the background is better defined, and probably the camera could pick out a neutral colour patch from which to make a more acceptable WB analysis.
Give the camera some information – be it white, black or grey – and then let’s see if it can do a better job handling AWB. How is it possible for a camera to judge white balance, when there is no white, black or grey to help it?
@ Ray Larose – Ray I was responding to another comment, but it placed it out of order. I was not replying to your comment!
Up front, I’m not a Leica hater as I have owned and enjoyed using an M6, an M8.2 and an M9. At the same time I’m not a Leica apologist. For a camera as expensive as a Leica to get white balance/skin tones so wrong is unacceptable. I enjoy post processing as much as anybody but having to constantly fix something that should come out of the camera correctly is just plain wrong.
As a Leica user (as well as a Canon and Nikon user) I disagree with you, oh, about 100%.
The image is what you make of it. If you accept the camera’s default output then it is the camera that is controlling your artistic expression, not you. Maybe this is a good thing if all you care about is churning out ‘completed’ photos as quickly as possible.
But it seems a shame to have someone you have never met, living possibly thousands of miles away from you, having the final say about the white balance of your work.
If you take enough pictures, it’s nice if today’s digital cameras do what they are supposed to do and get you closer…. Otherwise, why not still shoot film? At almost 7k there is no excuse for this performance… I’ve got a nikon D800e, a sony RX1r and a fujifilm Xpro1….. Three different manufactures and they all managed AWB that works just fine at least 95% of the time ….. So no excuse from company like Leica….
The Leica (mine too) is bad. But while the Olympus is better, it still needs correction in PP.
So, does it matter if one is worse than the other if you need to fix both to get them where ‘you’ like?
Just fix in PP or manually read the WB and set it before taking the snap. Here’s da ting.. even if it is ‘perfect’ from the onset, often once it gets to PP I decide to warm or cool it depending on what I want for the end result. But this is easier to do if you start with a neutral setting. Which is why I manually set WB.
Well…I kinda like the original Olympus shot pre adjustment… Yes it’s a little warm but still nice…. The Leica on the other hand look awful without adjustment…
Wow, that’s perhaps the nastiest AWB I have seen come out of a Leica. Very Oompa Loompa.
Your auto correction is definetly on the cool/blue side. In fact the olympus does a good job. Leica is way off.
At least it is what my eyes are telling me.
It’s time to switch to Fuji and kick back
The bottom line is this just isn’t good enough. For that amount of money you should get primo skin tones, NOT skin tones that get out-classed by a micro 4/3 camera costing a fraction of the price. You really have to wonder about the testing that went into this camera, did they not see this? did they not test the camera on skin tones – that very notion seems unbelievable. Almost as unbelievable as being aware of the issue and still releasing the camera anyway.
If it comes to Leica, everything is forgiven. A camera such expensive MUST be good even if a Canon P&S has far better color rendition aoc. One just needs to emphasize the downsides of the P&S and the world is in order again. I would like to own a Leica but then it should be more than just a Leica. I eagerly wait for an alternative M-mount FF camera so I can use the excellent Leica LENSES. The Leica cameras are just an overpriced well crafted piece of history with a good feel in ones hand. Not enough for my hard earned money.
Yes, for $7k it needs to be much better. The fact that is beaten by a M4/3 camera that doesn’t have great AWB or very good colour accuracy is a shame. That said, we haven’t seen any company produce a full frame alternative yet. Sony will next week, but it is doubtful whether they will be able to provide a balanced, high-quality system. For those interested in using legacy glass, the Sony may be a great choice – time will tell. In my opinion, Fuji needs to provide a full frame X-Pro 2, with high quality fast primes, improved AF, a brighter EVF/OVF, and more -that would be a true competitor, but Fuji seems to be sleeping on this.
Just to be fair I need to mention the Leica M Monochrom what I consider the best Leica camera to date and maybe is the best camera overall for enthusiast BW shooters. Why? It is not that other brands can’t take pics in BW too, it’s not about BW IQ (although the MM has the best BW IQ), but the Leica M Monochrom takes BW ONLY. From my point of view to not have the choice to convert from color to BW makes the difference. It is a completely different approach to BW photography. I would like to own a MM but it is too expensive for me unfortunately.
But we started from color rendition, that’s why I did not mention the MM.
+! Max…..i own the MM and most enjoyable photographic tool i’ve ever used…
Steve – I respectfully disagree with you. After upgrading to v. 2 FW on my M240, I cannot get it to reproduce a single shot with the orange hue of the first shot of your fiancee.
Then you have not shot in the same outdoor light as I did because that shot is right out of the camera, and that is a fact. There is nothing to disagree with as it is not my opinion, it is fact and real. That shot came from my M after the firmware upgrade.
Generally, most people prefer slightly warmer tones to cooler tones. Canon has made a living by this. Leica did a huge change from cooler tones to warmer tones going from the M9 to the M.
I would say generally, I’d rather correct for warmer tones than cooler ones.
No wonder why I convert mostly to black and white. Post processing is an art itself.
I love the WB on the M Monochrom, as in, there is none.
Hi Steve, what happens if you shoot in daylight setting only, rather than AWB? Under normal conditions are the skin tones clean or still overly warm?
Well, I must admit these don’t look good, but on the other hand those examples posted on Leica forum do look great.
Ive shot more with it and see an improvement, but it can not match the Olympus E-M1 AWB, not even close. So not perfect but yes, improved for sure.
Is there a difference in AWB on the EM1 and the EM5?
That is the reason why many do not want to buy a camera so expensive and such problems. $6960(only body) ? No thank you . I prefer the E-M1 color ,black &white ,etc. E-M1 is sharper ($1,399.00 & FREE Shipping) $2,398.00 (Olympus M Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro )
The 17 f/1.8 lens is decent but not great on the E-M5; what makes it so much better on the E-M1?
Do you own the lens or is your comment based on reviews? The reason I ask is because I own the lens and an E-M5 and an E-P5 and the lens is plenty sharp (despite the lack-luster reviews)…It may be slightly sharper on the M1 because there is no AA filter in front of the sensor and the camera’s firmware now offers software correction on Olympus lenses for CA, etc. This is the first camera from Olympus to have that feature.
The 17 f1.8 with EM5 is fun, sharp, great bokeh, small, light and a joy to have. I have had it for three months and it is yet to leave my camera. Just look at the real world review Steve did on the set up. Some of the best pics in the EM5 reviews are with this lens. (My opinion only).
JSM…I agree completely….the initial reviews of the 17mm put me off and I bought the lens with some trepidation. Turned out to be unfounded. The fast AF compared to the 20mm Panny really makes it sing for me. The lens is what MFT is all about Small, Fast and Capable.
This remains Leica’s digital achilles heel whether it’s the M9 (and offshoots) or the 240.
True. I got the M-E and WB can get shitty results at times. Especially indoors with artificial light.
I have found the Leica M and, to a lesser degree, the Canon 5D III both heavy on the orange. I usually desaturate the orange PP and can get fairly close to a correct balance. But none of the shots above get close to real skin colors. The corrected Leica is too red. The Olympus’ shots seem better but still not natural. I agree with all the comments that for the money the Leica especially should make it seem you are there and with more detail than if you were there.
I think the corrected Leica shot is too blue! But if the skin tones we’re right, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, we’d only be going, ah, look at those incredibly natural and lovely skin tones. Cool, warm, blown orange… they’ve everything but right and that’s the bottom line. I thought with the CMOS sensor that Leica’s color issues would be a thing of the past and they’d be producing great professional color ala Nikon or Canon pro-DSLRs. What’s going on that they can’t do this?
That said, I’m very happy with the color now from my M-E. But I have tricks and 3rd party filters that I’ve further played around with and… right now… I’m just shooting street snaps that allow me to produce more creative color shots anyway. If I were shooting weddings or working for a publication… there’s no guarantee that I would be able to get satisfactory color. Anyway.
Donald, the corrected shots look (way) too blue to me too, but it’s the skin tones I was looking at (I don’t see blueshniss there), and while they’re not orangey anymore, they don’t look natural either.
Seems to me all that messing about with an inherently inadequate raw file doesn’t really get you anywhere.
If you look at Steve’s colour portraits throughout the years it seems that he prefers cool tones. It’s all a matter of taste
Of course. But I was under the impression we were looking for “natural” skintones.
Unless you have seen her in real life, it is impossible to determine what her correct skin tone is.
It’s not impossible!
For this test Steve has simply forgotten to ask the lady to hold a white balance card next to her face.
Right, too blue. Anyway, this is a little perplexing. Steve has published two shots of very orange/red faces at different times (this post and in his original review of the M). I am not getting this extreme effect with my M. Shooting people indoors with natural light during the day produces a slightly orange tone that is easy to fix by adding blue or desaturating orange. The result is very good. I have gotten a stronger orange effect when the light is a combination of sunlight and incandescent light.
Am I seriously mistaken, or should one expect the “default” AWB, raw and Jpeg, to be at least reasonably on target, with a top quality camera like this?
Same here. Currently using an M9; Not sure I will actually ‘upgrade’ to the new M.
Not mistaken at all…..Shame really given if you want to use a digital rangefinder this is the only camera you can buy with decent ISO capability….and of course for the price.
Could not agree more, Mike. And it seems like Steve is saying the same thing!
I remember the D700’s AWB used to annoy me on a regular basis. The D800 is, to my eye, nearly faultless in 95% of the shots. Mixed lighting might fool it but is easily corrected.
I’ve given up on the auto WB on my M-E after the first usage. Now I either have the temp manually set at 5K for one of the presets for quick shooting (and then fix if needed in PP), or I use a WB card and manually set it for the shot. It takes just a couple of seconds.
My white balance card is the size of a credit card, so it is always with me (I got mine from whibal.com)
This gives perfect results, and could be much quicker than needing to correct it in PP.
Hey Steve, how about doing a set of pics w/ AUTO WB then correcting the RAW files, and comparing it to the same set using manually set WB with no correction in PP?
Pretty much, M-E, too. 😉 Sorry.
Except I shoot on shade in just about all natural light. Period. Apply my filters in Lightroom and I’m always tweaking and saving more.
Carried the credit card sized plastic grey card made for photographers on my key chain and used that until it broke off, then started taking manual WB settings off of white walls, etc. And I’ve found that taking a manual WB read off of white works better than the grey card. Duh.
Latest greatest trick I’m using now at night is to set a manual WB off of the grey asphalt of the street under the combination of LA street lights and the mix of lights from storefronts, car headlights, etc. Whatever. That often gives me the greatest night/city WB setting I’ve ever gotten with any camera. And it seems to be fantastic for shooting into shops and businesses at night as well… just a nice versatile artificial light WB setting. Anyway.
I was really pissed that my M9 had a sucky AWB when I first got it. Now I’m used to it and just correct in post.
I’m the same way with my M-E Jim. Suck it up, leave it on AWB, and take the 1/2 second in post to get it where I want it.
If it’s not right from the first time, you never get it fully right. A decent WB-compensation and exposure is far more complex function than it it seems, that’s the reason why the brains in Solms can’t do it. Even if you could, start adjusting large series of pictures, what a task! A 10K combination that can’t deliver decent OOC images is useless crap. This is the reason why plenty of Leica-photographers go B/W with their pictures.
LOL EJPB is spot on…my B&W collection started to grow after using M9! Either because of the WB or the chroma noise from ISO higher than 640… ;p
Yeah. I shot 24K pops with my M9 and I’m probably getting upwards of 15K on my M-E and I have to say… this idea SO often casually tossed off that you can just shoot RAW and fix it all later is just… argh! I only shoot RAW! From 2004 until today no matter what camera. I know how to correct WB. If I could have fixed my M9 images to my satisfaction or even to some acceptable standard by ‘correcting’ the WB in post… lol… I would have never sold the camera! Steve wouldn’t be writing articles about the continuing issues… nobody would be reading them… there’d be no issues and no discussions.
I remember having this discussion two years ago on DPReview and reading people say… Just shoot RAW haha and fix it in post.
It’s exactly as EJPB says, it’s SUCH a complex problem. If you correct for absolute white you can so easily end up with greenish people. Bronze people. That’s with the M9. My brief time shooting with the M 240 was too limited but I have to say in looking at the shots that the color was typically weird and certainly not what I would want to send to a major newspaper or give to a wedding client. Fortunately for me at this time neither of those things are a remote possibility but still. 😉 Here’s a link to those shots.
But, with my M-E I’ve been slowly hammering out a path that works for me. I get color that I absolutely love from daytime and shade shots and early evening shots. Natural light indoors. Tungsten light bulbs. I’m starting to improve my results lately with mercury street lights and some indoor fluorescents but honestly all of this like like mapping the freaking genome.
I can’t speak to the M240 but this discussion has broadened I think to Leica M digital color in general and I can’t imagine anyone shooting AWB with an M9 or any of the subsequent M9 brethren. I shoot SHADE for ALL natural light, period. And I correct color now far more often with third party filters than I do with WB adjustments. I just find that Shade gives me a starting point that I can deal with.
Why am I writing all this stuff on Steve’s site and not my own blog? 🙁
Hi Donald – I could see that being a nightmare with the volume of shots you do. I have had the M-E about 8 months and just 3800 shots. For my hobby/semi-pro work and the way I edit my photos the AWB does me OK for a starting point. I only do a dozen commissioned works a year, and those aren’t high volume shoots. I think the poster above goes a bit far saying the camera is crap.
And to throw around numbers about the B&W photos – about 1-2% of my total work goes B&W. Was about 10% when I shot Nikon – so I prefer the color much more with this.
Ha, Steve, I thought in one of your previous posts that the Fujifilm X ooc jpeg’s were way way way to warm? I know quite a few experienced photographers that are very unlucky now with Leica M because the AWB (and exposure) is completely unpredictable unless you perform every time a calibration by means of an expo disc. Wow! Not once, but most of the time. From what I’ve seen out of this camera and also the M9 until now, I’m really not impressed. What any DSLR even a very cheap one can do with AWB and exposure, any mirror less can do even at entry level, is still black magic for the Herr Dokter Ing’s in Solms, still living in their realm of expensive screws, copper, messing and boxes full of the purest glass. Oh yes, the lenses are a bit like old cognac, or even better. Unfortunately, I like a good bottle of wine and beer much more since it’s something I can afford and enjoy without regretting the money I’ve spend to it.
I like both the corrected and uncorrected E-M1 photos more. I especially like the AWB from the E-M1 which does look a bit warm, but finding a pretty pleasant middle ground for the skin tones. 🙂
Thank goodness for Lightroom. It’s the Easiest fix.
Thats what I said in this post – easy 5 second fix, but before the update, wasn’t an easy 5 sec fix in some lighting situations.
Second to last photo; I can’t tell whether she’s giving a come hither look or “I’m gonna clunk in the head with damn camera if you don’t stop taking pictures of me! 🙂
My wife does the same thing. After 43 years, she is getting a little tired of her picture being taken.
Leica sold a lot of M to Asia. So the WB is tuned to make Asian happy.
I’m Asian and I am not happy with both WB and your lame comment!
I’m Asian too and I am cracking up. JKWANG got PWND!
I’m Asian too and I don’t know why the Leica WB would make me happy (or anyone). I found the Sony to be the best with Asian skin tone though. It’s the least orange I have seen on my kids. Olympus is slightly orange (I have warm setting Off) to me.
Colors in Asia, particularly SE Asia, tend to the warm side naturally. Why would Leica dial it up even more for that market? If anything, the WB may be warmed for the northern Europe (where Leica are located) market. Or, per Occam’s Razor, maybe they simply screwed up.
May be an urban myth, and I do not want to step on any toes here, but I was told since Asians hated being portraied as prejudicely yellow, the Japanese manufacturers (fuji, konica) of film tuned the colour a little reddish/purpleish. The above comment is probably that story evolved into digital;)
I’ll take the E-M1 please.
Yeah…it looked GREAT right out of the camera without any correction…it’s good to lie, (a little).
E-M1 is my next camera.