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Leica M 35mm camera system


  • the Leica M camera system was THE 35mm film rangefinder system to buy
  • it has always been expensive with expensive very high image quality manual focus lenses
  • Leica struggled to develop suitable digital bodies as the short sensor to lens flange distance (28mm compared with 45mm for most SLRs) created issues with image quality in the periphery
  • it is the ONLY 35mm full frame mirrorless interchangeable lens digital camera, and the short lens flange distance means one could adapt most lenses designed for 35mm full frame cameras for use on it.
  • their Leica M9 camera was really their 1st successful full frame digital camera, although it was priced out of the market for most of us.
  • in 2012, they have made major updates and announced the M Typ 240 camera, and now it finally has Live View, it makes manual focus possible with lenses other than Leica M lenses.

pros of the Leica M digital system

  • access to the very high optical quality lenses for Leica M mount - considered the best edge-to-edge image quality for wide angle lenses in a 35mm full frame system
  • optical rangefinder provides:
    • ability to view the full scene with left eye whilst compoising through the viewfinder with the right eye
    • in some circumstances offers the fastest focus mechanism and perhaps the most accurate focus when using Leica M mount lenses
    • do not need to turn the camera on to compose through the viewfinder
  • beautiful Leica gestalt in styling, and user interface
  • very high build quality
  • lenses tend to retain value for many years
  • quiet reasonably non-obtrusive system
  • it is the ONLY full frame camera system which can use lenses from ANY 35mm full frame SLR camera system (as long as the Leica camera has EVF or Live View)

cons of the Leica M digital system

  • very expensive
  • bodies generally sell for ~$7000
  • the f/1.4 prime lenses sell for $4000-$6000 each
  • rangefinder system has limited focal length range - telephotos > 135mm focal length are not possible unless using EVF or Live View LCD
  • rangefinder focus accuracy may need calibration with the lenses and this is difficult to determine unless the camera has an EVF or Live View LCD
  • current cameras still have many issues compared with contemporary dSLR or mirrorless cameras such as:
    • poor high ISO performance
    • very limited manual focus options
      • even the new M Typ 240 camera with EVF and Live View has limited magnified manual focus as it can ONLY magnify the central area due to sensor limitations
    • no autofocus, let alone AF tracking, touch screen AF or face recognition AF
    • limited burst rate
    • ongoing light metering issues
    • limited in-camera image options
    • limited HD video options
    • access to battery, memory card requires removal of the base plate and tripod in the new M Typ 240

digital Leica M camera bodies

Leica M10-R

  • announced July 2020
  • 40mp CMOS color sensor
  • no low pass filter
  • no video mode and no electronic shutter mode
  • 3“ 1mdot touchscreen
  • $US8295

Leica M10 Monochrom

  • announced Jan 2020
  • 40mp monochromatic sensor
  • $US8295

Leica M-E (Typ 240)

  • announced June 2019 as a “budget” camera
  • 24mp CMOS sensor
  • similar performance to Leica M but with 2GB buffer for better burst performance albeit at only 3fps
  • optical 0.68x magnification viewfinder
  • 3.0″ 920k-Dot LCD
  • 1080HD video
  • ISO 100 to 6400 (base 200)
  • mechanical shutter to 1/4000th sec
  • MF only no AF
  • $US3999

Zenit M

  • announced Sept 2018 with Leica forming partnership with Zenit
  • based on Leica M Type 240
  • 35mm f/1.0 lens
  • $US6999 incl lens
  • only 500 being produced

Leica M Typ 240

  • announced 2012, priced at ~$US6999 body only
  • 24mp custom CMOS sensor collaboratively designed by both Leica and CMOSIS with improved, flatter microlens array for both higher light collection and better cooperation with legacy lenses, especially wideangles
  • for the 1st time we get Live View - at last!
  • HOWEVER - technical limitations with the sensor mean that live view magnification is restricted to the centre portion of the image only
  • no antialiasing filter
  • ISO 200-6400
  • 1080p25 video
  • 4fps burst rate
  • LCD now 3” with VGA display
  • external EVF port - apparently compatible with Olympus Micro Four Thirds system external EVF's as well as the EVF for the Leica X2
  • extra buttons: Live View, Record, Focus Assist button (activates peaking and magnification and also can be used to change exposure compensation)
  • much more secure tripod base
  • I/O port for the optional Multifunctional Handgrip M, which adds a GPS module for geotagging, AC adaptor socket, SCA hotshoe communicator, PC-sync socket and USB port
  • new, larger battery – it has double the capacity of the old one
  • shutter is crisper, quieter, better damped with lower vibration, and no longer has the buzzing rewind sound of the M8/M9
  • revamped menu
  • added matrix and spot metering (really only useful in live view)
  • CW metering is improved but still inaccurate with point light sources in the frame
  • virtual horizon function
  • rangefinder eye relief still poor - “if you wear spectacles, you can't really use it for framing accurately with lenses wider than 50mm because your eye cannot get close enough to the window to allow you to see the whole field of view”

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246)

  • announced in May 2012, essentially a Leica M9 with a monochrome sensor - no Bayer pattern, and new image processing algorithms

Leica M9-P

  • same as Leica M9 but omits the Leica dot in favor of top plate engraving and a sapphire LCD cover, but is otherwise the same camera

Leica M9

  • Leica's 1st full frame digital camera, launched in Sept 2009
  • still no Live View to assess manual focus accuracy
  • no EVF
  • no video
  • still issues with metering, moire
  • still image quality issues at ISO above 1250
  • Kodak CCD sensor no anti-aliasing filter but strongly tilted peripheral micro lenses

Leica M8.2

  • announced in Sept 2008 as an upgraded version of M8
  • quieter shutter than the M8 but shutter speed only to 1/4000th sec

Leica M8

  • announced Sept 2006
  • Leica's 1st digital Leica M rangefinder camera but used a 1.33x cropped sensor and had significant QC issues as well as issues with moire, banding, locking up, no exposure compensation facility, issues with light metering, very poor image at ISO above 1250 (max. ISO 2500)
  • 10.3mp Kodak CCD sensor no anti-aliasing filter and extremely high sensitivity to infrared light, which made black colors appear purple requiring special UV/IR screw-on lens filters to reduce this.
  • modern metal-blade focal-plane shutter instead of the classic cloth shutter
  • flash synchronization at 1/250 second X-sync and shutter speeds 8sec to 1/8000 sec.
  • flash system used is M-TTL
  • 6-bit code on lenses gives information about optic vignetting characteristics, permitting software adjustment
  • Adobe DNG as its raw data format

Leica M film cameras

Leica M7

  • introduced in 2002 at ~ $US2400
  • adds the following features to the M6:
    • aperture priority TTL auto exposure metering (off a 12mm white spot on the shutter curtain = 13% spot metering) and LED viewfinder shutter speed reading, an OFF switch and an exposure compensation dial
    • electronic shutter instead of mechanical, allowing auto-exposures down to 30 secs while manual exposure is only down to 4 secs, and there are 2 shutter speeds available for manual mode w/o batteries: 1/60th and 1/125th sec
    • DX film speed detection
    • new antireflection coating of viewfinder
    • manual exposure HSS flash sync speeds to 1/1000th sec with the Metz 54MZ3 flash
    • normal x flash sync still 1/50th sec
    • coupled rangefinder .72x magnification factor
    • parallax compensation 35-135, 50-75, 28-90mm. selectable framelines
    • 610g

Leica M6 TTL

  • introduced in 1998
  • adds TTL flash metering - uses Metz flash systems SCA 3502 adapters for TTL flash
  • direction of shutter speed rotation now matches the settings of the exposure LEDs in the viewfinder
  • OFF position on the shutter speed dial
  • coupled rangefinder .85x magnification factor
  • parallax compensation 35/50/75/90/135mm. selectable framelines
  • 600g

Leica M6

  • introduced in 1984 and various special editions produced up until 1998
  • flash sync 1/50th sec
  • shutter speeds 1sec - 1/1000th sec plus Bulb
  • mechanical cloth shutter
  • no auto exposure but battery operated manual exposure meter
  • 585g

Leica M5

  • introduced in 1971
  • the first Leica rangefinder camera to feature through-the-lens (TTL) metering (CdS)
  • the last M to be built entirely in Wetzlar by hand using the traditional “adjust and fit” method
  • bigger and heavier than earlier models
  • redesigned horizontal travelling cloth focal plane shutter is reported to be the quietest of the M series
  • x-sync only 1/50th sec due to the slow travelling shutter curtains
  • cannot attach a motor winder
  • M5 sales were disappointing (Leica also kept selling the smaller more compatible M4, and had steep competition by the burgeoning SLR market as well as the Leica CL) and production was halted in 1975 and Leica reverted to producing the M4 until it produced the M6

Leica M4

  • introduced in 1967 as the direct successor of the M2 and M3
  • framelines for 35mm, 50mm, 90mm and 135mm lenses in a 0.72 magnification viewfinder
  • a faster loading system that does not need a removable spool

Leica M1

  • introduced in 1959 as a simpler and cheaper Leica without a rangefinder

Leica M2

  • introduced in 1957 AFTER the M3, and made until 1967

Leica M3

  • introduced in 1954 and was the 1st Leica M bayonet mount camera marketed
  • previous Leica rangefinder models used a screw mount lens
  • viewfinder magnification factor of 0.92×
  • the first Leica to combine rangefinder and viewfinder into one window
  • early M3s had a double stroke advance lever
  • Early models used a glass plate to keep the film flat; later models used a metal plate
photo/leicam.txt · Last modified: 2020/07/17 00:20 by gary1

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