New Leica M (Type 240) Announced
The camera on everyone's minds was of course the M10 - which turned out to be called simply, M instead. Everything we told you about and that was generally expected is there. The 24MP CMOS sensor, live view and video, the Visoflex EVF2 Electronic Accessory Viewfinder (EVF) option, larger 3"/920k LCD and even the R/M adapter.
First off, what's with the name? As we all know, digital technology moves at a rapid clip, so numbering bodies presents a number of problems. In an interview with Jesko von Neuyhausen he says, "We don't want to give our customers the feeling that when the M10 comes out, for instance, that the M9 is suddenly the 'old' model and they have to buy the new one because the old one isn't good enough anymore. We decided that the continuous numbering concept is not the right thing for us in the long term." In a separate interview, Jesko says that if there were to be a "P" version, it would then be called the "MP" (or "M-P")...
Though the little details were no less interesting. For example, no more sapphire crystal screen but rather Gorilla Glass - the same material used in iPhones, made by Corning. It keeps costs down yet performs almost as well. The normal buttons along the left side got a makeover. You'll now find the MENU button among the line up as well as a dedicated LV (live view) button. Gone however is the INFO button - which is now located at the center of the revised directional pad (under the thumb). On the front is the Focus button and on the top is the Movie button, which are totally new - as is the thumb rest/dial. So much for the Thumbs Up now (though it should still fit for the fans). Interesting to point out - Leica placed the M button right where the frame counter of film bodies is located. It preserves the aesthetic and is in a good location not to be accidentally triggered. You can shoot stills while filming at any time with the regular shutter release.
What's interesting is the new base ISO of 200 rather than 160 as with all previous models. This is more in line with the M Monochrom, and though to a lesser degree - might not appeal to "wide open shooters" as much. One thing we found interesting, considering this is now a CMOS sensor - is the rather limited top-end, at ISO 6400. We'd have expected a bit more than a couple of stops here. Of course, this ISO is rather clean and usable. Those higher ratings touted by the SLR manufacturers, while nice - are largely unusable.
Metering on the M is now vastly different. Besides the standard "centerweighted" metering there are also "spot" and "multifield" capabilities. Though they only work via live view, as they utilize the video to meter. With live view off, the camera resorts back to the shutter curtain readings which are "centerweighted." Focusing is also vastly different. There's the usual optical rangefinder we all know and love, but live view offers us magnified focusing as well as the popular focus peaking. This is big news. The metering is more advanced and so is the view - optical, electronic, live view or magnified. This makes macro and tele very easy, especially with adapted R lenses. You can also focus those .5m minimum distance lenses (e.g. ZMs) all the way down as well.
Thankfully the things that make an M an M, remain the same. The body shape is there, as well as the milled brass top and bottom plates. The layout hasn't changed very much either and anyone familiar with previous bodies will feel right at home with the new. Speaking of new, the Handgrip Mhas been redesigned and borrows a feature from the M9 Titanium - an optional rubber Finger Loop (available in three sizes). The really interesting addition is the Multifunction Handgrip M. It offers built-in GPS, a hot shoe, flash sync and USB ports and finally, a port for an external power supply! Another feature borrowed from the M9 Titanium is the LED-illuminated framelines. On second glance you'll notice the missing fresnel lens/window on the front because of this. The default color is white, though you can select red from the menu.
The bottom of the camera is also interesting - as far as the baseplate goes. The tripod socket isn't part of the baseplate anymore but rather the camera itself (and the post now passes through). A much more solid solution, but no more popping off the plate to swap batteries in such situations. The plate itself has a plastic-filled slot to allow better signal strength and compatibility with WiFi cards. The battery is the real shocker as it's now twice as thick as the old ones. Now carrying a BP-SCL2 designation (Leica part number 14499), it still has almost the same rating (1800mAh vs 1860mAh) but over twice the voltage (7.4v vs. 3.6v). Despite things like a 3" screen, video and live view, you should still get around 400-500 shots (about five hours of continuous usage) or around 800-1000 shots using the optical viewfinder. This represents a two to threefold improvement over previous!
Along with video came a few other minor differences body-wise (such as the mono microphone and buttons). The video quality includes 720p/1080p up to 24fps/25fps and utilizes MJPEG and Quicktime formats. Audio can be recorded in stereo with the Microphone Adapter Set and features both manual and auto level as well as a "concert" preset. Stills are of course now 24MP (5952x3976) but still DNG format. To help capture all this, battery life is much-improved over the previous models and the camera receives a CPU upgrade in the form of the Leica Maestro image processor. You might recognize it from the S medium format cameras.
The last little detail that's interesting to note is that the new body is "splash proof." Although the previous versions weren't hugely vulnerable given some care, now it's officially sealed up. Does this mean we'll see "splash proof" lenses down the line? Speaking of lenses, you can now use those R lenses on the M with the new R-Adapter M (the body includes profiles for 21 of them). The compatible list of lenses with in-camera profiles includes:
- Super-Elmarit-R 15 mm f/2.8
- Elmarit-R 19 mm f/2.8
- Elmarit-R 28 mm f/2.8
- Summilux-R 35 mm f/1.4
- Summicron-R 35 mm f/2
- Summicron-R 50 mm f/2
- Summilux-R 50 mm f/1.4
- Macro-Elmarit-R 60 mm f/2.8
- Summilux-R 80 mm f/1.4
- Summicron-R 90 mm f/2
- Apo-Macro-Elmarit-R 100 mm f/2.8
- Apo-Telyt-R 180 mm f/3.4
- Apo-Elmarit-R 180 mm f/2.8
- Apo-Summicron-R 180 mm f/2
- Apo-Telyt-R 280 mm f/4
- Vario-Elmar-R 21-35 mm f/3.5-4
- Vario-Elmar-R 28-70 mm f/3.5-4.5
- Vario-Elmar-R 35-70 mm f/4
- Vario-Elmarit-R 28-90 mm f/2.8-4.5
- Vario-Apo-Elmarit-R 70-180 mm f/2.8
- Vario-Elmar-R 80-200 mm f/4
So what does this all cost? As we said earlier, less than the M Monochrom at $6,950 USD.