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The Magnificent Seven — The Best Professional Cameras Of 2012

Leica M 240 [Best Rangefinder-Type Camera]

Leica M 240 goes without a shadow of doubt.

Leica-M-240-Rangefinder

The wheel has come full circle. The company that introduced the original 35mm rangefinder has topped the charts again (so what else is new) with its 24MP CMOS sensor. This full frame powerhouse even takes movies. Any way you look at it, this camera breaks fresh ground, even for Ernst Leitz, Wetzlar, makers of the legendary Leica cameras.

Able to use both M as well as R Leica lenses (and a host of other makes, via adapters), the M has a new Maestro processor that delivers speed, precision and brilliant, true-to-life color images, backed by low power consumption / long battery life — a real boon for the professionals who are the likeliest target audience for this superlative camera.

Leica-M-Top-Deck

The new 3″, 920k LCD features live view for more precise framing, making shooting with macro or telephoto lenses perfectly possible. Live view also offers a 10x magnification for precise manual focus.

Despite remaining true to the legendary Leica design simplicity, the M does incorporate a few updated specs such as HD video, a 100 – 6400 ISO range, 3fps burst shooting and compatibility with the $465 EVF2 viewfinder, which plugs into the hot shoe. There’s no built-in flash, however.

For around USD 7,000, you don’t get all that much on paper, it seems. $7K gets you a Canon 1DX, remember? So, is it really worth it?

I don’t need to resurrect Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa or even Oskar Barnack to answer that — the answer is a resounding YES!! There is no substitute for the ‘Leica experience’ (I would often use my friend S. Chib’s Leica M3, way back in 1977 and it was an awesome experience).

I recall some lines I read over three decades ago, written by the famous Professor Jason Schneider in his The Camera Collector page in Popular Photography magazine (of which he was Editor for a number of years). He wrote (and I quote from memory):

Using a Leica is like driving a Ferrari on a winding road; the sheer excellence of the machinery creates the overwhelming illusion that one’s modest capabilities have been vastly extended.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

However, the consensus is that beyond ISO 800, the M’s IQ / DR falls off disappointingly. Not too much of an issue, actually, given all those superfast lenses made for this fine instrument. Still, one wonders…

Leica-M-with-EVF-and-telezoom

Maybe the magic is in the glass. The roll call of Leica lenses is also a roster of some of the greatest lenses ever made, for any format. Try these out on your tongue: Hektor, Summicron, Summarit, Summitar, Elmar, Elmarit, Super Angulon, Noctilux, Apo Summicron, Apo Telyt… all with a vast number of variants as regards maximum aperture and focal length. Goosebumps have come up on my forearms as I type these legendary names.

Leica M 240 Specifications:

Model Number M
Camera Format Rangefinder
Currently Manufactured Yes
Retail Price $6950.00
Street Price
Date Available 2012-02-15
Tripod Mount Yes
Weight 24.0 oz (680 g)
includes batteries
Weight With Batteries? Yes
Weight Includes Kit Lens? No
Size 5.5 x 3.1 x 1.7 in.
(139 x 80 x 42 mm)
Waterproof No
Image Sensor
Sensor Type CMOS
Sensor Manufacturer
Total Megapixels 24.00
Effective Megapixels 24.0
Sensor Format 35mm
Sensor Size (dia.) 1.69″
Focal Length Multiplier 1.0
Color Filter Type RGBG
Self-Cleaning No
Sensor-shift Stabilized No
Image Capture
Image Resolution 5952 x 3976 (23.7 MP, Other),
4256 x 2823 (12.0 MP, 3:2),
2976 x 1984 (5.9 MP, 3:2),
1600 x 1080 (1.7 MP, Other)
Image File Format JPEG, .DNG RAW (14-bit, compressed or uncompressed), RAW+JPEG
Video Capture
Movie Mode Yes
Movie Resolution 1920×1080, 1280×720, 640×480
Movie Frame Rate 25p/24p, 25p/24p, 30p
Movie Audio Yes
Movie File Format QuickTime Motion JPEG (MOV); built-in mic is mono, but external stereo mic adapter available
Optics
Lens Mount Leica M bayonet
Kit Lens n/a
Focal Length (35mm equivalent) Yes
Zoom Ratio Depends on lens used
Aperture Range Varies with lens used
Optical Image Stablization No
Digital Zoom No
Digital Zoom Values Nil
Filter Thread Varies with lens
Auto Focus
Auto Focus No
Auto Focus Type N/A (Manual focus with OVF/Live View with magnification, focus peaking)
Face Detection
Auto Focus Assist Light? n/a
Manual Focus Yes
Optical Viewfinder
Optical Viewfinder Yes
Optical Viewfinder Type Non-TTL bright-line frame rangefinder w/ automatic parallax compensation, 0.68x magnification; Optional Visoflex EVF-2 Electronic Viewfinder
Display
LCD Viewfinder Yes
LCD Size (inches) 3.0
LCD Resolution 920,000 dots
Touchscreen No
Articulating LCD No
Max Playback Zoom
Exposure
ISO Settings Auto, ISO 200 to 6,400 in 1/3EV steps, extendable to ISO 100
Auto ISO Mode Yes
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent warm, Fluorescent cool, Flash, Kelvin Setting (2000-13100K), Manual
Shutter Speed Range 60 – 1/4000
Bulb Mode Yes
Exposure Compensation +/- 3.0EV in 0.3EV steps
Metering Modes OVF: TTL Center-weighted with working aperture; Live view: TTL Multi, Center-weighted, Spot
Program AE No
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Priority No
Full Manual Exposure Yes
Creative Exposure Modes Film Simulation Modes
Self Timer 2 or 12 seconds
Time Lapse
Flash
Built-in Flash No
Flash Modes n/a
Flash Guide Number (ISO 100) n/a
Flash Range Description n/a
Max Flash Sync 1/180
Flash Exp Compensation +/- 3.0EV in 0.3EV steps
Ext Flash Connection SCA-3502 compatible hot shoe, with center contact
Image Storage
Usable Memory Types SD / SDHC / SDXC
Memory Included (MB)
File System
DCF Compliant
Connectivity
Composite Video Out No
NTSC/PAL Switchable n/a
Video Usable as Viewfinder n/a
HD Video Out No
HD Video Connection
Built-In Wi-fi No
Computer/Printer
PictBridge Compliant
DPOF Compliant
Remote Control Yes
Remote Control Type Threaded cable release
Other Connection Accessory port
Power
Battery Form Factor Proprietary 7.4v 1800mAh
Usable Battery Types Lithium-ion rechargeable
Batteries Included 1 x Proprietary Lithium-ion rechargeable
Battery Charger Included Yes
CIPA Rating Unknown
Software
Included Software Free download of Adobe Lightroom for registered owners
OS Compatibility Windows, Mac OS
Miscellaneous
Notes & Features 24MP CMOS sensor, Maestro processor, Live View with 10x focus magnification and focus peaking, 1080p Full HD movies, 920K-dot LCD with Gorilla Glass, optional EVF-2 electronic viewfinder.
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