Monday, September 24, 2012


David Farkas of the Red dot Forum ( writes:

Obviously, there has been a great deal of interest in the new Leica M. Many people that I talk to here in Cologne think that the M is the standout product of this Photokina. Essentially, it is everything that M9 users have been asking for. Offering faster operation, longer battery life, well-implemented live view with focus peaking, a high resolution scratch-resistant LCD, optional EVF and keeping the time-tested optical rangefinder, LED illuminated frame lines, expanded ISO range with lower noise, improved menu interface, built-in virtual horizon, SDXC support, 50% faster continuous shooting, bigger buffer, ability to use with PC sync cord (via grip), ability to power camera externally (via grip), weather sealing, and more. Leica also saw fit to offer users features they didn’t ask for like full HD video capability and GPS (also with grip). It’s quite an extensive punch list and I think that Leica should be commended on offering all these new features and improvements, all the while keeping the camera true to its heritage. The design is classic, yet modern and the ergonomics are just perfect. Leica engineers actually worked with Audi design specifically for styling and ergonomics.

That is definitely a plethora of new features which should quiet many of the criticisms that have been made about the Leica M9.  But it has also opened a new wave of criticisms which suggest that Leica has put too much into the Leica M, that it removes the camera far from the original Leica rangefinder concept.  While I can understand that some would rather see the Leica M line of cameras continue as a bare bones, no frills camera as it used to be, we must also understand that this approach satisfies hardly anyone other than old time Leica users.  It certainly doesn’t do much of anything to convince people outside of Leica to reconsider the Leica as a viable choice.  The ultra conservative approach that some are asking for almost brought Leica to its knees not too long ago.  It was the serious attempt to offer a serious, M based digital camera which greatly increased sales, including the sale of lenses.  This was the Leica M9.  Yet it proved to be not enough and thus garnered many of the criticisms listed by David Farkas, the ones answered by the new Leica M.

Let’s take a closer look at how these answers manifest themselves in the Leica M.

Is image quality of the new CMOS sensor the same as with the former CCD sensor?  

The short answer is yes.  Leica would never sacrifice performance just to gain any features.  That is much too far removed from the philosophy of the company.

What about noise and dynamic range?

The camera will also offer greatly improved noise of about two stops and an improvement of dynamic range.

Does the new M use a different battery than the M9?

The answer is yes.  The new M battery is essentially two M9 battery cells combined.  This led to double the voltage and along with it live view.  Since the sensor, Maestro ASIC processor and electronics are all more power efficient than the M9, users should at least expect the same amount of pictures as with the M9, even with live view.  Without live view, using only the rangefinder, you can expect more than three times more images.

Are there any other differences between the new Leica M-E and the M9 besides the missing frame preview selector and the USB port?

No, that is it.  Otherwise the two cameras are identical.

Why is there no frame preview in the Leica M?

For cost savings.  Actually few were using it and it adds to the complexity of the camera and to manufacturing costs.

Can you see the image review in the electronic viewfinder?

Yes, it is possible.

Will there be an electronic shutter release available?

No.  This not necessary since the camera has a conventional cable release socket.

Did any of the dimensions of the Leica M increase over its predecessors?

There are some slight differences.  For instance, the baseplate is less than a millimeter wider from front to back.  This has no practical implications since it is very doubtful than anyone would ever notice it while holding or using the camera.

Is the Leica M a valid answer to owners of Leica R lenses?

One major question that is answered by this camera is the quest of previous Leica R owners for a serious, full frame, digital camera to use their Leica R lenses on.  With the new R adapter, any of the previous R lenses can be used on the Leica M, from 15mm to 800mm.  Not only does this greatly widen the versatility of the Leica M, it also offers a previously missing convenience factor in form of the many R zoom lenses.

What about Leica R extension tubes and teleconverters?

All of them can be used without limitations.

Does the new R adapter offer any connection to the auto diaphragm of the R lenses?

No.  Just as with the M lenses, the R lenses are used as preset lenses.  The light loss with smaller apertures is compensated for by automatically increasing the brightness (gain) of both the electronic viewfinder and the live view of the LCD screen.  This also offers the advantage of not having to focus wide open and then closing to the working aperture before shooting.

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