Leica M9 or M typ 240?

carlb

All-Pro
Feb 6, 2013
123
I had the question put to me, M9 or M typ 240: which to buy?

Presently, the M9 used is about $1000 less than a used M. So what are the considerations for choosing between those two? I hope others will chime-in with their takes on this question. Here goes mine:

M9:

An older camera than the M. Typically "all things being equal" won't happen, watch for shutter counts, condition, how it was stored. The sensor replacement issue for corrosion (perhaps others can say more about this factor, no problems for my M9 yet). But assuming the M9 and the M were roughly equivalent in condition and shutter count, what other factors are there?

The M9 operates almost exclusively with 1) zone focusing and 2) rangefinder focusing. The screen is OK for chimping gross composition and light level. But I haven't found it to be very useful for determining critical focus upon playback. There's no live-view mode, either.

As such, in my experience I find that for 50mm and longer, you really need to pay attention to what the lens' scale markings tell you about aperture translating to depth of field. Work that into what's your closest in-focus elements versus the farthest in-focus element via zone focusing.

Alternately, what's the depth of field ahead of and behind your rangefinder defined focus, as told by the lens' aperture-to-depth scale (rangefinder operation? You have to practice this to understand what your shot will be. The playback screen on the M9 won't tell you very well what is in-focus versus what is bokeh, you must figure that out on your own.

When you go home and process your photos, that's when you know what you got right, and which shots your blew.

Here's an example of zone focusing with the 90mm Macro Elmar on the M9:


walk to a view
by Carl B, on Flickr

To get the framing branches and the person walking both in focus, I had to refer to the hyper-focus scale on the lens to tell me that I'd better be at f22 (to maximize depth of field, a limited resource for a 90mm), and then swing a bit away from infinity, to also get the branches in-focus. Had I not known that, I would have blown the shot. Which I did the previous day, live and learn.

Some see the above as a limitation, others have fun with it as a "purist photographer's challenge." It's true "old-school."

So, if you see this as a limitation, is there an potential offset? Some feel that the CCD sensor is just that. The Kodak CCD sensor really can do some neat things, given good light. The more clinical (or sensible) among us would say that with the right post-processing flow, M 240 shots can be made to look like M9 shots.

Here's two of my favorite M9 "CCD-magic" shots:


day giving-way
by Carl B, on Flickr

rice creek at lexington - westward
by Carl B, on Flickr

Could I have done these on the M? Maybe, but the M9 was already pushing the "look" in the right direction. Do I get these type of shots all the time? No. Sometimes I get a bit frustrated that the M9 doesn't always catch "CCD" as well as my ancient-but-incredible Oly E-1 (another Kodak CCD 'wunderSensor-Kamera'). Sometime my M9 images just lay there like a dead opossum, taunting my limited photoshop skills.

M typ 240:

You have live view. You can pop a decent EVF on top (OVFs only for the M9). 'WYSIWYG' (What you see is what you get). Ignore live view and don't chimp if you want the 'purist photographer' experience. (Although I can't bring myself not to chimp.) Better dynamic range. Better high-ISO. Probably better I/O choices (although I don't use them). Ignore movie mode (unless you lug around a tripod). I think the RF mechanism is a bit less prone to needing adjustment than on the M9, but Brian will correct me if I'm wrong. :)

Here two of my favorite M 240 shot:


river bank iris
by Carl B, on Flickr


diamonds for a lady
by Carl B, on Flickr

Both of these were with the Leica R 35-70mm f4, not rangefinder coupled, so you could not shoot it on the M9.

Either M9 or M240:

Be willing to clean your sensor. There's no modern-camera self-cleaning here. No optical image stabilization, so watch your slowest shutter speeds. Other cameras performance have certainly caught up, but nothing else (besides perhaps the Epson R-D1 series) is a digital rangefinder, with simple and clean operation.

I can't choose one over the other. Glad to have both.

OK, that's it for me now. Others? What makes the M9 different from the M? What would you choose?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Amin Sabet

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 3, 2010
124
Wonderful photos, Carl :thumbsup:

For me, the M240 shutter release sound is much more pleasing than the M9 sound. And the colors hold up better at high ISO than the M9 ones. Those are the two main reasons I'd choose the M240 over the M9. I know the sound thing shouldn't matter much to me, but it does.

The biggest advantage for me of the M9 over the M240 is the complete lack of banding with the former. Plus there is something to the low ISO colors on the M9 that I find more pleasing than the ones from the M240.

Both are great!
 

Hap

Top Veteran
Jan 9, 2016
28
It seems that in the hands of a person that knows the limits, each camera has strengths that can be played to.

When unable to have both, the M240 offers a lot of versatility....and that could well be worth the price delta, especially if new to M digitals. You would think that for the money, there would be IBIS. This is a great advance. IBIS/OIS has got to be a dream....but at a cost in weight/size. This is one of things that draw towards Panasonic, Oly, or Fuji. I would still put my money on a digital M before I bought an Oly ...like PEN F. I hate cams with complex menus, just don't want to learn another UI or fool with menus with extensive trees.

I really like your M240 pictures better than the M9, not criticizing the composition or subject matter, the colors are not rendered to my taste. Still very good.
 

carlb

All-Pro
Feb 6, 2013
123
If you like the M typ 240 colors better, then definitely it would be your preference.
 

VINCETAN

Top Veteran
Aug 19, 2013
68
For me, M 240. The camera is a few years younger than the M9, therefore, it will last that much longer (parts availability, etc). I like the flexibility of being able to use almost any manual focus lens out there with the proper adapter. With certain wide like the Tri Elmar, I don't really need to EVF or even external finder, Live View can do the job most of the time. Longer battery life mean not needing to carry a spare. Video? Yes, I use video and the M 240 video has that cinematic feel to it. I like the idea that with the grip, you can also have GPS tagging. Nicer shutter as Amin mentioned.

What I don't like about it is that it is heavier and bulkier.
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
This is one of the best threads that I've read regarding M9 and M240. I'm probably the only person would would cite that the M9 DNG files are easier to write software to process...

I would be interested in seeing a test done of the M240 and M9 using the same lenses with lens detection turned off. A wide-angle lens and a fast-normal lens would be of interest to compare.

With regards to banding: I use slower memory cards on the M8, M9, and M Monochrom- even in the Df when shooting high ISO. I've seen differences at the High-ISO settings. People tend to shoot fast cards in the M240.
 

Hap

Top Veteran
Jan 9, 2016
28
This is one of the best threads that I've read regarding M9 and M240. I'm probably the only person would would cite that the M9 DNG files are easier to write software to process...
.
Precisely.....

I would certainly tend to want to use a fast card.....is there really some conflict between the process and write software and the card speed as speed is increased?

BTW...does a Df have the screwdrive to AF legacy lenses?
 

Hap

Top Veteran
Jan 9, 2016
28
I had the question put to me, M9 or M typ 240: which to buy?

Presently, the M9 used is about $1000 less than a used M. So what are the considerations for choosing between those two? I hope others will chime-in with their takes on this question. Here goes mine:

M9:

An older camera than the M. Typically "all things being equal" won't happen, watch for shutter counts, condition, how it was stored. The sensor replacement issue for corrosion (perhaps others can say more about this factor, no problems for my M9 yet). But assuming the M9 and the M were roughly equivalent in condition and shutter count, what other factors are there?

The M9 operates almost exclusively with 1) zone focusing and 2) rangefinder focusing. The screen is OK for chimping gross composition and light level. But I haven't found it to be very useful for determining critical focus upon playback. There's no live-view mode, either.

As such, in my experience I find that for 50mm and longer, you really need to pay attention to what the lens' scale markings tell you about aperture translating to depth of field. Work that into what's your closest in-focus elements versus the farthest in-focus element via zone focusing.

Alternately, what's the depth of field ahead of and behind your rangefinder defined focus, as told by the lens' aperture-to-depth scale (rangefinder operation? You have to practice this to understand what your shot will be. The playback screen on the M9 won't tell you very well what is in-focus versus what is bokeh, you must figure that out on your own.

When you go home and process your photos, that's when you know what you got right, and which shots your blew.

Here's an example of zone focusing with the 90mm Macro Elmar on the M9:

View attachment 13730
walk to a view by Carl B, on Flickr

To get the framing branches and the person walking both in focus, I had to refer to the hyper-focus scale on the lens to tell me that I'd better be at f22 (to maximize depth of field, a limited resource for a 90mm), and then swing a bit away from infinity, to also get the branches in-focus. Had I not known that, I would have blown the shot. Which I did the previous day, live and learn.

Some see the above as a limitation, others have fun with it as a "purist photographer's challenge." It's true "old-school."

So, if you see this as a limitation, is there an potential offset? Some feel that the CCD sensor is just that. The Kodak CCD sensor really can do some neat things, given good light. The more clinical (or sensible) among us would say that with the right post-processing flow, M 240 shots can be made to look like M9 shots.

Here's two of my favorite M9 "CCD-magic" shots:

View attachment 13731
day giving-way by Carl B, on Flickr

View attachment 13732rice creek at lexington - westward by Carl B, on Flickr

Could I have done these on the M? Maybe, but the M9 was already pushing the "look" in the right direction. Do I get these type of shots all the time? No. Sometimes I get a bit frustrated that the M9 doesn't always catch "CCD" as well as my ancient-but-incredible Oly E-1 (another Kodak CCD 'wunderSensor-Kamera'). Sometime my M9 images just lay there like a dead opossum, taunting my limited photoshop skills.

M typ 240:

You have live view. You can pop a decent EVF on top (OVFs only for the M9). 'WYSIWYG' (What you see is what you get). Ignore live view and don't chimp if you want the 'purist photographer' experience. (Although I can't bring myself not to chimp.) Better dynamic range. Better high-ISO. Probably better I/O choices (although I don't use them). Ignore movie mode (unless you lug around a tripod). I think the RF mechanism is a bit less prone to needing adjustment than on the M9, but Brian will correct me if I'm wrong. :)

Here two of my favorite M 240 shot:

View attachment 13733
river bank iris by Carl B, on Flickr

View attachment 13734
diamonds for a lady by Carl B, on Flickr

Both of these were with the Leica R 35-70mm f4, not rangefinder coupled, so you could not shoot it on the M9.

Either M9 or M240:

Be willing to clean your sensor. There's no modern-camera self-cleaning here. No optical image stabilization, so watch your slowest shutter speeds. Other cameras performance have certainly caught up, but nothing else (besides perhaps the Epson R-D1 series) is a digital rangefinder, with simple and clean operation.

I can't choose one over the other. Glad to have both.

OK, that's it for me now. Others? What makes the M9 different from the M? What would you choose?
The Leica R to M adaptor is a nice accessory....to consider as I have two R lenses, including the Macro Elmarit. Hmmmm that kind of puts a check in the M240 box.
 

carlb

All-Pro
Feb 6, 2013
123
R lenses on the M work great. Wide-angle R lenses on the M9 can work great, if you just stay at F8 or higher and infinity focus.

Telephoto R lenses on the M9 would be a stretch: a scenario would be to use a laser rangefinder or such (e.g., for golf) to get the distance, then turn the lens focus ring to that distance printed on the lens. Leave enough DOF to stay sharp if you're not exactly correct.
 

carlb

All-Pro
Feb 6, 2013
123
Brian, it sure makes sense to have slow SD cards ready if you're going to run into high-iso shooting. Otherwise, a faster card keeps the delays between shots shorter - nice for when you can tolerate the higher noise (such sunny day shooting).
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
Hap- The Df supports Autofocus lenses that require the motor in the camera. The Lenses made for the Nikon F3AF will not auto-focus with it.

The M9 files are easier to write code for as they are "Little-Endian" DNG. The M240 is "Big-Endian", makes it more software intense to parse the various fields. The Q is back to Little-Endian, I'll bet the M10 is the same- but have not looked at the DNG files.

The Fast SD cards: I suspect Bursts of Data can cause issues with digitizing data. Faster devices tend to emit more RF noise.
 

carlb

All-Pro
Feb 6, 2013
123
As well as RF, heavy current spikes for writing the data so fast could be an issue. Depending on grounding, power supply rejection ratios, and power supply separation schemes, supply voltage and current noise can add noise to A/D converter digitization.
 

Hap

Top Veteran
Jan 9, 2016
28
These relatively arcane issues would seem to really confound and detract from the photographic process.
The industry, of course, pushes faster and faster cards to reduce write times and transfer times. I fall for it.
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
As a computer engineer, those issues are always first and foremost in my mind "on the job". Learned all about them 35 years ago when debugging hardware.
 

Hap

Top Veteran
Jan 9, 2016
28
All of this speaks to the deeper issue of the utter primacy of electronics and computerization of photoimaging. Not that optics is left behind because the product is highly integrated. However, the huge electronics giants now have the edge since image formation so dependent on their expertise and market savvy. Leica can't compete with that head to head. How many new Zeiss cameras has anyone bought lately?
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
With that in mind- Leica also has the problem of a lens mount with a short flange distance. Add to that: Leica mount wide-angle lenses are typically not retro-focus designs, sit even closer to the image plane. Bad enough to make work with a CCD, even more difficult with CMOS. Design trade-offs come into play, in the case of the CMOSIS sensor the witing plane was brpught incloser to the light-sensitive portion of the chip. I wonder if that led to some of the banding problems. The move to CMOS from CCD was to go "Head-to-Head" to add live-view and video to the camera. The Dalsa 32MPixel CCD shows significant improvement to dynamic range and resolution compared to the KAF-18500 used in the M9. It would be interesting to see an M-Mount camera built around that sensor. And- it's available from the manufacturer in both color and monochrome versions.
 

Hap

Top Veteran
Jan 9, 2016
28
When you think about it, there are massive teams of electrical and computer engineers at Sony and Panasonic with access to their own , in house, hardware ...as well as rooms/floors/building/city blocks ...full of countless programmers....etc to throw at photo/video imaging projects. Samsung has the same but strangely fell off the face of the earth.....partly because of one cell phone model that they made too small for the non replaceable battery and it shorted when hot.
 

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