Leica M in low light
Low light performance of the Leica M (Typ 240) digital rangefinder camera.
10 Photos • 03 March 2014
The Leica M (Typ 240) is the successor of the M9 and M9-P digital rangefinder cameras by Leica. It features a new 24MP CMOS. imaging sensor, a ‘upgraded’ rangefinder mechanism that is supposed to be more precise and some other upgrades that are not in the scope of this article.
In this article I’ll be focussing on the low light capabilities of the new Leica M (Typ 240).
The new sensor the ‘Leica Max 24 MP Sensor’ is the first CMOS sensor to be found in a Leica digital rangefinder camera, lots of people were worried that Leica would loose the CCD, or Leica ‘look’. It features as the name states 24 mega pixels, and has a range from ISO 200 – 3200 with ISO 6400 stated as ‘push’.
The switch from CCD to CMOS made it possible to build in ‘Live-View’ and video recording capabilities, features I wasn’t waiting for, and neither were a lot a other Leica users. The increased light sensitivity of the sensor was welcome though since the M9(-P) lacked high ISO capabilities, the M9 ISO range goes from ISO 160 – 2500 but in my opinion was for colour use only usable up to ISO 800, and for monochrome images usable up to ISO 1250.
When I got my M (Typ 240) I was so used to not going over ISO 800 that I didn’t even try it the first weeks of use, but then I saw how clean the images were at ISO 800, that I had to try. I asked myself: ‘Would it really be that much better?’
Yes it is that much better, I can easily use the M (Typ 240) up as high as ISO 3200 and sometimes higher, for monochrome images. Even for colour ISO 3200 is very usable, but the exposure has to be right, and certainly not underexposed. This applies to all cameras if you ask me. Dynamic range gets less and lower the higher you set the ISO as expected, but even at ISO 3200 the files, if exposed correctly are still very usable and ‘shop-able’. Colour and exposure adjustments can still be applied up to a certain level.
The noise pattern of the M (Typ 240) is very natural for a CMOS sensor, most of the noise is luminance noise, which is the noise I prefer over the colour noise. A grainy image is okay with me, as long as I don’t get all sorts of funny colour noise over my images.
Being that the Leica M (Typ 240) is a mirror less camera, with a physical vertical focal plane shutter that rates from 1/4000th of a second to 8 whole seconds, and longer using bulb. You can easily use handheld shutter speeds much slower than with a (D)SLR since there is no slapping mirror going up right before the exposure starts and down right after the exposure ends. The shutter is also much more quiet compared to the M9(-P) but does have a more electronic sound to it, compared to the more ‘mechanical’ sound the M8(.2) and M9(-P) have. The camera does not feature any image stabilizing and neither do the lenses.
I can safely say that the M (Typ 240) is a lot better than its predecessor the M9(-P) both in dynamic range, and high ISO capabilities. The shutter is less noisy, and the overal handeling of the camera has also become better.