Vintage Digital – Leica M Type 240 Preview Part 1: The Arrival… Followed by a Departure.

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I did it. I did the thing. Like I said in a recent post:

And we all know that eventually one day I will likely buy that Leica.

Leica Files Part 1: The Arrival... Followed by a Departure.

All is not well so far. But more on that later.

A series of things led to this.

Vintage Analog/Digital Price Flip Flop

There was a time when analog M mount cameras were the way to go because digital Leica M bodies were prohibitively expensive. But they are not what one would call cheap either. As previously mentioned I took quite the walk down analog M mount lane. Went from the Leica M3 to the Voigtlander Bessa R2, to the Leica CL. But none did the trick. Mainly because I really wanted a Leica M6. Or at least what the Leica M6 offered. Namely:

  • In body exposure that the M3 did not offer.
  • A longer base length than the Bessa and CL offered.
  • Better ergonomics than the CL.

Held back by the price of older M6s I waited to see how the new Leica M6 would be priced. As expected it brought a premium. From the time I had started considering an M6 their values steadily rose. Not surprising since this is the case with just about all of the analog M mount bodies. Had bought both the M3 and Bessa R2 for less than a thousand and they have risen to over a thousand dollars since. The M6 once priced in the two thousands has now cracked three thousand dollars. That is when the Konica Hexar RF popped up, I jumped on it, and could not be more pleased. Added the pluses of the M6 with the added benefit of AE and AEL aperture priority modes. A win in my book.

TTArtisan M 28mm F5.6

To say I have been happy with this camera would be an understatement.

Some may correctly point out that being all electronic once it dies it is game over. But at a 1/3 the price of an M6 I am ok with that. Could buy another Hexar RF and still be up a grand at current prices.

Then something else happened. I stopped shopping for digital M bodies a while ago because of the high price of entry. But I wondered if digital M bodies were appreciating in value like the analog ones. Sure, analog Leica M cameras are rising but digital M bodies usually do so at a slower pace. But only one body really interested me.

The two that were somewhat affordable had significant issues.

Leica M8

  • Crop sensor. That about did it for me. The same reason I have not seriously considered a brand new Pixii.

Leica M9

From here I will work backward.

Leica M11

  • A lovely camera, but at this price point I could not ignore the similar MP’d, many more feature having, and $5,079 less expensive Sony A7RV.

Leica M10

I have not mentioned mid model cycle variants like monochrome models or special editions. All often remove features (no color, no live view, and even no screen), do little more than add a celebrity association (Exhibit A and B) or body material, and raise the price. Nope. Fine for others and I am not here to judge. Whatever floats your boat. Just not for me.

The Goldilocks M on paper. The Leica M Type 240.

First off the name makes no sense. In a series that runs from M1 to M11 this is the only one that tossed the number after the M. Whatever Leica was on they snapped out of it with the M10. Will call it the M240 from here out.

First off the price.

As much as makes no sense to me while the M6 steadily increases in value the Leica M240 has dipped below it. I was stunned by this. Makes sense that this would occur eventually but I did still find it surprising. But KEH had yet another surprise. Before I get to that what is so great about the M240? Welp.

Addresses my issues with the M8 and M9.

  • Full frame.
  • No corrosion or reliability issues.
  • 24MP (Which I consider my full frame MP sweet spot.) as opposed to the 10.3MP of the M8 or the 18MP of the M9.

Adds a few key features that are Leica firsts.

  • Aforementioned higher 24MP resolution.
    • Carried on with the M10.
  • Live View.
    • Heresy to some but a welcome add-on for focusing fast apertures and non M glass.
  • EVF compatibility.
  • Battery.
    • Long lasting battery. Lasts days according to reviews.
  • Video.
    • Heresy to just about everyone that was quickly abandoned and has not been seen on an M body since.

“Downsides.”

I put this in quotes because Leicas technically have many downsides when compared to other cameras on the market feature for feature. But Leica M cameras are not feature for feature propositions. You have to want a specific experience. A rangefinder experience. And I count myself in that number. Some point to other more esoteric rationalizations, but most can be successfully emulated elsewhere for me. Until Konica, Zeiss, and Voigtlander resurrects their past analog Hexar RF, Zeiss Ikon, and Bessa Rs in digital form, respectively, (I will not be holding my breath.) Leica is the only digital rangefinder game in town. Some Leica adherents disparage the M240.

  • Thick body.
    • Many have complained about this but it rates as a meh in my book.
  • Less than stellar high ISO performance.
    • Yeah… I happily shoot with film and SIGMA Quattro sensors (Better kept at ISO 800 or less.) so usable 1600 or 3200 ISO sounds great to me.
  • Video.
    • I fully realize that this was listed above, but video is best left ignored. Which I plan to do.

But all of that still did not get me fully there. Slightly less than an M6 still costs almost $3,000. Then KEH hooked me. A Bargain grade M240 for less than the typical asking price for a potentially corroded sensor riddled M9. That still did not get me fully there.

My wife gave me the last push. This recent Christmas weekend I muttered aloud, “This is an issue.”, when I saw it. She heard me and was concerned. When I told her what it was about she said, “That is it? Buy it tonight before someone else does based on what you have told me in the past.”… Yes, ma’am. And that is exactly what I did. What a lovely woman.

The Arrival.

This is perhaps the second time I have held a digital Leica M in my hands. It was every bit as impressive as I have read and remembered.

Leica Files Part 1: The Arrival... Followed by a Departure.

Leica goodness.

Feel.

It is hard to believe that this is a camera that was released 10 years ago. It feels as well put together as anything on the market now. I am not surprised. The Leica M3 I owned felt the same way and was made many decades ago. I had second guessed the purchase multiple times but all doubts washed away once I held it in hand.

User Experience.

Switchgear moved positively with solid clicks. Viewfinder was bright and the correct frame lines came up. Pressed the shutter button and there it was. That wonderfully light click. Menus were easy to navigate and I quickly set the camera up.

Image Quality.

It is there. Even when using my 7Artisans lens I could see the look on the back screen.

Back screen focus.

Easy to use and was able to grab focus quickly.

Rangefinder.

Looked through the rangefinder, lined up those two images quickly and click. Quickly look at the back of the camera. Looks good. I keep going. Then I went back and started zooming in on the images…

Dun, dun, dun.

Oh no. Tried my other lenses and more of the same. Set the lens to infinity and it was off. That confirmed the issue. The M240’s rangefinder is out of calibration. My first reaction was, “To the internets!”

Path 1: Send off for repair.

After a quick search of repair options, it looked like a trip to home base in Germany and quite a bit of money was needed for repairs.

Path 2: Adjust the lens.

Theoretically possible. Huge issue with this approach though. If I adjust the lenses to line up with the M240 they will no longer focus with the Konica Hexar or any other rangefinder camera. Nope.

Path 3: DIY?

Nope. The instructions were fairly straightforward, but I did not want to risk it. Already apprehensive about making things worse watching what needed to be done and was a definite nope.

Part 4: Acceptance.

Came to the conclusion that I had to send it back. Sure, I could pay the extra hundreds required to buy the Excellent grade M240 but I did not want to ask any more of my wife. This was the outer limits of what I was willing to spend for a pure want. This just must not be the time.

Then came a surprise. Called KEH, they apologized, offered to refund my purchase, but then offered yet another option.

KEH: We will repair it if you want us to.

What? For free?

KEH: Yes.

If it cannot be fixed will I be refunded my purchase price?

KEH: Yes.

That works for me.

KEH: I have set up the repair and will send you the shipping information.

Cool. Kudos to you KEH. And this was no special treatment. I wrote for them for two years but the person on the phone would not have known that. Just great service.

The Departure.

It took a while to get there due to the holidays, but it is back in KEH’s hands. The expected repair turnaround is four weeks and fingers crossed al will go well.

More to come.

Regardless of the outcome KEH has impressed me.

-ELW

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