Leica M video reviews

A new video review of the Leica M just got published by The Camera Store. If you are interested in the video capabilities of the new M, check also this post by Cinema5d:

Leica M type 240- video review. (Non of the written here is relevant to the photo section of this camera)

Deep into the 4th year of the HDSLR revolution Leica released the M 240, their full frame camera costing $6950.

Spending a day with the camera left me wondering, was Leica ever talking to any professional cameraman before implementing HD recording for this unit or just decided to “join a trend” without really meaning this camera to be a capable working video tool?.

To my opinion, the video quality coming out of the camera is very disappointing and its operation in video mode is nothing but easy/logical. I hope features/video quality can be enhance with a firmware update.

Let me start gentle and highlight the M camera strengths:

-Great battery life
-Nice LCD screen
-Useful good quality electronic viewfinder
-Ability to control audio levels during video recording
-Minimize moire and aliasing
-Peaking (although not always very visible when you need it)

Camera weaknesses:

-No dedicated video mode. Camera is always in photo mode looking at the 4:3 sensor.
There is no way to correctly frame your subject BEFORE hitting the video record button, only then the 16:9 bars will appear
-Video compression is very visible without the ability to choose higher bit rate
-Video quality is very disappointing. Fine details are lacking resolution
-Up to 4 Gigs video files. Camera will record to the max file size limit OR 29 min. what ever comes first (In practice, there is no way to know when your recording time limit will hit as the camera is using variable compression encoding rate).
-Limited frame rates, up to 25p in HD mode
-No HDMI connector
-No headphone jack
-No mic input placed in the camera body
-Severe rolling shutter
-There is no way to connect the dedicated electronic viewfinder and the dedicated external mic adapter at the same time. They are both using the hot shoe mount and electronic plug. In practice, if you want to shoot with a viewfinder and connect external mic at the same time you can’t
-No “flat” picture profile
-Users who needs to use “shutter 50” will find out that the shutter wheel has none. They will have to place the shutter wheel between “30 to 60”. The LCD screen will then show S45 and only when hitting the record button it will change to s50.....
-While working with the supplied EVF there is no way to adjust its brightness when looking inside it. The changes will happen in the menu only so you can not compare the differences within the finder.
-Camera exposure in video mode is always “automatic”. You need to press the shutter release half way to get the “correct” exposure and then play with aperture on the lens.
-No way to judge the correct exposure in video mode. The lack of HDMI and ability to connect an external monitor to overcome or help is not possible
-Only the center of picture can be zoomed in as focusing aid. No way to "travel" inside the picture
-No way to zoom-in while recording to check focus

Camera settings for this short test feature:

ISO: 800 indoor, outdoor 200
White balance set to Kelvin values
1080@25fps

Picture profile: “Film Mode off” (for the entire video but sec 2:01-2:12 when I used smooth color film)
Contrast: Low
Saturation: Low
Sharpness: Off

Firmware version 1.1.0.2

Equipment used:
Leica M type 240
R-lenses with R-to-M adapter:
Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmar-R f/4.0
Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0
M-lenses:
Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
Leica 90mm APO-Sumicron-M ASPH f/2.0
Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
Macro footage was done with the Leitz M-to-M macro adapter "Oufro" and Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95

Visoflex EVF2 electronic viewfinder
Olympus external mic adapter EMA-1
Sennheiser G2 wireless set
Sanken Cos 11 Lavalier
Litepanels Sola ENG kit
Various Kata bags
Mini skater

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  • dannybuoy

    Oh dear. Most will argue Leica is all about photography anyway. Video on the M sounds like a side effect of the new sensor. Not really implemented with any real consideration. Shame. Another tick in the reasons not to upgrade from M9 box… Shame

  • Camaman

    Judging by that list of cons Leica wasn’t serious about offering a good tool for potential videographers. Most of those should have been implemented.

    For a $7k you should get it right the first time.

    • scott

      Any sane videographer wouldn’t buy a Leica with its non-cine (and very expensive) lens lineup. It’s a camera made to take pictures. Video was a (poor) add-on.

      • Boosh

        I don’t even think it was an add on. Just a side effect of CMOS.

  • Boosh

    Great Review from the Camera Store!

  • http://Raylarose.com/ Raymond Larose

    This is a nice, honest review of what the M (typ 240) can and can not do. I think video was a huge mistake and verifies my M-E purchase as the right one. I think the M-E will be the last of the “purist” Leica’s and will be a keeper for me. And though the CCD sensor is older, it’s the “quality” of that sensor that brought me to Leica. To me, CMOS is what all the other guys do – so why follow suit and be lost in the masses?

    • scott

      You don’t have to use the video feature if you don’t want to. There are other justifications for the $1500 difference between the M-E and the M 240: live view (no more extremely expensive viewfinders, and much better focusing with long lenses), better ISO performance (finally!!!), quieter shutter, better still image quality, weather sealing, longer battery life, etc.

      $1500 is a lot, but for the features offered, I wouldn’t regret it.

      • http://Raylarose.com/ Raymond Larose

        I do hear ya Scott, thanks. It’s not for me, but still a sweet camera!

    • Leica Specialist

      You can’t just call only what you bought a “purist” Leica. What do people call the film Leicas then? Grow up.

      • http://Raylarose.com/ Raymond Larose

        Really? Grow up? Because I like the ME and think its closer to a “purist” style you’re going to be a douchebag? I didn’t diss the 240 – just stated its not for me. Nice.

  • Boosh

    Video quality is terrible. OK on static locked off shots, first bit of movement and it’s is really really bad.

  • prophoto

    This guy’s an idiot

  • Nobody Special

    So Leica didn’t think this through? Or is this fixable with a firmware update?
    There is (perhaps) a pattern here; that Leica has reached the edges of the M platform usefulness. Although the live-view does seem more than adequate to use R lenses (and M glass) for still images – the video ‘capability’ does seem to be an simple add-on after thought based on the video quality.

    So, perhaps Leica should stick to what the camera is best for – as a rangefinder body for still imaging – maybe that can change but why bother -unless it’s really useable with quality and ease of use? Oh, the pattern… maybe the big-shots at Leica should stand back – stop with the back-slapping ‘aren’t we good’ PR parties, and be humble…for once.

  • http://twitter.com/EvilTeddie EvilTeddie

    If Sony made a removable lens version of the RX-1 with either an optical finder or AF that could track moving subjects, do you think anyone would buy into the M system today as a new user?

    • Camaman

      Yes, because people love tradition and many want more “class” from their cameras than Sony P&S, be it big sensor, small sensor, interchangeable lens or fixed lens, can offer.

      People like to buy and use expensive, limited gear.

      • bob2

        That’s a very limited, prejudiced view of Leica users in general. How about the fact that Leica offers certain features that no other camera maker offers, like manual rangefinder focusing inside a bright optical viewfinder? The Sony or Fuji don’t have this. Funny how Fuji is trying to emulate the focusing system/experience in their X series, with varying degrees of success.

        It’s not about status, it’s about the unique features that the tool has. If Sony made a digital rangefinder, I’d buy it instead–I certainly am not happy giving Leica obscene amounts of money for a limited use tool. If Epson made a RD2, I’d likely buy it instead of Leica–not because of any exclusivity, but because of the ability to manual focus quickly with the rangefinder, bright optical viewfinder with framelines, the discreet appearance, low noise, etc., etc., etc. Too bad Epson never followed up their RD1.

  • Bryan Campbell

    Most of the problems with video are fixable by Leica with firmware updates.

    – Give us options for lower compression recording even if that means less time.

    – If the limitation is 29 minutes or 4 gigs (whichever comes first) then please display a countdown of data / time on the LCD / EVF while recording video… That way we know when it’s going to be cut off.

    – Have an option in the menu to show 16:9 framing… via LCD / EVF
    – Flat picture profile would also be easy for them to add

  • peter

    OK it’s a poor video grabber -and probabely a lousy hammer as well. who cares.

  • carlo

    there are no hustify for Leica M240 high price, in the past Leica M9 cost very high ONLY becouse a CCD full frame is expensive much more a CMOS.
    Now this new M sensor and features are Canon 5dmk3 like: so?

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