Next Leica M/SL camera body must be high resolution

Next Leica M SL camera body must be high resolution
This article is by Horatio Tan (Website|Instagram|Facebook) Check out his other articles, also available on his website.

It has been two months since I started to publish my Leica reviews on my website. It was a big step for me, but I can only hope that my efforts can add to the rich Leica online community. I didn’t want to do what’s already been done. So I decided to go into another direction, and try to do things that haven’t been done yet – like crazy bokeh comparisons between fast Leica primes to awesome bokeh comparisons between fast Leica, Canon, and Nikon prime lenses.

Recently, I’ve been working on my lexicon of 20 Leica lenses, which I intend to put post as an online resource for reference. Basically, I’m shooting 20 Leica lenses across the aperture range on both a Leica M240 body and a Sony A7r MKII for the 42 megapixel resolution. Originally, my intent with using the Sony body was to have a baseline for lens comparison between Leica, Canon, and Nikon. However, I made an interesting discovery in the process of examining the larger resolution image files.

Immediately, I noticed that the latest versions 35mm Summicron ASPH II and the 28mm Elmarit ASPH II resolved details noticeably better at higher resolution. This was actually something that I’ve been speculating for a while, ever since my 3 generations of Leica 35mm Summicron comparsion, when I first started publish online.

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Figure 1: 35mm Summicron ASPH version 1. Not much perceptible difference between this version and the other version, at this resolution or scale.

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Figure 2: 35mm Summicron ASPH version 2. Not much perceptible difference between this version and the other version, at this resolution or scale.

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Figure 3: 35mm Summicron ASPH version 1. In the enlargement, this version is less sharp. This is evident when you compare the eyelashes to the other version.

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Figure 4: 35mm Summicron ASPH version 2. In the enlargement, this version is more sharp. This is evident when you compare the eyelashes to the other version.

In that review, I didn’t notice any significant difference in lens performance between the previous version and current version 35mm Summicron. To me, that didn’t make any sense, since I assumed that Leica must have had a reason to update the lens. I could only conclude that the new 35mm Summicron, along with the updated 28mm Elmarit and the 28mm Summicron were all designed for the future in mind.

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Figure 5: 28mm Elmarit ASPH version 1. Not much perceptible difference between this version and the other version, at this resolution or scale.

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Figure 6: 28mm Elmarit ASPH version 2. Not much perceptible difference between this version and the other version, at this resolution or scale.

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Figure 7: 28mm Elmarit ASPH version 1. In the enlargement, this version is less sharp. This is evident when you compare the eyelashes to the other version.

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Figure 8: 28mm Elmarit ASPH version 2. In the enlargement, this version is more sharp. This is evident when you compare the eyelashes to the other version.

What future – I could only speculate with the trends followed by the other camera manufacturers – namely –Sony, Canon, and Nikon – who have all released a high resolution camera body.

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Figure 9: 50mm Summicron version V. Not much perceptible difference between this version and the other version, at this resolution or scale.

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Figure 10: 50mm Summicron APO ASPH. Not much perceptible difference between this version and the other version, at this resolution or scale.

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Figure 11: 50mm Summicron version V. In the enlargement, this version is less sharp. This is evident when you compare the eyelashes to the other version.

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Figure 12: 50mm Summicron APO ASPH. In the enlargement, this version is more sharp. This is evident when you compare the eyelashes to the other version.

That was the only conclusion that made sense to me, since it would be illogical for Leica to design new higher resolving lenses for other camera makers, like Sony. And from a business perspective, it made sense, since it injects into the Leica product line a reason for Leica owners to update their lenses, plus the need for them to buy a new high resolution Leica camera body. The only question now is whether this speculated camera body is an M-Mount or an SL-Mount.

This is a Photokina year, so I can only speculate that Leica may make such an announcement then.

For larger sample images with greater detail comparing the previous version 35mm Summicron and current edition 35mm Summicron, please visit my site.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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  • What I really wonder is Leica will put some kind of hibrid EVF on a new M camera. I know (and love) the rangefinder way of focussing but at wider apertures the risk of an oof subject is high.

    • I think this is especially true since Leica customers are growing old, and the ability to manually focus definitely declines with age. A sad truth but not any less true for being sad.

      This is a big reason why I’m more likely to buy a Q than a Rangefinder. Well, in all fairness it also helps that the Q is about $2,000 cheaper than the least expensive rangefinder combination …

      • I own a Q and it’s my workhorse for assignments. And fun/easy to use thanks to its responsiveness.
        I also own a Zeiss Ikon ZM, it has the bigger and brighter rangefinder available (it put to shame that of Leica M cameras), and using it it’s a unique experience, the joy of feeling the shot. Too bad it’s quite a nightmare to shoot it wide open (and I don’t even think of using an 85mm f2 with it..)

        • Interesting, I’ve never heard of the Ikon before now. Why is it a nightmare to shoot wide open?

          • It’s a marvel of a camera, the only drawback is that it requires batteries to operate. Framelines for 85mm lenses are simply a small rectangle in the viewfinder, and at f2 is a hit or miss. I think that’s one reasonwhy Zeiss decided to stop the expensive production of its amazing 85mm f2 lens and released the 85mm f4.
            I think 50mm is the longest focal lenght that allow a “comfortable” f1.4 shoot. Just a personal opinion of course.

      • tslaursen71

        Hehe you are neglecting the worlds best camerasystem/lenses “because the Leica users are getting older”

        Leica Q is a nice camera but nothing compared to the M system cameras.

        A Leica M system camera may be difficult to operate, but if you have a eye for photography, you will be able to make great photographs with a manual camera system.

        • Trouble is, by the time most people can afford a Leica system, your eyes are probably getting weaker. An unfortunate reality of getting old. Has nothing to do with whether the system is great or not; all the wonderful photographs shot with it every year show that it is.

          I really love the design of the SL, but it is horrifyingly expensive. As are the rangefinders.

      • Jonathan Slack

        Well David
        I disagree on two counts:
        1. Leica customers are growing older
        I think they’re growing younger – I know a lot of young leica rangefinder users, shooting both digital and film – some of them professional.

        2. The ability to manually focus declines with age
        Of course – if you’re going blind – but the ability to focus manually declines with lack of practice, not with age. Wearing varifocal glasses can be difficult . . . so, use contact lenses (monovision or progressive to suit).

        Where there’s a will there’s a way – but the real deal with manual focusing is practice – I wear a +2 dioptre contact lens in my focusing eye – but I can still focus quite adequately without it . . . . but if I don’t use it for a couple of weeks, the ability has definitely declined – just like it did years ago.

        • Interesting, please educate me: why do contacts work differently from glasses?

          I have progressive glasses, so they are probably the problem, but I hate the idea of contacts because that means putting something in my eye and taking it out, something my mediocre physical dexterity fears.

          • Jonathan Slack

            Hi David
            They’re different because the frames don’t get in the way . . . and if you can manage monovision (a different prescription in each eye) then there’s no need to wear glasses – I wore progressive glasses for 15 years or so . . . . nowadays I very very rarely use them (looking for contacts in the morning!). It’s lovely not to need to move one’s head about to get the right bit in focus too!

            Disposable contacts are much simpler – just throw them away in the evening.

            As for dexterity – it’s easy – really –

          • I shoot with glasses too. It’s a lot of getting used of but it’s not so and. You can check out my work I shoot with purely the Leica M-D with the 50mm .95 https://www.instagram.com/superbvisual

    • YMN

      I truly hope it’s a hybrid view finder/ rangefinder.

    • TomV

      For photography, rangefinder is fine for me, but EVF would be great for videography or shooting non-M lenses. There was also some talk about a new CCD sensor in the works which makes me dubious about super high resolutions. I think a good compromise would be a new M with a small bump in resolution and no/minimal in-body videography features, but a clean HDMI output for 10 bit 4:2:2 or uncompressed L-log for external recording. SL spec EVF that can also be connected via cable in addition directly to body, so I can shoot a casual test shot with a minimal setup, or shoot something more serious with an EVF attached to a rig. At the end of the day, CCD rangefinder M that handles like a traditional M for photography use but not missing out on video for when I need it.

  • Les

    I hope they don’t increase resolution too much. The current obsession with pixel-peeping has made for some of the most boring photography in any era. Who cares about moire on a brick wall two miles away when there is no compelling reason to look at your images in the first place?

    As my old photography teacher said “you can tell it’s a good picture if you Xerox it and it still holds up.”

    • You had a wise teacher! 🙂
      I think that the crazy resolution of latest cameras simply makes photographers more lazy. No need to frame anymore, when you can crop at will and still retain a useable file.
      Quite a shame..

      • Bo Dez

        Or you are just naive to suggest that’s the only benefit of more megapixels.

    • Bo Dez

      But that doesn’t mean you need to take boring pictures.

  • Ric Ricard

    Not sure the rangefinder technology is precise enough for, say, 36 megapixels. I think the current 24mp is the sweet spot. What the next M needs is a better buffer and an all around more responsive (quicker) interface.

    • ZMWT

      I concur. Even M9’s 18MP is just fine.
      Substituting the sensor is easy; improving in other areas is more valuable.

  • ZMWT

    No more megapickles for a handheld camera, thank you. This high-megapickle race is agitating, Sony drinks vinegar and leads the pack of the insane, but let’s hope some will stick to common sense.
    As others said, make camera more responsive and with deeper buffer, perhaps with on board 32 GB of memory.

  • EnPassant

    While my eyes are not young any more I can’t even with a magnifier see any discernible differences in the 28 an 35mm pairs. Not that it would matter as the hair looks terrible at this magnification.
    There is a clear difference in the 50mm pair. But most likely because of focus not being spot on for the photo made with the old version of the lens.

    As for Leica coming with an M-camera with a sensor having more MP the problem always have been the steep ray angles from Leica lenses. A sensor with more MP would only make this problem worse. But maybe the new lenses have been redesigned to work better with digital sensors, like Zeiss did with the Loxia 35 and 50 lenses, basically keeping the same lens design, just tweaking it a bit with changes in thickness of elements an distance between elements.

    What would be interesting is to test if there is any difference in sharpness on the sides and near corners between the old and new version of the lenses when used on the Sony A7RII.

  • rosestraf

    Maybe Leica needs to join up with the Sony Sensor Crowd…the one they are using today..is poorly produced.

  • Bo Dez

    More MP are needed. 37MP as their highest pixel count camera is getting ridiculous.

  • Jonathan Slack

    Well, I don’t dispute that the new 28 elmarit is sharper than the old, and the 50 APO is certainly sharper than the summicron V. However, the optical formula for the new 35 summicron has not been changed, so I can only speculate that your result here hinges on sample variation, or possibly focus accuracy.

    Personally I hate doing these kinds of tests, because getting accurate focus is so very difficult (Important to do several different shots at each setting and choose the best focus in each case). Using people as subjects makes it even harder because they move (and only a few mm can make a significant difference).

    Added to which, I don’t see that a continual process of improvement of lenses suggests that they will bring out a higher resolution camera (Leica have been doing this for decades – witness the fact that the 50 ‘cron you were using was version V).

    Still, it’s an interesting thesis!

  • Brennan McKissick

    The M doesn’t need more megapixels. They shouldn’t really change anything aside from throwing a better sensor in there with more DR and keep the megapixel count to 24mp or less. If they want to put a higher megapixel sensor into any of their cameras it should be the SL.

    • Chris Sellers

      I agree re megapixels and the SL. I traded in my SL and reverted to the M240 M-P. The image quality and resolution were pretty well identical and more to do with lens choice rather than sensor/megapixel count. My logic being that for no real or noticeable improvement in DR or Res I only needed to carry a relatively small and light M rather than a cumbersome, oversized SL. I agree with the general consensus however – the EVF of the SL is sublime although not enough to persuade me to return to the SL.

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