DxO Leica M scores


I'm no fan of DxO. Their measurements and scores, however they are achieved, often bear no relationship to image quality and they fail to take into account the specialist nature of some sensors. I dread to think what their score would be for a Sigma DP Merrill for example, probably going into a minus number!

They have just published the results for the new Leica M, and whatever you (I) think of their methodology and the usefulness of the results, this is bound to stir up some debate. They have recently done the Leica M9 and M-E (basically the same sensor) and unsurprisingly, both didn't get great scores. Neither have great high ISO performance or dynamic range, but as I and others have been saying for years under the right circumstances there are few cameras that can better them. Low ISO being essential for this.

The Leica M however is somewhat different. Leica themselves have made a great play of its high ISO performance and the fact that its a C-MOS sensor. Therefore they are very much pushing it as a camera that can operate in the same territory as DSLR's. They have decided that this is the way to go with their top of the range camera, leaving the wonders and disappointments of the 18MP CCD sensor to the M-E. 

As you can see from the graphic above the M doesn't do very well in DxO terms. It falls short of the RX1 and the D800E, which I believe has achieved the highest ever DxO score, for what thats worth. This is bound to create a stir, not least from Leica owners who will be rubbishing DxO in the forums. 

I can't really do much to come to any decision on this. I'm not going to be buying a Leica M, so I wont be doing any comparisons. My only comment is that I've looked at raw samples from the M and its obvious that its a different camera from the M9. The files look different. More 'conventional' is not the right word but its headed in the right direction. Certainly what I got from the raw files was closer to my Nikons than to my M9, and as far as I'm concerned thats not neccesarily a good thing. But then there may well be other Leica users or those who are contemplating being Leica users who think that is indeed a good thing.

The problem I guess is that you can buy 3 D800E's for the price of a Leica M and (just about) 2 RX1's. With the Nikon and the Sony you get AF (and with the D800E a lot more than that) and with the Nikon you have a lens choice that means you won't end up spending as much as you spent on the camera on 2 (or three if you're lucky) lenses. The M is also a slightly bigger, bulkier camera than the M9, plus it now has an EVF option and the capacity to shoot video. So this isn't a specialist camera anymore, this is an attempt to spread the appeal of the brand and make it more 'mainstream'. Whether this is a mistake or a brilliant marketing decision is only something that will be revealed in time. 

It is of course almost impossible to read anything about Leica without mention of how much they cost, and this piece is no exception. When the M9 was their premium camera, there was an argument to be made that its output was unique, and under those optimum conditions I mentioned earlier there was nothing to rival it. However if that is no longer the case and there is indeed nothing 'special' about the output from the M then does that leave Leica more open to the often repeated criticism that these are 'playthings of the rich"? I'm not really planning to go down that road and I'm hoping Chris Handley will give us an idea of what its really like when his arrives, which means more to me than anything from DxO.

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Leica M .DNG samples


There are some Leica M .DNG raw file samples HERE (click on PERFORMANCE PROOFS) and HERE.

Do have a look for yourselves, but for me it seems the rumours were true, using a CMOS sensor has improved the high ISO performance, though its nothing great, but the "magic" of the M9 CCD seems missing. The images are sharp enough, but nothing my D800E can't better with another 12MP crammed onto the sensor. There is also the odd bit of banding here and there.

I was particularly disappointed with the ISO 200 shots. Don't get me wrong, they are good, there's no denying that, but special? Not for me. I just wonder why Leica have gone this way? They surely don't think they can compete with Canon and Nikon, do they? There is nothing that I've seen here that betters a Nikon D600 + top of the range Nikon primes and surely for the price of the camera and lenses shouldn't that be Leicas top priority? This camera may yet make the RX1 seem like a bargain!!

There is of course the rangefinder experience, for what its worth, and of course the capacity to use virtually any lens made with an aperture ring via adapters. But if Leica lenses can only produce something like this, then I'm not sure that there is much point. There is also the possibility to add the rebadged Olympus VF-2 and use focus peaking, so basically a NEX-7 copy then!!  

Do check the samples out (some are on the Leica site so they must think they are representative of the final product) and make up your own mind, but as far as I'm concerned I was expecting more from a sensor with no AA filter. I bet you still can't get hold of one for the next year unless you have reserved one however. 

N.B. By the way if someone cares to send me one I'd love to do a comparison with my Sigma DP Merrills!! 


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Leica M samples



There are some Leica M samples (allegedly) via this link on Leica Rumors. Now I know there is one Soundimageplus regular who has one of these on order who might be somewhat dismayed to see the amount of dust, and what looks like a hair on the sensor. 

The exif data does look like they might be real and certainly the spots and other crap in the picture do lend them a certain degree of authenticity!!. Lets hope this is just a not very careful photographer, but I must say, just like Han Solo "I got a bad feeling about this!"

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Leica M samples


There are some Leica M samples via a chain of links starting here. Not very impressive. As someone mentioned, looks like a Canon! Obviously these are shot by what appears to be a pretty uninspiring photographer, but he was holding an M, so they could well be genuine.

When I first read about the CMOS sensor and good high ISO performance I did wonder. If these prove to be typical, and thats obviously open to serious question, then I wonder how Leica fans will respond? I was considering putting myself down on a list to get one of the first ones, but I kept thinking about all the CMOS sensors I've used and in the end decided not too.

Not sure why anyone would buy a Leica if the images look like they were shot on a DSLR. There is also the thought about why Leica introduced the M-E with the M9 sensor, did they know that the Leica M output was going to be somewhat un-Leica? Plus are they somehow thinking that pro photographers will flock to the Leica M if they make the output look like its from a DSLR? If they are I think they may be in for a bit of a disappointment. As far as I'm concerned Leica have already lost their sharpness advantage to Sigma, and a file output similar to a high-end Canon or Nikon isn't going to tempt me back the red dot, nor a lot of others either I suspect.


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Some quick thoughts on the Leica announcements.



Now I've just read the Leica website VERY carefully and the Leica M description mentions nothing about having no AA / Low Pass filter whereas the Leica M-E description makes a point of saying that its doesn't have one. 

So does this mean that the Leica M has an AA filter? It uses the same EVF as the X2, is partly weather sealed and is supposed to be faster. The worrying thing for me is how they make a big thing about how good it is at high ISO settings. There is talk by the way, that this is NOT the Sony 24MP sensor but made by a company called CMOSIS - here is their website.

So are we about to see a Leica M camera that produces images like a Canon or Nikon? If we are then why not buy..... You know the rest.

The M-E seems to be yet another M9 variation, this time with a quieter shutter and a rather nasty looking grey finish, so I'll ignore that.

More details will surely emerge soon, but are we about to see a different kind of Leica M? EVF is good. Focus peaking is good. If it takes R-Mount lenses and uses the same EVF as the X2 then that is good, because it means you can use other lenses on it as well. But Leica M's to me are about three things. Image Quality, Image Quality and Image Quality. I've got plenty of cameras that are fast, shoot video, have live view and can take SLR type lenses. I've got one that takes 36MP files and costs half the price of this as well. 

So all boxes ticked apart from the most important one. We may get some details about the sensor and resolution in the coming days but have Leica just shot themselves in the foot, I wonder? Who needs a £5100 35mm sized sensor rangefinder that produces the same quality as a DSLR? I know I don't, does anybody else??

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Leica M and M-E



So there you go, not one but TWO new Leica M cameras. The enigmatically named Leica M with 24MP and some kind of EVF and the M-E with what seems to be the the M9 sensor yet again.

Here's the Leica website link - http://uk.leica-camera.com/photography/m_system/   to which I'm returning to see if I need to sell a kidney. 

Oh I forgot there's this as well.


The perfect antidote to those who say Leicas are just male jewellery!!!

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