I was toying with the idea for a while to upgrade my Leica M Monochrom based on the M9 and its CCD sensor (henceforth I shall call it MM9) to the just released new Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246/M246) that is based on the newer Leica M-P and sports a CMOS sensor. There is much said about the differences between the two sensor types, so I won’t repeat them all, but I believe there is a lot of merit to both technologies. And in all truth if Leica wouldn’t have made me an undeniable offer to swap my MM9 for the new M246 then I would have probably stayed with the MM9. There was really very little I would have to complain about the MM9. So we part ways with one or two tears in my eye :).
The new M246 feels like a modern camera and much less like a “classic” like the MM9 did. It’s still very hefty and solid. But it’s also snappier, quicker and much more silent (the strange shutter noise of the MM9 was one of the complaints I had). The LCD display on the back can finally be used to assess the image you have just taken. The small low-res screen on the MM9 that seemed to be a left-over from another century was good for navigating the menus, but forget about using it for telling whether an image was a hit or miss – in particular if you nailed the focus or not. Before using Live View and only reading about it I would have never thought I would find it useful. Mainly because I’m a real fan of the rangefinder. But if you want to shoot from a different perspective (i.e. from the ground or high up) you can’t focus with the rangefinder unless you are a contortionist. Live View really comes in handy here. The focus peaking is not only a nice to have, but when using LV it’s a must. Otherwise it would be very hard to determine focus on the LCD. In addition with Live View you can use all sorts of wide-angle or tele lenses (and from the R-series) that would otherwise require an additional rangefinder module specifically for that lens. That said, that is not a concern for me since I only use a 35 and 50mm lens on my Leicas (for now).
But the most important part is certainly image quality. It’s very hard to top the image quality of the “old” MM9. Its way of rendering is very unique. Almost film-like. That’s what made the initial “Monochrom” so special and that is the reason why I loved it so much. So I was somewhat hesitant if the new M246 would really deliver a better image quality. I haven’t used the M246 enough to be able to make a final judgement, but what I can say is that the images look different. In particular the highlights seem to have a very nice “glow” that gives the image a certain “aura”. It’s very hard to describe, but it’s something special. Where the MM9 was prone to blow the highlights and you in general would have to use exposure compensation by minus 1/3 stop the new M246 isn’t blowing the highlights at all but keeps a nice structure in it. Which is I believe one of the hardest things to achieve for a digital sensor since the tonal difference in the highlights is so minute that both hardware and software need to be very sophisticated to keep them as separate tones.
But pictures tell more than thousand words. So here is one of the first images I took with the new “Monochrom” on a trip to Berlin at Leipzig Hbf (Central Station). Please note that the image is processed in Lightroom CC 2015 and Silver Efex Pro with the Tri-X preset. So the “grain” you see is not from the M246 itself but added in post. I will for sure continue to post my experiences with my new “Monokuro”.
Make sure you click the image to see the full-res version.
Update (6/26/15): For a comparison of the actual image quality with the “old” MM9 I have posted a completely unedited version of the above photo below (again, click to enlarge to see a full-res version).