The classic endures in 2022 – Leica M240 and 1976 35mm Summicron ver3

Time works very differently for the Leica M (rangefinder) system. To start, the 2022 M11 still works the same way an M240 (released a decade ago) will, much like the much older M9 and M8 cameras.

In fact, one of the most attractive traits about the M system is continuity, like how the M11 will still work perfectly with a 1976 35mm Summicron lens, even when both are easily released close to half a century apart.

Brassing is still a beautiful characteristic of Leica and something I miss in the recently released M cameras.

The Leica M system is ‘timeless’ in the way the system stays consistent and relevant across so many decades.

Recently, probably due to having shot the modern M10 Monochrom (review here) or M10, etc., a thought popped in my mind: should I try a Leica M240 to see how it works for me? Is there worth always chasing after the most modern M camera model?

M10 Monochrom

my 1st experience with Leica M was with the M240, and it was a more hate than love affair.

A few years back when I first tried an M240, I frankly hated the experience coming from a mirrorless background. This was before the release of the M10 in 2017 and I was very unacquainted with the rangefinder focusing experience and lacked the patience to do so. Still, one thing that stayed in my mind was how film-like or uniquely beautiful the M240 images were when I was able to snag a shot.

M240 with 35mm Summicron version 3 (1976)

So….I rented a M240 and here is sharing the Messsucher experience with it.

Practice helps, and I guess across the 4 to 5 years of shooting the M system, I am now much more comfortable with the rangefinder focusing experience. I enjoy using one, even with a model with barely usable live-view.

Unfortunately, while so many people scream at the price of the M system and judge it negatively, most of these people likely haven’t used one for a decent amount of time and in this sense, a point I have to say is:

The rangefinder photography experience on the M is unique, and while not for everyone, it is important to try it before judging.

M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3

One can complain about how using the M240, one should never go beyond ISO1600 (I max mine out at ISO800) and that its 24 megapixels are puny compared to the M11’s 60 megapixels in 2022 but to be honest, how often do we shoot at say, higher than ISO6400 on an M rangefinder system or even, how often do we find 24 megapixels lacking?

M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3

Using the M240 had its share of inconveniences versus the M10 or later variants, for example, a not-as-bright optical viewfinder, a narrower range of usable ISO, and a smaller buffer (try shooting 5 shots on the M240 continuously, and you will understand). Still, then, once one focuses on the craft and in the zone, these are simply slight inconveniences I stopped being bothered about.

M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3

While the modern M cameras have much ‘cleaner’ image output, especially in the noise management area, the M240 has (in my words) a more organic feel to the images.

While the M240 or 35mm Summicron v3 is not likely to top any benchmarks or DXOmark scores, the rendering and colors from it are pleasant and in my words, organic in feeling.

M240 images will not likely win any contest for sharpness in today’s world, yet they feel natural and pleasant to look at. The colours are rendered differently from the modern M cameras too.

M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3

For the readers who are experienced in the M system of cameras, one improvement I do agree on whole-heartily over the years is the consistent drive to simplify the buttons, menu so that simply like how the M10-D pushes this aspect to the extreme, the photographer should simply focus on the capturing the moment.

Nothing much has really changed where it matters over the decades.
M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3
M240, 35mm Summicron v3

To end, somehow, I have this feeling I will likely end up looking for an MP-240 in black paint and enjoy seeing the patina form in the brassing as it follows me around as a part of my life.

M240, 35mm Summicron v3

What do you think?

Self-plug: Not all of my test cameras make it into a review; instead, they go onto my Instagram account. If you don’t mind, follow me at http://www.instagram.com/keith.wee

Disclaimers:

  1. All images shared were photographed by me and edited in Lightroom Classic CC to my preferences.
  2. I only use DNG files with Leica cameras.
  3. I take pride in not being a writer who earns through selling affiliate links and can provide a neutral point of view.
  4. The M240 was running the most current firmware (not that it actually matters)

9 Replies to “The classic endures in 2022 – Leica M240 and 1976 35mm Summicron ver3”

  1. Hi Keith. Sometimes there is too many choices concerning gear till we forget that old gear works just as well. I agree that Leica rangefinders are something that needs an initial investment of patience and time. The rangefinder style of focusing tends to be used to frame centred subjects which is why many of the great images made by Leicas have centred subjects. Focusing and recomposing isn’t as easy with a rangefinder and one tends to rely on depth of field to get sharpness all across the frame. As a Leica user I heartily recommend the system as something everyone should try but do admit it’s something not everyone needs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, that’s a very nice round-up you shared too. I was lacking the understanding that using a rangefinder takes time to be practiced back then and can now understand why too.

      Like

  2. Very well written Keith. I have been using the M system for decades, and one of its best characteristic is its size in bringing around. I do have other systems but nothing comes close to the enjoyment I get from using the M.

    Like

  3. Hi Keith. Unlike most, my pathway started through film. I’ve been using 35mm and medium format film for just over a year and it has been a challenging and exceptional experience. If not for film, I possibly would not have started using a Leica. I paired my Leica film bodies with Zeiss lenses : 35mm F2.8, both Zeiss 50mm Planar and Sonnars and there has been a great deal of delight which has been missing since i started digital photography. Looking at your 35mm Summilux review and your images, I’ve decided to proceed and purchase a 50mm Summilux. I have no doubt a digital M body will follow. Possibly a M11. There’s no right or wrong with any gear. But Leica does record life.

    Liked by 1 person

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