f/5.6, 1/180, ISO 800

I grew up with a tradition that there were two days in a year when you could expect gifts; at Christmas and on your birthday. Well, my birthday is still to come this year, but it seems that Bresson is used to Christmas several times a year.

Leica M, f/8.0, 1/250, ISO 400

Leica M, f/8, 1/250, ISO 400

I was asked if I could test the new Leica M this weekend. I agreed straight away, even due to an assignment which needed to be done until Monday. One or two hours would still fit in my schedule for this «wonder of technology» made in Germany. I decided to document a project with huge balconies in my neighbourhood.

Leica M, f/8, 1/500, ISO 400

Leica M, f/8, 1/500, ISO 400

This milestone of a camera fell into my hands just like a stone. It felt a bit thicker and heavier than my Leica M9-P, but it is still clearly a Leica M. I discovered that the extra weight was because of the attached Leica Summilux-M 50mm 1.4, (I have the Summicron-M 50mm which is much lighter), and because of the larger battery. The capacity is needed for the live view and filming. Yes, as you already may know you can film with the Leica M. I left this feature untouched in the test and concentrated on the photography. I got familiar with the new M very fast because it is as intuitive as the M9 and the M Monochrom.

Leica M, f/9.5, 1/750, ISO 400

Leica M, f/9.5, 1/750, ISO 400

The Leica M is equipped with the new Maestro chip. A presence you notice straight away. The first click – almost silent and silky light – familiar from the analog and more mechanical Leicas. Oh, it is really quiet and smooth. In no seconds the image appears on the much larger, sharper and in general much improved screen. Wow, that was fast! It can capture several images in a row and quiet and discretely zoom into the picture without delays. Thank you Maestro! Open f-stop shot. Live view on – check – and shoot. I know that other brands have had this function for years, but finally now the Leica M has it. Noctilux and Summilux owners will smile.

Leica M, f11, 1/350, ISO 400

Leica M, f/11, 1/350, ISO 400

I have challenged the new Leica M in high contrast situations. Usually I use a lot of exposure compensations and corrections on assignments, so I had to check the new improved light metering. It has multi zone metering, a feature I am familiar with from my Leica S and Leica R9. I rely on them and feel that they always back me up in extreme situations. When it comes to light metering I prefer to concentrate on the motives instead of the technical issues, so each improvement is welcome. The Leica M is clearly improved. I must admit that I was impressed with the results even in extreme situations.

Leica M, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO 200

Leica M, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO 200

Did someone mention 24 megapixels and standard ISO up to 3200 and pushed to 6400? Now that was really something I was waiting for. I feel it is an absolute must to be able to shoot under low light conditions. Due to the demand of higher resolution and handhold images today,  the importance of high ISO values is not discussable. This was for me the biggest improvement. I photographed under different conditions and with different ISO values. I also compared my M9-P to the new Leica M on some of the images.

ISO test. No editing. Leica M, f/9.5, 1/1000, ISO 2500. Click for larger image.

ISO test. No editing. Leica M, f/9.5, 1/1000, ISO 2500. Click for larger image.

ISO test. No editing. Leica M, f/9.5, 1/1500, ISO 3200. Click for larger image.

ISO test. No editing. Leica M, f/9.5, 1/1500, ISO 3200. Click for larger image.

ISO test. No editing. Leica M, f/8, 1/3000, ISO 6400. Click for larger image.

I was very happy with the improvements of my new Leica S, though I must admit I could have easily lived on with my Leica S2. With the new Leica M it is a different cavity. While the update from Leica S2 to Leica S was an evolution I feel that the Leica M update is a small revolution. The camera is built up from the ground and you feel this straight away. So if you plan to place an order, something I did at Photokina, I would maybe order two batteries. The power consumption is high, especially during filming and if you use live view.

Leica M, f/8, 1/500, ISO 200

Leica M, f/8, 1/500, ISO 200

Well, the Leica M9 is still a great camera without any doubt, and I assume many will keep their jewel. On the other hand many who couldn’t afford the M9 will probably look at the second hand marked when the new M arrives. Anyhow you will need to be aware that the new Leica M will drill itself onto your mind.

f/5.6, 1/180, ISO 800

All photos taken with the Leica M and a Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4. This photo: f/5.6, 1/180, ISO 800.

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Damian Heinisch, Leica M

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