Leica M review: How does the new 24-megapixel CMOS sensor in Leica’s latest rangefinder perform?

By Paul Carroll - Thursday March 14 2013

Sensor Review
Introduction | Leica M sensor performance | Leica M versus competition | Conclusion

Announced at Photokina 2012 the new Leica M digital rangefinder camera is available for pre-order and expected to ship soon. Although the 4th rangefinder in the M range to feature a full frame sensor, Leica have changed from the previously used Truesense 18Mp CCD to a CMOSIS 24Mp CMOS model. With new features added too expectations are running high, so lets get under the hood and see what it has to offer.

Retiring previous M9 and M9 P versions this latest model - known simply as the Leica M, sits alongside the Leica M-E Typ 220 as the two full frame cameras in the German manufacturer’s renowned M series. With a list price of $6950 (body only), streamlined functionality and rangefinder viewfinders Leica cameras are unusual in the digital era but they continue to hold reverence with some photojournalists.

Quality engineering using brass and magnesium combined with simple controls and petite proportions make the M solid as well as portable and quick for reportage photographers. The rangefinder style of composition provides a rough indication of framing using guidelines in the viewfinder that adjust as you change lens. This is done via a sensor in the body to read the lens profile and allows the image processor to apply lens-based corrections as files are saved.  

Compatible with both M mount as well as Leica R lenses via the $310 R Adapter M, there’s a wide choice of high quality Leica optics available for the M, but it only offers manual focus. The new 3.0in 920k LCD does feature live view for more precise framing however and makes shooting with macro or telephoto lenses a realistic possibility. Live view also offers a 10x magnification for precise manual focus.

Despite remaining true to simplicity this latest model does incorporate a few updated specs such as HD video, a 100 - 6400 ISO range, 3fps burst shooting and compatibility with the $465 EVF2 viewfinder, which plugs into the hot shoe, but there’s no built-in flash. Lets find out if the new 24-megapixel CMOS sensor can catch up with the latest DSLR competition. 

Leica M sensor performance

Leica M versus competition