After using an M8 for several years, it seemed time to see how would the M(240) would compare. And how would the new Sony RX1 stack up? Having been spoiled by MFDB, standards had been raised pretty high - but would the new kids on the block make the grade?
The first step was to go to the local Leica dealer and check out an M9 and M(240) against the M8. After taking a few shots home to compare, the M9 seemed very much like the M8, but with larger files. Little difference. The big change was the M(240) with a lovely sensor. The images had the desired "snap" at 100% viewing, and really nice dynamic range - much like a MFDB.
There were other things about the M(240) that some may like and others not: it had the EVF option, but that wasn't doing much for me. Using that to focus on the move was difficult - although it would work well enough on a tripod. Its video was not of much interest to me, and the camera was a bit thicker and seemed heavier. The rear buttons were more sensible and easier to use, which was impressive. It took good shots in low light, and had very good dynamic range. The sensor was quite impressive. A simpler M(240) would be appealing, and a real giant killer.
A friend lent me his Sony RX1. I hadn't paid much attention to this camera, thinking it overpriced, but recent press was suggesting it was worth another look. Its combination of a full sized sensor, a nice Zeiss 35 mm lens and low light capability was intriguing. So an RX1 was taken on a two week trip - and after a field test here are some impressions: overall, this is one very decent lightweight camera. With more years than I'd like to admit, that has become an issue when travelling. The Sony is good for walking around.
The RX1 files are also very good. They represent an reasonable acceptable minimum in a lightweight portable.The jpgs are fine for web, and can be printed, the raw files have good dynamic range. While not quite as flexible as MFDB, they are decent enough. It has impressive dynamic range.
The camera has simple electronic functions, easy to use and to adjust - I never even looked at the manual, and made it do many of its tricks. It also has good power management - I changed batteries twice in 10 days. The leveling indicators (yaw and pitch) are very easy to use.
Downsides? Composition can be a bit tough as its a bit small and doesn't fit the hand like a Leica. But with the large rear screen, it can be good to compose with if you take your time. Probably my biggest gripe is that the lens suffers from barrel distortion, making it a bit odd for documentation. Some of that can be corrected in camera and additionally in C1 Pro, but its irritating. The overall feel of the camera is very good, practically as if Leica had made it. While MFDB files still win the day, the RX1 shots are good, very good.
And the Leica? The M240 offers a good deal more than the RX1, but the offerings are not in areas needed by this user. The M(240) is a bit bigger and heavier, and while its optical finder is preferred to the rear screen of the Sony, the RX1 rear screen is workable. In fact, its often more fun to use, especially if you have glasses. The manual focus on the Leica is preferred, but the AF on the Sony works well, with a supplemental usable MF system - not the same nor as charming as the Leica by any means, but it sure is simple. Anyone for automatics over manuals?
The Leica has much greater system capabilities, but this user will use other gear for those needs, so that's not an advantage. The fixed 35 mm lens on the Sony is just fine - having shot early on for years with an M2 and a 35 mm lens, it feels quite comfortable. And the Sony, while pricey, is a lot less than the M(240).
The RX1 works curiously works well for casual shots and also for more considered landscapes. Its 35 mm lens is sealed so there is no dust. And the Zeiss lens is has sweet color rendition, delicate. Easy to use manual aperture stops, although when configured with auto ISO, 1/80 shutter speed is the default which is too slow. In the end, the RX1 is a keeper, while the M(240) is appreciated but not pursued.
Some RX1 shots:
- the kitchen shot is at 800 iso, at Bennington Pottery. Nice light tones.
- the shot of the sails is taken in a museum through a case, at 6400 iso. Nice detail.
- the shot through the window is showcasing DR, with detail in the shadows at 100 iso.
These are unsharpened; the window shot utilized Aperture's shadow recovery.