LEICA M246 CAMERA REVIEW

Leica Summarit M 50mm F2.4 ASPH Lens Review by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines the specs, features, image quality and offers photography tips.

LEICA M246 CAMERA REVIEW

Introduction

Long gone are the days of having to pick between color or black-and-white film stocks before setting out the door. We have now entered a digital world where many critical artistic decisions are made long after the initial image is created. Leica has decided to change that by offering a new camera that makes images only in black-and-white, allowing photographers to solidify their vision and mindset before they head out the door. And, after taking it for a spin over the past week, I can say that it produces images that absolutely cannot be matched. 

Welcome to the black-and-white world of the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Digital Rangefinder Camera.

So why shoot only in black-and-white? Because it allows users to capture images with finer detail, less noise, and, while obvious, shoot in black-and-white. With modern digital imaging, we have been trained to shoot in color and convert to grayscale in post, which does work well with the ability to modify specific color channels without relying on physical filters, but takes away the choices and control that used to exist when conceptualizing photographs.

Another thing that affects me personally, though I’m sure many would agree, is that this conversion feels wrong, as if you are taking something away that inherently belongs to the image. Since moving to digital photography, I have only very sparingly created black-and-white images. The M Monochrom (Typ 246) rectifies this dilemma by bringing back the choice, and it does so while delivering truly brilliant images.  

There is also one more thing about the camera: it is a Leica. Just looking at the camera prods photographers to think of the greats who used these cameras, photographers like Alfred Eisenstadt, Robert Capa, and Henri Cartier-Bresson who created some of the most iconic images of all time. There is a reason Leica cameras became known as the Magnum photographer’s camera and joined these shooters as witnesses to some of history’s most important events.

Build and Handling

Picking up the M Monochrom is an experience in itself. Proudly displaying its heritage with “Made in Germany” engraved on the back and featuring discreet all-black styling, the camera is almost as good-looking as the images it creates. It also has a magnesium-alloy body and brass top and bottom plates that give the camera a heft that inspires confidence—you know the equipment will last through years of constant use. And, mounting any of Leica’s M-mount glass will complete the look.

Taking photographs with the Typ 246 does one thing that few other cameras do: it cultivates emotions in the photographer. Part of this stems from Leica’s long legacy and legendary history, the other just comes from years and years of refinement, allowing the company to create a camera that just feels like it belongs in your hand and no place else. The camera may be made of a solid metal, but I always needed to set it down very gently whenever it had to leave my hands.

I found handling of the camera to be superb, though users not familiar with a rangefinder will find it takes some practice before use becomes second nature. The 0.68x optical viewfinder is very bright and offers LED-illuminated frame lines in a choice of red or white, for visibility in a wide range of scenarios. The front of the camera has a frame selector so users can quickly visualize what an image would look like at different focal lengths. A dial sits on the back near the thumb rest for making changes to settings like ISO or scrolling through the menu, while a dedicated shutter-speed dial sits on the top.

The rear of the camera features a majorly upgraded LCD, bumped up to 3.0″, and with 920k-dot resolution, in addition to the use of a sapphire glass cover that makes it exceptionally scratch resistant. I wasn’t about to put that claim to the test, but what I did use was the new Live View mode to check focus quickly with both the peaking and automatic magnification settings available. For those not familiar, peaking recognizes areas of the highest contrast (and therefore most in focus) and “paints” them with a color, of which the M Monochrom offers a few options. The magnification was also very nice, automatically recognizing when I began to focus the lens and zooming in to either 5x or 10x, depending on how it had been set up.

Numerous specialized accessories are also available, via the hot shoe, with a unique interface terminal. One of these is the Visoflex EVF2 Electronic Accessory Viewfinder, which turned out to be very nice and sharp, with 1.4-megapixel resolution, and allowed use in bright sunlight without any glare. It is responsive with no discernible lag and enables many features only available in Live View mode that were mentioned earlier. Additionally, this unit can be tilted up 90° for low-angle shooting, along with offering a centered viewfinder that may be more comfortable to some shooters.

Around the camera, there aren’t any obvious spots where you might find a card slot door or battery, which is great in terms of design, but not so great when it comes to operation. The battery and SD card slots are located underneath the bottom plate, limiting fast swaps, but ensuring that there are fewer parts that can be easily broken or damaged over time. This model does forgo a USB connection on the body itself, meaning that uploading photos will require a removal of the plate each time. Not a huge issue, but it could be seen as a nuisance for some.

Build and Handling

Picking up the M Monochrom is an experience in itself. Proudly displaying its heritage with “Made in Germany” engraved on the back and featuring discreet all-black styling, the camera is almost as good-looking as the images it creates. It also has a magnesium-alloy body and brass top and bottom plates that give the camera a heft that inspires confidence—you know the equipment will last through years of constant use. And, mounting any of Leica’s M-mount glass will complete the look.

Taking photographs with the Typ 246 does one thing that few other cameras do: it cultivates emotions in the photographer. Part of this stems from Leica’s long legacy and legendary history, the other just comes from years and years of refinement, allowing the company to create a camera that just feels like it belongs in your hand and no place else. The camera may be made of a solid metal, but I always needed to set it down very gently whenever it had to leave my hands.

I found handling of the camera to be superb, though users not familiar with a rangefinder will find it takes some practice before use becomes second nature. The 0.68x optical viewfinder is very bright and offers LED-illuminated frame lines in a choice of red or white, for visibility in a wide range of scenarios. The front of the camera has a frame selector so users can quickly visualize what an image would look like at different focal lengths. A dial sits on the back near the thumb rest for making changes to settings like ISO or scrolling through the menu, while a dedicated shutter-speed dial sits on the top.

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