PEBBLE PLACE

FIELD REPORT - Leica M Type 240 Digital Rangefinder Camera

 

AUTO WHITE BALANCE

 

Landscapes are typically a combination of multiple light sources, including direct light, light passing through foliage and light reflected off surfaces (thus picking up some new colors). Canon, Nikon, Sony and other companies seemed to have cracked the white balance nut. Whereas Leica struggles with their auto white balance and images looked yellowish with Firmware 1.1.0.2 (the Leica M 240’s initial firmware). On October 10, 2013 Leica released a firmware update (2.0.0.11) to improve the Leica M’s auto white balance. This page has been updated to reflect the new firmware (2.0.0.11).

Leica’s updated firmware now renders more towards the blue side - perhaps described as more similar to the Leica M9. This review has been updated with mostly post 2.0.0.11 images. Adjusting the AWB value in Lightroom or Capture One was not difficult, but was it was a normal step in the work flow. Seldom did the auto white balance “get it right”. With the new firmware, the revised auto white balance has performed well outdoors. I still like to tweak the value, but the auto white balance performance is now much closer to final result. Capture One (Version 7) now appears to decode the white balance values properly as well.


The Leica M-240‘s initial auto white balance and color profile could pumpkin colored skin tones. Fixing that was more than an auto white balance problem, so Leica may have changed the internal color mapping used to package a DNG. I do not know and was not part of the beta team testing the AWB. Overall, the improved auto balance is indeed better, but colors are still biased towards yellow / orange gamut. With editing they can moved into a bluer space. All the pictures presented in this review have been edited in Photoshop.

My concern is not so much with accuracy of the auto white balance, but rather how easily the file’s white balance can be adjusted (in Lightroom or Capture One) to something that looks pleasing and how easily the colors can be edited within the raw editor. The initial firmware was workable, not ideal, but workable. The updated auto white balance seems easier and the values are consistent with normal K values - like a golden hour picture being in the 5000-6000 Kelvin range.

The M240‘s white balance can be manually set be selecting one of the presets, or by doing a custom white balance. The process is:

  1. 1.Select gray card in the white balance menu

  2. 2.Snap a picture of the gray card

  3. 3.Image appears on the rear LCD, move cross hairs to the desired target

  4. 4.Press “Set”

The process is simple, but holding a gray card in one hand and snapping a picture with the other hand can be awkward. More importantly, this puts a hand and arm into a frame, thus reflecting light and influencing the white balance. For example, wearing a red shirt will influence the result. A reference card shot can be very helpful, but as a general workflow, I rather figure out white balance in post.


At this point I consider the Leica M 240’s auto white balance as “fixed”. Presumably it could be further improved, so hopefully Leica will continue to tweak it with further firmware updates. Likewise, Lightroom and Capture One could continue to improve their camera color profiles. If those indeed happen, I would consider that as a happy upside. As things are today, the time spent setting white balance values in the raw editor and subsequent color editing in Photoshop is no more or no less time than spent on a Canon 1Ds Mark III file or a file from a Phase One digital back. I also prefer warmer tones compared to cold blue / cyan tones (which the Leica M9 produced in spades). Die-hard Leica M9 lovers will probably still find the M-240 too warm for their tastes. That is changeable via editing, but based solely on an untouched out-of-camera image, the M-240’s color is on the warm side.

 

PebblePlace Copyright

Leica 75mm F1.4 Summilux-M

F1.4 • 1/2000 • ISO 200

Leica 50mm F0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH

F1.4 • 1/50 • ISO 2000

Zeiss 85mm F2 Sonnar ZM

Leica M-240 • F2 • 1/2000 • ISO 200

Zeiss 85mm F2 Sonnar ZM

F2.8 • 1/180 • ISO 200

Leica 75mm F1.4 Summilux-M

F1.4 • 1/500 • ISO 200

Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH FLE

F1.4 • 1/90 • ISO 200

Leica 50mm F1.4 Summilux-M ASPH

F1.4 • 1/350 • ISO 200

Leica 50mm F1.4 Summilux-M ASPH

F1.4 • 1/60 • ISO 200