I was on the waitlist to get the new M type 240 for 6 months, and after finally getting it, I was interested in its performance with the Super-Elmar-M 18mm f/3.8 ASPH, the lens I use for pano photography. My first look was to do some test shots comparing it to the M9 with the same exposure conditions. Here are the resultant images shot at ISO200, f/5.6 and 2s. First image is from the M240, second from the M9:
I found the color is much more natural with the M240. With the WB set at identical spots, the pool table felt color is closer to reality in the M240 shot. The felt is the standard green for Iwan Simonis 760. They have color samples on their website for reference. The cabinets and back wall color are also much closer for the M240.
For sharpness, all of the book titles seem sharper for the M9, though the blue circle on the queue ball is clearer for the M240. Overall, closer items are sharper for M240 and farther items sharper for the M9. I used the focus scale on the lens to set focus, so the 2 shots should be very close in focus...
Since it was a quick first test, I decide to perform a more detailed second test. This time I used in camera manual WB setting with a gray card on the middle of the island for both the M9 and M240. I taped the focus ring in place to eliminate the possibility of movement between the 2 cameras. I used exposure settings of f/5.6, ISO200, and 1/2s. Focus set for DOF between ~0.8m to 5m. I used a laser measuring device to measure the distance from front of camera to the "Southern Living" book. Both cameras mounted with tripod hole in the same location. This could cause a slight shift, since they are not in the same position between the 2 cameras. I took 16 shots from 0.6m to 5.57m. These first 2 photos are at a distance 1.4m. LR was used to convert to jpeg with no other adjustments. First observation is a very different color response. First image is from the M240, second from the M9:
Here is the comparison across distance to subject at constant focus:
It looks to me that from 0.6m to 1.2m, the M240 is sharper and from 2.5m to 5.72m, the M9 is sharper.
Maybe it was user error, but this test was so tedious to do for the M240. It took 3 presses of the shutter release to get each shot. The first always produced an under exposed shot at 1/45s even though the shutter release was set to 1/2s. After deleting this photo, there was a sound like a shutter release for the second press with no photo. Then the third press resulted in the desired photo. Setting the new distance to the books and measuring took time, so that may have contributed. No problems with the M9.
For this next test, I placed a light stand 1.41m from the front surface of the camera and focused on the handle of the light stand at the center of the frame. This should eliminate the effect of any offset between cameras. At this focus shot at f/5.6, max distance of DOF should be 5m, where the books are placed. White balance for both shots correct in LR using a reference point inside the white sink. First image is M240, second is M9:
The M9 still appears sharper at 5m. Even the faucet that is well with in the DOF is sharper for the M9. Color more closely matches when setting WB in LR at identical spots.
This final comparison is shot at the hyperfocal distance at f8. DOF is 0.7m to infinity, First image is M240, second is M9:
The M9 still appears sharper.
Here is a pano in the same location as the first set of tests. To overcome the limitation of the sharpness at the far end of DOF, I used an aperture of f/11 and set the minimum of DOF is at 0.7m giving plenty of margin at the far end of DOF. The full size posted is reduced from the native resolution of over 19K pixels wide to 12k pixels wide due to file size way too large. The down sampling in Hugin does result in some visible artifacts. At native resolution, the titles on the books are as sharp as previously seen with the M9. Also, the color change of the pool table is because I had it re-felted...
In summary, using the advanced exposure metering mode does result in odd behavior, mostly seen with long delays between shots. Changing to the classic metering mode eliminates this. I like the color rendering. Much more natural than the M9 and requires less tweaking in post processing. The loss of sharpness at the far end of DOF is a disappointment but final image quality is still very nice. I find shooting panos at f/11 on the M240 give better results than f/8 on the M9. Live view makes panohead adjustments to the no-parallax point so much easier than on the M9. The sturdier tripod mount aligned with lens center is a major improvement over the M9. Bracketing that works in manual exposure setting is a huge improvement. Since doing these tests, I have sold the M9 and have been out enjoying the M type 240!
Source (Rueike via Flickr)