Little-Known Facts Shutter Sound Comparison Shutter Lag Comparison Free Online Manual Accessories Sample Images

Leica CM

cw-leica-cm3 (42K)


By Carson Wilson, Last updated 01-Dec-2009 03:19 PM

The Leica CM is a compact 35mm film camera, produced by Leica Camera AG since February 2004.  It features autofocus, dual mode auto exposure, center-weighted metering, a fixed focal length retractable lens, built-in flash, and motorized film advance.  Lacking interchangeable lenses, manual rangefinder, split screen focus, and manual film advance, to some it's not a "real Leica."  However, with high grade optics and manual control over focus and aperture, it's not a typical point and shoot either.  So, the CM is either the poor man's Leica, or the rich man's point and shoot.  I've not found much information on the web about this camera beside scattered user comments and Leica's promotional materials. Therefore, this page aims to describe and explain this little camera that defies easy categorization.  I hope to provide you with clear information about this unusual camera so that you can better assess its value.

Little-Known Facts

Facts I've learned about the Leica CM not mentioned in Leica's online information:

Shutter Sound Comparison

Below are several sound samples, captured with the same microphone, at identical recording levels (no Automatic Level Control). All shutters are operating at approximately ¼ second.  Except for the Leica CL I've also included the autofocus sound of each camera, just prior to the shutter sound. For consistency, each sample was taken from the same room location, with the microphone placed at the height of the center of the camera's lens, four inches in front of the camera's film plane, and parallel with the right side (from the front) of the camera.  Some of the sound samples are rather faint; this is because I have normalized all of them to the level of the highest common amplitude (the Leica CL):

Olympus Stylus Zoom 70 Shutter Sound

Nikon 6006 Shutter Sound

Leica CL Shutter Sound

Leica CM Shutter Sound

Surprisingly, the Leica CL measures the loudest of these; most people consider the CL a very quiet camera.  I therefore suspect the perception of camera loudness has more to do with the duration than the amplitude of the shutter sound.  In amplitude, the CM is the quietest of the four.

Shutter Lag Comparison

According to Gary Sandhu, Leica has supplied the following measurements: 803.20 millisec for AutoFocus, 465.20 millisec for Manual Focus.  I.e., about 4/5 second when the distance dial on the camera's upper right is set AF, about ½ second when the dial is set to a distance instead.

Using a video camera capturing approximately 30 frames per second (29.97 fps), and confirmed by the digital timer on my Palm T3 in the same video frames, I've observed the following:

So, if you prefocus it takes 40% longer to move the shutter release from half way to fully depressed than it takes for the shutter to open afterwards.

For comparison, here are similar measurements for an Olympus Stylus Zoom 70:

Similar measurements for a Leica CL:

Free Online Manual

Since there don't seem to be any online copies of the Leica CM's owner's manual, I'm furnishing one here for free. Note that this free copy is not to be sold. I apologize for the low resolution; it is necessary in order to provide reasonable throughput for low bandwidth (e.g., modem) Internet users.


Sample Images

Here are a few sample images made with Kodak Gold 200. Their purpose is to illustrate the properties of the lens, so I've purposely not subtracted information by oversharpening, boosting contrast or saturation or otherwise tuning them for computer monitor display. Both images are handheld, made under typical daylight conditions. The first image is the east side of Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple in Oak Park Illinois. The second is Calvary Memorial Church, also in Oak Park, Illinois. Both images are of the full 35mm frame; hover or click on the grey rectangles for 2900 dpi (10 megapixel sensor equivalent) closeups:

Below is an ISO 12233 Camera Resolution Chart, captured with the CM using Kodak Gold 200 film. The target, printed on 9, 8.5x11" sheets of high resolution (non-photo) paper with a Canon iP8500, isn't perfect, but I think roughly equal to this task. The CM was mounted on a tripod, the target was illuminated with two flood lamps, one to each side, the lens was autofocused, aperture locked at F8, and the shutter released manually. The resulting frame was scanned at 2900 dpi with a Nikon LS40 (CoolScan IV), which introduced some artifacts of its own at some line pair frequencies. Click on thumbnail below for full size 640 Kb file:
lcm-iso12233-mini (12K)

Here are moore-lcm2-small (5K)comparison images from the Leica CM and the Olympus Stylus Epic.

More samples, courtesy of David Valdes and are available here:

69934t (4K)

David's comments on the CM: "Why all the P&S cameras? We use them for alpine climbing. Our current setup consists of a ricoh gr21 and the CM. My favorite is the CM. I have sat on it, fallen on it, dropped it (within its case), and its 100% operational w/o dents."

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Note from the author: the information presented on this web page is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, but you are solely responsible for the consequences of any decisions you make based on this information.  Also, the information and opinions presented here are my own, and are not to be construed as representing the views of Leica Camera AG or any other entity.

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