The Leica M9 – Travel Camera Extraordinaire by Ashwin Rao

I am totally psyched to write this article for Steve’s site, in hopes of showing you what a wonderful tool the Leica M9 can be in travel photography. I have been thrilled to see Steve’s site reach new rangefinder users on a daily basis. His approach to reviewing photo gear with a fresh, “real world” perspective has reached a new audience of photographers who have begun to consider rangefinder photography as an option for their daily shooting needs. My goal for this article is simply this: To convince you that the Leica M9 is THE travel camera to have and use.

Before I proceed, here’s a bit of background about me. Simply told, I am a photo enthusiast. I love taking photos. I love owning and using the best 35 mm photography gear on the market.. In my mind, the Leica M9 and its respective lenses represent the best 35 mm gear. Period. I began my foray into photography with Canon SLR’s, but over time, the lure of the rangefinder ethos and that wonderful Leica craftsmanship came calling. I have ultimately kept an SLR system for its strengths (sports, weddings, fast moving subjects), but 80% of my photography these days is done with Leica rangefinders.

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A few words about Digital Single Lens Reflex (dSLR) cameras. Some of you who may come across this article will wonder why not simply stick with an dSLR for all picture taking opportunities. I won’t lie to you. In many ways, dSLR cameras are some of the most versatile photo making tools on the market today. I actually own 2 dSLRS: A Canon 1D Mark III and a Canon 5D mark II. I use them regularly for certain types of work, such as shooting weddings and sporting events. SLR’s allow you to take compelling shots of very wide range of subjects (from a grain of dust to a the moon, for crying out loud). They are fairly advanced computers packaged as cameras. They are exquisite picture taking machines….but that’s it…they are machines….they can lack soul within that computerized heart of theirs. In their complexity, the art of photography can be lost. It’s something that’s hard to describe, something many of us can’t even quite put our fingers on. The SLR can be an ideal picture taking device for fiddlers, ISO-hounds, and people who love to use tripods, shutter release cables, and gadgets. An SLR, however, may not be the ideal tool for the photographer who wants minimal distance between himself or herself and his or her subject matter.

Furthermore, SLR’s can be imposing when viewed from the “picture-taken standpoint”. The sheer size of a SLR camera-lens combo is can intimidate the photographed subject into un-natural behaviors or expression. Finally, SLR rigs can be heavy. Try porting a Canon IDsIII or Nikon D3x along with a few lenses for a day. They may take up half of one’s suitcase or ending up given even the most athletic of photographers a backache and sore forearms. In comparison, a complete M9 rig with lenses can fit into a small shoulder bag and induce very little arm strain or shoulder fatigue.

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I have talked to many current rangefinder photographers, who moved away from SLR’s, wanting to get back to the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and composition. These photographers seek a photographic companion that is an extension of themselves and their creative vision, one that won’t interfere with the process of taking the photo or impose upon the subject matter. The rangefinder allows this with gusto….

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The Rangefinder Experience: Having shot rangefinders for the past 3 years (including using an M3, M6, MP, and M8), I was excited by the possibilities that I saw in the Leica M9, particularly as a tool for capturing decisive moments during travel. I was intrigued by Leica’s decision to realize the M9 as a full frame model, making it work much more seamlessly alongside my film bodies. The M9, unlike the M8, does not require a 1.3x crop factor adjustment when deciding upon which lenses to use. Leica, additionally, has used its three years of experience from the M8, to craft a wonderful update to that camera, one that works more smoothly and seamless towards its intended purpose: taking photos.

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Why Use an M9 for Travel?

This is the ultimate question for this article: Why not simply hoist that SLR, 3-4 lenses, and a big Lowepro/Tenba/Tamrack/Think Tank camera bag onto ones back and set off into the wilds in search of the perfect camera? Well, several reasons:

Size: The Leica M rangefinder camera body is quite small. The Leica M9 is well documented as the smallest full frame digital camera currently available on the market. Coupled with the fact that most Leica lenses are substantially smaller than their SLR counterparts, one can much more easily port a M body and several lenses than a similarly comprised dSLR system. Portability is increasingly an issue in travel, and the M9 is imminently more portable than most dSLR systems. The series of images taken her were made with a Leica M9 and 4 lenses, all which fit into a Billingham Stowaway Pola Shoulder Bag (7.08 x 3.15 x 8.26″ (18 x 8.0 x 21cm) (WxDxH). Amazing!

Image quality: The Leica M9 is first, and foremost, an exquisite picture taking device. Leica and Kodak have crafted an amazing full frame CCD sensor to capture the smallest of details in its image, along with a broad dynamic range. By leaving out an anti-aliasing filter (i.e. blur filter) that most digital SLR’s employ, Leica’s M9 sensor can capture more detail at a per-pixel level than basically any dSLR out there. Bigger doesn’t always equal better, and Leica’s 21 Megapixel CCD sensor is truly a marvel, standing its ground against the likes of the Nikon D3s and Canon 1Ds Mark III in terms of image quality. Coupled with Leica’s exquisite line of lenses, many of which Steve has reviewed, the M system is hard to beat in terms of IQ. Rest assured that as long as you understand how to focus and compose images on a rangefinder, you’ll come home with some great images.

Profile/Recognition factor: In use, the Leica M9 shooter can be nearly invisible to his or her subjects. The M9’s form factor, with lens attached, is much smaller than that of nearly all dSLR’s. Thus, one’s subject may not be intimidated and clam up when the photographer points the camera at the subject. I can tell you for a fact that in my travels, even to far flung places like Vietnam and Southern Egypt, local inhabitants know when an SLR is being aimed their way. They rarely even notice me shooting my M9, just off to the site of the dude with the D700 with 70-200mm lens mounted. My suspicion is that the M9 either looks like an archaic camera to them, or that it’s small enough to be non-threatening. Trust me on that one, as I don’t get a startled reaction when shooting people in these countries…. Furthermore, using zone focusing (shooting by using narrower apertures and the lenses focal length scale), picture taking the M9 can go completely unnoticed.

Build quality. Leica M cameras are built to last. While there’s no doubt that today’s digital M’s may not have the longevity of some of their film counterparts, the M9 is built to last. It’s a freaking rock, to be honest. And from a heritage of cameras such as the M3, many of which are still in use after over 50 years, rest assured that the M9 should be serviceable for years to come. The M9 gave me no trouble on this recent trip, despite misty/rainy/sandy/hot/dusty weather.

Heritage: Leica M cameras, dating to the M3, have been used in photojournalism by many prominent photographers for nearly 60 years. The photographer behind the Leica M9 can take comfort in knowing and embracing this heritage. It sounds silly to say, but that counts for something.

Legendary Leica lenses: Leica lenses are simply the best out there. Throw up those MTF graphs, or simply look at the pictures. For you pixel peepers out there, no lenses come close to Leica M glass for sharpness, color rendition, or microcontrast. For you image hounds, try to look for that Leica “glow” that we all talk about. Your travel images will be all the better for using such wonderful lenses.

My travel set up:

I recently traveled extensively through Egypt and Venice, Italy during the recent holiday season. Along with me, I brought the following set up:

1. Camera: M9 Black with M handgrip and Tim Isaacs’ Thumbs Up CSEP-1 and Beep soft release attached

2. Lenses:

  • Leica 16-18-21 mm f/4 wide angle tri-elmar, i.e. The WATE
  • Leica Summilux 35 mm f/1.4 asph
  • Leica Summilux 50 mm f/1.4 asph
  • Leica APO-Summicron 90 mm f/2 asph

3. Leica 1.4 x magnifier

4. Microfiber cleaning cloth

5. 3x SanDisk Ultra II 16 GB SDHC cards (recommended as fastest large capacity memory cards for the M9 at the time of this writing)

6. Lens cases (i.e. black socks, 1 for each lens)

7. BIllingham Stowaway Pola Shoulder Bag (which stored all of the above equipment)

I also used electrical tape to tape over the red dot and white M9 inscription. To me, this hides the M9’s profile even more. This is mainly my personal choice, and Leica M photographers are notorious for decorating their cameras in a variety of fashions (half cases, grip vs no grip, black dots instead of red…the list goes on), which I suspect is a manifestation of pride of ownership.

Ultimately, the proof is in the putting, and in this case, I am hoping that my images speak louder that the 1,700 words that I have typed for your reading pleasure. Bottom line: The M9 is an terrific realization of the digital rangefinder. It’s a joy to use, both at home and on the road. When considering it as a tool, try it out first. See if it fits your style. It certainly fits mine. I hope to see you on the road, in some far away country, M9 in hand. Until then….

My blog:

http://photos-ash.blogspot.com

Me on flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/

From Steve: I want to thank Ashwin for writing this amazing article on traveling with the  Leica M9. His images from Egypt are some of the best M9 images I have seen to date. I also want to thank him for the kind words about this website. I am having so much fun with it, not only writing about my experiences with all of this very cool gear but also being able to bring you guys articles like this from a fresh perspective. So thanks Ashwin! I hope to see more articles submitted by you in the future!


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51 Comments

  1. I hope you won’t mind a contrary opinion but I find it hard to accept that the M9 is built to last. Mine is about a year old, the white ‘M9″ paint is falling out, the fragile, soft brass top-plate is dented in two places and the bottom plate too, most of the paint on sharp edges has scuffed off, the camera sometimes freezes, and the sensor collects dust like a magnet. I don’t accept that the M9 produces better images than any other camera. Sure, the file quality is superb but then so are many other cameras. I find that the RAW/DNG images are a little bland straight out of camera, and need structure and contrast tweaking in post-processing. The main advantages (at least from a street shooter’s perspective) is that it’s small and light, the lenses are great, and that it’s a rangefinder. I suspect that many people, especially beginners, would be disappointed in shelling out all that money only to find that the photos are little better than any other camera. In my view, the choice of post-processing software is of equal importance.

  2. Hi Ashwin, I am probably late to the party. I just saw your article. I don’t know why I missed it as I check on Steve’s site every couple of days. Anyway, I agree totally with your view that the M9 is perfect for travel. I acquired my M9 and lenses last October and have never looked back. I still own a boat load of Canon gears (1D4, 5D2, 5D + 7 L lenses and other accessories). I found myself reaching out to the M9 most of the time, except when I go out to shoot birds. When I travel, the M9 + lenses would be my first choice. On some trips, I do take along a Canon body and a couple of long teles. It is interesting that I have very similar M lenses as you: WATE, 35 cron, 50 lux and 90 elimarit. I carry these in a Billingham bag too. It takes all these gear and a 13″ Macbook pro. I enjoy your articles. Steve, please keep Ashwin’s article coming.

  3. Hi Ashwin-Appreciated the opportunity to view, reflect,enjoy & learn from your pictures! Have had my 8.2 a few months now, shooting a variety of subjects & working hard to properly use the capabilties my camera offers. Ran across your site while searching for camera bag – info on your bag & gear spot on for me. Presently have Leica 28 mm. Appreciate your thoughts on Leica 75 vs 90 mm lenses as the next & probably last lens I will buy for my 8.2.
    Thank you & continued success in your ventures & dreams.
    Regards, Ralph

  4. Thanks for this article. Steve, I’d been moving to get an M-9 after having been an M-3, M6, user for 30 years, but your review convinced me. Got one coming.

    This article confirms the wisdom of my choice.

    Glad to hear the comment on the .95 Noctilux with the 1.4. That’s a next move, but first to get the hang of digital photography.

    Thanks also for the advise and comments from other Leica M aficionados.

  5. Padova (Italia-Veneto-near Venice) 26.11.2010 —Dear Ashwin, ho letto solo ora con molta attenzione il tuo commento della Leica M9 che ho apprezzato moltissimo. Io dopo DLSR Canon, Nikon sono arrivato a Leica R4 nel 1986, poi R6, R6.2 con vari obiettivi. Nel 1996 ho acquistato M6 con 21/4R + adattatore, 35/1.4, 50/1.4 e 90/2 mm. e da allora ho quasi sempre usato la M6. E’ la compagna ideale del mio tempo libero e dei miei viaggi in camper per l’Europa. Peso contenuto, facile da usare, sempre efficiente e migliaia di meravigliose dia che tuttora rivedo anche se con più scomodità del digitale, ma ben più spettacolari, con scenari, colori, separazione dei piani e bouket impareggiabili. Ho acquistato recentemente una digitale Nikon Colpix per mia moglie e ne sono soddisfatto per la comodità di rivedere le foto al monitor del PC ed in TV e per il controllo in macchina di quelle appena scattate. Ma nel mio coure c’è sempre la LEICA M9 e non vedo l’ora di poterla acquistare: è il mio desiderio più grande! Mi auguro di poter continuare ad ammirare le tue bellissime foto con la M9 nel tuo sito. Cordialissimi saluti ed ancora molti complimenti e buone foto con LEICA.
    luciano_dg – Italy

    • Luciano_dg,In italiano

      Meglio di fortuna nel vostro searcch. Spero che troviate un M9 nella vostra accumulazione della macchina fotografica presto, poichè è una macchina fotografica meravigliosa e un’estensione digitale degna del M6. Grazie per la lettura dei miei articoli e continuerò a scrivere col passare del tempo e la mia esperienza si sviluppa

      — Ashwin

  6. Hi Ashwin
    I read your review and got a M9 and a 50 0.95 & want your opinion on the magnifier, I read many reviews & info on the leica website saying that the 1.2 magnifier is good enough for the 50mm, but am wondering if a 1.4 x is better.
    Thanks

    • Hi Ajay,
      I think that the 1.4x magnifier is great, as it brings the M9 viewfinder upto 1x magnification, which allows for open-eyed shooting and a more natural perspectivve for the 50 mm f.0.95 lens…That’s my viewfinder of choice for the Noct! Enjoy!

  7. Hi Ashwin,

    I agree with you, a Leica M camera is ideal for travel.

    I went for a drive down to the Snowy Mountains (Alpine region here in New South Wales, Australia) while i was working for Canon – i took a 1ds III and the usual pro lens fare. I don’t have a single image i am happy with from that trip – i took a large number of seriously dysfunctional images, mainly due to the bulk and complexity of the camera.
    In contrast, during June (snow season!) i took a M6 TTL and 50 summicron to the same area with just a few rolls of Kodak and Fuji slide film and i got some absolute cracking images.
    Simple is always best where photography is concerned, often having too many options, menus or focal lengths gets in the way of just taking photos. That is what photography is all about, that is what Leica is all about.

  8. Interesting article. I notice you mention that the M9 has 21 megapixels. This typo ought to be corrected to 10 megapixels.

  9. Where did you get the hand strap and M-grip for your Leica M9? Would love to get one. Also, what do you think about the M-Mate2 baseplate for easy removal of the battery and SD card that Luigi at Leicatime makes?

    Thanks in advance for your time in answering.

  10. I like the fact that I don’t have to charge my batteries with my MP. I drained the battery by leaving the camera ‘on’ and putting it into my billingham… so I ordered some more cheap batteries to last me a while.

    Also, I don’t have to worry about scratching my screen…

  11. @ Dutch: Thank you so much. I am going for that classic, timeless feel, so you hit this on the head with your take on my images…As for trying out the RF experience, it’s pretty cheap to pick up a used Leica M3 or Voigtlander Bessa (or even a Zeiss Ikon), a CV lens (say the 40, f/1.4, or a CV 28 3.5 or CV 35 pancake), all of less than a Rebel XSi, and try it out. Just have to delay the gratification a bit…hahah…so it is with film

    @Scotty: Sorry to be responsible for any marital strife, Scotty…hahahah. Stash away a few hundred bucks a month, if possible, and have fun soon…that’s my way of doing it….plus I had to sell of a lot of my Canon gear to get the M9. It’s always a compromise….

    And the M9, does have that special feel, no?!?

    @ Wolfgang, I simply purchased 3 SanDisk Ultra II 16 gb cards. Used 2 of them on the trip. I don’t use an image tank or laptop, though I have considered the imagetank…I prefer to avoid the bulk. I carry more than 1 SD, incase one fails…

    @ Yang: Problem is, 7K is still so pricy for many…I tend to recommend those who are interested in RF’s but not sure to get a film RF and CV lens to test out the feel of the system. If they have a bit more $$$, and M8 is a reasonable entry into digital RF’s….once it is had, though, the Leica virus is hard to be rid of…hahaha.

    @Susan: Thanks. Yes, the M9 is the closest camera that I can image to getting a film-like experience….full frame, flexible files amenable to processing as if it were film, and the rangefinder experience. Glad you liked the images!

  12. Wow, stunning images! OK, the M9 is the first digital camera that would make me want to switch from film. Trouble!
    Thanks for a great article!

  13. Hey Scotty,

    Are youprepared to axe your M9 in half when you divorce, just joking.

    You don’t really have to get all the stuff in one go. M9 + 35 cron is probably a sensible place to start.

    In the UK, that would be around 7k pounds… still quite a lot, I’ll stick to my second hand MP, 35 cron asph, 50 lux asph until I make a load of money.

  14. Hello Ashwin,
    how do you store your pictures on this travels? Only on the memory cards or
    you need a imagetank or a laptop?

    Ciao Wolfgang

  15. Ashwin, great review, and fantastic images….I am going to blame you and Steve when my wife asks for a divorce after spending 20 grand on Leica equipment…hee hee….gotta figure out a way to do it without her knowing….any advice?

    I was at the food court in our local mall here in Jakarta this past weekend. I spotted a guy sitting about 50 feet from me holding what appeared to be a leica. I told my wife, “I think that guy has an M9 in his hands”…I jumped up and ran over to the guy, and sure enough he had one….he had just bought it an hour ago, and said he was only the 4th guy in jakarta to buy one. I have never felt the way I felt holding that camera before versus holding other cameras….something mystical about that camera that just grabs you…I want one badly, but just don’t have the cash or the guts to tell my wife…..but I will…and you and Steve will be the first people I tell.

    Thanks to both you and Steve….keep up the great work!

    Cheers,

    Scotty

  16. “@ Dutch: Thanks for your kind words. There have been rumors that Zeiss is considering a digital rangefinder. Who knows? My suspicion is that we will see. Given the proliferation and popularity of the micro 4/3 system, I suspect that Canon and NIkon may focus their attention to smaller, interchangeable lens systems to complement their SLR’s (eventually) to try to steal market share from Panasonic and Olympus. The rangefinder system is for purists, in some ways, and most people may prefer the convenience of autofocus (I could care less, personally). The cheapest way into digital RF photography is soon going to be getting a used Leica M8 (or Epson RDS-1)”

    Ashwin, I have looked at your blog for some of the other shots, they are wondeful! I love the feel of your shots. The two words that pop in my head are ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’. A real inspiration for a beginning enthousiast such as me!

    I agree, I don’t think a lot of people will like a rangefinder. I own a 7D and looking at the problems people are having with that camera… (I won’t get into it.)

    A used Leica M8 is still a serious investment (in The Netherlands about €2.000), so I’m a bit anxious about it never having used a rangefinder. It is just that I have been having this idea that I would like to have the DSLR with zoom lenses and something special for shooting primes. Two completely different experiences that complement each other.
    I don’t see myself walking a busy street with the 7D or lugging it to a conference (I work as a PhD) trying to snap off a few shots in between sessions. An M8 with Summilux 24 or 35 would be much more suitable.

    I’ll bookmark your blog and hope to see more of your work in the future!

  17. @ Frank: Yes, I do find myself feeling that effective focal lengths of 35 and greater seem to be my style. Others like the space created by wider lenses, so I think it is a personal choice. On a M8, the 35 mm lenses (equiv 46 mm focal length) represent a good overall compromise of closeness with wideness. On the M9, the 35 becomes wide normal, while the 50 becomes more versatile. I don’t have all of the data from the pics posted immediately available, but it’s in the exif data. I believe shots 1-7 were shot with the following lenses (1-90 apo cron, 2-50 lux asph, 3- 35 lux asph, 4-35 lux asph, 5-7 – 50 lux asph). In the indoor/lower light shots, I tend to shoot wide open to f/2.8. In the outdoor shots, I tend to shoot at f/4-8. In example 1, for instance, I believe that I was using the 90 apo cron at about f/8. In the 2nd shot, I was using the 50 lux asph wide open in dusk conditions. Hope that half explanation helps

    @ Jimmy: You are right, prices are absurd for Leica gear….

  18. Nice photos Ashwin.

    I do have a question. Recently i was on a trip. I found that for me a wide angle lens (M8 with 24 summilux) was too wide for me. Most of the time i found myself using the M8/35 combination. One reason the 24 would draw me too close to the subject. Do you find similar siutations?

    Also, could you tell me include the lens information for the photos shown, such as the focal length, shutter and aperture? It would be very helpful for us beginners.

  19. @ per: Great to see you here, Per! Yes, I have the 5DII, and it sees limited activity this day, compared to the M(

    @ Nasr: I will check when I get home, but pretty sure that Frankenfinder does not interfere with shutter cocking on film M’s, as the film lever is below the the plane of the viewfinder. Will update if I find differently

    @ Steve: It’s great to get so many comments here….I think the consensus is in agreement….now Leica just has to pump out a few more M9’s for those in need, and find a way to deliver a rangefinder for the masses…

  20. Hey Guys! Great to see so many comments on this post. Also, thanks again to Ashwin for these great inspiring images and of course the article itself!

    Nasr, not sure about the frankenfinder on the M6. Maybe someone who had tried it can chime in.

    Per, sell that 5DII and buy a new lens! Ha ha…

  21. Thank You Steve and Ashwin for this article Marvelous images the m9 is in more than capable hands..you have a sensitive eye.
    I have question off topic
    with a WATE frankenfinder mounted on an MP can you rewind the film without removing the VF?
    Cheers!

  22. Stunning photographs. Great article. Owning a M9 my self, I agree with all of your opinions. I’ved had my Canon 5d Mark II in 3 month = 800 photos. I’ve had my since beginning of December = 3000 photos. Why do I have my Canon 5DII? I really don’t know.

  23. I would ditch all my Canon gear in a heartbeat for a Leica m9 with a 28mm elmarit… if only my Canon gear was worth so much…
    Anyone want to buy me a m9? I’ll be forever grateful 🙂

    BTW, I already knew it was the best travale cam…

  24. @ Eddy Ho: Good luck to you. Enjoy the M9 once you have it

    @ Dan Bar: Thanks. Yes, the 35 lux asph is amazing. My favorite lens period

    @Sebastian: Thanks for your thoughts. My article wasn’t really intended as a plea. More as an affirmation. Given the cost of Leica gear, shooting M’s are a luxury. I did not discuss this at all, but you bring up a great point. Sometimes, finances truly matter, and shooting a rangefinder may be difficult as a result.

    @ Pascal: Feel free to email me or PM me with further thoughts. I think we may simply differ in our opinions, and that’s fine.

    @ Reiner: Thanks! The M9 is worthy of consideration for sure

    @Sergey: Thanks as well! I am enjoying my M9 greatly as well

  25. I am hopelessly in love with M9 and your pics are amazing. Agree that it makes quite a travel companion and your photos are fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

  26. “@Pascal: Thanks for looking. Agreed that 4/3 may be smaller for travel, but the M9 benefits from a much bigger (x2) sensor.”

    Yes, but why do we want a bigger sensor ? 1. We want a 50 stays a 50, a 35 stays a 35, etc. As far as I’m concerned, I’m looking for the bigger DOF, so I’m happy to use a 35 as a 50 (and I would be more happy to use a 25 as a 50 on 4/3, but I love 3/2). Of course, I understand people don’t share my feelings. 2. We want a bigger sensor for better high iso… and here, the M9 is the worst fullframe in the world,

    So, as I no like 4/3 framing, I’m hoping a lot about the new Samsung.

  27. Thanks for the great article and the blazing plea for rangefinder shooting.

    I used to shoot with a Leica R7 for a while but discovered the joy and rewards of the M6 only last year. I totally agree: M-cameras are the best for photo-reporting and I’ve made similar experiences shooting at the Tokyo Fish Market last summer (visit me on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4364&id=100000248815828&l=4d06bdfe0f).

    Sure, “financial health” is of an issue if you want to own a M9… but hey: shrouds have no pockets :o)

    @ Steve: Thanks for your great, great reviews!

  28. lovely article and great pics
    i use the M8 for the last 3 years and have enjoyed every moment of it;
    i must say i loved your M9 pics and since my favorite lense is the 35 lux its good to know it is 1 of your lenses as well .

  29. I compared the shots I made in the 90’s with the Hasselbald system and the recent Nikon D90 shots.Somehow I notice that I am more satisfied with the manual way of shooting Hassy (composing/polarizer turning/film costs counting).then the Nikons (Machine gun everything I see and hopefully I nail a good one). I am not assigning fault to either system. It’s just that the manual system force me to do my homework. Lately I pickup my M6 and I realized that this machine do not spoil me but reward me in a more satisfying way.That is why I order and wait for my M9. Good luck to you all Leica geek out there.

  30. @cidereye: Thank you for your kind words. All of my comments pertain equally to the M8 in terms of usability. Just make sure to get UV-IR cut filters to prevent the magenta cast and remember to multiply focal lengths for your lenses by 1.3x; thus a 35 mm lens becomes a 46 mm lens on the M8, and so forth

    @Pascal: Thanks for looking. Agreed that 4/3 may be smaller for travel, but the M9 benefits from a much bigger (x2) sensor. Colors are my interpretation, not the sensors, you are correct. It’s a personal choice for my artistic inclination.

    @Francis: Thanks for the links! That’s helpful.

    @Bene: Thanks. The M7 and MP are the 2 best 35 mm film cameras available, in my opinion, if rangefinders are your flavor

    @David Lee: I brought 3 batteries. I probably only needed 2, as the charge on an M9 battery seemed to last about 400 shots (remember to set M9 to auto-off mode to conserve energy in case the on switch gets flipped when it’s stowed). The M9 charger does covert automatically to 240 v, so no voltage converter was needed, just a plug adapter.

  31. Batteries. Did you bring more than one? Does the M9 charger convert automatically to 240v or did you need a voltage converter?

  32. @Johnattan & Carlos:

    try this link: http://www.m.leica-camera.com/messsucher_home.html

    What you get there in the section rangefinder is a simulation of the focusing. You will understand what the framlines are, why people say that the 90mm is harder to focus and why one might need a magnifiing viewfinder what the framelines at different focal lengths look like and what you get as a final image in relation to what you saw in the viewfinder. Then hit the road and go see your leica dealer so you can see one in the flesh and play with it. At first you feel clumsy but you know what to look for when you bring it to your eye. Have fun shopping. I still love the feeling but I may go for the Panny four third system for a few reasons but this may change… 🙂

  33. Colors are not so good (but I think it’s your postprocessing and not the leica). And 4/3 and future new samsung are smaller to travel. Four lens, it’s not the best to travel…

  34. Wow, wow & wow! Top article, top photos & top advice! 🙂

    It is also, as I see it, a firm recommendation to buy an M8 too (Correct me if you feel that statement is wrong *please* Ashwin and of course M8 limitations over the M9 accepted) if that’s what your finances restrict you to. I know I’ve not regretted my foray into Leica digital so far via the M8 even though I’ve had little chance to shoot much with it yet.

  35. Thanks to you all for your very kind comments. It makes writing worthwhile, for sure.

    @ Jonathan: Great question about a video tutorial on using rangefinders. I am not aware of one, but maybe Steve knows. I will take around and see if there’s anything to be found. Seems that YouTube and Vimeo have many videos that may relate, so it may be worth a check there

    @ Carlos: I would consider a cheaper film rangefinder. Getting an M3 or M6 can be “relatively” affordable. I started my foray into rangefinders with an M6TTL and 50 summicron, and I was hooked once I had the taste. Others may not always feel the same way. The only way to tell, in my mind, is spending some time with a system. Renting may be an option as well….

    @Mark: Thanks! And agreed. The M system is ideally suited to that end

    @ Dutch: Thanks for your kind words. There have been rumors that Zeiss is considering a digital rangefinder. Who knows? My suspicion is that we will see. Given the proliferation and popularity of the micro 4/3 system, I suspect that Canon and NIkon may focus their attention to smaller, interchangeable lens systems to complement their SLR’s (eventually) to try to steal market share from Panasonic and Olympus. The rangefinder system is for purists, in some ways, and most people may prefer the convenience of autofocus (I could care less, personally). The cheapest way into digital RF photography is soon going to be getting a used Leica M8 (or Epson RDS-1)

    @ David: Thanks for your kind words. I hope that your M9 arrives soon. I will eagerly await seeing your images.

    @ Steve Huff: Thanks, Steve, for the opportunity to write this article. It looks great!

  36. Ashwin, thanks for a great article, and for sharing your terrific photos. I saw some of them on DPReview and was blown away. They are a testament to this great little camera and to your skill and vision behind it. I’m waiting now for my M9 to arrive, and hoping I’ll have a chance to share some great travel photos of my own.

    Steve, thanks for having Ashwin guest-write; this was a great article!

  37. A wonderful article! Well appreciated!

    I’m waiting for the day that 35mm digital rangefinders become a bit more affordable (or available second hand). It really seems like such a pure way to enjoy photography and maintaining the digital workflow is a real bonus. The M9 offers it all.

    Maybe Zeiss should offer a digital Ikon for the less economically gifted, so more people can enjoy rangefinder photography?

  38. Ashwin,

    Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts about this matter. I am still considering to move from a DSLR (Digilux 3) to a rangefinder (a M8.2)… The main caveat is regarding manual focus… I have never played with a rangefinder before, so the investment just to try it out is a little bit higher. But seeing your pictures, is giving me second thoughts!!

    Steve,

    Your website is brilliant. Keep up the GREAT work and thanks for allowing Ashwin to post here.

  39. A great piece, really makes me want to get into rangefinder photography! I especially like the bit about appearing non-threatening to foreigners; it is almost a perfect blend of modesty and art.

    I understand the rough theory behind rangefinders, but short of actually trying one myself I have little idea how to use one. Google and Youtube aren’t helping me much either. Is there a rangefinder how-to / tutorial page somewhere? I’d LOVE to see what the eye sees when focusing one of these beauties.

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