My first four months with the Leica M9. Words, images & tips!

Four months with the Leica M9 – I remember it well. September 9th, 2009. That was the date that Leica announced the M9 and instead of being in the middle of it all in NYC, I was out in the Caribbean on a cruise ship. I can’t complain though. I was having fun sipping rum punch on beautiful white sandy beaches knowing my 18 megapixel full-frame M9 order was already secured! I had placed my order months before the announcement date. I just had a feeling it was coming :) The day I received my M9 was a little less than one month after the big announcement. So it has almost been four months already since my M9 arrived and the excitement has not faded. I know there are still so many of you guys waiting for your M9, so while you wait patiently for your ship notices and calls from your dealers I decided to grab some of my favorite images from the past four months that I have taken with the camera and post them all on one page, right here!

Four months on and I am still amazed by the camera. It has been my daily companion, even when I do not leave the house! Yes, even when I am stuck inside all day I manage to find something to shoot. It’s like I feel the need to fire off a few shots even if I do not need to. Crazy huh? The M9 is one hell of an expensive camera but as I have said in previous reviews for the M8, M8.2 and in my M9 review, it is well worth it because it cured me from wanting any other cameras! I used to buy, sell, buy and sell. It was a never ending cycle because I was never really 100% happy with cameras I would buy. The M9 put a stop to that and I have been finding myself trying to find a way to scrape up another $7,000 to buy a 2nd body in grey! Now that is crazy.

To all of you waiting for your own M, wether it is a used M8, M8.2 or a new M9, they are truly wonderful cameras once you get to know them and shoot them. Once you really learn how to get along with an RF you will soon see that you do not always need a mega zoom lens or ISO 102,000 capability. With a Leica M, the process of capturing those moments becomes more special somehow, and it is not because of the name “Leica”. I do not own a Leica for status, or to show it off.

I am not the  typical “Leica Man”, and these days there are quite a few out there just like me who are jumping in to the full frame M9. When I say “Like Me”, I mean that I am not rich. I could care less about the “status” of owning a Leica. I had to sacrifice quite a few things to be able to own the M9 and 3 lenses. Was it worth it? Hell yea! I have never had more fun with a camera than I have had with the M9. I also enjoyed all of my previous M’s. The MP, M7, M8 and M8.2 were all fabulous. As you probably already know, I love M cameras :)

Also, to those who can not jump for an M9 right now do not forget that there are deals to be had on used M8’s and M8.2’s. They are also wonderful cameras that provides exceptional quality, and you still get the full rangefinder experience. I actually wish my M9 looked like my old black paint M8.2! I asked Leica for a black dot but they said NO GO! I guess they can no longer do it so I will have to buy a black dot elsewhere :)

I also wanted to write a few things here about the M9 that may help future owners and those that are new to rangefinders, and of course post my favorite images from the past 4 months with the camera.

QUICK RANGEFINDER/M9 TIPS FOR NEWBIES:

  1. Tale the lens cap off before you take press that shutter! Many newcomers to M cameras leave the lens cap on when taking photos. Why? Well, with a rangefinder you do not look through the lens when framing the shot. You look through the viewfinder but it’s a direct view to the world. Unlike an SLR where you are looking through the lens, with a rangefinder camera you will not realize you have a lens cap on! What will happen when you fire the shutter is the M9 will start a 32 second exposure. To stop it turn the shutter speed dial to 1/4000th of a second and the shutter will re-cock.
  2. Set up your M9 to shoot RAW or RAW and JPEG. You can get so much more from the images if you shoot RAW. They will have better color, sharpness and just plain look better!
  3. If you are having trouble getting good exposures here is a tip: If you are shooting a subject outside against a bright background meter the camera on the ground in front of the subject. Lock exposure by half pressing the shutter button or setting the shutter speed dial manually. Raise the camera, focus, compose and shoot!
  4. Try to re-format your memory cards at least every week. I have had SD card issues when I did not do this and have even lost a few images.
  5. The best cards I have found for the M9 are Sandisk Extreme III. They come in 4GB, 8GB and 16GB. I recommend the 8GB.
  6. Try to wipe down the M9 at the end of a day of shooting. Wipe down the front, back, lcd, etc. This will keep it clean and looking good.
  7. If shooting at ISO 2500 try in camera black and white, it looks great!
  8. Don’t forget that the M cameras and lenses do not focus super close. If you crack open your camera, slap on the lens and try to get up close and focus you will not be able to. Make sure you check the minimum focus distance of the lens you bought or are planning to buy.

M9 MYTHS:

MYTH: The Leica M9 has bad high ISO performance and the little Canon S90 point and shoot compact does better at high ISO. FACT: UNTRUE! I shoot the M9 at ISO 2500 (its max iso) regularly and it’s great. That little S90 got really grainy at ISO 800 so this is simply not true. I had a few e-mails about this last week. Odd.

MYTH: The Leica M9 is hard to focus. FACT: If you are new to RF focusing, it may be a little odd for the first hour but after that it should be easier than manually focusing an SLR. I can focus my M9 pretty fast. Keep the VF clean and it will be easier to see the focus patch. After a few years with an M, I get better more accurate focus with the M9 than I do with AF DSLR’s most of the time.

MYTH: The M9 is easier to focus than the M8. FACT: No it is not. It is exactly the same. It focuses the same way as the M8. The only way it will seem easier is if your M8 was slight out of calibration and you now get super sharp results with the M9 and think it must be easier to focus. This one is a myth.

MYTH: My dealer says I need the flash unit for the M9 I ordered. FACT: Ha ha.This is not a myth but I have heard from people that told me their dealer said this to them when they ordered the M9. It’s nonsense. I shoot the M9 at night, indoors at high ISO. When I shot the Noctilux it was easy to do this so the faster the lens the better. But please, if you buy an M9, do not buy the flash! It’s just not right :)

CHEAT SHEET:

Finally, here is a little “cheat sheet” image I whipped up for all of you RF newbies. :)

FOUR MONTHS OF M9 IMAGES

Ok, on to some images! These have all been taken in the past four months since getting my M9. All with various lenses and I will try to remember which lenses took what. I tried to pick a wide variety :)

50 Lux Pre-Asph at 1.4 – ISO 2000

50 Noctilux at F1

35 Summicron – F4

35 Summarit – F2.5

Zeiss 25 Biogon at 2.8

50 Summilux Pre-Asph at 1.4

Wide Angle Tri-Elmar at 16mm

Voigtlander 35 1.4 MC at F4

50 Noctilux at F1

The new 50 Noctilux 0.95 at 0.95

35 Summicron at F2

The new 50 Noctilux 0.95 at 0.95

75 Summicron at F4

Zeiss 25 Biogon at F2.8

Zeiss 35 Biogon at F2

35 Summicron at F2

Zeiss 25 Biogon at F2.8

90 Elmarit at F2.8

35 Summicron at F2

Zeiss 85 Sonnar at F2

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53 thoughts on “My first four months with the Leica M9. Words, images & tips!

  1. I am interested in the M9, but what glass? I usually shoot in 28mm with a Contax Lens and G2 film camera. Have tried the Digitals and right now have a Nikon D700 because of all the nikon glass I have, the Nikon is very good, but very heavy – especially when using the Nikon 300mm lens, tripod, etc.

    Will the M9 be more like my loving Contax G2 and glass? The Contax has been my favorite Camera in 40 years of taking photos with the last 25 being very seriously into it. I normally shoot in manual all the way except for sports shots which I use aperature priority and auto focus. Most of my shooting is in single mode with portrait and landscape, sightseeing, etc.

    Which lens (1 or 2) do I put with an M9? I like the expensive summicrons but am open to contax and other comparable lens. Do the other lens couple completely with the M9 or are their problems?

    Thanks much,
    Ray Iorio, ea

  2. Okay, so I did get a M8.2 used mint with a 35mm Summicron 2.0 ASPH lens from Steve’s source, Ken Hansen. I even started a blog about my experiences with it. (It’s a love hate thing right now as I get used to the focusing. My eyes aren’t what they used to be, and AF made me LAZY!) The blog is very basic, more emotional than technical. Like a journal. So far, when I take the time to slow down and think about the shots, I get great results. When I rush it, I don’t. This reminds me of my film days. Yayyy!

    http://myleicablog.blogspot.com/.

  3. Damn.. why do you torture me with your reviews and pics.. Now I have to crack my little piggy bank open, tweak my MasterCard and go shopping for a Leica M8.2 or M9.. Also, I have to sell my D-Lux 4 and D90 to afford a lens. What do you recommend as a starter lens?

    Also, Leica should advertise your site or pay you BIG time.. It`s better that any Leica commercial out there..

    PS. Thanks for accepting me as a facebook friend.. If you come to Norway you should stop by my place and I`ll show you the nothern light (during winter that is… :-)

    PS2. Loved your “newbie” M9 guide..

    Greetings from Norway..

  4. I’m waiting for prices on a M8 and M8.2 used. I think it’s going to be a long wait for the M9 on my list. Meanwhile, if I get either the M8 at $2399-$2699 or M8.2 $3600 (Approximately), and a 35mm cron, I could be shooting until the M9 arrives. The shop I am dealing with will take back the M8 or M8.2 for a purchase of the M9 with not much loss for what i bought it for, according to them. But if I like the M8 or M8.2, I could just as well keep it instead. Cost would be $6595 or $5898, thereabouts. (Instead of 9K or 10K for M9 and lens, depending on the lens).

    Again I’m not sure. They are checking the quality of the used equipment for me. Being that Leica only makes 40-60 bodies per day, it could be a long time of a wait.

    Anyway, I’m a bit drained from it all.

  5. Elaine, I do like the Leica glass very much. Don’t get me wrong. All I meant saying was that I believe with digital the difference in the quality of the results is not that big anymore. Again, post is the great equalizer.
    I also agree with the quality aspect. Compared to the lenses I believe the camera is overpriced. Leica’s old claim built for eternity was valid with their film cameras. But digital is a different beast. When Leica released the M8 they said the same thing about it. Well, eternity lasted three years.

    From what I hear the D3s is amazing in low light. No matter which Noctilux, f1 or the new f0.95, I’d be using, I would not be able to do what the D3s can. It is the reigning low light king. No question about it.

    Having said that I’m looking forward to using the M9 with my Noctilux.
    Anyhow, I hope it’s arriving soon!

  6. Harold, I agree with you. I like the Leica glass though. I do think the digital cameras are overpriced. They are quality though. I agree with Steve on that.

    Harold, what about the D700 or D3s? I hear both are fantastic, and not as much money as the M9. I was thinking of the D700, as I told Steve, but am tired of the size and weight of all this gear. It’s versatile in what you can shoot if you can deal with the weight and size. The D3s makes me drool. LOL!

    I’m still debating on waiting for the M9, while I drive Steve nuts with countless questions. I am waiting for a call back from Dale camera to talk shop too. LOL!

    I’m ready to give up photography. It would be cheaper.

  7. Hey Steve,
    After I re-read my post I knew you would say something. :)
    I probably wasn’t clear enough. Yes, when it comes to the total of lenses a company offers than Leica is far ahead of anybody. Pretty much all their lenses are outstanding. While Canon and Nikon have some great glass and many duds.

    Not talking about the difference in size here (I agree with you there 100%) but when you do the right thing in post and apply the correct amount of sharpening you can get a lot more out of an average lens. A dud on the other hand remains a dud no matter what kind of magic gets applied.

    My comments about the D3X are based on DR and the fact that it’s a more versatile camera/system (would love to be able to use tilt/shift lenses for instance). The fact that it has gazillion modes, functions and knobs is another reason why I went in the end with the M9. As i said I like (what the heck, I am man enough to say ” I love” :) the M9’s simplicity.

    Btw, to me using a Leica M is not all about street photography. I do like doing street photography but it’s not all I love doing.
    Just for kicks I’d like to go out with a D3X and the 14-24 zoom to do street photography one day. Just to see how I would fair.
    Remember, when everybody was complaining about how loud the M8 is? Didn’t bother me at all. Some of the best shots in my book you were so kind to link to the other day, were taken with a 15mm lens from a distance of 1-2 meters max in front of my subject. People didn’t even notice. Guess, that would be a little harder to do with a monster like the D3X but I’m starting to really like to try it one day. Maybe I’d have to carry this heavy monster in my hand hidden behind my back all day …
    (Guess, I should start hitting the gym ;)

    cheers!

  8. Hey Harold,

    I have to disagree with you on the Leica thing. Yea, the pricing is insane but their lenses can not be matched by ANY Nikon prime or any brand of 35mm lenses. I have shot with a ton of Nikon glass. Most of their primes, well, most of them are average at best. They have a couple of gems in there but that comes at a price. SIZE. Their 14-24 zoom is great but it’s almost as big as my head (ha ha). The 24-70 is nice but it is as long as my arm (exaggeration) :)

    There is nothing quite like going out with an M (any M, M6-M9) and feeling that freedom from the big backpacks full of heavy gear. I used to rent a stroller at the zoo just to hold all of my Nikon gear. :)

    Nikon or Canon has NOTHING that can match the 35 or 50 lux (watch for some new announcements from Leica soon) and when paired with the m9 sensor it is a beautiful thing. Leica can charge $7000 for their M9 because no one else makes a digital RF, let alone a full frame model. It is the worlds smallest FF camera and that right there is worth the cost to many. It is also hand assembled with care and has the best IQ of any camera I have ever shot with, all in a tiny form factor. In fact, it has spoiled me because when I do shoot DSLR’s now I am disappointed in not only their feel and size but their IQ.

    As for the D3x being a better camera, I disagree again. Better in what way? Yea, its bigger, it has gobs of features, and it’s fast with its AF but how would it help me to take a better image? It’s IQ is about equal to the M9, and I have seen some files from the D3x that looked worse. I see the Nikon pro bodies as tools for sports guys, nature guys and action guys. Guys who need long tele lenses to get their work done. The M9 is a totally different type of camera and the ones who enjoy that kind of photography would not buy a D3x. Imagine shooting a D3x on the street..UGG! Not an enjoyable experience (for me anyway).

    The D3x is super for those who need its power but just as expensive (if not more) as the M9 and I know I would use it much less than I use my M. BTW, I used to be a hardcore Nikon guy.

    Your holy grail statement is right on though :)

    For the record, I have shot with all of the Canon L primes on a 5D and 5DII. Their 24L is nice, the 50L is great but has back-focus issues and their 85L is AWESOME. That lens is one of the lenses I would put up in the league with Leica glass BUT it comes at a price – The size and weight are insane, and it’s not exactly a cheap lens either. But I would buy a used classic 5D just to have that lens (if I had gobs of cash).

    Thanks for the comments!

  9. Elaine, the Epson 3880 (I got the older version) is an amazing printer. yes, it cost a little more than the 2400 but here’s the kicker. The 3800 (I guess, it’s the same for the 3880) has way larger color cartridges than the 2400 AND it comes preloaded with $500 worth of ink!

    To be honest I was very close to sell all my Leica stuff and buy the Nikon D3X which goes here in Toronto for the same money as the M9.
    (Insane in my opinion.)
    I decided to stay with Leica because I have a lot of glass. Though I do consider the D3X to be the better camera, I like the M8/9’s simplicity which in the end makes you a better photographer.

    To be frank, I really don’t like Leica’s overpricing attitude. It is still solidly based in old film days where their cameras/lenses were indeed superior. In today’s digital world that difference is gone right out of the window.
    The fact that the M’s are being handcrafted in Germany is all fine and dandy but to me nothing more than a (now) snobby thing to brag about.

    As much as I like Leica to me the M9 is not the Holy Grail. It’s a tool. Nothing else. My Holy Grail is to become a better photographer and as long as a camera gives me what I think will help me to get there, I will use it.
    (I probably just mortally offended hordes of Leica devotees.)

  10. I was just reading about the Epson 3880, and it looks like a wonderful printer. I agree with your post production comments too. I have played with some crappy captures due to low lighting and came out with beautiful prints because I know how to use Photoshop to some extent. I’m not schooled in the printing process so much, but whatever was printed for me via outsourcing, came out quite good. So, I must be doing something right. LOL!

    I certainly can’t tell 100% what camera took what picture. I get fooled at times. I think all cameras today are quite good. It’s just a matter of what feels best in the hands. I love Nikon and fell in lust for Leica due to its size factor. I also like the Olympus Ep series, and Leica X1. I love smaller, quality cameras. The Leica m9 is the Holy Grail in that area. I still like the M8, M8.2 from what I’ve seen in Steve’s photos. All of his Leica pictures look top notch, as do the ones that people send him to showcase. :)

  11. Thanks Adam, when I mentioned the B&W thing I meant it as something fun to try as the results can be nice. I always shoot RAW and JPEG so I always have the DNG file to fall back on. So even if you set the camera to B&W, you would still get the color DNG file with your B&W JPEG.

    Thanks!

  12. “A great wedding guy I know shoots only M’s. He travels the world shooting high dollar weddings, no flash. Just his film M’s and his M9’s. He does have the new Noct and the 21 Lux though”

    Well that’s just great – this is exactly the set up I would need! (not that I do weddings but I’m not an overly big fan of flash). But you’ve now pointed out *exactly* what I need for the ultimate low-light set up!!! Now I just have to find the $$$.

    One other thing – if you would clear one thing up for me please Steve – re your comment about shooting at ISO2500 in the B&W setting in-camera – are you saying that the leica chip records B&W differently to color? Meaning if you shot in color then converted in a software app, you wouldn’t get the same result?

    Cheers, and thanks for the ever-evolving, always entertaining reviews.
    Adam

  13. Regarding print size, I use currently an Epson 3800 and can comfortably print 17″x22″ prints in exhibition quality at 360ppi.

    With Leica things can become quickly religiously for many. Matter of fact is, it is a tool like any other camera. Yes, it has outstanding lenses but so have Nikon and Canon. They just need to be treated differently in post than Leica files (so much softer). Let’s face it, there are two rules that apply. 1. No matter how good or how expensive a camera is, in the hands of a completely untalented photographer it won’t matter. On the other hand, a great photographer can do magic with a box that has a hole in it.
    2. When it comes to digital photography post processing is the great equalizer. If someone knows what to do in post one can’t tell in the end if a photo has been taken with a Canon, Nikon or Leica. That is something many coming from film haven’t yet completely comprehended. Including Leica themselves!

    PS: I worked last year on a huge book project (below water – The Amazon). Not my photography but I did the art direction and the design. I also did all the post processing work (excluding CMYK conversion). The photography, below and above water, was taken over a period of more than 10 years. I worked with scanned film files, files from every incarnation of Canon’s 1Ds line of cameras and even the M8. When I was done, 348 pages and several hundreds of photos later, one can’t tell which picture has been taken with what camera. That’s why I’m saying post is the great equalizer.

  14. Thanks so much for the quick replies. I don’t know anything about Leica, having never owned one. I only own a Nikon D80 and smaller P&S digital cameras. My questions about the M8 were to find out about quality, and Harald answered that for me. The M8 has an attractive price, and the M9 is the newer technology. I won’t be making huge prints. I was just wondering if it were a possibility with the M8 like the M9. If I were to make prints that size for someone, it’s nice to know that it can be done. Seven thousand dollars is a lot of money for a camera. One thousand dollars is a lot too. LOL! Whatever happened to the good ol’ days where a pro camera would last a long time and cost less? Anyway, this whole Leica thing is becoming a monster. I liked the review Steve gave on the M8. I also like the one on the M9. Of course, everyone would like a M9, but the cost is so intense too. Meanwhile, I’m still on the list. LOL!

  15. Oh, I forgot one thing. Alienskin offers a software called Blow Up2. It is by far the best interpolating (enlarging) software on the market. Because the M8 files are very sharp one can easily blow up a photo from 50 to 300/400 MB without any loss in quality whatsoever.

  16. Elain,
    Although the sensor is the same there are differences between the M8 and the M9. As a friend of mine confirmed there’s more detail in the shots that comes through because of the larger files. Also, the 14 bit make the raw file more robust in post. That again is a reason for more detail stability with the M9 files.

    When it comes to the M8 there are a lot of complaints going around on the web. IMHO forget them. Most of them are exaggerated and they appear to be in the majority compared to good comments. But that’s only because happy M8 owners are out there shooting and not on the computer bitching.
    Don’t mean to brag but I won awards with the M8 and even got into LFI. Can’t be too bad of a camera, can it?

    Here’s the thing, when reading your comments it becomes very clear you should go for the M9. Not because of quality reasons or newer technology but simply for your own peace of mind. Otherwise you would always be asking yourself whether it was the right decision or not. Sooner or later those thoughts will ruin the joy of using the camera for you.

  17. Harald, yes, M8 1.3 not 1.5, schoolboy error. Thanks for the comments on the M8 vs M8.2, hadn’t thought about those points before.

    Elaine, it seems that printing might be your critical reason to get the M9 then. I don’t print, just screen, so my pics don’t need to be huge. I don’t know how big you can print out M8, I guess it depends on how sharp your photos are. Sure, the M9 will allow bigger prints. As far as I know, the sensor is pretty much the same in the M8 and M9, except different size, and they have the same pixel density. The software is upgraded, but I hear the images are very similar. The quality should be similar. Both are very good.

    Um, I agree and disagree about moving backwards in technology. Yeah, the M9 has some great new features, but I would argue that a thing retains it’s value as a tool (if not its monetary value) even when it is superceded. Leica in itself is a retro step from the autofocus matrix metered DSLR’s that (to be honest) perform magic and perform better. If something offers a significant change in the way you operate (like the D700 did over the D300), then go for it, but a refinement is a tougher choice. But, if you have that need, then go for it. My critical need would be weather sealing, and then I would go for an M9. I am sure it will be superb and I am a little envious of you ;-)

  18. This is for H in Bejing.

    I just read your post. I guess I wanted that full frame file size in the M9. I wanted to have better performance too. You’re probably right in that i could save a bundle if I just get a M8 and a lens. I’m just not certain about the quality in the M8. I heard complaints about it being quite slow in low light too. Anyone know about this? Plus, isn’t it going backward in technology to buy the M8 when the M9 is coming out? How big can a M8 file be printed as oppsed to a M9? Size is a factor, but so is quality. You made some good points.

  19. Didn’t want to post this actually … because I’d consider it spam … I hope Steve, you are okay with this (if you’re not please delete this immediately!!).

    As I posted earlier my M8 is up for sale at my Leica dealer (Camtec Photo in Montreal, Canada). Not sure whether it’s still available but it is a pretty good deal for someone who’s interested. And if that someone happens to live in the States it might be even more interesting because of the stronger US dollar (think it comes to about $150 less currently). Camtec has it listed on their website.

    To be clear, I don’t care whether somebody here buys it or not. It will sell sooner or later anyway. Just thought I put the word out.

  20. Completely agree with “H in Beijing”. The M8/8.2 has a 1.3 factor (not 1.5) which gives the lenses a nice reach. Which of course is one of the major disadvantages with RF photography because there are no tele lenses. Frankly, that’s one of the aspects that made me hesitate to jump on the M9 wagon. I know, I will miss that.

    Speaking M8 or M8.2, basically it doesn’t really matter much which one to get. The 8.2 has a little bit quieter shutter but not by much since the 8 got a discreet setting with the last firmware update. The sapphire glass of the 8.2 is IMHO a joke. It’s very expensive but doesn’t make the camera any better. My M8 has no scratch on the display whatsoever and that without being sapphire.
    On a side note, many people don’t consider this but there’s a huge downside to sapphire glass. Let’s say you drop by accident a M8, you might end up with a scratch on the display. So what, you can still keep shooting (if nothing else happened of course). On the other hand, if you would drop the 8.2 with it’s scratch-proof display you will very likely end up with a camera that’s in need for a vacation in Solms. Why? Because Sapphire glass shatters instead of getting scratched.

    Frankly, if I would debate between the 8 or 8.2 I’d save myself another couple thousand bucks and buy the M8. With the money I’d save I’d get a nice Zeiss lens.

  21. Elaine, can I play devils advocate and bring an alternate suggestion?

    I know Leica lenses are A1, but it seems if you are making a choice of an M9/M8 based on portability, travel and street, then it’s a body choice that is central to your decision, so why worry so much about the lens? As you said, you can get better low light from a D700 and a 50mm 1.4, but if you reject that choice then it’s not low light that is critical, but size. Given that, why worry too much about the critical low light capability and performance of a very expensive Leica 1.4? To put it another way, I don’t see a problem with using ‘merely’ good to very good lenses (Voigt 50mm 1.5 or Zeiss 50 1.5) on an M9 body if you end up with a kit that suits your purposes better and lets you get the shots. Who cares if they are super super sharp? Have ‘just’ a decent kit and work with that, it will be fine, since it fits your primary need of portable, RAW, high end. Average is relative anyway (in the grand scheme of things) – Voigt and Zeiss fixed lenses are miles better than the quite average Canon S90.

    In fact, I would say you can compromise even furthur and get an M8.2. It brings you what you want – a digital body small and unobtrusive enough for travel and street photography while still having excellent quality. Why not get the best 1.5 format Leica now (the M8.2) and wait a couple of years for the M9.2 to come out, then pick up an M9 second hand? If there are specific things you really need (Harald mentioned the 18MP 14bit files which may be his critical requirement) then get the M9, but if you dont really mind about the other differences, then you can get 90% of the way there with 60% of the cost. Get the lenses second hand as well! Spend the other $3000-$4000 on a bumper trip overseas where you can shoot away and have a grand old time you will remember forever, or save it for the M9 in 2 years, in which case you have a second body. Killer combo, 3 lenses, an M8 and an M9. Loads of flexibility.

  22. Elaine, why not try the Voigtlander 50mm f1.5? It’s cheap and might give you decent results at fast speeds, and certainly save you enough $ to get some good Leica lenses at other lengths. In fact, for the cost of a Leica 50mm 1.4 you could get a 25mm 2.8 Zeiss, 35mm 2.0 Zeiss and 50mm 1.5 Voigtlander (or Zeiss) and have excellent quality lenses, most good for low light, and have more creative options than just one lens.

  23. Hi Steve
    Thanks for the article and tips, great pics . I shot with the M8 for the last 3 years as you know and loved every moment of it. I found out that in order to get better results and unlike the recomandation i always shoot with the red dot and the triangle on its left side. If you shoot putside with the red dot it is always over exposed- how is it with the M9?
    I am a left hander which means i always closed my right eye shooting, no more i traind myself to close my left eye and thus my nose does not stain the LCD screen as it used to do while closing my right eye.
    I also need glasses which is not that comfortable…. :)
    keep up the great job

  24. Steve, your site is great! The mixture of daily inspirations and your not so technical reviews is a joy to read and indeed an inspiration to go out and take pictures.
    Yes, one can really tell from your articles, that you are a fan of Leica, but I don’t read your articles seeking for “objectivity”, or technical minutae which become less and less important these days anyways, but because of the passion they ooze!

    Cheers, Michael

  25. Steve,
    A great article and believe that we are now all excited to purchase the M 9. Personally, I still can’t justify to myself the price specially that the depreciation will still be very bad. Any idea how would scanned ( using Nikon 5000 or similar ) slides or negative, shot by leica Ms and with same lenses compare to a file from the M 9. If my max. will be a 40 X 30 inch then will I still need to invest ?

  26. Hey Nick, thanks for the comments! I am just now getting some images ready for print at 20X30. The M8 printed beautifully, so I have no doubt that the M9 will. When I get my 20X30’s I’ll take a snap of them and post it!

  27. Hi Steve! I’ve been following your website for a while, but this is my first post. I would like to say that you have seriously helped infect me with the Leica bug (again). I am an avid film shooter who basically sticks to my four favorite cameras: Nikon FM2, Hassi 500C, Lubitel 166, Leica M3. I usually only shoot black and white Tmax 100 and 400.

    I recently got into making my own prints, and lets just say my love of photography has grown beyond belief. The darkroom is a whole new aspect of photography that brings a level of quality to your prints that you cannot achieve at any lab.

    So all this brings me to my real question. I love some of the tones that you get out of your black and white conversions, but can you get that on paper? For a beautiful website like yours the M9 is great for high resolution digital files, but what is the print experience like? Can you capture the quality of an M9 with a printer for a reasonable price? Also, I found that when I was working with digital files, I NEVER made any prints… What about you?

  28. @Ted, glad you enjoyed it! Hope your Amazon order comes soon. I see they stopped taking orders again but my guess is they will start shipping these soon. :)

    @Elaine – Ramen noodles are pretty tasty!

    @Ashwin – Thanks man! I contacted DAG about that black dot but he may be out of stock. When he gets them in, I am getting one! Thanks for the kind words, and your articles! Looking forward to the next!

    @Carlos – A great wedding guy I know shoots only M’s. He travels the world shooting high dollar weddings, no flash. Just his film M’s and his M9’s. He does have the new Noct and the 21 Lux though :)

    @David – Yep, you may be crazy :) Ha ha, just kidding. Thanks!

    @Dan – ooops, forgot that one! Thanks!

    @Harold – Yep, it says it all!

  29. Hi Steve,

    I’d like to another tip as I am a real newbie and have a series of photos to show for it:

    Make sure your left hand isn’t blocking the lens! :)

    -Dan

  30. RE: “It has been my daily companion”

    Steve, do you use so called EVER READY CASE? I am still looking for sth allowing me to have camera all the time with me. And rather want to avoid carrying standard camera bag. Case I am looking for – must also be compliant to tripod mount. So Luigi’s case is an option, also found recently “DigiEtui S0”:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tcZXTJl90I

    Thanks for your article!!!

  31. Hi, Steve!

    First of all I wanna say BIG THANK YOU for this website! I’ve been following it for the last couple of months and it just gets better and better! Cannot spend a day without visiting! :-)
    Great reviews, lots of useful info and most of all – your photographs!
    All this caused my long-time-lost inspiration come back to me.
    And just like Harald, I also have to blame you for something: I’ve decided to sell my Hasselblad 501CM kit with all the filters and extension tubes, lightmeter, tripod and even a backpack just to fund a used M 8.2! Body only!!
    Please tell me I’m not crazy! ;-)

    Thank you again, Steve, I LOVE visiting this site!

    P.S.: I am also considering selling my car to fund 35 Summicron, and then my house as well so I could buy Noctilux… (just kidding).. (am I?)…(yes, for now).

  32. Hi Steve,

    I saw your remarks about using flash on a M9, but I was wondering if you recommend using one for shooting and indoor event, like a wedding. I see some advantages for using flash instead of only available light in this particular situation. I would like to know your opinion.

    Thanks,
    Carlos

  33. SPOT ON, Steve! Great great summary. I am completely with you on everything that you have written….

    Lovely summary of your images, most of which I have seen but which I am happy to be reminded of here. You have compiled quite a set of images in your 4 months. I am entering just over 1 month with mine. Love it. Don’t want it to leave my side…alas.

    And one more thing: The BLACK DOT. I did some research, and DAG sells these for $22 plus shipping. Checking on LUF, replacing the red dot with a black dot is not hard and does not void the warranty on the camera. I did mine in 5 min, and it’s totally worth it. The Black M9 with black dot looks so sweet!

    Keep it up. The site is just so nice and a daily visit for me. You have put together something quite special here!

  34. Thanks you guys for setting my mind at ease. I guess I will be eating ramen noodles for a while. I will think about another 50mm equivalent lens for the M9. Steve? Any suggestions? I could probably get two wonderful lenses for the price of that 50mm Lux. I know I want 2 lenses eventually anyway, so who knows. I am thinking either a 35mm Summicron for street & travel and a 50mm for portraits. Someone else said the 90mm is great for street and portraits, for those people who don’t like to get really close to their subjects. LOL!

    I’ll hang in there. Hopefully I’ll say yes when the camera gets in stock. It’s the camnera I’ve always wanted besides the D700. I’m of the same ilk as Steve though. Sick of all this gear, when all I need is one small body and 2-3 good lenses.

    I almost thought of getting the M8, but I didn’t want to compromise on anything this time. That’s the problem. Always settling for a lot less than the actual product you want. I end up spending more money that way, I think.

  35. Saved this entry to PDF so I can refer to it as I have order a M-9 from Amazon. Can’t wait to start shooting with this camera. Thanks for a great site and inspiration.

  36. Thanks guys for all of the comments!

    Elaine, hang in there! The wait should not be too much longer. I have thought about the fact that I could have bought a D700 and the top Nikon lenses for what I paid for the M9 and lenses BUT I had a D700 with all Zeiss glass and sold it all for an M8 and was happy as could be. I think you will love the M9.

    Ben, M7 and cheap film is still awesome! BTW, I have done 3 jobs with the M9 in the past 3 1/3 months. Mainly portrait work/babies, etc. Can’t post them though. Nothing major yet, but maybe something will come along.

    Harold, the 35 cron is a beautiful lens. Can’t go wrong with it. Thanks for the comments!

    Alex, thanks!

    Alan, thanks! I wasn’t really happy with those shots. I liked my M9/WATE images better from inside that hospital. Interesting place though!

  37. I was intrigued by the shot of the Clay County Hospital so I did a search and saw your pbase gallery of the shots you did last winter. Nice work!

  38. Steve,

    I am following your site from the very beginning. Recently I realized that I am visiting it every day and have bookmark on my bookmark menu.

    Very educational, a lot of fun, great pictures, the bottom line – very useful.

    Thank you

  39. Steve, congrats on your first four months with the M9. As you know I had the M8 and loved it (currently at my dealer, looking for a new home) and am waiting now for my M9 to arrive. (btw, I completely blame you for this ;).
    Now looking at your photos – for the record, I can honestly say, I will blame you as well for wanting the 35 Summicron now! I think I like it better than the 35 Lux.
    It’s not like I need another lens, damn you….

    To Elaine … I wear glasses and never had any problems with the M8.
    Which is another valid (and cheaper) option to get into RF. Forget all those problems with the M8 you might have read about online. They are complete BS. (I won awards with it, nuff said).
    Honestly, I debated long before I decided to go for the M9. I didn’t do it for the FF, but for the 18mp and 14 bit files.
    Also, you can save some money by not buying a Leica lens right away. I can highly recommend the Voigtlander 40mm/f1.4 Nokton Classic MC. Only a fraction wider than a 50mm.
    More expensive would be the Zeiss ZM Planar T 50mm/f2. Outstanding lens for a fraction of what the Lux will set you back.

    cheers, harald

  40. I have the same feeling as you Elaine! Pre-ordered mine =)
    M7 + cheap film at the moment.
    Just wondering Steve have you done professional work with the M9?

  41. Yayyy! I love it when you write about the Leica M9. It’s funny because while I was reading this review, I was listening to my iTunes music, and the song by Michael Legrand came on “I Will Wait For You”. Tell me that’s not funny! I’m on the waiting list, and I’m kind of getting cold feet about the cost. It is a huge expense. I want the best, but wow! I love the results you get, but I also saw some gorgeous results from the better Nikon bodies. Yeah, I know. Different beasts. See what I mean about cold feet? Well, I am holding my ground for now unless you can come up with a feasible, cheaper alternative to the “which smaller camera would be great for street, travel, & portraits” dilemma. Waiting makes it hard to justify the cost. I like going out, charging the expensive item and then having buyer’s remorse a few days later when it’s too late. LOL!

    I, too am one of those people who buys and sells, never finding the perfect camera for carrying around all of the time. I bought the Canon SD800 and that’s nice, but the low light resolution sucks. Great for carrying around. Then I bought the Canon G9, because it shoots RAW, and that’s a BIG DEAL for me. I like RAW files best. The Canon G9 has the slowest shutter release! Very aggravating! The little SD800 is actually faster at getting a shot. The quality is pretty good, but not professional. Then I thought, well I’ll just use my Nikon D80 for all the better photography. The camera is bulky for carrying around. I get noticed too easily on the street. I still carry it, but I want a smaller camera. The D80 also searched like CRAZY in low light. SOooooooo aggravating. Back to the drawing board.

    Then I saw the M9 and fell in love. I don’t even know how to use a rangefinder that much. I had a little Olympus XA, and that was a great little film camera, but it broke. Plus, my eyes aren’t what they used to be. I have to wear reading glasses. So, I am concerned about focusing. I talked to a Leica dealer who said I would have no problem. He has to wear his glasses because he can’t see far, and that’s where the problem of focusing comes in. At any rate, I can add a Diopter if I need it.

    Then I was debating about the Leica D-Lux 4, the Leica X1, the Olympus Ep-2, and the Sigma DP2. All of these sacrifice something. Do you see where I’m going…again?

    So, I wait here intil I get a phone call saying the M9 is in, and then will decide if I am going to go into hawk for a very long time. I don’t even have lenses! So, this gig will cost around 11k for the body and lens I truly want. (50mm summilux 1.4 ASPH, because of its low-light capabilities).

    My head plays tricks on me, telling me to get the D700 with all of the lenses I want and it will still be cheaper than 11k. Solves low-light situation, and quality issues, but not the “small camera need” issue.

    Shoot me, Steve. LOL!

  42. Great write-up, Steve! And absolutely wonderful images – the 35mm summicron seems particularly haunting to me. But I do enjoy all the pictures, you are a truly amazing photopgrapher. The Noctilux pics are very inspirering as well.

    You have made me want to get a Leica M9 one day and get into the whole digital rangefinder way of shooting. Will probably have to wait a few years though before I can afford a (used) one. Until then I plan on getting a X1 and enjoy that. And the X1 will make a great back-up/take everywhere cam the day I have a M9 also. :-)

  43. As if waiting for my M9 to arrive wasn’t hard enough already! Thanks for the useful reminders…funny about the lens cap. I was out with my Bessa the other day, and my meter readings seemed wonky. I figured maybe my batteries were finally dying, so I started walking towards a shop to get new ones. A block later I looked down and realized the problem: yep, lens cap was on! Too much time with a dSLR makes me lazy! Anyway, great post; it really sums up some of what makes a rangefinder fun.

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