The Leica M9: Still my favorite “Pro” camera and here is why…

The Leica M9 is STILL my Fave “Pro” camera and here is why…

By Steve Huff

Over the last couple of years I have used the M9 mainly as a pro tool. I have taken it across the country on three tours with musician/photographer/friend Seal as well as had a few select shots chosen for his new CD release “Soul 2”. I could have taken something like a Nikon D700 or Canon 5DII or even a Nikon D3s, but nope…I wanted to shoot with a Leica M, even with the challenging light conditions of a fast paced show. The metering, the manual focus, and shooting with wide aperture lenses was a challenge indeed. Many times the M9 would be plastered to my eye with hand on the lens barrel constantly adjusting the focus as the action moved at a frantic pace. I even had a 3 month long rash on my right eye due to having the viewfinder on it so much over a 4 week period. Now that is dedication! Lol.

The truth is I sit here every day and I write about cameras. To many it may seem I have fallen out of love with my Leica. Well, that is not true. The Leica sits on the shelf much more, mainly due to the cost and the fact that I want to reserve it for pro work if and when it comes up. I have at least 3-4 cameras come through my house EVERY month these days so I get to try the latest and greatest cameras like the Sony NEX-5n, NEX-7, Olympus E-P3, Nikon V1, Ricoh GXR M Module, and more.

As much as I love these small mirrorless cameras I have yet to see ONE of them that would or could replace the M9 for me in a pro situation. Sure they have fast AF, good high ISO, decent metering and even awesome video but none can deliver the kind of image a Leica M can with a good Leica or even Zeiss lens, even older classic glass. For personal use I prefer to just grab one of the little guys like the NEX or V1 as the quality has jumped up in the last year or two quite substantially for these cameras. Still, if there is a situation where I need good low light performance or a “magic touch” there really is no substitute for an M camera.

The heat of the action..I wait for the jump…the M9 is being focused at a blistering pace..then BAM – fire and catch the shot at 1.4 with the 50 Lux ASPH. The M9 with a good lens will render an image unlike any other camera. This is FACT. No other camera will render the subject this sharp while melting away the background so smoothly. It’s all about the transitions and when I do shoot the M9, my images are always a cut above any other camera I have shot with. Some will not agree with me, but I know from experience and thats what counts.

The fact is though is that the M9 is CRAZY INSANE EXPENSIVE. It does have issues at times as well and is not perfect but when it nails it, it nails it. There is just something about the images from the M9 and I appreciate them more when I do not shoot with one for 2-3 months. I then go back and say “Oh Yea, that is why I paid so much money for that camera”. So for pro use, at least in my uses of shooting live shows it delivered time after time.

Yes this is out of focus but I still love it

I have been really enjoying shooting the Nikon V1 and NEX-7 recently, both great cameras but so different from each other, and the Leica. People say a good photographer can shoot with any camera and get results no matter what but honestly, if I shot the images I am showing here with a different camera, the images would NOT have been the same or had the same impact. The Leica gives a bit of “uniqueness” to your images WHEN you use certain lenses. What lenses? Stupid expensive ones like the 35 Summilux ASPH, 50 Summilux, 50 Noctilux will give you that something special in your photos.

You will not be able to focus close, you will only have manual focus available, the camera and lens will at times give you out of focus images but at the end of the day it always came through for me, even in Paris France this year when my rangefinder was out of alignment and almost evert image I shot that night was off a bit in focus. Even then, one image from that night made Seals new Album cover, “Soul 2”, mis-focus and all.

Speaking of Soul 2, I had 7 images from my M9 shots make it into the album cover, back, and booklet and for me, this was the most exciting news of 2011 🙂

So even after  over 2 years the M9 is still very relevant in the digital camera world, which is why Leica has a slower recycle rate when it comes to their digitals. They make a camera with the basics we all love. Build quality, image quality and control. I feel the company is sometimes off track but they do what they do and they have had their best years ever since the M9 was introduced. Personally I feel it was due to all of the internet exposure on blogs that have popped up in the last year or two. I started writing about Leica because I love the brand and what it stands for. Others jumped in to make quick sales and a quick buck with their established blogs while others created all new blogs devoted to Leica. So today Leica is enjoying the most publicity it has ever known in the history of the company.

Today I wrote this post because I just wanted to point out to the naysayers and doubters who screamed out from day one about the M9 not being able to be used a s a pro camera, that it can indeed in fact be used for pro work! Ive seen many others do the same with their M’s. Some of the highest paid wedding shooters are using M cameras these days. They do this because the M gives them an advantage over the guys who shoot with the D3’s and 5D’s. Like it or not, the M9 and good lens can capture light like no other camera I have seen to date. Having limited ISO up to 2500 is not really a deal breaker when you shoot with 1.4 lenses. Most of my live shots were shot at ISO 160 because I shot the lenses wide open, how they were meant to be shot.

There will always be those who say that a Leica has no edge or difference in their photos. In many cases it will not but you will see the difference when you slap a Leica Summilux or Noctilux lens on your M. That is a fact.

The Leica M9 requires patience. It requires dedication. It requires that you learn how to get the most from it by shooting RAW and correctly processing the files. The M9 can be temperamental at times but if you take care of it then it will reward you with images that have that “little bit more” than other cameras give you and it is my belief it is all about the lenses. The cool thing is that the Leica lenses usually APPRECIATE on the used market so while  they cost an arm and a leg, if you hold on to them they will always be worth just about what you paid. Sometimes more, sometimes a little less.

With an M10 supposedly coming in 2012 the M9 may still be preferred by many if Leica puts in an EVF and video and other modes into the new model. My crystal ball saw some kind of EVF for the next digital M…but it was still a bit fuzzy 🙂

For those that own the M9, enjoy it and know that you have a camera capable of shooting almost whatever you want (besides macro and telephoto that is) with some of the best quality I have seen in a 35mm digital camera yet.

You can buy an M9 at Dale Photo, B&H Photo and Ken Hansen. The M9-P is also available now at Dale and Ken Hansen.

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BTW, you can now Pre-Order Soul 2 at Amazon or iTunes. Here is a cool preview of the album…

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226 Comments

  1. One more great post Steve, gorgeous photos and fantastic website. In the last 7 years i’m visiting your site 2, 3 times a week and just inspire me to take a camera and go out to make photos.

    I have a Leica M8, and i love it but i’d love to buy a M9… why a Leica M9 and not a M240 for exemple? Just because is not every day we have a son who’s born a 09.09.2009.
    Is a great reason to change to a Leica M9, no 😀
    My only problem is just now i can’t buy it or ever in the next years.

    So who wants to help me realize this dream can always send a donation 😀 😀

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

  2. I had one when they first came out, I had always wanted a Leica M…I sold it after a few months and bought a Fuji X100, have since sold that and now have an X100S, X-70 and X-T1.

    I really couldn’t see what all the fuss was about once I owned one..beautifully built, there is no doubt about that but in my very humble opinion, vastly overhyped…and with hindsight, overpriced.

    £ for £ (choose your currency) I think the Fuji’s are a much more attractive proposition, for me anyway.

    I know they aren’t FF, but hey…how much difference to the vast majority of us does that really make.

    Each to their own though.

    Enjoy!

  3. Very nice pictures Steve ! and very nice article, I’m now using a M9P and I had some M240 offered at good price but I think CCD makes unique images and rangefinder experience has no price. I’m always switching from Sony A7II and Leica, it is a very good time be a photographer.
    Thanks for your work and honest reviews on this site 😉

  4. As a new person to photography I’m amazed around the envy shown toward Leica camera’s.
    I have read thousands of threads and yet have to see a Leica owner attacking a Canon, Nikon owner etc. who states he loves his camera and thinks it is the best.

    But let somebody just dare to state he loves his M it is a flurry of responses why he shouldn’t.
    There are actually a 16MP Nikon D4 body on the market that is more expensive than the newly released Leica M-E.
    Could be interesting if a Leica owner now can say that you can shoot a better picture at a lower price :p

  5. Hi Steve,
    I’d love to afford both an M9 and a Monochrom, when it comes down to it, it’s really the quality of the glass (the lenses if you need that pointing out). Having recently returned to using my M8 after being a Canon 5Dll user, I am finding the quality of my images superlative, I find I can shoot at the lower end of shutter speeds more easily. It’s now my camera of choice, much more convenient to carry around, it’s so much better than a clonking great DSLR with a huge lens. I have nothing against my DSLR, autofocus is useful, but I find rangefinders are less obtrusive.

  6. My relationship with Leica rangefinder began with the M4, and like good lady, she is always ready for me.

  7. Steve, I really would love to know which ISO you did use for your concert images done with the Leica M9 and Noctilux. Thank you, Alfred

  8. “So even after over 2 years the M9 is still very relevant…” jesus Steve don’t say things like that! Of course it’s still relevant… it better be. Hell, the M8 is relevant. This digital insanity where a camera gets questioned for its relevance after two years has got to stop… and is why I still use the M6.

  9. Sorry, but I’m not so sure your dedication and additional effort leading to the eye rash actually serve to enhance your images or erase your sense of self-doubt. Nobody gets extra points for using a difficult tool, and an ultra-expensive one at that.

    The question is, are you confident enough in your ability to create a great image regardless of what camera you are using? If so, then why do you need an M9 and why do you feel the need to convince others with this article?

    If Thomas Shahan can produce world-class imagery using entry level DSLRs and vintage MF lenses, then we certainly don’t need your Leicas and Noctiluxes. The colors Leica produce aren’t even appealing compared to Zeiss/Olympus/Pentax.

    As Ernst Haas says, “Leica, schmeica. The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE.”

    • Who said you should get extra points for using an expensive tool? I didn’t. Sure I am confident in my ability to capture an image with any camera but the facts are facts. In certain situations, such as these tours, the cold hard fact is that you CAN NOT get superb quality images with “any” camera. Ive shot these shows with everything from Micro 4/3, to Pentax SLR’s and at the end of the day the images that look the best are those from the M9. Of course you can produce world class images with a DSLR and MF lenses, but what type of world class imagery are you talking about? Landscaoes? Studio? Macro? All areas where a DSLR thrives… Im not saying you can’t shoot concerts with a DSLR, everyone else seems to do it. But when you look at those images, and I have looked at tens of thousands, none are unique. None stand out. It is MY OPINION that the Leica glass beings out the best in certain situations. No other lens renders like a Leica Noctilux 0.95. Period. End of story. fact. Those who say you can get that look with a Canon 85L or Nikon 50 have no clue what they are talking about. Harsh statement but it is true.

      As for colors, to each his own. Some will prefer Olympus, Some Leica, Some Zeiss, etc. All personal opinion.

      My stance stays the same. The Leica M9 and/or M9-P is an amazing tool that can be used professionally in many situations and excel with wonderful/unique results. Sure you have to know what you are doing and yes you have to be able to “SEE” but you need that with any camera. Thx for your comment!

      • I find it hard to believe that you viewed tens of thousands of concert images taken with DSLRs and found none that stood out. That statement is a bit insulting to otherwise uber-talented photographers who don’t shoot Leica.

        Were you judging the images by how well they were composed or were you just looking for that unmistakable “magical” Leica rendition?

        One day I hope to test out the Noctilux for myself.

        Cheers,
        Darren

        • I said I found none that “stood out” – which means, none that stood out from other concert images. I did not say that I did not see some great images, just that they all had that same flat DSLR look. Why? Becayuse 99% of concert shooters use a DSLR and big long lens. They all zoom in on the face, or the body. MOST convert shooters, with the exception of about 2 go for the same generic shots with on feeling, no emotion. They appear to just be going through the motions. Still, even the two that I found that had amazing creativity and well composed images, the quality was still that same old DSLR style. The point I am making is that if you use something like a Leica and 50 Noct, your images WILL be different than 98% of other concert shooters. That is not a lie, and I am not saying they will be better technically. I am saying they will be unique, be different and if you do compose them well, then they will be magical.

          • Appreciate the clarification, Steve. I know exactly what you mean regarding the “zoom” look because I’m not a big fan of it either. But that is the popular standard now and it is refreshing to find someone who actually looks for unique character whether it is Leica or Zeiss. I shoot almost exclusively with vintage M42 prime lenses for this reason.
            Now you piqued my interest, I will have to sample a Leica lens and explore its character. So far I have tried Zeiss, Meyers and Takumars.

            Wish you a wonderful new year of shooting!!

            Best,
            Darren

  10. Fact is, I’ve started to sell more work since I use the M9. People call me now, because I’m one of the very few photographers using a RF for weddings. The M9 shines in that field!

  11. M9 is something special but,
    My huge chunk and heavy DSLR and Big fat lenses with my eyes and brain,
    earn xxxxxx figures p.y.
    So, SLR vs. RF or anything is better then anything just poisoning healthy and creative brain !!!

    The great master of photography, Richard Avedon didn’t meter the size of his large format camera when he made some of the best art photos of all time !!!

    • You are right Mate.. it’s silly to argue over.
      Just for the record all.. I would never try to justify paying these prices for Leica.
      I do believe there is a certain look and quality to the lenses. I also think you can get excellent quality that usually only comes from fullframe in a very small package. The rangefinder is useful and fun to use. It certainly has plenty of limits but it is a tool in a sculptors set. A more specialized tool that is off the scale expensive. There’s no point trying to say mine is better. My only point above is that it is capable and to me has the qualities I desire. So.. I’m off to actually take some pictures.. enjoy the camera you have and don’t worry about Joe Smoe having fun with his camera.

  12. Cont.

    Look I love Leica and always will. I love my M7. I was lucky enough to get a new 35 Cron ASPH in Silver from Dales. That lens is something to love forever. I love everything about it.

    I have a Canadian 50 Summicron that I love. I also shoot an Zeiss Sonnar (silver) on my M7. All of these lenses are superb and I really look forward to the day when Leica comes out with an M10 and I sincerely hope that it takes on and resolves the issues I had with the M9 and I look forward to shooting this great glass I own on that camera.

  13. Cont.

    Second issue. The build quality. I was stunned, after owning an M7, at what the M9 felt like in comparison. Unacceptable for the money. That thing should be as solid as a rock and it’s anything but. Leica MUST lose the removable base plate design on their next digital M. The camera MUST be impervious to the elements as is possible.

    • Compared M3 the M9 is a piece of junk.
      Even the Leica II & III knock of Fed & Zorki 1,2,3, are better made than that cheap M9.
      Leica have a nerve to charge £8K.

  14. Okay. Here are my true feelings about the M9, which as I said I owned for ten months and put 24K shutter trips on.

    M9 color and the color ‘look’. Just poison at this point for me. I look on LFI and at images posted on DPReview and I shudder. The color makes my skin crawl. I mean that. Steve has produced some images with stunningly real color, especially on the last Seal tour in Europe, and every once in a while so did I and so does everyone who owns M9s. But far to high a percent of the time there is that unmistakable characteristic of unreal color that produces off skin tones and a ‘working in charcoals’ look that really, frankly, reminds me of old colorized classic films that some ill-conceived network or studio did to old movies. Remember ‘colorized’ films?

  15. Jeez. I can’t seem to post my entire response. I’ve tried breaking it up and got the first couple of paragraphs in. I’ve got the rest saved elsewhere but for now I’m giving up.

  16. Wow. What a thread response. I’m still always amazed at the offensive and defensive emotions that people are compelled to insert into these discussions. Whatever.

    Had an M9 for almost a year. Ten months. Love and strong dislike would describe my feelings. I sold it, I have never regretted for a minute selling that camera. Since then I’ve been shooting my M7 a LOT, buying and going through drug store film that I’ve managed to acquire at amazing prices.Just also got a Fuji X100 which I absolutely love so far.

    I’ve never really expressed my feelings about the M9 honestly and openly. It never felt quite like the right time and obviously to do so is to step into an emotional battleground of sorts. I used to relish that online, I don’t anymore. But I’m going to open up as briefly and as succinctly as I can. I wish it were more acceptable or permissible even to use other people’s images as examples in a review or discussion thread and then I’d be able to let pictures do a lot of the talking.

    I like shooting a Leica rangefinder, so I’m not bashing Leica cameras per se. I shoot my M7 and love it. It’s no picnic but for many reasons but no camera system is. The lenses are great and anyone who doesn’t see the characteristics of the lenses and the images they produce just should stop reading these threads and attacking this concept simply because they can’t see something that is there.

    I’ve owned and shot Nikon pro gear for the last 7 years. My last two Nikons were and are the D3 and D700. I’ve owned all the latest and greatest lenses with the exception of the new AF-S fast primes because I was already into Leica by the time they started tricking out. Leica photography is character photography. If you can’t see it then whatever. Some people can’t hear and hate jazz. I play jazz. Some people think all wine tastes the same, bad. Etc. Not my problem. My problem is feeding my expensive tastes.

  17. Hi Steve (or anyone who cares 🙂 ),

    Honestly, I’ve been trying to use the Leica M9 for Pro concert photography. I have a 35 Summilux. But, I would never imagine shooting with an ISO 2500 in color. It seems like you’re only able to shoot that high is because you’re shooting in b&w. When shooting in color, ISO 800 is as high as I would go to avoid shadow noise. I don’t have that much experience as a photographer. But, do you have any advice for me, if I want to shoot past ISO 800 in color in low light settings with fast moving subjects.

    Thanks Z

    • Most of my stage shots are at ISO 160..some are higher. Open the lens to 1.4 and keep the ISO between 160 and 800 for the shows. My B&W images were not converted to B&W due to noise or bad color, but because that is how I liked the images. I do have some 2500 stage shots, in color, and have no issues. Shoot RAW of course and tweak the exposure and other settings to get to where you want it.

  18. Steve, don’t get me wrong, love your work, dedication and site, but thought it’s kind of telling that you post this M9 laudation after your recent honesty in the V1 review:

    The problem with the M9 for me these days is it is such a damn expensive piece of gear and frustrations build up at times. My focus has went out a couple of times on me in the last year, meaning my lenses do not focus correctly and when that happens it is a pain. Add to that some random issues that popped up for many people like the cracked sensor glass and the SD card issue and I started to get nervous about shooting with my M9! Let’s face it, $7000-$8000 is a huge chunk of change for a camera BODY. I love the M9, and still feel it is an amazing camera that provides the best IQ of any digital to date, but it is a bit finicky at times and with me not having the luxury of a huge bank account (no, I do not get rich from this site).

    Let’s face it, there is hardly a Leica M user without any issues. I tried to get an M9 twice, each time I was sold defective gear straight ex factory. Won’t touch Leica anymore.

    You yourself are an exceptional photographer. You make every gear work, and true, there is this certain additional dimension to your Leica shots. Lots of other Leica images look like shot by a camera phone, and it is only due to politeness that many Leica users are left in the darkness regarding their skills. Obviously a good photographer can make every gear work – like a substandard musician blames his wrong tunes on an old guitar. The good guitarist doesn’t mind. There’s much more to good music than just the equipment.

    Even more so I appreciate your V1 impressions. Looks like a little cam Leica should have made with a lot of potential. If only we’d have the good glass yet.

  19. Many of the M9 photos i have seen do look clinically digital (due to its sensor).
    This is the same for any modern dslr.
    Even the Fuji S5 pro has that clinical digital comared to analogue look S2 pro,
    likewise Sigma SD15 has that clinical digital compared to analogue look SD9).

    I do really like the analogue like output from almost decade ole cameras senors, 1D, D1H, E1, SD9, S1 pro, S2pro.

    • Agreed Fuji S2 was a superb sensor in a poor camera. Fabulous images rendering colour skin tones beautifully with very little PP.

  20. Leica is the only brand which guarantees you the ‘build in’ magic as printed in their catalogues.
    Just by buying the cam with a Leica lens of course everyone is able to get this ‘magic’ automatically. Therefore the price I guess……

    When Leica’s marketshare dropped to zero in the transition time between the analogue and digital aera, those magic photographs disappeared completely, right?

    Now this magic is back, but only with the M line, not X1 or, beware, the DSLR S2.

    It’s always the same BS which people read and later write themselfs…….and, more severe, believe as a truth……
    In Germany we say they lie into their own pockets…;-)

    BUT I believe the fact that a tool can inspire the user, but it can be a Ricoh, a Pen or a Hassy or Rollei.

    It’s the eye and the brain, dude, not the brand…….

    PS.: when shooting with a DSLR is too ‘easy’ just train to stand during shooting sessions on just one leg……this might help for the inner karma. 😉

  21. Wow… This whole discussion section can be summed up simply as Alternate view: My opinion is vastly superior to yours as mine is fact and yours is just opinion. Original View: No., mine is fact for x reasons. Alternate view: Well prove X camera can’t do the same thing….

    Yawn, Boring.

    Its the same old thing everything someone gushes about an M. Real simple, before the SLR people shot Graflexs… OMG those have sooo many limitations it must be utterly impossible that any photography of any value was captured with film speeds below ISO 100. Newsflash, excuse the pun, there were many great photographs.

    Its not all about the stats… Look if you are a wedding photographer that needs to take 3,500 photos at a rate of about 5 per minute, odds are from a photographic standpoint, the majority of those are uninteresting but meaningful to the client. That is limit placed on you by your client not the camera.

  22. The magic of Leica I think that is a combination of many things.

    You are forced to manual focus, and already there are subjects much more attention than if it had been auto focus.
    A blurry picture taken with the Leica, “or other RF” is in many cases still interesting because attention has been on the scene
    A blurry picture taken with autofocus (Nikon / Canon) would be a mistake, and therefore almost always uninteresting.

    And if you looked out manually with etc, Nikon / Canon is still not the same as Leica – why

    It’s not a Leica (RF)

    When everything is said – Nikon / Canon are great cameras for what they can

    • Magic schmagic. It’s the images that count, and I have seen so many mediocre (at best) Leica images, particularly on this blog, that all that Leica magic baloney doesn’t impress me at all.

      I applaud the photographers that go out with an old film camera or any digital one, and produce intriguing images. And please don’t show us your family pics (p+s or Leica sourced) and expect us to find you a great photographer?

      It’s all about the money… 🙂

        • Michiel,
          I agree with your observation that we don’t see enough work of note on many of these sites. Some stuff really stands out, but not always. But it’s all in the eye of the beholder and the shooter and beyond that it’s their choice as to what tool to use. It would be nice to see more conversations about project work or photo exhibits from shooters, rather than pixel-peaking.
          But I’m also not sure how your link above fits into this thread. Bad gear, slow repairs, inadequate service – I’ve experienced that with Canon too. I had a Canon XL1 video camera in very good shape that I wanted to get cleaned and checked before I sold it so I sent it to Canon for service. They returned the package with a note saying they no longer deal with that gear! Are you kidding me? This was an expensive, still operating 3-chip, professional video camera, barely 10 years old, and they didn’t even look at it. I would not have the same issue with my 50-year-old M3 Leica.

          • It strikes me that, in general, the same people that keep going on about how magical Leica’s are, also keep on moaning about the long list of errors: yellow banding, rf out of alignment, cracked sensors, d.o.a.’s , etc etc.

            I’d rather have a camera I can always trust to work correctly, as boring and non-magical as that may be, and I have. I went out in the fog and damp with the RTSIII and 1.4/35 and 1.4/85 Zeiss glass, roll of Tr-X loaded, late afternoon, darkish. It was fun, and the RTSIII doesn’t even fall into the “always working” category. 🙂

  23. Excellent post !!! I could not help but see your proud words jump out at me as I progressed through this post. The shots are simply stunning. Although I don’t have a Leica just yet lol but I’m sure some day I will, its these posts which are a true inspiration for the rest of us – the aficionados to keep shooting, keep learning and one just one day, when we arrive at the Leica camp, things could happen. Cheers and Gracias !!

  24. Great post Steve. What’s wrong with saying you enjoy a camera?! It never fails to amaze and disappoint me at how rude some people can be. I feel like apologising to you on their behalf. It amazes me because you know damn well they would never dream of saying it to your face.

    Rant over.

    I posted this on DPR a while ago. I’ll reproduce it here because I feel it is totally relevant. Keep up the good work.

    “Like most camera owners at one time or another, I occasionaly find myself questioning my choice of equipment. Is it good enough? Is it up with the competiotion? Is there something else I should be considering?
    This weekend I photographed a wedding. It was a busy day and seemed to be more hectic than most other weddings. I used the M9 with a 50mm Cron and I took along the X100 as backup and for more informal low-light stuff.
    When I got back and started to trawl through the 1000 odd photos that I had taken, what continually struck me was just how good the M9 files were. And just how few I had to delete because of missed focus – even the grab shots. Virtually every frame I took was technically useable right ooc. And I shoot on full manual.
    I’m glad I use the M9. Would I switch back to a DSLR? No. Could I have got better results at the wedding using a different system? I don’t think so – I really don’t.
    So to all those that doubt the M system, I would say it’s every bit the system it was years ago, except now we have the added full-fat goodness of digital.
    And that, I believe, is saying something.”

  25. The shoots for the booklet are amazing and it is even more amazing that you got those pictures with the M9 without AF or even very high ISO capability.

  26. Good article. In a way, this is exactly what I want from a very well-written extended camera review. It explains why you like the camera and why many other people (like me) would not.

  27. I continue to be amazed and amused by all the angst and commotion caused by a man’s opinion about his Leica camera. Great write up Steve!

  28. Steve
    Man im made up for you. Bravo !

    “The Leica M9 requires patience. It requires dedication. It requires that you learn how to get the most from it by shooting RAW and correctly processing the files. The M9 can be temperamental at times but if you take care of it then it will reward you with images that have that “little bit more” than other cameras give you and it is my belief it is all about the lenses.”

    Interestingly enough id sy the same about & put up Sigma DP1, DP2 at base iso to the M9 at their respective focal lengths 28mm, 41mm. Ofcourse with the DP1 & DP2 it is the Foveon first then the lenses which are stellar.

  29. Funny how I was telling myself that I was liking this site again because you were not expressing your infinite and blind love for Leica as much anymore (a tune that we heard many times here, but then this is your web site and you should be able to say whatever you like). I agree that the M9 is unique and a fantastic accomplishment when one realizes that a FF sensor is present in such a small box (that you can fit with the most exquisite lenses). However, I feel that you might not have used other pro systems enough in the recent past to make a valid comparison (I know you use a FF Canon in few occasions at Seal’s concerts). I know that I am still overwhelmed when I use my D700 with my 24mm f1.4, especially knowing that I could get the D800 in a few months with both the 35mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4 with the money I saved by not buying a M9.

    • Why make your point as you do? Its easier just to say – Steve I’m gonna love having a d700 and d800 with lenses as much as having instead a m9 kit.

      in the end, the statement to be made – maybe you haven’t used an m9 enough?

      • Thank you for explaining what my point really was. As we speak, I just sold all my gear and bought a M9.

        • in fact, its really about enjoying the art of capturing a fixed moment of time. If it takes someone 10 different kits to enjoy that, c’est tout:-)

          someone mentions its surprising how many people get caught up in the angst of one mans joy, if it is not theirs, or if its not accomplished the same as theirs. I down’t own an M9 but I recognize it as a respectable tool. I hope that if you did swap out your d700, the M9 experience brings you more love.

          peace, love and happiness with your camera(s)
          🙂

    • I’m not sure why it is so fantastic that the M9 is a full frame – it is about the same size as M3 – which takes “full frame film”.

      I have read this several places, but I would suspect it is just placing the CCD the same place as the film in an M3. But maybe it is not that simple?

  30. Superb photos Steve. Seal is lucky to have you as his photographer. Plus what a challenge to have these amazing photos in low light situations and with super fast subjects. Unlike most of the people out there, you deserve your Leica(s) very well.

  31. It’s not the camera. It’s the eye and heart. That’s what captures life’s moments.

    (love the blog by the way!)

    Mr Huff I applaud you on your outstanding and informative blog. Best out there. Though your son may differ!

  32. I liked this article for 2 reasons :
    1) You wrote from the bottom of your heart, no great fency wards. You write what you believe in no matter what the others think
    2) i myself use this camera and boy i love the M9 !!! costly or not

    The M9 in my eyes is the only camera capable of producing unic colours like old analogue cameras
    and i never said a ward about the quality of the Leica lenses

    Nice pics Steve

  33. read the article yesterday. This morning walked out of the station on my way to work to be confronted by a 8ft high poster for Seal in concert here in Cardiff, the image is the one from the Album Cover and I can tell you it looks great upscaled…. However cannot afford to even look at a leica, K5 is on its way instead.

  34. I have both an M9 with Zeiss lens and a cannon d5 – original version. I really like the depth of field you get with a full frame and just don’t enjoy the crop sensor cameras as much. They have different applications. I must say the form factor of the M9 is the greatest thing. People just ignore you when you are taking pictures. You get a transparency that is not possible with an SLR. I am so glad to have both of these camera, worts and all. I hope Fuji delivers a full frame rangefinder digital. I will be all over it.

  35. Interesting thread. As someone looking forward to getting back into Leica, but with lots of experience with Nikon and Canon pro gear, the “magic”, inspiration or whatever you wish to call it that Leica provides me is the joy of working with one of the most beautiful tools ever built. If you’ve ever held an M3 in your hand you should know the feeling. It makes me want to take more photographs. It inspires me to see what something looks like through the bright viewfinder. I think the last time I felt that kind of connection to a camera was with a Nikon F or a Rollieflex TLR. It’s a matter of engagement with a beautiful tool. It’s not just about sharpness of lenses or bokeh – I’m betting Bresson couldn’t have cared less about bokeh – ,it’s about the tool itself and how it makes me want to use it, carry it and visually engage with the world. A Canon, Nikon, Fuji point-and-shoot, Leica and even my iPhone will take good photographs just like a Gibson, Fender or Martin guitar can play good music. Right now, for me, the Leica is like finding that guitar that inspires me to want to pick it up and sing.

  36. i agree with you steve, and all your article and all of your shot for SEAL, wether it for TOUR or CD ALBUM, it makes me crazy, can’t sleep hahaha, so i decided to buy Leica M9 and really really really Love it, you right, thats none can’t compare with leica lens render, absolutely gorgeous render….when i first try shot with my M9 after the packages came at my home whoa i really confused to focus or How this camera works…but now like your comment about, PATIENCE, DEDICATION for using Leica M…we all know The Result that shot with M is STUNNING. none can beat the DIMENSION that leica create, How bout SHARPNES??, yeah others DSLR can do this, but DIMENSION/3D there’s none like “M”

  37. The Breakup Letter

    “Dear Leica M9,

    This may come as a shock to you, but I have decided to leave you. I
    still love you but I can’t live with you. I’m going back to my old
    mistress Canon. She’s not as beautiful as you. I don’t love holding
    her the way I love holding you but I cannot live a lie any longer.

    I’m tired of missing shots because you’re too difficult to focus
    accurately. I mean, you tell me you’re at your best wide open, but you
    give me a hit n miss focus system, especially close up
    I’m fed up of your crappy lcd screen. You’re so last decade.
    And I’ve have enough of standing around waiting for you to let me know
    what the image I just shot looks like. If I try to take several shots
    at once, you take a hissy hit and make me wait and wait and wait….
    And while I’m at it, how come that despite the fact you’re no slapper,
    I struggle to get consistently steady images at 1/60. Mistress Canon
    has no problem showing me the slow love with her fancy IS. You just
    shrug your shoulders at me and make me feel inadequate.
    I want to strangle you every time I lift you to my eye and you’re
    still asleep. Why do you take so long to wake up?

    And did I mention – you’re high maintenance too. Everything about you
    is me, me, me. I had to buy a grip just to hold you right. Your lenses
    are ridiculously expensive and did I tell you that Madam Zeiss is just
    as good. There I said it, your not so special any more.

    So I’m asking myself, what do we really have in common?
    You’re really not that interested in landscapes
    You’re incapable of close ups
    You’re temperamental when it comes to portraits

    You keep telling me that you’re a street walker. I’m sick and tired of
    you dropping names like Henri Cartier Bresson. He was a friend of your
    grand fathers. I doubt he’d be that impressed with you.

    It’s true that you blend in when I take you out into the street, you
    certainly do look the part. But the harsh reality is that I miss more
    shots because you’re slow than I do with Canon because she wears
    tattoos and gets noticed. In fact you draw more attention to me
    because I need to fiddle your focus. Canon is just sooooo fast. Lift
    and shoot.

    But what has really broken my spirit is the fact that yet again I have
    missed a shot because you couldn’t tell me that your lens cap was on.
    That was a brilliant image I had, right in your self centred little
    frame lines and I blew it because you couldn’t be bothered to let me
    know you couldn’t see.

    It’s not me Leica, it’s you!

    Sincerely
    Paul

    http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/10/08/the-breakup-letter-dear-leica-m9-by-paul-lanigan/

    • The Canikon break up letter:

      Dear Canikon,
      I’m breaking up with you as of right now. You are so big and fat and unattractive I can’t do anything with you. You embarrass me out in public. People always stare at us. You make me just want to sit on the couch because I can’t carry you. So therefore I should be out taking pictures but I’m not. I know you can cook and clean a little better. You look great in the dark! But you have a very complicated personality that Is finicky and hard to understand. Somehow even though you are huge you are very fast .. so I’ll give you that. I’m still scratching my head. My new girlfriend is sexy, sleek and never ages. She’s always ready to go out to take photos. It takes you forever to get ready. The spices in her food just can’t compare to yours. She is high maintenance and will cost me a mint but at least I will be happy. Good luck to you and maybe … just maybe if you see the light we will meet again.
      Brian

  38. Some people (the affluent kind mostly) like to believe they acquire “magic” when they fork out for a Leica. That’s their good right, but nothing objective or rational about it.

    Pro’s don’t bother with that sort of stuff; they want reliable and excellent results in a cost effective way. Guess what they usually choose?

    • I don’t disagree. That doesn’t mean the M9 isn’t capable and the fun factor is there. I think it is more of an enthusiast camera… or for folks with tons of money that know they will get one excellent freakin camera if they guy a full frame Leica with the lenses to boot. If I was a pro I would probably go with autofocus /live view and super low light ISO abilities.

  39. Some really great shots Steve, nice work!

    I’ll probably never own a Leica because of the prices…sure it takes some amazing shots but I’m not sure the price difference is worth it to me. I’m getting back into photography after selling my DSLR due to little play time…was thinking about the X100 but now I think I will wait and see how this LX deal plays out!

  40. Steve

    Not Bad your CD cover with M9

    Can U tell me about this one at Nice, France took with Fuji X100[img]http://dbaverel.smugmug.com/Music/On-Stage/10718357_KJb4fZ#1380002273_5DZ9DvH[/img]

    • Well I will pretend to be steve… the picture is nice and well framed. but, the difference is, look to seals elbow and the lights beaming through the fog behind. In reality those are at different distances from the camera. e.g., a depth of field quality the M9 can easily manage, yet your camera can’t. If the world was flat, its no problem you’d have very similar quality images, even they’d be the same, but the world is not flat, but your image is relatively flat.

      That is in (flat) fact the science behind the difference of magic or similar magic that everyone here is discussing.

      • Difficult to compare two different pictures, there no light on the back elbow in the Steve one…. and face of Seal ……….it’s not out of focus? But with an M9 everything is magic!!!!
        Anyway thanks for your comment.

        • Hi Didier,

          It’s an excellent photo. I don’t want to compare it to Steve’s ones for a reason that I am a guest here and don’t want to mess up with the generous host.

          Please ignore hank. He is a believer and those, as we know, see things they want to see. In the end, if they are loosing their ground they will attack you personally (see hank’s polite comment on my avatar).

      • With all the respect hank but you simply don’t make any sense here. To anticipate what is coming let me say the obvious. By my comment I address what you said not you personally. So you can be a very wise and knowledgeable person in general but sometimes you say things that are silly. Everybody does for that matter.

        • if you cannot afford a M9 to try it yourself, stop blasting others who have one and loves it. IMHO it’s the photographer, not the gear. now get out of here and go shoot some real stuff all of you. LOL.

  41. “The metering, the manual focus, and shooting with wide aperture lenses was a challenge indeed. Many times the M9 would be plastered to my eye with hand on the lens barrel constantly adjusting the focus as the action moved at a frantic pace.”
    Oh well, been there, done that (since 1977), can do without 🙂 AF is sooo nice to have!
    If money were no object AND Leica had AF and up-to-date electronics (including an Olympus-like jpg-engine), then I would get the stuff, no question.

    The reason I sold my M6 back then was the fact that the shutter wasnt really as silent as the M3´s and that I had that nice Nikon F3 HP (High Eyepoint). Meaning I didnt need to squeeze my eyeball into the viewfinder like with the M6 but had a nice and relaxed view through it.
    BTW, has Leica incorporated this sort of eye-relief in the M9?

  42. I don’t know about the Sony or Ricoh cameras since I have not tried any of them but when I just want a grab and go camera and don’t want to take my M9 (or my 5DII), my X1 does all and more than I could ask for. It may not have a zoom or movie mode, but for picture taking, it can’t be beat.

  43. hey steve,
    awsome shots ! m9 -m9p are both great camera’s leica lenses are about the best there is….although the price of admission is expensive but i think well worth it, cause as most know ones you shoot a leica going back to a canon,nikon, is just that shooting canon nikon both are great work horse cameras …but the end result is that picture that stands out ..and thats the leica pic !!!
    you keep doing what your doing and dont worry about who thinks what ! leica’s are special camera’s and there picture and iq speak for them selves !
    best regards
    boris

    • Nonsense. In the rare occasions that Steve has allowed (d)slr, Canon or Nikon, images on here (he certainly doesn’t allow mine on) those images were no less than the average Leica image with which we are confronted.

      P.s.: google Ivor Prickett. Would we be interested to learn what equipment he uses?

      • Saw some great pictures by Prickett – guess he is using Canon. At least as good as anything I have seen from a Leica M9.

        • I agree. The man (Prickett that is) knows his light, sometimes achieves a painting like quality there, knows how to assess an evolving situation and knows his camera.

          That’s all you really need to produce great images.

      • From Ivor Prickett on November 17, 2011 via Twitter: @ivorprickett
        I am looking to sell my old 5D + 35mm f2 for 550 GBP. If you anyone is interested pls send me a message and i can send pics/info. Cheers, I

        I think he uses a 5DII now. Go on twitter and ask him 🙂

  44. Great photos as always … amazing shot of Seal in the air… dont know how you pull them off but you just do!! Though I’m slightly ‘sadden’ by the fact that what used to be an ‘everyday carry around M9’ (with reference to your earlier posts when M9 came out) is now only used as a Pro camera for the rare occassions … i guess just like all things, love changes over time (good and bad) …

  45. If you prefer the Leica, that’s great. But it doesn’t possess, nor has it ever possessed , any super, magical special quality…except in the minds of Leica owners. I’ve owned an M3, M6 and an M8, as well as numerous Canons, Nikons and Fujis.

    I’ve gone through phases with all of them. They all work great.

      • :

        “Did you own the 35 Summilux FLE, 50 Noctilux 0.95 or 50mm Summilux ASPH ”

        Exactly, it is the lenses.

        Put a screw mount jupiter 8 with adapter on an M9 it just wont do anything worth waxing lyrical about.

        In 2011 M9 & its sensor are nothing special. Even before 2011, half a decade before M9 http://www.sigmacumlaude.com/ was making R mount lens conversion for Sigma dlrs SD9, SD10. Foveon makes Leica lenses sing in a way no Bayer can (not even the Bayer on M9).

        • “Did you own the 35 Summilux FLE, 50 Noctilux 0.95 or 50mm Summilux ASPH and put them on an M9?”

          No. If I did, there still wouldn’t be any super, magical special quality. There still wouldn’t be any cryptic, glorious rendering that only Leica owners can see.

          • If you do not own it you do not have the right to comment on it. it’s like somebody saying his that his Ferrari is not good when he doesn’t even own one.

  46. Even the same can be said for the M8. I have used M glass on the Nex and for some reason, at lower ISO, the M8 has the edge and has that “look””. I also think the M rangefinder, for me is actually faster to use than the EVF cameras.

    So either and M8, M9 or any M Leica certainly has a great camera. Limited in certain areas, but they really do shine. What really amazes me about the M8 clearly is that even though the camera is now a 5 year old design, the sensor is capable of extremely high quality and can beat many new cameras today in image quality. In fact, for $2,000 a used M8 in my book is a best buy!

    • Hi Ed,

      You said “the sensor is capable of extremely high quality and can beat many new cameras today in image quality.” Could you please elaborate on this?

      I think you’ve made a statement that is very hard to defend. Technological progress in the area of camera sensors is exponentially fast so 5 years is much more than 5 years in this industry; it’s almost like a difference between steam engine and jet engine eras. Linear everyday reasoning does not apply here.

      I’m happy for you that you see that special look you and others mention so often (see my previous post on the Leica “magic”).

    • I actually think my GXR m-mout is at least as good as the M8 at low iso as far as file quality is concerned. But that’s just my opinion. At higher iso, there is no contest, obviously. The factory new USD 1100 solution plays in a different league.

    • A friend and I once compared his M8 (raw) with my E-P1 (jpg) and the IQ was about the same when not pixel peeping (took the same picture).

      The M8 was more detailed and sharper if viewed full size, but the out of camera color from the E-P1 was better.

      I then tried taking pictures with the M8 (think it was at ISO 640 or maybe 800-something) and the output was really bad.

      Think it is incredble that used M8s holds the price so well when a new and much better camera can be bought for the same amount of money including lens.

  47. completely agree with everything you’ve said and am in awe of some of those Seal shots – the clarity is amazing.

    There’s something about the M9 (I use an M9P) that is magical. While I love my Canon gear too I’m increasingly going for the Leica – particularly around the home where I’m wanting to capture my most special moments – those of family life.

    [img]http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6149/5997345848_705206cd33_z.jpg[/img]

    Original Image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrenrowse/5997345848/in/photostream/

    Great post Steve

    • Hi Darren,

      It’s a lovely photo indeed. It conveys so many positive emotions in me. You’ve made my day!

      The light was really good. I guess it was window light, right? Now, believe me you could get exactly the same “magic” with Zeiss 35mm/2.0 mounted on Canon 5D MK II.

  48. There is too much debate over the M9 versus DSLR issue, it all depends on the technical skills of the photographer, their visual perception and hand eye coordination.

    The current crop of DSLRs will deliver perfectly fine images each and every time. I have seen amateurs with a Canon 5D shoot some amazing concert shots, many times better than some pros. It has also gotten to the point where you might as well just shoot a movie with a RED camera and pull stills, but that to me isn’t “photography” (although I have to say a cinematographer like Christopher Doyle certainly blurs that line).

    I grew up shooting black and white film with manual focus SLRs and hand held light meters. In college my professors would hammer home the importance of understanding light and speed. I personally found after years of shooting with DSLRs I was able to deliver my clients perfectly fine portraits and stage shots. After a while I lost some passion along the way, there were times when I could just let the camera do all the work. For the past two years I switch up to shooting with a M9 for all my professional work (I shoot with a bunch of 4/3 cameras for personal stuff). I’ve found that the M forces me to make judgements that often results in a much more creative, interesting images. My clients are more pleased with the output because there’s more artistry in shots.

    As far as the criticisms about manual focusing, etc. I think we have to remember photographers have been capturing amazing action shots with manual focus cameras since … well since the invention of the first Leica. When you become intimate with your tools, understand light, distance and speed, then the professional shouldn’t have any problems shooting with an M.

    Finally, I love the quote from Bresson, when asked why he didn’t even pull out his camera during a bull fight in Spain, he said “the composition wasn’t interesting”, that pretty much sums it up for me.

    • Hi derekdj,

      You made a good point here about artistry related to Leica shooting. This one is there for sure but not the “magic” I mentioned in my post above.

    • I love the look of B&W film the best. Real film. Second would be Kodachrome film for me. B&W film has always been such a lovely medium. Now, digital is another beast. Still, I love digital, but film has my heart the most.

  49. Why bother coming to Steve’s site when you know he loves his Leica?
    I see the same old people dissing him and talking a lot of shit. Why are not in a canon or Nikon blog?

    • Hi ds, there a simple answer to your question in my case. I come here to study an interesting sociological phenomenon, which is seeing things that are not there.

      First of all, I’d like to say that I would love to get Leica M9 like hell. I’m literally dreaming about it. I can afford it but what stops me are leftovers of utilitarianism.

      Now, the main thought. I think that the “magic” touch people talk about Leica’s optics is experimentally unverifiable. Simple experiment to confirm it is to show to those who can see this magic, photos taken with various cameras and ask them which one was taken with Leica. Numerous trials on various forums proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they cannot really tell as long as they are not told what camera was used to take them.

      There is no doubt that Leica’s optics is very good but so is Zeiss’, Canon’s, Olympus’ etc. provided we take their best lenses.

      I think that the magic seen is a combination of many physical factors and any good lens (with a good bokeh) is capable of doing this.

      • Maybe I should add a quote here by Arthur C. Clarke:

        “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

      • Lets do that test but with an M9 and 50 Lux or Noct shooting wide open compared to a DSLR with a 50 1.4 wide open. Ill tell you which is the Leica shot every time! No problem. Notice I said the magic is there, and it is, WHEN you shoot the good glass with it. 35 Lux, 50 Lux, 50 Noct…

        Doing a side by side with a 28mm at f8 would show nothing. Open up the lenses as they were designed to be used and then compare. I have yet to see ANY DSLR give results like a Leica M9 and 50 Lux ASPH or Noctilux F1 or 0.95 and I have seen a ton of images from about every DSLR or camera with all the high end lenses.

        The fact is, there is nothing in the world like the 50 Noct. No lens will even come close to that look on a D700, D3 or 5D. Id spot the difference 100% of the time.

        • There is NO-WAY you could tell a 35mm Lux shot from a Nikon 35mm 1.4 G shot, just by looking at the photo. To BE FAIR, I’d say the test has to be done on B&W film, or with the M9 vs the D3X. But in my opinion, the differences between AA filter Nikon and No-AA filter CCD M9 would give things away. But if you grab some T-Max 100, an F6 and an M7, I’d love to see you try and tell the difference.

          • It is funny when people want to do a comparison and then change everything to make it “fair” If you are comparing the cameras you use digital, that’s the point. Then you will say: “use an M6 with Tmax and a Nikon F5 with Tmax and a Leica R lens adapted”

          • No, the M9 just has a color scheme to it’s files, so does the D3X. It would be the same if you did film, as I say, but put Portra 160 in the Leica, and Ektar 100 in the D3X. I’m just trying to remove variables in the instance of proving that you can tell the difference purely based on the optic.

            If there was some way to put the Lux on the D3X or the 35 G on the M9 I’d say go for it, but you can’t.

            I guess there is only one other sure-fire way of knowing what you’re using aside from looking at prints…the weight around your neck vs the weight of your wallet… 🙂

          • You are a funny one Mark… you say its impossible, yet then you say to be fair the test should be done like this. you are missing one part of the unfair test, the moment of capturing the image. with most camera’s you just press a button and a lot of technology hopefully does what you are wishing or hoping to capture…

          • Steve’s the one who said he could always tell the difference. I’m just trying to set up a fair scenario for that to happen.

          • Dag, you’re an experiment…. you talk three different points. The M9 is a package that does something… don’t break it down to this part and that part plus that other part can all do the same. So then you’d do it if you could, or? Obviously not since you state you desire an M9.
            You have to ask yourself, why do you desire an M9 if you have solved all the parts that could possibly do the same thing?

            because no other combination can do the same thing.

        • One wonders why Canon, Nikon did not bring out a digital FF rangefinder like the days of Canon 7, Nikon S & SP.
          We could then have put Leica glass on them & kicked out the hugely overpriced M9.

        • I am definitely up to the challenge. How are we going to do the testing? To be scientific about it we need around 20 photos, half taken with M9 and the other one with say 5D Mk II. If you are able to correctly identify M9 shots above statistical noise level (here I mean statistical fluctuations of pure luck) then I will buy you a bottle of good whiskey.

          The problem is that we need contributors of photos who are anonymous so that you don’t have a hint who took what. Photos should be taken by photographers with sufficient experience. Any idea how to organize this?

        • So now we’ve shifted the argument (if there ever was an argument, lol) to a lens that the other cameramakers currently do not supply? Clever.

  50. Great article.
    That’s why I like about this site, you can see all kind of opinion. For those who have deep pocket and can fully enjoy M9, M9 is the one for them. For those who can’t afford Leica gears, there always be other options available. I have seen the market (especially in Asia and Europe) moved towards NEX due to its ability to easily adopt manual (old) lenses. A lot of people used to shoot film now find a way to use their old lenses through NEX. Of course, the picture quality is far from Leica gear, but cost wise, it is a very good investment to make your old lenses alive.
    M9 has its shortcomings, hopefully Leica will improve it in the coming model if any. With the price of a Leica camera, it should be better than what it is now. Otherwise, FUJI may take over the market soon…….

  51. I would agree that the M9 is a wonderful camera, but I think the world is catching up.

    The Fuji X100 rivals the quality of the M9 at 35mm, and I believe that the upcoming LX10 (or whatever they call it) will be a stunner. Fuji knows about good sensors and great glass. Now, if they could only hire some UX guys to help with their software…

    The point is that the rest of the world is now gunning for Leica and as you can now start putting all of that glass on superior electronics, Leica had better watch out. Hell the NEX-7 with the same glass on it can already truly outperform the M9 at a fraction of the price. Focus Peaking beats the crap out of the rangefinder focus – especially in low-light.

    Wouldn’t you agree? You’ve had both in your hands – and recently too.

    • Actually the NEX-7 looked like it sucks ass compared to the Leica, with Leica glass.

      Focus peaking doesn’t outperform rangefinder focus, they are different beasts entirely.

  52. I just finished an excellent drive on my 11 year old Ducati….sure it needs a whole lot of time to warm up and to run smoothly with these low temperatures. A fuel injected Yamaha would surely ‘do a better job’ but man, driving, feeling and just looking at this machine gives me an unmatched pleasure. Must be for the very same reason why I love my M8 so much 😉

    • I’ve got an MV Agusta F4 312R… with an ecu and all that! 🙂 Cold and misty; not very safe conditions to ride in with all that hp.

  53. I don’t know about pro cameras, or M9 v. D3s , Leica glass v pro Nikon glass, but I have tried to make images of bands on stage and yours, Steve, are some of the most extraordinary and dynamic I’ve ever seen. Congrats on the album shots, really nice work.

    Thanks for the post.

    • True shooting stage action is tough and you get bumped into but a great place to catch artists at the peak of their emotions and crowd faces that are in another dimension…
      Kudos

      • Great shots by Steve (I mean that), but nothing that could not be achieved by a pro level Nikon or Canon, not with a zoom, but with a 1.4 prime.

        • Maybe so but how much does the Canikon weigh?
          There’s no point trying to justify the price of the M9 and lenses. It’s a niche luxury item…plain and simple. I enjoy my M8 and lenses. Sometimes I think about going to DSLR for more ooomph but there really is no competition for the amount of weight carried to image quality ratio.
          It’s a love affair.

          • Irrational arguments then, which is allright.

            If you were to compare the weight of a D700 + 1.4/35 AF-S (that should be around 1600 grs) and an M9 with a 35 Summilux, how gigantic would the difference be?

          • 1675g to 911g. M9/35 ‘lux is a bit over 45% lighter, not to mention a lot smaller in sheer volume. The reduced strain of holding the lesser weight to eye level as consistently as might be necessary during a 2+ hour concert could be significant.

            D700 also limits your view to its 96% viewfinder. (If I was going that way, I’d actually prefer the 100% viewfinder, 9 frame/second, shoot in the absolute dark, but even bigger and heavier D3s, but that’s just me.) The more open view of the RF might prove an advantage in anticipating shots and action. There were also lots of Steve’s shots (on the South American tour anyway) that were Noctilux f/.95, not possible with D700.

            D700 is a fine piece of equipment but I wouldn’t say preferring an M9 is “irrational”. Anyhow, regardless of equipment, the shots themselves are fantastic.

          • Weight and more importantly size, is not an irrational goal.

            Most DSLRs, including the D700, especially with a big zoom or professional grade prime, are huge. My summilux is tiny compared to my previous equivalent Canon L 50mm.

  54. You said it yourself, it’s extremely expensive. I don’t see what the return on investment is… The price of the body I can get over, but when you add lenses it’s just not do-able anymore. I don’t care about any of the other quirks, but it’s unnafordable! This thing would put me so far into the red it’s dangerous. A lot of pros are hurting these days, and Leica’s prices just get higher. According to rumors their prices are going up again!

    I would love to do it but I can’t make it happen. It’s sad really and makes me resent their company quite a lot. They don’t need to charge what they charge for any other reason than building exclusivity.

    • um, what kind of car you drive there Mark?

      If its anything more than a chevy or a ford…. guess you best think twice thinking your chevy or ford is anything like a real car.

      or?

  55. Just over a year ago it was Steve’s site that finally made my mind up that I wanted an M9 so I could make use of those wonderful Leica lenses again that I had from my M7 days.
    As Steve says it is a camera that will test you but I know when I take a bad photograph I can’t blame the auto focus, the auto exposure, the 12 frames per second. It’s a camera that has taken me right back to the basics and I have learnt more about photography than I could have from any of the “do everything for you cameras”

    And when I get it right it’s special

    http://www.signsofafrica.com/child-bride-ethiopia

  56. So, in random order, it’s

    Image quality: personal preference apart, Canon and Nikon (and Olympus? No full frame there) with their pro glass can do just as good

    Ease of use/ergonomics: well (as Steve so eloquently described), the M9 might be lagging a bit here. Retro design you know

    Reliability: have a brief look at l-camera forum, the M9 section. It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad

    Lens choice: ok, a lot there, but not everything…

    Cost: ok; that’s an easy one

    Any (random) irrational argument: again, an easy one

    So; you pays your money, you…

    P.s.: I left out weight and bulk, the obvious and predictable factors…

  57. Nice piece. Again I think the magic associated with Leica falls into three areas. Obviously one is the lenses. They are legendary and from the evidence seen as these wonders of optical excellence are mounted on other platforms (NEX, mft etc.) it only enhances that. Two, the form function of the body itself. A viewfinder with a shutter. And little else to muck up an image (like Scenes, creative effects etc and myriad buttons). Ah…but what a way to see and capture. Instead of merely forcing a composition to fit a frame one FINDS a composition WITHIN a larger scene. That results in the intimacy, immediacy and emotion that we often find with images taken with the RANGEFINDER M (and as much as you wish to believe I don’t find that true of other Leitz products that are either DSLRs like the S2 or rebadged PS from Panasonic.) The M and its glass. And that leads to the THIRD part of the triumvirate. The photographer himself. Who truly has to work to FIND those images in the scene and capture them at the peak moment. True you can achieve this with other marques but somehow it just doesn’t seem the same. And that leads me to a fourth reason. The emotional bond between photographer and machine that is like no other brand. Steve, by the mere fact that you took the time to even WRITE this essay says so much about this often overlooked part of the matrix equation. Many photographers are happy with their equipment choices. Forums on DPreview and other internet venues are chock full of folks who are happy with their choices as they discuss the pro’s and con’s and offer up new wish lists for future models from the camera companies they’ve decided to sidle up to at the moment. The Leica M photographer is a different breed of cat. Their passion is unique. So unique that when they pick up that Solms-created hardware I firmly believe there is a jump in internal energy that makes that (through an extra juicing of adrenalin from the mere raising the VF to the eye—even if it causes a rash—) gets the photographer to look harder, work harder and be on top of their game like no other. And that is why so often we knell (to use a yiddish term my parents so often said) so much about the images captured and created over the images that could easily have been captured and created by other machines.

  58. of course an M9 can be used professionally; it’s, within its retro limitations, a very good camera. But why should you? Because you want to join the Louis Vuitton set? It’s as good a reason as any…

    • I don’t think the M9 is retro. It is just simplified/reduced, which makes it such a great tool. I use a M9 and a Nex 5n. While I really enjoy the EVF on the Sony, the menue and he options are just too much for my taste. Image wise the M9 is another league compared to the Sony. The optional finder on he Nex is just great and I wish I could use it on the M. I agree with Steve. When it comes to taking great photos I pick the M every time.

      • Have a good look at your camera D!rk. Nothing innovative about the M9. Leica did their utmost to replicate the film M look (as is their good right). Nothing wrong there, if you don’t mind suffering the obvious setbacks that come with the design.

        And don’t start about DSLR’s; I use my D700 as many M9 users use their cameras: put it in aperture priority and learn to assess the light adequately.

        I have an FM2, an FA and an RTSIII. Aperture priority is a blessing, as is good autofocus (with the D700, though certainly not in all situations). It’s called “progress”.

  59. Leica, give us a live view EVF with focus peaking in the M10 and I’ll buy one, no questions asked =:-) Please!!! It’s time to retire the old problematic need-to-keep-it-calibrated mechanical-linkage alignment-patch focussing mechanism. It’s time to retire frame lines. In their place, it’s time for dead-accurate, on-the-sensor-plane, through-the-lens-at-shooting-apeture focussing and composition. It won’t destroy the Leica aesthetic, it’ll make it better, more accurate, more reliable, and – once the pissing and moaning have abated – a lot more desirable.

    • Leica could in principle make a completely digital rangefinder for the M10, but something tells me that it would a an utter disappointment for many Leica users. I thing that EVFs still have a way to go to get us the quality of view the OVF can deliver. It will surely happen one day, I am just not sure whether Leica has the solution at hand by now. But I may be wrong of course.

      Steve – would you want Leica to replace the optical rangefinder with a digital one?

      • Maybe a pure EVF is asking a lot, tho they are getting pretty darned good. It seems a hybrid optical/electronic VF, like the one in the Fuji X100 (but with higher resolution) is one possible answer. The best of both worlds, I think.

    • It sounds like you want the upcoming Fuji LX that was leaked the other day. If only half the rumors are true about that thing then look out Leica. Leica will always have its place as a luxury brand; purist love them and so will camera snobs that enjoy talking about cameras more than using them, but from a functional stand point it sounds like Fuji is about to correct many of the complaints people have about the M9. True, it won’t be a range finder, but with a hybrid optical view finder and auto focus in my opinion it will be better than a rangefinder. Simply not having the focal length restrictions the M System has is huge in itself. On top of that if the rumors of their organic sensor are to be believed Fuji is really going to have something special.

      • Geez man, Leica is better shut down…That fudji will be in the 3K and if it does not accept M lenses, it will appeal to judgemental guys who get a rash when they see a red dot… I owned an M8.2 for a short time and it gave me the best I ever made… oh the Nex 5 did a good job too, without the sweet signature… But I bought a house so out went the M8.2. Anyways… I will wait for the Leica EVIL before I do anything stupid, 3K for 3K I prefer a Leica over a fuji. My Canon G3 and G9 had optical viewfinders and snappy autofocus… Anyways, an RF is an RF and you like the experience or you don’t…Does not seem to suite you for whatever reason…I guess your comparative test of the M9 vs the fuji made it clearcut for you… HAve fun snapping you way through life, it is a very nice way to enjoy the ride…
        Cheers, your friend the snob…

        • Well that’s the thing about having auto focus; its there if you want it, but you don’t have to use it. In-fact, I use manual focus most of the time on my NEX-5n (as well as m4/3’s bodies). I just bought a Voigtlander 35mm Color Skopar and I also regularly use old Pentax K-Mount primes. I never use burst mode or any of those other wiz bang push button features EVIL’s have.

          However, that doesn’t mean I think the M9 is the perfect camera because it doesn’t have any of that fluff. You’d have to drink a few gallons of the red dot kool-aid to think the M9 can’t be improved upon. How do you like shooting 135mm lenses on an M9 for example? What about 18mm ultrawides? Do you enjoy using add-on VF’s? What if you decide you’d like to take a photo of a fast moving subject sometime and you can’t use hyperfocal focusing; is it better to have to buy a second camera for that?

          It sounds like Fuji is basically going to attempt to make a camera that doesn’t have these shortcomings. Sure, it won’t have a RF patch, but focus peaking works just a well IMO; and it will have AF for times when you need it. I get the appeal of rangefinders, I really do, but Leica has a lot of things they need to improve to justify the M9 cost as far as I’m concerned. A 230k display on the back of a $7000 camera is ridiculous. They should also follow Fuji’s lead and create some sort of a hybrid rangefinder with an EVF overlay for times you need it. Some of us do actually like to shoot telephotos after all.

          As far as the LX goes; of course no one truly knows anything about the it yet, but based on Steve’s X10 review it seems as though Fuji has learned a lot since the release of the X100. Hopefully they’ll improve the LX usability even further. Lets just say I’m looking forward to it. So much so that I canceled my NEX-7 pre-order the second I saw the leaked photos.

        • $1400 Fuji XL10 possibly aps-h.
          3 layer sensor preferable to the best 1 layer Bayer as on M9.
          Fuji movie lenses the best some at $160K.
          Bring that tech know how to digital camera lenses.

      • Will this new Fuji be full-frame? If not, I have zero interest. I don’t want to shoot my 28 like a 40. Or my 50 like a 75. The M9 will hold its own for as long as it remains the only way to make FULL use of those amazing Leica and Zeiss M mount lenses.

        • The new Fuji will have its own lenses (equivalent 24 f2, 45mm f1.4, 80mm f1.8) AF, evf ovf hybrid.

          Why should it be M mount.
          Sure can use M with adapter.

          Fuji movie lenses are best of class at upto $160k.
          If they bring that know how to digital lenses for the XL then watch out.

      • NOPE. I don’t want the upcoming Fuji. At least not if it has an APS-C sensor as rumored. I want full frame with Leica quality glass. I’m sure the Fuji will be good, but I’ve had lots of good cameras over the years, and now I want something great. If it weren’t for the archaic mechanical coupling rangefinder focussing, I’d have gotten an M9 by now. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not dissing the M9. In the right hands, it can capture amazing images. But I just don’t think my aging eyes get along with the old rangefinder approach. So I wait, continue to enjoy what I have, and hope for my dream M10. You’re mileage may vary 🙂

        • Sigma DP1 28mm f4 (£200), DP2 41mm f2.8 (£250) Lcd & af (has dodgy mf).
          Dawg to use compared to simplicity of M9
          Yet at base iso possibly upto iso400 DP2 they match M9 with more depth in the Sigma outputs due to their 3 layer sensor.

      • The first thing I discount is rumors of exotic fancy new sensors. These rumors always seem to be based on wishful thinking rather than hard facts. Nice if true, but I suspect it’ll have a competent CMOS sensor, just like pretty much everything else out there. I’d love to be proven wrong, of course.

    • Mark, your comment reminds me of the day shooting last winter. It was -20C and I was out shooting for six hours in a nearby city. Anything running on battery just did not do its job. My M8 jammed, my phone jammed. Any EVF LCD CCD CMOS etc would have jammed. So I spent the second half of the day shooting with my M6 without a single glitch.

      There is nothing like a fine mechanical piece of equipment. Lubed and calibrated to work flawlessly. With a supersharp optical viewfinder that shows reality as it is, not as a computer generated approximation.

      • I agree there is something wonderful about a fine precision mechanical instrument. But to be fair, I’ve never had my D3X or D700 fail under the most brutal conditions I’d ever be willing to work in. Caked ice covering the LCD and bottom of the camera because of the freezing of my breath – no problem. Pouring rain sheeting off the camera and lens – no problem.

        The only mechanical aspect of the M9 that I’m not enamored with is the focus linkage. I’ve just heard too many stories of those things going out of alignment and requiring a 4 to 6 week stay in the shop for a recalibration.

    • The whole idea of a rangefinder is NOT to see through the lens at shooting apperture and 100% of the captured image. Bur rather to see WHAT you are shooting and MORE than the captured image.

    • Both sides of this equation miss some points.

      Those that want EVF, AF etc. fails to understand that M-lenses will always be manual focus and that the rangefinder is coupled to the mount solution. Those that are on the “old and true RF” side fails to see the need for all the automation.

      For me, it is hard to understand why those that want EVF, etc. keep insisting it is the M10 solution. It will have to be a new line of cameras. This new line would take M-lenses with an adapter. And the only reason for that is that people that want this new EVF (seemed wrong to call it EVIL in this discussion:-) may already have M-lenses. However, with a new system, I am sure Leica would provide new, insanely high quality lenses with AF etc. Small, but with similar precision and higher speed than the S (less glass to move etc.). Finally, I suspect it would be a crop factor to improve sensor yields and maintaining margins.

      My “crystal ball” for 2012:-)

      Good light to everyone!

      Cheers,

      Knut

  60. I really don’t know why people love to hate Leica. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. There are tons of cameras out there to choose from. It’s “funny” to see people coming to a forum to criticize the opinion of the host of the website. It’s not like Steve is the founder of Leica AG.
    Anyway, keep up with the good work Steve!

    • Really? It’s not that hard to see. First there’s the ridiculous price. Then there’s the irritating smugness of Leica shooters — the patronizing claims that there is a magical quality to the Leica and its glass that you cannot even comprehend unless you shoot one. And, this is not a new phenomenon — Leica owners have been saying this for decades…it gets old. Then, if you finally buy into all of that and buy a $7,000 camera body, you literally can’t buy a new lens for it — they just can’t be had.

      As Leica owner, I still have a love/hate relationship with the thing. It’s crude, it’s primitive, it’s hard to focus, and often people think you’re a dick just because you own one, but it *does* take amazing pictures. I would love it if I could get the same results with another cheaper, autofocus camera, but I haven’t figured out how. That’s not to say others can’t as there are certainly incredible pictures being taken with all kinds of equipment. For me, though, my best stuff comes from the m9.

      • I own a Leica M6, and owned an M8.2. I had a love/hate relationship with them. I eventually sold the M8.2 as I adored the M6 so much more. Yeah I know film can be a pain to wait for the results, (waiting is the hate part),but the film M produces (with nice glass) a lovely picture. I still think film cameras have every digital camera beat, but by longevity standards. I like the film better than digital. But, I like the convenience of digital better than film. M9 is just a digital box. It’s an expensive one. I like that it’s full frame. I like that it still retains that M design. I don’t like the issues everyone seems to be having with the sensors, & focusing. So…for me the hate is that it’s over the top expensive for the issues , but if they fixed those issues, and made it more dependable or improved it overall, I would love an M9. I love Leica, but not for pro use. I love the “idea” of an M9, but to me the camera isn’t quite where it should be, and I think when the next M comes out, it will be lovely. But, again, expensive. So, for the experience of shooting with an M, I prefer the film camera because being the moment with it is enjoyable, and slow paced. I love the feel of the camera, and it’s nostalgic. It brings me back to my younger days when all there was to use was film. I think it’s a more challenging camera to use than the traditional SLR as the focusing is harder for me and my older eyesight, but when I get a shot, it’s much more rewarding to me. I love Leica glass. Yeah, it’s expensive. To me the glass is the thing.

        I have so many cameras, that each is enjoyable and aggravating in so many ways. Leica adds more frustration for me due to its price. I just don’t think that there should be any quality control issues on something so expensive; at least until you used it to death.

        Anyway, even owners of Leica have a love/hate relationship with the gear. But I also have it with Nikon too. LOL! Oh, don’t let me get started about Sony.

        Still, like I said, each has it’s pluses and minuses. I’m just happy to be able to take pictures with so much variety. Even a Holga camera is fun to me.

      • Not true that lenses “just can’t be had.” I bought three Leica lenses in September. You have to pick up the phone and call people, and be able to act immediately (whilst being completely smugness-free hopefully ;>)

    • M3 over M9 any day.

      Cant believe the extortionate amount Leica charge for that comparative to silky M3 that is the junk M9 (leica user forum has many threads on M9 problems.)
      M3 super condition from FFordes, Harrisons, Red dot can be had for under £1k
      & M3 doesnt have that ridiculous red logo which soe people seem to wear as a badge of some pride.

  61. Steve, good to hear you’re still loving on your M9, I thought maybe you were getting ready to break up with her after reading your previous posts! It was YOUR passion for the M9 that ultimately inspired me to buy one and a Summicron 35mm ASPH lens – and my love affair with this amazing camera continues.

    You’re spot on, I have captured some very nice images with my D700 and other cameras
    (the D-LUX5, M8.2, Fuji X100) – but nothing. Nothing. Comes close to what I capture with the M9.

    Below is a link to a few of my M9 favorites … I welcome any and all constructive feedback!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mauiholiday/6342935298/in/set-72157628028358239

    – Glen

    • Sigma DP1 28mm f4 (£200), DP2 41mm (£250) at base iso due to its sensor is a match for M9 & expensive Leixa glass & delivers more depth, more realism of light due to its 3 layer sensor, not the flat 1 layer of M9.

  62. I think the choice of picking up an M9 as opposed to a DLSR greatly depends on the type and style of photography one does. Subconsciously, I think many (not all) Leica users have a superiority complex to DSLR users based on the superior optics, the high price point, and rarity/snob factor of a Leica. But neither pro camera system is inherently better than the other; it’s more a function of fit for the type of photography you like to do.

    I’m a photography hobbyist and I love the Leica M9. I shoot with one myself coupled with a 35mm Lux. I had the Noctilux on the camera for a long time, but accurate focusing with that lens was often a challenge for me so I switched back to the 35mm Lux which I absolutely love. That having said, most of my photography is now fashion related, working with models either in the studio or on location shoots. In these situations, I ALWAYS shoot with profoto studio lights or speedlights in the field for primary or fill and catch lights; that’s my style of photography. In these situations, my tool of choice is a Nikon D3s. I would never use the Leica in situations that need complicated lighting set-up, speed, and precision. The M9 is used for more personal projects and a different style of artistic work, never with flash, where misfocusing and imprecision can even enhance the quality of an image.

  63. Steve, with all due respect, this post smell like shameless pr.
    We all know you love you Leica.
    But reading this ode I am not convinced.
    And I am starting to think you’re not sure either.
    Because your reasoning is so non-confident. You express your feelings towards M9,
    but you failed to bring any proving tech facts out.
    From what I know about this camera it is a waste of money for a professional photographer.
    And don’t through stones at me because I am telling what I think.
    Since film era Leica is trying catching up and in my opinion is doing it not well enough.
    It’s just a Louis Vuitton bag for luxury pleasure, but not and professional tool. IMHO

    • Shameless PR? Because I write about a camera I used in for PRO work? Showing examples? CD cover? Maybe shameless PR for ME! Lol…. Tech facts? Like what? I wrote “picture taking” facts, not TECH facts. There will always be those who hate Leica, Ive seen it for two years. Most hate it due to its cost and because they do not release a new updated camera every 6 months with the newest sensor. Sure it is overpriced. Sure it has issues at times, mine has had issues a few times with focus. BUT at the end of the day, there is nothing like it in the digital world. Still. Image quality or look/feel/build and in use. It’s a give and take. If image quality matters the most, the M9 is fantastic. If AF, video, panos and macro/tele matter more then this is NOT a camera for you. Leica has its best year EVER in their history so they are not really catching up, they surpassed what they have done in the past. BUT, nots o sure they can keep that up in 2012 and will be very tough for them with cameras like the new Fuji X coming….still. The M9 can easily be used as a pro camera for those with an open mind and willingness to learn how to use it correctly.

      • I wonder why you talk about people hating Leica just because they say something negative? I enjoyed the post but did get the feeling you were trying to make up for your positive NIkon review which resulted in some Nikon-haters (to use the same expression) attacking the review (and reviewer). But I enjoy reading about Leicas. That’s why I keep reading… But I do believe I found it looking for a Nikon review once…

        I haven’t had a Leica since the film days and I would like an M9. However, for my kind of photography I’m not sure an M9 would be the best choice. I like MF, but my eyesight is not what it used to be, besides I like AF. The discussion whether it is a pro camera or not is sort of silly. Only the manufacturer/Leica can answere who they make the camera for but even if their target customers are not the pros mostly any “high-end” camera can be used for (different kind of) pro work. In my eyes the M9 is more than a pro camera and I mean that in a positive way. It can easily be used for pro work, but I don’t think of it as being aimed at what we most commonly think of as pro work. But we like Leicas anyway. And when photographers we look up to are often seen photographing with a Hasselblad, Nikon or Canon, but talk about using a Leica when they “get off work” as their personal camera, we know it must be a great camera.

        Regarding frequency of updating cameras – I mainly wait for updates of a camera that I’m not 100% happy with. Leica isn’t hte only one waiting years between. Nikon doesn’t update their DSLRs very often either. How old is the D300/D300s or the D700? Or Canon, but I don’t know their models very good.

        -iau
        — who HATES video modes on still cameras.

    • Well the Leica M9 is a Professional camera and there are a hell lot of Pro’s out there working with a Leica M9. Even If you like it or not. And for Pro work you don’t necessary need more the Base ISO.

      But according to most of the definitions out there from the likes of DXO &Co a MF System Camera is utterly crap. Which of course if your ask a Pro is well … plainly wrong.

      B

      • I’ll put up my Bronica SQ and it’s 80 2.8 up against the M9 and shoot “Pro” work…whatever, the SQ’s ass-kicking imagery will strip away all the “magical” elements of this Leica – like Steve says, it’s all in how you shoot it.

        1. Trix-X @ 1600
        2. Portra 400 @ 1600

        Or even use a non-M RF like the Zeiss Ikon (newer) or Bessa’s with either Zeiss or Leica glass…

        We often see what we want to, especially when you spend 3-6 X more than the next guy.

        I remember the same comparisons back in the 70’s and 80’s with hi-fi equipment…:)

    • your post doesn’t make any sense to me.. why would anyone need technical facts to support their love for a camera? waste of money? you sound exactly like people who tell me i’m wasting my time shooting film. it works for some people, and doesnt for others.

      there ARE pros out there, as steve mentioned, that earn their living with a leica M. if it works, then why knock it?

      nice site by the way, i like your b&w work.

    • Ridiculous comment. I wonder what kind of photography you expect every pro photographer to do. Shooting sports events and whoring for stock photography? Reproducing other people’s creativity for the fashion industry? Bleh.

      Nothing has _really_ changed since the film era. Great photography is still captured and evaluated the same fundamental way and tech specs still make a difference only in consumer review magazines.

  64. Hi Steve,
    I’m sorry to say that I have to disagree.
    After a dissapointing adventure with a M8, followed by a brandnew M9, a 50mm Summilux, 90mm Summicron and a Zeiss 35mm Biogon I had to come to the conclusion that Leica stands for wonderful lenses, really fantastic. The M9 however is a completely different story.
    I am a wedding and portrait photographer for a living and never had any trouble focussing with the manual lenses: sharpness or speed.
    What has been a problem is processing-power/speed.
    Imagine a situation where you are shooting the best men/women autographing, four of them consecutively. You take a picture of the 1st, 20/30 seconds go by before the 2nd is ready to put the autograph, another 30 seconds, the 3rd, 4th and then you discover that the M9 is working it’s ass of processing the pictures of the first 2 best men and while writing to card missed the shots of 3rd and 4th. It just wasn’t able to cope with that speed. Was it a card problem? Nope, excellent cards that were advised by Leicas manual. Was it too fast? Don’t think so: every camera should be able to handle 2 pictures in 30 seconds… In my opinion the camera is just too slow and unreliable in it’s processing. Had that problem with my M8 but thought it would be better with a newer version.
    Another problem that is just unacceptable was a problem I ran into a couple of times in four months. Strange lines all over the picture. I sent you one to see if you ever saw that problem. Did the same with Leica customerservice, guess they are still busy finding out what could be the problem, takes them 3 months now… Again: tried different cards, different settings, etc.
    To me, predictability is everything: I want to be able to trust on my camera and lenses. If I press “X” I want to see “X” for result. Not “I tried X but was too slow but at least I have some previous letters” or: “here is your X, sorry for the damage on that file”…

    And last but not least: I think it’s a shame that a company like Leica finds it acceptable to sell $6500 camera’s with a 230.000 pixel screen and worse: ISO performance similar to my Iphone… No way your so called low light high ISO-examples are real life low light situations. Unless you have swapped the sensor with a Nikon D3s…

    Good things about it: I was able to sell it without too much loss, it looks fantastic, it’s robust and light. It’s basic features force you to think about your composition and I think that makes you a better photographer.

    I’m sorry for the negativity, would have loved to write great things about it but for me, a camera is a tool to make a living, not an oldtimer that you only take out of the garage on sunny days.
    It has to be a working man’s tool, nothing more or less.
    Now I shoot with Nikon D700’s. They do the job for me. Not as sexy and desirable as the M9 but; they deliver!!
    So. I don’t miss the M9 at all. Leica glass however……………

    All the best and keep up your good work,

    Bram

    • Sure the buffer sucks – never was an issue for me but also never had a problem shooting more than three shots in 90 seconds, even way more than that but I always used the Extreme Pro 45mbs cards. As for high ISO, Ive shot a ton of images at ISO 2500 and showed them here on this site and with less noise than most cameras at ISO 1600. One of the shots in the CD book was shot in almost complete darkness at ISO 2500. I do not use NR at all. It is all in the exposure with the M9. This camera is NOT for everyone, that is for sure. But those who really use it and put it to work always seem to love the quality it gives back. Still, it is way overpriced, does have some warts and it is not really a “smart” choice – it is one made with the heart instead. Thanks for posting your thoughts experience.

      • If you visit l-camera forum every now and then, as I do, you’ll see a host of complaints about M9’s that would not be acceptable in any normal, “Non-magical” camera.

        I won’t list them here, but it’s really quite funny, particularly at that price level.

        Blackstone has its work cut out.

    • Bram, also note that although Steve did mention that some wedding photogs were using M’s, that is not where he is coming from. I could certainly use my M9 at a wedding for PJ type work, I think it would be great. But it isn’t the camera for the “OMG HERE GOES THE KNIFE THROUGH THE CAKE” type of shooting. AF, fast frames, these are all good things for that type of work.

      Sorry it didn’t work out for you, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great camera for other usages (like how I use mine).

  65. Nice post! Liked it a lot! I am looking for the perfect camera for quite a while now and decided that I have to save every single one of my student cents to get an M9.
    Hope I will be able to afford one soon. I will start with my grandpas old glass form the end 1960ies (Zeiss, Voigtländer and one 50mm Summicron). Can’t wait 😀

  66. Hi Steve,

    Great Article. And of course the M9 is a Professional Camera and your photos at a proof of facts. But I think the M9 has one Advantage which most of the time is very underrated: The Sensor.

    Its a Kodak and at base ISO a Kodak produces Colours and transitions that no CMOS is able to archive. Basically its the same with the Olympus E-System. The E1, which uses a special FFT CDD (which was the foundation of the M8 Sensor and now M9), is somehow the same. The Colour are still unmatched within the (m)4/3 universe. I still have mine and its not for sale – never ever.

    So no I’m waiting for my order to to arrive, a M9P in Chrome with the 35mm Summicron ASPH and 90mm Summarit. Should be within the next 2 weeks (hope so)

    Personal I don’t expect a M10 in 2012.

    B

    • No one believed me when I said a FF M9 was coning in 2009 🙂 I agree on the E-1! It had the best color of any 4/3 to date, and I am also a believe in those Kodak sensors. Congrats on the chrome P…

      • Thanks,

        Yep, Kodak Sensors are superb even if DXO thinks otherwise. Actually the E5 is not close, but the one which has to a degree gotten somehow near those colours and transitions. Even the metering behaviour is now quite similar again. Must be the new Filter Layout etc. Its a underrated DSLR!

        And the next lens I’m waiting for is the 50mm Lux…

        B

  67. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for your update. I’m one of those wedding photographers who uses a M9 predominately throughout the day (80/20) along with a D3 for extreme wide angle or telephoto work. I really love using it as it’s so much fun to use. The bridal party do not seem to be intimidated by the camera, although a large part of it is how you conduct yourself and body language, be a large or a small camera like the M9.

    I too have found the camera to occasionally wander in it’s focusing and it’s usually a human error. Today, however I did realign the camera for the second time as it was back focusing a little. It’s handy just to keep a small allen key with you on shoots:-)
    Other than that, the camera has been wonderful along with the outstanding bokeh I get on the 35mm Summilux f1.4. The images are so sharp and I shoot wide open all day long. It gives a really unique look to my images.

    Keep up the good work.

  68. Interesting read Steve, thanks for the insight.

    One note of correction, I wouldn’t consider the m series refreshes to be any slower than other full frame cameras…how old are the 5d2 and d700 now? Seems like ff stands the advances in technology better.

  69. Great article Steve, I was thinking of gong back to DSLR again for my wedding work, due to lack of leica lens availability and some of the ecentricity with the m9. But once I saw the images from m9,and once I pick the camera up to use it, all doubt is gone. I recently got a olympus ep2 to try out, although a fun camera, its not the same experience. Your article greatly supported my decision to keep going with the M9

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