Jan 192012
 

USER REPORT: My time with the Leica M9 by Matt Draper

FIRSTLY I WOULD LIKE TO THANK STEVE FOR ALLOWING ME TO CONTRIBUTE TO HIS EVER GROWING SITE, HIS RESPECT OF OTHERS OPINIONS AND SKILL LEVELS ARE VERY HUMBLE TO SAY THE LEAST.

SECONDLY IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ ANOTHER M9 USER POST IT MAYBE WISE TO CLOSE THIS PAGE NOW.

All comments are welcome!

The photos I have selected for this post have no theme. I tried to add variety so please feel free to send any constructive criticism my way. I am grateful for the posts added on Steve’s site every day, they take longer to write than most think :)

There weren’t enough seats in the back of the tuktuk so the roof it is.

The driver must be doing at least 70 kilometers per hour – we are an hour or so out of Chang Mai dodging pot holes, small landslides and the odd stray elephant it’s a one way road and there’s oncoming traffic.

Gadd attempts to pass me his camera, he wants a photo standing on the roof with no hands. I look at him with a worried look and he yells “car surfing bro”. Shaking I take the camera…..

I look through the electronic view finder and time stands still for a moment, it’s so bright and clear, the large dial on the light ergonomic body is set to auto and I quickly gain composure with the stock standard auto focus 18-55mm lens.

One click and a quick look at the well sized well lighten LCD and that’s it, a Facebook profile picture nailed.

I begin to rem-anise…… 5D MKII

A love–hate relationship is a relationship involving simultaneous or alternating emotions of love and hate.

Never have I used let alone owned a camera that I have loved and obsessed over, learnt and grown from and also been so continually pissed off with in my short 26 years on Earth like the Leica M9.

It reminds me of the first time I dated a girl, I guess those were the same feelings I felt maybe in a different order but they were present.

An explanation is a set of statements constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context, and consequences of those facts.

Some of my reasons in changing from a very popular DSLR to the camera I now speak of fall into the cliche M9 buyers guide that users ever so often mention.

Personally I don’t believe individuals need to justify a purchase to others especially one of such grotesque value in which most M9 cases involve a few sleepless nights before bank details are given to that authorized Leica dealer you have continued to annoy with countless emails and phone calls.

In saying that here are my main reasons/thoughts:

Documentation is a term used in several different ways. Generally, documentation (to document) refers to the process of providing evidence.

*I would like to think my photography has a photo journalist quality to it. I am inspired by the classic National Geographic magazine in which anything ever imagined is documented in such a raw, unique and educational manner, a magazine where in my opinion most images are so powerful that captions are not needed and our creative brains can manufacture a story to go with them. My fingers have turned these pages ever since I can remember “the girl with the green eyes” was published on the month and year of my birth and a pristine copy sits framed on my wall. To contribute to this magazine is a life long goal.

Like the yellow cover of Nat Geo magazine Leica has moulded itself into a well known name with a cult following which happens to be joined at the hip to the classic 35mm camera. Some of history’s most dramatic images in photo journalism have been captured with a Leica system and to have individuals from Magnum photographers working with such cameras Leica has always been imprinted in my brain as a camera system worth having.

Sick of Canons countless menus, HD movie capture I never used, auto focus I didn’t need or rely on and a love of all things manual the M9s attributes started to have my full attention.

*Its always mentioned but size and discretion are paramount to me, I travel a lot throughout the year and I don’t feel comfortable with a large DSLR slung around my neck shouting their ever so popular brand name$

The countries and cultures I have recently been surrounded by require respect and edict (two things the western world could slowly be losing) acquiring a portrait with my old Canon 24-70mm 2.8 lens can be extremely overwhelming and draw unwanted attention.

*Lastly and possibly most importantly, the quality of most Leica lenses are second to none, they are in many cases kept for life.

A waiting period is a period of time which one must wait in order for a specific action to occur, after that action is requested or mandated.

After a long 8 months of waiting and a whopping 1.672.900 Australian cents sucked out of my bank account I had the Leica M9 the 35mm 1.4 Summilux-M ASPH and 50mm 1.4 Summilux-M ASPH sitting next to me in my tiny 3 by 4 metre Donga situated in the middle of the blistering hot Western Australian desert on a dusty and dangerous iron ore mine site.

Ergonomics is the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body, its movements, and its cognitive abilities.

Holding the M9 is satisfying its solid weight/build and ergonomic feel really sit nicely in the hand, all working buttons and dials are positioned to be used with such ease. Changing the ISO on the M9 compared to doing the same on Canons 5D MKII is not even worth competition, it hands down beats any DSLR I have ever used for practical functionality.

Select the shutter speed turn the top dial, change the aperture rotate the ring on the lens, increase or decrease the ISO speed, hold the ISO button then navigate through to your desired speed.THAT’S IT, THAT EASY a couple of seconds and all things needed to capture an image are done, this made me smile.

Color, or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green,blue and others.

Although I own CS5 I am not a huge user of photoshop. I use most of the basic RAW adjustments, the spot healing tool (as my M9 came with a dirty sensor and images shot over f8 had spots in them) small amounts of noise reduction or sharpening and the crop/straighten tool if composure is off. So it didn’t take much encouragement from the M9 for me to capture more photos in black and white (well convert to black and white as I shoot in DNG) and less in colour.

The auto white balance is poor (pre-sets not as bad) and the colour rendition compared to cameras of the late was not what I had expected.

I find it really hard to put my finger on what exactly the M9 does poorly with its colours as I am not very technical in that area eg: charts etc all I know is that a lot of the time the colours in my images just don’t look right, when it gets it right it really gets it right, the colours look amazing it is quite hit and miss, more miss.

In both digital and film photography, the reduction of exposure corresponding to use of higher sensitivities generally leads to reduced image quality.

I have never used a flash its just not my thing, the people that have mastered flash photography and the images they produce are impressive. Most of the images I take do not require one, in saying that this does not mean I am never in low light conditions, quite the opposite to be exact, so high ISO performance is something I cherish in a camera.

Switching from the capabilities of the 5D MKII’s astonishing high ISO performance to that of the M9 was extremely frustrating even with the low light capability’s of the two f1.4 lenses I use.

Anything over 1,600 has noticeable noise, if you are shooting over 1000 ISO don’t even bother replaying your images on the LCD (unless you are checking composition) they will look far noisier then the actual image produced.

The M9 with a Leica lens attached has the potential to take some of the sharpest images (even at f1.4) in the world of photography, I would rather have high noise in my image then blur and lack of sharpness so I tend to keep the shutter speed as fast as possible with the available light present when shooting hand held.

Improve means to make something better.

“Am I a better photographer now that I use a Leica? Hell no. For those out there that say a Leica will improve your photography, don’t believe them.”

A quote extracted from “The Leica M9 – 16 Months Later by Scott Graham” Although Scott’s post contains informative points and beautiful images fueled by years of experience, teaching and travel, I personally have to disagree with the statement above.

The M9 encourages patience, I am more visual when trying to compose a scene, I spend more time trying to get the whole story in the frame lines, I see more through a fixed focal length like that of the eye and less time thinking of what I could zoom in on, more time concentrating on the available light present, more time trying to get the perfect shutter speed and aperture to work together in preventing post processing. The M9 relies on me to focus as all lenses are manual, I no longer count on the camera’s auto focus system to later find that it didn’t quite nail it, I take less photos on the M9 and keep more, I spend less time checking the LCD screen and more time composing.

Have these things helped improve my photography? Yes I think so, I have grown up in a world where technology is improved everyday, where paid photographers are made over night relying on the latest camera and its advanced intelligence rather then their own creativity and knowledge of the subject, switching to all things manual is a lesson worth taking in photography. (From Steve: I agree with Matt on this 100%)

Damage is physical harm caused to something in such a way as to impair it value, usefulness, or normal function.

6 months after receiving the M9 the already below average LCD screen has small but noticeable scratches on it, purchasing a screen protector is a must, its irritating to say the least on how easy it is for this screen to be permanently marked.

The fake black leather that surrounds the body of the M9 may look and feel nice but whether its a problem with the adhesive used or something beyond my knowledge that causes the black material to pull away from the body of the camera located at the bottom left and right side of the playback screen on the M9. At first I thought I may have received a manufacturing dud but after seeing two other M9′s (one being brand new on display at a Leica store) with the same trouble I begun to wander how many others have this easy to fix but most annoying problem?

Not having too many troubles with the SD card writing that many speak of (maybe happened to one in 200 of my photos when taking photo after photo) the problem is replaced with another, sometimes when replaying images on the LCD screen (zooming in or flicking through images) the M9 would randomly turn off, even after the latest firmware had been loaded.

Pros and cons have always helped me make a decision…….

I am in no way a good photographer its a hobby I have loved and done all my life, I wish in some way photography could be part of my career but I have a trade, some of the photos that are posted on Steve’s site (daily inspiration) truly blow me away, the skill and creativity out there is really helping people realize that what we love is a form art.

In no ways is this post about blaming equipment it is just one mans point of view, one mans opinion of a debatable subject.

Some pros

* Ease of use (simple menus)

* Unnoticeable size

* Rangefinder (amazing focus capabilities)

* Full frame sensor

* A mount for the best lenses ever made

Some cons

* White balance

* Colour rendition

* ISO capabilities

* Battery life (not too bad, but compared to others)

* Poor LCD screen

Summary is a brief statement or account of the main points of something

From the red dust of the desert I call work and home, the crystal clear waters with endless surf points of the Western Australian coast line, the funky streets of Bondi Sydney, the warm smiles of Indonesian Island life, the fast moving South to the temple rich North that is Thailand, days down the Mekong River, crazy bus rides through Laos, three weeks of motorbike riding and a bad case of Dengue Fever (time in hospital) in Vietnam to pre Christmas shopping in Malaysia. Over the last 6 months the M9 has seen what I have seen and been where I have been.

The M9 has spent days in a draw when its flaws have continued to annoy me and days around my neck when its qualities have continued to inspire me.

I have produced photos that I will keep forever, photos that I would like to send to a competition, photos that I have deleted ten at a time of and photos where I think my iPhone or even the most basic of point and shoot cameras could have done better.

So is the M9 for me?? Yeah! it was very much so for 6 months to be exact, but here’s the twist the flaws of the M9 are flaws a seven thousand dollar plus camera body should not have, flaws I am not content living with, flaws that make me believe the M9 is not the last camera I will own, so in a world where the dollar sign is ever so present and where global financial problems affect everyday living I SOLD IT, it lasted 4 days on Steve’s site.

I had just spent 3 months in Asia and with a new life draining job in the mines starting early January it was a decision I found easy to make.

This is the beauty of life isn’t it? We are free to make decisions on our own accord whether they are spirit of the moment or a product of sleepless thoughts.

One thing I am certain of is the two lenses I now own are keepers for life, if I ever have children I would like to think they too will use them one day, the build quality of the Summilux really has to be seen (and felt) to be believed, its hard to say how much time I have actually spent just looking and holding these beautiful optical masterpieces.

Succeed, lead to the desired result

The M9 was announced September 2009 so taking into account the time to design and produce this camera the technology used could well be over 3 years old. Not long in terms of life but in the world of technology and with what has been released over the last 12 months this could well be holding the M9 back.

I am confident that anyone that has ever owned the M9 or currently uses one has a wish list for the M10, I do! its not big, its not over the top or a complete turn around in design but I do believe the things on my list are crucial for the Leica M system to keep competing with cameras of today.

Do I think Leica will nail the M10? Yes I really think so, Leica seems to listen to their users, they have lasted the test of time and slowly modified to the wants and needs of today’s photographer, Leica’s share price reflects their achievements of 2011 a year where most small companies faced certain death.

The M10 could well be a camera I own for a very long time, I anticipate its announcement and predict to place an order as soon as this happens, its an expensive set up but in the words of Led Zeppelin “That’s the way, oh, that’s the way it outta be, yeah, yeah”

 

Finish, bring to an end; complete.

As I finish this article siting on the couch of my parents house in New Zealand, the house I grew up in, a house and family I have been away from for nearly two years a surprise visit for Christmas.

My thoughts of what 2012 will bring are blinded by a camera that stares at me from the coffee table, the SX 70 Polaroid in near new condition, loaded with film and awaiting the start of what is to be a very interesting project.

All photos were taken with the Leica M9 with either the 35mm or 50mm Summilux, each image has a story but I would like you to make your own to go with them. :)

Thanks Matty Draper

Thanks Matt for the great article! If anyone else would like to submit a guest report, article or review e-mail me at [email protected]

  100 Responses to “USER REPORT: My time with the Leica M9 by Matt Draper”

  1. I must say this was very well written and a pleasure to read. You sell your self short my friend. You may consider this a hobby but your photographs are inspiring to me and I am sure they will be to others here. I look forward to seeing more images regardless of the camera used.

    Peace
    Rob Creek

  2. I hate to be *that* guy, but this user report was a bit of verbal diarrhea.

    It bounces all over the place, can’t hold a coherent thought for more than half a paragraph and I had a hard time following its flow.

    As for future user reports, I’d kindly ask for either the author or Steve to run a basic spell check prior to publishing. Having a typo in the very first sentence is a turnoff, especially in a story covering a topic we all are very enthusiastic and passionate about.

    Now, I do like the photo-journalistic nature of the images. Many are quite strong, crispness and compositions reflect Leica and user qualities alike. It’s bummer that the camera didn’t work out for you Matty, you did really well as an RF novice (making an assumption) in 6 months time with the M9. It’s not for everyone, this silly camera.

    • Hey Vlad, don’t criticize someone for typos when you have typos in your own comment: “It’s bummer that…”

      Anyway, Matt, wonderful user report. It felt genuine and honest and even with the typos, I much prefer it to a perfectly polished diatribe of BS.

      I’ve been visiting Steve’s site for years now and I think you and your report exemplify why this site appeals to me (and many others). I consider myself a slightly-more-than-basic user/possibly hobbyist who wants to learn about gear and technique to produce photo-journal quality prints, like the ones you posted. All your images are fantastic and show a good range of what the M9 and speedy Lux lenses are capable of.

      Thank you!

    • Although I agree with the typo statement, these are “user” reports and as such should probably not be held to a professional writers standards. Personally I found it to be engaging and entertaining.

    • Vlad – you are right, and as such entitled to a full refund from Steve and the author.

    • Sorry to disappoint Vlad, as you can tell I am by no means a writer.

      It was pretty late when I sent this and of coarse happened to notice the first spelling mistake after I pressed the send button.

      Anyway thanks for taking the time to read this.

      • Don’t feel like you need to make excuses Matt, this is one of my favourite articles on Steve’s site. Inspirational, powerful and lovely, lovely images. Well done!

        - Charlie

    • Vlad is spot on. You gotta edit this stuff. Call me crazy, but I need to see periods between sentences. Really good photos though.

      • Whats funny is this article was linked on two sites just due to the typos. Received a few thousand reads more just due to those missing periods. Hmmmm. Maybe I should not fix them. In reality, this site has had typos since its inception. Nothing new but I will crack down on it a bit this year :)

  3. Great article and stunning photographs. Impressive!

  4. Very useful report and great photos. The monkey and the cat is very sweet. Does Matt Draper run a website or blog where I may keep updated on his work?

    I think that Vlad got out of the wrong side of his coffin this morning.

  5. Well Matt, I have just joined the ranks of Steve’s convert’s as I’ve just today, bought a black M9 and 35mm lens.
    ;-)

  6. Kia Ora Matt

    A thoroughly enjoyable user report, obviously having the M9 I can relate to many of the joy’s and frustrations mentioned above, the images, they speak for themselves, wonderful.

    User reports by “real people” on a site that allows its readers to have a voice………doesn’t get any better really! All the best from the beautiful Bay of Plenty. Jason

  7. Great photos from interesting places. Instead of another self finding write up of “me and my Leica” the story of your travel and the places your visited would have been much more exciting. I know, I sound grumpy, but I am tired of the “me and my Leica” stuff. Next time, use your talent to tell us about your photography, I will read it with interest;)

    • I think the “me and my Leica” type stories are promulgated due to the HUGE cost, that in many cases must require a severe emotional connection to justify. They have a need to share their emotions as part of their story. I find it fascinating.

  8. wow, there are some amazing photographs here! Sorry, didn’t read the whole review, I tend to judge by the photos only. By that standard – Bravo!

  9. Well written and I enjoyed reading it!

  10. enjoyed the article very much. could you post which pic was taken with which lens?
    i feel like i can guess it, but would be great to know. thank you!

  11. Thanks everyone for their comments, this article will not be for everyone and also sorry if its not up to that of a writers standard.
    Enjoy the images. :)

  12. It’s really amazing what you shot there !!! Chapeau !!!

  13. While I can understand some of the enthusiasm for Leica lenses, I have difficulties understanding the charm of the M9. When the author writes that setting ISO is much more easy than with a DSLR, I can only wonder. Even with the few-buttons-Nex 5n, you can set it so you only have to press one button and then rotate the dial to the ISO you want to have. Apart from the fact that you can also just leave it at Auto ISO because of the low noise sensor – so you do not even have to change ISO at all!

    At least I now understand more why so many Leica pictures are BW. If this is truly a problem of the M9 getting the colours right, then of course going BW is the easier route.

  14. Ok…here I go again..

    I was one of the few downer voices about the “wonderful” Fuji X100. Everyone wants to love it no matter what and “put up with” it’s numerous shortcomings because, at the end of the day, it let’s a lot of digital boys pretend there shooting an M3 without the “hassle” of using film.

    Sorry for being redundant, just setting up the next point.

    “Me and my M9″. “Me and my M8″. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    I still don’t understand why peeps think it’s OK to fork over $5,000.00 + for a sensor (really guys, that’s all you are buying – pro’s don’t need many dial or features), that in Mat’s words: “the M9 does poorly with its colours..”. In fairness, the quote goes on to say when the M9 “gets it right, it get’s it right”. Though I’m no fan of digital color, most DSLR nail pretty decent color 95% of the time. This isn’t 2003. My aged Canon 30D (worth maybe $300.00 now) nails great color in and out of the studio 95% of the time.

    The other part I have to question is the “ease of use” arguments. Changing ISO, shutter speed, aperture, wb, etc. goes pretty quick in most cameras. If you know your rig, you can change these things almost instantly, even in the “consumer models”. I can’t imagine a competent photographer impeded by the ergonomics of a Canon or Nikon DSLR. If they truly were, 5D’s, D3′s et all would be dumped in favor of the M9. They aren’t, obviously.

    It is great you love the camera and it works for you. Outside of the ability to use Leica glass, I question the price Leica charges for questionable performance. I understand the “simplicity” argument – I often shoot with a 1971 Olympus RC rangefinder – if you want to talk about using 1 or 2 buttons to make great images, well that camera has most beat, imo. However, most advanced shooters simplify their approach regardless of subject or circumstance. Whether a 5D or M9, most of the functions included on the modern DSL are for marketing hype, not real world shooting.

    Your work is nice and is a result of your eye and heart, not the goofy M9.

    • “goofy M9″ lol i like that…. thanks for your input Rob :)

    • Rob, you’re 100% right. But you know what, I still love my M8, if for no other reason than the tactile feel of the camera. With that said, I’m not ditching my 5D2 anytime soon….

    • > I still don’t understand why peeps think it’s OK to fork over $5,000.00 + for a sensor
      > (really guys, that’s all you are buying – pro’s don’t need many dial or features)

      Really? I find it very important to have a tool that fits my needs, and a digital rangefinder camera works the best. You may buy only a sensor, I buy the whole package because it is what I need and prefer.

  15. Nice Report. However some Things are off:

    1. Changing ISO: Seems you never used the Olympus E1, E3 and E5…..

    2. Color: Well, the M9 has excellent color und it uses the superb Kodak CCD, which renders of course more MF like and not Canon CMOS.

    B

    • I had the E-1…good camera, good images, especially for 5 MP.

      I still wish Olympus would come up with a MF sensor and attach that great Zuiko glass to it. It would easily compete with an S2, lenses and all.

  16. here’s an interesting conversation between two of those “paid photographers, made overnight relying on the latest camera and its advanced intelligence rather than their own creativity and knowledge of the subject.” you seemed to allude to.

    while reading, count how many times they reference their gear and how important it was in their success… also, notice how many times they talk about things like passion, hunger, and vision. things that’ll never be improved or advanced by mechanical/computer technology…

    http://www.burnmagazine.org/dialogue/2012/01/interview-chris-johns-editor-national-geographic-magazine/

    blessings

  17. Well done review. I have to agree 110% that the WB on my M9 sucks. Can’t get an indoor shot right if it’s sensor depended on it (and I’ve tried all sorts of settings, etc.). Outdoor color is another thing; it is an order of magnitude better than my Canon 5DM2 (more saturated, vibrant color than the Canon can ever produce). And sorry to say, I’m glad you had sensor dust; I did as well so now I don’t feel I got the only turd from Solms. Called Leica and I could return the camera for cleaning on my dime (actually with insurance it would cost about $100 to ship to NJ for cleaning). Anyway, I’ve no intention to sell my M9 since I find, for whatever esoteric reason, I get more shots I like with the Leica than with the Canon. Maybe it’s the patience-composing-the-scene factor or something else otherworldly but the Leica just “clicks” better for me. Thanks again for your review.

    • Thanks for your comment Gary, this could be useful to you, it worked for me :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWjJCMiaipw

      • Thanks so much for the suggestion. In fact last summer I did buy a rocket dust blower and I’ve been using a regime similar to Steve’s video with the addition of running the Leica built-in dust removal step in the menu system in-between rocket sessions. I’ve been able to remove about 98% of the dust on the sensor using my method.

        I’d love to hear from you or anyone else any tips for WB. I like to take a lot of indoor shots with my Noctilux but getting the pink cast out in Photoshop is not fun. And pink cast seems to be a Leica feature since my X1 does the same thing.

  18. Very nice article to read, accompanied by some great pictures!

    Interesting for a non leica user who reads a lot about those famous, little, expensive camera’s but will stick to his recently purchased second hand Nikon D90 for now :)

  19. Great photos, I love #13, it really jumped out at me not to mention how amazingly sharp it was. You’re probably wasting your time in a mine with these writing skills =)

  20. Awesome photos!
    And I love your article!
    Others may critisise it because it does not read like a magazine article, but anyone who remembers thier days of english literature in H/S will see this is written beautifully, in a creative style that complements your photos, your art.
    It’s great to see other excellent work from another ‘tradie’, hobbyist photographer south of the equater!
    Keep up the good work, I look forward to seeing more in the future, thanks for sharing! :D

    • Sorry for spelling and grammar I’m on my phone.
      Btw- I forgot to add, that I love that you finish open ended leaving the Impression you are going to shoot a series in film. I myself have aquired a couple of nice old bodies and plan to shoot a series in film too. :)

      • Thank you Josh, yes the SX-70 is a little project for sure, I have left my email below if you ever want to photo share etc

  21. Great post and great photos – given that this is a forum that has several postings a day, I don’t really care about nonsense like typos. These aren’t professional paid articles, they’re internet postings on a site where people have common interests. I’m always interested in hearing about people’s experiences with various items of equipment. There’s no ‘smoking gun’ anymore with the M9, nobody’s going to blow us away with a piece of revelatory writing concerning its features that have not already been discussed, so anyone criticizing posts like these should get over it and move on. I, for one, enjoy the narratives like this one Matt has shared with us – they are descriptions of one’s experiences, joys and frustrations with a camera, and the things they learned or did to adapt and move forward. I don’t come looking for technical reports about the M9 anymore (they were all done by the end of 2009 basically), and that’s not the point of this article anyway. There’s a lot of people on this site that are, quite honestly, a really tough audience. How’s about this suggestion: Those that are busy criticizing every aspect of every post step up and write that supposedly ‘perfect’ article, with ‘perfect’ photos, that all the rest of us are apparently incapable of doing to your satisfaction? Oh, right…you can’t.

  22. Matt, your prose is beautiful, I enjoyed it very much. Please write on here again someday !

  23. Thank you Matt for sharing your honest opinion about the leica M9. This kind of post make this site great and a joy to read every day.

    I’m also own a M9 (after i had a second hand M8). I like the build quality and the retro style of this camera but I think the real value is in the optics. As a backup I also have a sony nex5n which i also use with the leica glasses. If I compare the results of the pictures I think it’s hard to justify the pricedifference of these two bodies. The LCD-Screen of the M9 is a shame in this pricerange and the ergonomic of the body is only user friendly if you use a thumbs up which i recomend to every leica user.

    Right now I still love my Leica M9 even if I sometimes I miss the autofocus of my Nikon D700 which I sold to fund the M9. But to be honest I’m not sure if my next camera will be a Leica, but I’m pretty sure it will be a body with which I can still use the world best lenses from Leica.

    Of course i thank also Steve to put his energy in this page every day

    PS: sorry for the typos and the “bad english” but this is not my mother tongue ;-)

  24. Stunning wok, Matt!, and thanks for sharing your experiences, both good and bad, regarding the camera and its usage!

    • Ashwin, I follow your work, (very nice) thanks for the kind words, I would like to pick ya brain about the best way to display my photos on the internet sometime.

      I was really keen to come to the LA work shop and as soon as one pops up where the dates work out, I will be there.

  25. That photo of the monkey and cat! Spectacular!!

  26. Ive had a 5D for a few years. Being 62 I find it VERY light and easy to handle. If you had spent a few years shooting with a Nikon Ftn and F36 motor drive you would know what I mean saying the 5D is a feather weight. Tried a leica and it was just too limiting in its ability to do many things. I found the quality of the lenses excellent but not noticibly better than my Canon lenses except Leicas wide angles which are superb. But my Leica and Canon prints were basically identical. And a photograph is not complete until it is in print format. SOOO, I bought a Fuji X100. A 35mm was the only lens that made sense to me on the leica so the X100 made sense to me. I find the quality of its lens outrageously good- better than my 5d in its ability to transmit an airy spatial quality to the eye. Just an old guys 2 cents worth.

  27. Too bad the M9 didn’t work out for you. I find that post-processing plays a major role in getting great results with this camera. If you use Lightroom in particular, color and noise are simply non-issues. I routinely shoot at max. ISO (2500) with my M9 and get great print results with moderate noise reduction slider settings in LR. Remember, what looks horrible at 100% will most often not be visible at reduced web publication sizes or in prints and photobooks. Same goes for color and white balance manipulation in Lightroom.

  28. Great report by fellow expat kiwi Matty Draper from way out west. Ahh I can identify with the love hate relationship with cameras and gear in general. It is so so easy to turn into a gear nut and think that a new piece of equipment will make all the difference! It doesn’t and it wont, its all about taking lots of photos and making the mistakes with what ever camera you have. I love looking at the work from people of all walks, especially those creative amateur photographers out there producing great images and have an obvious passion for the craft. Less gear is good!!

    Cheers, Mike

  29. great write up Matt, like yourself i had the Leica,but an 8.2 +35+50, i tried to like it but found it wasnt for me. Instead of selling it, i gave it to my son for his 21st…… maybe another day.

  30. Must be REALLY nice to have the money to buy this gear to begin with :-o

    • Hi Jeffrey, 81 hours a week 4 weeks on 1 week off, lol not pretty ! (hard work)

      • Nice to hear I’m not the only hard laborer in this space, and you beat me on hours. Ore mining, did you say? Stay safe.
        Many here seem to be from the idle rich, not knocking it, wish I was in their club with their gear and passport stamps.
        Love my D7000, it’s all I could do to afford.
        Cheers!

        • I can say I’m definitely not idle or rich, as I full time caring for my elderly mother living on Carers allowance and income support. The how I was able to buy my M9 is down to my pension money – taken early I may say, by the way so please judge all owners as being wealthy, Steve would say he isn’t either…

          • amendment: as I’m full time – not I full time
            so please don’t judge – not please judge.
            Sorry

          • Sorry to sound judgmental, or as if I generalized. As I said, “many here seem to be…” I know it’s not ALL here.
            As one struggling in today’s economy, I guess I’m just a tad bit jealous (ugly). I love the idea and passion of the Leica clan and the images so I hang here.
            Especially love hearing the extra high cost of the Leica includes the extra nice feature of sensor dust or imperfections, and then they make you pay to correct it if you send it in. What a racket!
            ;-)

  31. Hey Matt….really enjoyed your article, but felt a bit of a let down when you said you sold your M9 after only 6 months…sorry to hear that, but I do understand…there are certainly things about the M9 that drive me nuts…one of the things, and I forgot to mention it in the article I wrote, is the dirty sensor you talked about….arrrrgh…that drives me insane. That damn sensor gets so dirty and gets dirty very easily….I spend time with most every photo I take removing those spots, and sometimes those spots show up in difficult to remove places….like people’s faces.

    I agree with the reader above who said that you sell yourself short with your photography. Your photos and eye are fantastic!! That will not change no matter what camera you use.

    Keep up the great work, and let us know what camera you decide on next…”the best camera is the one you have with you”, right?

    PS….still maintain that the M9 doesn’t make you a better photographer…hehe…but get your point.

    If you are ever in Jakarta during your travels, lets go shooting…

    Cheers,
    Scotty

  32. Very good article in my humble opinion. I do not own a Leica M9, but I do own a couple Leica lenses (Thanks to Steve’s reviews!). The M9 does produce amazing pictures, but in my opinion, the glass (lens) is the origin of a great sharp picture. Like he said, he sold his M9, but he definitely kept his Leica lenses!HA! I only own a NEX 5n, a Summitar, and a Summicron 50, I’m not as “cool” like most people here, sporting an M9. Though I definitely wish I could! =)

    It took me months trying to figure out the NEX 5n, but once I got the hang of it, I’ve been shooting images that look very close to what an M9 could. Just a little patience and time in choosing the right settings and I guarantee you, a picture you take on a NEX 5n (I can’t wait to try the NEX 7 !) with a Leica lens will look like a picture shot from an M9! Like most say, “It’s all about the glass!” There’s something about Leica lenses that makes images look 3D. Sure the M9 is one awesome piece of machine, but for that price, I would rather spend the money on buying 2 or 3 good Leica Lenses.

    ~Take a picture, it might be your last! Carpe Diem ` Carpe Nocte~

    ~Jacob~

  33. Outstanding article. I like the conversational writing style — many “real” writers need to learn that how we speak naturally is a preferred way of expressing one’s self in written form. Although I think your photos would be excellent no matter which camera you used, I can understand what attracts so many to Leica — there are less definable, intangible aspects to any art that motivates and inspires many (but not all) artists. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  34. Once upon a time to feast at the kings table had to pay a kings ransom.
    Nowadays the kings table still has its admirers, yet the feast no longer costs the kings ransom.

    :

    (incase a few didn’t get that
    kings table = leica m lenses
    kings ransom = m8, m9
    feast no longer costs a kings ransom = m4/3, nex, ,nx, xpro1 with adapter; ricoh m mount).

  35. I don’t think there has ever been a camera as divisive as the Leica M9; here we are almost 4 years after it was introduced and we’re still talking about it. I have followed Steve’s blog for a little more than a year now, and was inspired to purchase an M9 based on the reviews I read, and ultimately the photo samples I saw online.

    And at the same time I had to sift through all of the naysayers assertions that the “Leica Man” is a
    self-absorbed man of privilege that needs to buy the best. A status symbol. An extension of his penis. Rarely was M9 condemnation aimed at the camera itself, but the perception that the cameras were winding up in the hands of rich, unqualified blowhards.

    Do rich people buy the M9 so they can show off their red dot? I’m sure there are a few, but there a lot more photographers that scrimped and saved to purchase this camera after doing tireless research and realizing how special the image quality was from this camera.

    That was my experience anyway. I tried NOT to buy the M9 … a bought a D-LUX 5 to see if it would capture that Leica magic, and it didn’t. Then I bought the Fuji X100; hey it LOOKED like a rangefinder. Sorry Charlie! Then I sprung for an M8.2, close but not a full frame M9.

    Luckily I never lost money on any of these purchases, and six months ago I succumbed and purchased an M9. It’s not about the money, prestige or bragging rights …. it simply takes amazing photos.

    There you have it. Is my therapy session over already?!

    • “And at the same time I had to sift through all of the naysayers assertions that the “Leica Man” is a
      self-absorbed man of privilege that needs to buy the best. A status symbol. An extension of his penis. Rarely was M9 condemnation aimed at the camera itself, but the perception that the cameras were winding up in the hands of rich, unqualified blowhards.”

      Dude – though many a pro has used Leica M’s for years, Leica only thrived on the rich amateurs and unqualified blowhards you have described.

      Though their optics are sharp edge to edge wide open, and cameras can be a joy to use (M3, M6), the Red Dot is the penis extension for many, if not most, who buy the camera.

      My lowly Canon 30D has taken many amazing pictures as well. All I had to do was take it to the beach, turn it on, and press a button. Just like an M9. But I did cheat and put a Zeiss lens on it. :)

  36. I enjoyed your article, Matt, and I can identify with the fact that you were honest to decide that the M9 isn’t for you, even though you adore Leica glass – as I do.

    Like you, I’m waiting for the ‘M10′ before I consider making that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ digital purchase.

  37. Thanks again Steve for posting this, and also everyones comments :)

    If anyone is ever keen on shooting the streets or a bit of M9 photo sharing (or any camera) my email is m a d d o g g m a t t @ g m a i l . c o m

  38. I have a feeling the Fuji X-pro 1 will be a superb image machine and a great option for those who have issues with digital Leica M’s (niggles and price). Matt – you should think about that camera, I know a lot of Leica shooters are considering it (provided it lives up to the hype).

    • Hi Stephen I think you could be right there, I did write this before the X-pro was announced, Be good to see some user images from it.

  39. I too sold my M9 after just over 7 months. I do completely agree that it is a camera that you have a “relationship” with. I guess due to it’s perceived heritage, cult status, cost and way of operation, it does draw you in like other digital cameras dont. For that reason, I do feel withdrawal symptoms and wish I still had it. The relationship you build up is quite unique in my experience and it almost forces you to be a better shooter (in the same way as feeling the need to justify the vast expense of the thing by taking better pictures).

    However, for doing a job of work a modern DSLR has it beat in the vast majority of situations. Even trying to be un-noticed in the street is awkward with an M9 when you are shooting at the widest aperture when focus is critical and you need a second or two to get it spot on. I use Canon 1D Mark IV bodies and the speed of operation and accuracy is just astounding, with superb image quality.

    Also I could never really 100% reply on my M9 to get the shot. I had numerous instances of cards getting corrupted and the camera locking up, so I was always nervous using it in a professional situation and always had a DSLR with me as a 2nd body anyway. At least my 1D’s have 2 cards so if one fails the other is still alive and kicking. My M9 also came with a filthy sensor from new, the auto white balance is the worst I’ve ever seen, and the processor is so horrendously slow it simply should not have been put into the camera.

    To really justify having an M9 you need to have a bevvy of ultra-fast lenses to go with it. Granted these are beautiful items in their own right, but they cost an enormous amount of money which I just could not justify. Paying £5000 for a 24 1.4 is crazy if I can get a 24 1.4 from Canon for under £1000. It may not be as brilliant, but it’s more than good enough. It may be bigger, but the Leica 24 1.4 isn’t a small light lens itself.

    So, elegant, gorgeous, hugely involving, but ultimately flawed. It’ll be interested to see what the M10 looks like. If it looks good and in the unlikley event that I have £20k spare then I’ll be getting one. Ideally actually, I’d have two bodies and 4 lenses, so maybe I’ll up my budget even more :-).

  40. Don’t think of the M9 as a digital camera…think/use it like a leica film camera. Then it won’t disappoint. From my experiences It is not a replacement for a DSLR (many of which I have hired/borrowed) as it can’t compete with all their functions but it is designed for a different type of photography. Yes, the has it’s flaws but doesn’t every camera?.

    Once you/I get that in our heads…it’s almost perfect. My mind is now programmed to accept the lcd as just a review screen….it will tell you enough info about the picture. Once glance will tell you if shot was focussed, WBed right, composed probably etc. it’s my first “digital” camera and took 2-3 years of scrapping the money together but, definitely, worth the wait.

    Imagine those who parted with near 20 grand for the titanium M9? At that cost I would want the camera to be able to shoot film and digital as well as cook me breakfast!!

    • Robert –

      “Don’t think of the M9 as a digital camera…think/use it like a leica film camera.”

      This is exactly what I mean when I say you Leica guys have to invent conditions and excuses for your over priced camera. Really? *Pretend* it’s a film camera and all it’s transgressions are forgiven? “A different type of ‘photography’”?

      Please, for the most part, Leica’s are toys for rich boys and that’s all. I get so sick of hearing that Leica is a different type of “photography”…that’s right, all you Leica shooters are the next Salgado or Bresson!

      A couple of guys I know that shoot on a professional level with Leica’s, Daniel Minor and Riccis Valladares, somehow don’t think enough of the M9 to use it to get paid. Interesting.

      The guy who uses the D7000 has a camera is just as capable as creating stunning, beautiful imagery as the M9…again, it’s the person, not the sensor.

      • Rob , different doesnt have to be be better or more capable, just different.

        I dont own a M9 , but if owning one makes the owner feel more creative or more involved in the photo process so be it , it sounds like you are more obsessed with the price than anything else , but thats what hobbies are for, to get rid of our disposable ca$h :)

        Im not a pro photographer either, but using manual lenses , and older gear may be anachronistic, but its still alot of fun and generates enjoyment for me, and isnt that what its all about?

        Cheers another Robert !

        • ” it sounds like you are more obsessed with the price than anything else”

          Hmmm, that is short sighted if you have read my rants on this blog. I plan on purchasing an Imacon or Flextight scanner this year – not exactly cheap, maybe even more than a M9.

          Price is only a consideration point when the quality achieved by it (M9) is equaled by many “lessor” cameras. :) – read the point made about the “Kings Feast” in this thread.

          • Actually I dont read all the blog stuff here, people get very militant with their opinions and confuse them as fact , so I tend to *browse* more than anything else and post once every 2-3 weeks

            On a side note : I was on your blog, you have some great shots , I liked the story about the pier shot being rejected as over-shopped

            see you around

            RTW

          • btw…looks like steve is road-testing the leica s2 system…are you interested in getting that? i would but i would have a sell a couple of kidneys and a couple of kids to get one…

        • how many robs can we get on one page?! i let one of my photo club chairmen have a go on my m9 the other day…his first reaction “manual focus what?”…first that look was of confusion, then “what is this curio?”….then a smile slowly beamed across his face. he was learning photography again! not that you need an m9 to do this but am sure it added to the pleasure!

    • Sorry for slow response…just came from a shoot. lighting for DSLR video…. .

      When i meant “different” i didn’t mean it to sound pretentious or anything….i feel honestly feel that DSLR is a lot better in some uses and the rangefinder is better in others. Ideally i would have a DSLR on one shoulder and the M9 on the other….I made a choice as I usually have a 20kg tripod/10kg HDCAM or kids and I wanted a full frame digital which I had the lenses from the M6 (sorry yes I have an M6 as well). The M9 came and I eventually saved enough to get one. I even sold my 50mm Summilux Asph. Tell me about it….and God knows how long I would have to save for an M10!

      I am not trying to be on the same level as Bresson et al but having tried and tested most cameras I know where I would want a DSLR and where I want a rangefinder. It is a different mindset as you know you have to become involved more with the action to get the shot and not rely on a zoom. If you know the boundaries to work DSLR/Rangefinder the results are stunning.

      And really I am just trying to enjoy my passion of photography and if anything have beautiful images of my kids they can look at one day and enjoy as well as the odd paid gig.

      BTW the DSLR video looks stunning. Lady Leshurr..look out for her!

  41. “Blessed is the man who expects nothing because he will never be disappointed. “

  42. .
    I’m stuck at “.. Rangefinder (amazing focus capabilities)..”

    Matt, what are these “amazing focus capabilities”..?

    I put a 28mm lens on an M9, and in the viewfinder I see the view seen by a 28mm lens.

    I put a 50mm lens on, and see the view seen by ..a 28mm lens.

    I put a 75mm or a 90mm on, or a 135mm, and see the view seen by ..a 28mm lens.

    I want to focus precisely with a 90mm, and I have to work at finding some far distant vertical edge to align within the (ancient) 28mm viewfinder.

    As for depth of field, most SLRs do have a d-o-f preview button. There’s no such thing with an M9, so all you have to go on is experience ..or imagination.

    So what, please, are these “amazing focus capabilities”..?

    Many thanks,

    Yours, David.

  43. I really enjoyed the article, thanks for taking the effort to write it. Some of the images were stunning.

  44. I find it fascinating and distressing that so many M9 owners report dirty sensors out of the box. How can that be? Where is the QA in that area of the assembly?

    Is it possible the older film Leicas were built much better than their younger digital sibling and the lenses are the amazing factor in common?

    -the guy with the D7000

    • .
      When you use any camera which has interchangeable lenses, each time that you remove a lens you may let in dust.

      When you use film, you wind a new frame out of the cassette for each shot, past the felt-covered lips of the film cassette. This wipes the film. Film is essentially “self-cleaning” for each new frame.

      The (focal plane, horizontal or vertical) shutter of a film camera is ALWAYS CLOSED while you’re changing lenses, to stop light getting in, and that prevents dust reaching the “sensor” – the film. With most digital cameras, the sensor is NOT covered by the shutter or any other protection when you remove a lens, thus letting in dust which may settle on the sensor.

      Many digital cameras have a vibrating sensor – or a vibrating filter in front of the sensor – which shakes off any dust each time that you switch the camera on or off. The M9 does NOT have any kind of “dust-shaker-offer” – although its shutter IS closed when you remove a lens – so dust may continue to lodge on the sensor.

      Many digital cameras take zoom lenses, which means that just the one lens may behave like, say, a 28mm, 50mm, 75mm and 100mm lens. There are no zooms for an M9 (though there are two “triple-focal-length” lenses) so to use 28mm, 50mm, 75mm and 100mm on an M9 you have to keep swapping lenses ..and thus possibly letting in dust.

      So it’s not a matter of “..older film Leicas were built much better than their younger digital sibling..” it’s that (a) film is/was “self-cleaning”, (b) no dust-removal-shaking in an M9, (c) lenses may be swapped – letting in dust – more often on an M9 than on cameras which take zoom lenses.

      [..Oh, and maybe there's another reason; I think many M9 users "fondle" their cameras more than other camera users; taking off and playing with their lenses and the camera body, feeling the 'click' as the lens fits back on, taking it off and putting it on again ..and that just lets in even more dust!..]

  45. Hi David, I really think my M9 had dust on the sensor from new.

    Although I really do like this quote LOL…

    [..Oh, and maybe there's another reason; I think many M9 users "fondle" their cameras more than other camera users; taking off and playing with their lenses and the camera body, feeling the 'click' as the lens fits back on, taking it off and putting it on again ..and that just lets in even more dust!..]

  46. Love this post and the comments, many thanks. Saves me a lot of money. Am playing since years with the though of an M8, then an M8.2, then an M9 and an M9-P.

    But when testing the sensor in a shop I always wondered about colors being off and drastic noise.

    Nice to read an honest report and to know that quite a few shooters get rid of this moody jewel after a few months.

    You save me a lot of trouble Matt and others, many thanks again.

  47. Nice down to Earth report. I own a M9-P myself (being of German origin I do like the products that are made in my country and the quality they embody) Some say that everyone should drive and even own a classic Porsche 911 once in their life and I also did and it’s very similar issue with a Leica. The Leica M9 for example is a great reference and ever lasting discussion point by which to measure other cameras – likes or dislikes there is an undefinable magic about some products just like the 911, seeing and experiencing a bigger picture is a great thing.

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