Leica M9: 21 Questions answered.

With the release of the Leica M9, there seems to be quite a few new users to Leica and rangefinder cameras. I have been getting e-mails for the past three months with questions related to the camera and the RF way of photography.

Here is a quick Q&A I came up with that I hope answers some of your questions! (BTW, these are actual questions I have gotten over the past couple of months, but some have been re-phrased) Enjoy!!!

Q: Is the Leica M9 weather sealed?

A: No, it is not. So do not get it soaked! I have had mine in light rain with no issues.

Q: When I accidentaly pressed the shutter with the lens cap on the camera freezes.

A: Well, its not really frozen but it is taking a 34 second exposure. This is a simple fix. If you do this (and I have done it a few times) simply turn the shutter speed dial to 1/4000s. The camera will close the shutter and you will be ready to go.

Q: Do I need an external Viewfinder for a 24mm lens?

A: Well, this is a yes and no answer. Technically if you want to frame accurately you will need an external VF. BUT, if you use the entire VF of the M9 and add a little space around it with your mind you can get shots without one. When I shot with the Zeiss 25 I did not use an external VF at all. I would only use an external if I went wider than 24.

Q: If I buy an M9 now, an M9.2 Β or M10 will be released in 6 months!

A: Ummm, no it wont. Leica will take that long to fill backorders on the M9! If and when a M9.2 comes out (and who knows?) it wont be for a while and this also does not mean your M9 will all of the sudden self destruct. When the M10 arrives (should be 3 years) your M9 will still be taking great images and it will probably look like a bargain next to what the M10 will cost. Plus, what if you died next week. Life is too short to constantly worry about the next best thing.

Q: Will the M8 battery work in the M9?

A: Yep! Same battery but Leica changed the appearance of it on the newer stock.

Q: When will Leica release new firmware for the M9?

A: I have no idea, but I am sure they will continually release new FW just as they did with the M8.

Q: Do you ever have any issues with your M9?

A: Nope, and I shoot it DAILY. I had some write issues the first week but it was my SD card.

Q: Should I shoot RAW or JPEG with the M9?

A: RAW RAW RAW! Seriously, the true potential will not come through unless you do.

Q: If I order an M9 now will I get it before the end of the year?

A: Unlikely.

Q: Should I get Grey or Black?

A: Whichever one gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling when you look at it. This is a question only you can answer πŸ™‚

Q: What lens should I buy for my first lens?

A: Again, all personal preference. If it were ME I would start with a 35. Notice I say that but the only lens I own at the time of this posting is a 50 Noctilux.

Q: Hi Mr. Steve, can you send me a lens to try?

A: Sorry, no can do.

Q: Why don’t you review the M9?

A: I did! It’s here at my old site. Or you can google “Leica M9 Review” and I am number 4 or 5 on the list.

Q: So tell me, which is better? The M8 or M9?

A: The M8 is a super camera but has some shortcomings. The M9 has improved upon the M8 in many ways, but it does sort of give you a different “look”. I feel the M9 is a better camera but the M8 is no slouch. Both are favorites or mine.

Q: Does Leica make a macro lens for the M9?

A: Well, yes and no. There is a lens they call a macro HERE but its not much of a macro. Leica M’s are not really made for macro or telephoto work. A DSLR would be the choice for those situations. Or even a D-Lux 4. It has a great macro mode. Better yet, a Panasonic LX-3 for under $400 would team up well with an M9 and supply you with great macro as its the same cameras as the D-Lux 4.

Q: How do you focus an M9 if you can not see through the lens? I am confused!!

A: The M9 is a rangefinder camera. This means you look through the viewfinder and you will see “framelines”. The lines that show up depend upon the lens you attach. When you look through the VF you will also see a patch in the middle of the frame. When you turn the mechanical focus on your lens you will see the patch split. Just line up that patch and you are in focus. It’s odd the first time yo use it but it is very easy to learn.

Q: Will the M9 take better pictures than my _____________?

A: That all depends. The M9 will not transform anyone into a master photographer but it can actually be a learning tool. I feel shooting with a rangefinder slows you down. You take your time finding shots and composing shots (well, most of the time) and as a result, over time, your images can improve. I also personally believe the M9 and a good lens will supply you with the best digital quality file available today in 35mm photography. The Nikon D3x may beat it but that camera is a beast for casual shooting.

Q: How did you get an M9 so fast? Did Leica give you one for all of these reviews you have been pumping out?

A: I ordered my M9 in July. I paid for my M9 with my own money. I get no freebies. Damn!

Q: OK Steve, can you tell me why this thing is $7000? I can buy a decent used car for that.

A: I can not really tell you exactly why the M9 is $7000 but keep in mind that Leica is a small company. Tiny when compared to Canon or Nikon. They do not do the volume of the big guns. Also, the M9 is hand assembled, and the parts are of high quality. The camera is built to last. There is a great thread at the Leica User Forum that shows the guts of a Leica M8. I think Leica prices the camera to where they need it to be to make enough profit to continue on and to go to research and development for future models and improvements. Unfortunately, the cost is high.

Q: Are you rich? How did you buy an M9?

A: I am not even close to being rich. I am not even close to being close. I had to make sacrifices to be able to buy the M9. MANY Leica M9 shooters are in the same boat as me. We are not all loaded with cash. Sure some out there are blessed with a fat wallet but I know of quite a few who had to sell other gear, or other items to be able to buy the M9. The cool part is that they all love the camera.

and finally, my personal favorite e-mail question:

Q: Steve. I love your site and your work. Would you be so kind as to send me your M9 so I can test it for my website at www.XXXXXXX.com? I can not get one from Leica. Thank you for your consideration.

A: Sure, what is the address? Ha ha..just kidding.


  1. how come there is no aperture f stop metadata for the M9
    none in the LCD or through top end applications ????
    is this as a result of no electrical contact between lens and body ??

    • There is no contact between the lens and body that tells the body the lens info. This is all manual. Frankly, I never understood the need to see the aperture when looking back at images and i never do with any digital unless it is for a review purpose.

        • update
          the aperture is shown with a lot more info in the XMP powered metadata of cs4 . I transfer using Lexar Professional reader, so the info must have been recorded in the first place.. I don’t need anything really on the LCD as I would use it with full confidence as was the case with the M6 TTL
          however when looking at my workflow it is helpful to choose Fstop for DOF factor when considering enlarging beforehand.

  2. I have a personal relationship with a dealer and have always had that for all my ‘stuff’ computers, cars, everything, it works, it works, it works. They treat you with the respect you deserve by supporting them through thick and thin. Loyalty is Everything. As for being able to afford a Leica, I am on SS and I would own nothing less, it works for me and I am slowly paying it off. As Steve says, I could die tomorrow . . . what a way to go, broke, dead but with a Leica in hand πŸ™‚

  3. For everyone who is thinking about jumping on the “Amazon style” wait list for an M9, might I suggest contacting an actual dealer. I use Photo Village in NYC (Rich and Will) are great. When you have a personal relationship opportunities come up that you would not imagine. They take the time to update you on new deals, on buyers who backed out making wait listed products available, and they usually give much better deals on used items (better than their eBay listings). If you buy more than one thing you are bound to have something useful thrown in like a memory card or get a decent discount on a larger ticket item.
    The mark up on Leica for retail is small so if a shop knows you will bring repeat business they will be happy to lessen the blow. That being said, dont walk into a shop waving your credit card saying “I can buy all of this stuff if I want…expecting them to get on their knees for you.” Be nice, honest, and interested and good things can happen. I am sure Steve can attest to dealer relationships working out well over the years.

  4. Dear Steve, A wonderful site! Thanks so very much for your insight. A note of hope for those awaiting an M9 – I have been shooting with M cameras for years, my instrument of choice my trusty M6 non-TTL. In a rather depressed state after a difficult appointment with my neurologist, I made the fateful decision to stop at my friend’s photo shop, and, sitting on the counter was a virtually new M9 ((several lenses and a host of other Leica accessories), bought and returned after two weeks by one of his…how shall I delicately state this…crazier clients. The impatient individual apparently could not adapt to the rangefinder and ordered a complete S2 outfit! Needless to say, I benefitted from his largesse. Trading my M6 (despite its lovely patina and personal history), I am now the owner of an M9, virtually new, never registered with Leica, and purchased at a deep discount (it was, after all “used”). My initial observations concur with yours – it is a simply fantastic piece of kit, surpassing all of my expectations. I haven’t shot beyond the sensor’s native 160 ISO, and your review has emboldened me to experiment. I am currently using my 21 2.8 ASPH, 28 2.0 ASPH, 50 2.0, and 75 2.0 ASPH, and, with only the 75 6-bit coded, really appreciate the ability to manually select the lens type in the fw, meaning that virtually all Leica lenses are compatible relative to metadata tagging. Thanks once again for your tremendous site – Harris.

  5. HI Steve,

    I shoot mainly B&W on my MP with the .85 viewfinder. So I’m used to that view on my 50mm with which I shoot 80% of my stuff.

    How do find the M9 finder ? Have you used the focus magnifier on the M9 ?


    Tony Edenden.

  6. Hey Dan,

    I shoot in A mode 90-95% of the time. When I go manual, I usually place the arrow to the left of the dot. When I first had the 9 it took me a month or so to really get used to it. It is different than the M8 in exposure, color, etc. I find wider lenses are a bit hit or miss with exposure on the M9 and kind of tricky.

    In shade I use AWB πŸ™‚ I set the WB indoors but other than that it is daylight or auto.

  7. hey Steve
    Saw your wedding pics with the M9 and was impressed .
    Just got back from New Orleans where i shot quite a few with my M9, what can i say ‘i was used to my M8 . whom i truely loved. With my 9 i felt as if it was a new bride who was still waiting for me to know where and how to touch. At day light do you shoot with the red dott or 1 stop less? with the triangle on the left side ? do you do -2/3 exposure? some 1 recomanded K 7000 or cloudy .
    how would you shoot in shade?
    Do you use the auto WB ? the Kelvin?
    I agree the 35 lux is simply great thanks Danny

  8. Elaine I think amazon just under estimated the M9’s popularity. A lot of people are eyeing on the M9. Including myself.Even if something is happening on the leica side. My guess is it could be lack of parts. Specifically the sensor. Anyway we just have to wait… i think the next batch will be in may i suppose.

  9. Well, I back ordered a Leica M9 and received an email from Amazon’s Concierge the other day that i’d get my Leica around March 1st. Then today I received and email that Amazon canceled my order due to “Due to a lack of availability from our suppliers, we will not be able to obtain the Leica M9”. So, now I don’t know what to do. I guess no cameras will be available for a LONG time, or that Leica has stopped making the M9 and will be making a newer model. Who knows? I don’t know how Amazon can send a notice of delivery in one email and then a cancellation the very next day. SOMETHING is going on in Leica-Land. I’m disillusioned by the whole experience!

  10. Francis. The M9 stays with me πŸ™‚ I really do not change cameras that often. M9 since 10/09, M8.2 before that and M8 before that. Other cameras are sent to me for review and are not mine.

    I hope to test the 45 macro when it becomes more widely available.



  11. Hi man, you change your cameras quite often, send your M9 my way I will buy it… I gor a question though what about the 4 third format (panny) with the 200mm lense and the 45mm leica… any good?

  12. Your 3rd to the last Q&A hits me particularly because I want one and cannot afford it. Makes me sad. I wish their management would fix that… If the Japanese can do it, so can the Germans! πŸ˜€

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