My response to “An Open Letter To Leica” – This week the Leica community has become all riled up in heated discussions about an “open letter to Leica” posted on The Luminous Landscape website. The owner of LL, Michael Reichman wrote a public letter to Leica with his ideas for the future of the Leica M camera. Specifically, the evolution of the Leica M9, or the future Leica M10 (If you have not read this you can do so here). After I read the article in its entirety I have to say that I 100% disagree with what Mr. Reichman had to say about the current and future state of the Leica M camera. I also found it odd that he would write this article just as Leica is enjoying somewhat of a resurgence with the huge demand of the Leica M9!
Build it and they will come. The full frame M9 is a success.
I must have 200+ e-mails in my inbox from people who are wanting to switch from their big bulky DSLR’s to the Leica M9 because they like the fact that it is a rangefinder. The fact that it is precision engineered, the fact that it remains true to its M heritage and also because of the size and superb image quality. Yes, the Leica M9 has caused a huge influx of orders to Leica and my main Leica dealer has a waiting list of over 140+ on his M9 list (as I was told just today buy someone who was looking to buy one from him). Why on earth would Leica want to change their M design when they are having a huge success with the M9? They are getting so many orders for the camera that it if you placed an order for an M9 today, it may be 3 months before you get a camera, maybe longer.
It’s no longer just for the old timers.
Yes, Leica has a winner with the M9, no doubt about it. The main challenge Leica has right now is to ramp up production so the cameras can get delivered. The more photographers shooting the M9, the more images are spread around online. The more images are spread around online, the more others will start to realize what an amazing tool the M9 is. The really cool thing about all of this is there are even younger shooters now working with Leica M cameras. It’s not just for the old timers! I just spoke with an 18 year old photographer today who shoots with an M8 and she loves it. I plan on having an interview with her on this site VERY soon, so be on the lookout for that. 🙂
Since the M9 was released many who have been curious about the M cameras have bought an M8 since there are so many on the used market. At $2000 you can grab an M8 for less than many mid-grade DSLR kits. This is driving many new shooters to Leica, even the younger crowd and they are enjoying this “new to them” way of shooting. It’s a liberating experience for many, including me.
I’ll say it again. The M is having sort of a resurgence right now and it is because of its simplicity, quality and manual nature!
I am an M shooter and have been shooting them since the Leica M7. I have enjoyed them all but without question my favorite is the M9. Leica have finally created a digital version of the M truly worthy of its name. Yes, the M9 is a full frame sensor 35mm digital with what I feel has the best image quality of any digital 35mm camera available today. I do not want an EVF or Live View on my M9. The M tradition is all about SIMPLICITY. I can turn on my M9 and shoot without having to worry or stress about live view, about menus, about buttons, or about dodgy AF. I enjoy looking through that bright rangefinder and manually focusing my lens using the RF patch. It is not only the image I am after, it is the experience of shooting the M that makes my daily shooting adventures so pleasurable.
An M camera without a RF viewfinder would kill the M series camera because it would no longer be an M camera.
Also, changing the body design or style would not be a smart move. The M camera has remained the same since the M3 and it needs to stay the same. In a world where everything is constantly evolving, and most of the times NOT for the better, it is nice to be able to own something like an M9 that oozes with quality workmanship and performs like a real camera. Yes Leica, I want my M to keep the same body shape, the same baseplate, and of course, the same RF viewfinder. The only area I would like to see improved with the digital M are with the rear LCD, some light weather sealing and maybe a price reduction 🙂 Modifying and changing the M would make it a different camera. The death of the M as we know it.
We get it.
As I have already stated, Leica is enjoying a whole new breed of photographers switching over to M8’s and M9’s. Yes, the people are starting to get it. To take great photos with an M we do not need 100 features built into a menu. Leica, keep it simple. Anything else just would not be an M, and it certainly would not be a rangefinder which is what many Leica shooters enjoy the M camera for most of all. If we want zoom lenses or 11FPS we can choose the DSLR route. No, Leica M buyers are not looking for that type of camera. If they were, they would not be a Leica M buyer! Yes, it is true the M is limited with no macro and no real telephoto but that is not what the M is about and those who want one already know this. They love it for what it is. They get it. While I respect Mr. Reichmann and his suggestions I just wanted to share my feelings on this subject.
Dear Leica, What I suggest
I thank you for creating the M9. To those who own it, the M9 is the perfect digital camera and I certainly had to make quite a few sacrifices to buy one. I have no regrets. But, there is an audience out there you are leaving out and they deserve to be able to shoot with a Leica! I suggest you build a smaller version of the M camera with M lens compatibility and yes, call it the CM (compact M). Use an APS-C sensor, add live view and even an EVF (built in would be preferable). Price it at about $3000 and there you go! An easy entry into the M series without breaking the bank for an M9, and without taking sales away from the full frame M9.
This way many would buy one as an M9 backup and it would also attract MANY new buyers. Throw some HD video in there and you can have a camera for every audience. The X series for the compact crowd. The CM line for those who want to use M glass in a less expensive body with some bells and whistles, the M line for those who desire the simple RF way of shooting and uncompromising quality and the S series for those who want the best of the best. This would cover all areas but let me also make one last suggestion! Hire more workers and get these cameras out faster! The demand is there and it seems to only be increasing!
The concept of the rangefinder is very unique to the world of photography and an aesthetic that I, as a younger photographer (I started with rangefinders 4 years ago, when I was 29), embrace fully. I would hate to see it disappear or even be called outdated. Some of prefer the Leica way of shooting, as Leicas have been shot for 60+ years. Others like SLR’s. Even others like point and shoots or M4/3. Leica is unique in offering a digital rangefinder, and now a full frame digial option. That’s unique and this uniqueness will always find a certain market among photographers. Not necessarily a huge market, but one that may be scaled to Leica’s size and economic goals.
It seems that Michael is hoping for another type of camera, one that is closer to the Panasonic GF-1/EP-1 (as mentioned above), but with M roots. There may certainly be room for such a product in the marketpace as a true entry level for the rangefinder-curious, but it should not supplant the M9 or its follow ups, as that type of camera would have a completely different feel entirely.
To me, it seems that the M system has yet a ways to grow. Leica would be served well to continue to improve its pixel quality, dynamic range, and low light/higher ISO capabilities. At some point, we’ll reach the limits of this technology and come upon a true digital Leica MP, but Leica is not there yet (nor, dare I say, are Canon, Sony, Nikon, or Olympus/Panny with m4/3). Some of the details that Michael refers to as antiquities, such as the baseplate, can be interpreted as part of the Leica aesthetic, rather than some antiquated detriment to camera useability.For me, there’s no need to add tons of features like live view, an electronic viewfinder, or video to an M body…I could use a 5DII for that….
In my mind, The X1 will be an interesting (and possibly worthwhile experiment), but it seems that Leica would be better served (and maybe better served in terms of profit margins) in designing a smaller profile, M-style camera (like a digital CL that so many talk about), with some form of sensor (be it cropped or not) that has an M mount, but have more of the GF-1/EP-1/2 focussing concept. Such a product, if marketted appropriately, and priced right, would be a better entry into rangefinder photography and could make Leica some $$$. People would be able to use the legendary Leica glass and heritage lenses (which will be around long after we are) on such a camera, sans adapter, and the sensor could be optimized to make use of whatever fraction of the lenses field that Leica sees fit. This could be a true Leica entry drug, moreso than the x1 and its fixed lens.
Once people enter into this world, the more elemental (I laugh to write that), path to the digital M would be logical, if they chose to proceed that way. It’s all about how Leica would care to market such a product. But I don’t think such a product would be a replacement M.
Ultimately, as sensor technology gets cheaper, I see tiny sensor cameras such as the D-Lux 4, which I love and own, to fade into the past (or into entry level point and shoot-only status), while larger sensor portables such as the X1/EP 1/2/GF 1/GXR replace it. Leica should focus their efforts on this market if they want to further increase their profitability….BUT….
Leica is a small company…and seem set on staying that way…so they may not feel the need to do any of this….
And truth be told, I personally enjoy the rangefinder experience in its current incarnation. Having just spent a ton o’ cash on the M9, I ain’t goin’ nowhere, and I suspect Leica’s better goal should be to continue to recruit more people into RF photography by offering a cheaper option….
Time will tell, and until then, I am going to enjoy my M9….
As others have mentioned, the rangefinder experience is all about simplicity … of learning to use the kit that you have to the point that it becomes a part of your curiosity for the world around you. For some, that means zoom lenses, machine gun auto focus, 128,000 ISO, 65mp files, electronic viewfinder, multiple focus points and/or 1001 menu items. For others, it’s the simplicity of using a few great lenses on a digital rangefinder body (M8 and M9 users) with minimal operational distractions.
With the M9, I simply put a 35mm or 50mm lens on my M9 and step outside for the afternoon. It’s a zen-like experience. If I want to zoom in on something, I take a few steps forward. If I want a wider angle of view, I take a few steps back. I don’t want to think about focus confirmation, live view and other distractions. I simply want to look for what is interesting to me, compose and shoot … often, before I understand what I am shooting.
Then, when I get home, I want that image to make me smile because of its image quality … image quality that is delivered because it was taken with gear that provides a fantastic combination of digital sensor and the best glass available. Kudos to Leica and its introduction of the M9 for rekindling interest in rangefinder shooting as its simple origins and emphasis in technique provide shooters with the experience of what it is to be a… photographer.
I was a M 4P/M6 user for a long time,I have 4 leica enlargers.I shoot & taught .I made film carriers by hand in metal for my enlargers.Ive made lens shade adapters,in metal. I make & design stuff for shooting. I also Paint, do sculpture, make messes. etc, etc. Im a postmodern artist.
Recently, I went to get a new, digital camera,&, looked at Leicas offerings,well, thats just an impossible amount to put into that system of antique & quirky designed ,cameras, which seem to have out of date sensors, & anachronisms, & limitations.Ive owned many really expensive & now insanely expensive m lenses, the 90 f2 & 75,1.4 I regret selling, but ;
I also love & have an absolutely huge collection of lenses;which is fun stuff for me to select among.
I got the XT1 Fuji, & got adapter’s to fit EVERY!! lens IN MY collection , except the 37mm screwmount, orphan , but I bet i can shim somthing up there.I have leica, nikons, pentax K,Minolta,C-mounts, screw mounts.about 50 lenses. & ALL!!,ALL!! fit. Try that on Your M9, ! HA!. So im going to sell some of my lenses, & Chase after a few more. next>I will buy a Sony A7R, as well. I want less limitations in lenses,& equipment. But thats me.
As for what Leica does, It has a niche, &, great camera for some But, also great limitations as well.They relay ON you needing to buy a bag OF their lenses, to stay in buisness. Leica was a good camera for 2 decades, but Im unable to stay with them. I also have a cataract & may end up with some AF only lenses,ok.I can do that too. My collection has a dozen Leica lenses. lately ive been shooting a 2.8 Lanthanium glass lens from Russia, just fun, Ive got months of lens tests ahead. Oh anyone interested in a leica enlarger?hah .i just have 4…left..
AS for the Open letter, I think theres awalys room for more niche products, But Leica is going to be that quirky company chasing its heritage,& limitations.Including your brokers doing real well,to stick with it.
Really? Make it smaller, and put in video? I’m scratching my head at those suggestions. Live view makes more sense, as does a better LCD. Otherwise, having shot with old film Leicas, the M9 strikes me as a perfect digital version of her predecessors, without all the tricks that make digital SLR’s so annoyingly complicated. I’ve wondered why no one made a simple mostly manual camera, for those who know how to shoot photographs, but with excellent digital capture. It seems someone was listening!
Old post, but thought I’d chime in anyway. I think what Reichmann missed out on was that Leica is a much smaller company, and may not have the same leverage as Canon, Nikon, etc in getting reliable parts. It simply cannot build a consumer-grade body and have to deal with less-than optimal durability, and still maintain the good name of the company. A total re-design is also going to cost too much, and a product that tanks will hit Leica much harder than other companies (think Leica M5). It is certainly much safer to cater to the Leica faithful, rather than squander the goodwill its M-series has accrued.
I personally own a camera with an EVF (Olympus E-P2) and while it is a fairly good camera, and a pretty enjoyable user experience, it is also painfully slow to take pictures (shutter lag + EVF blackout), hard to focus using my M-mount lenses, and the crop sensor simply does not take full advantage of the excellent lenses in my possession. On the other hand, I totally enjoy my Leica M2 and Voigtlander Bessa, both of which are capable rangefinders.
So, my take is, keep making good cameras, but if Leica’s got some money to spare, a quality digital rangefinder with lower specs (I don’t need anything more than ISO800), and none of the frills (HD video?) in a nice metal body, will be the perfect Leica M for me.
A personal experience about the Leica M-camera in its third incarnation.
In the sixties DSLR’s conquered the World. Estime, reliability, precision, everlasting functionality, simplicity and superior build-quality didn’t count anymore. Everyone in my country suddenly wanted something else, the highway to photo-artistry almost overnight led into a strange new territory of complexity and – mirrors to look through from the bottom of the most impressive around, the huge, potent and heavy 600 mm. optics. Rangefinders on the contrary became antique, primitive and out – low-tech of the past. And suddenly – one summer’s day I saw the change as a dramatic manifestation of the tide, photo-dealers in Copenhagen offering baskets in front of their shops helter-skelter-pain full of used but lovely Leica-bodies. Both F-, G- and M-models. If you were a special type of person you could easily steal such a tempting Leica-body or two passing one of these baskets without anyone paying attention. The shopkeepers didn’t care. They were more than confident. No-one would touch their gear. Why steal the garbage? The old-fashioned rangefinder Leicas had lost their attraction in a split-second. Mirrors were in, and in less than a year used but fully functional Leicas became extremely difficult to sell and the new ones with them. That very summer and shortly before second-hand prices came tumbling down I bought my first Leica – a nice-looking but used M 3 body together with a brand new Summicron 50 mm F. 2.
I have kept both items together with my Elmar 90 mm ever since and they still are in the same good condition even today, as always capable of shooting exactly the georgeous negatives they did from the very beginning. Still the same tight tolerances everywhere. Even the coating of the lens is OK and scratchfree and just as remarkable – the lens is still clear and practically dustfree looked through. The lens is beautifully crafted and still looks new to me – but being an amateur I have handled my sweet combo far more careful than a pro would be able to.
I valued my two-stroke M3 (from 1953) over the M2, but the M2 was a better seller because of the 1:1. rangefinder. Fifty-seven years is a very long time for any type of equipment living up to the original specifications, but Leicas are capable of both that, heavy duty and a long life. I think my Leica will still be functional and in good shape the day I die – apart from the slow shutter-speed section (below 1/30 pr sec.) This springloaded section needs maintenance if the oiling gets old and stiffens. You always know when. If the shutter stops in the middle of the one-second shutter-speed and remains open, the M-body definitely needs to be brought in for the periodical disassembling, cleaning and oiling.
There were mishaps – bad shots but all of them was my fault. Now, finally my M is stationary. But my lenses will continue making themselves useful into the future and the digital era.
By the way – how exact is Leica’s rangefinder looking into the field of depth? – not AF speedy of today, but very precise if your object isn’t moving! If you can see, you can focus! On tripod I once measured exactly ten meters from camera to object and focused. The slightest obtainable separation of the two pictures in the finder I could create was a measurable difference in depth of just about two centimeters. If you moved the object that much in the right direction the two pictures once again became visibly united. That’s why precise focusing on eyes in portraits are both fast and a piece of cake using Leicas. Using the rangefinder to day is not the same I must admit – my eyes were much better then. Most auto-focus devices today outperform my manual skills in the AF department by a solid margin.
Reading about the succes of the M9, Steve’s article, all these comments – and the backgound of all this – the return and revival of a legend is deeply satisfying to me.
A happy new year to all.
What a great discussion and like pretty much everyone, I have to agree with the sentiment. I’ve been following Reichmann (amongst many other photographers) for many years and he does usually have his finger on the pulse, however he has missed the point here in that Leica is about it’s users first, whereas the rest of the industry is locked in a technology race.
I’m incidentally switching from 5DII to M9, so have taken the path to Leica for the same reason as so many others in this community have. Like so much else in life, we eventually always return to old fashioned values.
Thanks for kicking off such a great debate Steve.
I fully agree with Steve’s article
I shot with the M8 for 3 years and now with the M9 after long years of Nikon and Canon DSLR’s
I love my Leica not only for its quality but also for its looks, simplicity ,MF, and viewfinder
I also love the fact that it draws no attention from people( i mostly do street photography) whom i photo from very close distance. People just smile at me and let me take their pics, never happend to me when i used the Canon 5D with those huge lenses.
I know i am at the bottom of a huge list and probably no one will read this, but if someone does read :
I know Leica is expensive and yet it is worth every penny. Once you start shooting with Leica you will never be go back to DSLR. I hope they will never change the M cameras
Hope i didnt make too manny mistakes here 🙂
Great products are based on great discussions and exploring all perspectives, like in this discussion.
Granted, the M9 is kicking the ball out of the park. But, IMHO, Leica has to look out the next 10 years and make a product that will preserve its future…this means addressing the threat from lower priced medium formats with digital backs, higher quality and more versatile DSLRs, Sony EVILs and Panasonic/Olympus micro 4/3rds. And continue building on it’s strengths, the lenses.
On another note, I just wish more people (including me) would channel their passion to helping other people less fortunate than them. It’ll help us be more in touch with reality and maybe even be a better photographer.
while your CM idea sounds nice I wouldn’t be willing to spend any more money on it than what a regular crop sensor DSLR costs. I don’t know where in the Leica world people (fanboys) seem to expect that the world is waiting for yet another overpriced Leica.
Let me put this straight: I disagree with Mr Reichmann but as being part of the 99% of camera owners who cannot afford even thinking about purchasing an M I can disagree with you as well. Easily. You see a resurrection of Leica when they simply manage their first proper and amazing digital body – the M9. People like the M because the M8 was not where it should have been. People look at the M because the X1 is just a toy camera. And because the S2 is out of reach for everybody.
People also look at the M9 because that’s the only camera with interchangeable lenses that Leica carried into the digital era. Remember the R? Anybody? Wanna know what’s wrong with Leica? Being unable to keep their pro SLR alive for one.
Then prices. Every product seems way overpriced. While we see quite some enthusiastic buyers I doubt this will hold on. There is a finite amount of people that buys one body for the price of seven micro four thirds. There just is. No matter how many blogs you guys set up. There is a finite amount of people that might buy a certain camera at a horrible price. Work on the prices first. Everything else is just ok for now. The real problem is the digital M gets outdated. Face it. Only one reason why the M8 is so “cheap” now – no sane human being would buy one otherwise. Leica has arrived in the digital age. Bodies come and go now. At least for every other manufacturer. The M8 was on for maybe 3 years. Now it’s cnsidered out of date and it’s successor does everything better. It’s going to depreciate in value.
Also I don’t see the point why both Reichmann and then you have to discuss this in public. Sort of pointless. I don’t want any of the cameras you or him suggest. I like the current offering but the price for the M9 is a joke. It just is. Every Leica lens price topping 3000$ is a sad joke as well. These products can never become popular because only fanboys dare to afford them.
You know when people should have protested? When Solms killed their own R system in which people have invested thousands. People should have protested when the DLux4 costs 50% or more than the LX3 while still being the same camera.
At least Mr Reichmann takes some time explaining his views and he requests at least some modern features. What Leica lacks is the will to properly research their product, modern technology should be available at least as additions to a product range. For this price I demand options. For this price this should be customary to expect the best technologies. Not just some. Leica should be leading the way in most respects I feel.
But mark my words: apart from us enthusiasts this market is tiny. And finite. But of course there’s always another pointless white collectors’ edition to buy one day.
If you guys could manage to stop conflating “rangefinder” with “Leica M,” I’d agree with most of what you’re writing! Exclusivity aside, most of the things that make the M9 a worthwhile picture-taking tool would be true of ANY rangefinder camera.
I believe there IS a distinctive “rangefinder aesthetic,” one that arises from the fact that the viewing/aiming system and the image-forming system are completely separate and operate on different principles. As (I think) Bob Schwalberg wrote years ago, you look INTO an SLR (or, now, an EVF camera) but you look THROUGH a rangefinder camera; it makes a difference, especially to those of us whose photography is primarily subject-oriented rather than image-oriented. Take away the RF viewing system and that aesthetic would be gone. It would be a huge loss.
Anyway, there’s no point in writing open letters to Leica. They’re fat and happy right now with the M9’s success in straddling the wants of their (smaller) constituency of serious RF photographers and their (larger) constituency of affluent gents who enjoy feeling that whatever they own is “the best.”
Where open letters need to be going are to OTHER camera companies who might be able to bring the “rangefinder aesthetic” to a wider audience. Designing a truly modern rangefinder camera is not unfeasible: for example, current Canon and Nikon lenses contain distance encoders, and I can imagine a system that would use that encoding to drive RF optics via a micromotor, rather than expensive-to-machine cams and levers. This approach would make it possible to create an RF body that could use DSLR lenses… which in turn would allow selling it as a supplement to an existing DSLR system for times when RF viewing is an advantage, rather than as a completely separate cul-de-sac with no interoperability with a photographer’s other equipment.
Thanks for the discussion. Not everyone will feel the same about the M or where it should go, that is obvious. But it is fun to discuss these things. My feelings are strong about it so I wanted to vent. I will try to address your questions…
What does the M not being built like a DSLR have to do with taking pictures? EVERYTHING! I hate taking out big DSLR’s, even the D5000 as small as it is. I just do not enjoy it. Many feel the same way, mostly M shooters. Having a built in grip and live view and all of these other “changes” would make it bigger, fatter and DSLR like. For me, the camera would then not be as enjoyable to use. I like to use a camera that not only gives excellent quality but also is enjoyable for me to use. TO ME, the M as it is today is that camera.
Macro? Leica sells a 90 macro that is not really much of a macro. So yes they sell a macro lens and a macro attachment for that lens. Adding live view would not make the camera a macro machine as the M mount and lenses are limited to how close they can focus. Leica would have to totally redesign the camera into something that it is not. Yes, a new design and new camera. Not an M.
7D, D300, M9, etc – I did those for fun, Thats why they are tagged in the “Just For Fun” category 🙂 BTW, lots of readers enjoyed those. I tested each cameras as a “kit” with their kit lenses. Yes, the M7 used to be bundled with a 50 cron as the kit lens. Of course I am aware of the smaller sensors but IMO the smaller m4/3 kind of beat the 7D. Also, the M8 files look pretty much like the M9 files, just cropped and not as ‘rich”. They look more edgy and film like maybe. The M8 files would still kill the 7D and d300 in my experience with all of these cameras.
5DII…As for the 5DII and M9, I have shot both and I have shot the 5D II with all L glass including the 24L, 35L, 50L, 85L etc. The 35L vs 28 Elmarit on the M8 was not even close. You can see that comparison in my 5DII or maybe it was the 35L review. Against the M9 it would be even worse for the 5DII. Also, at base ISO the M9 puts out a much cleaner file than the 5DII.
I like the 5D and 5DII as a camera but for me the handling of the 5D is just not fun nor comfortable. The M9 is fairly light. 19 oz with battery. The 5DIi is 28.6 oz WITHOUT a battery and much bulkier. Add one of those monster L lenses and forget it! Just not fun to carry around all day, and the IQ is not up to the M9. Honestly, the original 5D may have had more pleasing files than the MKII. Just my opinion of course.
Your last point is spot on. I look at my pictures I take from all cameras and I know what I like. I take into account the image quality and look of the images as well as the enjoyment of using the camera. The M9 delivers for ME in both areas very highly. The 5D type does not. A 5D and 85L, while a gorgeous combo is just not something I would lug out on a daily basis!
In the end it really doesn’t matter anyway! We all obsess way to much over gear (myself included) when it really isn’t even that important. To me, the #1 thing about photography is the enjoyment I get out of it. If I do not enjoy it, then what’s the point? Adding live view, grips, new sensors and DSLR capabilities to an M would make it something totally different. Maybe an R series DSLR is what you guys are after? Hmmmm.
I bought my M9 because of the convience of having excellent image quality and access to a wide range of photographic tools in a small package.
Regarding changing the M, you write:
“that is fine and dandy but would take away from the feel of the camera.”
“I am a fan of the base plate. Keeps the camera from looking and feeling like a DSLR”
What does this have to do with taking pictures. Again, subjective and perhaps not others (such as moi), perhaps even most, do not feel the same.
“the M doesn’t do macro”
As you are no doubt aware Leica sells macro M lenses. Moreover, such a simple change would expand the utility of the camera so I wouldn’t have to own a DSLR. If you don’t like Live View – don’t use it.
“The IQ would also be different with a CMOS sensor”
Evidence please? Just because Canon looks different doesn’t mean CMOS is the reason. Every Camera manufacture choses how to translate the image colour from RAW to the final JPG. The raw conversion program DXO will even make a Canon to look like a Nikon, Fujicrhome or Tri-X.
Regarding comparing the M9 to the 7D or the D300. Sensor size affects signal to noise, dynamic range, apeture/focal length appearance and bokeh. It is not fair or proper to compare these two different formats of cameras as being representative of DSLR vs. M. I bought the M9, not the M8 because of these difference.
Compare the M9 to the 5D Mark II and put a good lens on both and there is little to choose between them. The M9 is slightly sharper, due to the lack of the AA filter, but at the risk of moire. The 5D is better at high ISO at the risk of … carrying around a big heavy lens. The camera body weights are surprising similar without a lens.
However, sharpness when bokeh, focus error and subject movement are taken into account really doesn’t mean much and ISO differences are only visible under the most extreme conditions and really don’t matter at ISO 1600 and less. This is one of the reasons I read you site – you pay less attention to such unimportant details and focus more on the picture.
Isn’t CMOS better than CCD? Isn’t that the way we are headed digitally? I’m curious.
I agree with two things in that article. The base plate issue: I’ve no idea how difficult it is to switch a battery or add a card, but if it’s a pain in the ass, perhaps and easier way to open it or easier access is a good idea. I also would like a grip of some sort, or that thumbs up accessory. Anything to keep me from dropping the camera. (It’s like a big bar of soap). I’m careful with my cameras but why tempt fate.
I think leica CL would be a lovely idea.
Andrew, what you describe is no longer an M but a different camera. Made of plastic? Sure, that is fine and dandy but would take away from the feel of the camera. I know when I go to grab a DSLR it feels like crap in my hand in comparison to the M. Part of the M experience is its body shape and build. It inspires confidence and a connection.
A built in grip with large battery? Again, that would make the M look like and feel like a DSLR. A different camera. The large majority of us love the feel and design of the M camera as it is and would NOT want it changed.
I am a fan of the base plate. Keeps the camera from looking and feeling like a DSLR! Having a big door on the side for a battery means more bulk, more width and a less clean design. The base plate is fine and only needs to come off for battery and card changes. Takes about 4 seconds, and that baseplate keeps my camera from getting beat up as the plate is pretty tough. I never understood those who complained about it. Is it really that tough to remove it and put it back? It doesn’t slow me down one bit as it never comes off until I do a battery switch, and it takes 4 seconds.
Live View. Again, the M doesn’t do macro. Users who buy one know this already. Adding a screen for live view means the camera would no longer be an RF. Those who shoot an M9, enjoy the fact that its an RF. Again, what you describe is already available in a DSLR.
I also care more about the picture than the way it feels but that is why I like the M series and not a DSLR. I love the M for its size, its feel, its build, its simplicity, its ease of use and the way I can get images with it that I would not get with a DSLR (due to size, bulk, and AF that is inaccurate in many cases).
The IQ is also amazingly good. If an M had all of these enhancements it would no longer be an M, it would be a new series of camera, more like a DSLR which you already have. The IQ would also be different with a CMOS sensor, and I am not talking about in a good way unless soft high ISO is your thing.
It’s simple really, if you do not like having an RF, or MF, and do not like the simplistic nature of the M9 then buy a DSLR. Adding a cmos sensor, live view, big grip and large battery will turn it in to a Nikon or Canon that takes M lenses. That is all well and good but again, it would no longer be an M and personally, I love my M and chose it over every other camera on the market under $10k because of what it is, what it can do and the experience that comes with it.
Thx for the response.
Years ago I saw comments that a Leica should never have an autoexposure mode. That was when the Leica M6 was in the market and the new M7 was on the horizon. Users said that Leica is not about automation and that the manual control is what Leica is all about. I wonder how many of the current Leica M8 and M9 users are very pleased about that. Yes, they might do manual as well but I haven’t seen any complains about that feature. When the M7 was out there many Leica users said that they should not do digital, because the image quality is not as good as film and that Leica is about the experience of shooting film. Point taken. I think Leica has introduced polarizing technology and so far they have done this in a very thoughtful way. Most feedbacks to Michael Reichmann’s letter are very black or white. It needs to be simple as is or if technology is being used then it has all the bells and whistles of an SLR. Are there no shades of gray? Why not have an optical viewfinder that can have electronic focus confirmation? It would make focussing more precise. Will we have optical viewfinders in the near future that could magnify center areas by projecting a cropped image on the glass? Would precise and sophisticated use of technology allow us to create a camera that is smaller and more discreet than the M9? I used M6s and M8s,I own a Canon 5D Mk2 and I am on a list for a M9. I am not using 95% of the features of the 5D. Not even life view. Coming from Rollei T35 models and Mamiya 7 cameras I prefer Leica Ms as my first choice. I am aware of its limitations and I appreciate this as a photographer. Still I have the same feeling as Mr Reichmann that a future reportage camera could have a different form factor by rethinking the arrangement and use of components. Maybe it needs to be a parallel platform to Ms but I think that if build and image quality are similar to the M and size and flexibility are better, that a lot of professionals and then amateurs would switch. It is good to have that discussion and I know that a future Leica M or how ever we will call it will have more technology in it than it has right now. The question is what kind of technology and up to what homeopathic dose.
Michael R. at Luminous Landscape is a respected photographer and online journalist (at least by me and I’m sure the thousands of others who regularly read his reviews and commentary on the current state of photography and technology)
It is SO easy to say..” I’d like a camera that has this feature and that and if Leica builds it, it will be great because that’s what I want.”
First point: As my father used to say..There is no PERFECT camera. whoever
Second point: the camera Michael proposes isn’t guaranteed to be successful
just because it has all the functions we need.
Minolta, Konica and especially Contax incorporated beautifully designed ergonomic and practical features in their cameras.
They are all gone. Didn’t survive..but the Leica M is still here.
What does that tell us?
Yet, Michael would tell us that the M design is out of date? needs revising?
and what do you imagine it would look like? Do you have a sketch?
I’d like to see it. As i said it’s one thing to dream of what you want, but to design it, build it, market it and have photographer’s crown it the best ever, is another matter entirely.
For goodness sakes!
Everybody complained about the M8’s shortcomings. Now they ( Leica) do it right and come up with the M9 which proves to be a big success..but that’s STILL not good enough.
What on earth do people expect from Leica?
Perfection? better than perfection? see point 1.
Point 4. Some of us ( yes, including Luminous landscape photographers, talented as they are) are getting TOO caught up in the equipment.
A Leica M9 seems to be quite capable, it’s our photographic abilities and results that lag behind, not the Leica. What i mean to say, is that i think few photographers have pushed it to it’s limits or got the best out of it yet.
Point 5. It’s the awful truth, but most of us liked the Leica CL concept and still do and all we REALLY want is a digital version of that at a price we can afford.
Point 6. The Leica still has the best viewing system. Like everyone else of my age, my eyesight isn’t getting any better. I can pick up any fancy DSLR in Yodobashi camera here in Japan and the finders are atrocious . My old Minolta 9000 film camera beats them hands down. Pro photographers did NOT complain loud enough to camera companies about poor viewfinder design and we have all had to put up with it for I don’t know how long.
Point 7. My Leica M6 operates beautifully without an LCD display to fingerprint or press my cheek against and i don’t have to fiddle with menus and worry about the batteries all the time.Works much better. i have digital cameras, they sit on the shelf. Poorly designed. Too expensive and soon obsolete, almost certainly within 6 months, since digital cameras are disposable products.
Point 8 I think Leica have got the M9 just right and congratulations to them.
It’s a nice blend of the best of the old stuff with the best of the new.
The japanese companies are so obsessed with the new that when they finally come up with a really useful, well designed feature, it’s usually lost
on the newer model in favor of something else we don’t need.
Anyway, I sure am glad that Leica makes the cameras and not Luminous Landscape!
Thanks for reading.
The M9 has a long waiting list because
1. Leica have no concept of how to manufacture for a non-niche market. (They can’t make enough M9’s but they release a 60th anniversary China M7 in red? Sort of tells you what kind of business they are really in.)
2. It is the ONLY full-frame camera that is small and takes M-lenses. It is a unique camera which provides a unique and important photographic tool.
If there were an alternative to the M9 (if Zeiss, Canon or Nikon made an M-compatible full-frame camera) the M9 would be an also ran. I am one of the lucky ones who has an M9. I like the pictures. I like the small lenses. I like the simplicity that manual focus and manual aperature gives. I hate the body, but I suffer with it just like I suffer with the weight of my 5D Mark II. The results are worth it.
The M9 is nice, but it is not perfect. I agree 100% with Michaels Reichmann’s comments.
My main complaints:
– the camera weighs far more than it needs to. Ever hear of composites? There is a story of a Canon 450D being dropped from 3000 feet (parachute accident) and still working perfectly. It doesn’t need to be made from 19th century brass to be tough.
– I have the Thumbs up and the camera is far more comfortable to use. Why not put some grips on the M9? At the same time make the battery larger and fit into the grip like every other sane camera manufacturer has done for 20 years. Oh, I forgot, then Leica wouldn’t be able to sell us their $500 grip. (To go along with my custom tomato can edition celebating the birth of 60s pop art).
– The base plate is just plain stupid. It wasn’t against the rules to put the ugly plastic plug over the usb port but the battery and memory card had to go under the dumb plate. What sense is there in that?
– no live view. What a concept: a range finder that could actually be critically focused for macro or tripod shots. Instead I have to get another camera. I formerly thought live view was a marketing gimick. After actually using it I have a different opinion. It is very useful for tripod work and far better for macro photography than looking through the viewfinder – on any camera.
People who defend Lecia often confuse photography with nostalgia. You might like the camera that way and I hope you will always be able to buy one, just like I would like to buy a sextant, but there is a huge market out there of people who care more about taking the picture than how it “feels” taking the picture.
Hey I get it. I have a collection of slide rules, I like mechanical watches. But I don’t confuse my love of old fashion mechanical things with what is better technically. When I want to compute something I use a calculator and when I want the exact time I check my GPS.
I appreciate the photographic value of RF focusing. I appreciate the photographic value of manual focusing. I appreciate the photographic value of manual aperture. I appreciate the photographic (and practical) value of small and discrete. I just wonder about the photographic value of the base plate and a heavy camera that is difficult to hold.
Sorry for the sarcatic tone, but many of the choices Leica makes have no technical or photographic merit.
Hey Elaine, I have a fixed gear bike, vinyl records (they do sound better than CD when on a decent system), and am also a Mac Addict. I love simplicity!
The sad part of digital bodies, both D-SLR & Rangefinder, is that they don’t hold their value and have a shutter life. Leica holds its value longer, but still…
Anyway…I’ve never owned a Leica. I use a Nikon system. I never bought the best camera, because I just didn’t have that kind of cash to splurge. Being a blue-collar worker is a reality. I was going to “splurge” and buy the Nikon D700, to update from a D80, when I saw the Leica M9. I saw the price, and after I woke up off the floor, saw the lens prices. I woke up an hour later. Okay. That didn’t happen.
What happened was I saw the pictures that look different, something ghostly about them. The Bokeh was sublime. I’ve always compromised on gear, even when buying computers, I didn’t buy the best. Maybe it’s because I’m older (48 yrs), and sick of settling, but for some odd, insane reason, I put my name on the list for a Leica M9. How am I going to pay for it? I will be eating a lot of ramen noodles.
The reason why I chose this particular brand and camera? I LOVE digital, but also love film. Leica digital delivers a film-like quality. The lenses are superb. The quality of the files are the quality I want to see, instead of the “flat-looking” D-SLR files. I can’t explain it. There’s just a different look to the files. Am I wrong?
I’ve always wanted a Leica, because a friend of mine had one and she cried like a baby years ago when it was stolen. She shot some beautiful work with that camera.
I think Leica is a niche market. It’s a market for artists who want something different. I want to carry this camera with me EVERYWHERE. I don’t want to carry the D80 with me everywhere. I’m older. I don’t like neck and back pain. I want to be under the wire when I shoot, and I want to “simplify, simplify, simplify”. The D-SLRs are just too computerized to the point that I don’t even THINK anymore. My best pictures came out of MANUAL cameras. And guess what? I shot a lot of action. You just learned how to pan. Remember setting everything yourself? Hahahaha!
I guess as I get older I want less, but I want perfection. Leica slows the process down. You have to compose. I still love Nikon, but as an everyday camera, nope. It serves its purpose for some things, but honestly, I think Nikon film bodies like the F2, Fm, F100, F5, F4, F6 are better. I just am too impatient to shoot film anymore.
As for that article, I doubt Leica would listen to this guy. He makes some valid points, but it’s just an article of his opinion. I like Steve’s opinion better. LOL!
How much is that Lever thingy? I want one when my camera arrives in 6 months. Hahahha!
Hey, Glendyn, I’m with you. I love fixed gear bikes and vinyl records, though I no longer have either. LOL! I’m also Mac Addict. Think Different!
First off, thanks for your post. Really appreciate your time to address this issue.
Secondly, I’m not really sure why there is such a rabid response to MR’s post? It’s not as if Leica themselves came out and said such things. Although MR is a well respected Leica user, he does not work for Leica. I’m sure there has been other posts on forums with such and more zany ideas but it seems like this one really set off a wildfire.
Lastly, instead of spending R&D money and time on a new type of camera, one idea would be to continue offering firmware and service on M8’s. Many people looking at entering the M market but cannot afford an M9 or M8.2 are looking at used M8’s as their entry point. If Leica would offer continued firmware support, or even a refurbished program where a used M8 can be sent in to Leica for a tune up and such, and Leica in return can offer a warranty coverage of 3 months or whatever length of time, for a cost. Logistically there are other issues, but by offering such a program, it would ensure people wanting to get a digital M can do so at a much more reasonable price and with the peace of mind that the product would be backed by Leica with a limited time warranty and firmware support.
Steve, i agree with your comments.
Yes, its time for a digital Leica CL (For those who are familiar with film). A camera designed by Leica, built in Japan (by say Panasonic or something) to make it more affordable to use the best glass in the world. Keep the M series as it is (or very similar), so i can buy one when i can afford it.
BTW, is it just me or do i foresee an exciting new future for the Leica M series. Pump up the pixels a bit more, and it replaces Xpan, Mamiya 7ii and even the Canon 5Dii as a landscape photographers camera of choice (for those who choose to travel light, or a second camera to a 6×17 panoramic?) Reasons for it being so:
1) the lens! its sharper than anything else out there
2) its compact (more so than an xpan, and way more than any SLR – especially when you take into consideration the compactness of say a Leica 28mm elmarit asph).
3) smaller lenses, means smaller filters are required!
4) Manual everything (well almost); you can thus adjust exposures manually with clearly readable dials and aperture rings.
5) Its a rangefinder! (no reflex mirrors to interfere with the image capture)
There have been plenty of arguments about the Leica M being no longer valid to professional photographers in the age of “Auto everything” (esp. focussing), however, i do see a possibility for it one day being the “best camera for the job” for some professionals, something that the M Series has not been for a long time now. However, if you are an artist or hobbyist, there is nothing more rewarding than using an M series camera.
Although i have not used an M9 (i have used the film versions), all i would like in the M10 would be more pixels, better high iso performance (those rivaling the D3) and maybe a film advance lever (to cock the shutter manually – this may make it a more quiet camera like the early M cameras, as well as somewhere to rest your right thumb).
Steve, look at the compact Alpa 12 TC. Check out their website. I think you will like what you see. If you go and shoot with it, you will be amazed, since obviously you value quality images. I use my Alpa a lot. And while you may not be shooting any camera for the “status”, there are scads and scads of Leica users who are.
Steve, I’ve shot with M3, M7, and R8…. lots of Leica experience with fashion, portraits, and weddings. The primary reason why Leica images look better than most is because of the Leica glass, coatings, and lens formulas, not the bodies. The reason why the Canon 7D is producing crappy images is because the pixel pitch is only 4.3µm and the Canon lenses are simply not able to resolve at this level. If Leica were building lenses capable of being mounted on the 7D, you would probably see mind blowing images coming from that camera. Obviously, Canon made a mistake when they went for the 4.3µm pitch with their current lens line.
oh, and I do not shoot any camera for the “status”
and how much is an leaf back on an Alpa, and how big is this set up? Again, not a replacement for an M camera!
BTW, I know it may sound blasphemous, but a PhaseOne or Leaf back attached to an Alpa camera body with Rodenstock lenses will make the images you are raving about coming from Leica M9 look like garbage. If you don’t believe me, go rent an Alpa and see for yourself. And the icing on the cake is that not only is an Alpa fun to use, it is better built than a Leica and carries more status than a Leica. I mention this, because like the rangefinders, the Alpa is a “leisurely” image capture device.
Storm, sorry but I disagree. Sure, Leica should consider building lenses for DSLR’s but Leica M shooters do not want a DSLR. Also, sports and fashion shooters never have and never will buy an M. I know of a hugely successful and amazing wedding photographer and all he shoots are Leica M’s. They are perfect for wedding work. Photojournalism? I’d rather have a MF M camera than a DSLR any day. I get better results and focus quicker. As for a MF camera, the M9 is near MF quality in a small body which makes it perfect for what I have mentioned. Oh, and it’s also an excellent portrait camera. Finally, it flat out destroys most DSLR’s for IQ. I have been shooting a D300s and 7D here for a month and I have to say it has not been fun for me, and the results are average in the IQ dept. when compared side by side with M9 files.
To me, the M9 is just about as perfect as a camera can get. Sure it can use a few tweaks and improvements but if it lost the RF and simplistic manual nature of its operation I would not upgrade to the next model. I am going to guess that you do not shoot with an M otherwise you may feel differently.
As for shooting film, I have shot plenty of film. Film, processing costs and scanning KILLED me not only financially but for time as well. I shoot a lot. 🙂
Thanks for reading,
PS – Thanks to all who replied. I think it is great to let everyone speak their mind no matter what side of the fence they are on.
Simplicity and “elegance” are overrated. Decisive moment image captures (photojournalism, sports, fashion, portraits, weddings, etc.) often require lighting quick response on the part of the photographer and the camera. So much of photography requires this very fast and very accurate response, and the aspects of photography that do not require such fast response are better handled by far with an Alpa or a medium format camera, leaving the M9 with a very narrow market indeed. If Leica would focus its attention on producing world class lenses in mounts for the camera companies who already build outstandingly responsive bodies, we would all be better off, including Leica. For those who want to take a leisurely stroll down memory lane, why not buy an M3 and shoot film? Its a lot of fun!
What is this guy smoking? He seems to contradict himself repeatedly. On the one hand he praises Leica for their unmatched quality and craftsmanship while at the same time states that their camera bodies need to be more ergonomical and their lenses should be auto focus!? Huh!? That’s why people want Leica you Moron! There unmatched quality and simplicity is what photography is really about. I know that rangefinder photography isn’t for everyone and it’s not the optimal for all situations however, when it works… Nothing in the world can compare. There are thousands of cameras people can buy that are all a variations of the same thing. Why does Leica need to make it 1001? If you want ergonomical autofocus, go buy yourself a Canon G11. Otherwise, leave the simplicity to those who know how to use it!
Thanks for posting the article. I need something to vent about.
You’re kind “on average 25”, but remember what counts is not one’s years, but one’s beauty – just kidding:) – no I think it is one’s enthusiasm and dedication!
Besides . . . my wife is really happy that I no longer go buying and selling the newest DSLR toys and this is a really great investment in our future – it’s all a matter of priorities, as always in life.
All the best
Boys and Girls, reading your comments makes me very jealous. All of you seem to be aged on average about 25 and own Leica M8’s or M9’s plus some very expensive lenses. Where did I go wrong …..
I have to say that I love technological progress but not in Mr. Reichman terms in regards to the M. Sure it would be interesting to see but I feel the system has been perfected thru time. That said I believe that Leica should come with alternative body/bodies to the M9 as suggested by Steve. It could be a budget body allso featuring video or a high ISO sensitive/lower megapixel body with live view or what ever interest some people. I just know I love using the my Leica M9 for what it is. Im not a professional photographer. I don’t need “flexibility” or “versatility”. I just want to have fun taking pictures with a great tool… and it doesn’t even need to be an Leica.
@ Ron – The voice of reason and similar to what I was going to post. Reichmann was correct on *some* things no matter what stubborn traditionalists care to think but he was also miles wide of the mark on others so it’s take what good you will from such an article and ignore the rest – simple! (And I’m sure he was also having a bit of fun with it too. LOL) 🙂
The way I see it is that Leica are running scared in some ways when it comes to changing the basic design of the M – OK, so they were bitten when they last did but that was the M5 way back in 1971. Almost 40 years ago !!!
My personal view is that Leica should…
1) Lose the ridiculous situation of still having a removable baseplate on the M9.
2) Incorporate a moulded hand grip into the camera for better handling.
3) *Controversy alert!* – Get away from the “ancient” framelines on the digital M series and have automatically adjustable framing in the viewfinder (With a manual override for the traditionalists out there) that adapts to each lens according to it’s focal length so that you have the whole viewfinder in use on each lens fitted ala The Contax G1 & G2, now imagine that with the nice & bright M8/9 viewfinder compared to the far poorer & smaller one on the Contax’s.
4) Possibly add live view but not a biggie for me to be honest.
Th M9 is a fantastic camera, as indeed the M8 still is, so nothing drastic, no AF or silly things like removing the RF. Leica can and must realise we are in the year 2010 that no matter how good the M3 was and still is a digital M does *not* have to be a direct copy in almost everything a digital M camera could be when compared to it. Change *can* be good! 🙂
There’s a catch 22 the increasing popularity that the M9 brings: a more diverse user base looking for a broader range of features that may or may not contradict the established traditional user base. As new and longtime users integrate, it will slowly shift the cross sectional profile of the average Leica user in terms of what is considered ‘good’ and ‘bad’ features in a digital M.
While Reichmann is certainly part of the traditional Leica user base, he realizes there is room for ‘improvement’ (a subjective term in Leica-land without doubt) in the M system to incorporate features that can legitimately enhance the usability of the M.
To me the most lacking feature on the M9 is live view. Not because I don’t like the rangefinder system or want to supplant the traditional viewfinder, but there are times when one legitimately needs to accurately frame a composition, ensure absolute focus accuracy, and has the time to do it in live view (not everyone using an M is shooting street). What is the harm in adding such a software feature to a future M? It would not interfere with the traditional UI of the M in any way. Like any software feature on any other camera, if one is not interested in using it, one doesn’t (like the video capability of some DSLRs). But it is there for those times when it is useful.
I’m not advocating everything stated by Reichmann or willy-nilly off the cuff changes and can appreciate the concerns of current dedicated Leica users happy with the way the M is now. I believe that Leica will consider future feature additions to the M very carefully. But the addition of some new features, such as live view, does not automatically mean the degradation of the traditional Leica user experience, if done correctly. And perhaps that is where the angst is coming from now? But so far Leica has proven fairly well that they will stick to traditional values while incorporating some new technologies.
Things change, even at slow to evolve companies such as Leica. As the system popularity increases through the success of the M9, there will undoubtably be greater consumer demand on Leica for product ‘enhancements’. It’s certainly a predicament: without the popularity of the current system, Leica might not survive. But to maintain and increase consumer demand, the company must produce products that will satisfy increasingly diverse customers.
I had the same idea as Csabi concerning the Digilux 2 (my first Leica). The next Digilux 4 should have the same sensor as the X1 and have an interchangeable lens (M-lenses!) or maybe even keep the Vario-Summicron of the Digilux 2 and there you have your CM that Steve mentioned in his article.
BTW, Steve you are doing a great job here.
When I used a Digilux 2 (Panasonic DMC LC-1), all I wished for was:
– bigger sensor and resolution
– better EVF (but definitely built-in!, no attachable shoddy joke of a finder)
– interchangeable lens, preferably M-mount, even with a crop factor
Same simple design, same manual shutter speed dial with A, same metal body (with slightly better cover, mine started peeling at the grip in two years), same ingenious built-in bounce flash, please. Add an AE button and that’s it. I’ll be the first one to buy.
Dear Steve, Aswhin, Kurt
and all the other enthusiastic readers of this site
I am completely new to RF (now DRF), but I started photography when I was a kid 25 years ago – I learned it “old school” – this meant exposure metering, aperture, manual focussing and learning to judge and “see” the composition. I must also admit, that since my childhood, I am a fan of modern technology and science – I often visited the IBM Research Lab where my father and his colleagues worked, used to draw wild things on the blackboard, use the first PCs (hey, I thought Gates & Jobs would life in my backyard!). All this had a great impact on my future education and life . . . BUT, as camera tech evolved with the introduction of the first AF systems, I became bored and distracted! – Probably like many of you, I switched to digital, because of the many advantages concerning the workflow (at least a wet darkroom was not that healthy, was it!) – and I love to process my images on computers as a creative add-on after the shooting. Every two years I was tempted to buy that new Canon DSLR with better Pixel-Pitch, better AF, still lousy viewfinder and menus, etc . . . and I began to hate this – I already have computers at home, thank you! It took me step by step further away of the passion I once had for photography. With the help of Steve’s site here and others, I now switched to the Leica M-System – the M9 (in combination with two great lenses; the 28 Summicron & 50 Summilux). This gave me back my freedom, my creativity, my passion and joy of photography – INSTANTLY! Is this camera perfect for me – YES IT IS, because it forces me to become a better photographer and creative artist every day. Life View, 11 fps, etc. does not help me in that respect – sure there will be better technology coming down the way, but Leica stands mainly for something else – no compromise, no distraction, no excuse not to work on one self – and that’s exactly what this company stands for! German craftsmanship and excellence, superb optics, best IQ and good ergonomics, light weight and now a 18MPix FF sensor – enough for large prints and digital workflow compatible at last. A camera you love to enhance YOUR creativity! No need to join the every year race of new japanese computers with attached mediocre lens.
As for Michaels open letter to Leica on the LL (which by the way is a high quality site, where I learned a lot over the past years), I say that he is only partly right in the sense, that the M-System can technically evolve concerning the sensor, LCD and other parts of the camera mainly dependent on advances in physics and optics – but nothing should be changed, that prevents the photographer from learning and being creative with this camera the M-Way. Simplicity must be maintained, distraction minimized. This goal is achieved greatly with the present M9. For a long time, to me there will be no reason for an update in product – only in my own ability to make photography.
Thanks to you all, for the inspiring help and get this site going on
“The M tradition is all about SIMPLICITY”
I agree 100% !
Steve, thanks to your site, you know what I just did? I sold all my Canon gear, studio gear and had to get loans to get (hopefully soon) a leica M9 and a voigtlander 35mm 1.4
I switched BECAUSE I was sick of all the bells and whistles of the current offering. All I want is a rugged, compact, high delivering, simple tool to take my photography to the next level.
I recently purchased an M9, BECAUSE it has the oh-so-desirable M heritage.
I was originally going to go for a [Leica] MP, but having cut my teeth on a wide variety of [film] Nikons (and even an old Zenit SLR from the age of 7) – finally resting on a D3 since they were introduced, the wonderful world of digital pulls very strongly.
There is something about the M range. I personally can’t even put my finger on it. But the images it produces are STUNNING. Those images make the viewer WANT to produce similar ones – or at the very least their own version of it. The look a Leica M9 gives you cannot be replicated in software, believe me, I’ve tried. And don’t even get me started on the additional shots possible due to it’s compact size……..
To not produce such an instrument would be a tragic error. Of course, all emotion aside, one could argue that the “open letter” in LL was merely a clever marketing ploy and we’re all getting fired up for nothing. After all, who can argue with the current demand for the M9?
I left a comment a couple of days ago on “Some M9 love and a word about focus…” saying how I’ve just discovered that my M9 has a crack on the IR filter in front of the sensor. I know it’ll be fixed under warranty but I’m devastated because I know that I’ll be sans M9 for at least 4 weeks or more. I was a devoted Nikon user up until I made what I thought may have been an irrational decision to purchase an M9 and a couple of lenses back in October last year. However, when the M9 arrived about 3 months ago and I took a few shots with a 35mm Summilux I knew that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In those 3 months I’ve taken about 2,000 shots with the M9 and literally haven’t even touched my Nikon D700, that is, until today when I got it out of the cupboard because I knew I’d need to use it while the M9 is off getting fixed. The only other Nikon gear I’ve touched since getting my M9 was a D300 body and three lenses which I packed up and sold. I must admit that I was a tad concerned when all that Nikon kit gave me just enough to buy the 35mm. :o)
I challenge you to use an M9 for a couple of months and then put it away for 4-8 weeks and pick up a Nikon (or Canon) and see if you still enjoy your photography. If you’re anything like me you’ll think about having a break. The weight and size of the Nikon kit is enough to put you off…even if you’ve only got a 50mm f1.4 attached, let alone a 24-70mm f2.8 zoom.
Now, this is getting long winded but the point of it all is that I really doubt that I will use my D700 again unless it’s to use a telephoto lens for sports or wildlife (longer than 90mm) or serious macro work. For the majority of my photography I just can’t imagine using anything but my M9 (repaired of course) with a growing collection of M series lenses attached (Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander). I just love the whole rangefinder photography experience. It makes me think about my photography and I believe I have improved as a result. I’m in my 50’s and have been taking photographs for most of my adult life with SLR cameras starting back in the early 70’s with a Minolta SRT101 followed by an Olympus OM1 and so on until I ventured into the digital world with a Nikon D70, D200, D300 and finally a D700….but I am now hooked on rangefinder photography and I’m afraid I won’t be going back. The size, the quality, the whole package is just one of those absolute pleasures of life.
I love the passion of this community, I absolutely enjoy Steve’s enjoy and check it out every day. Steve, it’s like a drug, if there’s no update I have withdrawls. Keep up the great work and let’s all let Leica know that they have a strong community of rangefinder fans that will continue to support them while they’re making such outstanding equipment. Thanks for listening to my ramblings.
I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. I have been longing for a digital Leica CL for years now, having used a Minolta CLE in the past. A couple of months ago I finally found it in a used M8. I’m enamored with the rangefinder concept, it still is all I ever dreamt of it and all that you can read and hear from its fans. And the Leica M series continues to be simplicity at its best.
There is one thing I don’t quite understand having read Reichmann’s open letter: Assuming there are no technical obstacles to leaving the rangefinder as it is and still put in the focussing system proposed by Reichmann, why not have both in the M series? That way we can all have what we want (assuming that MR is not the only one wanting what he suggested in that respect). And it would make the M series even more versatile for street as well as landscape shooters. Make this then MY open letter to Leica…
I can only say for myself that I would not buy “a Leica” without a proper(!) viewfinder. And no, I do not consider electronic ones or add-on optical viewfinders as proper. Looking at the world through that beautiful glass window, not at a “flat” representation of it, connects you much better with the action around you than any other type of camera can give you. If that is what you long for, because it enables you to take better pictures, then the Leica M is the way to go. And it’s the only way to go.
Don’t take this away from us, Leica. Your customers have held out with you because we all care! We saw how difficult the transition of the M series into the digital realm was. It was with a great deal of relief that we followed the success of the M8 and even more so of the M9. You have given us what we wanted, even though the company itself is in troubled waters. Why? Because YOU care!
The fascination of rangefinder photography is NOT a thing of the past. Quite to the contrary.
How about a M10 in M5 body? maybe for the pro who use it for work. More space more features. Personally M9 is good enough for most.
I think i wrote here a comment that starts with I demand and it is a criticim to thé x1. I havé nô authority or rights to criticism. I say make thé x2 thé 21th century benchmarck with a bayonette, better focus but please leave thé M that i mver used but saw in a distance alone. Cheers happy shooting
“I suggest you build a smaller version of the M camera with M lens compatibility and yes, call it the CM (compact M). Use an APS-C sensor, add live view and even an EVF (built in would be preferable). Price it at about $3000 and there you go!”
Isn’t the X1 the model you talk about? It’s a real intro to Leica Cameras, not like the various D-Lux pocket cameras build by Panasonic and licensed by Leica.
I’m a new Leica member (dlux4) and I love how this community is so passionate. It really reminds me of how fanatical and loyal Apple users are. Sometime even sharing the same scorn from PC or DSLR users. The response I often get from people when I mention that I love Apple and Leica are: Why would you pay $X amount more for something a Windows(or Canon/Nikon) could do?
Lets face it, pricing seems to be the biggest issue here. Many people continue to be turned off by Apple’s premium pricing, yet their stores are jammed packed and items continue to sell out. The Leica line of cameras and lenses are astronomical compared to other competitors, yet there are waiting lists for its most popular camera.
The M9 looks amazing and I think it’s really THE digital camera that merges art photography and technology. You can almost compare this to the Macintosh launch in 1984, which revolutionized computing.
I hope Leica hears the response from this community. It’s not a demand lower prices, but to make its product more accessible. This might be in the way of creating a new product line or continued innovation in its M line at a faster pace to lower prices of older products naturally.
BTW Sorry for all the Apple references 🙂
I agree with all of you guys – I find it very odd article by Michael. I am very new to the M series and to Leica in general – I have been shooting with Canons for the past 5 years and only in the past couple of months did I develop interest in a Leica and I recently received an M8 (and yes, I am also, I think, in this pool of young people, being 24). The quality of the lieca glass is outstanding and it is great that they continue to reinvent themselves there. The X1 is a curious camera but I was never fond of the live view or the lack of any finders – even with DSLRs, I always used the view finder and if I end up playing with an X1, the view finder will be a necessity – it lets me, in the same way as the rangefinder philosophy goes, to connect with the scene through my eyes and not through an LCD/OLED/other screen.
Thanks for putting your thoughts here guys! Cheers, Konstantin
What makes me laughs in the article in the luminous landscape is that the dude who wrote this wants a rangefinder that is a combinaison of DSLR and bridge camera but different !
His article does not make any sense, why not ask for a camera that does coffee too ?? I start to think he is using Leica M because he was told it looks cool and as a photographer he must carry a M system. In other words,, he missed the whole “philosophy” of the Leica M system….
I have been working for 22 years, carrying big load of slr then dslr and breaking my back, but i have had a great photo experience with my sole M6 and when I look at my pictures i have made in south east asia or in Mexico, I realize that my Leica was an the right tool and that i would not have done many trip in these countries with only one SLR. I was snapping all the time and having this piece of jewerly in my hand, helped me concentrate on what i was seeing !
STEVE HUFF IS TOTALLY RIGHT ! The spirit, the craft of this camera is still the one we expect from this brand, and Leica is just the digital evolution of it, Long live Leica
I completely agree, and I’m happy that Leica seem to be on the right track again.
Great idea, “your” Leica CM (digital). That’s exactly what I’m looking for right now.
I fully agreed with Steve. I think Leica is on the right track. M provides an unique experience to photographers. Leica is a small company. It would survive by producing the me too DSLR. A few things Leica needs to do is to improve the performance of M9, such as high ISO..etc.
The introduction of X1 is also a great move of Leica. Leica should consider to build the miniature version of M lenses for X1 and allow X1 to change lenses. As a result, a modern, mid-price entry level Leica will definitely beat a lot of big guys (Canon / Nikon) in term of image quality.
I don’t want to sound like I’m just falling in line with the congregation here at all, but I agree with all that was said here. I respect Michael Reichmann for what he does, but to me he always seems overly concerned with conceptual ideas (such as his suggestion of the external EVF, which destroys the camera from being a quality rangefinder) rather than what’s really here and, in this case, cramming the best of all camera types into the M.
I have used Live View on my 5D Mark II, just as I have used the rear LCD on many point & shoots… and it’s simply nowhere near the quality of an optical viewfinder. It slightly lags behind as you quickly move around, and rather than having an actual pure window into the world, you are looking at a small digital picture and struggle to make out details. Not to mention that you’re not looking directly at your subject, and that disconnect makes it very awkward to compose a shot. I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed photography, but there’s a sheer joy and excitement that you feel towards the world when viewing it through a rangefinder that you’ll never get with an EVF, or even an SLR.
The only points I partially agree with of Michael’s are the ergonomics and maybe the focusing patch.
I plan to buy a Thumbs Up for my M8 because it is simply quite awkward to hold. The earlier guest post here and the fact that Steve uses one is testament that he and other diehard Leica fans agree that something is missing from the design. Whether Leica decides to build something into the camera that serves the same purpose or simply goes in business with the Thumbs Up creator and includes one with every purchase so it doesn’t become a permanent fixture on the camera, it’s clear something needs to be done. I’ve already spent a lot of time saving for the camera and lens(es), so it’s sort of a low blow to have to turn around and save again for this pricey add-on.
As for the focusing, I do think that the small patch can be troublesome when you don’t have clear edges to focus on or when shooting at a wide aperture and recompose the shot- you run a big risk of missing focus this way. I don’t know what Michael was talking about with Capture One and shimmering edges on contrast spots, but if there was a way to have the overlay apply to the whole viewfinder and allow me to see that something is in focus anywhere in the frame without having to move, focus, recompose, I’m open to seeing how it would work. Of course, this then introduces the problem of your entire view potentially being blurry and unpleasant, so it clearly would have to be handled in a clever manner.
Thanks Steve, et al for the responses to the open letter. I trust that Leica will remain true to its heritage and make appropriate choices in the future of the M series, rather than running scared in an ever-changing world (like you said, not always for the best) and losing the whole purpose of why we choose to shoot with an M to begin with.
I find the ‘open letter’ a little weird. It goes against the whole concept of what I believe the Leica Digital M’s are about.
I recently crossed over to an M8 about 2 months after buying a 5Dmk2. With the Canon I realised that I had just about every bell and whistle a DSLR could give me, but I had very strong desire to get back to basics, to take photographs in the most simple and direct way I could, without giving up the ‘digital’.
As a ‘youngish’ new user, the only way I could afford a Leica Digital M was because the M9 had been announced and M8’s were coming down in price.
The idea that the Leica M will die out with the old timers shows how out of touch the author is. I think with the release of the M9, a whole new market will open up with due to access to affordable 2nd hand M8’s. Like me once you start using an M, it’s very hard to go back… I liken it to the resurgence of vinyl records and fixed gear bicycles. It will never be mainstream, but there is a huge market, made up of people who want quality and simplicity, and thats what Leica gives.
Some very interesting comments on a great technology. Personally, I would love to see an M10 that has a body shell of an M7 but with the technology used in the M 9. The analog body is much nicer……. any experience is shooting with Velvia and have a digital copy….. how will this compare to an M8 or M 9 ?
thanks for sharing any info. you’ve experienced
steve…the CM idea is brilliant…even the name..no numbers..no bullshit..jus CM..but i would demand that it’d be what the CL was to the M5…only better obviously…a leica rangefinder for the rest of us.and like a CL give us an M-mount and provide us with a decently fast 35mm or 50mm with leica characteristics but that we can afford….no evf. no video. just an aps-c rangefinder close to the size of an x1. like you said, a perfect companion to the m9. evf live-view and video can stay in a new iteration of the d-lux or on the appearance of an x2. keep it that way.
Let’s not forget the crowd who want an M9 purely because it’s inaccessible to the general public. Exclusivity is enough to win over a lot of buyers; the M9’s capabilities are just an added bonus.
The only concern I have with a rangefinder is the focus shift on recomposing issue. My solution to this (and my only change to the M9) : shift the focus point to either of the top thirds intersections. Since we rarely compose a subject in the middle of the frame, this will provide accurate focus for subjects on either the left or the right (symmetry = equal distance.)
I (old timer since 1980) like M due small in size, nice lens (wide aperture quality) and forgive its RF inconvenience focusing patch, no high ISO for stabilization and kill vignetting, no 1080P, useless up-grade items (this will keep customer). But we are waiting Zeiss/Sony (3.45mp) to get these done.
hmmm… I honestly don’t understand why someone would like to change the M.
I would just like to add that along with simplicity, I believe the M is all about slowing things down. It seems that everything these days is about speed and efficiency! Do we want to take 500 crystal clear perfectly exposed photos in 1 minute or take the time to add thought to composition, to connect, to become emotionally involved in your art?
And that’s really what it comes down to, this is about art. When you change the tool you change the artwork. Some people paint with a brush others paint with a digital pen. Do we need to modify the brush to compete with the digital pen?
I 100% agree with Rao, I was very disapointed (because had veru high expectations) with the fact that the X1 has no possibility of changing lenses! Leica doesn’t want to sell theyr lenses? It was a huge marketing mistake. The X1 could be the future, they should look at the market, and see that the small cameras will soon replace those bulky dslr (wich huge size is just like old wall coo-coo clocks) – they’re good for studio, not for real life! If they would make a model like that, but with the possibily of changing lenses, that would be a sucess, specially because is much more affordable then the M9, and all my students would follow me.. (by the way, congratulations Steve for you site, and mostly, thank you)
Great article Steve! I completely agree with you and am very glad you took the time to write this…hopefully Leica will listen, I suspect they will as I think they understand what photography is all about.
I wholeheartedly agree with you guys. The M9 is what got me interested in Leica in the first place. I’m under 30 and would love to have a simpler camera without all the (for me) unneccessary features I hardly use anyway.
Leave the M series as it is. Though I kinda wish they were a little cheaper, so I wouldn’t have to wait so long until I can afford one.