Q&A Wednesday, Week 2

Wow, another week flew by already! I must get 20-30 questions a day in to my inbox and yes, I do try to answer them all. I get all kinds of questions on cameras, lenses, processing, dealers..you name it. But keep in mind, I am not a guru or expert on all things photographic so my answers are just my opinions. With all of the great questions I get to read every day I decided to put up a weekly Q&A session post! Every Wednesday I will scan my inbox for questions and post some of them here with my answers. This way, if anyone else had the same question they can see the answer! If you have a question, feel free to use the contact button at the top of any page!

Q: I was wondering if the Leica X1 would be a great pro portable camera if they fixed the slow AF on it? I know you can’t switch out the lenses. I heard the Digilux cameras were good too. Is the X1 better than this? How big can you make prints with a X1 VS the FF M9? Curious. (I’m still debating in my head about cost issue in the M9 and checking alternatives. I even thought of getting the X1 and a D700. Use the X1 for street and some portrait, and the D700 for everything else.)

A: Thanks for the great question! Well, the X1 is a great little camera and I actually do wish I could have bought one for myself because the combination of image quality, high ISO performance and size was very attractive. BUT, when you ask about it being a great “pro” portable camera, I am not so sure. Most photographers do not consider even the M9 to be a “pro” camera but I know of many who use one professionally and do very well. The X1 is not fast like a DSLR or even fast like an M9 (when you get good with Manual Focus) but it does deliver “pro” image quality. Could the X1 be used for pro work? That depends on what you are shooting. Weddings? Not recommended. Sports? No. Portraits? Well, possible but it doesn’t have a typical portrait focal length. Really I see the X1 as a camera to keep with you for those times you want to snap a shot. The X1 is an improvement over the Digilux 2 for image quality and as for prints, the X1 will be no different than any other good 12MP camera except you may slightly better looking results due to the lens on the X1. Bottom line, if you shoot pro jobs the X1 is not a replacement for an M9 or DSLR but more of a companion/backup. Also, the Nikon D700 is my fave Nikon body and it is a fabulous machine if one is looking for a DSLR.

Q: Steve, your site has fast become a daily read for me since I got my Leica M8 set two month ago. And now I want more. I am thinking that I am going to spend my tax return money wisely, and what else is better to spend on other than another Leica camera or lens! So my question is: with the same lens and take away the crop factor, just base on pure image quality, is M9’s picture quality really much better than M8? Should I just settle down with M8 and try to get another Leica lens like 35mm cron?

A: This is a tough question because you can buy a used M8 from a private party these days for about $2200 and you can get them from dealers for $2600-$2800. An M9 is $6995 with a wait. So if you ask if the M9 image quality is $4800 better  than an M8 I would have to say NO. But there are other upgrades over a standard M8 that are nice to have. The shutter is much nicer on the M9 (like the M8.2) and having full frame to get the full quality of your lenses is a joy. The files are “richer” and have a slightly different color signature which at first I was not sure about but now I love it. The M9 also has the manual lens selection, bracketing, improved high ISO, no need for the IR filters, etc etc. When you factor in all of the small upgrades and you have the money (and the passion for photography) then it probably is worth the upgrade from an M8. If you were to ask if buying a new M9 for $7000 was worth it over buying a new M8 at $5495 was worth it then that would have been a huge YES just on the IQ alone. It gets tough when you can buy a great camera like the M8 for a much better price used but the M9 fixes all of the M8 issues and gives us M shooters what we always wanted, full frame 🙂 I have no regrets with my M9 purchase.

Q: I shoot with an M8 but am expecting my M9 to arrive this month. I have heard there are issues with certain memory cards on the M9. Is this true?

A: With my M9 I have now tried 5 different types of SD cards and all have worked fine. I had one issue during my first week of ownership where my images were not writing to the card. After some frustration I realized my card was defective. It was a couple of years old and worn out so I replaced it and everything has been fine since. I think as long as you stick to SDHC cards and 4-8GB capacity then you will have no issues. Also, be sure to format the card in the camera when you first use it, and again before any important shoots. BTW,  I have a list of recommended memory cards here.

Q: Hi Steve, really enjoy your ‘real world’ reviews. I have caught the “Leica Bug’ and I believe it is terminal; for my bank balance at least! Considering the M9. Which first lens would you recommend (I’m thinking Lux 50mm or 35) and how much PP is involved to get ‘those’ pics?

A: Thanks! First lens? Probably a 35. Just pick your speed and price range. They are all fantastic. A far as PP goes, that varies and 98% of what I do to an image is during the raw conversion. If I do anything to it after it is always a 5-10 minute job. Sometimes I do nothing but a contrast/WB adjust, other times its contrast/color/shadow lighten, etc. But I do all of that from within Adobe Camera Raw 5.6. My feelings on PP can be read HERE.

Q: Hey there Steve – do you know anything about the filters for the Leica 21mm Summilux? I love the idea of the lens but would want to put something over the front element to protect it… Does a series VIII filter screw onto the end of the lens, with the lens shade screwing onto the front of the filter? Anyway keep up the good work – and best wishes from London!

A: The series VIII filter sits between the lens and the lens shade on the 21 summilux. Best way to explain it would be to say it is like a sandwich. The camera and hood would be the bread, and the filter is the meat. A filter sandwich! Thanks!

Q: Hi Steve. I love to read about you and your cameras! Your review inspired me to buy a Leica X1 when it will be available. But, now I got an offer for a cheap Leica M8 Leica Elmar-M 1:3,8/24 mm ASPH. So at this point I am in a difficult situation; I dont know if I should buy the M8 or the X1. Please, can you help me. You should know the M8 or X1 would be my first Leica Cam. Until now I did my work with a Canon DSLR and a Canon G11. These cams are ok, but there is something missing and I think it is the full control, which Leica could offer me. I hope you can give me a good advice. Looking forward to hearing from you, regards, Simon (from cold and snowy Switzerland)

A: These questions arrive to my inbox every day but really I can not answer which camera is right for YOU. Ask yourself these questions. Do I want an all manual camera? Do I wants something small and pocket-able? Do I want the ability to change lenses? Both will deliver superb image quality and honestly, the X1 is like having an M8 with a 24 Elmarit attached (but in a small package and better high ISO). You lose the ability to put on a summilux though 🙂 Good luck!


  1. Hi Steve,

    Q&A is great idea, your site’s wonderful, with great opinions, stunning photos, and wonderful lenses / camera reviews. Keep up the excellent work. It has convinced me recently to buy a Used M8, mint conditions, with a 35 summarit, and I’m really happy about this combination :). Possibly, I’ll buy stuff using your B&H links to make a little contribution in your site.

    Do you intend to review the Elmar 3,8/24 someday ?

    Cheers from France.


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