The Leica M7 and Leica M9 – One shot with each.

Today I was out an about shooting with the Leica M7 but a couple of days ago I shot one frame of my son with the M7 loaded with Kodack 400CN film, and then one with the M9 set to ISO 400 and in camera JPEG. I wanted to see how the M9 would look at ISO 400 when compared to ISO 400 film. I plan on doing a HUGE comparison between the two in the next 2 weeks, JUST FOR FUN! We all know that film gives a different look than digital but can we get a B&W film look with an M9 file? I wanted to know! I used Kodak 400Cn because I wanted to drop it off at the local drugstore for processing. What you see here is the stores crappy scan, not my scan (I do not have a scanner as I do not own the M7).

So remember, all I am doing here is comparing an M9 JPEG at ISO 400 to the M7 shooting ISO B&W film. No, this is not Tri-X (I LOVE Tri-X) but it’s all I had on hand and all that was available to me at this time.

OK, so here is the image from the M9, just resized. Other than that, it is the out of camera JPEG at ISO 400.

Leica M9 – 35 Lux at 1.4 – ISO 400 – Click image for larger view

Here is the frame from the Leica M7 with BW400CN film…Again, 35 Lux at 1.4! – Click Image for larger!

and now, an attempt to get the M9 file to look like the film shot using Silver Efex Pro’s Kodack 400CN filter…click image for larger!

Remember, before anyone starts to complain in the comments…

  • This was a “just for fun” quick test – I plan on doing a huge 20-30 image comparison with B&W and Color film in the next two weeks! Again, for fun! This is not a “scientific” comparison and for my large comparison I will most likely scan the negatives myself. I used to scan all the time and I have thousands of negatives from my old M7 somewhere around here. It may be fun to re-discover old shots anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

I thought it was interesting and a fun comparison even if it was with the horrible drug store scan. One thing I can say is that the M7 feels quite a bit more solid and substantial over the M8/M9. Someone asked why I would want a M6, M7 or MP since I have an M9. Well, I would love to have a Leica film camera as a “companion” to my M9 for those times when I want the look or feel of film, or even to enjoy some nostalgia. The feel of the camera, the feel of the shutter and even loading the film. It’s different and I like it ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus, you can find used film bodies at some decent prices so why not? I will most likely be buying something in the next month or so and will also be posting film shots with different films, etc. Can’t wait!

On another note, it is funny to see so many complain about the M9 ISO. Look how clean ISO 400 is on the M9 compared to the film shot!

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  1. Did you ever do your “huge 20-30 image comparison with B&W and Color” test with these cameras? What were the results?

  2. Would love to see this test again, but with the M7 (or any M series film camera) and the new Leica M.

  3. Just came across this. The M9 image looks really flat (even the processed one) however the M7 take is just brilliant. With more processing you MAY be able to get a better M9 finished image but check out how effortless the film version was………

  4. UPDATE:

    I took the ‘ruined film’ and soaked it in fresh fixer and then gave it another wash and magic… it scanned sweetly. Unfortunately I did not put it back on the spool so some of it did not get treated the same and resulted in some interesting blotches… lol. The ones that got fixed properly came back to life really well. Here is an example:

  5. For anyone who is still shooting film (I am one of them) the most consistent scanning results have come from the Imacon X5 scanner by Hasselblad. Its a whopper of a scanner costing over 20k, but place like Photo Village in NYC will let you rent it for half/full day rates. It produces a 320mb scan at 6300 dpi and is the working solution for transparency films. I have done black and white and color film too, but it is the way to go for slide film. The trade off of having to get my own scanner or debate with lab techs about the quality of their scans wore on me.
    The other advantages with the X5 are that it can handle my 2-1/4 negatives and if you have a 4×5 it will do that too. It comes with negative carriers for every format up to 4×5. And it definitely gives a Leica image proper life.
    All of the images on my Flickr page are scanned with it, if you would like to see some examples.

  6. Some great shots there Max, really like them. Yes, I have heard of pushing film but pushing chemicals is a whole other story! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. I used a v700 for a little less than one month and, when you get the focus it right, you can get great results indeed. My problem was setting the focus for each strip… Because you cannot check in the scan preview if the image will be in focus or not, you need to wait for around 30 minutes to check the full res version. Than, if it’s not in focus, you need to tweak with the negative frame height (3 available options) until you get it right. So it was very slow process and frustrating… If I ever buy a scanner again, I would buy a film dedicated one that has Auto-focus per frame feature. I decided to return the v700 yesterday and will do my scans through I will send them my first batch of film/slides tomorrow. Let’s see how it goes.

  8. Let it be! Rise, the new film resolution! er… or should that be ‘revolution’ ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. *Looking into crystal ball* – I see you developing film in your bathroom very soon, and reviewing film scanners for us ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Every 4 months?! Blarney! Just track your capacity for you fix!!! Four months is a long time, and stop using chemical stop all together and just use water. I use Photographer’s Formulary TF-5 which is a brand new modern fixer. It’s advantages are many. ๐Ÿ™‚ I love to spread the word about it.

  11. UPDATE:

    It was the stale chemicals. Just started scanning the new roll developed in brand new mixes and they are going in smooth as silk. Also, they are coming out the best in ages. New rule, change my stop bath, fixer and photo flo every 4 rolls.

  12. Speaking of scanners, I use a Nikon Coolscan 5000 and the most annoying thing happened last night. I developed a roll of tri-x and after drying it and cutting it I tried to scan it. Well, I just could not get the scanner to accept the neg. It would ‘suck’ it in but then immediately reject it and ‘spit’ it out. I thought it might be that they were quite curled so put them under a few books for a while and when I tried again, no luck. I then got out some old film that I had developed a few weeks ago and the scanner accepted the film with no issues (!). I tried scanning some of the old film and then trying with the new (to try and convince it that all was ok ๐Ÿ˜‰ still no luck. I have a theory that the problem is that my chemical mixes are stale (not the developer as that is a once off but the fixer and the stop bath as I re-use them and have not changed them out for about 4 months – with many rolls!).

    I have never heard of this being a problem that causes the scanner not to accept the film but am hoping there is really a first time for everything. If it was the scanner, it would be rejecting all old film as well but it is absolutely fine with my old film (also tri-x) that in practical terms was developed with fresher chemicals.

    Has anybody else had this problem? I will let you know tonight if the ‘stale’ stop bath and fixer was the problem but thought as we are discussing film and developing, some of you might find my challenge interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Everything on my website was scanned with the V700. It does negatives better than chromes, and as you go up in formats it only get better. It sings with 4×5 and does very well with 6×6 medium format, with 35mm it holds its own, but dedicated film scanners do slightly better.

    For the web, it’ll be fantastic.

  14. I was checking out that Epson V700. How easy is it to scan with it, Mark? I have a lot of old slides, negatives and medium format negatives I’d like to scan with it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just presentable for the web.

  15. The Epson V700 will produce an excellent scan for the web and enough resolution to cover an 11×14 print from a 35mm negative. If you need to go larger than that you can rent a Hasselblad scanner or have a lab do a drum scan. Nikon scanners are not impossible to find and there is enough software to run them, but honestly the V700 is enough (I have both a Coolscan and the Epson). People forget that you don’t need to have every frame on a roll scanned. I certainly never made that many prints.

  16. But, there are no good dedicated filmscanners available anymore. For high quality with film, it must be analogue all the way now.

  17. Very well said, Mark. Digital and film can certainly co-exist but I can’t imagine a world without film. There is an inherent beauty, for all the reasons you have outlined, that cannot be replaced or substituted.

  18. Why own a film Leica? Because you can do without batteries for a while. Because you can make a silver gelatin print, or transparency. Because you can be assured that when properly handled, your analog original will last a lifetime. Because in this fast paced world, it really forces you to take your time. Because you can do alternative processes. Because the unique properties of the myriad of available emulsions often lead to surprising and beautiful results. Because the image rests within the paper, not on top of it, and is made from precious metals. Because you can do longer exposures with film. Because if it was good enough for Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, and Garry Winogrand, it’s good enough for me.

  19. Ay Steve! Your recent film articles have really pulled me into the, film, world hah. I hopped on over to eBay and purchased a Nikon FE! I can’t wait to start shooting film! Haha it will be a very, enlightening photographic experience!

  20. Hi Steve, sorry, I thought I did? Will try again.


  21. Tri – X[img][/img]

  22. Much better dynamic range of that film shot. You can definitely see it. Just another reason I want to move on to film…

    I plan on this used Nikon FE and some Fuji Superia x-tra 400 print film. hah.

  23. Hey Nick, no need to learn photoshop to use Silver Efex. It took 5 seconds for that filter to be applied. Just a button click on the 400CN filter! Thanks!


  24. Silver efex pro is pretty convincing… I am surprised! You seem to get excellent results from that program. Is it easy to use? I struggle to get myself into learning photo shot…

  25. As Steve said, 2500 is more than usable with the M9 and it’s actually flat out great for black & white work. With film, as we know, grain is not a dirty word and in fact it imparts plenty of character and mood to pictures. With digitals, it’s trickier because noise becomes bothersome with color and can also be weird in b&w especially in low light situations. With a fast lens and 2500, the M9 is more than fine and in fact I’ve had a great time recently with the Noctilux @ f1 and 2500 ISO.
    As far as the argument we all love ๐Ÿ˜‰ Film vs Digital, Erwin Puts had a nice tidbit here
    Although more technical than practical, it outlines where the M9 stands. I personally shoot tons of film and I always have my M9 along with a film body with me. I have plenty of conversions in Silver Efex but I find that, although they are more than acceptable, film gives me the look I want without workarounds. Like R P says, this is in truth all extremely subjective and there is no right or wrong, better or worse. In an ideal world, the M9 and a classic M3 or M7/M6/ MP should get plenty of action among enthusiasts for the different looks and approaches that both systems (film and digital) bring to the table.

  26. Clearly the M9 was not manufactured to shoot 3200 ISO. My point was toward film. Again, subjectivity. It’s interpretive, isn’t it?

  27. Cool project here, Steve. I haven’t shot film in a long time…even my Holga has been on the shelf ever since I got my M8 and then M9.

    Looking forward to more!

  28. The MAX ISO of the M9 is 2500 and I can get pretty nice results with gobs of detail at 2500. I have posted color and B&W samples here. To those who say the higher ISO of the M9 is not usable, well, they must not own an M9. Its usable throughout its whole range. More than I can say for some of the DSLR’s out there.

    Thx for the comment.

  29. People… If in fact DxO is a legit company, and its tests are indeed accurate; people interested in purchasing the m9 are now forced to consider some very serious questions. Let’s say the tests hold true. Fact: Sensor is not up to par at high ISO. Isn’t the point of shooting an M camera is the ability to capture a subject in a low light situation without the aid of a flash?
    Subjectivity: Purely up to you what you like when you press the shutter release at 3200 speed.
    It’s that simple.
    Fact V Subjectivity.
    You cannot dispute fact, however, you can argue over subject matter as long as you draw breath.
    The M9 is the test for Leica’s full frame sensor as their M8 was the beta to digital. The end.

  30. Steve. This is an awesome project. I shoot mostly with my M7 and summilux 50 with tri x but love velvia 50 for colour outdoors. Great to see comparisons with the M9. What about velvia 50 for colour comparison? It’s the bench mark in my view.

  31. I agree that kodak c41 isn’t the best of choice but god the M9 file is beautiful your son’s eye so sharp so clear it made the image work.

  32. Steve,

    Thanks for the great website and all the efforts put into it.

    May I kindly suggest to do this 2 weeks comparison with a “real” B+W film, meaning not a C41 which is a “color B+W” film? That would be much more interesting as people shooting film (like me) usually don’t like the Kodak 400CN, as this has a totally different look than the real B+W films.

    What about a good old roll of Trix? ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sure you could find people (fans!) ready to process it /scan it for you.

    Anyway, keep up the good job! ๐Ÿ˜€


  33. I have really enjoyed your site, Steve. It has only been a couple of months since I found it but I like the ‘real world’ stuff. On film, I love (present tense) good old Tri-X. While I do most of my shooting with Nikon D2h bodies, I have an old Yashica GS35 that belonged to my dad that I used. It really challenges me with the fixed 45mm lens in a rangefinder body (nothing like the Leica). Keep up the good work!

  34. When I look at that film shot, I wonder what all this noise-debating and pixel-peeping is all about … you’d NEVER EVER get such a clean picture with a high-sensitivity film! So the future IS digital … or is it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  35. Great comparison, thanks Steve. Looking forward to even more. Even if I might give the feeling of being from another world: I just bought two old Olympus OM SLRs (OM-1 and OM-2) just for the fun of shooting film. Feels just great. Aiming for an M6, but this is a bit out of reach at the moment.
    Thanks for all your work on this great website, Steve. Highly appreciated!

  36. M7 is the clear winner!

    And just imagine what the difference would have been if you had used real film like TMY or TriX.

    CN400 is for sissies.

  37. Very interesting post and project ! Thanks.
    For this first comparison, the “crappy” scan of the drugstore could be more subtle but I find the look of the out of camera jpeg too “digital”
    I’m waiting for your real world comparison !

  38. I look forward to seeing some shots with different films. Especially classic emulsions like Ilford FP4+ and Kodak Tri-X. A cheap scanner that does bw very well is the Minolta Elite 5400 (first version).

  39. Hi Steve,

    I bought a contax G2 and I am having tons of fun shooting film again! Can’t wait to see the image quality comparison between M9 and M7, which proper scanning done. You rock!

  40. Awesome comparison. What strikes me is how clean the M9 file is, as well as how nicely it converts. But yet, my MP feels WAY firmer and more solid than my M9…but I like the M9’s ease of use and digital work flow WAY more as well.

    Sometimes, you need that film body for the look of film. My favorites are Neopan 1600, Tri-X and Ilford HP-5, all which have lovely grain structure when properly developed (rodinal!!!)


  41. I can’t believe you just did this story. I just finished emailing someone about getting a M6TTL body. I wanted to compare it to the M8.2 digital files, even though it isn’t full frame. I wanted to see what the fuss was about with the Film M cameras, and found a good deal on a M6. Anyway, how odd you came out with this article the very day I hooked up with someone about the M6!

    I am also considering the D700 with a 24-70 zoom for when I photograph dogs exclusively. I wanted to get in on that deal that BH Photo has, but now they are closed on Saturday until 8:30pm. I’m wondering if they will still have that deal once they reopen?

    No, I don’t have a lot of money. Going into hawk. But each system does something different. Anyway, I’m still debating. Oh, still on list for M9 as well. Ouch!

  42. Love this site ๐Ÿ™‚ great comparison. I had the MP for a year. But I had to ship the film from my village here in Greenland to Denmark to get it developed… and then back to Greenland (2-4 weeks) :-). The feel and sound of the MP is just amazing. Im surprised silver efex look quite close to the real thing, in my eyes. What do you think, Steve?

  43. I have many cameras, but the M7 is my favorite by far. If i could only have one camera for the rest of my life, it would be the M7 .

  44. Thanks guys! Don’t feel bad Emily! I spend more $$ due to this site all the time! Ha ha…Leica sent me an M7 to shoot with for a couple of weeks and now I want a film M to add to my M9. It never ends!

  45. Fun post! And really looking forward to the road trip posts! Have fun and lots of luck on finding great shots. The only thing …. I can already tell I’m going to be spending some more $$ on equipment b/c of this site!

  46. Hi Steve, very nice comparison! Looking forward to see more.

    While still waiting for the M9, I got a beaten up M6 with among others the cron 50 (after your recommendation and a special action at a local store).. Really like film, shooting mainly tri-x 400..

    Of the shots above, most like the M7 photo. Funny to see that the straight ooc jpeg looks more like the 400cn than the Silver Efex version..

    Best, Ramon

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