Three for the road! Leica M9, M6 and the Olympus E-PL1

OK guys, I am hitting the road again for a 2 day trip from AZ to Chicago and I leave in 6 hours. For the next two days the updates will be limited but starting Tuesday I will be back full time to the site. Today was AWESOME as my wife and I picked up our Ipads and just after an hour of using it I can tell you that this device will change the freaking world as we know it…I will be writing more on the Ipad soon.

Tonight I wanted to post some images from today taken with the Leica M9, Olympus E-PL1 and the Leica M6 loaded with Kodak Ektar film. The camera I most enjoyed shooting today was the M6 as I have fallen deeply in love with it ๐Ÿ™‚ I just have to find a film I really like. The Ektar seems OK but I think I like the Portra better. What surprised the hell out of me was the E-PL1. WOW, this camera gives me MUCH better IQ than the E-P2 seems to give. It’s AWB is better than the M9, it’s results are sharper than the E-P2 and the color is gorgeous. It gives me the best OOC JPEGS I have seen from ANY camera, EVER.

So here are a few for the road! I will try to update from the road but no guarantees! Enjoy!

In Sedona, AZ. Shot with the Leica M9. Very rich and smooth. The OOC image had a yellow tinge to it so this is from RAW. Click image for larger view. UNSHARPENED! Meaning ZERO sharpening!

Now the image from the E-PL1. This is a JPEG as I did not even shoot RAW with this camera! The color is gorgeous and very accurate. My wife and I like this camera so much, we bought it to replace the E-P2! NO SHARPENING!!!

and now, two from the M6 loaded with Ektar 100 film. Excuse the bad scans! Eventually I will have a scanner to (hopefully) produce much nicer results!

Again, I hope to update from the road on Sun/Mon so check back! Also, which images do you prefer here? I will soon have a scanner to scan my own negs so I am hoping to get better results with my film. Thanks for looking!


[ad#Adsense Blog Sq Embed Image]


  1. I just bought my E-pl1 and the output is fantastic! If Olympus or Panasonic are smart, they will bring out a few more primes with min 2.0 glass.

  2. WKSOH, I disagree 100%! I love the E-PL1 for portraits!!! The combo of E-PL1 and 17 2.8 is a killer portrait combo. If the colors are too punchy, just set the camera to “neutral” and you will get what you are looking for. No doubt in my mind the E-PL1 produces better quality files than the GF1.


  3. I was disapointed with GF1 colors when EPL1 came about. Cheaper camera, richer colors. However, I soon realized the EPL1 punchy colors are great for objects and landscapes – for the portrait, the colors are too saturated for the human skin tone… hmmmm. I’m beginning to fall for the GF1 again as pale looks better than saturated skin after a while… subjective really.

  4. M9 Colors


  5. steve. do your comparisons when you are able to scan film equal to the values of the M9.

  6. oops sory didnt mean to write just “it is a great camera ”
    i wanted to add images and dont know how ๐Ÿ™‚
    HELP !!!!!

  7. i agree the M9 doesnt look too good here – too saturated , but the M9 is a great camera

  8. Oriol, I also prefer the body and dials of the E-P2, as well as the 1/4000s of the e-p2 BUT for IQ the E-PL1 is a bit better due to the weaker AA filter.

    Stephen, I have some slide film on the way!

  9. Steve, time to break out the slide film and separate the men from the boys I think. Let the M6 roar.

  10. Hi Steve,

    I see you are happy with the EPL-1. But how is shooting on A or P modes with the EPL-1 compared to the EP2? Is there a lot of differtences regarding IQ between them? I have checked both of them and I prefer much more the feeling and direct dials of the EP2.

    Could you make a comparison between EP-2 and EPL-1 with both the kit (14-42) and Panasonic 20 mm lenses? I would like to see the differences between them!



  11. Thanks RIchard. Im back home now and looking over some images. It is obvious that when I converted that M9 file something was wrong. I did that on my laptop and when I convert it at home on my big screen it looks much nicer. I will be posting some tomorrow along with some of my own film scans. Thanks!


  12. With so many Leica M9 affectionados around here I guess this is pretty thin ice but…

    On my calibrated NEC Multsync ‘consumer screen’ (nice one Steve… ๐Ÿ™‚ ) the sky on the first M9 image looks WAY off and the entire image looks oversaturated to me. The sky on all three other images, while all different, look much better imo. Either small or enlarged.


  13. Just a friendly reminder. Be sure to include all the details for the shots. I am using the E-PL1 and am quite novice in photography. Would like to make your shots as a guideline to what settings should be used on a certain situation.

    Also, which quality you used to shot the picture with the E-PL1? I’m using either LF or LN mode.

    Thanks and regards.

  14. I may be biased because I really prefer the compositions of the 2 film pics, but upon further review I must say that FILM RULES! All the pics have merit, but the film versions look uncannily nostalgic, moody and surreal – like I’m looking right out of a backseat window. I can “see” the buttes in the digital pics, but I can FEEL them via the film. This is a real “aha” moment for me. Long live film.

  15. It’s over 15 years since I was in Sedona (and that was in May, so the light quality might be different), and I wasn’t there of course when these shots were taken, but judging from memory the M9 shots appear to be closer to what the scene must have looked like.

  16. as i have never seen this landscape in real life, i’d rather leave a comment about them as pictures per se, than as to their relation to accurateness etc.
    my immediate response was a quote from Eliot Porter: “don’t show the sky unless the sky has something to say.”
    i definitely find the two film scans the most interesting (scan quality excluded), but that’s due to the different colors, shapes, light/shadow etc on the ground, not the dull sky. i would so much have loved to see more of the foreground at the skys expense, especially in the last pic. there is the interesting potential to work with, in my opinion, to get a visual circular counterpoint to fully show the rocks unique vertical, up-of.the-earth character.

    best regards & thanks for sharing on this lovely site,


  17. Although I would love to see the film versions scanned with a better scanner, I think that the E-pl1 is the best of the bunch. The color balance is gorgeous and the sharpness is great. I’m impressed with the in-camera jpg. What lens did you use on the E-pl? The M9 shot is fantastic as well, but looks a bit over-saturated for my taste. Thanks for sharing these.

  18. Thanks to ALL! Also, please remember that the film scan has so much more potential. It’s not a great scan. I wish I still owned my coolscan V! Anyway, I just ordered all of the materials needed to process my own negs as well as a load of tri-x and neopan and some ilford hp5.

    I shot b&w film only for a year once and those are some of my fave images ever.

    As for digital, it’s waaaayyyy more convenient and can produce some amazing results. The M9 is simply my favorite digital ever an. The E-pl1 is my fave m4/3 to date. I hope to have my review up on Wednesday.

    Also, I will be back home tomorrow in front of my computer and will be doing a better film/digital comparison as I will have the time to do so ๐Ÿ™‚

    again, thanks to all for the comments!!!

  19. Not sure I’m a big fan of the Ektar in this situation. I think it does blues and reds really really well but greens and orange/brown colors not so. In the situation you were in a more neutral film would have been good. But for cityscapes etc the Ektar is superb.

  20. Hi Steve,

    I must say I greatly prefer the E-PL1 rendition – the others have a surreal quality in places, which I like, but I wouldn’t want to start off from there – and it looks fantastic when enlarged.

    Can’t quite persuade myself to take the plunge yet with the EPL1 , however, since over here in the old country it’s difficult to track down the EVF and OM adapter – just have to wait.

    Agree with whoever it was said your site is addictive!


  21. Hi Steve

    Happy road trip! This is my second post. I found your site a couple of months ago and now I try to visit daily.

    Personally I like the digital files better than the film. So don’t go back to that drug store again. A good scanner will give better results and will provide a better comparison. I haven’t made the plunge into a serious digital system and now you are making me wonder if I should. I have 4 Leica bodies (2-M3’s, an M6, and an M7) and a Nikon scanner that needs to be brought out of storage. Not to mention a workstation upgrade.

    For film, as a general rule for color prints I prefer the Portra films, all of them work very well under their preferred conditions. A good second choice are the Fuji professional portrait films. I haven’t tried the new Ektar film yet so I can’t comment on it yet. For B&W I look for Ilford first. My favorite is HP5+. I find that is develops just like Tri-X and has similar grain and detail to T-Max 400. For super detailed images Delta 100 is probably the next best thing to Agfa Pan 25.

    Drive safe.

  22. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for Sharing the photos.
    Just from a quick observation (without knowing the actual metering , setting and lens used), It seems that the EPL-1 is sharper than the Leica M9?? I have to say that I like the colour, exposure and details in the EPL-1 the most. I did have higher expectation from the M9 (Like $5500 Higher, hahaha).

    Anyway I can’t wait to see your own scan.

    Thanks Steve, This is the Most addictive Webpage ever!

  23. good luck with the v7x0 scanner–i’ve found the two i bought to be fussy and sometimes hard to get good results from. alignment issues, driver issues, focus issues, whathaveyou. however, it is reasonably clear that with luck, it is possible to get good quality from one.

    still don’t think i could get used to turning the shutter speed dials opposite directions.

    btw, the m9 shot looks best in terms of rock color to me. the oly is way over the top. the film looks interesting, but i’d want to see better scans.

    i like the portra 400vc, btw, and the 400 normal/subtle version for portraits. very versatile films.

  24. Thanks for the comments. I’m currently somewhere in Texas…driving. Can’t wait to get back home!

    David, the images are srgb but you have to click on them to see the larger files with the correct color. Also, I am guessing 90 to 95% of those who read this site have consumer displays .

    But on the two displays I used these look fine when viewed large. The M9 is not as bright buy it is how it exposed the scene which is what I wanted to show. It also has no sharpening. Neither does the epl1.

    Brian, I was pretty shocked at the epl1. That was a jpeg taken with the kit zoom and out of all the images the epl1 is pretty much spot on as to how the color really was. Anyone who knows Sedona knows how vibrant the rocks are ๐Ÿ™‚

    Adam, no imacon for me. I wish! Maybe I can find a deal on a used on sometime. Congrats on the M9!

  25. Hi Steve (and Adam M)

    A good operator with a properly set-up Epson V700 Pro, a decent film holder, correct shimming (for perfect focus plane height) and knowledge of scanning curves will do 90% of what the Imacon will do with a junior operator! We use both but the V700 has ICE dust and scratch removal and saves a lot of time with dirty film. Can’t imagine Steve BUYING an Imacon for the odd ‘play’ scan when he has an M9 for paying work!

  26. Steve, when are you going to gain access to an Imacon? I have some comparison scans from a trip to Portugal last year. First I had them “Hi-Res” scanned by an unnamed photo lab in NYC. They looked like garbage compared to the Provia 100 slide film. Then I discovered the Imacon and digital life was bestowed upon the images. But cleaning dust is a pain…waiting for my M9, supposed to be here this Friday!

  27. The E-PL1 looks amazing – and for $600! Makes one wonder what Olympus could do with a FF sensor. Absolutely no doubt that range finder-sized cameras are the future; but where oh where are the the freakin’ control dials! Why are people so afraid of manual or semi-auto controls?

    Incredible IQ; but I can only imagine the acrobatics needed to navigate this thing. A word to Olympus, Nikon, Canon, etc. from the mouth of Thoreau – “Simplify, simplify!”

    Man does not live by buttons alone.

  28. Hi Steve,

    Looking forward to see a decent (Imacon?) scan from the film, Adobe RGB, with shadow detail and the matching Raw files processed into Adobe RGB, with shadow detail. Our monitors are all ‘EyeOne’ calibrated and match our print output extremely well and ALL of your images above are looking really dark. We get a lot of clients sending in dark files these days thanks to low cost, super bright flat screen displays being used in bright rooms. Your images are also ‘untagged’ with no embedded sRGB profile for proper web display. We have info on BASIC monitor adjustment and a reference image on our website:

    Have a great break. Cheers,

  29. A little more exposure on the M9 shot would help the comparison a good deal ๐Ÿ™‚ But thanks, Steve.

  30. Hi Steve.

    Coincidentally, I’m here in Sedona as well as I read your post. I look forward to your EPL1 review. Maybe I should just buy it now and have Amazon overnight it to me here in Sedona?!

  31. After looking at the photos above, I’m sure that I still love my M9, hehehe..

    Have a safe trip!!

  32. Very nice Steve! As with all your comparison’s, I look at the pictures before reading the text and I picked the M9 shot. To me, it has more of a “haunted” look to it which gives it character. But, of course, that is my personal opinion. To each, his or her own.

  33. What a great scenery…

    Maybe it’s my calibrated screen or my uncalibrated eyes but the M9 image looks plain silly to me. Looks like Disneyland. The E-P2 gets my vote here, no question.


  34. Hi Steve,

    As you know, the Leica M series has a long and storied history with Tri-X film. I shoot it a lot and find it to be pretty much foolproof, even in difficult lighting conditions. I have been using an Epson V700 flatbed scanner for several months and am very pleased with the results. Plus, it’s pretty inexpensive!

    Safe journey home!


  35. great – but definitely love the M9 best of these
    have started shooting (mostly b&w) film again with a M6 – really happy with the results.

  36. Thanks for the post; have a fun and safe return trip. I can’t wait to hear more about the E-PL1. In his quick first impression report, Derrick Story ( also mentioned he liked the E-PL1 the best of the PENs. I was just about to buy a S90 but now think I wait to hear what you both have to say in more detail before I make my purchase.

    I realize that they are two different types of cameras but alas I only have the $s for one purchase.


  37. One more comment Steve: the colours change dramatically if I click your images to enlarge them. So whatโ€™s wrong with the small versionsโ€“profiles?

    If the enlarged versions are the more correct ones I wonder about the colours of the scanned M6 images: colours get aweful in my opinion, no details in the whole image, so probably a bad (drugstore) scan!

    Between M9 ant Oly the colours are way different, micro contrast is much more in case of the oly.

    Looking foreward to more detaisl and enjoy your trip!


  38. Wow. Beautiful, Steve! I love them all. As I look, I like the film the best because it looks surreal. The first photo has the best blue sky. The second photo has awesome layers in the mountain. The print film has a 1960’2 look. So strange yet beautiful. I think they are all keepers.

  39. I much prefer the M9 shot to the others. Have you applied PP sharpening to the E-PL1 photo? It seems to me to be uncomfortably over-sharp. The colours on your two film shots are surrealistic to my eye. But what a great place to get photos! All beautifully framed.

  40. Arrgh, looks like I got to get myself a M6 TTL. Just for the fun of it…. (You Bastard… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Regarding the M9, like with the M8 … NEVER EVER (!!!) use the damn AWB. It just sucks. It’s better if you have it on Sunlight all the time, just do not use AWB.
    I know with RAW files it doesn’t matter too much but if you shoot jpegs as well it makes a heck of a difference. Avoid ugly surprises and rather use Sunlight all the time.

    Or do what I do, use either manual white balance or like I do most of the time, use Kelvin. I got really good at guesstimating Kelvin. (One day I’ll get myself a color meter.)

    Have a safe trip!

  41. Personally I like the Ektar the best.
    It’s not oversaturated like the one from the M9, and the Oly ones aren’t washed out, per se… but just a little dull.
    Or maybe it’s because I shoot film anyway. I dunno.

  42. It seems the Oly file is exposed a bit higher. Also there is more vignettinng with the m9 and more saturation. Check out the green line halfway up the mesa. When i use the m9 it requires careful sharpening than other raw files but there is HUGE detail there. Oly has about the best jpeg engine, rivaled only by Leica’s b/w jpeg engine which is just fantastic.

  43. Good Morning Steve. Really interesting results. When you’re home testing M9 with E-PL1 (& E-P2 as I’ve just bought one!) can you include using the Pany 20 1.7? Also what is you’re take on how 13 x 20 enlargements would compare E-PL1 to M9 & it’s full-size sensor. Enjoy your drive home, spring has sprung here in Chicago.

  44. Hi Steve, I like the E-LP1 photo the best. Some reviews said that the other Pen models used the same sensor, so what is making the E-PL1 so much better? Maybe when you get home, you will give us a small camera update on your real world test. Shot any movies with the E-LP1 yet, I am curious. Thanks and be safe traveling with your family.

  45. Steve, are you really liking the ooc jpegs from the Olympus better than those from your previous Digilux 2? That is my benchmark ooc jpeg camera. Maybe there is a new champion?

    I wish you a safe drive back

  46. Ektar is a very interesting film, very saturated and rich colors if you nail the exposure.. if you’re off just a little bit things tend to go pear shaped..
    Steve, you should try some Fuji Pro 400H or 800Z, together with Portra this film gives very accurate colors.

  47. I like the first image most. I chose blind. Didn’t read the whole post, just your final remark requesting feedback after checking the length of the post. Which would you say comes closest to representing reality? The Olympus?

  48. Steve,
    interesting to read that you use the E-PL1 instead of the E-P2! What has been the main reason for your decision?

    Have a nice trip!

  49. Still I like the M6 files…seems like the M6 files come close to the Olympus files, if the Oly is the one that come close to accurate. The M9 files looks somehow oversaturated (?). Thanks for sharing..

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Olympus PEN E-PL1 Micro Four Thirds Review :
  2. An essay by Randall Kelley over at Steve Huff Photo. - Micro Four Thirds User Forum

Comments are closed.