Leica Rangefinder Philosophy by David Babsky

Hey guys! Here is a guest article I decided to publish even though it is a bit hard on my favorite camera ever, the M9 AND I do not agree with what the author has said here or shown.

Not everyone may agree with what everything David says here but maybe it can fuel some discussion? This is one mans view (David Babsky) of the “Leica Rangefinder Philosophy” – Enjoy 🙂

Don’t forget you can now discuss all things Leica in the new Leica forum here on the site 🙂 Steve

Dear Steve,

I’ve been reading your photo blog for many months – and sent a donation, too! – but I just can’t see what’s so wonderful about the ancient Portugese-built M9 ..’ancient’ because it’s a 1950s-era camera with a 2009 Kodak sensor inside. Incredibly, its 1954 grandfather, the M3, is actually smaller and quieter, despite being built purely of mechanical cogs and spring-driven clockwork.

Here’s my take on the (my) Leica M9 ..with a few accompanying photos..

‘Leica Rangefinder Philosophy’ by David Babsky

Image A

I’ve now had my Leica M9 for just over a year, and it’s been my most miserable year of photography ever.

Image B

Looking back through my photo library (..the pics on my Mac..) I realise what wonderful, joyous shots I’d had from a huge variety of cameras (..though I haven’t yet digitised my zillion rolls of film..) and they all gave me so much pleasure and gave me the shots I wanted ..compared with this farce of an interchangeable-lens rangefinder.

Image C

Leicas were extremely capable – but very expensive – pocket cameras when they were first made in the 1920s. A pocketable – yes, pocketable! – camera which, by the 1930s, offered easily-interchangeable lenses, too.

Image D

With one lens on the camera and another two in your pocket – if you could afford them – you could go anywhere and shoot anything! ..Unobtrusively, surreptitiously, or just plain conveniently.

Image E

30 years after the original Leica, the camera was completely updated in 1954: the M series was born. These were heavier and bulkier, but with the improvement of a lever to wind the film, a short-twist bayonet connection for attaching lenses, three different viewfinder lines for three different lenses (automatically selected when you attached the relevant lens) with those ‘finder lines sliding down and to the right as you focused closer, to avoid chopping off heads at short distances ..the closest you could focus was a metre: three feet ..A single dial for all shutter speeds, an (optional) coupled light meter to set the right shutter speed as you took a light reading, simple and easy flash synchronisation – for both long-burn flash bulbs and for short-burn electronic flash.

Image F

So after another 30 years, in 1984, the M was due for an upgrade: a zooming ‘finder for zoom lenses, and an extra peg or cam in those lenses to activate the finder’s zoom. Single-lens reflex cameras had overtaken rangefinders in the ‘60s, and zooms had really arrived by the ‘70s, so a camera which still couldn’t accommodate a zoom was way behind the times in the ‘80s. Leitz recognised this, and offered their big, heavy, slow, cumbersome R series reflex cameras with zooms ..but who wanted a massive, heavy R when an Olympus OM-2 single-lens reflex was about two-thirds the size and weight, with a brighter viewfinder, and with very crisp lenses from 8mm to 1000mm? Leica finally put the R series out of its misery late last year.

Image G

I’d never seen the point of a Leica M – or CL, or Minolta CLE – rangefinder: you’re restricted to a maximum 135mm lens (though my Komura 200mm works fairly well) because the 10:1 lens-to-rangefinder gearing is imprecise beyond that. You have to carry a whole pocketful of different lenses – which Leica’s marketing never mentions – to get the shots you want ..otherwise, with just a single lens on the camera, you’re simply carrying a hugely expensive ‘point-&-shoot’ – like the ridiculous new Leica X1, but costing even more. And with the price of Leica lenses around $2000-$4000 each new, don’t fumble and drop that glass while you swap them ..by which time, of course, the shot you wanted went. With just a single 50mm or 35mm lens on the front, many Leica M photographers justify that restricted non-zoom capability of the M by invoking the “street photography” pseudo-genre: grabbing pointless shots of nearby strangers, as if those reveal views of humanity we’d never seen before. But all that was done so very much more interestingly by the people who did it first back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, seventy or eighty years ago.

Image H

Henri Cartier-Bresson sold his Leica “street photographs” to the emerging pictorial magazines. He got paid commissions to go and report back from the streets of other countries. Those photos were novel and intriguing sixty years ago. Today? Today’s “street photographs” are just uninventive onanism resulting from the lack of choice of view ..a choice of view which any zoom-fitted SLR, or zoom compact, provides for just a fraction of the cost of a one-lens-at-a-time Leica.

Image I

It’s all so very silly: the Leica M is a dinosaur. Would you buy a new car with 56-year-old 1950s-style shoe brakes, 56-year-old leaf suspension, or 56-year-old non-powered steering? No. Yet people queue up to buy an M9 with its 56-year-old restrictive focusing system, no zooming to frame your picture how you want it (except for the quirky less-than-1.5x Leica 16mm-21mm zoom), no close-ups, no facility for long lenses (except by using mediaeval Visoflex paraphernalia), slow-as-a-glacier picture review, poor-quality daylight & auto white balance, so-called centre-weighted (but no spot) easily-fooled metering (when the camera’s held vertically), all for what? ..For the reason that people buy a Breitling: it doesn’t tell the time any better than a $5.99 watch, but it looks good on your wrist ..to simple souls who are impressed by that kind of extravagance.

Image J

I didn’t buy my M9 – well, only a third of it: my beloved bought me an M8.2, which was such a disgrace that I sent it straight back to the shop. You couldn’t shoot indoors, the lenses were all wrong ..and that was a Leica? Made by the firm – we-ell, supposedly the same company – which brought us the definitive 1-inch by 1-and-a-half-inch 35mm film format? The M8 and 8.2 were like a Rolls-Royce with square wheels: when enough people complained, the makers said “sorry, we’ll give you two free circular wheels, if that’s any help” ..two free infra-red filters. My fluffy bedside brown toy dog came out PURPLE ..as did any unpredictable number of black or brown formal suits and so many other objects. This was a Leica? This was expensive rubbish, and the company should have been reported to Trading Standards. (From Steve: I DISAGREE with this statement as I LOVE the M8.2, GREAT camera that is highly capable of GREAT results in the right hands)

Image K

When I sent back my month-old 8.2, Meister-Camera offered a derisory 1600 Euros for it. I sold it on eBay instead, and coughed up the difference for a brand-new eBay M9 ..at least this was a proper working camera, with a 50mm lens behaving as a 50mm lens. (I’d bought myself a 2nd-hand Epson/Cosina R-D1 the year before; that ‘retro’ mechanical/digital APS-sensor device which shoots with Leica-bayonet lenses at 1.5x their nominal focal length, so a 50mm becomes a 75mm, not a weird in-between 66mm as on an M8.) When my (cheap, new) M9 arrived I now had a full-35mm-frame digital Leica-lens camera, which would finally deliver accurate colours, indoors under tungsten light, without turning anything black into purple.

Image L

Its pictures are great: they should be at Leica prices, no? My collection of 2nd or 3rd hand) lenses deliver sharp, colourful results, but there’s still that nuisance of having to carry several, and needing to change them for each situation (my pocket Panny/Leica TZ10/V-Lux-20 with its Leica-brand lens zooms from the equivalent of 25mm to 300mm to cover any and every situation, offers up to 1600 ISO, shoots close-ups, has image-stabilisation, spot-metering too. And, of course, it also shoots high-definition video ..I could buy more than *ten* of those for the price of one M9 body; and is my M9 ten times ‘better’? ..of course not).

Image M

Would I recommend an M9? ..to anyone happy to stand in the street burning 500 Euro notes. For anyone else wanting a retro rangefinder (..but why?..) I’d suggest a used R-D1. (You can fit that wonderfully sharp Leica close-focus Dual-Range 50mm on the R-D1 to shoot from half-a-metre to infinity ..but on the M9 it won’t focus further away than 4 metres because – what were they thinking?! – the lens’ lower focusing cam bangs against the M9’s internal light-meter housing. And on the M8 and 8.2 it focuses to only 2 metres away!)

Image N

Now that I’ve had, this last year, an M9, I do – sometimes – use it: mainly with the 16mm-21mm Leica zoom for shots in confined spaces and room interiors. I like wide shots, so I bought a 24mm f1.4 (mainly to use with what had been my father-in-law’s 1954 M3) for shallow depth-of-field at wide angles. I sometimes use a 135mm f4, and I bought a 135mm f2.8, but that’s a massive, heavy thing to trundle around ..and hardly in keeping with the original Leica philosophy – now apparently abandoned – which was to make a small, *pocketable*, lightweight all-purpose camera.

Image O

All these accompanying photos could have been taken with ANY camera which had the right lens on it. The make or brand of camera is immaterial, as long as it gives the focal length you want when you want it, offers appropriate apertures and ISO, and shoots the instant you squeeze your finger with no delay. Which of these pictures was shot with a Leica, and which with what lens? Is there any definable “Leica look” to any of these? (..no..) and what possible difference does it make WHICH camera or lens was used to take a picture as long as you get the shot you want? D’you check whether your local cinema uses an Isco lens or a Bausch & Lomb to show its films? D’you boycott a movie if the cinematographer used a Panavision instead of a Zeiss, or a Mitchell camera instead of an Arri? Who cares what camera was used to shoot ‘Casablanca’ or ‘Blade Runner’? What camera and lens were used on your favourite TV show – Sony, Ikegami, JVC or Canon?

Image P

I’ve spent a year hunting for the right selection of lenses for my M9, and rationalising ownership of this hugely limiting and slow-as-an-ox dodo, trying to decide which (minimum number of) lenses to carry and how to haul them around ..when all I need is a little lightweight camera with one great zoom to frame and shoot anything! As Dorothy Parker, supposedly, once said: “Me no Leica”.

Image Q

Test your skill – or guesswork.. can you tell which camera and lens was used for each shot? ..but don’t cheat. Answers below.

Image R

All these comments so far have been ‘cons’; items counting against the M9. Do I have any ‘pros’? Here are half a dozen to counterbalance – just – all my arguments against the M9..

(1) 18 megapixel sensor. This means that with Leitz/Leica super-sharp lenses any picture may be ‘cropped’ (..have unwanted area cut out..) still leaving a sharp multi-megapixel picture. So you can shoot with, say, a 24mm lens, and later – if you want – crop shots to the view you’d have seen with a 50mm lens, and still have sharp results. Crop, too, 135mm pictures to a 200mm view, for example. That way, you can carry (..and buy, and use..) only half as many lenses as you’d otherwise need. You can’t trim away much when you use the cheaper 6 megapixel Epson/Cosina R-D1 rangefinder – or other fewer-megapixel cameras – because the results would have many fewer pixels remaining after cropping, and so have correspondingly lower resolution.

(2) Leitz/Leica lenses. Many recent Leica lenses out-resolve the M9‘s 18 megapixel sensor (..though Canon’s wonderful autofocus 85mm F1.2 is hard to beat!..) and they’re far sharper, and with fewer aberrations, than many zooms. This doesn’t matter much if you frame your photos exactly how you want them before shooting. But if you want to crop (trim) pictures afterwards – see above – you’d probably want the sharpest possible images to begin with. But I find that autofocus cameras will focus far faster than I can with manual lenses. There is no point in having the sharpest possible Leica lenses, with deliciously shallow depth-of-field, if what I wanted to shoot has gone before I can get it into focus.

(3) Sorry: no more ‘pros’ for an M9 come to mind. But for 21 megapixels in a full-frame 35mm sensor ..and for terrific, but bulkier than M9, interchangeable-lens versatility.. a Canon 5D MkII is hard to beat – at half the price of an M9 (see a recent LFI magazine for a good comparison). For wonderful 12 megapixel pictures and a built-in (no dust on the sensor) 25mm-300mm (equivalent) Leica-brand lens, the pocket-sized Panasonic TZ10 compact – also branded as a Leica V-Lux 20 – is second to none. The new 14 megapixel Leica V-Lux 2 (same as the Panasonic FZ100) with a 25mm-600mm (equivalent) zoom, that’s smaller than a full-size interchangeable-lens SLR, really is the ultimate in versatility if you think you’ll want a longer-than-300mm lens. If none of those looks ‘exclusive’ or ‘distinguished’ enough, just slash your own stripe of coloured paint (or a band of chrome or titanium metallic lustre) across any of those bodies. It won’t make any difference to the photos, of course, but it may make you feel better about having a camera that’s different from everyone else’s! (Don’t worry about wrecking its resale value: digital cameras have next to no resale value.)

Image S

Camera and lens used for each of the above photos by David Babsky

a: Canon 300D and Tamron 18-270 zoom

b: Leica IIIf and Canon screwfit 85mm at f/1.8, Kodacolor 200

c: Leica M9 and Leica 24mm at f/1.4

d: Leica M3 and Konica Hexanon 50mm at f/1.2, Ilford Delta ISO 3200

e: Leica M3 and Komura 200mm at f/22

f: Leica M9 and Komura 200mm at f/8

g: Panasonic TZ10 compact

h: Canon 300D and Canon 85mm at f/1.2

i: Leica M9 and Komura 200mm at f/8

j: Panasonic TZ10 compact

k: Panasonic TZ10 compact

l: Panasonic TZ10 compact

m: Leica M3 and Konica Hexanon 50mm at f/1.2

n: Leica M3 and Komura 200mm at f/22

o: Sony Cybershot compact

p: Sony Cybershot compact

q: Leica M9 and Leica 16-21mm zoom at f/4, ISO 2500

r: Leica M3 and Leica 24mm at f/4

s: Leica M3 and Leica 24mm at f/8, Kodak 400MAX at ISO 400

David Babsky was, many years ago, Technical Editor of the UK’s best-selling ‘Practical Photography’ magazine. Years later he bought, and ran, his own 3-screen cinema. Now he teaches photography, mainly in Greece and Thailand.

From Steve If you want to read a great little review of the Leica M8 besides my own, here is one to check out which explains why so many love the digital M’s 🙂 Also, here is a thread in the forums that seemed to spawn from this article…check it out!


Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or facebook!
Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HEREand read these posts in your browser or news reader!  Thanks so much for visiting my site! Be sure  to visit the new forums on the site as well!

[ad#Adsense Blog Sq Embed Image]


  1. It’s sad that because a person disagrees with the popular “leica fanboy” crowd’s opinion,that he’s vilified.

    It’s not JUST Leica…every camera system is the same…make some valid criticisms and out come the wolves questioning your skill as a photographer…your motives, your results and everything else that they can.
    Or…the classic “you just don’t understand…” move.

    I guess this is just the way of the internet now that any opinion is valid and just a button push away from publication.

    Love the site Steve, always an interesting read.

    I don’t use Leica cameras…I don’t have that kind of cash and from what I read, I wouldn’t be happy with one. (at least presently)…but to each his own.

    And PS: No harm intended by the “leica fanboy” moniker…just a phrase to describe a group of devotees.

  2. It’s not the equipment, it’s the painter- there’s not an image on display that needed $10k in Leica equipment to capture. Or $3k in Nikon equipment. I’d wager that your average novice with a $300 Canon S95 could do just as well or better. It doesn’t take much camera to take an out of focus photograph of your black cat.

  3. It is always nice to hear another opinions.The problem is that some photographers are too interested in the apparatus rather than the end result.Personally I did not like any of the photos presented and dont think they would be interesting no matter what camera was used to make them.Let us all use the cameras that we feel most at ease with and inspire us.We must never take out our frustrations with our own image making abilities on the cameras we use -rather let us channel that and any other annoyance we may have experienced with a particular camera to help open up new areas of creativity.If you feel some camera has helped you do that or has simply made you feel better -then it is worth whatever you paid for it!

  4. Controversial (this is the 166th comment I think), but so true!
    Truth is that using a Leica M, any from M2 to M9, is about just that, the pleasure of using the thing.
    If you feel good using it, fine. If you think you can get ‘better’ photos with it, fine. But in the cold light of day, many cameras can technically match or beat a Leica M9, at hugely less cost.
    It’s like a (no pun intended…) Ford Focus is very very similar to drive as an Audi or Merc’.
    While I agree completely with the article, if my lottery numbers come up, I’m buying an M9! lol

  5. Actually, reviewing these photos, I find that I actually do like the ones from “better cameras” better. This is not a matter of resolution, which is of course irrelevant for 800×600 website jpegs. Rather, the colors are better, or the film grain is nice. But, I also think the pictures from better cameras, whether the M3, Canon 300D or M9, are actually better pictures in terms of composition, timing etc. Maybe having a kilobuck camera just inspires you to take the time to take a good picture. Image R (Mom seated, BW) is a wonderful shot, using an M3, while image P, Mom taking a walk, using a Sony Cybershot, just looks like another crappy snapshot to me. Part of this is due to the junky colors from the Sony.

  6. How about a sony alpha 850 with zeiss 24-70mm lens. At under 3500 that’s probably one of the most refined and resolved photographic instruments less money can buy. On my 30 inch apple cinema display, it out resolves the Leica Glass. Believe me, I am not a Leica hater. I own an MP and M7 and recently sold my M9. I also have an old contax G2 with zeiss lenses. I don’t think the 18MP is that stunning. You’ll be saying the same thing in 3 years when Leica released the M10, then M11. I don’t debate that in it’s size category it is excellent (discrete, etc). But there’s nothing like that soft discrete click without that annoying digital advance sound and that solid feel of an M7 or Mp as compared with the M9. I think Leicas film cameras are more solid.
    Just my opinion

    Christopher Fulham says:
    November 7, 2010 at 2:11 am
    The M9 would have to be the most refined and resolved photographic instrument money can buy (you get what you pay for). It opens up a whole other world of photography – it’s discrete, portable, intuitive, and it just renders light so damn well. The simplicity of the photographic process is wonderfully refreshing and this really changes the way you frame, shoot, and think. I can’t understand how anyone could dispute the M9s potential, particularly after living and working with one?

    My 35 Summilux 35/1.4 ASPH surprises and astounds me almost daily.


  7. I love this article. Your’s is the first non-typical “the M9 is the best camera out there.” I had the M9 for two months and sold it. I have an M7 and an MP. Part of the reason is that although in many ways it is a good camera (note I am not using “extraordinary, etc), I found after checking more than 10,000 digital images, it is not necessarily any better than the rest. I have extraordinary photos made with a now obsolete Nikon D200. I also decided I could sell the camera now and pocket or recoup most of my initial investment (which may not be the case in a few years). To me it wasn’t worth the 7k. Now I am not saying that price is overinflated. I think to survive, Leica has to command such prices. They have a small factory and have to pay overhead. Honestly the camera doesn’t give me the same, solid feel as my M7 and MP. I am now enjoying developing my old Tri X by hand. If I need digitization, I can send out to a lab for excellent high res scans.
    Honestly, I get higher quality higher res photos with my sony alpha 850 with zeiss 24-70mm lens
    or with my Nikon D3s with good glass. Yes I know that the Leica is a small, carry everywhere camera, but for 7000 dollars I wasn’t as impressed as I should have been with the images.
    Plus the outdated metering is pitiful compared to modern technology.
    I photographed a wedding using a Canon 1d mark 4 with flash and got stunning results.

    Kudos for the good review!!!!!

  8. It looks as though I’m “flogging a dead horse” , but here’s my final comment in this debate, and in it I’ll try to answer other people’s posts:

  9. Here’s one last try to get the discussion software to accept one more post: (this is my eighteenth attempt at a final response, so I’ll try posting it in several segments..)

  10. The M9 would have to be the most refined and resolved photographic instrument money can buy (you get what you pay for). It opens up a whole other world of photography – it’s discrete, portable, intuitive, and it just renders light so damn well. The simplicity of the photographic process is wonderfully refreshing and this really changes the way you frame, shoot, and think. I can’t understand how anyone could dispute the M9s potential, particularly after living and working with one?

    My 35 Summilux 35/1.4 ASPH surprises and astounds me almost daily.



  11. Hi David,
    I enjoyed the article, but I don’t own a Leica. If I had spent all that money on one and I went to my favorite Leica site and saw somebody telling me I could get the same results for 5% of the price with a P&S I’d probably have a major fit too.
    Its like a religion. You are either a believer or you aren’t. I do sort of wonder how people wouild have responded to your photos if your article had said they were all from your new M9 and you sold your 5M2 and all your lenses to buy one, etc etc. Jeff

  12. Many thanks to all who responded.

    I tried to post a final comment, but the system somehow wouldn’t accept it ..and a final photo!

    Many thanks, too, to Steve, for providing an opportunity for this debate.

  13. Max said it best.

    It was an odd pairing of images and opinion about the M9 from a person who doesn’t appear to be a photographer, he just owns an M9. That would be perfectly fine, if he had not shown so many bad images.

    “it’s been my most miserable year of photography ever.” If a specific camera is making photography miserable, then get rid of it. But my guess is the misery had very little to do with the camera. Not being able to take a decent picture with $20k would make me miserable.

    The ability to insight heated responses is a false skill. That is like walking into someone’s house, insulting their family, getting into a huge argument and then saying “wow look at how much we all learned here.” That is hardly a service to anyone. The real trick would be discussing the short comings of the M9 without having to rest on outlandish statements like “it’s been my most miserable year of photography ever.”

    It may be worth making a distinction between someone who owns a camera and a photographer. Receipts from eBay or BH or the number of years someone has owned a camera does not make them a photographer.

  14. Thanks David for the eloquent response.

    I much prefer your heart felt explanation for your photography than your bitter writing style and opinions in the article.

    Had you took your time to explain these opinions in context like you did in the response, maybe more people would have understood where you were conning from.

    If your classes generated as much debate as this post, I’d have loved to attend them 🙂


  15. thanx David for the continuation of your process, the comments/rants/diatribes are hilarious to say the very least. I pick up a camera, any camera, to capture what i see, feel, experience be it ‘street photography’ or nature or whatever, my choice, as it is with gear. There is a part of me that is shallow and loves the red dot with a passion, thank HC-B for that :), I have tried other brands but have never enjoyed the process of image making as I have with the red dot, maybe that is what we need to use rather than ‘leica’. An old maxim is “take what you like and leave the rest” applies here. I skimmed your images briefly as I was more interested in your process not your equipment. Long may you rain 🙂

  16. I am really enjoying reading all the comments, it is extremely entertaining! Thank you steve for letting everyone expressing their different thoughts and feelings.

    I am probably not qualified to make any comments since I am a absolute beginner at photography. I bought my first Leica (the x1 which David hates) for my wife to play with (thanks to Steve’s site!). All my friends and my relatives criticized our decision. They all saying that we are waisting our money on a P&S. But after we sent them the pictures, they were all shocked by IQ of the camera. The worst criticism we got was “You would’ve done the camera more justice if you knew your composition well!” Oh, I can not argue with that 🙂

    I have heard this phrase a lot lately, “The camera is not important!” And I think David also tried to prove this in his article. I have to say, yes and no. Maybe this is true to people who are experienced in photography. To absolute beginners like my wife and myself, I have to say that of course camera is important! My wife went street shooting after she got her x1, and I took her to the apple store afterwards to check out the new 27′ imac for her new hobby. The store clark opened my wife’s photo files to let us check out the quality of the screen. The first thing that came out his mouth was “Wow! Are you guys professionals? This is like a postcard!” We both started laughing and my wife told him “no, I am afraid it was just the camera.”

    This is just my personally opinion though, and maybe it is laughable to many of you. As a professional violinist, can I make a crappy violin sound good? Sure I can. But just imagining what I can do with a Stradivarius would give me goose bumps! I believe a fine camera (in this case a m8 or m9), is just like a fine Italian instrument. It would teach you great many things, if you are humble enough to let it teach you!

    Steve, I would like to thank you again for introducing me to Leica and for hosting this site! Have a great weekend everyone and go take a lot of pictures!

  17. Same thoughts in my mind which backing me off to buy an expensive RF.

    Luckily I don’t have to spend real money to get disappointment like this.

    I borrowed an RF and surprised: you can’t focus in the dark, you don’t any idea how your pictures will look like, you keep worrying walking around carefully with that expensive box.

    Will I buy a Leica RF? If I have a lot of excess money, definitely. It’s gonna stay in my showcase glass only or use is as point-and-shoot camera in my sportcar.

    Of course NO, I am just joking. With excess money I will buy Leica S-Series. No question. Leica Lenses are damn good, using Leica RF is only halfway I think. If you really wanna go to Leica, don’t go halfway. Go for S-Series!

  18. I for one was extremely grateful for this reverse point of view. Sure his shots are questionable, but if David likes them, then that’s all that’s important.

    It’s a very interesting article, with many well argumented points against the M9. Of course, we all know the M9 quirks, and yet we still justify the purchase (and price tag) to ourselves. Lucky for Leica. There is indeed a certain dream quality to Leica, a romance. When I very first drove a Porsche 911 I was very, very disappointed. Years of looking forward to finally owning one were dashed in the first 10 to 15 mins of driving a demo out of the showroom. Woeful. I returned it after about a half an hour and gladly handed the keys back.

    It’s amazing how something forms in our mind as the perfect thing – but then reality kicks in and wallops us across the face.

    Not so say I don’t love the M9 – I only had it for a week – and only used it really for an hour or so before sending it back for a replacement – but the images that came up on my screen were SO WORTH IT! I can’t wait to get it back. Those lenses make everything else insignificant.

  19. Image Q. An outdoor daylight shot with F4 and ISO 2500. Why? A camera like M Leica, be it film or digital is the kind of camera that demands good understanding of how things work.

    And with digital shots in general a significant part of the shooting takes place in post-processing just like with film. Looking at digital shots out-of-camera is like looking at film negatives with a loupe.

  20. http://www.dropmocks.com/mGX9q
    OK..Thanks to TDK…I think I have a link above to photos that I shot recently using a Lumix GF1.
    No…I can’t afford an M9, yet.
    I am going to put my chin out there…cause I have a big mouth and was very hard on David…so I will put myself in the same position by stating an opinion and backing it up with my work.
    Shot number one is an outright snapshot of a little buddy of mine. His mother openly wept when she viewed the image. Why? I have been shooting photos since 1968. It is a passion. I took the photo when I saw good light. I used a portrait lens. I took great care in composing the image, I am technically astute and know my camera and what I wanted from it. I engaged my subject…and used all of my experience to capture that moment of someone I really love. I shot 3 images…I edited (often overlooked by amateurs) two images out..no one will ever see them..they didn’t hit the mark. (Sometimes I throw all the images out…why…because I am extremely critical of my work…in the end it makes it better.). Then I had the tech ability to mildly tweek the image to my liking and then show it to other people. ..Everyone may not like the shot ….but they cannot tell me that it isn’t lit well and technically sound. It is good, solid photography …and I will stand behind it.
    The second image started as a snapshot on a foggy day…and then I worked on it in photoshop and took it to a more interesting place in my mind. Again…it may not be everyone’s cup of tea…but it is solid imagery, lighting, composition etc. The image means a lot to me…it was captured in my hometown and I think I got some thing special with this image. I will stand behind it.
    The third shot was shot using a lens baby and some attachments. It is very involved how I captured this image, but I have a LOT of experience and I think it shows here.
    I present these images on a website that is geared at least enthusiast-level photographers. I think I can present these images here because they are good solid photography, shot by a person who is involved in a craft that he respects and is always in awe of. Photography is amazing!!!!

    The point that Max made above and I will restate here with my chin on the line…David …you submitted a technical article to a enthusiast website…and I see no craft in your images…so I cannot listen to what you have to say. A picture is worth a thousand words in my world.

  21. This is one posting where I thoroughly enjoyed reading through all the comments. I find that this is just a rant than an article. I was expecting side by side comparisons of a well-composed shot between M9 and something like a Canon 5d for example. Instead we get shots that barely hold a candle to the modern street photography he is so quick to dismiss. I work in the software industry – and this is what we would commonly refer to as “User Error”.

    I’m a big fan of your blog, Steve – thanks for keeping things entertaining!

  22. There are so many things wrong with this article I don’t even know where to start. I have to admit I had a good laugh but was also pulling out my hair at the same time. I haven’t seen photos this horrible in a long time. The subject matter is mostly fine, it’s the exposure, white balance, wildly missed focus and processing. It looks like his exposures are WAY off and he attempted to correct them in post processing and failed miserably.

    This gives me an idea though, a special “project” if you will… Stay tuned.

  23. Well, thanks to everyone for all the interesting responses: I’ll try to reply, if Steve graciously grants me a little space here..

    “Why did the buffoon get an M9 if he hates the M8 so much?” ..As I mentioned at the top of the piece; the M8 (and 8.2) give the equivalent of a -l-o-n-g-e-r- focal length to any lens, so with those cameras you always have to “think wider” and use, say, a 21mm lens when you want the view of a 28mm ..or an 18mm when you want the view of a 24mm. This is handy for “long lens” shots, when an M8 turns a 135mm into a 180mm lens, but can be a nuisance for wide-angle shots. A full-35mm-frame M9 delivers pictures with the “native” angle of view of M-fit lenses – several of which I’d already bought on eBay to use with my late father-in-law’s M3, as well as with the Epson/Cosina R-D1 which I mentioned. So I “upgraded” the M8.2 to an M9 (..at minimum cost; just the difference between the cost of the M9 on eBay and what I got for selling the M8.2 on eBay) so that I could use the lenses I’d accumulated at their proper focal lengths, and relevant depth-of-field for those focal lengths ..as they were designed to be used.

    “This bozo teaches photography?!!” ..I explain – and show – to novices the difference in view, and in depth-of-field, which you can get with different lenses, and different zoom settings, so that people understand that to isolate one item in, say, a landscape, a wide-angle lens will give a feeling of isolation or detachment ..whereas zooming in, or using a telephoto, can “pile on” the perspective, making things at different distances all seem to be encroaching on, or even overpowering, the one thing you’re aiming at, and that longer lenses give a shallower depth-of-field. And many other things, too.

    “This idiot obviously knows nothing about photography: his pictures are all crap..” ..The photos here aren’t intended to be technically perfect images. At the top of the piece I wrote about “..wonderful, joyous shots”. The example pictures are about humour, wonder, quirkiness, patterns and personalities, not about straight horizons (although there are some) or perfect chemical or digital processing; they’re about unrepeatable moments, things which bring joy or serenity or a laugh, and not about technical perfection.

    When I skipped school to get a different kind of education I went round the Manchester (UK) City Art Gallery to try to understand “Art”. I started at a Dürer engraving of a cat, and wondered what was supposed to be so great about it ..that it was old, that the artist was dead, that it was an engraving ..what? Then I heard the painter L S Lowry behind me, saying “Look at that cat! That’s the cat that got the cream!” ..So it wasn’t a masterpiece because the engraver was dead, or had a good reputation, or was foreign: the picture was about the *personality* of the cat, which he’d captured despite the complex process of engraving. Pics (A) and (O) here are also about personalities: the rather detached, but warily interested, personality of Spider, the black cat, and the weary, tolerant but intense personality of Lily the tortoise-shell cat. And (O) is a shot which could never have been taken with a Leica M, because they just don’t focus that close.

    The other pictures are about (B) just simplicity; heart-warmingness (shot with a Leica). (C) pattern, compactness, and the colour of cut logs. (D) Yes, it’s rather poorly presented (the film was slightly X-ray fogged, so the shadows have become “blocked” onto a monotone) but this is to show that other lenses besides Leica’s (this was a Konica 50mm f/1.2) can produce satisfactory sharpness and “bokeh”, and it’s also about the *pleasure* on the face. (E) This is about nature’s shapes and textures: the light and dark of clouds, the multitude of shapes and densities of clouds, compared with the hardness of a hillside, but there are pleasing – for me, anyway – echoes within the shot of the descending line of the hill. Also shot with a Leica, but not a Leica lens.

    (F) This has elements similar to (E), but with the frivolity of the kites which are catching the invisible wind, and the fragility but energy of the human kite-surfers. I like the contrast, too, of the pale, muted shades of the background, with the rich, vivid foreground grass. To me, it has echoes of a quirky Breughel painting. Shot with a Leica, but not a Leica lens.

    (G) A similar shot to (E) and (F) but taken with a pocket ‘compact’ Leica ..well, the Panasonic version of the Leica V-Lux 20. The idea is to show that a particular shot often doesn’t depend on a particular brand of camera, and that no-one should feel that their photos are supposedly “inferior” just because they’re using a cheap’n’cheerful camera. It’s not the *camera* which makes the photograph; it’s the eyes of the photographer. Of course, you may dismiss all these as complete rubbish ..different people’s views of any picture may be quite different from others’ ..as seems to be the case here.

    (H) A pleasingly enjoyable photo – to me – of two people intent on different things: he’s looking at something interesting in front of him, she’s looking fondly at *him*. This was here to show that other makes of camera and lens can deliver the shallow depth-of-field which Leicas are noted for. Only his right eye and a button are fully in focus – but maybe that’s not so obvious in this small size photo. This was included to offer people a chance to comment on focus, depth-of-field, and on that ever-popular topic “bokeh”, although it’s really about love and attention. No-one seemed to comment on any of those topics – other than, for the most part, describing the pictures as crap.

    (I) This is another of those ‘ethereal clouds, diminishing-density hills’ shots, included to see if anyone could distinguish whether it was shot with a Leica (it was) and Leica lens (it wasn’t) or some other brand of camera or lens. It’s another of those “does the camera brand matter?” shots, but which is simply – to me, anyway – a pleasant, calm, soothing view of insubstantial sky and clouds, and the way that substantial earth and trees can ‘melt into’ or blend into insubstantial wisps of water vapour. I’d happily put a print of this on the wall ..as I would with many others of these pictures. Looking in another direction, or at a different moment, I would have seen something different, and may not have wanted to take a shot of it. I took this shot because I like the “layers”, the textures, the densities, the blend of substantial and insubstantial. But, of course, you may not ..and to you it may appear to be pointless rubbish.

    (J) This shot is comical – to me, anyway! It shows concentration ..on the phone.. where people are there to eat (e.g; the man at the back) while this, erm, *excrescence*! (it’s a goo-covered ice cream) rises, or protrudes, from the plate! This is something which makes me laugh! I like the angles of the lines, the different textures in the shot, and – above all – the weirdness! This was shot with the equivalent of a 25mm lens. If I’d had a less-wide lens on a one-lens-at-a-time camera (Leica M, Olympus OM-2, Minox 35mm, Rollei 35, Contax T, etc) I couldn’t have got this shot. But the 25mm-300mm (equivalent) zoom of the Panny TZ10 / Leica V-Lux 20 let me shoot it. It makes me smile whenever I see it!

    (K) Here’s my beloved looking through a 3-D birthday card first thing in the morning on her birthday. Once again, it’s about concentration, love, quirkiness, lines and angles, light and shade. It also shows how sharp those wisps of hair are with the Panny, or Leica, lens on this pocket compact camera ..in the original, at least.

    (L) This is also about quirkiness, weirdness, lines, angles, shapes, colours and texture: this was a little girl dressed up as a witch in an art gallery, and her hat had fallen over her face, but she was undeterred, and persevered with trying to walk straight. It’s a weird moment which makes you – or me – look and try to see what’s going on, what’s it mean? ..what’s happening? It’s a puzzling frozen moment of real life. The different textures of solid floor, wood blocks, rumpled cape, conical hat are bisected by a black line across the middle, but where are all those other lines going? It’s just an entertaining visual puzzle. I took the camera from my pocket, waited for the moment of least clutter in the frame, and squeezed the button.

    (M) Rather like (D), this is a shallow depth-of-field picture (normally associated with Leicas) taken with a Leica, but not with a Leica lens. As before, the processing, or X-ray effect, has flattened several of the shadow tones. Again, it’s about concentration, absorption, human intensity ..it’s not about “technique”, apart from using shallow d-o-f to concentrate the viewer’s attention on the face.

    (N) Another of those ‘hill’n’sky scapes’ ..again shot with a Leica, but not a Leica lens. My point being, as I tried to explain in the text, that the make of camera and make of lens is immaterial as long as they give you the shot you want. In fact, this couldn’t have been taken with a Leica lens, except with a cumbersome Visoflex coupling and a Leica Telyt 200mm. There are no Leica M lenses longer than 135mm, as far as I’m aware. This was taken with a Komura brand 200mm Leica screw-fit lens and a simple screw-to-bayonet adaptor ring.

    (O) As mentioned before, this could never have been shot with a Leica M, either. But I like this picture because it shows the cat’s attitude.

    (P) This, I think, is a glorious picture, all about love, expectancy, colour, lines and angles, intensity of attention, and nature and humans. The splash of colour in the centre of the picture contrasts – I think – with the surrounding whiteness, the natural elements of snow, water, moss, trees, sky. I would put this on the wall. Of course, many other people – as is everyone’s right – may think this is useless, pointless and hopeless, and that the person who took it is a complete idiot.

    (Q) This too – to me – is glorious: everyone’s having a joke! The woman’s laughing, so are the two men on the elephant ..and the elephant itself appears to be laughing! This is one of the few pictures here taken with both a Leica digital M9 and a Leica lens. It’s fun! ..That’s what most of these pictures – except the very last one – have in common and are meant to be about.

    (R) This looks, to me, like one of the wonderful photos which a “reportage” photographer called Mike Abrahams takes: his photos all have ‘echoes’ within each picture of other elements within the same photograph. Here the woman on the settee is almost the exact mirror image of the woman in the painting up on the wall on the right. I must have noticed this pretty much subliminally, and shot the photo: both have crossed knees, both leaning on one elbow, both with their skirt just below the knee, and the other hand on the lap. This, too, is a visual joke: it’s life imitating art.

    (S) This last picture is a sombre one. This was taken a few months ago on the Isle of Wight, off the English south coast. The distant black rectangular marks are unemployed ships on the horizon, at anchor with no work to do and nowhere to go, and the sky overhead doesn’t look as if there’ll be good times a’coming. This is a bleak picture of hard times.

    So all these pictures are about “Life” ..they’re not about correct development (sorry Max; I used 1:9 Ilfosol 3 for 13 mins for the Delta 3200, and 6 mins for the TMax 400 as I had no Perceptol or Microphen or Microdol or other fine-grain developer to hand) nor about accurate digital manipulation, nor colour control, nor brand of lens or brand of camera: they’re not about “technique” (though I’ve developed and printed pictures since I was seven, and that was in, erm, 1954) and they’re not meant to be exemplary masterpieces ..they’re simply mementos of my everyday life. But I, the photographer, have some involvement with them, or what’s going on in them – I’m not just a detached observer, except in the case of that last one.

    I’m happily accepting all criticism, although many people seem to have missed the content of the photos, and the point of the whole article: that photos are expressions of the PERSON who took them, and they can be entirely independent of the name on the MACHINERY which was used. What I’m trying to convey is that buying the same type of typewriter, or word-processor, or pen or paper as a famous author doesn’t make anyone’s writing any better.

    Pictures come from the MIND – so let’s feel free to use ANY brand of camera and lens to make your mind’s CREATIVITY tangible! Fondling the hardware, or drooling over its “reputation”, or aspiring to own it is – I think – nothing whatever to do with creating photographs ..it’s a different concept altogether.

    Admiring the workmanship and fit and finish of a Leica is all very well ..and why not? And reading the slogan “Made in Germany” on these Portuguese or Japanese made cameras may provide some kind of inspiration towards “better”, or more accomplished, photography. But pictures come from within, and are invisibly watermarked with each individual’s creativity: you don’t need the “Made in Germany” slogan to create fulfilling images. That’s what I’m saying.

    Thank you, Steve, for the opportunity to provoke, and also to reply to – what I think is – a useful debate.

    • David,

      Thanks for taking the time of replying to this barrage of comments.
      My view is simple: we are all attached in many ways to our own images and also need to be receptive to open, constructive criticism. An image can mean the world to you but nothing to the viewer while the other way around is true as well. The problem I have here, is two-fold. Are we just supposed to criticize the pictures for what they are or put them in the context of a proper camera review? What I see is an attempt at explaining why the M9 is a failure but I am afraid that I am missing the point when I look at the pictures. I am not debating whether these images mean to world to you or you think they are wonderful because they are yours and you can view them as you wish. Everyone else can just offer a critique and it’s all good. But, again, I think it is just erroneous to use these images in a review of a camera that, although not your cup of tea, is an extremely capable tool in the right hands. Again, I would have no problem looking at the images, criticize them for what they are, but disengage them from the “Leica Rangefinder Philosophy” write-up you supplied to go along with it. Again, very respectfully I say that I view these images are simply snapshots that would not engage most viewers, except for the owner and the people involved, and that is perfectly okay. Nothing wrong with that. It is within the context of the article that I am having a hard time grasping the concept.



    • david–you deserve some credit for bucking the current (or is that simply foolishness for pi$$ing into the wind?). and i won’t judge you as an artist or as a teacher on the basis of some very low-rez jpgs here (though i have to say none of the pictures connects with me [except for L, which is brilliant, and maybe the logs, which is nice enough] personally). but, not everything you’re discussing here is just a subjective matter of opinion or taste, and you’ve gotten several of the key technical qualities of the rf wrong, or simply left them out. cameras are not just different mechanisms for telling the same objective information or reaching the same goal, as your watch/time and automobile analogies falsely suggest.

      for instance, there is an irreducible difference between looking /through/ the rf window at the 3d scene out there in the world to find your subject, and looking /at/ the 2d projected image of the world on a focussing screen in an slr, or the lcd screen of a digicam. this isn’t going to be a positive difference for everybody–many people make better photos looking at the projected image rather than the world–but it is an objective difference between the tools, and it does make a difference, or at least it offers the opportunity to exploit that difference to a photographer who cares.

      likewise, the rf is still the only system that lets you see outside your framelines in real time. if this doesn’t matter to you. as a photographer, it simply means you haven’t learned how to or cared how to make use of it. but it is an objective difference which offers unique photographic opportunities. but you should at least try to teach your students about it.

      the fact is that the leica m9 produces the best overall image quality in the world (for its size) by far (i can support that objectively, but for the sake of space, i’ll assume most of the readers will understand why that is). it does so in a lightning fast package (no shutter lag, no mirror) limited only by the photographer’s skill (i can focus and shoot mine mine faster than my 5d2). naturally, many other cameras can produce more than adequate image quality (and a few match or in some conditions exceed it, at a cost in weight and bulk and often as not, money). and just as obviously, the content, vision, etc of the photo generally matters much, much more than the image quality per se. but none of that is a reason to run down the leica; it offers the potential, waiting to be exploited. the rest is up to the photographer.

      as for your strange comments about street photography, i would like to be able to just say it is a matter of taste, and leave it at that. but … you’ve gone way beyond saying that street photography isn’t your personal cup of tea. you’ve tried to make blanket statements about it, and those statements aren’t true. it isn’t a ‘psuedo-‘ genre; it is a genre in any sense of the term. if there is any truth to your argument about how the novelty of hcb’s work, once brilliant, has now faded to nothing, well, the same must be true of virtually /all/ photography; everything has been photographed, by now. but that was never really the issue: good photos aren’t about to be ‘used up’, for they were never finite to begin with, and depend on creativity and vision as well as on subject and materials (but they /do/ depend on all of those things, to greater or lesser degrees). again, if your street photos are nothing but ‘pointless shots of strangers’, well, that’s a limitation of the photographer, not the camera. personally, i think there are more promising potential photos in swirling masses of living strangers than in static, stereotypical mountain vistas–and i say that as a person who really loves mountains.

      i assume your intended point was supposed to be something like the truism ‘don’t be held back by thinking you need a particular camera before you can make good photos.’ but arguing that a rf doesn’t have any distinctive characteristics or qualities to offer is just silly.

      oh, and yes, i for one do notice what tv shows and movies are shot with. it can’t make a bad show good, but it does, once again, make a difference.

  24. “no zooming to frame your picture how you want it:”

    ha. there’s a comment from an SLR digicam user if I’ve ever hear one…..frame by zooming the lens. back to photography school for you.

    I shoot both the D3 and an MP/M7, and there is certainly a place for a “dinosour” rangefinder in my bag, in fact if it weren’t for certain commercial work that I do, I would use the Leica’s most of the time. If you’re after convenience, if photography is a choir, then perhaps it’s time to look for another hobby.

  25. Well, I don’t think I’ll ever have the money for a Leica M9…. and if I did have the money there are more important things I’d spend it on, so I can’t say if David’s comments are true or false. However, recently Max submitted a story about using a Holga – the pics were amazing!

    He probably spent $50 on the camera, $6 or $7 on the film. Super cheap and it gave amazing results… because the man knows how to take a great photo. Perhaps David’s main problem is that the pics he took (regardless of the cameras used) are just not particularly good photos. Perhaps he just doesn’t take good shots.

    Rather like me! 🙂 You could give me the most expensive kit in the world and someone like Max or Steve would trump my photos with the cheapest lump of plastic on the market. Steve’s recent night shots with the Sony Nex-5 were also amazing.

    Which is why I love this website. Inspiration!

    David’s post was good for this too… it showed me that I am not the only person who has a long way to go. 😉

  26. David Babsky was, many years ago, Technical Editor of the UK’s best-selling ‘Practical Photography’ magazine. Years later he bought, and ran, his own 3-screen cinema. Now he teaches photography, mainly in Greece and Thailand.

    Oh my god, he dare to even mention those… Teaches photography? Oh my god

  27. this article is filled with more holes than swiss cheese but he’s entitled to his own opinion. i like how he threw in the photos so we would THINK they were all from his m9 then later says “oh by the way these are all from different cameras” as if we couldn’t tell haha. leica may not be worth the price to him but to people who shoot daily with it it’s an invaluable tool.

  28. hahaha, this is the funniest thing I have read in ages. Thanks Steve for posting this up. I love the way this article pricks so many balloons and so many inflated opinions.

    Yeah, the photos are damn awful, but it’s set up as a commentary on some of the junk photos people post on Daily Inspiration. He’s having a larf. At the people who look at photos here, and gush about ‘magic’ when in many cases, it’s a crap pic that could have been taken with any camera (as he demonstrates). Ah, it’s all hilarious.

    OK, many Daily Inspiration pics are excellent I have to say, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone willing to dump on either the photos or the Leica cameras. And you know what? In the end his photos are still worthy – who cares about sharpness and grain if thats the last, best shot of his old Mum. Content is King, not the Summilux.

    I have an M8u. I enjoy it, I recognise it’s limitations – I think it’s a very specific tool for a narrow style of photography. It’s not very good at all round. Let’s admit it to ourselves! Let go of the illusion. It’s just a camera. You can’t criticise him for being wrong – it’s his own experience he is relating. Cut him some slack. You’re all so judgemental.

    Well done Steve and David.

    • i see your point and i don’t think david is wrong but the main issue i have here is that why are you buying into a system you don’t believe in? when he received the m8, he could have easily sold it and pocketed the money and spent it on some nice L lenses. but instead he chose to upgrade to ANOTHER leica camera. if you don’t like something, then why stick with it?

      i think everyone who owns a camera recognizes the limitations if it. there’s no such thing as a super camera that will do anything, that includes the m9 btw. with that being said, instead of looking at what a camera can’t do for you, look for what camera can do for you.

      all i got out of this article is that a man who does not like rangefinder cameras, bought a rangefinder only to write a lengthy article about how much said rangefinder sucks.


  29. Can some one clear this one up please?

    “q: Leica M9 and Leica 16-21mm zoom at f/4, ISO 2500”

    Zoom? Is that an R lens with an adapter?

    • im guessing thats one of the tri focal lenght lenses leica makes, the WATE i think, not really a zoom, just three focal lenghts in one.

      someone correct me here. and god my spell check is flashing alarms all over the place on this one.

        • It is indeed what Leica call, in the usual long-winded way of many lens manufacturers, the “Tri-Elmar-M 16-18-21mm f/4 ASPH” ..but that’s such a cumbersome name that I simply call it the Leica 16-21mm zoom. It is a true zoom lens (the other “Tri-Elmar” wide-angle 28-50-35mm isn’t a zoom: it provides only those three fixed focal lengths, and you can’t just click between, say, 28mm and 35mm ..it steps between those three settings in that fixed order; 28, 50 and 35).

          The 16-21mm zoom is, though, a true zoom, and you’re not restricted to just those three settings of 16, 18 and 21mm: you can choose any position in between its three click-stops.

  30. Also forgot to mention, isn’t it pretty obvious that he’s just trolling everyone by the fact that he hates everything about the rangefinder system, all of his complaints are about how everything about a rangefinder is obsolete, but still decided to upgrade to an M9 from an M8, as if that would somehow be an improvement and magically not have what he considers limitations… It’s still a rangefinder…. HAHA

  31. This is the part where Steve comes out and tells people they’ve been punked. haha Seriously either the author is just trolling or Steve is playing a joke on everyone, either way it’s hilarious seeing everyone trying to stay civilized and courteous while trying to point out that the pictures are absolutely aweful, as well as the writing.

  32. So, after all the spewing and fueling heated comments (as expected), the moral of the story is….

    The cameras we shoot with means nothing! You can spend $20,000 on an M9 and lenses and enjoy every second of it, but that’s not going to buy you nice images. Or, you can shoot film with an M3 and still get crap if you have no vision and learn the craft. All of this with every possible variation in between, from analogue to digital, $10 and $100,000.
    Talent is upstairs and the tools we use to create art, of any form, are not what define it. After all, one only needs to look back into history to see how many beautiful things were created over the ages with the simplest tools and by the greatest minds.

    Over and out!


    • or leave the house with your iPhone and enjoy the day 🙂 it doesn’t make my experience with Leica any less, I have the same relationship with Apple, LandRover, Montrail, Sony, Final Cut Pro, Lightroom, Paris, New York, Venice Beach, Perugia, Santorini and no need to justify any of it 🙂

  33. I don’t really see why people should be so aggressive about this article.

    If anything he has done you all a favour,he has reastablished your beliefs in what camera

    system you use and why you feel that you take superior pictures or not.

    He has done more for this web site than people want to admit.

    Life must be challenged as otherwise it becomes very grey.

  34. Reading this just made wonder why he felt so fixed to use the M9 so much. I use my Mamiya M6 (a natural upgrade from my Leica M6 and a move I’d recommend) outside and my Sony A850 inside or if I’m with the kids it’s the A850 or Konica Hexar AF. This guy sounds like he doesn’t like the camera getting in the way which I would agree with in most situations. I wish digital backs were affordable to use with older medium format cameras but there’s never going to be the market to bring the price down unless you go with older models. Then again I like iso1600 on the A850 in b/w with my minolta 85mm at f1.4, which I’ve been told is horrible, as much as iso 3200 on the Mamiya m6.

  35. Ok let’s not skin the guy in the public place he is just very direct. Many people can make a multi thousand dollar mistake by going the Leica way if it is not their cup of tea. If we could get DSLRs the size of the ones we had in the 70’s, I was too your it would be my dad’s SLR, with good old manual primes, we would be set. Leica provides a way to take pics and just think about, focus aperture, shutter speed and WB (if Leica had better WB then we would not have to think about it). What he says is that other cams do as good or even better but he claims the lazy zoom way is the best…best if you don’t want to walk around, P&S he is right are much better than they use to be if you are willing to compromise high ISO, wash out at superzooms high end, attrocious deformation, flare,,. etc etc etc… P&S are perfect for my GF who likes to sanp shots when she has her girls night out, true, she gets the whole group, she zooms on the bottles behind the cute guy at the bar but always misses and ends up getting the cute guy in focus… silly her, not able to focus a P&S.
    So we get his point no one denies the shortcomings of RFs I think it is good for new readers though to know that all the enthousiasm around Leica that you read or see here should not be taken as a green light for just anyone to go out and spend 15K on an M9 and 2 lenses, you can if you want but for one tenth of that one can get a mighty good kit that can take great pics and for one 20th you can have a great P&S or bridge that will take awfull pics like him and his M9. So I see his point I think he wanted to be funny but he over did it and the pics he sent are not representative of what he says…

  36. HEy…we are killin this guy…but I feel no guilt. He has come to a website with a lot of knowledgeable talented people and spewed a LOT of opinions that are less than palatable in this arena.The M9 is archaic ..yes….but it is also…by design capable of producing great art in capable hands. It was also designed to utilize a plethora of EXPENSIVE lenses that good photographers already own and to allow them to pursue the craft in the same manner as they have for years…except digitally. Genius? I think so.
    My advice is..do go into the gladiator’s arena to fight the lions with a scooter and a Nerf gun… you are going to get eaten alive.
    To be fair…I would back up my mouth with a link to some of my photos if someone could tell me how to load a link in these comments. (when I load a link…it disappears when I post the comment..just vanishes in its entirety?).

      • LOL, that didn’t helped you, but it worked!!
        Anyway, here’s the typed out version:
        Smaller than sign, space, href, equal sign, quote, URL link, space, rel=”nofollow”, greater than sign, URL NAME, smaller than sign, forward slash, a, greater than sign”.

        Just your normal link HTML code.

        • OK…I am as dumb as David is with M9’s with HTML.
          Maybe I should go to a programming website and espouse my views on links.
          I will thank you very much TDK for trying to help me…but I don’t get it.

  37. If this article was meant to provoke discussion – it worked! It’s a very, very interesting point of view, and I respect and acknowledge the comments. Much of it is true, we can’t deny that. Compared to a D3 say, the M9 is……..clunky. Technically. Artistically? Different story. And if you’d like to use cars as an analogy, people spend tens of thousands doing up OLD cars with crappy brakes and HUGE engines – why? Because in the old days, people knew how to build STUFF. Yes, an Olympus point and shoot can capture the same image as an M9 – but are you MOTIVATED to get out there with an Olympus P&S?

    The article would carry more weight if the author could have posted have decent images. The selection in the article are AWFUL (in image G, the horizon isn’t even straight). And CATS? Good grief. I doubt any thought was given to any of them. Technical Editor for Practical Photography? Really?

    Hey this is the first time I’ve openly criticized someone’s work. Geez.

    • I agree. Horizons must be straight. An image with a non-straight horizon can’t be anything but absolute crap.

      One of the many immovable, cast in stone, golden (huh?) rules of good photography. 🙁

  38. Apparently noone has noticed that “David Babsky” is an alias as well as an anagram. It doesn’t reflect well on the average IQ of posters here that appr 80% of them have fallen feet first, eyes wide shut, into that trap. 😉

  39. I just loved reading this article and as I did I could see necks flaming all across the planet by those feeling insulted or needing to justify their ownership and the whole ‘bokeh’ dialogue/diatribe. Personally I love Leica, for no other reason than it not being a massive computer and I can travel the world with my M9 and one lens, simple. We need writers and articles like Davids’, it hauls me back to humble reality. I just ordered a Holga and I love my iPhone and when I travel the M9 is always with me.
    Here is my growing iPhone Folder 🙂 http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwicafe/5146305745/

    • Agree with kiwicafe. No matter if I agree with everything that’s written in the article I enjoyed reading it. It was provoking but it made me think about my choices regarding photography and gear. In a way it was every bit as inspiring as the Daily Inspiration. For instance I love Leica’s but never liked the portraits or street photography genres very much. Much more nature and wildlife. Despite this I often find myself trying to take pictures suited for my gear, and not chose the gear best suited for my kind of photography, if you know what I mean.

      Btw, It wouldn’t hurt anyone if the comments had been more polite. You could still disagree.


  40. Thanks for your provoking article. The numbers of comments show that you stirred us up 🙂
    A good thing. I can see your point. But I use several brands and types of cameras (DSLR, SLR, Rangefinder, Polaroid in 35mm and medium format, on film and digital) – and I can say that there is a relationship between me and the camera / lens combination I use.

    This is valid reason for using different bodies – for me. If this concept, at least with the digital M’s, does not appeal to you – fine. Let it go and use what you like and what works for you.

    It’s a pitty that your pictures (most of them) are so lame and pointless (no offence intended). Better / stronger pictures might have made your article more valid and interesting.

    Enjoy photography, no matter which camera you like 🙂


  41. I’ve been a frequent reader of this blog for over a year, infrequent for even longer. A very infrequent commenter though. I’ve quite enjoyed the reading, and the photos. I don’t really like complaining, but it actually saddens me a bit reading this article.

    Not because the article was really poor (it was), or that the photos were possibly the worst I’ve seen in a context of photographic interest (they were), or even that the guy seems like a douche and I can’t for my life understand how anyone would pay for being taught by him (well, maybe just a bit). It saddens me because I read it on your blog.

    I’ve enjoyed the positive, helpful tone of this blog – both in your own and featured authors work. But this just feels too much as flame bait. Not that I’m objecting to the sentiment that (Leica) rangefinders aren’t for everyone – it’s very true & something your readers should be aware of. But the low standard of it all just leaves me cold… Negative brand bashing with horrible photographic examples are all over the net, I hope that this blog can keep being a sanctuary from all that nonsense.

  42. Well…I had a Canon 5DmkII with some Zeiss lenses…and now I have a M9


    Just because I want one and appriciate the ‘M’ way of making pictures

    Are the better camera’s or with better technology…sure…

    but perfection is one choice you can make, having fun with something close to your heart is another.

  43. Sorry, read this tripe. David needs to up his Thorazine and take up basket weaving. That dissertation reads like it was written by someone who finds absolute joy in shooting newsprint, and from what I can tell of his photos, he’d be better off shooting that.

  44. Reading this I allways waited for something funny in the end but it never came up.
    Worst article I have read on your site not because he doesnt like the Leica M but mainly because it is just much too long, boaring, too many images and many of them not great (for my taste).

  45. Put the M9 in all manual, go out in the street and start shooting. This is what the Leica rangefinder philosophy is all about: speed, unobstrutiveness and simplicity.
    So when someone starts an article on rangefinders with pictures of a cat, a flower and a stack of wood, sorry but I can only have big doubts on his credentials to talk about it.

    • Yanidel,I imagine you felt insulted when he wrote about street photography.
      Street photography is not something that will out date as it changes constantly,and the M9 was made for it.
      You can use any cheap point and shoot for the pictures shown above.
      I simply believe that if you have nothing good to say,dont say it.

      Big fan of your blog.

  46. Regards to Steve, You ‘re my hero.

    Steve, You made all this Leica magic. I felt Hypnotized for whole Year now.
    I almost bought M9 with two lenses this year, even I have never held any RF in my hands.
    I have almost neglect my job by everyday surfing trough Your site. Every word You wrote had sence…I find my self in almost everything You wrote about Leica. I was simply impressed.

    I like David Babsky article a lot. He is unsatisfied M9 user. So what?
    Many of You here like M9. So go out and take those precious photographs instead of argue.

    I can see a lot of angry souls here.
    It doesn’t hurt my ego like most of M users here.

    I guess, it’s because I don’t use Leica
    But to be honest, I went to Keln on Photokina this year with only one reason…
    To try, feel, touch and by this impressive German TOOL called Leica M9
    So I checked my bank card and find I could actually afford it.
    I told to my self, yes I now how to use manual cameras and lenses
    because I used Hasselblad 501 in field and in studio.
    So MF quality lenses but smaller… No AA filter, FF body, yea go for it.

    So, I’ve been there on Keln Messe on Photokina,
    I Try it, love it and left it there…
    Because Leica M9 does not fit anyhow to my personal working style.
    I didn’t went to Solms to by M9 to my self even if I could.

    At the end I am just curious… How many of You guys actually earn money with your M8/M9
    and how many of you here just love to be Leica?

    Regards to everyone, special thanks to Steve for insights of Stefan Soeser photography.


  47. Isn’t it funny how eloquently worded criticism of “LEICA” cameras (allowed by Steve himself mind you) elicits responses that in majority have a very sectarian ring to them?

    Hail Leica…. 🙂

  48. Each to their own but, having just returned from a 3 day break in Rome, using the M9 and 7 glorious M lenses, I certainly know what I’ll be carrying (easily, with no discomfort and with no hassle from the airline) on such trips in the future. Image quality is superb from such a compact and discreet outfit.
    My Rome images can be seen in the “Past 12 Months” gallery of my website (www.lenstalk.com) if anyone is interested.

  49. I do not see a sense of composition, a good work on interpreting the photos in post production nor taking good care on selecting the best images.
    If you hate that much the camera I offer myself to take you out of your misery, I would even pay the shipment to my house, let me know.

  50. Bravo Steve! You are a brave man. You have given some great perspective here.
    Based on what David Babsky has written above and the quality (from an art standpoint) of the images
    included with his overview…perhaps this would be a better camera for his needs? yes …in teal.
    Snappy shooters demand snappy cameras. Right?

  51. Seok-Ho

    Very valid point, well explained. If C Q ans S were presented as a daily inspiration and David had a positive message with them and a fun story about how why and where he took them, I do think people would have been far more supportive and optimistic about them.

    This is a very positive friendly site with very little venom, but perhaps David’s aggressive writing style and harsh, unnesscassary and sometimes down right mean attacks, have led people to be unusually defensive and counter attacking in a similar style subconsciously.

    Great debate here!!!

    This is why I love this site 🙂


    • Frankly spoken I have the opinion, that Steve – as a convinced “Leica-nut” – has thrown David to the wolves with some intent, and David’s pictures were the “key” to the cage.

      Personally I find a lot of the comments not so nice, to say it in a decent way. If I look for a lot of the pictures from the “Daily Inspiration” someone could express the same contra arguments about “quality”, style, technique or what else and they have often positive feedbacks. Funny.

  52. What I like about any Leica camera from 0 series, over II, III to M is, you can preset them to a point and shoot mode and fire away. It gives you the ease of a throw away camera, but with better glass and mechanics 🙂

  53. Seok-Ho,

    No hard feelings, but as someone who shot both the NYC and Daily Inspiration (i think it was #109) the criticism seemed rough. And I wanted to see where it was coming from. Thanks for sending your link, it is helpful to see where select criticism originates.

    As for Babsky’s photos, they are not even worth getting into. I think someone up above said their 10 year old could take better pictures. Sounds close.

    Do you use the M4 as your primary camera? Its strange that you mentioned manual focus as an issue, but you use a camera that doesnt even have a meter. I think the M4 looks great by the way.

    Anyway, no hard feelings man. Did mean for you to feel called out, I was just directing the question to you. Best-Adam

    • Thanks Adam. Look, I can understand that Mr. Babsky’s photos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but just looking at the sheer difference in the comments between the ones here and the comments on Daily Inspirations and the NYC photos are eye-opening, to say the least. One is filled with hate and venom, while the others are universally showered with praise, even though I find the majority dull and boring. I wonder just how different the reaction to photos such as C, Q and S would have been if they were posted as a Daily Inspiration?

      As for the M4, I sold it a couple of months ago. Partly because I needed the money, partly because I was getting perfectly fine images with my other 35mm camera, a Contax T2. It was a great camera to use, but I don’t regret selling it at all. My current combination of a Rolleiflex and the T2 suits me fine.

      Regarding manual focus, I’m not against it, but compared to the AF-system on a Canon 7D, 95% of the time it’s going to be quicker and just as accurate. Heck, even my T2 with it’s notoriously fiddly autofocus still hasn’t failed me once. I use both methods of focusing quite happily, but I know as I carefully twiddle the focusing knob back and forth and use the magnifier on my TLR to align the split-images to achieve perfect focus, a simple half-press of the shutter release with an autofocus camera would have done the same job in half the time, with minimal fuss. Surely that’s saying something.

      • The same photos placed as a daily inspiration would have resulted in polite feedback. Overall people are polite with the daily inspirations. People have different expectations and those with high expectations usually tolerate weaker entries because they have been in that place as well at some point. They are for inspiration and if you don’t get inspired you ignore it. The problem is if weaker examples are being used to make a point about equipment. That’s when people are sensitive because they might see that not the equipment but the technique influenced the results. I have seen that with a positive daily inspiration about the S2 and now the negative article about the M9. In both cases people jumped on the ‘weak’ photography that was used to make the point. All I can say is; just don’t care. Let people buy or not buy what they want and photograph what they want. The nice thing is that we don’t have to buy the results.

  54. Somehow I feel that the entire article and the comments would have been better placed on the new forum site. I like that most articles are inspiring, they share new knowledge, they make you move further with your photography. This entire writing is a summary of things that you find on any other forum on the web. Does it help me with my photography? Not really. We can make parallel comparisons to cars, agree that the Nikon D3x sensor is much better in low light (it is really good), we can point out that the M9 is pricey, or compare sizes of old Leicas to new Leicas, to Nikons and Canons from past and presence, but that doesn’t take us anywhere else from where we are right now. It is this black and white thinking that doesn’t look at shades of grey. If a camera is not “prefect” and pricey then it must be a status symbol. The M9 is not a leading performer in any individual, technical discipline. It compromises heavily in some areas (and I wish some compromises wouldn’t be there), but it provides a combination of a few simple features that work really, really well for many photographers, and doesn’t work for many other photographers. We should just be OK with that and accept it. Or we can continue an endless cycle of sharing endless opinions until we all decide that the Rebel is the best of all. 😉

  55. I think it’s a great article, good to show the other of the coin.

    ok people might not agree with some of the points but it truly doesn’t matter.

    well done for Steve and Mr Babsky.

    • What does this prove? Photographic critique and editorial don’t necessarily have anything to do with that persons skill as a photographer. So we can’t appraise a Renior without being a master painter? It’s ridiculous to conflate the two. Yes, there are shared elements, an appreciation of composition and lighting, etc, but analysing and taking photographs are two different artistic drivers, that may be in the same person, may not.

  56. Manual focus is not antiquated. Thats like calling a hammer antiquated, sure its old, but it works so they still make it. Manual focus lenses are a long standing design that some people prefer to use. Also see manual transmission cars. Some people still prefer it.

    Even when I use a 5D MarkII, I use it manually. Especially when I am shooting images of large sculptures in studio, the auto focus misses. After a few mistakes, I find its better to turn the autofocus off.

    My eyes are good so manual focus works, plus the in/out effect as the lens focuses is distracting. And if manual focus was so outdated then Canon, Nikon, and Sony would not offer it on their professional cameras. Auto focus is good for certain situations, but these are not needed everyday. They are definitely needed for the images we saw above, ie wide open landscapes and pictures of family sitting around. A monkey could focus on those subjects.

    As for David and his teaching credentials, well he has been involved in photo for years, but as a photographer? It doesn’t seem like it. He would have miles of publications, awards, or grants. I don’t see much here. The guy who taught me photography in school (Michael Lavine) was a real photographer, he did not just work in the photo industry. This makes a huge difference.

    And to David, WHY DID YOU BUY AN M9? Its obviously not the type of camera for you. Did you really need to spend over 20k on lenses and a body to figure this out? An M9 is not an updated M3. They are completely different cameras.

  57. One only has to look at what Max can do with his M3 to know how amazing a Leica M can be in the right hands. Of course Max is also a master of development so it is kind of cheating ;). Sorry Max but am so jealous of your developing prowess! Grrrr!

  58. My feeling is that most of the photos above feel ‘life-less’, regardless what camera was used during the process.

    On the LUF forums, there’s this guy that went on a state visit to China, those pictures from Shanghai are amazing.

    I had the M9 and my MP side by side and the feeling just wasn’t there (the M9 felt like a toy {I tried the Noct 0.95 and my own 50 lux asph on them), plus I didn’t want to wait 6 months.

  59. I don’t have an M9, so can’t comment on it’s strengths and/or weaknesses. I’m am glad however to see a view totally to the contrary of the usual Leica love, and Steve did well to publish it.

    • I’m an M9 owner but I’m also a television producer, and I know a thing or two about entertainment! It gets VERY boring when everyone agrees. We make the TV programmes you watch to reflect opposing opinions, across everything…even news. There’s no doubt that this article has triggered a hugely passionate response from people. It therefore constitutes ‘entertainment’ which is the whole point of blog, TV, pictures or anything else we experience. So, thanks for that, to start with!

      With regard to the points made; they are all true. 100%. From a modern stand point (and that’s the world we live in, ladies and gentlemen), this camera has SERIOUS flaws. But the limitations represent a level playing field for M9 users, from a creative viewpoint; in much the same way the iPhone’s pinhole camera apps do. That’s one of the main reasons Leica photography can be so much fun. Modern cameras take better pictures more reliably. Definitely. But since when has creativity had any connection with efficiency? Moreover, the two are firm enemies.

      So what a lot of respondents here ‘mean’ is that the points raised aren’t really RELEVANT to their enjoyment of this beautifully made camera. But nobody can deny, the points raised are true and well laid out. Thanks!

  60. Absolutely agree with Steve that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If David doesn’t like Leica brand, especially the M9, that’s his personal right. However if you don’t like it then stay away from it, simple rite? No need to bring out another brand to be proud of.
    Rangefinder is not for everyone, so that’s the case for old cars.

    Steve, thanks for sharing this issue.


  61. I don’t think those photos are that bad. Personally, I think they’re better than the ‘Daily Inspirations’ and photos from the NYC Workshop that I’ve seen on this site.

      • Thanks Steve. I think it’s a shame people are resorting to childish insults instead of actually commenting on the article.

        He brings up a set of obvious, but valid points:

        1. Manual focusing is antiquated, compared to modern systems.
        2. The M9 (and rangefinders in general) have a number of cons ie. sloppy framing, minimum focal distance usually around 0.7m, no telephoto lenses available, slow CPU and a simple metering system.
        3. It’s not versatile, nor is it as compact as you’d like to think.
        4. At the end of the day, modern Leica’s are ridiculously expensive for little tangible benefit.
        5. Good pictures can be taken with any camera, not only with a $7k M9 and a $10k Noctilux.

        And I agree with all of them. I’m not saying I don’t like rangefinders, but these are critical facts that cannot be denied. It’s up to the person whether or not the benefits outweigh the significant costs – for Mr. Babsky, it doesn’t. Simple as that. It doesn’t warrant a frenzy of comments rubbishing a man’s photographs.

        • lots of us are leaving real comments on the article. if he actually said the points you list, he might have gotten better feedback. but, far from ‘critical facts that cannot be denied’, even in your incredibly charitable executive summary, the errors are fairly obvious.
          1) “old” is not a synonym for “antiquated”. that’s like saying we should all use acrylic paints because oils are too old. the rf method of focus is indeed old, but it offers tangible benefits over current state-of-the-art systems (see elsewhere for discussions of said benefits ad nauseum), and rewards skill; i can focus my rf faster and more accurately than most people can use any wunder-dslr.
          2) it’s true that framing is not perfectly represented in the vf for all shots. however, i can frame very accurately (and still see outside the frame, which you don’t with slrs). for still lifes or landscapes, you can review framing with perfect accuracy on the lcd, which i personally would do anyway on a dslr. basically a non-issue, for me, but it could be a minor issue for some. min focus distance is a real limitation. i don’t happen to care, mostly, though a digicam like the lx3 is a nice complement for a rf imo partly for this reason. ditto telephotos: i just don’t care about long telephotos. that is obviously subjective, but it’s not a point against the rf systems for anyone who is concentrating on the forms of photography where long tele isn’t desirable. many of us happen to feel that long telephoto is basically a cool gimmick, but since it doesn’t represent my visual experience in any way, it simply isn’t something i am particularly interested in capturing or preserving. slow cpu: granted. this is a disgrace for the price. simple metering: just don’t care. i never use it; i manually expose all my cameras anyway. for any scene tricky enough to fool the center-weighted meter, i’d choose direct access manual exposure controls over modal exposure compensation tools any day anyway.
          3) it is highly versatile, with some limitations which don’t affect my photography at all. it is a lot more compact than most people seem to think. my 5d and three lenses (16-35, 24, 50) fill more than half of a thinktank international rollerbag. my m9 and three lenses fit in two pockets, and i can carry them anywhere with a lot less pain.
          4) the camera is the cheapest ff body currently available for the size. it offers file quality on par with a nikon d3x, at about the same price, but 1/4 of the size. if the recent open letter on lum land is correct, it may also be the only 35mm digital camera currently on offer to take full advantage of lenses faster than f/2.8. it’s got the lowest shutter lag out there. it has all the advantages of rf viewing (see the scene, not the focusing screen, and see outside the frame, etc). it makes good use of the best consumer lenses on the planet. what the heck constitutes a ‘tangible benefit’ to you?
          5) absolutely agree. never in question. good, even great photos /can/ be taken with any gear. which is not equivalent to saying that the gear doesn’t matter, or has no effect. i prefer to have a camera that does it’s job to a very high standard and then stays out of the way. then if my photos are lacking, i have only myself to blame–and i know exactly what i need to work on to improve.

          given all that, i agree with you that its up to the person to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of different working styles, and i don’t judge anyone for their choice on those matters–whatever works for you is the best, i always say. (it isn’t ‘as simple as that’, however, because that isn’t what babsky actually says–he didn’t say that the advantages–or differences, if you prefer–of using a rf aren’t working for him, he claimed they don’t even exist.)

  62. I’m usually a very positive guy, but the photography here is pretty poor. The photographs here are poor “snap shots” that rightly could have been taken on any camera: a £25 5 megepixel Vivitar or on a Canon 5d mkIII by some one who doesn’t know what they are doing.

    The other day when you issued a similar rant on the forum and issued a grainy pixaled shot of some cats taken using digital zoom, I honest thought on some level you were joking and trying to wind people up!

    Your opinions are so close minded and your such a negative guy I can’t believe you’d be responsible for teaching photography to other people.

    My biggest issue is why come onto this site and try to preach negativity… there are loads of other places for you to do that where you may have a captive audience.

    I would reccomend spending your time and effort finding something you like and focus on that instead of spending so much time on negative, bigated endevours.

    Of course all of that is just my opinion 🙂


  63. Almost troll like, but heck, it’s worth seeing the other perspective. RF’s are a matter of personal choice on many levels. For, it’s my rangefinder experience that stimulates my creative juices….and motivates the muse. SLR’s just don’t have the same charm for me….

  64. Well, I am definitely not the rangefinder type of person (I’ve tried the M9 at a store once, as well as many film rangefinders at antique stores; they just weren’t my cup of tea) I prefer my film SLRs, with both primes and zooms. But this guy just gives us SLR users a bad name. Steve, I did not like your comment:
    “Exactly as I saw it. Which is why I posted. Those who bash Leica usually never uses Leica or they do not know how to use a Leica.” so much; I’m not exactly a leica basher, but it seems you misrepresented us non-Leica users by posting this bozo’s article.

  65. I bought my current DSLR over my last one simply because i liked holding it more. Does the same thing in general, same image quality, but feels better. Is that worth over a grand, to me yes. To others thats worth 7 grand, or 50, or 200.

    Also, I hate to be negative, and generally never put down anyone’s work but if one of my professors had shown those images to me in the first class i would have walked out and dropped the class. Maybe you just dont like the camera and because of that you are producing bad results, but that cant be the cameras fault.

  66. I have a Canon 40D, an Olympus E-P2 and a Leica M8. I love taking pictures with all of them. At different times each one of the cameras frustrates me because of a certain limitation that I feel makes the picture turn out “less than desirable”. However, this frustration always leads to a thought process that helps me understand when/when not to use each of them. The M8 is an absolutely fantastic camera that always helps me slow down and think about taking the picture, instead of just snapping away. I didn’t buy it to replace all of my other cameras. I bought it to test out another style of photography that not everyone gets to experience. Absolutely no regrets here…

  67. To be honest Mr Babsky, your photos are pretty standard, sub-par even. That comment about any camera in the right hands is what I was thinking too.

    I for one would not even consider going to your photography class having seen the quality and disrepect of your photos.

  68. I think Steve made a very good point, the camera will deliver in the capable hand.. This is a very very bad writing by a very not capable person.. Look at the picture, I don’t think that I like a single one of them.. Not even comparable to Steve photos, by far.

  69. The only thing that matters about the camera is what you do with it. I find articles like these fascinating. It shows just how much one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

    As I have seen, High ISO, white balance, and auto exposure are absolutely fantastic in the M8. Just like any camera, you must understand how they behave and expose for them based on how this camera responds. The M8 is the first camera ive ever used in an auto mode in my life. It can get the camera to give me the same results I would have chosen 90% of the time. I am floored. I have learned what to point at to meter and expose for to get my results. This takes time, practice, and a willingness to understand the tool.

    I think a lot of people expect too much from a camera without taking the time to learn its nuances. Just like any tool, or vehicle, or instrument…each has their own nuances and response. Learn the dance and its show time! Otherwise you might just be stepping on each other’s feet the whole time trying to get to the same destination.

    Some people might not choose a 1950s car for their daily commute. However, I know plenty of people that would snap up a Porsche 356 in a heartbeat. (I also know quite a bit of the 356 community in my area!) It can’t do nearly what even a new minivan can do. It has drum breaks, etc… However…the feel, history, and sheer road pleasure of the vehicle creates an experience not found in a modern car. A car is a car right?

    A good design can stir the heart. Nothing can replace that. An inspired heart that is full of excitement to do and create with a tool is where I strive to be. This is opposed to having something else considered “the best of the best” and feel dumbed down, bored, and uninspired by its cumbersome use.

    For some people, the Holga is it, for others a Nikon, for me…its a Leica. David, if the M9 inspires you to write this article, I look forward to hearing about what camera stirs your soul in a positive way.

  70. To be fair to David, I don’t think these photos give a true reflection of David’s ability. I know I don’t know David but I just have a feeling there is more to this guy than the pictures above. I just think that something went wrong here. I don’t know what but something did. When I read the article and was looking at the pictures I was actually thinking to myself that they were really bad and that this article was one of those “look how terrible the sensor and IR problems of the M8 are”. To my amazement it turns out some of the worst offenders were by the M3 (Max, please don’t read this!;) – I mean image (d) looks curiously like infrared film used for a portrait and gone horribly wrong to boot. I was actually really confused as to what the message was here. I think David should post some links to his work where he thought the pictures were processed really well and then we can read the article again. At the moment, the processing/compressing (something) has made the pictures so poor that they completely dominate the article. David is better than this. I just know it.

    • Come on B! I can take pictures like that all day long with my M3 🙂 Really, that picture has nothing to do with the camera. Bad lighting, bad exposure, botched developing and from what I can see, very bad scanning (artifacts, excessive grain).

  71. Jesus.

    This looks like some Andy Kaufmanesque stunt.

    This guy teaches photography? How on earth is that even possible. I really don’t want to take shots at the guy’s skill as a photographer, but it seems like exposure and color balance is off horribly and even composition is beyond repair. No matter how much he talks about ‘cropping’ pictures, it seems like he needs some help in composing as well.

    I have three or four middle of the road cameras (I don’t own an M9) and I can see myself botching up some exposures. What I can’t see is using the mistakes or “bad” pictures as examples on an article denouncing the cameras.

    Photography should be joyous – not tedious. These shots are…. wow. The words? Sullen.
    I need a cup of coffee.

  72. Darn. Since I can’t afford a Leica M9, I was kinda hoping this article would have really picked that camera apart and abated my desire to purchase one. Alas, I find even myself unconvinced. I was rooting for you, David!

    I noted that lack of good zoom options was listed as a con against Leica Ms in this article. Having owned a few Canon SLRs with a variety of zoom lenses (including two sweet Ls), I find that I personally prefer primes, and have sold all my Canon equipment. I think I’ve found that for myself, artistically, a zoom was a hindrance, and a cheap way to compose. I like the clarity of primes and I actually like how they limit my options.

    And with all due respect, I also found the pictures…unappealing, and felt it took away from the author’s credibility. Sorry.

    • My problems with the zooms I have are that they, like all zooms, have to make some compromises. It not they are bad (I have used them professionally for over 30 years) but I finally have reached a point like you, Andy. I want sharper images and zooms will not do it for me anymore. Now I cannot go out an buy a Leica with a bunch of Leica glass but I will find my way through trial and error on Nikon prime glass. I like the feel and weight of my D2h bodies so that is where I will apply myself.

      Needless to say, I find the conversation and topics on Steve’s site inspirational. That is why I, an avid DSLR/SLR shooter enjoy this site so much. And many of the things that are noted here I can apply to shooting with my fixed-lens Yashica Electro35 GS and GT rangefinder bodies. Thanks, Steve, for all you do and all that your loyal readers do.

  73. as with any opinion piece, there are right places to run it, and not so appropriate places to run it. sadly posting a not-so-artfully-written-leica-bashing opinion piece here isn’t the best idea in the world…. unfortunately people are all biased to some extend and nobody’s going to be happy if you overly criticize his/her expensive(ie $7000) hobby…that’s just human nature.

  74. Just using good equipment doesn’t automatically lead to good results. Owning a good road bike doesn’t make me become a good biker. It is that simple. The problem with the article is that the photos are just not inspiring. If some would be good then it would be interesting to see what worked for him. But all lack a strong visual expression. What I learn from this article is that people don’t have to spend much money to take a photo and for some it is good if the camera helps a bit. I agree with that.

  75. Just to point out..I posted this just to see what kind of reaction it would get. When I saw it my initial reaction was that the photos did not warrant what he wrote. I know that better results can be had with the M8 and M9 IN THE RIGHT HANDS 🙂 To be honest, the photos David submitted for this did nothing to back up his anti Leica M8 and M9 rant.

    I thought this would provoke some interesting comments though. I like to keep it lively 🙂

    • Steve, I bashed the guy a little bit above as well, but to be fair, maybe it was not the best idea to throw him under the bus like that. Especially if you felt his pics were poor to begin with. I do not want to tell you how to run your site, but perhaps you could be more critical of the pics people post. Just my 2 cents, after all, I come here every day for my daily portion of SH!

    • Not a big fun, to read all these replies. Leave the pictures from David aside, and read his comments about the M9 again, think it over and you will find, that some of the topics are not so wrong. Then take under consideration, that Leica addicts feel always hurted, if their beloved camera brand is “kicked into the ass”.

      Nevertheless what connects people with Leica cameras is a kind of unidentified “mystique” coming from the wizards of Solms – I am not talking about the quality of the leica lenses, because in most of the cases undeniable – and a specific love for a product, which seems to be extraordinary. Is it really?? I mean the M9 of course. Leica addicts always want to talk you into the opinion, that (digital) Leica’s – actually the M9 – are the Mount Everest.

      This is said after 40 years of picture taking, most of the time with Leica´s, actually the M9 (together with 12 Leica lenses and a M6 TTL and two M7 aside) which is better than my M8 and M8.2 have been before, no doubt. A good camera, not exceptional, and unfortunately the only one, to use the Leica M lenses (really) professionally when needing digital workflow. The camera has some “charme”, has qualities, but weaknesses as well. You find them specified by David.

  76. Rangefinder photography really has more to do with one’s personal view of their own life than photography – It is about the journey rather than the destination. For example, I enjoy driving my Lotus. The car is not the most practicle auto (lacks basic creature comforts found in most cars), it leaks in the rain, it’s made of plastic, it holds only 2 people, it has little storage space, it’s noisy, it creaks, I can’t drive it in heavy rain or snow… I could go on. However, the time between point A and point B is so much FUN in that car. So, in life, if you focus on the end product and not the journey, a camera like the Leica M (as well as a car like the Lotus Elise) makes absolutely no sense. None at all. But if you are about the journey, then a rangefinder can be oh so much fun!

    Don’t worry about what is “best” or keeping up with the Jones’. Fill your life with what makes you happy.

    • Rob, you are so correct when you say “fill your life with what makes you happy”, that’s exactly why I’m going to get the F0.95.

  77. Like any thing, especially in anything creative, there are two sides to everything. While I have seen some great images with Leicas, both film & digital, I prefer my Nikons (“old” D2h bodies) for digital and my Yashica Electro 35 fixed lens rangerfinders for film (although I am entertaining thoughts of purchasing an F100). It still all comes down to what camera works best for you when you need it. I have had a ball learning the intricacies of the Yashica and being able to shoot with my favorite film, Tri-X again. And I have my D2h’s for a lot of other things. But I use each differently and understand the limitations of both. That is what we do. I see listings of some people’s equipment that just leave me in dreamland – one because I wish I had the independent means to have everything I THINK I want, and two, because I cannot imagine having all available. Try not to be too hard or derisive of Mr. Babsky. He is just speaking from the heart because I think he originally had high hopes for the M9 but, for him, it just did not work.

    • Rich,

      I truly believe that having less is always better when it comes to photography, as it is too easy to get sidetracked with too much gear and too many choices. A Rangefinder, a Leica, an M9, is not a system that will appeal to everyone and it’s okay to share one’s opinion. On the other hand, to be truly constructive put everything in perspective and the right context, images have to back up some of the talk, otherwise it all sounds just like any other rangefinder-hating rant when in reality it is all lousy photography regardless of the camera. To clarify, I’m not trying to be mean, confrontational or disrespectful, but just stating reality and giving some constructive criticism.

  78. I must say, I must agree with most comments here and with the utmost respect for the writer. I am not a huge fan of the M9 but it is certainly more than capable of delivering the goods. You can’t write an article panning a perfectly good camera (although you may not like it) and back it up with images that don’t tell anything one way or another, as far as quality, light, composition, vision, and every technical I can think of. From what I see, on most of these images, either focus, exposure, processing, scanning, color, white balance, are all off so one can’t judge any camera based on this.
    Bottom line is that great pictures can be taken with a cheap piece of junk and absolute crap with a $10,000 digital. Comparisons are futile unless MUCH more important aspects of photography are considered and followed first.

    • LOL. Max, I agree fully with you. If I was that guy I would be ashamed to put those pictures up here and have the guts to crucify the M9, or any camera for that matter. I also feel bad for those people in Thailand that will be “taught” photography by him.
      Oh, and it’s also great how he totally dismisses Street Photography yet his pictures clearly reveal something new about humanity! 😉 What a hoot.

  79. Bad lighting, poor composition, and boring subject matter are all elements that cannot be solved with any camera. Before you compare cameras and their shortcomings, these elements have to be addressed.

  80. I got only 1 of the M9 shots. But, at their size and resolution on a computer monitor, the quality of ALL photos becomes somewhat limited. However, I was surprised by the apparent sharpness of the Komura 200mm. David admits the superior quality of Leica lenses and does not discuss how the more free “style” of shooting a rangefinder varies from reflex cameras. It is because of those two factors I’m still pursuing my goal of getting an M8 or 9. David does deserve thanks for posting this comparison.

  81. I have to say, looking at these pictures on my Mac, the processing is just terrible. I am sure this is because of how they were uploaded (or something) but wow, if my photos looked like that I would be miserable too! Just to bring a little bit of reality here. See below the first picture taken on velvia 50, M7 and summilux 50mm asph. 🙂


    and here is one taken on Ektachrome, M7 and summilux 50mm asph.


    To keep things even one with iPhone 3G, late evening, waiting for a bus.


      • Hi Steve, I suspected that was the problem because the pictures you normally put up are excellent quality. Seems to be a problem with David’s scanning or processing.

  82. I understand David’s points, and had just posted in the forums about the way the M3 was received in 54 by “real” Leica users. But he lost me with his refrence of who would drive an obsolete car. My daily driver is a 1973 VW.
    Actually I can see the validity in most of his points, but have never liked the implementation of DSLRs. I often use FSLRs (film) though.
    I still like the M9 because its as close as I can get to “digital film” used in manual modes. I’d still like a digital Pentax MX (about the same size as a IIIf) – but only if it was manual focus and metering. Some of us are happy with the old ways…

  83. Good decision, Steve. There’s always two sides to a story.

    Unfortunately, the images are not strong enough, in an artistic or technical sense, to persuade us that the author is in control of his camera. He needs to illustrate the article with his own excellent DSLR shots to demonstrate the difference the camera makes to his work.

    All Leica followers know that in the right hands the M9 produces class leading imaging, so where is the weak link here ?.

        • Chris, Nope. I still like the M9 and any camera in the right hands. I love my M6 film camera. Any camera in the wrong hands results in the pictures you see above. Sorry, but I think the photos are not good. the article was interesting, and I understand part of Dave’s frustration with the M9, but to be fair, I’ve seen some beautiful files come out of the M8, M8.2 and M9 cameras…with the right photographer. No camera is perfect and yes, the digital M has a ways to go before I would absolutely love it. Maybe the M10 will be the holy grail of rangefinders.

      • To answer your question: Absolutely not! I’ve just now read this and studied the accompanying photos and all I can say is the guy clearly doesn’t know how to shoot with a rangefinder.

    • Hahaha, so true. But why is it that so many people are blind enough to believe marketing guff from the manufacturers that using camera Brand X over Brand Y will turn you into David Bailey?

      To compare this to cookery I’m a bit of a keen amateur cook and use a very nice Japanese I.O. Shen chef’s knife. Now that is one piece of craftsmanship to say the very least, but does that mean I can therefore cook like Gordon Ramsay? LMAO – Hardly! Has it made my food taste better or finer? Nope! Ah you might say, “But it does cut better & cleaner than a cheap knife.” Indeed it does, but does it really cut any better or cleaner than knives by Global or Henckels? Nope, not really!

      So using that illustration what does it all *really* come down to in photography? Simply put it’s just about using a tool of choice. Nothing more, nothing less. Money thrown at something does NOT equal better results. The sooner some people work that out the better for them because just as in food what yields results is time put into learning the craft and most certainly not money thrown at a hobby. What really bugs me is some peoples BLIND worship of any particular camera company and if anyone dares to criticise Nikon, Canon, Leica or whoever then woe betide them! 🙂

      For those people, please look up *Stockholm Syndrome* and then visit your doctor at your earliest opportunity for your health’s sake! LOL 🙂

  84. My M9 isn’t for every situation, is true. My D3 is good for just about every situation. But lugging that thing around with a 24 F1.4 or 24-70 zoom, it just gets to be too much. Here’s my list of complaints about the M9;

    1. AWB could be better, not a huge deal, can just adjust after anyway.
    2. High ISO performance is horrible, I try not to go to 1600 if I can.
    3. Processing speed could be better, menus are so slow.
    4. Probably the thing that gets me the most…..low res screen! Come on man! Put a high res sapphire screen in this camera and I will be so overjoyed.
    5. The money to get into this…but at the same time, who cares when it comes to something you love.

  85. also, whats up with the god-awful compression?? maybe his problem isnt the camera, its just not knowing how to use a computer.

  86. That was one good read, and the comments are (up till now) absolutely hilarious, in all their well-meant, devoid of all discernable sense of humour, sincerity.

    Keep on going Steve!

  87. Well, I’m sorry to say but I disagree with the content and further on that: I think the pictures shown in this article could have been shot with my M9 by my 10 year old son. Nevertheless everyone has the right to give his own opinion.

  88. David if using an M9 has made you have a miserable year then you could always give that camera to me. I would not mind trying to be miserable with an M9. You could say why do some folks drive a Rolls Royce when a Fiat 500 will get you to the same destination, I just do not understand the anti Leica rant

  89. by the way, although this guy is a jackass, im still glad steve posted this article. another point of view is always nice to hear, even if it makes no sense.

    • I must agree with you,why would anyone write an article only to criticise something?If you dont like it,just dont use it,its easy,stick to you 3 kg 5dmkii with 3 lenses and a bag,and 3 batteries.

  90. He had me intrigued until the Breitling analogy which was simply sloppy. Some interesting philosophical points but way overplayed.

    The M9 isn’t for everyone. We get it.

  91. how old is this guy? i think hes going blind. just as you can take great pictures on any camera, you can take equally terrible shots on any camera, as seen in the examples. im not saying im the best photog, but like steve says, “in the right hands”….that says it all.

    and if you think those sony cybershot photos compare to any leica photos, no matter the skill level, you must be blind.

    • I agree with Chris. I think the colors on these photos are way off, and the only shots I remotely like are Q, R and S. I agree with part of what David says though. He is venting a lot of people’s frustrations about the Digital M cameras (M8, M8.2 and M9). For what the camera body costs, it should work better than the best Canon or Nikon, or at least as well. Everyone is entitled to their opinion though, and I see Leica has left a bit of a bad taste in Dave’s mouth, but yet he still has his M9 and various lenses. Dave, will you be selling the camera? Do you hate it that much?

  92. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, this is one article I have to disagree with. The Leica M9 is a camera that is not for everyone. You shouldn’t buy it if you are comparing it to SLR’s, point-and-shoots, etc. The camera is for people who still love to photograph in the classic way with a rangefinder, but now want to move to the digital age. And Leica lenses are still second to none as far as build and image quality and I have never seen any tests to prove that wrong. Showing mediocre images to prove your point that “less expensive cameras can take these shots” isn’t a valid argument. I have seen so many breathtaking shots, with a special look that Leica brings that no other lens/camera company can provide. The Leica M9 is not a perfect camera, but if you love shooting with a rangefinder, you should love using the M9.

    • So as you put it “The camera is for people who still love to photograph in the classic way with a rangefinder, but now want to move to the digital age.”… where STILL is the operative word, only those people who HAVE BEEN shooting with a rangefinder can or will benefit from Leica turning digital – and not the rest who want to “venture out” into rangefinder territory.

      I think that statement / thought / opinion of yours speaks against you as you say “Leica produce images like none other”!!

      It’s all marketing B.S. !!! There were ONLY rangefinders earlier and so they were so well praised due to their portability as compared to the large format cameras, but with the invention of SLR’s I think they have lost that… and only a “legacy” remains!!

  93. Interesting read, and obviously you’ve had some serious experience in photography. However, many of your observations about the limitations of rangefinder are already known. Furthermore, only marketing would make a man think a camera could improve his photography. If you are carrying any camera with ten lens, you need to leave at least 8 of those at home…

    For the images presented in this discussion you could easily use any camera for those shots, but I would argue your most compelling shots share one quality not discussed: they are shot on film. Specifically images d,e, i, and s show some attention to composition and mood while the rest could be shot with a disposable camera on a whim; I think that is the downfall of many digital photographers.

    You just think differently when you have 1,000,000 shots and unlimited editing capabilities because I m shooting in RAW…. You spend more time fretting about WB, ISO noise, sharpening, saturation, compression…. With film, you know what TMAX 400 looks like. You know how to expose it. You just focus on shooting.

    Just my 2 cents, and I’ll be glad to indefinitely borrow that M9 you hate so much.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Leica M9.5 - Leica User Forum

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.