USER REPORT: The San Diego Comic-Con with an M9 and Zeiss 35 by Michael Potiker

Covering the San Diego Comic-Con with an M9 and 35mm Zeiss Biogon F2.

By: Michael Potiker

After switching to rangefinders from  DSLRs with an Rollei XF35, than a M3, and now the M9 in only 5-6 months I’ve come to really appreciate what these cameras can do, and how effective of a tool they can become in the right scenario. I picked up my M9 at Nelson Camera in San Diego, and took it to comic-con only a week or so later. In a sea of D3s lugging journalists and Gary Fong flash dome-equipped enthusiasts I was amazed I was able to generate high quality images at 1,000 ISO (every shot here is at F2) and rival every shot they were generating just with available light and the little M9 with 1 lens. Actually, after shooting this convention… I wouldn’t doubt the M9 even for event photography, and am impressed with the cameras seemingly pretty accurate meter (I shot on aperture priority with a +2/3 exposure compensation to make sure I kept all my shadow details on peoples darker costumes.

I purchased the camera for some reportage work in the slums of Managua, Nicaragua and am anticipating a great time at work there with this wonderful little art-making machine!

My photos can be seen at: and this 114 photo set can be seen in at:

My Photoblog is:


  1. These weren’t meant as “fine art” nor really as something that pushes the M9 hard (I’ve been shooting street with film RFs and that work puts this to shame… Some of it is on my blog), I was moving frequently when I took these shots so that may have to do with the focus (which looks sharp in lightroom which is strange). I wanted to share these interesting people with everybody as it’s something apart from the ordinary day to day life that we see walking around daily (thankfully). I did think they were a pretty decent example of the Zeiss 3D “pop” effect though.

    I just sent Steve another post of some of my fine art landscapes and portraiture (as well as some classic street stuff from a fair) that I’ve been working on. If it ends up going up I’m sure the “my mom could take this with mft” bashers will be a little more satisfied.

    Additionally… I just want to say I worked myself very hard, and bought and sold a few collectable cameras to be able to get the M9, I’m just lucky enough I got enough good deals on stuff I later sold that I was able to obtain the body… I’m still a photo student and I was really amazed I was able to get the camera of my dreams.

  2. I always love these “these are just snap shots not art” comments. They’re much like when a photo sells for 1million which is followed up by 1000 comments from photographers of “I could’ve taken that, thats not worth 1million bucks”.

    The same people would probably be upset that this is art:

    And wouldn’t understand the point that Duchamp was trying to make. Sure we’re all critics but whats with the need to tear people down. If it’s not your cup of tea, fine. If you have an helpful criticism great! But the whole “ugh this doesn’t look like what I consider art” is such a silly comment, and shows absolutely no knowledge of art or art history. Next you’re prob going to comment that you can take a photo of a soup can, so where’s your big pay check.

    PS I think you can really see the Zeiss pop in these shots :), Thanks for sharing them 🙂

    • As I said. Nothing wrong with the focus (on my screen). It’s just that the images are a bit bland, to my eye.

  3. Looks like you hit some nerves with your comments, Mr. Potiker! I think, in all honesty, that Damen Stephens may have hit on something about the sharpness of your images. Seems like Steve had his M9 recently back at Leica for adjusting and was rather surprised by the significant difference it made in the sharpness of his M9.
    That being said, I must agree that this images do not strike a chord with me. I still shoot with my “vintage” D2H” bodies (both professionally and personally) and find them to be as capable as the rangefinders for me. While not as quiet as a rangefinder for me it works! I have recently gone back to primes as I felt the desire to return to my roots. Oh, and for the record, I do shoot with a film rangefinder (Yashica Electro35 GS) that most people here probably laugh at but it works for me. It introduced me to the joys of rangefinders for their light weight and manual focusing and the return to being able to shoot my favorite film, Tri-X!
    So, everyone enjoy what you have and KEEP ON SHOOTING!!!!

    • Oh, and I have been a natural light shooter for over 30 years from the original Olympus OM-10 that my wife gave me through to Nikon F100’s and my current stable of Nikon and Tokina equipment. It has been an enjoyable journey which I hope has a long time to run…….

    • D2h…, Yashica Electro…, Tri-X…, sounds like you love the craft of making pictures. Doesn’t status mean anything to you? 😉

  4. These types of venues are an enigma to me. (photographically speaking)

    1. There are many many people milling about which would make composing difficult.

    2 Lots of very distracting background elements, signs, tables, merchandise etc

    3 The people. Reminds me of the time I went to a Renaissance fair thinking all these great photo ops awaited me. The visitors who dressed in costumes seemed a bit irked that cameras were pointed at them. The vendors did know how to ham it up though.

    I really like your blog… bookmarked it for later browsing. Have fun with your new kit.

    • if i’m not mistaken, i read somewhere that robert frank (an artist, and a leica shooter), said something to the effect that he’d just assume put his camera on self timer and throw it up in the air and see what resulted… if the camera wasn’t so damn expensive.

      that’s some outside the box, artistic thinking there. and i’d argue, that even the act of exercising ‘no process’… is in-fact, a very serious, practical process.

  5. Don’t forget that these d3s wielders could have easily beaten your M9 when it comes to available light shooting if they wanted – they didn’t NEED to use their huge flashes with Fong diffusers, that was just the choice they made to do so.

    • I also wonder if your rangefinder isn’t out of alignment given the softness of these images … or maybe you didn’t sharpen for the smaller web JPEGs ?

  6. Pics are fun snaps, but I could have done better with my X1. The snaps are having good color but not good focus in my opinion. The composition of the pics is not that well done either. One does not need a M9 to offer work like this to the public. IN fact the Panasonic pocket camera with the Leitz lens would be sufficient.

  7. @nymaera: 😉 not really. But it’s not really very productive to point out every mediocre (in my view) image on this blog. The art is in the eye and not in the tool, as many have rightly pointed out.

    I don’t recall any M9 or Leica bashing here, certainly not on my part. If you want Leica bashing (or moaning), go to l-forum. If there’s any bashing here (mainly in “lugging” form) it goes in the other direction.

    Whatever. Why doesn’t let you in on Daily Inspirations? Your images (that you have to sneak in in a comment) certainly justify that.

    • saint michiel… while i almost always find myself in agreement with your comments here, i was just slightly surprised to see you of all people, coming to defend what is ‘yet another slr to M9’ story, which you so passionately denounced last week. forgive me, please.

      i’m still out on here on the driving range with my ‘red-dot panny’, doing what i love… hacking away and firing off small sensor crap… lost out here in the middle of texas, god’s country… just doin what we do; wearin’ wife-beaters, drinkin’ beer and not givin’ a f**k… feel free to come on out and join, we can split a bucket and a case of beer or two.


      • “coming to defend what is ‘yet another slr to M9′ story”

        Read again? Close reading is advised with all my posts.

        You’re not wearing an expensive watch I hope, driving your way around that golfrange? They’re not up to that you know. Red dot Panny’s are of course; they’re Japanese.

  8. @mr. potiker- congratulations, on your new camera.

    @michiel- my dear friend, you were last weeks black sheep… have they flogged you into submission and fair play?

    @steve- i find that 99% of what you take as M9 bashing, is not on the camera itself, but at the images that people submit… on the apparent fallacy that spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on a camera will suddenly make you a better photographer. same as, buying nike ‘one’ balls will not turn you into tiger woods. not that they are not great balls, but 99.9% of the results lie in the person and the swing of those who hit them. and i doubt tiger would be any worse if he hit titleist pro-v1’s or dunlop’s… point being, if more people put their time and money into working on their technique, rather than their gear… they might enjoy the game more. if you’re ready to be on tour, then it makes sense to spend that kind of money on gear, but if you’re still hacking away in the driving range… i dunno…

    @joe gilbert- if you’re the kind of person who believes that quality, passion, and soul, are things that can be bought or collected. if what is special to you… is holding something that lowly peasants, by means of their bad attitude could never afford… if thats what it takes to make you feel distinct from the grotesque failings of the masses… if thats the depth of the quality of your soul… thats cool. but, should one day, that plane come crashing back down to earth… me or some other unfortunate like me, will be there… wife-beater and all, humbly and eagerly sorting through the wreckage… til we come across you and your indestructible german jewel. and oh… how we’ll dance upon finding it! oh, how those saggy pants will flap and sing amidst the flames… and oh, what a picture it’ll be!!!


    blessings and godspeed

    • Nymaera:

      No intent to imply that material things define a person; however, the cultural, spiritual and family dynamic impact one’s ability to achieve. There is no slight to others of lesser means, nor is being poor a noble virtue..

      Peace. 😉

      • well… joe, then what exactly were you implying? what do you mean by your assertion that “the cultural, spiritual, and family dynamic impact one’s ability to achieve” in relation to photography? what are you saying? what does it all mean?

        aarrgggh, i’m so confused…

        forgive me

  9. I took my M9 to Anime Expo one year. An unexpected effect was the “oh what a cute little camera” but a lot of the female attendees . . . was kind of a nice change from the usual reaction when I carry around my D3x . . . Here is a pic I took of my girlfriend at a trail near my house after the event, Summilux 50mm ASPH (not sure whether I am uploading the link correctly).


  10. I have never thought of Leica users as DSLR bashers, rather, a diverse group of people with varying means that have an appreciation for something special. When I read crass comments here, I feel like I’m on another’s blog. My Perspective; Owning and using a Leica, is akin to flying on an airline in the 60’s; easy to afford by some, while others worked, saved and sacrificed for the opportunity.

    In an age were almost everything is accessible to the masses; pride, common courtesy, the desire to compete against oneself, and to be a role model to others are often lacking. I like it better when we all dress up, act our best, and fly off in search of the next photographic opportunity. Wife beater shirts, bad attitudes and saggy pants, not invited on my flight..

    Peace… oh, and Sony is announcing some killer new stuff in a few hours!!!

  11. I enjoyed seeing what this lens can do. Thanks for putting them up. As far as the snapshot/ non art comments .. well I have to agree but still enjoyed them.

  12. Maybe it’s me but these shots don’t demonstrate any great lens superiority. Or for that matter any reason why you’d spend 7 G’s on the lens holder. Some of the

  13. People really seem to miss the point of these reports and postings. I’m quite certain that the author, in saying “art making machine” was NOT claiming his own photos as ‘art’ but rather simply commenting on the joys of using such a beautiful camera that has a lot of capability…some of which he’s having fun discovering. No one however can argue that a good camera, in the right hands with the right vision = art potential and/or realization. The Canon 5D is also an ‘art making machine’…it’s not as compact, but it has lots of features the M9 doesn’t. Same with the D3s. Who cares?

    There’s the forest, and there’s the trees….I for one am encouraged that the writer is discovering the capabilities and limitations of his new M9, and wish him all the best.

    • I agree. The M9 is highly capable of creating some amazingly artistic photos. As is the 5D, D700, etc. The m( goes about it much differently and the joy comes from the way you use it, the size, the speed, the lenses, the rendering. The list goes on. Not everyone will always agree on things but I found that 99% of all M9 bashers are ones who never owned or shot with one. Great great camera that is equally good for snapshot, reportage or pro use. Ive used it for all three with great success.

      • Steve I agree with you that 99% of M9 bashers have never used the camera I would aslo bet 99% of Leica users are not full time pro’s but photography enthuisiasts who love photography, have a large wallet and dont have to justify spending more than $10,000 on a 1 lens kit. A Leica is a want not a need !
        I’m fortunate to use a Leica M9 for my own pleasure and love using it, but wouldn’t dream of using it for my professional work which is mainly Jewish weddings. The Nikon D3s and their supurb prime lenses has revolutionised my ability to be able to shoot available light at unheard of high ISO in dimly lit synagogs and fast moving action on the dance floor.

    • Jon, Apparently the author of this piece cared enough to mention it, hence the responses. But yes, each camera has its own strengths and weaknesses, as does the photographer using the camera.(Personally loves Leica lenses, and the M9, but the camera could use a bit of a boost in the ISO department.)

  14. Thanks for putting these photos up.

    Great to see such wonderful fancy dress and people really enjoying themselves.

    you probably had a ball.

  15. I also think the bokeh is kind of distracting. The images also look rather soft. However, I do agree with the remark that you can use this camera to outperform anyone else with a pro DSLR, if done right.

  16. The focus was pretty spot on all the time, which is an achievement in itself (well; if you keep your target in the centre of your frame it gets a little easier) with a rangefinder. The rest?

  17. Honestly speaking I am not impressed by the pictures. They aren’t great neither in artists nor in technical terms. Most of them are even not properly focussed. They look like the product of a cheap point and shoot. Sorry to say this that clearly. 🙁

  18. I like the BW photo most. Very nice. On some of the other pictures I would say that the bokeh is what I would call “nervous” and that is part I like the least because it is pretty distracting. Otherwise the technical quality looks fine to me.

  19. You use a phrase that to me sums up well what a lot of Leica owners seem to think: that this overpriced camera is a “wonderful little art-making machine”.

    As these fairly pedestrian pictures show, that phrase is nonsense.

    • I agree with Jay, and will add an additional point to the ISO remark. The Nikon D3s blows away the Leica camera in regards to shooting in low light. It’s one of the best cameras just for shooting in low light. Nikon glass is no slouch either. Yes, the camera is bigger. Yes, Leica glass is lovely too, (but much higher priced), but I don’t see anything special about these shots that an APS-C sensor camera couldn’t take just as well without flash. Leica was never known for their high ISO shots. I like Leica just like anyone else, butI don’t see any art here. Just snapshots.

    • The M9 and even more so Leica M lenses are “wonderful” tools. But the art making part is left to the user. I agree with you on the pictures shown, could have been taken with mft by mom.

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