USER REPORT – A Visit to India with the Leica M9 by Bob Boyd

USER REPORT – A Visit To India with the Leica M9 by Bob Boyd

Hey Steve,

Hope you’re doing great. I just returned from southern India last week. It was, to put it mildly, an unforgettable trip. Amazing people, and so much amazing color. I just wanted to share a few of the shots with you.

I went with co-workers to check on schools our church had funded for some of India’s neediest children – including one in Pondicherry – an area directly impacted by the tsunami in 2004. No doubt, need is evident on some of these busy city streets but there is also hope in the bright eyes of the beautiful children.

Full photoblog of the trip posted here:

The sun rises on snow-capped mountain peaks on our way from Houston to India:
M9, Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon
A boy flashes a smile as we drive next to a city bus:
M9, 90mm Summarit
Children playing and flying kites on the rooftops in Hyderabad:
Canon 1D4, 85mm f/1.2L II
A street beggar in Hyderabad amid the bright lights of nighttime traffic:
M9, 50mm Summilux pre-ASPH, ISO 2500
A young girl on her way to class:
Canon 1D4, EF 35mm f/1.4L
A rickshaw driver in Hyderabad:
M9, 35mm Summilux ASPH
One of the students flashes an bashful smile:
M9, 90mm Summarit
One of the places we visited was called “Pipe Village”. Families of workers from a concrete pipe factory have converted large drainage pipes into living quarters. M9, 35mm Summilux ASPH
One of the matriarchs of “Pipe Village”:
M9, 35mm Summilux ASPH
A beautiful mom and 2 of her girls in Pipe Village:
M9, 35mm Summilux ASPH

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  1. WOW thank you for posting this now i can see how images should be rendered such a difference from the other india reportage with the Sony RX1. That camera produces hideous files compared to the M9 rig. Today i am getting by with a Olympus OM-D and a analog Leica M2 probably swapping them for a M9.

  2. Hi. I absolutely love your work, and would like to use your image of the beautiful mom and girls for a brochure of Corporate Social Responsibility of a corporate in India. It is for use only in India, a one time use, and would greatly appreciate you getting back to me on the possibility and terms.
    Thanks so much

  3. Never thought I’d see my city on here, and great pictures Bob! Stunned at their quality! How’d you find the traffic in Hyd?

    • Ha – so great that someone for Hyderabad saw the post! Loved your city, especially loved the people, and the traffic was crazy! 🙂 Made me consider using my horn a lot more in the states! 😉

  4. Ikeeplooking for a camera to use my Leica lenses, seems like the m9 is quite capable to do that…lol

  5. Dear Bob,

    very nice photos.

    Even more important is the purpose of your trip!!!

    I read somewher that Ghandi was so upset about the cast system that he cleaned toilets throught his life as this was the job of the lower cast.

    Strange that nearly all Indians regards him as the “Father of the Nation” but fall so short in understanding his message.

    On this page here I cannot see that Canon glass is inferior to Leica. I see that the photographer makes the difference, not the gear.

    Best regards

  6. The photos are wonderful, and the Leica glass makes the Canon glass look mushy. I’ve never seen this before. Were the Canon shots just mis-processed, or is the what you’re always talking about Steve? If so, I need to sell my Nikon gear and get some Leica glass now!

  7. Is it just me, or does the mother in the last photo look a lot like Julia Roberts?
    Anyways, fantastic photos.

  8. Beautiful photos, all of them. But there’s something extra special about your ones taken with the 35 summilux, you’ve got some chemistry with that set up 😉

    • Thanks Twitch. I agree on the 35 lux asph. I came very close to selling it at one point and I’m so glad I didn’t. Some of the images I got on this trip with it are some of my faves.

  9. Hi Bob, good stuff, must have been a truly humbling trip.

    With the night street beggar pic, have you done much post to make the noise look so nice and clean at ISO 2500 or did you choose to overexpose it and pull back the DNG? As someone happy to shoot my Canon Mk IV’s at ISO 3200, I’ve been scared to take my M9 above ISO 1250 with the results I’ve managed so far. But on seeing your pic there’s a lot more quality in the Leica’s high ISO files than I thought…

    Many thanks, Matt

    • Thanks Matt. Yeah, I noted the ISO on that pic because I don’t usually venture that high either but I thought it worked here. Fast AF and high ISO were the main reasons I took the 1D on the trip as well but I didn’t have it with me at this moment. I needed a lot of light and gain to get that moment so the 50 was wide open at 1.4, shutter at 1/24. The fairly simple meter in the M can underexpose a complicated scene like this with a bright background so I had dialed in +1 2/3 exp comp here to get enough gain on her face. I didn’t reduce the exposure in post. No NR was added in post either and (IMO) any texture in the mid tones work works appropriately with skin tones here.

      • Thanks Bob, yes it works great in your pic, I’m going to crank it up to 2500 and go play. The great thing about rangefinders is their ability to help make nailing focus in low light easy. The top-end Canon and Nikon bodies are ahead in terms of ISO quality, but their AF systems struggle in the kind of light you shot that pic in. Using the AF assist beam on an ST-E2 helps a little but not too much. I’ve also found manually focusing using live view a reliable alternative but only practical with stationary subjects. I’m really hoping a future M10 will have a decent jump in ISO quality to open up more possibilities with candid night shooting…
        Thanks for taking the time to reply so helpfully.

  10. Bob, these are amazing shots. For those that have not done so, do yourself a favour and go through all the pictures on Bob’s blog, I did (3 times). Bob, the photos you have up here are stunning but there are some in your blog that are just some of the best photos I have seen in a long, long time. Even better than the ones you have up here. Bravo my friend.

    • Thanks so much Stephen. When you get emotionally attached to the people and the moments in pictures, it’s so hard to pick favorites some times. Thanks for the kind words and for taking the time.

    • Thanks so much Jason. I will never forget Pipe Village. By western standards, they live with very little but are a very happy and social village. One of the missionary organizations we work with works directly with them and was even able to help a beautiful young girl that lived there when she needed open heart surgery. She’s the last shot on my blog if you get a chance to check it out. They came out and sang some songs and visited with us while we were there. Just beautiful people.

      • I just did, very touching story, a beautiful smile.

        I would highly recommend checking out Bob’s Blog if you haven’t already done so, stunning images………

      • instead of relying on your church to build the schools, i suggest you sell your slew of photographic equipments and use the money & donate it to the people in India.. i’m quite sure with the gear you used, it’s going to fetch high dollar amounts equivalent, if not more than, most of any Indian’s annual salary..

        o btw, your title says Leica M9, you maybe forgot to mention you brought your 1d4 + lens because it appeared in your captions..

        • Thanks for the comment Kurt. I’m not relying on the church to do something for me, I’m participating in an ongoing mission project with it. There’s a big difference. My wife and I have worked for and actively supported this financially for over 20 years.

        • Instead of making snarky comments, you might consider following Bob’s example and doing something for someone other than yourself, Kurt.

        • Kurt, what people do with their own money is their own choice. Just giving away 10,000$ will not solve India’s problems completely. On the other hand, taking beautiful photos and spreading the word to million others will bring awareness.

          I feel your comments are guided by your own inability to afford the high end photography equipments, if not, you have not done much research into the issues of India.

          -Jai Hind.

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