Unloading The Baggage by Eric Carlson

Unloading the Baggage

By Eric Carlson

In January, I said “Bon Voyage” to my Nikon gear: a D700, 17-35mm f/2.8, 135mm f/2 DC, and 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6. It was my Nikon “dream team”– a kit that I had lusted after for several years. Yet, it seemed as though the larger my setup grew, the less inspired and passionate I was about photography. As an aspiring wedding and portrait photographer, I found this a little unnerving. I can’t imagine the thought of pursuing anything but photography for the rest of my life… yet I was faced with a dilemma. In the weeks following the surfacing of these emotions, I did a quite a bit of soul-searching, and gave it a lot of thought. At last, I came to the conclusion: it wasn’t my love for photography that had changed, but rather, my feelings towards the tools of my trade.

Now, I’m not one of those sadomasochists that relishes and delights in pain. I didn’t particularly enjoy the sore neck or blisters I’d get on my hands after a full day of shooting with the Nikon D700. I resented the fact that, after devoting many hours to reading the instruction manual and months of using the camera on a daily basis, I still couldn’t “consistently” navigate my way through Nikon’s dense, over-saturated menus. I was disconnected from the photographic process, and I began to feel as though (and please excuse the cliché here) I was taking pictures instead of “making” photographs. I missed the sense of empowerment, the nostalgia, that using an M-system camera has to offer.

I’ve always believed that if you’re unhappy with something, you should take the necessary steps to change it, and so I did. That’s not to say I didn’t have my reservations; I was most certainly apprehensive about the transition to a different system -a different breed- of camera. While I had experience with the Leica M4 and M5, I had only brief exposure to a digital M, as my dad had purchased an M8 on Ebay, and he had graciously let me borrow it for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, it was love at first sight, and this trial period with the M9’s older brother prompted me to ditch my complicated brick of a camera in exchange for pure simplicity and functionality. I listed everything on Ebay, and it sold quickly– a week later, I had my M9.

There’s very little I can say about the M9 that hasn’t been said already, but one thing is for certain… it has reaffirmed my passion for photography, and I simply won’t leave home without it. We all know how fleeting time is, and how quickly those “decisive moments” come and go– in the blink of an eye. Countless times I’ve missed a photo-op because I left my cumbersome kit in the car or at home. I’m happy to say, those days are over.

Eric Carlson


  1. Holy research overload… I’m seriously considering selling my 5dM2 kit. And I’ve narrowed my choices based on budget (how I long for an M9!) and how I shoot: Olympus OMD / Sony NEX-7 / FujiFilm X-Pro 1

    At this point I’m driving myself NUTS. I want something that I can shoot with in low light w/o REQUIRING additional external lighting. Good QUALITY lens selection that will provide me with a good range. I don’t shoot sports – not concerned with burst rate, etc. Don’t mind manual focus (prefer it at times!).

    Yes Steve Huff – I’m asking for someone to tell me what to buy ;-D

  2. Good article. My wife decided she was fed up with the weight of her D200 and 17-55Nikkor and carrying a 180mm2.8AF around. She has traded the lot for a V1 with the 10-30 and 30-100 and is delighted. It’s a really solid well made camera and the AF/metering is great. First time we picked one up after looking at dozens of alternatives we booth had big smiles on our face. The camera just feels so right in the hand.

    OK DoF is not too great but image quality is easily up to that of the D200 or my D300. Unless you go larger than 10×8.

    If they bring out an equivalent 35 (135) or 50 with a fast aperture I might be tempted as well.


  3. Eric, I do feel the same way too for the size and weight of dSLR, for now I’m still reviewing what’s my next camera, would it be nex5, fuji x1pro, or oly om-d at the moment – can’t afford an M9 yet…

    Beside, I’m still wishing that a digital-retro-body of Nikon FM body in fx format will be born, plus an f1.2 50mils as a kit lens… maybe that will be a sweet cure hehehe…

  4. I’ve had a D700 sitting on my shelf for the last two years while I cycle through a series of compacts. I accepted the marketing hype that my D700 was way too big and heavy.

    Went through Panasonic G3, Fuji X10, Panasonic LX-3, etc etc etc. All nice in their own way. But then I start looking at the output of that D700 again, and I say, whoa.

    I pick it up and heft it. Not that heavy. I’ve carried a pair of Mamiya C330s all day long to do weddings, never thought they were all that heavy.

    I realized I’m a big baby, I fell for marketing hype, and find that the D700 with a lovely 28 Nikkor or a 50 Nikkor or even a manual focus 105 is no biggie.

    I will keep a small compact or two when I don’t think I’m going to need a camera, or maybe want only simple snapshots. But the “gigantic” Nikon is just more freeing… I don’t need to be so exact, or fuss around, or hope that this micro four thirds shot will do it.

    That’s just me. It will be curious to see what the market does in the next few years, and if we’ll see a return to the giant monster cameras, such as the D800. There has been lots of speculation that DSLRs are dead. I suggest, half-seriously, that we might have a few more concern about the long-term viability of mirrorless. Squeezed from below by compacts and above from DSLRs, will it prove to have been just a fad, eventually resolved by price and performance to nothing more than a flat and diminishing niche market?

    • +1. A D800 will be 10% smaller and lighter than a D700. Nikon believes in measured progress, not in retro.

      Still, I enjoy walking around with my FM2, FE2 of FA (or 139 Q), one prime, immensely. If only… 🙂

      • I also used a FM2n with 24, 50 and 85 for years and ended up using mostly an F3HP with 50mm1.4 on its own for three weeks in China a few years ago. One camera one lens, bliss.


  5. I must say, if you cannot afford a Leica but want digital, just buy a Nikon D5100.. That sensor is amazing! And you get in a package that you can carry on your shoulder everyday, all the time.. I have owned the D5000 for 3 years this spring and Im still amazed how good it is. With the 35mm/1.8G it´s a real gem. Especially as you can just use iso 100 (lo1 on the D5000) and just underexpose instead of raising the iso, thus saving the highlights.. Amazing for people how grew up with or/and have used mostly b&w film before digital and never experienced blown highlights, therefore hate it.
    I really hope that we will see a D5100 sized FF camera in a few years. And please, dont give me the “its impossible, the electronics take up to much space”-BULLSHIT!
    Very nice artible by the way, I recognize alot of what you write. But I wont buy a Leica until they put a Sony Cmos inside it.

    • @Danonino: and do something about the QA/petty reliabiltiy and quality issues. And that price level, which makes the M9’s target group the older and wellheeled.

      For those who prefer looking through a lens and would really like a more compact FF DSLR, there’s the D800/800E, and who knows what will follow in a few years time.

      Yes, we can.

      • I can’t help but get a kick out of how many people spout off about the M9’s “reliability/quality” issues. No doubt, most of these comments come from folks who have never owned an M9– much less seen/held one. Being previously employed by the Camera Corral in Coeur d’Alene, I can’t tell you how many Canon/Nikon repairs we saw on a regular basis. Granted, most people don’t treat their cameras like they should– thrown in bags that never see a vacuum, lenses harshly forced into their mounts, and generally man-handled. It’s no wonder that cameras these days have such a short life expectancy. I don’t care if it’s a $2,000 camera or a $20,000 camera; expecting them to to withstand that kind of punishment is expecting too much.

        • Eric, have a look at l-camera-forum, m9 section. 75% of the threads there is about faults. Discouraging to say the least.

          • I’m well aware of the Leica Forum, Michiel– I’ve been a member for several months now. There are no more threads regarding issues with the M9 than what I witnessed while I was a member of the Nikon users forum.

          • Eric, maybe the number of threads regarding problems/issues are the same, but don’t forget that Nikon probably sells 10.000 DSLRs for every Leica M9 🙂

    • There is one thing that is not so good about the d5100 and that is the inability to auto focus with the older lenses like the D-series.

  6. Good decision Eric. I traded my D3 with lenses and flash about 18months ago and i never regret my M9 purchase. I hated the weight of my Nikon combo and lost my appetite for photography. After trying a rangefinder i knew that a RF woulf bring back my joy of photography.

  7. The fact is…. Leica doesn’t make cameras that are affordable by most normal folks. I have been shooting for 40 years and made a pretty good living for awhile there, but with the m9 going for $7000 and lenses like the gorgeous 75 1.4 costing thousands also… it simply pisses me off! I used to have m4’s and m2’s and even an m7….. but a digital camera for $7000??? Frankly, I say Screw them. I think they don’t really care about real photographers, They only care about getting that kind of money from real dentists and surgeons, who are the only ones who can afford that kind of money. I’ll pray for more work, try very hard not to be too disgusted and depressed that so called stock houses now sell photos for $3.00!!, and I will maybe buy a Fuji x pro or something else they come up with one of these days. Leica is dead for me.

  8. Haha! Thanks, Ivan. I “have” tried the D700 with a 50/1.4, 60/2.8, and 135 DC (an absolute tank of a lens!), and felt no appreciable reduction in size or weight. The chassis of the D700 is robust, whereas the M9 is slimmer in its profile– perfect for my smaller hands. The fact of the matter is, even Nikon’s primes are 2/3 times larger than an M-mount lens of virtually the same focal length.

  9. Eric, another thought…one of the most common observations of photographers switching from dslr’s to M’s is that they grew tired of lugging all the heavy zoom lenses around….I almost never hear of a photographer that grew tired of his D700 and his 28mm f2.8 nikon fixed lens and swapped that for a M with the same…its always the zoom , wide and tele and sometimes a 300mmm f2.8 thrown in for ‘?’ measure that they grow tired off……when I get tired of my heavy zoom then I swop it for my lightweight (plasticky) 35mm canon lens and with the 5d minus battery pack I can almost feel that I am in ‘M’ heaven…anyway so I keep telling myself over and over again(I have almost convinced my self, just a few more years..) that this is just as good as a M….and plastic cant be all that bad, can it now….

  10. Eric, thanks for a great article and photos both of which challenge me to make more great photographs.

    @David Luttmann and Alex Pena – I’m working to understand my new Fuji X-10. What settings give you the best result?

  11. Eric, well written article and nice photographs! I am happy you found the camera you love. You are speaking my language as your story and mine are very similar!

    I do think you will have troubles with wedding photography with the M9…it can work, and there are photographers that use the M9 for weddings, but my bet is that you will miss your D700 for weddings. In the ideal world, you can have both. I am seriously considering the D800 as a back-up camera to use when the Leica is not the right tool, but the M9 will remain as my “go-to” camera for most everything else.

    Good luck, buddy, and keep on shooting!

  12. “Now, I’m not one of those sadomasochists that relishes and delights in pain.”

    course you are eric that’s why you mentioned it 😉
    perfectly fine dear friend
    many many creative open minded people like S&M

  13. Hi guys,

    interesting views expressed here but my opinion and taste is completely on the other side.

    Fast AF, good ISO handling, sharp and clear are my preferences. I am also very critical about “bukeh” as for my taste it is used much too often just to show that the lense can do it. Most times it irritates me as a viewer of photos.

    Sorry guys, Leica lenses (and Zeiss as well) don’t do it for me, much too expensive for what they can do.
    My Nikon 5 100 with kit lense costs somewhere around 7 % of an M 9 plus 2 lenses (you cannot zoom so you need 2 ) but can shoot action in the night. Everyday I am amazed what todays technology can do. I am totally digital when it comes to photography (but analog when it comes to music!). PP on a computer is THE creative tool (here I am just the beginner – PaintNet free version only). I shoot only in “P”, so I don’t care about the complicated menue, I am totally free to concentrate on the subject, light and perspective. What a liberation!
    The M 9 definetly looks better than my Nikon (who is responsible for the DSLR “design” and why has nobody yet improved this?) but with 2 lenses the weight is very similar (M 9 heavier?)

    The baby photo is very nice, the train photo you can do better with an iphone.

    If a camera still matters regarding IQ my all time favorite on flickr is the Canon D 5 mk1.Nowadays gear is not that important any more because of PP, so who knows, but the flickr D 5 mk1 photos are what in general amazes me.

    BTW my Nikon 5 100 weights less than 900 gr. I am sensitive regarding weight so I bought a 55-200 insted of 55-300 for far away because it still keeps the camera around 900 gr. (btw an excellent IQ !!)

    Big guns go to 1.6 kg or more depending on lense and are huge. I would not walk around with them too much, the 5 100 is still ok. When I buy the 5 mk 1 it will be for photos at home but the gun will also be in the car, so I will walk around with the small gun but can get the big one within minitues.

    So these are my 10 cents but nevertheless I like this web page and all the different opinions..

    Best regards

  14. Bravo Eric! And some nice photos too. I think people here on these forums really have to realize – once and for all please – that there’s a similarity between photographic instruments and musical instruments. I’ll use guitars as an example. A Fender Strat, a Gibson Les Paul, a Gretsch hollow-body, a Peavey Van Halen, and a Martin acoustic are all excellent guitars; they all have their strengths, some have tone that lends itself to certain types of music or styles….but comparing them in terms of “which is better” is completely pointless. It’s completely moot…in the hands of a skilled artist who likes his guitar (for whatever reason doesn’t matter…it’s HIS guitar), great music comes out. Don’t apologize for liking the M9 for your reasons, anymore than a guitarist doesn’t have to defend saying, “I like the Stratocaster because it has a thinner neck that fits my hands better than the Les Paul, and I like the sound for the country blues I play”. If you like your camera, if it fits your style, if it’s of good quality and optics, you’ll make good pictures. And you never have to apologize for liking the camera you do; you liked the D700, and you wanted to switch to something else..now you’re making music with the M9. Good stuff.

  15. Thanks for all the comments, guys! I certainly didn’t expect so many so soon. I realize that this is a controversial topic, and I wrote this piece with the knowledge that I’d receive a great deal of criticism from those who have a love affair with their DSLRs. There’s always going to be that point of contention, like the Ford/Chevy debate; there will never be a clear consensus. Ahem… Ford’s better, by the way.

    My intentions were not to lambaste the D700, or any other SLR, for that matter. I was simply sharing my observations and opinions. I had a good run with the D700, and it was capable of taking nice photographs– but I did not enjoy the size nor the ergonomics. It simply wasn’t the camera for me. I’m not an overly impulsive person, and I didn’t purchase the M9 on a whim, as has been suggested. I’ve owned three cameras in the past ten years– hardly the M.O. of a gearhead or someone who quickly tires of his equipment.

    I will be the first to admit that rangefinder cameras have their limitations. You certainly won’t see me photographing insects or eagles with my M9, but I’m content to work within those limitations. The M9 is not the perfect camera, but I’m convinced that it “is” perfect for me. I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and purchase an M9… but I would encourage anyone who feels hampered -instead of empowered- by their equipment, to down-size and purchase a camera that they would feel comfortable carrying with them anywhere and everywhere. I firmly believe that to be a great photographer (I don’t claim to be one, although it’s something I’m constantly striving for), you need to live and breathe photography. It needs to be a way of life, and the camera an extension of your body. I’ve found the M9’s simplicity and ease of use lends itself to this. No justification needed.

  16. We all have our preferences to whatever system we choose. I have been stopped, politely and impolitely, in shopping malls, supermarkets, wholesale clubs, deli ….. when I carry a DSLR with a petal hood attached to the 70-200. I said I “carry”, not pointing the lens in shooting posture, yet.
    Now enter the black masked M9. I have been asked a few times why I am still using this grand pa camera. Anyway these questions center along the line of grand pa vintage of this old looking camera. The mall security guards ignored me.The perfume lady in the cosmetic counter didn’t spray on me; I look too poor. The whole wholesale club is my playground. The pizza guy just keep making pizza.The police is not distracted in his ticket writing business and contribute to our city deficit reduction program. I am as innocent as I can be. Actually any point and shoot user can experience this privacy. But deep down in my heart I know what this FF camera with a 50 lux can do to extract the moment. The privacy and the optic+image quality combo further enhance my photo experience to a highly enjoyable level.

  17. interesting read from top to bottom…a lot of justification going on with whatever one uses to shoot…….its the end result that matters (the printed image on the wall)….as they say in golf, not how, but how many……dont go blaming the driver and putter 🙂

  18. A good read and am facinated by how threatened some folk get by one persons take on things.I have recently become the owner of a 2nd hand Sigma DP1 S which has nenewed my passion for photography.This little gem reunited me with the simplicity of photography thru a reasonably basic tool and because of some of its limitations i now tend to really think about the process.

  19. I use a Pentax K-5 with numerious limited primes which is as small as it gets for a DSLR + lens. Image quality is fantastic, not FF quality sure, but not bad at all. However more and more I’m using film including a cheap 1970’s Japanese rangefinder with a fixed 40mm f/1.7 lens. The photos this cheap rangefinder produces are just fantastic, and using it is a joy and the controls so so simple.

    Just saying that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a small light camera that is fun to use and can produce great images.

    • Glad the 1970’s rangefinder is working for you! I have the Yashica Electro35 GS fixed lens (45mm f1.7) that does what you talk about – so absolutely sharp images and my first film love, Tri-X!

    • Thank you, Pierre! It was actually a lucky shot. The train was barreling at me going I don’t how how fast, so I quickly zone focused, lifted the camera above the chain-link fence that was between me and the tracks, and prayed I’d get the shot. It almost looks like some smoke/snow drifts on the lower 1/3 of the photo, but that’s actually the fence, thrown out-of-focus by my 50/1.4.

  20. Congratulations, but…

    I too have an M9 that I adore and which makes my shooting day a lot more comfortable. However, I also ordered the Nikon D800 because of a few realities that come with the Leica lifestyle.

    1. Price: as camera refresh time shortens in the market, I can’t afford the new Leica every time it comes out.

    2. Availability: getting Leica products (from cameras to lenses to accessories) is a frustratingly long process. Life is simply too short.

    If any of these factors were are made less painful with time, then I will definitely become an exclusive Leica shooter.

  21. You got blisters from using your Nikon? How did you even manage to do that?!

    You also couldn’t navigate through the menus? Sounds like a personal problem right there, nothing to do with the camera. Even then, you don’t need to go into menus all that often as there are plenty of external controls. The times you do, you can always set up a quick menu to your frequently used menu options.

    You lusted after Nikon gear, but then decided you didn’t like it. Why did you lust after it then? I can see this same thing happening for you with the M9. Give it a few years when your eye sight gets even worse and you complain you can’t manually focus that well anymore. Or some trite excuse like that.

    I obviously understand the quality of the glass and even the size to an extent, but as other people pointed out, primes on other bodies are extremely sharp, offer great DOF, and are much smaller than their zoom counterparts. Complaining about menus just sounds like an elderly person not understanding a computer or cell phone because they’re ‘too old’ and don’t want to learn new tricks or keep up with the time. Guess I never realized how ‘old’ the Leica demographic is.

    Also curious to see if you do wedding work with only one M9. I’d be hard pressed to believe you could as weddings are faster paced and you realistically need two bodies to capture important moments.

    • I agree with you. Some time ago I went to shoot a wedding and was for a short moment tempted to bring my Fuji x100. But man I was glad I didn’t. Outdoors it might have worked to some extent, but indoors with the low light it would have been a disaster. Glad I brought my d700 equipped with a 24-70mm zoom and the sb900.

      I really have a hard time switching to the lightweight gear, because there are so many things that simply do not work well. Either there is no AF or AF that does not work very well in all situations, no proper viewfinder or an EVF (have yet to see a proper EVF), IQ is mediocre (not M9 of course), silly low resolution LCD like the one on the M9 etc. etc. This is too many compromises when being used to a machine that just works every time and in all situations.

      But I’m sure that will change to some extent in the coming years.

      • My first compacts with EVFs were crap (as their LCD displays were), but could be used for framing purposes, but things have moved a long way since then!

        The first EVF for the Olympus PEN range was a revelation (that is, the VF-2, not the cheaper VF-3), but the ‘True Finder’ for the NEX-5N is stunning, and there are even better soon available on the market. Same chip, as the ‘True Finder’ is integral in the hard to find NEX-7, and some other Sony CSCs.

        There are even similar chips, avilable now, with over 4MP resolution – amazing!

        • Well, EVFs may become better and better, but the VF-2 is crap in my opinion and so is the EVF in the X100.

          Maybe it is just me, but I have always preferred a real viewfinder like the one in the X100 or D700. EVFs just give a very weak and very distorted copy of what can be seen through OVF.

  22. Beautiful images! My rebellion against digital complexity and DSLR weight and bulk was the Nikon FM3A. Of course, that means having to wait a while to see my images, so an eventual acquisition of a digital camera using M lenses is in my long-range plans. The leading contender, at the moment, is the GXR. (I use Canon DSLRs at work; that is unlikely to change, do to the need to shoot macro and at night.)

  23. All these anecdotes about big, heavy equipment stifling the joy of photography is part of what kept me from getting a DSLR in the first place and pushed me to the E-P1 back in 2009. Every time I do a photo walk and see how much weight everyone else is carrying, I’m all the more sure I made the right decision for myself (I certainly don’t think that mirrorless cameras are right for everyone; just that they’re right for me).

    • @Rhith: Don’t believe everything you see written on the internet. Think for yourself, make your own choices.

      I did.

    • Yes, the E-P1 is small and nice to carry around no doubt about it. But it is always a compromise. A high end DSLR would give you so much better IQ, focus system etc. etc. (long list could follow here) and also a lot more weight and bulk of course, but if you are happy with the E-P1 then everything is fine, because that is what really matters (being happy with what you have got).

      • Yeah, I absolutely compromised when I went with the E-P1, but they were the compromises I was happy to make to get a camera that worked for me. I was looking to buy a DSLR for 2 years before I got the E-P1, and I never could work up the enthusiasm to pull the trigger because I never felt that they were for me. When I saw the E-P1, I knew it was the camera for me. When you know, you know. The fact that I can carry a camera+lens & 2 more lenses in a bag that was designed to carry just a crop sensor DSLR with a lens on it is a pretty nice benefit.

        Do I wish I had the fast AF, larger sensor, and broad lens selection of a DSLR? Sure. But then again, I haven’t been too let down image quality-wise with the E-P1 (really only when it comes to high ISO performance). In fact, I’m quite happy with the 16×20’s I’ve printed, and several of them were even shot in JPG, not RAW. I’m liking the lenses I have (specifically, the Olympus 9-18, Panasonic 20mm, and Olympus 45mm). The newer micro four thirds are pretty solid in AF performance and have much improved high ISO noise, as well, so when it’s time to upgrade (say, the day the OM-D comes out), I think most of my concerns will be addressed.

        Do I occasionally wish that I had a DSLR? Not a crop framer, but yeah, I’d like to have a full frame something-or-other at some point in the indeterminate future. But right now, I’m content to stick with this smaller format.

        Now when I had the opportunity to use an M9 a while ago . . . yeah, that certainly caused me to do some budget planning. 😀 Fortunately for my bank account, I decided that Leica wasn’t quite for me. Well, maybe. Let’s see what they announce at Photokina 😉

  24. Hej Eric, greetings from Sweden!

    Lovely shots!

    Seems you made a wise choice. A long time ago I (a mere teenager then) had a fairly complete SLR kit, and only once took it backpacking, as it was just too heavy, even in my prime, so instead I bought two Minox 35s (the world’s smallest fullframe camera), with an excellent lens (rumoured to be designed by Leica), and I used them till they fell apart. After that I bought other compacts (Konica Big Minis), all bigger and heavier than the superb Minoxes. From those I moved to digital compacts (Konica KD-500W), and eventually tired of dust inside digital compacts, so now I mostly use my Poorman’s Leica: Sony NEX-5N. Before the NEX-5N came out I diverted into DSLRs, but I must say I like small *Limited’ lenses, so I use many of my Pentax FA primes on the NEX-5N. Let’s hope Pentax (or Sony) makes a mirrorless FF camera soon!

  25. I am always amazed at stories like this where people blame their lack of inspiration on their gear. The typical “There is so much more possibilities with prime lenses then those big F2.8 pro zooms, so heavy and uninspiring”. I have a D700 and a few primes that I use with it. I never feel like I need a zoom (much less so a 80-400!). If I change my D700, it will probably be for a D800. And I can already tell you that I will not get lost in the Nikon menu as I use the A setting 99.9% of the time. I can see myself with a 36 MP camera and my beloved 24mm f1.4 (most of the time I don’t even carry any other lens).

    • That 1.4/24 is amazing, I agree. I’ve been thinking about the D800, but decided (I think) not to go for it. I’ve got 5 fast primes (24, 28, 35, 50 and 85) for the D700, two of them manual focus (no prizes for guessing which ones), and would have had to sell the two manual focus ones plus the D700 to finance the D800. And a new laptop fro those gigantic files? LoL!

      Still pretty tempting though…

      • You are right regarding the computer! My MacBook Pro is already suffering with the 12MP RAW files of the D700…I guess that a D800 with a 24mm f1.4 and a new MacBook Pro is still much less than a M9…

        • Ha ha! Could be true…

          For anyone else: if you want to have an “interesting” time, have a look at the M9 section of l-camera users forum; it’ll give you an insight into the delights of using an M9.

  26. Nice post, but I think what you went through is what every photographer goes through once they hit the “professional” mark. Once the thing that you did out of passion becomes your livelihood, all the pressures that comes along with it drains the passion. Which is why most if not all professionals have several different cameras and camera types.

    I for one vacillated between “full auto DSLRs” and the M9, after spending years of selling off suites of cameras and re-buying them (losing money along the way). I’ve settled on this methodology which works for me. During my day-to-day work, I use a Nikon D3 and Canon 5D, mostly because much of my work is event based and I have to guarantee my clients perfect shots at the end of each event. But, for my personal work and experimentation I use the M9 and a variety of cheap film cameras and Polaroids. With the M9 it forces me to “know what I’m doing” before I press the shutter. With the cheaper film and polaroid cameras is there is a certain serendipity about the results, which you can afford when a paycheck isn’t on the line.

    • Nicely put, Derek. When I was a fulltime staffer, I fell in love with my D2H bodies which I still use as a freelancer but also have a Yashica Electro35 GS for personal shooting. While it does not have a manual capability, it does force me to think before I shoot. After all, this is film and not just a bunch of electrons I am collecting. After years of using the heavy, fast zooms needed for work, the little Yashica has really slowed me down and forced me to try and “see” as the fixed lens does. It is challenging, at least to me.

  27. You are so right. I always say if the camera with lens were smaller and lighter all photographers would take more photographs. And also if cameras are smaller we can take them anywhere anytime without attracting attention.
    Not just a camera, but a compact camera which can take pictures as good or even better then DSLR’s. I was in a airplane at night and as we were taxiing to takeoff I would have got the most beautiful shoots of the all the runways with lights on from my window, wish I had my Sony Nex 5n.
    All that people are asking the camera makers is to put the same sensor as in Nikon D3S in a body of Sony NEX, and then find a way to shrink the fast prime zoom to the size of 18-55 E mount lens.

    • Some people prefer looking through a lens to looking through a parallel viewfinder. It’s a matter of preference. And yes, wouldn’t I like to have a full frame dslr of D700/D800 quality, with the size and weight of an FM2/FE2 (or FA, ha ha).

      Technically speaking, that’s not possible, although the D800 is actually an amazing step in that direction. 10% smaller and lighter than a D700, 3 times as much megapixels (whatever you think of that), etc etc. You have to applaud Nikon for doing that.

      • Sony R&D, are you listening NEX body, D3S Sensor, build in flash, fast and accurate auto focus like v1 and compact fast prime zoom lens.

  28. This is so tiring.

    The images are very good (the baby’s picture looks a bit strange though; lots of pp?), but why does the OP have to accompany them with bashing another camera?

    Let’s stick to the positive side of making images and using equipment, without expressing the need to justify yóur choice of equipment by bashing something else.

    Oh, and to those who feel you can’t do “real” photography with a (D or not) SLR? You’re wrong.

    • I agree…I think it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. I had a 5dII and sold it for an M9. Glad I did, because I was tired of the big mega zooms but that’s just me. I just sold my M9 though…too limiting and missed AF too much for what I do. I plan to get back into the DSLR world (maybe a d800?) and get some nice primes to match. Honestly, I think what people with new rangefinder kits like the most are the wide-open shots and they just aren’t used to seeing those kind of images that they can produce with shallow DOF. If only they would have ditched their f/3.5-4 or whatever zoom before hand and tried a fast prime.

      If you have a DSLR and you think the features are getting in your way, maybe ditch the slow zoom and take it off program mode first.

      • I have no idea where that preconception “big heavy DSLR with big heavy zoom” comes from. I have no zooms (except for the one with my RTSIII, ha ha), and “work” with fast primes only on my D700. I’m not physically challenged (though old), and I’m not a complainer. I enjoy using it and switch to and fro with my analogue slr’s (with fast primes). I don’t feel the need to begrudge anyone’s choice of equipment, and I don’t feel the need to publicize my own complaints, were I to have any.

        Cheers to all photographers! 🙂

        • P.s.: I use my (D-) slr’s on aperture priority or manual only. I choose my ISO value according to film (Delta 3200 @ 6400, f.i. 🙂 ) or, on th eDSLR, situation. I make mistakes there, as anyone (not being a professional photographer) would.

          But I enjoy it.

    • True to a point, although I’m surprised that he bought the Nikon in the first place given his apparent despise of the usage. I wonder if he felt so strongly about the Nikon when he had just purchased it. It’s amazing how many people mistake the creative surge one gets from the novelty factor of the new with actual “better”. Plus as a number of people are pointing out he went from dslr and zooms to Rangefinder and primes, that rather a large change.
      If he’s using all this to explain to the other half (or himself) why he used to have loads of camera stuff and now he only has one camera and lens and a lighter bank account then maybe he just needs to be a little more honest, if only with himself. We don’t mind you buying the thing, enjoy it, just don’t say the reason you did was because it makes photographs more than takes them. It’s the photographer who makes the photographs not the camera, reassess your geek / artist ratio.

      • Expertly put, MarK! I will give up my well-worn D2H bodies (one have over 165,000 clicks w/o a shutter replacement) when they pry them from my cold, dead hands!!!

    • Right on, Michiel! I have considered “lightening” the load but I love my old Nikon D2H bodies and know them like the back of my hand. Oh, and by the way, I will be 65 this year and can still be found carrying TWO D2H bodies as I hate changing lenses and having to clean the sensors (yes, I do my own sensor cleaning). I would rather grab a second body with different lens – for me it is quicker than carrying around a second lens and having to change. The shot is usually gone by the time one can change lenses. As a fan of the “decisive moment”, when I see something I need to get it NOW, not after changing lenses.

      • Thanks Rich; I assume you visit the gym daily to accomodate your hobby… 🙂

        I’ll be 60 this year, and I don’t mind admitting that, for instance, using a D700 + 1.4/85 (that’ll be 1.7 kgs; thank you) for an extended period for for instance portrait work doesn’t go unnoticed by your arm muscles. 😉

        But walking around with one prime fitted, on a wrist strap, taking pictures every now and then (typical Leica M routine)? Light as a feather.

  29. 10 years ago, i started shooting with a film SLR. It last about 2 years and half. It was getting expensive with all the films and prints i had to make so i could get 1 or 2 good photos. So i bought a snapshot and most of the time, my snapshot stayed at home because it was slow and picture quality was so bad. Last year i finally took a step and bought a D7000. It was so nice to finally get good picture quality. So i shooted and shooted a lot! But same thing happened again. I could get one or two good photos everytime i went out, but instead of 24 or 36 pictures taken, i was taking 100-200 pictures. I realise i wasn’t taking enough time to take a picture. I won’t buy a M9 yet, but for now on, i will try to take my time to compose my picture. The new OM-D EM5 is very interesting though. I might get rid of my D7000 and go for the OM-D. I’ll wait for the review, then i’ll decide

  30. well, i’m with you too. Well, in my price range)
    i sold my Nikon d40+35mm 1.8 and bought Olympus EP-1+14-42+17mm pancake – poor man’s leica

    best regards

  31. Just sold off my d7000 kit for an X100 and Nikon V1 outfit… happy as a pig in slop. Only problem I have now is even my Domke F-3x is too big!
    I’d love to buy a Leica, but this was cheaper than a single ‘cron.

  32. I’m with you Eric. I sold off my heavy and overly complicated Canon system a few months ago, and my M9 should be at my local dealer this week. Like you, the weight, bulk, and complexity was just getting in the way…I was definitely “taking pictures” instead of “making photographs”. Excellent work, both the writing and photography. All the best to you!

  33. Are you giving up the pursuit of pro wedding photography, or using the Leica there, too?

    BTW, Those are beautiful images, thanks for sharing.


    • Thanks, Jeffrey! I appreciate that. I’m going to “gradually” break into weddings with the M9, with the intention of using it exclusively eventually– there are certainly plenty before me who have done the same. I’ll probably borrow my Dad’s D300S to use as a second camera, just to cover my rear for my next wedding in March, and will accompany several other wedding photographers as a second-shooter in the meantime, using only the M9.

  34. Nice statement on switching! I had a similar exeprience. I loved my D700–could shoot at ISO 4000 all night and get amazing results–but the weight and overall experience wasn’t super-satisfying. My gateway drug was a used M8 and now an M9… I can’t imagine going back to a DSLR!

    Happy shooting! Cheers!

  35. One thing a lot of these folks compare when they dump their DSLRs, is a DSLR kit with a large amount of lenses, and a lot of big fat zooms. Then they compare it with a compact M-kit with some prime lenses. If that’s the case, one might try some prime lenses on your DSLR first and give that a go. A nice f/1.4 prime on your DSLR is going to feel a lot different than a big f/2.8 zoom.

    • I agree with Jonny, although it’s a good article. It always seems everyone goes from one end to the other …an SLR with a good prime can be smaller and lighter than a m4/3 body and a few lenses…

      Good post though…

    • While I still have my f2.8 zoom lenses for the occasions that I need/want them, I have also started using more fast primes for lighter weight on my “vintage” Nikon D2H bodies. Using the primes has slowed me down to as I am from the old school of “fill the frame” photojournalism. Now my “zoom” is my own two legs….

    • That’s what I do. My D700 is loaded with a 35, 50 and 85 prime….no zooms. I understand what the OP is saying though. I recently purchased a Fuji X10. It’s not the best sensor, nor AF, nor anything. But it’s small, light, and the files are great even at 11×14. I’ve fallen in love with using this little camera.

      • I too ditched my Nikon DSLR for the Fuji x10 and it was truly a liberation I was feeling I needed to go out with a box lunch to shoot now I just slide my X10 in my coat pocket and that’s it ! I would love to give the Fuji XPro1 a try ! However the X10 gives so much flexibility with it’s practical 28-112 range you can do anything from landscape to portrait to street photo with a twist of the wrist !

        Have fun and go out !

      • I’ll be getting the Fuji X10 tomorrow. I’m very excited about this camera too. I love the pictures that come out of it.

        • I am pretty certain you will love the Fuji X10 as it is a beautiful little camera with superb build quality – it even surprised me when I opened the box. It also has very good image quality considering the size of it’s sensor, but the settings need to be carefully considered and studied, as it has a tendency to blow out highlights.

          The camera seems to taking a pasting on the Fuji internet forums, due mainly to the dreaded white orbs caused by street lights at night, and reflections off water and other reflective surfaces in bright sunlight, but I have yet to see them in my pictures, although I do think the problem exists, and Fuji have admitted so but say the sensor is within specifications.

          This little Fuji is my favourite camera, and I have quite a few including a Sony A850 full frame, but when I go out it is the X10 I pick up.

          Anyway, Elaine. enjoy your X10, and let us know how you get on with it.

          Best wishes,


    • I shoot almost all primes on my 5d2, but reality check: my m9 and all three of its lenses fit into a smaller space than the canon with just one lens.

      Sure, slr primes are a little bit smaller than fast zooms, but a ff dslr kit just isn’t in the same size league as a leica. Yes, it has other advantages, but then, so does the rangefinder.

      And aside from the convenience, with so much less camera to squeeze between you and your subjects, you tend to be able to work closer and in a more relaxed way.

      • I went from a D300 to a X100. Then had a M9 for a few months, but sold both the Fuji and the Leica, and are now only using the X10. I found that I prefer a small and compact kit. The X10 feels okay, but I may go for the next D-Lux5 as I love the lighter gear.

  36. . . so true , our studio shoots both Nikon & Canon ( always their flagship pieces ) we currently have the new bodies of each on order & I just recently added the Nikon D800 .
    We do require these type of cameras period , however buying them is like buying a dishwasher – they simply don’t excite me anymore , their price is stupid – when considering that in 18 – 24 months they will only make a good door stop .
    I agree with you all , when I shoot my M9 w/50,1.4 – the consentration level is a much more pleasant photo experience, Ithink more & I do SEE more .
    I too am currently doing much soul-searching w/regards to canceling all these Nikon orders , I have almost completely convinced myself that neither of these new cameras will do anything to improve my passion for photography.

  37. I just did this same thing with my D700 + Lenses. However, my budget isn’t quite high enough for Leica glass and camera, so I’m going with the NEX-7 + M glass. My hope is your result: a return of my passion for photography. Good luck with the M!

    • Be careful with your choice of M glass on the NEX 7. Many lenses are great but some are less than fulfilling.

      The 5N works well with just about any M glass.

      The Ricoh GXR is great with M lenses also and would be first choice if high ISO were not a primary consideration.



  38. Thanks Eric and a big congrats! I cannot afford the Leica M at this point but did pre-order the Fuji X-Pro 1 last night from B&H Photo for much of the same reasons. And I too may just be ditching my Nikon gear. The simplicity of the menus, the manual shutter dial, the light weight, a real optical viewfinder all make my heart sing and long for the days when I first fell in love with photography back in the 1980s. I plan on using this camera to shoot professionally too since I am a photojournalist. Thanks for the inspiration and thanks Steve!

  39. Wow! It’s like the author was reading my mind. I had the same Nikon gear as he did and felt the same way emotionally. I want to a nex 7 and the Zeiss 24 mm lens as my vision does not allow my to use legacy glass. I am feeling a great unburdening with this combo and the image results are terrific.

    • That Zeiss lens is special. I love it on my 5N and feel it matches up well with my Leica M lenses for overall IQ.



    • Haha! Thanks, John. The portrait is actually of my Dad with his M8– feel free to poke fun at him. As for me… well, I haven’t made the mistake of shooting with the lens cap on in at least a week or two. 😉

  40. I just bought a D700 and love it I use manual focus lenses mostly with ithe D700 and it is a beast to lug around but I also have an M9 and I just put my D700 away after doing some portraits in the wild and reloaded my bag with my M9 which is considerably lighter I just lent the Leica to a artist friend who still only shoots Leica film for three days to see how he liked it (no decision yet except instant gratification ) I just wasn’t getting what I wanted from My M9 then iI started jones ing for the M9 and got it back now I am going to see if I can get what I want now from this tool if not I will be selling the M9 and staying with the big slr

  41. Thanks for sharing your story Eric. I think you’ve spoken so eloquently in how I too feel about my passion for photography and by having the right tool makes all the difference in the world. My Nikon gear still sits in the bag as it became too cumbersome for me to carry. However, I’m still trying to convince my better half that it needs to go! I guess she knows that it will just be turned into another lens maybe for my GXR A12 mount (poor man’s Leica body) kit! ; )

  42. Enjoy the the “new” solution. Its nice to rediscover the simple joys of photography.

    I suggest some caution or rather some care in protecting your love of photography or the joy of picture-taking when moving to the “professional” stuff. I did that two years ago and it drained all photographic joy from my life. I shot weddings, portraits, some architectural stuff and it was good but the fun disappeared. Soon after that I stopped.

    An X100 brought back some of that basic pleasure 🙂


    • I feel the same way. The X100 has brought back the joy of photography for me. Something that I was missing with my fancy pants, beast, camera that weighed to much for me.

  43. Could not agree with you more Eric. I’m fed up with Nikons lumpy kit and am waiting to see what Leica comes up with later on this year. Thanks for your post

  44. Nice, another good post to tell all those not so dependant upon the tool as a money making device that it’s more about the why than it is about the how.

    Just don’t forget to take that lens cap off. 🙂

    • Thanks, Ulrik. When you offer full coverage of a wedding, as I do, you’re often shooting from eight o’clock in the morning until midnight (or whenever the festivities are over). My day doesn’t end until the bride and groom are ready to retire. On average, I’m holding a camera from 15-17 hours a day (coupled with a heavy lens like the 80-400 or 135 DC– an absolute tank!), and the friction caused between the rubber grip and the web of my hand causes it to become tender and blister. It’s calloused over time, but it never fails; my hand is “always” sore the next day.

        • With a full-frame camera, 400mm isn’t nearly as long as you’d think. When you’re shooting Catholic weddings, which often require you to be far behind the altar (and sometimes up on a balcony) you need all the reach you can get.

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