Shooting with the Leica M9-P

The Leica M9-P with the Summilux-M 50mm/1.4 lens.

In light of the speculation surrounding the upcoming Leica press event in Berlin - expectation is high for an M10 announcement - a few of us here in dpreview's Seattle office took the opportunity to shoot briefly with the Leica M9-P and a selection of current M lenses. In this article we'll share our experiences using the Leica rangefinder system, not in the context of our normal studio tests and analyses, but out in the real world as a photographic tool.

Working with a rangefinder system

As anyone who's ever shot with a Leica M - or any rangefinder camera for that matter - can tell you, doing so is a vastly different photographic experience than shooting with an SLR. Setting manual focus via a 'focussing rectangle' located in the center of the optical viewfinder means that you'll often be using a focus-recompose technique or relying on zone focusing with the lens stopped down to a relatively narrow aperture.

And unlike the 'tunnel-vision' of an SLR, a rangefinder lets you look beyond the scene, with framelines superimposed in the viewfinder.

Seen through the viewfinder, the outer framelines shown here represent a 35mm field of view. These are paired with 135mm field of view framelines visible towards the center of the image.

With a rangefinder you turn the focus ring of the lens until objects in the the center 'focussing rectangle' (shown here in white) appear in perfect alignment in the viewfinder.

Experienced rangefinder shooters can work surprisingly quickly even without all of the electronic focusing aids and multiple metering modes that come standard on other modern cameras. Seeing beyond the edges of the 'frame' allows you to anticipate action and for many, triggers a much more critical sense of composition, in which more options are likely to be considered before releasing the shutter.

The Leica M9-P

The M9-P is a subtle revision of the Leica M9, which is itself the second generation of Leica digital rangefinders. Both cameras are identical in operation, image quality and in nearly all other technical specifications. The only significant hardware difference is an updated scratch-resistant rear LCD on the M9-P with an anti-reflective coating to reduce glare. In a nod to shooters who prefer discretion when carrying around a $8,000 camera, the M9-P also sees the removal of the famed red dot  and the 'M9' moniker from the front camera plate.

The Leica M9-P with (from left) the Summicron 90mm/2.0, Summilux 50mm/1.4, Summilux 35mm/1.4 and Super Elmar 21mm/3.4 lenses.

The design and form factor of the M9-P hews closely to the template Leica has embraced since the start of the M series back in 1954. The M9 and M9-P are Leica's first full frame digital rangefinders. They feature an 18MP CCD sensor that forgoes an anti-aliasing (AA) filter. In theory, the omission of an image-softening AA filter should translate into greater detail resolution. The downside is that without this filter, the sensor is more prone to color moiré artifacts.

A focal-plane shutter with metal blades... ...sits in front of an 18MP full frame CCD sensor.

Of course, a big draw of any Leica rangefinder is its compatibility with the highly regarded (and very expensive) collection of Leica M-mount lenses. Known for their uncompromising optical standards and robust build quality, these lenses have gained a sterling reputation through the work of photographers such as Cartiér Bresson, Elliott Erwitt and Sebastião Salgado, to name but three. The M9 and M9-P provided M lens owners  the long-awaited opportunity to use these optics with the field-of-view they were designed for, on a Leica digital rangefinder.

Handling and operation

The M9-P features a minimalist external control layout that gives you access to critical shooting parameters and nothing more. The viewfinder is largely free of electronic data, save for the shutter speed when in Aperture-priority mode, a temporary confirmation of any exposure compensation adjustment and over/under-exposure indicators in manual mode.

The camera's external controls fall nicely in hand. Build quality is exceptional, with a magnesium alloy frame and solid brass top and bottom plates adding welcome stability without feeling unnecessarily heavy. The camera's compact size means it can fit in a small shoulder bag, and its light weight - compared to a full frame DSLR - means that you won't need to to visit a chiropractor after a day spent walking with the camera around your neck. A bright viewfinder allows for quick and accurate focus even in low light. Engraved depth of field markings on the lenses make zone focusing relatively simple.

The M9-P embodies nearly all of the traits that make film-era Leica M models such great analog cameras. Concessions to the needs and conveniences related to digital camera use, however, are few and far between. The user interface design is where we struggle most with the M9-P. Every other 4-way controller we've ever seen includes an 'OK' button at its center. Here there is nothing but what looks to be a placeholder for a button that was going to go there at some point. Instead, you're forced to continually confirm settings with the 'Set' button which is rather inconveniently placed on the opposite side of the camera body. And the awkward process of adjusting ISO, in which you must continue holding the ISO button while using the 4-way controller or dial to navigate the choices, never ceased to be frustrating.

Both the M9 (shown here) and the M9-P continue the Leica M tradition of a removable base plate. Users will become all too familiar with its removal, as both the SD card and the battery are housed beneath it.

Also on the list of things we'd love to see improved upon in an M9-P successor is a higher resolution rear LCD screen. The 230k dot resolution of the M9-P is quite low by current standards and makes critical image evaluation virtually impossible. The camera is also rather slow in writing to the SD card, which means a delay in reviewing images even in single-shot mode. And removing the entire bottom plate cover just to get to the SD card can lose its charm rather quickly.

Click here to continue reading our article on Shooting with Leica M9-P...

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Comments

Total comments: 647
1234
JordanAT
By JordanAT (May 7, 2012)

I understand the draw of the Leicas, but the modern world of digital photography makes them less valuable for precisely one reason: the film. When you bought a Leica, or a pro level Nikon or Canon, in the past, you were buying a piece of finely engineered equipment which very well may last for decades, shooting film that matched your event or artistic desire.

Today, even the pro level cameras are throw-away devices. The premium you pay for the pro gear gets you the best sensors, advanced processing, and - yes - a bit of bragging rights. But how many Pros - or even amateurs - are looking to pick up a even a D3? When you can't replace the film in the camera, and the film of today is 4-10X better than that of 5 years ago, you've created a disposable.

The best glass in the world will not get three more stops past f/1.4, or reduce the noise on the sensor, or increase your resolution by a factor of 3. Ever. Until Leica sells a $2000 "core" upgrade, it's just an $8k obsolete camera.

6 upvotes
makofoto
By makofoto (May 7, 2012)

I use to have an M4-P but found I rarely used it. I preferred my SLR's, even though it's lenses were truly outstanding. The M9 is a dinosaur simply because of it's lack luster high iso performance. And if anything, that's exactly what that camera cries out for. Today there are so many cameras that can take it's place for a lot less money, ie. Fuji's range finder offerings, etc.

1 upvote
gartenzwerg
By gartenzwerg (May 7, 2012)

Some say Leica is for the cabinet. Just the opposite is true.

My M9-P chrome is light, very small and absolutely unobstrusive.
I even get compassionate questions sometimes why i am still shooting analog and if i can´t afford a digital camera... So in street photography you can be completely "under the radar". Nobody takes you serious...

With the Leica the people being photographed seem to have an positive attitude (you even can keep eye contact), while with an huge DSLR they feel much more like being "shot".

The IQ is superb.

With mFT or APS-C you just don´t have the opportunity to have that shallow depth of field which I very much like sometimes.

With the Leica I photograph MUCH more than with my DSLRS because she is nearly always with me. The Canon FF stayed mostly at home in the "cabinet", because the Canon is just too bulky...

I really felt in love with this beautiful, slow-pace camera, which has not been the case with any other camera yet (I hope my wife forgives me :-)

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
makofoto
By makofoto (May 7, 2012)

"slow pace camera" ... yet it should be able to do very quick photo journalistic/sports work to be serious.

1 upvote
JordanAT
By JordanAT (May 7, 2012)

Not necessarily, but it does become a very niche piece of hardware. A good P&S or, more likely, one of the newer mirrorless cameras with a much better sensor, will produce a better image. Reproducing the distortion and "creamy" out-of-focus is just a digital filter away.

If you're going to go to the trouble and expense of a finely crafted piece of hardware, you may as well shoot film - chromes, to be exact - and prove you're not just a photoshop jockey.

Comment edited 22 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Shield3
By Shield3 (May 7, 2012)

Do you really think you can't get shallow DOF with APS-C or m43'rds? Ever use a Nokton Voitlander F/.95 with a GH2, or a Sigma 30mm F/1.4 with any APS-C camera?

1 upvote
gartenzwerg
By gartenzwerg (May 7, 2012)

Ever used an f 0.95 on an M9 ? :-)

1 upvote
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (May 7, 2012)

Rich or not, but what I don't get is that why do you want an inferior camera to show off?

How does this work? You buy a second grade camera for a ridiculous price, and then you think you are smart, and a really good photographer. Well, you have to be, just to be able to get by with such equipment :) No offence here, just jealousy :)

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
aliasretro
By aliasretro (May 7, 2012)

Wow, so many haters. Sorry for you.

3 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (May 7, 2012)

If you are a serious photographer, $8000 can be spent way better. But there will be buyers. There always are. And nouveau-riche and their money are soon parted.
It's the same as with, say, shotguns. Take a plain one, cover it stock, lock and barrel with engravings and it will sell for ten times the price. But it's the better shot who brings home the game, nostalgia or not.

9 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (May 7, 2012)

Was this the "Camera of the Year 1938?" Sure looks like it. Heck, this homey little thing looks too stripped-down and pre-war retro (retardo?) to be taken half-way seriously in the 2010s, no?

0 upvotes
nologo
By nologo (May 8, 2012)

Looks way better to me than the amorphous blobs that are "modern SLRs."

1 upvote
wb2trf
By wb2trf (May 7, 2012)

Digital Leicas should get "devotionals" not "reviews". Rationality is an offense to the mystique, a form of blasphemy. The purpose of a Digital Leica is to validate the owner who is otherwise insecure and needs an externalization of their aspirational self-image. All Digital Leicas take only self-portraits.

10 upvotes
Der Steppenwolf
By Der Steppenwolf (May 7, 2012)

Well said !

0 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (May 7, 2012)

All cameras take only self portraits. As Scott Bourne says "the camera points both ways."

0 upvotes
ardenpress
By ardenpress (May 22, 2012)

Your writing itself borders on psychobabble. What camera and lenses do you use, pray tell, that make you feel so insecure?

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
1 upvote
peevee1
By peevee1 (May 7, 2012)

Objectively speaking, the camera is worse than a $170 E-PL1. But the price alone gives it the necessary exclusivity, and that is what Leica sells.

Comment edited 40 seconds after posting
6 upvotes
magneto shot
By magneto shot (May 7, 2012)

ok now for my 2nd posting here, more on the m9 :

autofocus - yes m9 does indeed sucks on this. so using it on street to "capture the moment" for street photography and being discreet etc, for me its kinda bs, GXR, V1, 4/3rds could do a much much better job and being smaller too.

M9 sensor being outdated - i like that i see in the m9 now. The images are freaking unique although it does have a "bug", a blooming issue when wayyy overexposed tight bright object appears in a scene.

Take one of my photo for eg:
http://a8.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/400329_298361150211464_171375309576716_831226_803228924_n.jpg
The same scene was taken with nikon and canon users with all kinds of setup, none whatsoever looks distinctively this "unique" .

Composition - well there is a weakness with rangefinder, what u see...is not exactly what u captured. Its off horizontally by a small margin.

Crap LCD - true, but i use VF all the time, LCD for checking shaprness, since shoot raw

0 upvotes
Prophotogo
By Prophotogo (May 7, 2012)

Tell me what digital camera keeps its value over four years? Does any make? I don't think so, the M9 will certainly lose its value as will my Nikon D700 that's worth half as when I bought it.

The M9 sensor does not "suck" do you think it does just because its not perfect at 6400 iso? Like who needs that anyway? Fact is it was actually ahead of its time by being the first full frame compact camera to remove the AA filter, now Nikon and soon Canon will follow! So your comments are simply wrong!

1 upvote
balico
By balico (May 7, 2012)

No need for iso 6400? Probably you'd never tried to photograph a running kid on a cloudy afternoon at around 17:00?
For landscape or normal portraiture, high iso is probably not important, but for many situations it is!

It seems that the Leica sensor is between 3-4 stops worse in iso performance then modern sensors, so while it doesn't suck, it is certainly outdated (as is it's LCD).

3 upvotes
Petka
By Petka (May 7, 2012)

We press photographers certainly survived when the highest practical (B&W) speed was 1600 ASA with film, but now that much higher sensitivities are available we are expected to be able to shoot in almost complete darkness. With usable speeds up to 25600 ISO now with the best cameras why not take advantage of it by using a camera 8 times less sensitive. All in all modern DSLRs have such a fast and accurate autofocus, or electronically assisted manual (point the focus sensor where you want and press a button) that no RF wizard can focus better or faster manually. I would never dream of using something like Leica as the only camera on assignment, at least not 98% of the time. Only if wanting to live dangerously...

3 upvotes
JacquesBalthazar
By JacquesBalthazar (May 7, 2012)

After reading this thread, it seems clear that the M9 still benefits from the aura of last century's "golden age", and people believe in sweet lies such as "it will keep its value" or "CCD obviously beats CMOS".

The only things that keep their value for Leica these days are binoculars, the lenses, and the film bodies. The M8's resale value is bad and getting worse each day, and the M9's is on the brink depending if Leica announce the M10 on Thursday or in September. Very soon a second hand M8 will be worth less than a standard 1956 M3, and the M9 will trade at M6 prices. A current film body such as the MP is likely to keep its value in the long term.

That will be the ultimate proof of the pudding. The M9 sensor just sucks in 2012. it was already borderline in 2009. The superb body is becoming a "vintage" toy, for those who crave a bit of RF experience. In good light, it'll be fine.

I prefer to grab my M6 and a roll of film when I get that nostalgic itch....

4 upvotes
nologo
By nologo (May 8, 2012)

Sounds a little like hyperbole to me.

The M8 was introduced at $4795 and still goes for about $2000 used. This is for a camera introduced in 2006.

The m9 is still going for around $6000 used. That's far cry from the ~$1600 of a used M6. It might fall to that price eventually, but "very soon" is a little bit exaggerated I find.

0 upvotes
tmurph
By tmurph (May 7, 2012)

I think to use a rangefinder rather than autofocus must come down to what sort of photography the individuals into.
Surely though it also comes down to how much you use your equipment, the more you use it the more you are familiar with its operation.

Don't forget the film SLR with its split screen focusing, just another form of range finder. Today's DSLRs don't need split screen because of the super fast autofocus system we have today.

1 upvote
Rubenski
By Rubenski (May 7, 2012)

How is it possible that a great company like this still hasn't solved the apparent shortcomings? Aren't they playing with a possible bankruptcy like this? Can't they buy a decent sensor somewhere?

0 upvotes
JackM
By JackM (May 7, 2012)

I don't have a digital Leica, but I'd love to. Where do you go if you want a small, discrete, Full Frame mirrorless camera with traditional manual controls, well-executed manual focus, which just feels *right* in your hands, with a good selection of fast primes? There is no place else. Fuji came dangerously close, but it's not FF, they botched the manual focus, and the AF can't do sports so it's mostly just a convenience, not a necessity.

First company to make a FF mirrorless that fills the above bill will send Leica 35mm digital bodies to the history books.

0 upvotes
mr moonlight
By mr moonlight (May 7, 2012)

I have an Xpro1 and while it's not FF, I'm actually okay with the 1.5 crop. The manual focus is a bit of a pain, but useable once you get the hang of it. I don't shoot sports, so the AF is good enough for me, but could be better. Image quality from the Xpro1 is absolutely brilliant and is everything a digital Leica M should have been.

In the end, I agree 100%. If Fuji made the Xpro1 FF and had optical MF, it would kill hands down kill the Leica M series. Heck, if they just gave it an Optical MF it would blow away the Leica.

0 upvotes
Dmitri Alexander
By Dmitri Alexander (May 7, 2012)

Minolta CLE is all of the above, yours for less than a grand on eBay. Takes the renowned Leica lenses, plus some outstanding Minolta ones. A true joy to use. Yes, it's film. But you could get it and, say, a Nikon D800 and still spend less total than on a M9.

0 upvotes
JackM
By JackM (May 9, 2012)

I wish Fuji had just put a rangefinder in the XP1, instead of the gimmick hybrid VF. I agree the XP1's IQ is very promising.

Thanks for the tip on the CLE, hadn't heard of that one. But when I get the itch to shoot some film, I have my Leica IIIf and Pentax MX. The IIIf is truly a pleasing object to behold, and use.

0 upvotes
justinwonnacott
By justinwonnacott (May 7, 2012)

I have used a LOT of cameras over more than 35 years for many kinds of work including, news, events and whatever "street" is ....although I carried a leica it usually stayed in the bag because the rangefinder focussing was too slow to operate quickly - I could work faster with an SLR, especially for moving subjects.

The leica is a quiet pocketable camera that does not attract attention like a larger tool, but it is a compromise choice for full on fast paced shooting in a fast busy situation because of focusing, framing, parallax and poor telephoto capabilities.

The lenses I had (35, 50,90) were fine but frankly not worth the huge premium in price - the tele is hard to focus and I constantly missed shots with it ... I hated it

The rangefinder design for a digital camera is pretty limiting. Leica has a problem - a modern interchangeable lens camera with manual and autofocus needs a new mount, viewfinder and lenses and I am not sure that will happen. They should just make lenses.

3 upvotes
Valentinian
By Valentinian (May 7, 2012)

Now... what is anybody guess about the M-10 that will be revealed Friday ?
(my guess is M-10 = M-9 with better sensor, better LCD)

0 upvotes
cxsparc
By cxsparc (May 7, 2012)

Way back in the good ol' film days, a real photographer used a Nikon SLR because, you know, every war correspondent had one.

Way back in the 90's, a really savy computer user owned a Mac because real designers had one and only cheapo nerds had a PC.

Way back in the 200x's, a real cool guy had a Nokia mobile phone because, well because you simply had to.

Way back in the present, you have to have an I-something, otherwise you qualify eligilble for free psychatric counselling and social welfare checks.

Well, things have changed.
The cheapo Canon (D)SLRs are competitive, sometimes better than Nikons.
Apple Mac computers fail at least as frequently as PCs and have viral attacks, too.
Nokia, well Nokia seems on the brink of collapse within one year.

At present (!), Apple makes buckets full of $ with their I-whatever products. And Leica sells their lenses and bodies at seemingly ridiculous prices. Both companies ride, at least IMHO, on a wave of in-ness.
But things will change - again.

2 upvotes
Petka
By Petka (May 7, 2012)

Rather that Leica OFFERS their cameras and lenses at ridiculous prices. How many are sold each year? In single digit percentage compared to Canon and Nikon, maybe even single digit promilleage (if there is such a word)... They are a minor/minuscule player with big name.

1 upvote
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (May 7, 2012)

You are right, their muscles are so small that they would do wisely just concentrating on making superb manual focus lenses.

0 upvotes
chanaw
By chanaw (May 7, 2012)

"Two things I would not want with me are my iphone or a video-capable DSLR"

You can not imagine how much I agree.

2 upvotes
Greg Gebhardt
By Greg Gebhardt (May 7, 2012)

While I would never sell my M9 and all of my Leica glass, I have to say that I have missed more images with the M9 or any rangefinder than I want to think about. If the most important thing is GETTING the image, think twice about a camera like Leica's which is likely the highest quality hardware on earth but very restrictive in it's ability!

3 upvotes
Conan
By Conan (May 7, 2012)

You know, I'd agree with you in saying that I've missed more images with my M8 than I would have with my SLRs; however, the images that I've actually gotten are far better than anything I used to get, and that certainly makes the whole experience much more satisfying.

0 upvotes
iau
By iau (May 7, 2012)

I would very much like a Leica M camera, but I wish it had AF and was more suited for wildlife and general hiking photography (meaning weather sealed).

I'm not into taking pictures of strangers on the street, which seems to be the main object for Leica shooters.

0 upvotes
Prophotogo
By Prophotogo (May 7, 2012)

No problem, Leica have your camera its called the S2!

3 upvotes
Conan
By Conan (May 7, 2012)

I always take my M8 hiking with me and it's been to quite a few fairly nasty places, including to the top of a couple 14-ers in Colorado and overnight camping at around 11,000ft without any troubles. I don't let it soak in the rain of course, but so far no worries...I do also keep it insured.

2 upvotes
magneto shot
By magneto shot (May 7, 2012)

Lets see...i have Leica m9, GXR, Nikon V1, Sigma SD15.
For my lust on autofocus, i have V1, but it sucks totally on shallow DOF and i define it as a glorified P&S.
GXR..after using V1..i wonder why ricoh has such crappy autofocus
SD15 - foveon Rules so no commment.

M9 : now, frankly none of the cameras above could deliver consistent joy and keepers compared to the M9 despite lacking a darn autofocus. As for the package being expensive? hello, go get Voigthlander instead of leica lens and u have a reasonable FF camera.

So although on a daily basic i get subconscious attacks on "why the hell does this camera cost so and so", i always ended up STFx when i looked at the images i captured using it.

4 upvotes
Irakly Shanidze
By Irakly Shanidze (May 7, 2012)

Frankly, I am a bit puzzled by this article. I mean, handling and operation of M9P is identical to M9, which has been extensively covered. What's the point?
The real advantage of M9/M9P is in its low-light performance. By performance here I mean camera's ability to consistently deliver professional-grade pictures that could be used in publications and commercial applications. Your conclusion is exactly opposite, which I can attribute only to lack of specific knowledge and skill in rangefinder low-light photography.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
cxsparc
By cxsparc (May 7, 2012)

Here in this forum, a lot (including me) tend to be obsessed with the performance of gear. It is sort of hard to take that some people are willing to spend excessive amounts of cash on a technically inferior product.

Alas, we are not marketing-guys. If you see how many companies ride the Retro wave (e.g. Fuji, OMD5, ..) you might understand that our population is aging and baby-bomers as well as pre-baby-boomers have reached that age where the kids are out of the house, salaries are good, the mortgage may have been paid and you notice that you are not young anymore. You may surround yourself with hightech equipment to appear younger than you are, but in many there is a longing for the good ol' days.
cont'd

3 upvotes
cxsparc
By cxsparc (May 7, 2012)

Part 2:
Enter the Leica M9: It is nomore a film camera so you can actually shoot digital stills with it. It is mechanically well made, it looks like back then and it is expensive=worthwhile to have. Younger people might have the newer, better camera in this digital rat race, but most surely can't afford a Leica. So you can buy yourself a spot for yourself.

And if anybody claims to have a technicall better body, there is still the price and quality of the lenses. So again, you keep out most of the plebescian Canikonians.

However, what happens when you enter a forum such as here, is that worlds collide. Especially when _some_ Leicanians try to defend their product in regard to technical aspects. The Leica is not entirely bad, but you have to consider that digital camera body making is due to Moore's law, a process with lifecycles of usually less than 2 years.
cont'd

2 upvotes
Lea5
By Lea5 (May 7, 2012)

I agree with you.

The young people are doing videos for their facebook or youtube account with their mobilephones. They answer "stillphotos are so 90's."

Sad but true!

0 upvotes
cxsparc
By cxsparc (May 7, 2012)

Part3 :
Newer cameras will perform visibly better than older ones - which is not the way it was back then. I am convinced that Leica simply cannot compete due to the excessive development costs in the body race.

This is due to the economies of scale. If Sony develop a Sensor, uses it for multiple cameras of its own and sells them to Nikon, too, that development pays off.
If Leica develops Lenses, sells them to Leica/Canon/Sony etc users in a lifecyle of several years at high prices, that pays off.
But if Leica develops a new body, it simply cannot sell it for the cost it took to develop. So even a M9 at 9000$ is a loss to the company.

Anyway, I now made the mistake of arguing logically. This will not lead anywhere. Because anything that characterises the Leica, e.g. RF operation, low-quality LCD, sluggishness) is Leica-ish! You can't argue with that :-)
The parallel with a 911 is not bad, since technically that car suxxs, but it is buying yourself sort of a dream, I guess.

1 upvote
Markcalumet
By Markcalumet (May 7, 2012)

Agree with most but you have probably have never driven a 911 (and yes, I did)car so this parallel is not well chosen because the car is fantastic and is (a bit like Leica) real German quality. But for the rest, nice comment and yes, you are buying yourself a sort of a dream if your buying a Leica. Great lenses, but overexpensive body with low results.

1 upvote
cxsparc
By cxsparc (May 7, 2012)

@Mark: Being a German product myself :-), I do know the 911. But technically a car with a big engine _behind_ the rear axle is a nightmare in terms of cornering and road security. Like the beetle, a car with breaking out rear becomes uncontrollable and deadly. Therefore the big rear tires and the spoilers. Still, 911s killed a lot of their drivers. With the advant of ESP, things have become remarkably better. But the technical base of the 911 is suboptimal.
Porsche know this but each time they tried different they got rejected: 924/944 with transaxle, optimal weight distribution, 928, all better. Yet customers preferred the "muscle car" 911, a "real" Porsche :-)
Similarily, some customers pay for Leica bodies, not because of quality but because of more irrational aspects.

2 upvotes
Nerdlinger
By Nerdlinger (May 7, 2012)

The 911 suxxs? You sir are a moron. There is a reason it is always part of a "best handling, best etc" shootouts I read in my car magazines.

Although your camera comments were pretty spot on.

Comment edited 33 seconds after posting
1 upvote
cxsparc
By cxsparc (May 7, 2012)

@Nerdlinger: Please read details why:
Technically, a car with a certain weight distribution is best. The 911 is far from that. As I wrote, through the use of enormous rear tires, spoiler and ESP, todays 911 has become tameable. Acceleration is splendid with most weight on the rear axle.
Even older versions are way better than leaf-spring-rear-axle American muscle cars of today. Car magazine tests will make it shine.
But the technical concept is not good, especially driving on a real-world road, wet, dirty, then a high-speed corner. If the rear of a non-ESP 911 goes, chances are you won't catch it.
http://autotuneheinz.be/product/porsche-911-gt3-gen-2-evolution-race-exhaust-system
"Because of the achieved weight reduction of 26 kg* in the most critical area of the Porsche 911, behind the engine and rear axle, the weight distribution of the car is noticeably improved, which also enables better handling. The limit range of the car increased and higher side acceleration is now possible."

0 upvotes
Nerdlinger
By Nerdlinger (May 7, 2012)

I am just going by what you posted. Is the 911 less than ideal in terms of weight distribution? Yes. Is it a tricky machine when the tail steps out? Yes. Does it "suxxs"? No, not even close. It is a fabulous car. That sir is just what I meant.

1 upvote
cxsparc
By cxsparc (May 8, 2012)

OK, I guess I overdid it, though I initally wrote TECHNICALLY it suxxs. But you are right, it is too strong. Suboptimal is better, and matches the Leica body performance, too.

0 upvotes
Peter KT Lim
By Peter KT Lim (May 7, 2012)

First class body and lenses design, third class image sensor. A Fuji pro-x or x100 can do a better job.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
cxsparc
By cxsparc (May 7, 2012)

Well, there still IS a niche for the M9. That one is that it is FF, so your wide-anlge remain true wide-angles. If that is an are where you frequently shoot,....
However, IF a major brand (currently only Sony can be expected to) issues a FF mirrorless, that will hit Leica body sales very hard. Because even know, IQ rendered by the Nex 5N is competiive. It can only get better with a FF sensor.

1 upvote
almostinfocus
By almostinfocus (May 7, 2012)

This article convinces me that if Leica doesn't join the 21st century the cameras are toast. The lenses, however, are the finest available. Leica should strive to deliver a camera that matches its lenses, and then the camera would be worth the money.

If anyone, including Leica could reproduce that simplicity and usability and image quality of its earliest cameras, updated to modern standards with improved focusing and low light capability at a price that comes close to market pricing for camera bodies, it would be a killer. Then you could spend the big bucks on the lenses for which the price is commensurate with the quality given the scale of production. The current Leica body is not a product that matches the quality of Leica lenses. It is a substandard product that allows the lucky buyer to have access to the glass.

5 upvotes
Greg Gebhardt
By Greg Gebhardt (May 7, 2012)

This is Leica's problem, no way they can or will EVER adapt the lenses to autofocus. It is all about the glass

0 upvotes
Valentinian
By Valentinian (May 7, 2012)

someone prefers real manual focus (me too), and the best way to do it is on a rangefinder

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
ardenpress
By ardenpress (May 7, 2012)

I agree about manual focus. I have a NEX 7 used with Leica, Zeiss, and Canon glass, therefore only manual focus. The little red dots that show focus are a modern version of Leica's copnverging lines. I have a greatere feelinfg of contro than when I use my Canon cameras, a sense that the lens is really focusing. I say this after years of using Leica m7 and now m9. and Canons.

1 upvote
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (May 7, 2012)

Greg Gebhardt:

No, Leica M lenses are not likely to go autofocus, though there's nothing stopping a manufacturer from reworking the moving film plane autofocus that Contax used for manual focus lenses. (Though maybe Kyocera still controls the best patents for this tech.)

However Leica does make new autofocus lenses for the S2 camera body.

0 upvotes
Petka
By Petka (May 7, 2012)

Using a moving sensor for focusing FF size camera would mean a very deep body (movement with 135 mm lens would have to be about 5 cm). It would be so thick that it would be uncomfortable to hold without some sort of external grip. Another problem is a focus lock to infinity which the lenses do not have. Third problem is image quality, as the lens would be corrected to infinity at all times (assuming there are corrective movements in Leica lenses when focusing).

1 upvote
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (May 7, 2012)

Petka,

Except Contax shipped such a 35mm SLR.

0 upvotes
Petka
By Petka (May 7, 2012)

And it was a success? No?

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (May 7, 2012)

Petka--

By that logic no one would ever try to improve new gear if it doesn't work perfectly the first time. Nikon would not have bothered with the D2.

Microsoft would have abandoned Windows at 3.1, actually no one would ever have used MSDOS.

Laserdisc would never have evolved into DVD.

A hard drive would still be the size of a small refrigerator.

So why not try a better moving film plane focus, there's no need to be able to put film in with a sensor there?

0 upvotes
almostinfocus
By almostinfocus (May 22, 2012)

To those who talk about autofocus, I never suggested it. I learned to shoot on a IIIF and manual focus is fine. But the M9 is almost impossible to focus if you have presbyopia, as I do, and the screen on the back rivals the capability of a 2003 point and shoot. What I meant is that with all of the technology at their disposal, Leica should be producing a camera that offers whatever they can provide to make focusing, manually, as good as it can be with modern technology--as opposed to living in the past.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Ernest M Aquilio
By Ernest M Aquilio (May 7, 2012)

The Leica RF cameras will always be a milestone in photography. Why use a MF rangefinder now? Maybe you should ask why people still shoot film, or ride horses, or still fly biplanes? Your answer is there.

4 upvotes
Superka
By Superka (May 7, 2012)

There are really important reasons to use MF, rangefinder, anf film. It is not just for fun, like horse riding.

2 upvotes
cxsparc
By cxsparc (May 7, 2012)

MF? RF? A mirrorless camera with focus peaking also allows very easy MF and additionally simultaneously DOF preview and additionally AF, if wished.
Film? If you talk medium format, yes. SLR format? Not really.
So not really points in favour for the Leica.
But as Ernest tried to say, it is more an emotional, nostalgia thing

2 upvotes
Jonathan F/2
By Jonathan F/2 (May 7, 2012)

After looking at all those samples, I see nothing that couldn't be shot with modern mirrorless cameras with fast glass. My OM-D looks sharper, produces nicer colors and works great with adapted fast lenses.

And there is nothing discreet about a Leica. They stick out like a sore thumb and puts a big "steal me" sign on anybody who has one around their neck.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
6 upvotes
tessl8d
By tessl8d (May 7, 2012)

Your OMD is worth half the price you paid for it a week ago, the Leica keeps it's value....and any FF or DSLR camera 'says steal me' in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe you'd secretly like to have a Leica but can't afford one ;)

4 upvotes
snake_b
By snake_b (May 7, 2012)

So you're saying Leicas are bought with the intention of selling them, rather than shooting with them?

Uh huh. Some people want to just take pictures.

PS- nice turn towards making it a class struggle. Keep it classy.

4 upvotes
mr moonlight
By mr moonlight (May 7, 2012)

Except that most people don't know what a Leica looks like or even what a Leica is. To photographers it will stick out like a sore thumb, but to your average joe, it's an old film camera and some guy stuck in the dark ages who's using it.

5 upvotes
tessl8d
By tessl8d (May 7, 2012)

Hey snakey,I didn't say anything about a 'class struggle' just pointing out some facts. I own a 1k DSLR with old lenses and I love it, but if I wanted to save up for a year to buy an M9 and lens I would. It's not like wanting a Ferrari is it?

1 upvote
bhupinder2002
By bhupinder2002 (May 7, 2012)

Leica is a collector's item and not meant for main stream . Its a beautiful but useless machine for daily street photography . I will never ever dump USD10000 on a crappy camera with just expensive body . We live in technology era where everything changes every week . If Leica catches with modern technology then its fine otherwise it will just remain a collector's item . My EPL1 which costs USD 150 these days kicks Leica on its bottom as far as IQ is concerned and needless to say it shoots HD video .DOF with fast primes on MFT is quite acceptable . So lets be more practical and sensible .Leica produce cameras for themselves and not for u guys . Gone are the days when people used to buy products which would last for many years. We change them every six month , every year depending upon ur financial standing . Leica is nice , beautiful , durable blah blha but a useless camera at the end

1 upvote
bhupinder2002
By bhupinder2002 (May 7, 2012)

I fully agree Jonathan , there is nothing worth extra a USD 8000 in a Leica where as there are so many extra things free on a a USD999 Olymus OMD body . Leica is all about brand, marketing , arrogance and being snob and ignoring hard reality that rest of the digital camera technology is miles ahead . Bu at the end if some one extra cash to dump on a TITANIUM TYPEWRITER and ignore modern Desktop or Laptop they can go ahead.

2 upvotes
tessl8d
By tessl8d (May 7, 2012)

So M9 is a 'collectors item' for you, but for others it's the camera of choice. M9 owners must love the images they get and for them paying the $$$$ is ok. How much is too much to pay for the experience of feeling good about taking photo's? One of my favourite camera's is a really uncool looking 6year old Fuji F30, it still takes great pics, so not all things are as disposable as you may think.

0 upvotes
tinternaut
By tinternaut (May 7, 2012)

The sample images mostly looked very (naturally) sharp to me. A lot of the images coming out of new OMDs will be over sharpened because of Olympus defaults.

1 upvote
peevee1
By peevee1 (May 7, 2012)

"Your OMD is worth half the price you paid for it a week ago, the Leica keeps it's value"

In fact, M9 loses more value in 1 day of use than E-PL1 costs new.

0 upvotes
clear glass
By clear glass (May 7, 2012)

Yes, a Leica rangefinder is slower. You want to be slower with your digital camera? Wear gloves; that will slow you up.
You think more about pictures with a Leica rf? Put your digital camera on full manual, take your time, and think.
You see better with a Leica rf? A. You don't see your depth of field. B. Objects don't line up exactly right because you're looking through a separate viewfinder, not the lens. C. A hidden benefit for me, probably because I wear glasses: the rectangle outlining the field of view in the vfs of my M2, M3, M5 and CL looked like a trapezoid; really hard to line up horizontals.
Leica rf's are beautiful? Yes. But that won't make your photos beautiful.
Every time I pick up my GH1, I thank the inventor of the back screen.

7 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (May 7, 2012)

Plain and simple truth.

3 upvotes
starwolfy
By starwolfy (May 7, 2012)

You know what. If you are convinced that a GH1 is a much better camera for yourself...maybe you can possibly imagine and understand that a Leica body is what works best for others?
No?? Ah...it doesn't work in the other side?...right.. :/

6 upvotes
Deusex
By Deusex (May 7, 2012)

Completely agree with you. People with glasses want to use the back screen not creepy rangefinder VF.

0 upvotes
wb2trf
By wb2trf (May 7, 2012)

Leica cameras are bad and, more importantly, irrelevant in the digital age. One may as well have a political conversation about the Russian nobility. Leica's significance if it has any remaining, is as a lens maker. If you want to enjoy Leica lenses, buy a Nex and put it on it.

2 upvotes
electric eel
By electric eel (May 7, 2012)

Your comment and analysis are irrelevant. "Leica cameras are bad" very articulate analysis I couldn't have said it worse.
Leica lenses on a Nex are often not any better than the Sony lenses due to the ray angle, the sony sensor is not optimized for the M lenses. I would recommend you shoot the M9, it is a powerhouse of imaging potential.

5 upvotes
starwolfy
By starwolfy (May 7, 2012)

I'm always amazed how people can bash a product they even never touched once in their Life.
Oh my bad...my camera is irrelevant in this digital age. I should stop taking pictures right now.
Tell us what is best than an M lens, which is manual, on a M body...with a coupled rangefinder?
Ah...yes...Sony guys all know it...an EVF with focus peaking of course! :/

6 upvotes
snake_b
By snake_b (May 7, 2012)

A Ricoh with focus peaking and a Leica mount module seems to be quite a nice combo. Sony seems to be pretty good, too, though they need to make that focus assist a bit more of a readily-accessible feature.

Also, the K-01 might not win the hearts of people that look at cameras as an accessory, like a purse, but focus peaking, limited lenses (which also include AF), and so on will destroy an M9.

4 upvotes
Peter Herth
By Peter Herth (May 7, 2012)

At base ISO, I daresay that the M9 image quality beats everything out there - only now to be challenged by the D800. So saying that Leica cameras are "bad" is putting it too easy.

1 upvote
ardenpress
By ardenpress (May 7, 2012)

I do have a nex 7 and use my Leica and Zeiss lenses on it. But when I return to the Leica body to shoot I find a particular beauty in the outcome. Now you might say it is all psychological, snobbism, blindness, not wanting to believe my Nex and 5DII are as good or better. On the other hand I can sell my 9 for good money and buy the $10000 .95 50mm Leica to use on the Nex.

1 upvote
bhupinder2002
By bhupinder2002 (May 7, 2012)

YEs fully agree . Leica is selling old technology at much higher price . I would pick up Fuji Pro 1 any day over Leica as I am not a brand snob .

1 upvote
wb2trf
By wb2trf (May 7, 2012)

When I say "one may as well have a political conversation about the Russian nobility" I do that with full awareness that some people think that the world has gone downhill since the end of the era of the great monarchs and wax sentimental about the virtues of aristocracy. People are similarly sentimental about Leicas and manufacture reasons to believe in them. If this camera wasn't a Leica it wouldn't get any cred. It has the same claim to photographic greatness as the Queen of England has to rule: sentiment. One may choose to yield to sentiment but one should not actually believe it.
Leicas shouldn't be reviewed here any more than Nature should publish about the miracles of the Catholic saints. One doesn't want rationality to mix with sentimental appreciation.

1 upvote
Zachawry
By Zachawry (May 7, 2012)

People talk about how much fun it is to shoot with Leicas.

It MUST be fun, because the experience of shooting seems to blind people to the mediocrity of the results. There are of course masters who shoot with Leicas or other rangefinders, but the average quality of the rangefinder enthusiast seems to be far below that of the average (D)SLR enthusiast.

But it's just so much fun that they don't actually care what the photos look like. Many of the photos provided here prove my point. I'm looking at you, blue truck.

12 upvotes
snake_b
By snake_b (May 7, 2012)

I save some of the horrid examples posted on the Leica forum quite regularly. Some examples of people thinking the camera will do everything for them, coupled with awful PP skills is worth endless laughter as internet memes.

I still remember the guy that shot a wedding with his M9 and I think a 10k lens. The results could have been made with a point and shoot and even beyond that, he used white vignetting that made the results beyond embarassing.

So it goes to show that some people who buy Leica and post there have more money than brains and photography skills.

4 upvotes
ProfHankD
By ProfHankD (May 7, 2012)

I don't think Leicas have any better or worse users than any other "serious" cameras. That said, the photos in this review do have a bit more film-like look (e.g., the low-contrast low-light shots), but IQ is rather sad overall. For example, way too many have blown highlights. Probably down to an old sensor design and (with my NEX-user bias) lack of an EVF that would have hinted at the exposure problem. Certainly, as a group, these images don't make one want to run and get an M9.. although I'd happily take the lenses were someone to give them to me for free. :)

1 upvote
Priaptor
By Priaptor (May 7, 2012)

Actually ProfHankD, I disagree. The photographers who post on the Leica forums are infinitely more talented.

IF and it is usually a big IF people post their output on a Nikon and/or Canon forum, it is usually of some running back or kid taking a jump shot, at 10 fps, with some comment about how the AF was or was not good and an example of each.

To me that is not "great photography.

A testament to Leica and its users are the beautiful picutres they produce, the enjoyment it brings them and 98% of their discussions having to do with photography compared to Nikon/Canon forums where 98% is what the camera can or can't do with functions that 98% will never use.

I laugh.

2 upvotes
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (May 7, 2012)

What is the dynamic range of Leica M9? Sadly, it is only 11,7 evs - while the the recent king of sensors, Nikon D800, has 14,4 evs. / DxO Camera Sensor Ratings.

Just that result is a real no-boner, a true dealbraker, especially when the camera is intended to be used on the move and in real life conditions. Garbage.

3 upvotes
bhupinder2002
By bhupinder2002 (May 7, 2012)

Well said again . Leica produces images which look fantastic if u have spent USD 9000 on body and few more thousands on lenses . If u show to some one sensible then results are below than even entry level DSLR. Even my Olympus EPL1 which costs USD 150 now can produce better results . Now people will say FF and DOF .Who needs FF and DOF for every day shots and or every shot? DOF which APS-C and MFT gives is more than enough

1 upvote
PhotoHawk
By PhotoHawk (May 7, 2012)

I remember a story about Jimmy Connors the tennis ace when he was introduced to the President of Rolex while playing at Wimbledon. Upon being introduced Jimmy asked the President, "Hows the time business?" whereupon the President of Rolex is reportedly to have said, "I have no idea, I'm in the luxury business".
Morale - don't confuse luxury with the task at hand. $12,000 for a currently really mediocre photographic device - shame - $12,000 on a luxury - well, its your money and you can't take it with you. Just realize what you are doing.....

0 upvotes
Jazr
By Jazr (May 7, 2012)

Here's my problem with m-series,,,I have owned 2 R3s and now an R5. I love the R-series. I have a 20mm, 35mm and 90mm. The body size is perfect, and just fitsa in the hand as it should. A 5d or Nikon 800 is huge by comparison. I need something for my lenses and the R series is the correct answer. I have switcheds to using my Hasselblad 500c 80 and 150 and Superwide for the better resolution. Please Leica... Give us a kick ass R series!!!!!!!!!!/

1 upvote
DJ Photo
By DJ Photo (May 7, 2012)

I have a d800 and a d800e, and an R4 and an x100 and a m3 and m6 and funny enough, I was thinking the EXACT same thing today.
I had my d800 beside my r4 and a g1. the g1 is cute but too small.
and When you hold a DSLR, you think, this is fine/acceptable. In your mind you think it is like an old SLR, but it isn't, the d800 is a HUGE increase in size from the r4, m3/6, x100, nex7.

Hopefully on Friday we will hear about the new amazing m10.
You already have a kickass R series, it is, the S2-p, the best camera on the earth today.

0 upvotes
electric eel
By electric eel (May 7, 2012)

Good point about an R digital that would have the size of an R4, if Leica could put digital into an M they certainly could put it in an R4 size. But Leica went large with the R8 and R9 in the film days so the idea is not likely to happen but we can hope.

0 upvotes
Richard Murdey
By Richard Murdey (May 7, 2012)

So, why no review of the M8, M8.2, M9, M9-P?

2 upvotes
Artichoke
By Artichoke (May 8, 2012)

Phil Askey reviewed the M8 in DPR
methinks he liked it

0 upvotes
starwolfy
By starwolfy (May 7, 2012)

For those who like racing Cars I feel a Leica M9 is a bit like a Porsche 911.
It's a pure joy of engineering. It is well made, works amazing well, in a really "pure and raw" approach of racing/photographing. It is mastered best with all options turned off and is capable of producing excellent results under excellent "driving". But, in an other hand...it won't tolerate any mistake from you if you mess. Is is more subtle to use than any other cameras/cars and it may reward your efforts quite well if you do it right.

As the opposite...today's other digital cameras are a bit like the newer Nissang GT-R.
It is super technological, super electronical, full loaded of options to help and avoid user mistakes and help him to stay on the track as fast as possible in any circumstances. It's capable of biting a Porsche 911 on the track but is regarded by "many" but not "all' test drivers as a super fast but taste less car/camera compared when piloting a 911.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
starwolfy
By starwolfy (May 7, 2012)

The funny thing if you agree my comment is that Porsche and Leica are German brands, and Canikon/Fuji/Oly are japanese one...as is the Nissang GT-R.

Do we face a cultural thing here?

0 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (May 7, 2012)

No, no cultural difference.
Both Porsche and GT-R are fashion accessories for the riches.
For normal city use, a Civic Type R's mechanical quality is adequate for 99.9% of the time.
I believe there are no pictures that the M9 can take, but the 5D III or D800 can't...But there are many pics that the 5D III / D800 can take, but the M9 can't.

7 upvotes
starwolfy
By starwolfy (May 7, 2012)

qwertyasdf > I don't understand what you want to say with your Honda Civic...and the fact it's adequate at a cheaper price point.
I have never talked about price nor said you cannot take pictures with cheaper tools. I have talked the feeling in use and tried to make a comparison between what I think is a Leica against what I think are modern cameras for those who never experiments a Leica body.

2 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (May 7, 2012)

The whole point is the high price point
If it was a $800 camera, EVERYBODY would embrace it (well...except for the riches, because at $800, it cannot show their wealth)

0 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (May 7, 2012)

starwolfy,

just saw your comment below, you are way richer than you think you are!

0 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (May 7, 2012)

Starwolfy, the comparison with the Porsche 911 is spot-on. The 911's short wheelbase and rear-mounted engine go against all rationale behind building high performance cars. Theoretically its handling should be similar to that of a Chevrolet Corvair, yet those in the know swear by the 911.
Also, I see many people here dismissing the Leica because it is expensive. That's the same as saying Krell amplifiers and Girard-Perregaux wristwatches suck because they cost a lot of money. Lame. I know it is obscene to have products at this kind of price in a world like this - let alone there being people who can actually afford them -, but there's no denying they're all high quality items.

2 upvotes
Gully Foyle
By Gully Foyle (May 7, 2012)

@starwolfy
Not sure what you're talking about, but both the 911 and the GT-R are loaded with electronics and hi-tech gear. Totally the opposite of the Leica. More likely the 911 resembles Nikon and GT-R Canon. A Caterham maybe?

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (May 7, 2012)

Gully Foyle, while I feel you do have a point, it's also worth considering the lengths Leica went to make the M-series' viewfinder work properly, with a parallax correction system of a complexity beyond what most of us can comprehend. That's akin to stuffing the 911 with electronic aids to improve handling in a car that's conceptually wrong. So the comparison remains valid...

0 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (May 7, 2012)

In reality, the Leica is more like an old rusty VW Beetle.

0 upvotes
Gully Foyle
By Gully Foyle (May 7, 2012)

ManuelVM, I'm not sure if Leica solved the issue of designing a correct viewfinder prior to 1980 or the one on M9 is unique. If the first is valid, then that would make for a 70s 911 with slip diff, nothing more complex. Also I agree about the design concept of the 911 being wrong, but I wouldn't feel safe claiming the same for Leica. It is different, but that's how compact cameras started life.

Anyway, I don't mean to argue or play with words, the thing is that you get my point. I'm sure if we tried we would find the car that better matches the description.

0 upvotes
ProfHankD
By ProfHankD (May 7, 2012)

This article suggests that the M9 is one of the last of the discrete manual-focus cameras, but I think that's completely false. Mirrorless cameras have brought a rebirth in manual focus, and the leader is probably the focus-peaking NEX-7 rather than the rangefinder M9. The really interesting part is that an increasing number of people are now picking manual focus over autofocus when both options are available.

I think autofocus was a giant step toward cameras as recorders of what one sees. However, the awkwardness of telling the camera what to autofocus on has made it harder to use the camera to create the image you envision -- the whole "making, not taking" thing. I think manual focus plays a huge role in the developing future of high-end cameras... you know, the market that cell phones will not dominate. ;)

4 upvotes
Valentinian
By Valentinian (May 6, 2012)

When the film was the same for every camera, Leica was outstanding: great lenses, great camera. But today the sensor is a very important part of a camera. And the software corrects lenses which are less than great.
Leica still makes great lenses and a great camera except they don't make in-house sensors.
Leica will have a future only if they team with a good sensor company, because the future of photography is "mirrorless", and Leica, after all, does make mirrorless cameras. Manual focus and range finder can be a good thing for some kind of shooting..

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
carpediem007
By carpediem007 (May 6, 2012)

Still love to work with my trusted M3 and for the digi-stuff, all my Leica, VC, Pentax, Canon etc lenses found a great home on my GXR... :-)

Only thing missing for digital nirvana is the Ricoh upgrade to a 24 mega-pixel FF sensor...

0 upvotes
MP Burke
By MP Burke (May 6, 2012)

The Leica M9 clearly fits the bill if you have a range of expensively acquired Leica lenses and want to take digital photographs with them. There is no alternative that allows you to use these lenses without a crop factor of 1.5 or so.
The M bayonet mount has been around for nearly 60 years and is a remarkable survivor in an age where technologies are increasingly ephemeral.
There is no reason in principle why an M mount camera could not be designed with an autofocus mechanism. This was done in the film era by shifting the film plane back and forth in the Contax AX camera.
Similarly, there is no obvious reason why the M9 camera could not have been given a formal review. The lack of autofocus should not be seen as such a terrifying prospect that it disqualifies a camera from consideration.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
JoeDaBassPlayer
By JoeDaBassPlayer (May 7, 2012)

Manual focus should not be an issue for those who are interested in this style of shooting. In fact, a live view focus peaking model may be a next step to consider for Leica.

0 upvotes
ardenpress
By ardenpress (May 7, 2012)

That is a big question: why this site did not review the M9.
Is it that the bosses would wind up trashing the M9 or raving about its qualities, thereby annoying the hell out of a lot of people, the owners of the 9 or the wanabees.

1 upvote
CriticalI
By CriticalI (May 6, 2012)

It is rather pointless to criticise a camera maker for selling a product that enough people clearly want and making a nice premium into the bargain.

Having said that, at low ISO most CCDs do produce shots that have a more distinctive tonal quality than CMOS sensors. As a good light camera and coupled with Leica lenses, it can produce some amazing shots.

But whereas Leica's cost is largely a product of build quality, the idea of a "camera for life" seems a bit moot when lumbered with technology with a rapid sell-by date. An M3 is as useful as it was the day it was made, but the M9 is already out of date. The sensor is limited and the LCD even moreso.

If one were to be logical about things (and Leica's really don't appeal to logic) one would buy the Leica glass and the Fuji Xpro1 with the new Leica adapter. That way, trading the body in every few years would keep one abreast of the latest sensor tech.

4 upvotes
sunhorse
By sunhorse (May 7, 2012)

The question remains: will we see issues with X Pro1 + Leica glass that we have seen with other mirrorless cameras? After all, as nice as the new Fuji sensor is, it is not optimized for use with Leica glass. Would really like to see more samples with X Pro 1+Leica lenses.

0 upvotes
Tralfamadore
By Tralfamadore (May 7, 2012)

"the idea of a "camera for life" seems a bit moot when lumbered with technology with a rapid sell-by date"

Absolutely. So, would it be possible to make a camera with interchangeable sensors as well as interchangeable lenses? I don't mean like the Ricoh GXR, but 'simply' incorporating a slot where an updated version of a sensor of the same size can be inserted.

0 upvotes
exifnotfound
By exifnotfound (May 6, 2012)

I don't think it's the sensor that is way beyond DSLR, it's the lenses which are better.
There's no way on earth they can justify that kind of price for a camera, it's just a fashion accessory for rich people.

6 upvotes
starwolfy
By starwolfy (May 7, 2012)

You know I am not rich and I don't care fashion but I have a Leica.
Reason? It's one of the rare cameras which are 100% dedicated to manual focusing and which is digital. To me a great, big and bright rangefinder coupled with Leica lenses could never be replaced by any EVF.
Most people who do not own a Leica M digital think like you (and I mean...'to own a M'...not 'to try a M for 1 day' as it takes several weeks to master the camera.).

If Leica is selling so well...it's because its shooting style is suitable and valuable to some photographers. Regarding what a Leica can offer me today comparing to other offerings: Amazing built, Amazing lens, Manual lens coupling, Real Rangefinder, Small, Simple...there is no way I could trade my M for an other camera and the price totally worth it to me. If it's the price to pay for a traditional-wayofshooting-thought camera...then I'm willing to pay this price.

3 upvotes
snake_b
By snake_b (May 7, 2012)

So why isn't the Ricoh and Sony and Pentax on your list? They have focus assist features that are alternatives of the rangefinder technology from yesteryear.

That's all the rangefinder mech is- focus assist from decades ago when they had no such computing technology.

So basically you're admitting to being a dinosaur because you won't accept the modern forms of focus assisting?

1 upvote
J Parker
By J Parker (May 6, 2012)

DPReview, thanks for a thoughtful, balanced article. It's not always the most fully featured camera that makes one remember why they fell in love with photography in the first place. Like most of the readers on this site, I use very current equipment with all the bells and whistles -- but I still relish the mechanical process and rhythm of all the manual adjustments I used to make on a Pentax K1000 (from focusing to cocking the shutter for the next shot). Idiosyncratic, maybe -- but some of the world's best writers still use their typewriters for that same reason.

Coming from a background as a portrait painter (where completing a portrait can take minutes -- or months), I've found the road less traveled (even if it means traveling it at only 2 frames per second) sometimes preferable. It is in overcoming the inherent limitations of a tool that lasting art is often created.

By the way, the photographs in the samples gallery are outstanding.

7 upvotes
Qwntm
By Qwntm (May 6, 2012)

A Pentax K-5 with Limited Primes does a better job with less hassle and better IQ. The shutter is quieter also. I have shot M3 Leica's extensively, and now am very satisfied with the tiny solid K-5's. Think outside the box... is it about your images or your gear? Don't get me wrong if the Leica turns you on, go for it! But if you want to make images in a leica style digitally, the K-5 is surprisingly satisfying and curiously similar to the M gestalt... seriously.

6 upvotes
Boris
By Boris (May 6, 2012)

I used to shoot with a Leica IIIG and M3 (and still have a IIIF) until the Pentax Spotmatic. Now Leica is a Boutique brand for Doctors ,Lawyers and rich Accountants and a few who think the more you spend the better your photos.

10 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (May 6, 2012)

Many people will be wondering how a full frame sensor has such poor high (actually not so high) ISO performance.
Some people say it's impossible for a small sensor like 4/3 to have good ISO performance because of its size. «The laws of physics», they say. (And other ignorant, uninformed BS, too.)
They'll be scratching their heads as they read this article.
Yet what we have here is THE camera most serious photographers' dreams are made of.
Gearheads and pixel peepers will never understand this.

0 upvotes
Kodachrome200
By Kodachrome200 (May 7, 2012)

most serious photographers dreams ARE NOT made of rangefinders. sorry they are just not. Rangefinder have been a niche product since the slr was invented. most serious photographer want to look through the lens

4 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (May 7, 2012)

Your opinion is as valid as mine, Kodachrome 200. At least I know a couple of professional photographers who aspire to buying themselves a Leica. Your personal experience might tell you otherwise.

0 upvotes
Kodachrome200
By Kodachrome200 (May 7, 2012)

I am a professiona photographer and i am surrounded by other professional photographers and i dont know but one who has or wants a leica. and brian never uses the leica for pro work. and rangefinders are a niche product that only a few people embrace. they just are. that isnt an opinion its a fact

4 upvotes
Petka
By Petka (May 7, 2012)

In my workplace there are 18 photographers and one has a Leica, but hardly uses it. But he also wears a beret and flies a biplane...

2 upvotes
justinday
By justinday (May 6, 2012)

After trying one out, my biggest grip is with the 230K dot resolution of the LCD. It was kind of like having vinyl seats in a Rolls Royce. I think Leica really dropped the ball there. In addition, there are some legitimate gripes with the GUI as well. Otherwise, the M9 was a joy to use.

2 upvotes
Doug Frost
By Doug Frost (May 6, 2012)

It seems somewhat silly to get embroiled in a discussion about the M9 now, seeing as Leica will be debuting its successor in 4 days.

3 upvotes
BSweeney
By BSweeney (May 6, 2012)

Well, Argus is not going to come out with a full frame digital rangefinder.

So I'll just have to settle for an M9 to use my Cintar.

And other vintage rangefinder lenses as they were intended to be used.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
onlooker
By onlooker (May 6, 2012)

Being an old fart, I long for the old-style all manual cameras. Since they are forgotten species, I tried the M9. Alas, my eyes and rangefinder focusing do not get along (not to mention trying to focus with anything longer than 90mm). I do quite well with manual focusing on traditional SLRs (with traditional viewfinders and focusing screens).

I think Nikon and Canon are missing a niche. I would be all over a digital FM2 were Nikon to make one.

6 upvotes
Kwick1
By Kwick1 (May 6, 2012)

So...you want a digital version of an all-mechanical, non-electronic camera?

They'll get right on that.

1 upvote
onlooker
By onlooker (May 6, 2012)

Kwick1, your sarcastic comment in a thread on M9, an all-manual electronic camera is particularly amusing.

8 upvotes
Digitall
By Digitall (May 6, 2012)

I hope that Nikon come with a digital version of S3.

0 upvotes
Kodachrome200
By Kodachrome200 (May 7, 2012)

the reason they wont do it is the lenses. they dont want to make a whole new set of manual focus lenses. have you seen the manual focus focusing screens for regular digital slrs. the old style focusing screen is just about the only feature left out of a newer slr that an fm2 would have had. it might help

0 upvotes
jl123
By jl123 (May 6, 2012)

I must say I get "it" but I also don't get "it". Of course that "it" is the same statement that so many leica fans utter: 'the camera makes me think harder, and therefore I can compose a better/more well thought out shot' or something similar.

My reply: Maybe people should try to think a little harder with whatever camera they have, not just if its a lieca.

10 upvotes
barsh
By barsh (May 6, 2012)

I wish that was the case but it's just not so. When the D1X shoots 12 frames a second on auto everything, there is absolutely no need to think about the image. At least 1 of those shots will be nice. I've moved from Hasselblad to Alpa for exactly that reason. The more the camera is able to do, the more we let it do and we take a lot of the thought out of the creation of the image. As i wrote in another post, please go to the store and have a go with one. Whether you're a pro or am, it's an incredible experience.

0 upvotes
Pasadena Perspective
By Pasadena Perspective (May 6, 2012)

I guess the question is what you are thinking about the most. When I was shooting with a Panasonic TZ5 travel zoom, I had not filters, no lens changes and no accessories of any kind to think about. The closest the camera got to manual mode was program mode and anything above the lower ISOs was unusable. So I had very few choices to make in terms of shooting the picture.

So what did I worry about? Framing. The framing in many of my best TZ5 photos still holds up as some of the best I've done, even though I've shot lots of photos with cameras where a single accessory costs more than the whole TZ5.

Now that said, there are lots of things I could not do with the TZ5 that I can do with my current cameras and the image quality is much, much higher with the other ones.

I guess my point is that whatever helps you to focus, to screen out superfluous concerns, can be helpful. Whether that means spending a lot of money or a little depends on your specific needs.

2 upvotes
Photomonkey
By Photomonkey (May 6, 2012)

@barsh, the Hassy spraying out too many files for you to handle? I assume you are talking about the field camera ALPAs and not the 35mm ones.;)

0 upvotes
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (May 7, 2012)

@jl1213 - You said just what I was thinking. I always think about what I am taking pictures of, I don't need Leica to do that for me, and I want to have a 100% viewfinder to make the composition, not 95% or 130% or something :)) - and I don't think it's that hard to set the Nikon to manual focus. Or is it?

I would never take that kind piece of Sheisse to replace a decent modern DSLR. That said, I have to admit I love the bokeh of some of their lenses.

1 upvote
Kodachrome200
By Kodachrome200 (May 7, 2012)

@barsh it is that simple. you do not make great photographs by putting camera is full auto mode and unthinkly shoo images in motor drive. Try putting your slr in the M mode youll find it is a great tool. ttl viefinder a better selection of lenses you can actually afford better image quality and so much cheaper itself. also autofocus when used correctly can help you take sharper images. not all electronics in the camera hinder the process

2 upvotes
xtoph
By xtoph (May 8, 2012)

like it or not, people don't make photos; people with cameras make photos. the camera has an effect on how you make the photo, which can have a (minor or profound) effect on the photo you make. putting an slr in manual mode isn't the same at all as shooting with a rangefinder.

i wouldn't personally call the rf effect slowing down and thinking harder; more like speeding up and learning to think more, but that's another matter.

1 upvote
rusticus
By rusticus (May 6, 2012)

I still do not know why you should still buy a Leica today: 2012!!!

3 upvotes
barsh
By barsh (May 6, 2012)

Easy... Modern SLR's are BORING! You can give a 1D to a monkey and he can take lovely images and call himself a photographer. Photography is more than pointing a camera at a subject and pushing a button and letting the computer(s) do the rest. I understand your post, but please, go to the shop and try one. If you're a serious pro or am, you'll find that it's an amazing experience.

3 upvotes
Kodachrome200
By Kodachrome200 (May 7, 2012)

no monkeys cant take lovely pictures comments like this just show your lack of taste

3 upvotes
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