Magic Hour with Leica M9 - First Use

leica M9-6

Last hour of the sun with newly arrived M9. A chance for a quick tryout of camera and lenses.
First Impressions. (Usually no different from 2nd, 3rd, 9999th really.)
There are a few little design improvements from the M8, though some are on the M8.2, such as the quieter shutter. There's a better info display with battery life + images remaining on card. There are menu options for Leica lenses plus a few other bits and pieces. It remains however a very simple camera. Manual Focus, Aperture Priority and Manual & thats about it.

On the cosmetic front - the steel grey finish is nice. It does look good with both silver and black lenses.

However big change with the sensor - 18MP full-frame. Still no AA filter (great!) but added IR filter (also great!)

leica M9-5

The first thing that you notice when looking at a file on the screen is the colour. Its digital Fuji Velvia. Gorgeous rich colours, strong contrast - real impact stuff. The colours are MUCH improved from the M8, more accurate, more punchy. I did like the M8 colour though & learned to work with it, but this is dead on straight out of the camera. Big surprise is the M9 jpgs. They are really good. I just ignored them on the M8 and never even bothered shooting them, but these are spot on.
Sharpness is excellent. Why more camera makers don't remove the AA filter, or at least give you the option, mystifies me. If you've never seen a non-AA filtered digital image, then try to somehow get a raw file & see the difference. I used the Kodak pro 14/n & slr/n cameras a few years ago & while the images had artefact and noise problems they were sharp. The sharpest images I had ever taken, until now.
In terms of my hopes for this camera - thats about it for me. Gorgeous colour, very sharp - theres not much else I need. It is EXACTLY what I hoped I'd get & for the bulk of my library work this is the camera I will use.

leica M9-4

leica M9-7

A few other comments.

Are the images sharper than those from my D3X? - yes.
Are the images sharper than those from my 5D Mk II? - yes.
Are the images sharper than those from my M8 - no, but they are bigger and with better colour.

I was very impressed by the D3X and thought it capable of great results, but the M9 really takes digital imaging up a notch. I know its useless at higher ISO's. ISO 2500 really is a joke - images taken at this setting are a noisy blotchy mess, but thats not what its for. For 95% of the images I take with this camera I will use ISO 160 - the base ISO. If you do low-light or action work then you wouldn't buy this camera anyway. Magnum photographers built their reputation using Leicas, but they were film cameras. If you shoot in good light, at low ISO's, with time to compose & with relatively limited movement in your frame - then this camera is the best you can get before you enter medium format territory.

The M9 is the same weight as the M8. Going out with the body & three lenses is a pleasurable experience for me, my back is grateful.

leica M9-3

Lenses - I was concerned about how my Voigtlander 15mm would perform - see previous post - but after working with the files for a couple of days I've found a good way of eliminating the vignetting (Lightroom) and can work with everything else. Zeiss 28mm biogon was superb, as expected, as was the Voigtlander 75mm F/2.5 Heliar. The 75mm is a real star performer. I've always loved it since buying it for m4/3 use. Its really sharp & I've never seen anything from a Leica lens thats better. However its now not a very long lens. It was a 100mm equivalent on the M8. Long lenses are not a Leica speciality. One solution might be to carry my GF1 with me & use it on that for longer shots.

So I'm really pleased I followed through on the purchase. My ebay account has been busy, with lenses and cameras going on sale to fund the M9. My m4/3 outfit is looking a bit depleted, but it now faces serious competition!!

D & A

leica M9-2

leica M9

leica M9 panorama



There are a few negatives which should be mentioned:-

Battery Life is short.
It takes an eternity to format an SD card.
Its very slow transferring images to card, even with a high speed SD card, so bursts are limited to 4-5 shots.
I got dust spots after my first lens change!!