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Monday, 07 September 2009


Considering how many people on here keep talking about their desire for a simple, no nonsense camera that just takes good pictures, I find it odd how many people are upset about the lack of features (including auto focus) on the M9. The camera is all about the photographer being 100% in control and making the final decision on everything before the shutter clicks. Is it too expensive for more of us? You bet. But any photographer worth his salt and with a shred of knowledge about the craft's history should dream about the day his lotto ticket comes through and he can buy two so as not to have to worry about ever changing a lens.

I'm going to pass on the initial release. I'm going to wait for the green or red lizard skin model.

1. Would Leica even exist as a camera maker today if not for Japanese electronics and imaging know-how?

2. A camera made for hand held use without in-body stabilization is laughable, so it had better have that if it's not going to be a detriment to the photography of its owners. GF1 take note too.

3. A camera touted as suitable for decisive moments without 'faster-than-shutter-finger' auto focus is a parody of itself, so I *assume* the new camera will have it. Manual-only focus is for static subjects in general. Once upon a time it had to be that way, but today there are better alternatives.

4. The D700 has five times the capability for one fifth the price, is same width, same height excluding pentaprism (which is just a knob but dramatically improves performance), and 25% longer. If the badges were reversed, which would you pick?

In fact, maybe it is just a bit of 'camera jewelery', like a ladies' swiss watch with a barely legible face.

So, my question now having seen the comparison of the two 35mm lenses. I use a Canon 5d, and the 35mm 1.4 is my primary lens. I love the fov, the low light abilities, and the way the lens performs. I like the bokeh and the sharpness, really no complaints OTHER than the size/weight. I hunted around online, but could not find any comparisons between the two lenses. Surely something had to be sacrificed in such a size difference (other than the obvious AF motor). I'd love to see a sharpness comparison, especially in the corners, as well as some extreme bokeh rendering in different scenarios (both bokeh balls, as well as leaves against a bright sky, and low contrast elements). Anyone know of any such thing?

Which came first? Did the Leicaphiles say the non-Leicaphile wasn't a real photographer and doesn't get it? Or did the non-Leicaphile call the Leicaphile a brainwashed fashion cultist? ;)

I was about to say something silly like "Stop looking at the camera around folks necks, and start looking at their photo hanging the walls", but since my 2 Leica cameras have been gathering dust since long before digital I obviously don't get "it".

not being a photographer myself, I still dare to share my opinion. The "problem" with digital Leicas is the speed in which the sensor technlogies change these days. Film Leicas are famous and legendary for their reliability, after decades you just put in a film and take pictures. It's all mechanical and interchangeable. With digiLeicas, you cannot expect them to work 10 years, who knows how long the sensors and all the fine non-interchangeable electronics will last. And digital cameras probably do not need to be such durable, as long as they are affordable. In 5 years new sensors will come, with new features / better specs. You will not be able to change just the sensor, not that you will want to, but still...

I'm excited by this news since it may make used MP's just that much more affordable.

PS: The Leica bashing is evidence that Nietzsche resentment is alive and well. Huzzah for "gud enuf!"

Back to the original story's primary point...

It truly will be wonderful to see a full-frame camera in a non-dslr body, particularly in a rangefinder. If the M9 produces image files as good as the M8's it will be wonderful and a bit of an engineering miracle, given the extreme angles of light path involved. I'll reserve my full applause until I see how the M9 really performs. But even the (still forthcoming) announcement will establish, as someone earlier remarked, a new benchmark.

Whether or not the big camera makers respond with smaller full-frame bodies is yet to be seen. The hoards of guys who were in their 30's when they first bought into photography in the late 1990's/early 2000's are now in their chubby, out-of-shape 40's and complaining that they're tiring of carrying "big" cameras and lenses. So the market for smaller, high-performance cameras would seem to loom larger each day. Sales of the E-P1 and the Panasonic micro four-thirds bodies with interchangeable lenses would seem to bear this out.

But such a maneuver by companies with enormous investments in lines of 35mm slr lenses would be no simple matter. Never mind that Nikon and Canon each had a history of making rangefinder lenses; that was 50 years ago! THose engineers are dead and the plants are long gone. Leica, Zeiss, and Voigtlander, with their well-established current lines of fine rangefinder lenses, may find themselves like guys who own gas stations along a future highway route.

So we should all be eager to see the M9, even those who have no interest in buying a rangefinder camera. This could really mark a turning point for the entire camera industry.

@Jim: Yes, that is the secret. The 'Oriental' camera companies (as Ken Rockwell puts it) are too busy out-gizmoing each other, it's as if Microsoft were designing the cameras...in the software industry it's called 'feature bloat.' This results in big heavy cameras and large lenses to go along with them.

My only experience with a rangefinder was with the Contax G system, a system I liked for its portability and image quality, but a system I felt was to much of a compromise for one reason, your not looking at what your lens is looking at. Not the Contax's fault, its a rangefinder after all. But you can't critically frame your subject with a rangefinder, at least not with a contax rangefinder, especially if that subject is close. I'll bet Leica's rangefinder is better and more accurate than the G systems rangefinder, but seeing what the lens is actually shooting is important for me to get composition right. If the M9 incorporated some type of live view, then it would have the best of both worlds, usable for both street snapping, and also for critically framed work, even (gasp) on a tripod.

I have to comment on the posts from people suggesting that everyone is "in a lather" or that there's a "riot" of a reaction.

I think many of the comments are not bashing the M9. Rather, they're in direct reply to the article that starts out with "I can't believe they pulled this off". All Leica appears to have pulled off is getting its users to wait for what SLR users have had for years now.

There's no more point in raving about the M9s compactness as there was in raving about the compactness of film rangefinders. Yep, they're smaller. Always have been, always will be. So now, in 2009, Leica finally has what it always had in the past. A small, expensive, manual focus rangedinder in a world of big, cheap autofocus SLRs. Nothing revolutionary there.

Quoth The Raven referring to the Leica M9: "It's also a camera for people who make money from their photographic work."

You haven't been to a newsroom, war zone, ribbon cutting ceremony, sideline or commercial studio lately, have you?

BTW, those comments are not a comment on the Leica brand, reputation, process, quality, history, the bricks in the building and any other thing holy about the big L, the comment is only that for the VAST majority of people, it is not the money-making camera of choice.

"Harry, Count yourself as one not speaking from experience as well since you haven't shot with an M9 either, so maybe it's not as 'wonderful' as you deem it to be, or maybe you guessed right. Talk about the world being a funny place. Player"

Really? How do you know I wasn't an M9 beta tester? Talk about jumping to conclusions, without any facts. But, rest easy. You are right. I haven't touched the M9, yet.

I wasn't speaking about the M9 in particular. I was speaking about how people, who obviously have not shot with a rangefinder over a prolonged period of time, are drawing all sorts of conclusions and making some quite passionate judgments. Drawing a conclusion about something you read or heard about is not he same as forming an opinion from actual experience.

I own six Leica M bodies and one LTM. I've shot them on a daily basis for the last 12 years. In terms of operation the M8 and M9 are identical to the analog cameras. I've also owned and shot EOS and Nikon cameras, both analog and digital. I currently use a D700. So, I have experienced both sides of the fence. Based on that experience it is obvious to me and probably others here, that a lot of the comments being made, are being made in ignorance of the facts and with a lack of experience.

Hope that clarifies things for you.

I think that people have missed something: one of the reasons that Leica have been able to demand a high price is their wonderful construction and longevity - the pre-digital m's are basically cameras for life, the maintain value excellently in the secondhand market.

However, one of the big differences with digital is that the technology moves very fast. That's why the 'invest in glass' mantra has developed amongst the Canon/Nikon fraternity - you buy into a lens system and update bodies every 2-5 years. How will this work with the M9? Don't get me wrong, it looks to be a wonderful piece of engineering, I'd love one, but it doesn't offer the 'camera for life' scenario of the old film cameras.

Sorry.... I unfortunately NEED an overhead bin of Canon's compromises to do my version of digging ditches.

Believe me, if I could just take pictures for the love of taking pictures, that M9 and two ro three primes would be my weapon of choice.


Did someone above REALLY compare a Sony? OMG. That's funny.

"Talk about jumping to conclusions, without any facts."

Harry, I knew I was on solid ground assuming that you weren't an M9 beta tester, which is a fact, so I jumped to a conclusion with a fact, but I would never go so far as to say that other posters here are speaking from ignorance simply because their viewpoints doesn't mesh with mine. I simply don't have the facts about them, and neither do you.

So only you, having owned 6 Leica film rangefinders, and your ilk, are the only people allowed to form an opinion about the M9 (which you and your ilk haven't tested either)?

For the working photojournalists and documentary photographers who have been waiting for a Leica M digital equivalent to the Leica film cameras, the M9 is the answer to a prayer. I've been using the M8 happily since it was released but will gladly switch to a full-frame M9 ASAP. I won't get rid of my M8s - they are still very useable, but an M9 would be a return to my film M's and my wonderful wide angle Leica lenses. To those who are worried about the price, it has never been truer that you get what you pay for. When you pay for a Leica, you get the very best.



In regard to attention-getting, my Pen E-P1 with a Pen F lens attached, or something like an FD 85/1.2L, gets more than any camera I've carried in a long time. (Including a Pen FT.)

I'm not endeared to the handling of the E-P1 but I'm sure the EVF version will suit me better whenever it comes along.

I don't think the Leica $$ are worth it but then again I don't have an oral surgeon's wallet.

"So, you can focus with the RF patch in the corner? :P or do you just prefer to center all your RF images?"

With a rangefinder camera, you focus and then compose. Once you are used to it, it's much faster than any autofocus twirling of dials.



"you buy into a lens system and update bodies every 2-5 years. How will this work with the M9? Don't get me wrong, it looks to be a wonderful piece of engineering, I'd love one, but it doesn't offer the 'camera for life' scenario of the old film cameras."

That's exactly what you do with Leica. I'm still using my 5o year old Leica lenses with my digital Leica M8. How many other camera systems can still use 50 year old lenses? Not only that, but the old Leica lenses are the best ones around!



Nice to see you here Tina! Welcome, and thanks for coming by my little corner of the web.


>"With a rangefinder camera, you focus and then compose. Once you are used to it, it's much faster than any autofocus twirling of dials."

It's easy to set up most twirly autofocus cameras to allow you to do exactly this, but with the help of the AF sensor if you so desire.

With the Nikon cameras for example, you can program a button on the back of the camera to initiate focus, which is then locked in place until you focus again. The key thing being that the shutter button no longer refocuses the camera. Therefore, you can pre-focus with one button push and then shoot as many pictures as you want at that focus setting.

Other handling quibbles aside, it seems like this is at least as fast a way to work as pre-focusing with the Leicas. FWIW.

Hey, my Pentax K20D still works great with M42 lenses that were built in the 1960s... almost 50 years ago. Including the SMC Takumar 50/1.4, the 85/1.4, the 135/2.5, etc. And so do my Sigma dSLRs.

The neat thing about old M42 lenses is that they let me see just how good my dSLRs are.

Of course, unlike the M9, I can see what the lens sees while looking through the viewfinder, and I also get feedback on focus (that is especially nice as my eyes have not aged as well as these lenses).

Tina Manley: I think the person you quoted was referring more to the longevity of the Leica digital bodies themselves. There's no question that the lenses, as long as they're taken care of, could conceivably stay around forever. The same could be said about analog Leica Ms. It's the digital and electronics aspect of the new Leicas that might not have the same durability and longevity as their analog siblings.

Depending on how much Leica wants for the M9, it's a reasonable question to ask. If I buy a Leica now, I'm hoping to have it as a for-life sort of camera.

"With a rangefinder camera, you focus and then compose. Once you are used to it, it's much faster than any autofocus twirling of dials."

I do exactly that with an EOS 5D, because the off-centre AF sensors are woefully inaccurate. But that just means that my recomposed main subject is never critically sharp unless it remains central in the image. This is especially so at large apertures.

Lovely images on your website BTW.


Congratulations Leica! At last, an ergonomic digital dream.

' I keep hearing about "top pros" who use Leica, but I only know of one. Gary Winogrand's name is often mentioned, but the guy died 25 years ago.)'

Well, how about - Sebastio Salgado, Marc Riboud, Constantine Manos, James Ravillious, Abbas, Willard, Alex Webb, Raghu Rai, Larry Towell, Bruno Barbi, Rene Burri, Phillip Grfith-Jones, Elliot Erwitt, David Hurn, Chris Steele-Perkins, and of course the inimitable Carier-Bresson and many others.

These are not press or sports hacks, but Photographers important enough to have many monographs devoted to their work and with their prints in top museums and galleries.

If the M9 is all it could be, and we must wait and see for that, it could be a digital Leica M7 and Mamiya M7 rolled into one. The speed and ergonomics of the best Leicas and the resolution of the Mamiya in one neat (expensive) package. If this is true, then it will work out cheaper and faster than the two oldies together. That's progress.

Ben Mathis,

Having used the Canon 35/1.4 L and the Leica 35/1.4 asph extensively on film, I can say that the Leica is much sharper everywhere, has nicer out of focus rendition and more 'pop'. It is, for me, a perfect lens and one reason I've been holding out for full-frame Leica.

Unfortunately, the Leica is more expensive than the Canon, and somewhat larger than the Voigtlander (still petite compared to Canon's beast).

I think people have completely missed the point of the article because of the name on the camera. I hope it leads to more small, full frame cameras for everyone. Just like I hope new technologies will one day soon give me a 2000-2500 pound hatchback with the safety features of the 3500+ pound behemoths that are everywhere. Sorry, the weight and unnecessary features of current cars is a bone of contention with me. I would read that book on traffic that you recommended, Mike, but it would just scare the bejesus out of me more than driving every day does.

"Focus and recompose" is what we all did 30 years ago, when there were only focusing aids in the middle of the screen. But it's less accurate. And not feasible if you're tracking a moving object. Today we expect to track the object while shooting continuously, with the AF keeping the eyes sharply focused. And doing it with Canon f/1.2 lenses with zero depth of field :-). Before, we'd get maybe one shot per pass.

Great pictures have been taken at every stage of the evolution of camera technology, but I suspect that a top sports shooter, say, from 1970, using his familiar equipment and techniques, would not produce commercially viable images for today's market. The best people in that niche today leverage the technology to get shots that were mostly missed in 1970. (I pick sports because it's possibly the niche most changed by modern technology.)

Regarding size of FF cameras. It is still possible to create FF camera smaller than Leica M9 ;-) Proof is here:
It isn't to heavy too despite being beautifully built using mainly metal...

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