Disclaimer: Leica M9, M9-P and ME are all exactly the same Camera with minor cosmetic changes
Its been over two years since I owned the Leica M9. Very controversial camera I must say, or is it?. Well I will let you to judge and let me know whether you will ever consider buying one.
Unlike most cameras, the Leica M9 is a Range Finder, rangefinder cameras focus using a dual-image rangefinding device. You turn a ring, and when two superimposed images line up, you’re in perfect focus. In a lame term, its manual focusing via ring attached to the lens.
Normally I would go about the Pros and Cons of this camera, but after two years of using it and with so many latest cameras came to the market, I wont bother you to discuss the PROS, because quit frankly, THERE ARE NON!. So why on earth did I buy it and still love it and most probably would never replace it, READ ON…
* Advantages that are NOT so Advantages Anymore:
(1) Leica (M9,M9-P,ME) Is Small, Compact & Interchangeable Full Frame Camera:
Well for its price, I can name several AMAZING cameras that came to market that is smaller and Full Frame. Cameras such as the Sony RX1R which comes at HALF the price of the Leica M9-M9P or ME. Ok So its not interchangeable lens, but with technology going too fast these days, I wont be surprised there is one coming in the corner. Actually, the Sony full frame interchangeable mirrorless camera has been rumored for a while and the potential release date has been moving back and forth, but now it seems that everything is set for an October announcement.
(2) Its Retro Stylish Look
First of all, how the camera look is personal taste and choice. But in General, one can tell camera for its retro stylish look and many people love that in a camera. Yes it has that look, but so as the new LEICA M, so as the Fuji X Series (X100, X100S, X10 etc ) and many to come in the future I am sure. So not an advantage at all I must say
(3) Unique Leica CCD sensor Look!
Don’t Get me started with this one. What makes Leica Photo unique, is not the Camera in my opinion is the AMAZING Leica Lens. And with proper Mount, you can mount these lens on almost any camera and get the look your are looking for. Also there are several NON Leica lens would give you such look in my opinion. And if you are Photoshop expert you can get what ever look you want!
Many claim that the CCD sensor inside these Leica (Leica M9, M9-P and ME) makes the look of the photo different. I don’t know about anyone else, but couldn’t see the difference, maybe the handling of the file during processing could be different, but as for the look, I couldn’t spot it. Recently, I was in Singapore and I tried shooting with the new Leica M (M240), which has a CMOS sensor, and compared to the same photos I took with my M9 and I just couldn’t figure out the difference.
* Disadvantages that are Still Disadvantages:
(1) Its Manual Focusing: The only time it works fine is when the subject is still, or you zone focus (i.e. you have to plan ahead in time). But its a pain for moving subjects, during birthday, sports, wild life etc
(2) Horrible ISO Capabilities: Anything above ISO of 2000 to me is not useable anymore. With cameras that goes as far as 128000 ISO, probably more these days, this is a huge let down
(4) Its EXPENSIVE: The body alone will set you back 4000 to 5500 Dollars, with half of the price your CHOICE OF body cameras are endless
(5) Limited FEATURES: Its hardcore Manual, no mambo jumbo state of the art Automatic features that you would see in the cheapest DSLR camera. You just have your Aperture, Shutter and your ISO controls, with Bracketing and Exposure compensation and that’s it
So What Gives? (Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder)
The very same disadvantages the Leica M9, M9-P and ME have are the very same reasons why I LOVE, and I ADORE this camera. Its like the term “Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder”. Most of us take pictures for one main reason only, to capture those unique moments that you can treasure forever. And for the photos to be considered worth treasuring, are photos that tells a story, photos that reminds you instantly what been going on during that moment when you took the photo, even when you see them years and years later. Photo that would instantly brings you a cozy smile to a point you may cry from happiness or Sadness remembering the feeling you had when you took that photo.
– Now like any beautiful thing, one need to look for it, to plan for it and think about it. And this is the key, with Leica M9, M9-P and the ME forces you to do that. With its manual Focus, you are forced to look for subject or scene and find the perfect composition. Most of the time you need to plan for your photo, plan for your perfect composition, wait for it for minutes or even more for it to happen. But once it happens it worth all the waiting and the hassle
– With its limited features, forces you to think of your exposure, when is the right time to use Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority. And what would be the right ISO in this scene putting in mind the remaining exposures settings. Not to mention it makes you a better photographer in terms of making out the ambient light and what exposure settings you need for that specific light
– With its horrible ISO capabilities, forces me not to take useless many pictures. With Leica lens and amazing Aperture opening capabilities, one would not need more than ISO 2000 in any occasion, why would he or she!!. But if you have that capability than you are forced to take photos that most probably have no artistic feeling. Knowing you own that power, will just make you shoot more photos without preplaning. Sometime with bad ISO capabilities you are forced to crank up the ISO in some occasion, and the Grain look with proper composition gives just amazing out come, with that in mind, makes you think in many occasion would this scene require a grain look for better artistic out come!. With high ISO capable cameras limits your artistic think process.
– Expensive, yes, but don’t we all need to be unique in some way. And lets face it, the expensive stuff are the ones we use the most and try to get the most out of it, they are the ones that we keep, maintain and pamper them. They are the ones that stays the longest. Its just human Physiology.
In a Nutshell, some very smart Photographer once said “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” – Henri Cartier”. Guess what, he used to use a Leica Range Finder. The problem is, with the latest cameras these days, than I am sorry its not 10,000 pictures anymore, more like 100,000, they just limit your creative process in photography. But with Leica M9, M9-P and ME, its FORCES YOU to STOP, THINK, COMPOSE AND SHOT and VIOLA a MASTER PIECE
Putting that in mind Would I buy the latest Leica M (M240), its exactly like the Leica M9, M9-P and ME with added features such as (High ISO capabilities, Live View, Video recording, CMOS Sesnor). The Answer is NO, because those Extra features would not make me a better photographer which defies the whole purpose of making a better photos and this Article. You are better off to have the Leica M9, M9-P and ME with another High End camera for specialized shooting, such as low light concerts, sports etc and still you end up saving chunk of money
So only the Beholder can understand the feeling and I hope I managed to transfer those feeling via words. You need to understand it and believe that it would make you a better photographer to love it and trust me it DOES and you will!
So would you Buy the Leica M9/M9-P or the ME?