Guest post: Nine reasons to travel with the Leica M9 by Adam Marelli

Waiting For Breakfast

Today’s guest post is from  Adam Marelli (www.adammarelliphoto.com):

The release of the M8 did not convince me to go digital. While it was a big step forward, and some camera dealers swore a full frame M was not an option, I decided to hold out. The M9, and its custom Kodak CCD sensor, promised to deliver the same, if not better image quality than my film camera. There were a few things I was hoping would happen with the M9 and a few unexpected surprises.

While I am traveling, the less gear I have to carry, the better. The release of the M9, meant my bag was about to get a whole lot lighter. After using it for a few months and memorizing the new digital layout, I was ready to leave my M6 at home and give the M9 a real test in southern India. Carrying one camera and three lenses, I wondered if the M9 could out perform the M6.

Little Face Big Eyes

The Findings:

1. No More Dead Weight. Usually I pack about 25-30 rolls of film for every week I am away. Because I trust airlines as much as I trust politicians, I almost never check luggage. The bag of film takes up a lot of space in a carry on. Instead I packed three memory cards, (2) 8GB and (1) 16GB into a small zipper pouch no bigger than my wallet.

2. Flexible ISO. Being able to change your ISO on digital camera has been an expected feature for years. But coming from film, the ability to switch from ISO 160 to ISO 800, made shots possible that would have required a tripod. Leica has built such a strong position with their film cameras, that anyone switching to digital will giggle to themselves as they switch their ISO’s. At least for the first few months.

3. Self Timer. Unless you are shooting annual reports, most architecture is best shot in the early morning or at dusk. The color saturation of long exposures makes twilight efforts worth while. The combination of the self timer and the shutter dial’s multiple second exposures, allowed me to leave the cable release and sometimes the tripod at home. One less thing to carry and fuss with in the dark.

4. End Of The Roll. When you are in a new place, action comes from all directions. The worst thing that can happen is you run out of film and miss the shot. Its happened to me before, even with careful planning. With the M9, I did not have to have to change rolls of film. I had hundreds of shots per card and could easily manage shooting without running into the 37th frame.

5. LCD Screen. Before I shot the M9, I used a Nikon n2020, a Mamiya 7II, a Hasselblad 500 C/M, and a Leice M6TTL. Waiting weeks to see my final images was part of my workflow. If I ever had a situation where I was unsure about the exposure, I would bracket to make sure I got the shot. But the ability to look at a histogram, especially with nighttime exposures and artificial light, is such a relief. The camera’s Auto-Review is normally turned off, but every once and a while, checking the screen, lets me confirm the shot and move on.

6. Do I Shoot More Images? Digital photography is constantly accused of reckless shooting. I wondered if I would shoot more pictures with an M9 than I would with an M6? At the end of eight days in Kanyakumari India, I had only taken 485 images, that’s 14 rolls of film. I believe that the way someone shoots has nothing to do with the camera. M9 or M6, it doesn’t matter. Leica did a great job of making the transition seamless.

7. Less Post Production. I love photography, but I can’t stand post production. Devoting hours to cutting negatives, scanning, dust removal and sitting at a computer is not my ideal workday. I prefer to be out shooting. The M9 has cut the post production by at least 75%, allowing me more time in the field and less time on a chair.

8. Smiling Faces. Photography connects me to the people I meet traveling. With film there was not possible to show someone the picture I had just taken. We could exchange emails, I could give them my website, or I could bring them a print when I returned, but there was nothing I could do, other than assure them it was good. The M9 is the best business card I’ve ever carried. If someone wants to see a picture, I just turn it around, and watch their eyes light up.

9. Old Look, New Guts. People come up to me all the time and ask me why I still shoot a film camera. I have to show them the screen on the back of my M9 to prove its digital. Keeping with tradition, the M9 has most people thinking I am an old timer, shooting on ancient equipment. This comes in very handy whenever I see “No Photography” signs. In my mind they read “No Photography for big goofy cameras that look like telescopes, Leica users feel free to shoot away.”

Leica has always been about simplicity. Anything can happen in front of the camera. I expect my equipment to make shooting intuitive and more fulfilling. As I try different systems and formats, the goal is simple. I want to capture the world in front of me and bring back for others to see. Leica is my tool of choice.

Temple Light

Banana Men Kerala Priest at Homa Lookout

Ocean Bath Proud Father Yawning

Improvements Leica Could Make:

  • Light Meter Needs Help. The light meter appears to give up below a 1/4 of a second.  When shooting after dark or pre-dawn, I fire test shots and check the histogram.  The M9 will often flash the under exposed  ▶ in very dark scene, when the actual exposure is between a few seconds and 1/4 of a second.  I figured out a way around this by metering the brightest light, which calms the light meter down.  Depending on how bright the light is, I calculate in reverse, usually two full stops to the correct exposure.
  • Offer different viewfinder magnifications. The 28mm Elmarit is a lens I use often.  The x.68 finder is not very accurate for the 28mm.  The image capture is beyond the frame lines, so I constantly have to take a step or two closer than the finder shows me.  A x.58 or lower would be great.
  • High ISO Capability. I would not exhibit a print shot at ISO 800, the quality is good for viewing but not printing.  The ability to shoot up to ISO 2500 and make gallery prints would be ideal.  This might be a CCD limitation vs CMOS, but it should be a goal of Leica’s.
  • Shutter sound. Because I shoot inside temples, a quiet shutter is mandatory.  The M9 is much better than any comparable Canon or Nikon, but I miss the quiet thud of the old shutters.
  • Battery Life. Lets be honest, battery life could always be better.  My M6 needs batteries every few months.  The M9 has stiff competition from is predecessors.
  • Rear Screen. The images on the LCD screen are darker than the actual images.  Trusting the screen will lead to some over exposures.  Canon uses a 920,000 pixel screen while the M9 has a 230,000 pixel screen.  I actually like the smaller 2.5” screen, but the quality could be improved.   Maybe this is Leica’s way of saying “Get good enough to not need the screen.”

Special thanks to Adam Marelli for this guest post. You can follow him at his blog at www.adammarelliphoto.com. All images copyrighted by Adam Marelli.

If you want to be a guest blogger on LeicaRumors, you can contact me here with your ideas.

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  • MV

    Interesting article and nice photography, but most of your observations are about the transition from film to digital, rather than to a Leica.

    Also, you seem to be a bit wrapped up in the Leica mythology. Screen too dark? ‘Maybe this is Leica’s way of saying “Get good enough to not need the screen.”’ How about “a technical flaw, hope they get it right in the 9.2”!

    • Hey MV,

      Recently I have encountered a bunch of film shooters who usually ask me, is the M9 worth it? My answer is “It depends on what you do with the pictures.” I enjoy Leica, but I am not out to convert others.

      As for the “screen” comment, it was a bit of a joke. The screen needs help and I think Leica is listening. The way you said it works well too! : )

  • it’s good to see someone point to some of the operational factors that imo are the biggest advantages of shooting digital generally, and the m9 in particular. i love film, but the workflow advantages, especially while traveling, are just overwhelming. i’ve had whole bags of film ruined by incompetent hand inspections at airports. and the ability to back up and make multiple copies of your images is fantastic.

    some comments: i strongly recommend you take many more sd cards. besides the storage headroom in case you run into a once in a lifetime event, it makes it easy to carry backup copies of your work, stash them in different places, etc. you can even carry an extra 2 gig card pre-loaded with a portfolio; then if you run into someone who needs convincing that you’re a real photographer, or with whom you simply want to share, you can pop it in and show them a few favorites right there.

    i am afraid i do not trust the m9 for travel without a backup body. for now, that body remains an m6ttl, which gives me some options i wouldn’t otherwise have (and is good for shooting in pouring rain, too). it would be nice to be able to afford a backup m9, and just keep the 28, 35, 50 lenses mounted. maybe someday…

    i think its incontrovertible that the camera you use does affect how you shoot. that’s the whole point of choosing a rf, after all. if you don’t shoot a lot more frames with the m9 than you did with an m6, i’d say that’s because the two cameras are basically very similar in operation; shoot a d3, and i guarantee your frame count will go up. which is not a bad thing. anyway, the point is that i think a lot of discussions about profligate shooting on digital miss that it isn’t necessarily just the fact of digital that’s making people snap away; it’s the kind of cameras they’re using.

    you make some good points on the pro side, and some good notes on things to improve. i have to second the abysmal battery life issue, but i think that should be relatively easy to fix. i also wish that they will devote some serious attention to damping the sound of the camera further. (and while they’re at it, improve the feel of the shutter release.) i’ve had the same issues with the light meter in darkness, but i don’t care much, as i find a test frame more useful than the meter most of the time anyway. most of all, i really, really hope that leica can make the camera substantially more weather resistant and reliable. while they’re at it, add some guard rails next to the buttons so they aren’t constantly getting pushed while you carry it.

    finally–if you aren’t getting great prints at iso 800 and beyond (well, out to 1250) then i think you should look again at your technique. i have made many exhibition and museum grade prints a meter wide at iso 1250, which is what i consider a comfortable ceiling for the camera. (iso 2500 can be useful, provided the scene is low contrast, but i don’t like to risk it, usually.) that’s without special noise reduction software, and there’s no visible noise in the prints at any reasonable viewing distance. in many of these dark scenes, the results are more vibrant and detailed than with my 5d2, which is a high standard.

    thanks for the post, i think it raised important points often missed in these discussions.

    • Hey Chris,

      Thanks for the super thoughtful response. I can only hope that readers put as much thought into an article as you have done here. Really appreciate it.

      Note taken about the memory cards. As for carrying a back up, going without one was more of a personal test. Risky? Sure, but it worked out. If you would like to loan me your M9 as a back up, feel free : ) Another M9 is not in the cards yet.

      And in a longer version of the article, I could explain a bit more about over shooting. Certainly someone will take less pics with an 8×10 than a point and shoot. What I was interested in, was “would changing from film to digital change how I shot?” So far, no real change.

      As for the prints, do you get the same image quality out of an ISO800 pic versus a ISO160 pic? If so, maybe you can share some tricks. Would love to see some prints like that.

      Thanks again-Adam

      • @ adam–
        yeah, i hear you on the money problem for a backup body. that’s why i have the m6ttl. it means i have to carry some film (not as much, since it’s usually just for emergencies and occasional second-body use; most places, you can get decent color neg film somewhere or other if you really need more), but i think it’s better than the last big trip where i carried my 5d2 and three lenses as a backup to the m9… god that gets heavy. much better to have a system with shared lenses. and i can tell myself that for the odd situations where film will work better, i can still do that if i want to. but it is much easier going without the canon, now. (i also carry on everything when going by air–and for long trips, i carry a computer with external backup drives, too. yes, i like to have a plan b.)

        no, i don’t get exactly the same iq from iso 800 vs 160. but i get good enough file quality from iso 1250–much better than any comparably fast film, of course, and at least as good as my 5d2 at 1600–that it just isn’t something i need to worry about. the quality is more than good enough to let the content dominate.

        btw, my usual practice with using iso is, first, to only use the full stops from 160 to 1250 (occasionally 2500, as i said, if i am very confident about the range of values in the scene, but sometimes it breaks down at that iso, in my experience, in terms of dynamic range, detail, and noise, pretty much in that order). i don’t know if leica interpolates the other isos or if they are all hardware amplified, but it is simpler for me to switch that way–just up or down the list, never left or right–and simpler for me to remember corresponding shutter and aperture values. (i shoot everything on manual.) in fact, at this point i have basically moved to the practice of only ever using base iso (160), or high iso (1250); this further simplifies memorizing exposures and allows me to more quickly and intuitively control my results. there are exceptions; sometimes i find the extra dynamic range of a lower iso like 640 useful in a night scene, and sometimes in a medium light scene i really need the extra dof or motion-stopping power of 640 rather than just opening things up, but without being dogmatic about it, i am now basically a 2 iso shooter. it has worked very well for me–i recommend it to anyone who exposes manually.

        for the printed results, it is possible to distinguish a bit narrower dynamic range, and sometimes a bit of detail loss, between side by side prints (of different subjects) at 160 vs 1250, but i find that they still hang together well; it doesn’t look like two different photographers took them, which some high iso output can do to your work. you’ve obviously found the samples i linked to the other day, so i hope you experiment some more on your own, and maybe you’ll get to explore some new photographic territory. 1250 with a fast 35mm lens is just enough for me to cover nearly all the situations i photograph in, and that’s saying something, since i shoot a lot in third world conditions at night. though it would be nice to have a bit more shutter speed in many of them.

  • John Fulton

    Eight of the nine reasons are about going from film to digital. The ninth reason (it looks like old film camera) could apply to the M8. You should consider carrying more than three memory cards. No pro I know carries that few. Good luck with your M9 it IS a great camera.

  • I agree that this article is more about digital vs. film, which is always an interesting oft-debated topic but not particularly unique to the M9. The SLR vs. Leica RF debate is also a dead horse.

    The issues discussed here unique to the M9 here are the mechanics/electronics of the camera. On that front, having been shooting the M9 since September 2009, I’ve yet to run out of battery power on a given day, had no problems shooting the M9 in the rain or on open seas with ocean mists spraying towards the camera. I’ve dropped it in the snow and had it bounced up and down repeatedly while in a humvee. Aside from having to recaliberate the RF focus once (courtesy of Leica New Jersey at no cost to me), I haven’t found a reason to use a backup body. Is the M6 tougher? Perhaps. Is the M9 tough enough for me? So far, so long as we are above -20 degrees, yes . . .

    BTW if you are worried about battery power, turn off the LCD/preview, use a cable trigger instead a self timer, and don’t keep the shutter half-pressed while you hunt for the right exposure/composition. In other words, shoot it as you would a M6

    • Oh BTW for more accurate framing, I use the universal external finder which I find to be very accurate for 28mm and wider lens. The level bubble is also helpful. Since the finder ranges between 18mm to 28mm, it’s a good little gadget to use to decide what lens you may want to shoot for a given composition, before you put on that lens.

    • Hi David,

      I would not touch the rangefinder SLR debate with a ten foot pole. If someone is not into a rangefinder, I am not about to convince them.

      And the M9 has taken a bunch of bounces, so I totally agree with you. It may not be bullet proof, but its good enough for now. Weather sealing is definitely the next step.

      Thanks for reading!

      Best-Adam

  • Eric

    Herein lies why I’m not interested in digital Leicas yet. You can’t even make a great exhibition print from a photos hot at ISO 800. I have shot at ISO 1600 and 3200 ISO with my digital cameras and and have perfectly fine prints that blow up just fine.

    And my Nikon in quiet mode is nearly as silent as a Leica. I photographed a National Geographic video team a few weeks ago and I could shoot in quiet mode while they were taping no problem. The D7000 is a new low for sound when it comes to quiet. The D3s, not so much. 🙂

    • i really do not know where people get the notion that “you can’t make a great exhibition print at iso 800” with an m9. that simply is not true.

      here is a shot at iso 1250, f/1.4, and 1/125 sec: not yet seriously dark, but pretty dim.
      http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/4014313329/download/582492
      and here is a crop from that shot, with no noise reduction beyond the default global setting in aperture:
      http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/4014313329/download/584921

      if you can’t make a suitable print from file quality like that, then i don’t know what will satisfy you.

      here’s a couple of shots at iso1250 shot in even darker conditions which hang in several collections at a meter wide:

      it’s really time to put this notion that the m9 can’t be used in low light to rest.

      • Hey Chris,

        Thanks for the images, time for some testing!

        Best-Adam

    • Hey Eric,

      80% of my shots are under 400 ISO so its not such a big deal, but I guess it depends on how you shoot. And if your Nikon gear works for you, stick with it. I come from a family of photographers and we each shoot different systems. My father uses Canon 5D’s and sister is on Nikon D700’s.

      Cool story about the National Geographic shoot, was it anywhere exotic?

      Best-Adam

  • @david–

    regarding battery life: if you shoot an m9 the way you do an m6, the battery will die within 5 hours, max–much faster if you actually take any photos during that time. i carry three batteries and often run down all three in a day.

    the problem is that in order to make the m9 act like a film m, you have to turn off the auto sleep mode. otherwise, if you need to make a quick grab shot, the camera won’t fire; you have to wait for it to wake up first, by which time many shots are long gone.

    for studio shooters and anyone who mainly does posed or still life shots, this is not a problem, and i can understand why those photographers scratch their heads wondering what the big problem with battery life is (though even there, it could be a whole lot better, compared to the competition).

    for people like me who shoot mainly documentary type photos, where you may be hanging around for long periods and only need to snap a fast frame every half an hour, auto sleep mode is unworkable on the m9. (it works fine on nikon and canon cameras, but not the m9.) if i even just forget to turn the camera off while i eat dinner (or if the dial rotates on its own, which it is prone to do, both turning on and worse, off during carry), i can lose half the charge without firing a single shot. this is absurd, and needs to change if the m10 is going to become the full inheritor to the m legacy that the m9 almost is.

    as for not needing a backup–okay, good luck with that. i’ve had cameras of every make and type die on me in the field, and i’ve already had more than my share of m9 malfunctions, many clearly related to moisture (such as a jammed shutter release). there’s also no question that more people are having breakdowns with the m7/m9 than used to happen with the mechanical cameras. i consider a backup camera necessary for any important trip. i am just glad it no longer has to be something as mammoth as my canon system.

  • CP

    I gave a presentation on the Leica M9 as part of the Leica Road Show and exhibited some 17X22 prints made at iso 1600 and 2500. Even Christian Erhardt and the other Leica rep there were surprised at their quality. So I highly suggest you look at what you are doing. ISO 1600 is entirely usable on the M9 – just be sure to process through LR3 (and/0r C1) and not to underexpose.

    Yes, wake up time in auto sleep mode is the biggest problem with the M9. I have missed shots this way. Imo the #1 change Leica needs to make moving forward.

    And yeah, I would say at least 3X that many cards! 🙂

  • I totally agree to all of Adam’s comments, about the reasons why and what Leica should do.
    He is so right about everything. Even though I work with M8, I had travelled with my lone M6 and my 50 lux, to various places and i was eager to come back to see the result, with the anxiety that I miss the exposure and the airport devil’s machine would have burned all my shots! 100% of the time, thank to the magic of the M6’s built-in cell, I was right on.
    I started to work in digital in 1996 with Canon or Nikon camera and the Kodak sensor. I then, in 1999, got my first D1 from Nikon, along with all the problems these cameras had.
    In 2009, many progresses have been made in so many fields in digital photography that some of the flaws The M8/9 have should not be existing.
    This is my wish list :
    1) higher ISO; If the camera can go up to 6400 iso, it means it will be good at 2500. I work at 1250 iso and it is because i could use the flash, but is I was nicely surprised by the quality of the pictures, it has nothing to do witht the D700 I also own, at 6400 iso ! Okay, I’m talking about the M8 here, but i tried the M9 and the difference is not obvious.
    2) The screen; It is a cheap piece here for this kind of camera, Leica always wanting to be the best, MUST absolutly change it.
    3) Better response; When the camera “sleeps”, it takes too long to “wake it up” and I miss shots. Sometimes you see thing within nano seconds and if the camera takes too long to get everything ready, you miss the shot. Leica had a reputation to be the fastest camera and still is. If you stop the camera from “sleeping” your battery is going to be dead in few hours ! Dilemma.
    4) A battery that last longer; Even though i do not find the life of the ones I have annoying. I have two per camera (I have two M8s) and they largely last a day. So to be very comfortable, Leica should be worked on a better one (like my Nikon old D70 that lasted almost a week) Like Adam, I do look at my screen very often.
    5) Weather I want to be able to use my camera in every situation, even under the rain. I am afraid to take it out because is it not sealed, and it cost lost of money to get it repair. I do not know about the M9 but I wish I could use my Leica, that I carry absolutly everywhere, in every weather.
    6) Maybe a bigger buffer; It is not a real flaw because this camera is not made for shooting like a fast DSLR. It is just that once i a while we need this extra space and process speed because there is a lot to shoot, and this camera (M8) needs to be used in DNG, heavy file.
    7) Maybe a second SD Slot; I am a little nervous to use the lastest SD big capacity card that just came out ! So I use my good ol’ smaller SD i can trust ! Instead of having one 16gb, I rather two 4gbs or 8 gbs. If I need to work in DNG/Jpeg, two slots are what I need, because I always want to and will shoot no matter what in DNG, but I need to transmit jpg fast and it takes lots of space and slows down everything.
    8) My dream is to have like my three M7s, three different finders equivalent of the known one on film cameras (0,58, 0,72 and 0,82). I have 21mm to 135 mm lenses and it gives you an identity to the camera. I do not “see” through my 0,58 like I do with 0,72 when i put my cron 28. You right away know you are using a wide angle or a telephone and you mentally adjust to it ! I have been using M cameras for over twenty years and it really helped me having different finders.
    9) Noise; a very, even quieter shutter. Already Leica is quiet and they have put this great feature of not cocking the shutter if the still pressing the button, even my old M8 is quiter than any DSLR, but if they could work on it a little bit more, that would be fantastic. There are huge differences between DSLR and Ms, but also between M8 and M8.2, M8.2 and M9. They got better every time, let’s hope they can go even further next time.
    I am ready to sell all my DSLR gear to get the next M10, I just hope Leica will listen to me.
    As you can see, the list of my wishes are quite similar to Adam’s recommandations.
    I think highly of Leica for building the greatest camera in the world, but perfection is not there yet. Leica is known for the lenses and I believe that, already with the M8, Leica has done a great job in the combination lense/Sensor, not easy to make in digital. Now they just need to work on details and come up with the next M9 close to what we expect… Adam and I gave the same kind of list. So the move is on Leica’s side !

  • *****Final version*****
    I totally agree to all of Adam’s comments, about the reasons why and what Leica should do.
    He is so right about everything, even though I work with M8.
    I have been travelling, with my lone M6 and my 50 lux, to various places and i was eager to come back to see the result, with the anxiety that I miss the exposure and the airport devil’s machine would have burned all my shots! 100% of the time, thank to the magic of the M6′s built-in cell, I was right on.
    I started to work in digital in 1996 with Canon or Nikon camera and the Kodak sensor. I then, in 1999, got my first D1 from Nikon, along with all the problems these cameras had.
    In 2009, many progresses have been made in so many fields in digital photography that some of the flaws The M8/9 have should not be existing.
    This is my wish list :
    1) higher ISO; If the camera can go up to 6400 iso, it means it will be good at 2500. I work at 1250 iso and it is because I couldn’t use the flash, but is I was nicely surprised by the quality of the pictures, it has nothing to do witht the D700 I also own, at 6400 iso ! Okay, I’m talking about the M8 here, but i tried the M9 and the difference is not that obvious.
    2) The screen; It is a cheap piece here for this kind of camera. Leica always wanting to be the best MUST absolutly change it.
    3) Better response; When the camera “sleeps”, it takes too long to “wake it up” and I miss shots. Sometimes you see thing within seconds around the corner of your eyes and it takes too long to get everything ready, so you miss the shot. Leica had a reputation to be the fastest camera and still is. on the other hand If you stop the camera from “sleeping”, your battery is going to be dead in few hours ! Dilemma.
    4) A battery that last longer; Even though i do not find the life of the ones I have annoying. (I have two for my two M8s) and they largely last a day. So to be very comfortable, Leica should be worked on a better one (like my Nikon old D70 that lasted almost a week) Like Adam, I do not look at my screen very often.
    5) Weather; I want to be able to use my camera in every situation, even under the rain. I am afraid to take it out because is it not sealed, and it cost lost of money to get it repair. I do not know about the M9 but I wish I could use my Leica, that I carry absolutly everywhere, in every weather.
    6) Maybe a bigger buffer; It is not a real flaw because this camera is not made for shooting like a fast DSLR. It is just that once i a while we need this extra space and process speed because there is a lot to shoot, and this camera (M8) needs to be used in DNG, heavy files.
    7) Maybe a second SD Slot; I am always nervous to use the lastest SD big capacity card that just came out ! So I use my good ol’ smaller SD I know I can trust ! Instead of having one 16gb, I rather two 4gbs or 8 gbs. Plus if I need to work in DNG/Jpeg, two slots are what I want, because I always want to and will shoot no matter what in DNG, but I need to transmit jpg fast and it takes lots of space and slows down everything.
    8) My dream is to have like my three M7s, three different finders equivalent of the known ones on film cameras (0,58, 0,72 and 0,82). I have 21mm to 135 mm lenses and it gives you an identity to the camera. I do not “see” through my 0,58 like I do with 0,72 when I use my cron 28 . You right away into the frame “mentally” ! I have been using M cameras for over twenty years now and it really helped me with my pictures having different finders.
    9) Noise; a very, even quieter shutter. Already Leica is quiet and they have put this great feature of not cocking when I still press the shutter, even my old M8 is quieter than any DSLR, but if they could work on it a little bit more, that would be fantastic. There are huge differences between DSLR and Ms, but also between M8 and M8.2, M8.2 and M9. They got better every time, let’s hope they can go even further next time.
    I am ready to sell all my DSLR gear to get the next version of the Leica M camera, I just hope Leica will listen to me.
    As you can see, the list of my wishes are quite similar to Adam’s.
    I think highly of Leica for building the greatest camera in the world. Leica is known for the lenses and I believe that, already with the M8, Leica has done an amazing job in the combination lense/Sensor, not easy to make in digital. Now they just need to work on details and come up with the next M9 close to what we expect… Adam and I gave the same kind of list. So the move is on Leica’s side !

  • @ Chris:

    I personally haven’t really missed any shots due to shutter/power-on lag with my M9. I too shoot street/doc, and when I see a shot coming up, I reach for the camera while turning it on at the same time (with my right hand), left hand takes off lens cap, bring the camera to my eye, focus/compose, and press shutter (more than once if necessary), turn off camera. Sometimes I will review, most of the times I don’t. The whole event take about a second or less (depending how many photos I take at that instance) and I don’t recall many instances, if any, where my M9 wasn’t ready to go. I suppose if I repeate this process 10,000 times, I would run out of battery in five hours. Opposite to what you suggest, it is in studios where I tend to run low on battery power on the M9, because the camera is constantly on and I am constantly shooting for hours straight. But even in that case I’ve never run out of juice on my M9 (but, as you have suggested, have gotten as low as 25% after about four hours of shooting, with about 800-900 actuations). With a M9 (or RF generally) on the street, I usually don’t shoot 800-900 photos on a given day. I find that when I shoot that many photos on the street, most of it is rubbish that takes up room in my hard drive. All that said, it makes all the sense in world to improve the battery life and to carry spare batteries, give how little they weigh.

    On backup system, my experience has bee completely opposite yours. I have never had a pro-level camera break down on me or malfunction on me (I say pro level because I have trashed about a dozen or so point-n-shoto cameras, with one of them catching on fire . . .). Granted, I haven’t treated as roughly my M9 as I have with my Nikons (close calls including having my Nikons flying off my snowmibile in the artic, dropped in puddle of mud in Cambodian jungle, and having my underwater housing flooded at 70 feet below in the South Pacific; I am just shocked how touch my Nikons have been, with NO instances of malfunction). But I’ve definitely haven’t treated my M9 with the TLC it deserved. All that said, however, when I get home I apologize profusely to my camera equipment and give them a cleaning session on my 0wn (which includes a 24 hour dehumidification process).

    I know lots of pro photogs will bring completely redundent systems including multiple bodies of the same specification, even multiple copies of the same lens (like a 600mm f/4.0) because they can’t afford any breakdowns. Those people, a couple of which I know, are pro photogs who go on months long trips on assignments for magazines like the National Geographic. That is not me. AT most I will bring an extra dSLR body on trips to the extreme wheather condition. But I just haven’t found the need to spend another $7K for a M9 because I don’t take my M9 to those extreme conditions. If I do, my backupo camera would be a dSLR or a M6, not another M9. But again, that’s me personally. At the end of the day, it’s whatever works best for you and whatever makes you enjoy the photography prccess.

    • @ david, again (hey, i figured out the in-line reply function…):

      about the camera backup situation: good luck, in all sincerity. it’s never fun to have malfunctioning equipment spoil something. having had half a dozen pro cameras malfunction for all sorts of reasons ranging from looking at them funny to dropping them on concrete or being tear gassed, i prefer to have a backup when traveling. and btw, water and condensation are the top culprits in my camera-killer pantheon, neither of which were nearly as much of a problem when i was using all-mechanical cameras. and that is why the m9, in particular, needs much better weatherseals than it currently has. they don’t appear to have even tried to seal the shutter release assembly, and it goes downhill from there. nikon seems to be doing a much better job on this front–even pentax and of course, olympus do much better, and for a whole lot less money.

      on battery life–obviously people who use the camera differently from one another will reasonably have different results, but i’m surprised to hear you say you are getting 900 shots without even fully draining the battery. even leica’s owner’s manual only claims a battery life of 350 pictures on a full charge.

      but you seem to think that my complaint with battery life is because i take a lot of photos. that’s not it. my problem with the battery life (or power management systems, if you like) on the m9 is that i run out of battery power even if i do not take a single photo. when the camera is switched on–and i do not consider a 1+ second startup lag a viable option for my photography–the camera doesn’t operate for more than about 4 hours. i haven’t found that shooting photos or using the lcd during that time has any appreciable impact on how long it takes for the battery to drain; it still takes about 4 hours, more or less, even if i take a few hundred photos during that period. (very long exposures, however, will run down the battery in a much shorter time.)

      i think it is great that your method works for you. for me, i need the camera to be ready the instant i see something. i don’t have time for lens caps, and i don’t have time to wait for the camera to ‘wake up’. sure, some pictures can be anticipated ahead of time, but a whole lot of them can’t. i didn’t have a lag with my film cameras, and i expect any digital camera that wants to be taken seriously within the m tradition to offer the same functionality, not a downgrade. “decisive moment, give or take a second” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

      • damn, something went haywire with the formatting. sorry.

        • Thanks for your comments Chris. Yeah if the split-second decisive moment is important to me, I admit I go with the DSLR that has AF-C features, I’m simply not as fast on focusing than probably you are. By the time I focus, which takes about a second for me, the camera is usually ready to go. BTW, I do think the M9, once goes to sleep, does take forever to wake up. I actually find it must faster from off to on state than from sleep to wakeup state.

          Taken to the exteme, of course, if you wish to be able to respond to any possible decisive moment at any second of a day, anywhere you are, your best camera is probably the iPhone 🙂

          • Oh and one more thing, I do find that no review on the LCD does save battery, if you add up the LCD review time to be 2 second per shot, 350 shots means 700 seconds of LCD review. And whenever you do LCD review, it’s not just the LCD panel that requires energy, the processor also needs to render the image, and analyze it for the histogram should you want to pull that up. And of course people zoom in, etc. (while decisive moments pass by). All in all I find it unlikely that there would be no appreciable different if you do not use the LCD review function. That said, as I have said, it makes all the sense in the world to get a backup battery, especially if you prefer to leave on the camera hours at a time.

            And as for a backup camera, again I am not opposed to the idea, just opposed to getting a completely redundant backup as opposed to having, say, a DSLR that I already own as a backup to the M9 as opposed to spending another $7K. I suppose having a second M9 gives you an option of having a different lens mounted, but then again, if lens versatility is important to me (such as a zoom function), along with weather seal, and battery life than, say, the lightweight of the (single) M9 and the bokeh of the Summilux 50mm for a given trip, I would take my Nikon, not the M9.

  • asdasd

    yawn

  • Adam,

    Nice to hear that you’re enjoying your camera. The point about not having to spend time scanning, etc. is very valid.

    However, are you putting your M9’s features over film to good use? For example, that kid portrait’s focus is clearly in front of the subject (on the collar) and it’s very visible even at this small magnification.

    Also,

    This comes in very handy whenever I see “No Photography” signs. In my mind they read “No Photography for big goofy cameras that look like telescopes, Leica users feel free to shoot away.”

    Not sure if I agree with you on the above. You’re only able to do that because those poor people in India aren’t usually confrontational with foreigners because to them, you’re their guest in their house. I’d like to see you try that, say, in a Melbourne church when some event is taking place or inside some shop and whether they’d still have the same attitude towards a RF over a goofy DSLR. You’re in their home… have a bit more decency.

    • Hey Geno,
      Thanks for the feedback, yes the hours of time scanning are not missed at all. Not sure I will ever buy an Imacon, but if I did it could keep me shooting film more often.

      As for the advantages of digital over film and the little girl, she moved. That was the best picture I got. Her eyes are a little soft, but it does not bother me much. Might it be better if her eyes were perfectly sharp? Sure, but kids move.

      As for the poor Indian being non-confrontational, I did not find that to be true. Many were very sweet and others were pretty vocal about things and can be quite pushy. Its not a “my house, their house thing.” There were many places, where out of respect for the culture I did not take pictures. In some cases I have spent over a year going to a place like a temple before I am allowed to take pictures. Some of the Kerala priests actually wanted pictures to be taken. It was very situation dependent.

      I find it strange that in many religions, which pretty much agree that their divine source created the world, put restrictions on photographing things made by men. If God’s things are free to be photographed, it seems strange that man’s things are considered too sacred for images. For the same reason, I can’t stand how art galleries restrict photography, but you can take photos in most of the major museums around the world.

      But the comment is really based more on experience, yours may be very different. Most churches, temples, mosques ect. have restrictions on flashes, tripods and anything that looks like a professional piece of equipment. M9’s don’t really look like professional level cameras and usually don’t attract as much attention, which is great.

      And you are correct, if someone doesn’t want pictures taken, they will be offended at any photo regardless of equipment or photographer. It won’t matter if it is in Melbourne or Paris or Tokyo. Though I doubt weddings in Melbourne go undocumented.

      Not sure where there was a breach of decency in my images. I’m guessing that any invitation that starts with “I’d like to see you try that…” is probably a party I’d rather miss. If you’d like, you could come take pictures anytime at my local church anytime. I much prefer hospitality to hostility any day.

      Best-Adam

      Best-Adam

      • If God’s things are free to be photographed, it seems strange that man’s things are considered too sacred for images.

        Adam… you can say that people are also “God’s things”… but does that mean it’s fine to lie down on a public street and secretly take pictures up dresses without the subjects’ approval? I mean, that way you’re not invading any personal space and they won’t even know. But is it decent? By your logic, it appears to be.

        • Good luck with that project, but your subjects may contend you are invading their space. I will stick to shooting temples, landscapes, and friendly people.
          I looked though some of your work on flickr, there were some excellent shots in the sets. Based on your own images of people taken inside temples in Sri Lanka, I can see you understand what I was saying earlier. I believe we are both in agreement that each photographer must decide what is decent and what is not. Can’t quite tell why you were initially so confrontational. Best of luck and happy shooting.
          -Adam

          • Based on your own images of people taken inside temples in Sri Lanka, I can see you understand what I was saying earlier.

            No, Adam, I’m afraid I don’t… I have not taken photos in places I was not allowed to do so.

            At times when there were no “no photos” signs but authorities later requested, I did pack up and leave.

            No matter what I think is right, if I choose to go somewhere that is of interest to me, I abide by and respect the local laws and rules.

          • Nice Job : )

  • Bruce

    I’ll take my Sony NEX-5 with Leica glass attached before my M9 (sold it). Carrying a $7000 body when a $600 body will do the same job makes me feel much more comfortable on the road. I’m saving weight, and I also saved money on my gear insurance after dropping the M9 from the inventory. Plus I get true HD movie capability with the NEX-5.

  • Bruce

    I should add other benefits I have noticed with the NEX-5..

    1. Articulated BRIGHT Hi-res screen… very useful for shoot-from-the-hip situations
    2. MF assist. Works great and ensures better focus than I have experienced using a rangefinder.
    3. Battery life… is excellent. Better shot count than with the M9.
    4. Smaller package. Totally inconspicuous.
    5. Quiet shutter.
    6. Better Hi-ISO capability IMHO.

    Plus many more lens adapter options. Overall a more flexible tool IMHO.

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