Photos & Projects

A few more shots from the Leica M9

I’ve had the Leica M9 for a few months now, and whilst I am still quite far from writing a review I thought I’d share a few more early thoughts and photos.

To start off, I feel like I’m getting to grips with the post process a bit better. Since the first shots I shared I’ve taken a fair amount of images in varying lighting and have found my way to images I am increasingly happy with. They still aren’t perfect, and I still very much feel like I’m refining the look I’m after, but I do now think I’ve broken the back of the post process learning curve.

What’s more interesting than the results – at least from the point of view of the camera itself – is that actually I’m so happy shooting it that it’s made me realise that a big portion of my favour for shooting the the types of cameras I do is in the tool, and not quite as much the media contained within it.

Don’t get me wrong, ultimately I still prefer the process of shooting film. Shooting digital still leaves me cold when it comes to the entire workflow. But, these issues are largely around my own slight discomfort with the need to post process everything in what sometimes feels a not particularly subtle way, especially when compared to what I need to do to my scans.

As you’ll see below, I’ve also had some issues with shooting wide lenses that have just left me frustrated and disinterested in even trying to find a proper solution to the problem. That all said though, shooting regularly with a simple functioning full frame digital rangefinder has given me what sometimes feels like a real insight into my own needs from a camera, especially a digital one…

Anyway, I don’t want to get to much into that now, as I’ll no doubt have lots to say on that sort of thing when the review eventually finds its way out of my head and on to this website. For now, I just want to share a few shots…

These first images are from my holiday in Devon that was just after I bought the camera. I feel like these represent some strong early successes, and indeed fails.

This first image for example is definitely a fail. Taken with the Voigltlander 28mm Color-Skopar with the camera set to its 28mm Elmarit-m profile. Its a pretty bland photo, thats not made any better by the colour shifts.

I’d thought about converting it to black and white, but get stuck at this mental hurdle thats around my original intention. I wanted a colour shot, I have got a colour shot, feel it would better in black and white, but have mixed feelings about going against my original intention… (I know this probably sounds stupid?!)

Devon with the M9

Also taken with the 28mm, I can still see some colour shift in this next image, though thanks to the framing it’s a lot less prominent. It was quite a dramatic sky in this image, especially in the original file. I struggled a little bit to retain the drama without it looking too overtly digital… I think I have had some success, though am still bugged by bits of it.

Devon with the M9

In this shot I spent some time tweaking the colours to remove the colour shift. It was a faff, and was quite boring, but mostly worked. I’ve lost track of whether or not it was worth the effort…

Devon with the M9

I must admit – possibly due to colour shift issues – I found the results from the 28mm much less inspiring than I had hoped.

The shots from the 50mm Sonnar on the other hand made me much more happy. This lens performing well on this camera is a big deal for me. The M8 had to go in the end, and this was mainly down to this lens not having a 50mm equivalent field of view when shot on it. Buying the M9, much of my hopes were pinned on this lens working well on it. I find this particular photo very reassuring in terms of the potential for this combo.

Devon with the M9

These next two shots, whilst very cute (at least to me), do show some of the potential pitfalls of the Sonnar on the M9. Theres some pretty crazy purple aberrations going on in both.

Devon with the M9

Devon with the M9

Look at the colours here though… just lovely! This was pretty much what it looked like out of camera too. Just a slight tweak to the contrast.

Devon with the M9

I just like this photo. The otters liked Connie, and Connie liked the otters! 

Devon with the M9

“Look at the size of that owl Connie!” I was pleased with this shot, just a quick snap really, but for my own memories of the day, its nice.

Devon with the M9

This was shot with the 90mm Elmarit-m. My in-focus hit rate at f/2.8 with this lens/camera combo is not great. I think this was shot at about f/5.6. I must remember to take my magnifying eyepiece next time I use this lens on the M9!

Devon with the M9

These next few images were taken on a night out with some mates. They were shot in impossibly low light, at as sensible ISOs as I could manage, mostly underexposed and then pushed in Lightroom. The results proved to me that I really don’t need anything else for this sort of photography.

Night out with the M9

Both above and below were shot at 1600iso – there is possibly a smidge of banding in the noise, but they are cleaner than I’d have had out of the M8, and I didn’t feel like I had to be so rough with the files to get a look I wanted.

Night out with the M9

This next one was shot at 2000iso, and pushed loads in LR, as such its pretty grainy, but meh, I’m more than happy given the circumstances. I so rarely take photos in this sort of light anyway!

Night out with the M9

Night out with the M9

With a bit of a stronger light source, and shooting at 1/45th, I got down to 800 iso for this next few… it paid dividends in terms of the noise in the images. I forget how lovely the Sonnar can be at f/1.5.

Night out with the M9

Night out with the M9

Night out with the M9

These last few images were from later on in the summer. I feel like these perhaps representative of me getting better to grips with post process a bit more. These were all shot with the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Nokton that I’m working towards reviewing at the moment. 

Snap

Stuck in doors with it raining outside – I love this sort of light, and I think the M9 does too.

Snap

Obligatory cat photo…

Snap

She taught herself how to ride her bike the day before I shot this… tenacious little thing she is!

Snap

So there we go, progress is being made with this camera. I’m getting closer to the sorts of results I fell like I can be really happy with, and I really enjoy shooting it! What more could I want or need…? Well I suppose I will come to that in the eventual review…

You can subscribe below if you want a notification when I publish the review 🙂

Cheers, 

Hamish


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Thanks,

Hamish

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    George Appletree
    October 16, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Nice review.
    I agree you in that feeling about b&w versus color… I refuse quite always to transform color files into b&w.
    It’s important developing a proper post processing habit.
    My only digital is an M8 owned since they were launched. Knowing the camera is a must. For instance in my case there’s a general tendency to bluish everything. That one of “Wevare of the trains” seems to be in that case if watching the background.
    Lightroom is what I use after ending with Capture one. It’s versatile and easy to handle. But working in the photographs is needed to improve them.
    Also I prefer film better than digital for b&w. But some times they come out pretty well. Those bar shots are maybe a bit dramatically contrasted?, just a thought.
    Saturating or desaturating is one of those things making one hesitate many times. Your first shot is a good example, succeeds in my opinion. The girl with the hat is a lovely photograph which perhaps makes me thinking if needing more or less color.
    Cheers

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 16, 2016 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts as always George!
      I quite like the hard contrast black and white look – it’s what I set out to achieve

  • Reply
    Stephen
    October 16, 2016 at 9:57 am

    I have just sold my second and last Leica film camera, a 0.85 M6, all that remains by way of film transport is the Olympus mju II Zoom 115 that I bought for the recent £10 camera competition on this site.

    I used the funds for that sale for the latest iteration of the Summicron 35mm ASPH 2, which I got for a good price and only a couple of months old.

    I became conscious that using a film camera is just one piece of technology that I am happy to live without. I can quite see that the exercise will remain as a niche area in the same way that some people still prefer the vinyl LP and a record player.

    The killer though, is the combination of how I mostly present my photo’s and the techniques that I employ, namely a scan made on my Nikon CoolScan 4000ED which is attached to a 2005 Apple PowerMac with IBM risc processor. This is very slow and then afterwards, I still frequently get the urge to post process.

    The problem that have with this is that I am effectively turning my negative into a digital photograph. So in fact, I have a digital photo of a silver or c41 negative. If I take a picture with a digital camera, I have a digital file that I can apply changes to (or not) with the use of any of the generalist software packages, like Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, or in my case Irridient Developer… I can even employ something for a specific recipe, like Nik or RNI from your previous post, and of course on the phone there are many of them.

    Looking back on the last couple of years, I have owned an M2 for the ocoloy, and an M6 (light meter)… The upside is a reasonably priced entry to Leica photography, the downside is the massive amounts of post processing at cost of film and chemicals, only to end up with a digital scan that is not as flexible as one from a digital camera.

    I completely agree with you about the Leica M8 and its lack of full frame, I had an M8 for a very short while, it is what made me fall in love, but the crop factor was a deal breaker.

    Anyway, I now have three cracking Leica lenses and a M-P (type 240), and I couldn’t be happier.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 16, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      Strokes for folks int it … There is just something missing from the process of shooting digital for me. A satisfaction thing. That said, the M9 as I allude come very close.

      • Reply
        Kodachromeguy
        October 17, 2016 at 2:13 am

        I agree with you, Hamish. Digital is so perfect, and is so convenient, and there are a hundred million digital photographers who take x billion perfect digital photographs every month, and most look an awful lot alike. I used digital after 2005 along with occasional film, but have now shifted back to film almost entirely. There is a look to a Tri-X negative that I like. I wont say it is better or inferior to a monochrome digital file, just different. Maybe when we film photographers die off, the next generation will not remember what film looks like and therefore won’t care about the unique “look.” But then again, maybe they will, and a new generation will re-appreciate the craft and of chemical-based imaging.

  • Reply
    KJ Vogelius
    October 16, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    It’s interesting to follow your thoughts on the M9 Hamish. It’s my favorite digital camera really, though it sometimes leaves me a bit frustrated. A nice set of images at any rate. You really make that Sonnar sing!

    As for the colour shifts on wideangles it can be quite a pain, especially if you’re to remove it manually. However there’s a fairly straight forward workaround – the Flatfield plugin for Lightroom. I’ve used it a lot and it really isn’t much of a bother once set up. All you need to do is to create a profile image and then you can have the plugin automatically rid your images of the shifts. You can even let it correct an entire batch. I wrote a little bit about it here:
    http://gear.vogelius.se/-editorials/ray-angles/index.html

    I’d be happy to walk you through it if that would be any help?

    Regards!

    • Reply
      George Appletree
      October 16, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      Regarding to that link, over edition is the main temptation for making something good from a mediocrity. That cloud first image is good, but other than the bluish overall tan I previously commented is just overdone (dramatic clouds seems to be a trade mark of good photography).
      By the way sorry Hammish for the
      misspelling of your train photograph.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 16, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Hey KJ, thank you for that, very useful! The last paragraph, especially!!
      I will have a tinker, and get back to you if I get stuck – if thats ok?

      • Reply
        KJ Vogelius
        October 17, 2016 at 10:35 pm

        Absolutely Hamish. The process is pretty straightforward but I did experiment a fair bit a few years back. The only part that’s slightly opaque is how to best create the profiles, though I think I touched on the main points in my article. But feel free to reach out – I’ll happily give you pointers as best I can.

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          October 18, 2016 at 7:42 pm

          Thanks mate, appreciate it!

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    October 16, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Dear Hammish,
    Again, an article that brings good perspectives to the subject and intelligent give & takes from the people responding.
    I’d like to respond to Stephan’s remarks…
    I understand your observation regarding film technology and aficionados of vinyl and turntables. I think the use of film is more complex than that. Shooting film is tactile, it can fill a need for the process of creativity (like a printmaker carving a lino block.) As we move more deeply into a totally integrated digital world, the need to feel like your still in charge when you make something is most important. Some people tie trout flies, others throw pots. I shoot film and make books by hand.
    As for film being a niche area has been true for a couple of decades and B&W shooters are even a smaller niche market.
    I’m retired. I have all the time in the world to shoot w/my M2, slip into the darkroom, and process/print film. When I need to scan, I’ve got an Epson scanner and Photoshop Elements to complete the task. I have found a system that works for me.
    As for digital somehow being easier, that’s a load of crap. You will invest as much time mastering the digital workflow was becoming proficient with film & chemicals. Cost may be equal, depending on where you live. Here in the US, film & chemistry are not expensive.
    Time is another important factor. I now have earned extra time, but many don’t have the time to devote to the darkroom.
    It’s a toss up…good digital is a wonder to see. So is a good analog print.
    Thanks.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 16, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      I’m broadly with you Dan… but really the point is, what suits, suits. Each their own etc.

  • Reply
    Mike Hinkleman
    October 16, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Color shifts on M9. I recall reading about the cyan drift from the IR sensor with wide lenses but I thought this was remedied with firmware updates. Is your M9 using the latest firmware?

    This is pretty disappointing in a camera that is selling used for more than a Sony or Fuji new.

  • Reply
    Jim DeArment
    October 18, 2016 at 1:12 am

    It’s a shame you don’t have the Zeiss Biogon 28mm anymore. I had an M8 two or three years ago and was satisfied with it on the M8, but I also might not be as discerning about my photos. I keep debating on getting an M9 or M-E, and would probably want the Biogon again. Part of my hesitation on getting another digital Leica is the poor high ISO of the CCD sensor models, but I love the color results in good lighting. But then I think about the digital Leica being more flexible than shooting with my Voigtlander R3A and the limitation of being locked into an ISO for 24 or 36 shots.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 18, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      I am very tempted to buy one! Just had my Minolta 28mm ltm back, so going to play with that for a while then decide what to do…
      In terms of the flexibility, I’m not sure if its a good thing or not… being stuck with one film for the whole roll is an enjoyable limitation, I think!

  • Reply
    Charlie Webster
    November 19, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    You may know this, but to address color shift of variety of lenses, ZM18, CV 21/4 etc, there is only only one profile which works on the M9: 21/2.8 pre-asph. This does not address distortion. Just color shift. So you would want to try that with the 28 Skopar. Also note 28 Crons are down to 1800. That lens is unbelievable on the M9. 🙂

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 20, 2016 at 10:13 am

      Thanks Charlie – I will try that!

      • Reply
        Charles Webster
        November 20, 2016 at 9:54 pm

        Since it basically works on the 21/4, I’ll be surprised is it does not help the 28 skopar, which I once owned also and shot on the Nex-5. I hope you lets us know. 11134 is the number I think. Funny, I hear it does not completely work on the 21/2.8 LOL The M9 is probably the friendliest FF digital to old lenses. Here are some I shoot: http://bit.ly/2gyWo9V Another option, as you probably know, is to take a A7, used about 650, and let Kolari mod the sensor, 400. The that camera can shoot most RF lenses very well, even ZM18. Your 28 skopar might still shift colors, but really most do not.

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          November 21, 2016 at 8:08 pm

          Tempted to try that with the a7s …
          I will post something about lens compatibility at some point I’m sure!

          • Charlie Webster
            November 22, 2016 at 1:55 am

            Like all the Sonys the A7s needs a thin filter mod for RF glass below 50mm, however, I had that done to a client A7S, and tested extensively: incredible. Many don’t realize the doors such ISO capability unlocks. You can shoot a dim event and have DOF of f/8 when you want. Today it’s mostly video people who use the camera because of the thick coverglass, but if they had used the 1.2mm like Canilkon, instead of 1.9mm, it would be in many pro bags as second M body.

          • Hamish Gill
            November 22, 2016 at 8:00 pm

            I don’t find I need such high ISOs for my personal work – which is why I feel like I favour the m9.
            The Sony system will get there when it comes to m lenses I think … eventually

  • Reply
    Charlie Webster
    November 22, 2016 at 2:07 am

    PS: another M9 secret. For about 350USD you can get a 135 Elmarit, with goggles. This is an unbelievable lens, sweeter than the 75 lux, which I also have. The APO and even the TE 135 is slightly sharper, but character is more harsh. The 135 Elmarit can be focused very precisely on the M9, while all other 135s it’s more hit and miss. I have the APO for landscape, but I prefer the Elmarit for everything else. It can be shot WO no problem, with details across the frame. You need to buy with right of return as there are mis calibrated and mis aligned copies, and a CLA is hard because of the glue. Same issues with the 75 Lux. But there are plenty of very nice LN copies out there. It is the heaviest lens which can go on the M9, but highly addicting once you get used to it, and sooo cheap. I have 10 135s, none are remotely as sweet as that thing 🙂

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 22, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      Finding a good one is always a process that puts me off… funnily enough though, I’ve been thinking about buying a proper test chart recently… just feels like such a big step down a road I don’t want to take …

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