Photos & Projects

First Shots with the Leica M9

I know, I know, more digital – well, there’s more coming too – I’m a good way through my Leica M8 review so that shall be with you soon enough. It’s a good job really, as I’ve recently sold it and replaced it with a Leica M9.

I’ve only had it a couple of days with the M9, but am already getting the sorts of results I hoped I would. For a good while, my life has been revolving around the Zeiss 50mm ZM Sonnar. I am pretty much obsessed with this lens, and am really only happy when I am shooting with it. This was one of he major motivations for getting myself a digital Leica in the M8. I can mount it on the Sonys I use for work – but it’s not the same experience in use.

The problem with the M8 is that the 50mm becomes 65mm equivalent, which is nice for some things, but less nice for the more atmospheric portraits I like taking with it. This is probably my main motivation for deciding to switch to the M9 from the M8. I enjoy a bit of digital now and then – especially for family snaps… and for family snaps I want to shoot with my favourite lens.

Anyway, I shall go into this more in the M8 review – in the meanwhile though, I thought I’d share a few early shots from the M9 with the Sonnar. To say the combo is everything I could have hoped for would be an understatement. This lens just sings with this camera.

I still have a fair amount of the learning curve in terms of getting the most out of the M9 – the colours are very different to what I am used to out of the Sony, but subjectively nicer I think. Like with the M8, there is still some IR creeping in there – I am almost certain of it; lips seems to go a bit magenta in artificial light for eg. And I’m not sure the colours are really accurate either, but I really like the look.

My first evening with it:

First snaps with the M9

First snaps with the M9

First snaps with the M9

This afternoon, visiting a client form some of their awesome coffee – Method Coffee Roasters

Visit to Method

Visit to Method

Visit to Method

Visit to Method

Visit to Method

Visit to Method

Visit to Method

Visit to Method

And a few snaps when I got home this evening

Family snaps

Family snaps

Family snaps

A few more here if you are really interested…

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  • Reply
    Mark Sperry
    August 4, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    From a personal perspective I’m no big fan of the M9 or its CCD performance but I have to say, the 240 is actually comparable. I really don’t like to go above ISO 800 with my 240 because at 1600 & 3200 you get terrible banding. If you are into what the M9 is and what it can do it is still fairly capable.

  • Reply
    August 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    I love film, but also have had the M9 for ~3 years now. I have to say that the colors from the CCD keep me from wanting the newest high ISO CMOS cameras available today. The colors can take a bit of a learning curve if shot indoors. It shines, in my opinion, with a lot of natural light and at ISO 100-400. I don’t even mind ISO 640 with it. But, it makes the camera act more like film, which I enjoy shooting so I don’t feel limited by it.

    As for color adjustments, I’m not trying to market anything or not, but I have had really good results with the VSCO Pack 01 in Adobe LR, specifically Fuji 160 & Kodak Portra 800 selections. The Fuji selection (as with their film) gives a nice cool image that works well with a lot of whites or highlights in the image. And the Portra 800 works well with warm skin tones, again, to my eye.

    Enjoy! It’s a great camera. Just be warned, the somewhat limited ISO range, combined with the immediacy of digital, will make you want the M9M, which is on a whole different level.

    Best Regards,

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 14, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      M9M? Monochrom? I try not to think about that camera …
      I recently reviewed the RNI emulators, have you come across them – you might be interested int he post none the less.
      On the m9 colour, do you ever find the magenta shift in lips (for eg)?

  • Reply
    Theo Wiersema
    August 7, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Did you do any work in post to these images or do the raws look like this straight out of the camera? My problem with reviewing cameras for their color is that it can easily be changed by shooting raw and doing some work in Lightroom. Obviously some cameras have better out of camera raws than others but does it make that much of a difference in the end? (Maybe I’m wrong?) That being said, I really love the look of the images here and am curious to how you managed it in post.


    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 14, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      There is a little post – but nothing to colour (short of WB). I don’t do anything too funky though, just basic adjustments and a slight tweak to the tone curve. For me the joy is not in the outcome, its in how easy it is to achieve

  • Reply
    Brian Sweeney
    August 12, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    The M9 is a great camera; but my best “hacked” lenses go to the M8. Easier to make a custom RF Cam out of a metal tube, the cropped sensor eliminates vignetting. The M8 has a Konica 50/1.7 Hexanon on it…

    The M8 used with an IR filter over the lens does a better job of eliminating IR than the M9 without the filter. for my Fast lenses- I use an IR cut filter with the M9. With the M8- you can get some unique Color-IR images by using an Orange filter, M8RAW2DNG, and boosting the Blue channel.

    My ZM Sonnar 50/1.5 gets a lot of use, it’s also great on the M Monochrom.

    With regard to using High-ISO on the M9, M Monochrom, and M8: I use 4x speed SD cards. Remember that the Digital conversion takes place off the CCD, having a slower card reduces noise, especially banding.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 14, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      You are going to have to link me to info some of these hacked lenses Brian!

  • Reply
    August 14, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    This is a very interesting post, I had an M8 a few years ago which I loved, but within a few days it developed a sensor fault most visible at higher ISO’s so I took it back to the shop and swapped it for an M6 instead. I loved the M6 but a house move last year meant I had to sell it along with my 35 type 4 summicron (horrible even thinking about it!). I’m desperate to get back into shooting a Leica and the M9 has always been a dream for me, I have lusted after one ever since they came out. The thing which worries me though, is now they are kinda ‘affordable’ (if I sell every bit of kit I have) what happens if it develops a sensor fault or a mechanical fault somewhere down the line? To me a Leica is a camera for life, I would be really interested in your perspective Hamish in the sense that if they camera does go wrong, say in a few years time, what the options are to get it fixed? Will Leica still be fixing them? Third parties? It’s this which has made me reluctant to get one. I use a Sony A7 at the moment and it’s OK but there are things about it which really annoy me and I long for the simplicity of a Leica again.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 14, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Neil, I shall eventually share my full thoughts, and indeed have some thoughts about the M8 that might tide you over in my forthcoming review about that. In terms of longevity, I don’t find myself worried. Leica are fixing a fault inherent in the sensors free of charge when it develops, so I don’t have a worry there. Also, I really do think we all should give electronics more credit than we do. Think of all the electronic cameras from the 80s and 90s that are still going just fine.
      Leica will continue to fix these things for a long time too – all be it at a cost. I paid £1700 for mine, which is right on the edge of affordable for me (the credit card is a little more warm than I like), but now I have it, especially having dropped it once already, I feel very comfortable with it. It gives me so much of the Leica feel you mention that I’m having to almost force myself to use anything else at the moment. I do have a healthy dose of novelty factor I’m sure, but still, very happy! Compared to the sonys I shoot… Well, there’s just no contest really.

      • Reply
        Neil Woodman
        August 15, 2016 at 11:07 am

        Thanks for the reply. £1700 is a really good price for one – you’ve done bloomin’ well there!

        I’ve been looking at getting an M2 mainly because I like the idea of using something completely manual and I just love the appearance of the M2, without the self timer it looks like an MP/M-A really which I think are the most beautiful, elegant Leica’s available. When I had my M6 the whole process of shooting was so simple and refined, it really ruined me for life with SLR’s and anything else as nothing rightly compares to a Leica. I still however would love an M9, with the absolute ultimate being a Monochrom – waaay too expensive for me to consider, maybe in 10 years time.

        It’s great that you have one anyway and I look forward to reading more about it as well as the M8.

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          August 15, 2016 at 11:16 am

          Hi Neil, this motivation toward simplicity of function is just something people either get or don’t – I really get it, and it definitely sounds like you have been bitten by the bug! The M2 is a wonderful camera – especially if you shoot 35mm!!

          • Neil Woodman
            August 15, 2016 at 11:46 am

            Hi, that is it exactly, simplicity of function! I was worried when I first got the M6, “there’s no aperture priority!” but I quickly realised you don’t need that.

            Your writing on the M2 has been one of the factors encouraging me to get one.

          • Hamish Gill
            August 16, 2016 at 10:26 am

            Yeah, the less function you use, the less function you need … I think that why I now really only shoot fully manual Leicas …
            You won’t regret an M2! 😉

          • Des McSweeney
            August 20, 2016 at 8:43 pm

            hiya. Long time no see… tell me about your 35mm preference again please Hamish. Because of you 😉 I have an M2 I enjoy which I use predominantly with a nice early rigid 50mm and quite like what I see. Other than ‘Henri’-like preferences what ticks your box particularly for 35 v 50 and more particularly 35 on this particular body. BTW I am really enjoying your meander with the M4 here and look forward to your conclusions later. But… though I know this stands outside your stated budget in the above, please do beg/borrow/not steal a Monochrom if you can. You are better placed than anyone I can think of to make the film/digital b&w comparison – it would be a great read. Someone out there will let you borrow one for for scientific purposes surely… (or that London retailer you have occasionally used who seems to have a load of them at the moment)
            All the best

          • Hamish Gill
            August 20, 2016 at 9:14 pm

            Hi Des,
            I was thinking about you today, funnily enough – the M8 has sold to a mate, and I’m very close to publishing the review, keep an eye out…
            35mm like the rigid cron? – Maybe an 8 element summicron or a summaron from the same era? I’ve not shot either, but I’d anticipate a similar look to the images to the 50 cron
            Else, I’ve fallen back in love with my 35mm voigtlander 1.4… its a terrible lens if you care about objective qualities, but really it shines for people photography – an example:
            As for the monochrom… one day…

  • Reply
    August 20, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Nice work, Hamish. The Sonnar gives some great results. I keep looking for used ones now!!
    I really like shooting with the digital M. I was using the Fuji X series before and have now moved my Fuji gear on. I just like the simplicity of it all, not to mention the output which I find requires very little work in post. I used to battle sometimes with the Fuji X files.
    I shoot film Leica too and was very against the concept of digital M originally, which I take back now after shooting with one for a good few months. If anything, I have neglected to use my film M for a while.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 20, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      So is yours an M9?
      I had an xpro1 for a while – I didn’t like the results really – plastic looking to me…

      • Reply
        August 21, 2016 at 12:40 am

        I had the M8 and within the last month of selling the Fuji X on, I have now got an M9. It seemed the logical move after just under a year of using the M8 as my go to.

        My plan was to sell the M8 with the Nokton 35mm and keep the Fuji for times when I feel AF et all would help, but this hasn’t happened now. I’m weirdly attached to the M8 still and it gets used in equal measure. It feels a tad indulgent to keep both, however the M9 was covered mostly by selling the X-T and lenses so I’m not in an immediate rush to sell it on as yet. I wanted to be sure I was happy with the M9 first too before making any decisions. (which I am).

        To me, I found the M8 to give some really nice B&W files. Especially if you are shooting without an IR cut filter. I use it occasionally for Infrared too. Some say the M8 is slightly sharper but how close they are looking to the images here I don’t know. I haven’t found things any better or worse in that area.

        No doubt about it, the M9 is a more mature camera. Full frame, the quieter shutter, the dedicated ISO button and slightly improved ISO tick the boxes for me. Mine had the sensor replaced by Leica too with the new type which was a bonus. I’ve been equally impressed by both however.

        I get what you are saying about the plastic looking results. I think the system as a whole is great. I loved the 56mm 1.2 especially, but I wasn’t always gelling with the RAW files, whereas the M felt a breeze I found. I know some will say that the photographer is more important than the camera itself and I agree but if it’s a camera I really enjoy shooting with, along with less time in Lightroom, then it’s a win for me.

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