Review: Leica M9

Posted by on May 25, 2011 in JOURNAL | 2 Comments
Review: Leica M9
Leica M9. I love the camera. When I started the process of researching which new camera system I was going to dive into, I didn’t consider the rangefinder camera. I didn’t know there was a viable digital version that had the quality I was used to with my Nikon D2X.

The reason I wanted to change systems is honestly out of boredom. I had this big camera with big lenses, and it all impressed people. Honestly I think people were more impressed with the size of the D2X than anything else. It’s massive, and has lots of buttons and screens and stuff. Big deal. Honestly I was enamored with all that tech for several years, but it all soon faded. I didn’t take the camera out as much, as it was a hassle just to put a lens on it, and grab a quick snapshot of my kids. I tended to use my iPhone for that stuff. When I got a great shot on the phone, I wished I had the RAW file to edit, and a higher resolution. I keep threatening to shoot a wedding on my iPhone, but no one is going for it yet!

Back to being bored… take a look at the Nikon shots below. It’s massive. It does takes amazing photos for sure. The files felt more like film than other camera I have used in the past. I’ve also had the Canon 1DS, and a Fuji S2Pro. Ergonomically the D2X was better than the others as well. I’m not really sure what Canon is thinking with their buttons, controls, etc on their pro models. Sometimes it just makes no sense at all. I became so fluent with the controls on the Nikon that I felt like I wasn’t really thinking about the art of photography anymore. Yes, I was able to focus on what I was composing more, but I was not as close to the art of the shot as I wanted to be. Even when I shot 99% of the time in manual. I can’t tell you how many times I would just put the camera down on the ground or by my hip and hit the shutter button to take random “hip-shots” and get great results. Meh. If I can do that, then anyone can.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bored with photography. I was bored with my equipment. Everyone has access to such great photo gear now. In fact when I’m shooting a wedding, it is so funny seeing how many other people have cameras (dslr’s, cameras, etc.) shooting the wedding. Weddings are so over-documented today by at least 30-40 people at each wedding I’ve been to. Many times I have to tell the couple or groups I am photographing to “look over here at my camera!” In times past, you would be lucky to have one or two friends with a camera to help photograph your wedding day. Where does this leave me? I feel I have a great eye for photography, and capturing candid moments unlike most others who do what I do. What is my next step?

The Leica M9 was my next step. I can’t explain fully how it has changed how I shoot, but it has. Everything about this camera is just lovely. The camera itself, the files it produces, the various lenses that are available (more on this later), the size, the weight of it, etc. There is something special about holding this camera that makes one feel differently about taking pictures.

Every single photo I take is now more calculated, and manually exposed, framed and focused. Some might say “well, you can do that with your Nikon”, but the truth is that it really is different with a rangefinder. Maybe it’s the physical metal knobs. Or the way you focus with a rangefinder. Or the size. Or it’s the gorgeous lenses. I honestly think it’s all these things and more.

I photographed my first wedding with the Leica M9 two days ago, and absolutely loved the experience and how the photos turned out. I have less shots to review, as each photo I took was extremely calculated. With the Nikon I had a bunch of photos that we out of focus, even though I knew I was on target with the auto-focus system. I remember every single photo I took, and almost remember the exact settings I used and which lens I used, and I shot over 2000 photos for this wedding.

Regarding lenses, I have two that I mostly use. They are both by Voigtlander, and I absolutely love them. I haven’t actually used a Leica lens yet, and can’t imagine anything better than what I have. I have a 50mm – 1.1, and a 35mm – 1.4. In low-light they are stunning. With a rangefinder I am able to focus so much quicker manually, than with the Nikon auto-focus system.

I bought the Leica SF 24D flash before this wedding, pulled it out for 5 minutes, and promptly put it back in my bag. I’m not a fan of flash, and with these lenses I wasn’t missing anything. Take a look at this unprocessed image, and how I converted it. The room was dark, but I was able to capture what I knew I wanted when I went to edit. Shot on the 50mm – 1.1, at 1.7, 180/second, ISO 160.

I have another wedding to shoot this weekend on Saturday that I am so excited for. She is a friend, a wedding coordinator and it’s at a beautiful winery. I will post photos this Sunday after editing. Please come back and take a look, as I look forward to your comments.

Email me if you want to chat more about shooting a wedding with the Leica M9… I think it’s one of the best tools around, for the style I shoot in. Editorial. Candid. Up close and personal.

2 Comments

  1. Christine Durst
    16 June, 2011

    I am absolutely in love with Leica shooting. The photographer makes the image but Leica is just… amazing. I’m breaking into portraits, weddings, etc. but primarily shoot “fine art” as a “hobby” and am in the process of building my DREAM KIT. So Leica it is but I’m just in need of some advice and honing of lens choice (I love details, love sweeping landscapes, love skies and seas… I have been asked what I like to capture and the answer is CHARACTER). I love love love what you did with this shot above by the way. Can we chat?

    • ted
      16 June, 2011

      Christine, I would love to chat about shooting with a Leica. I’m heading out right now to photograph a local coffee roaster’s new facility. If you haven’t seen my work over at http://www.impact831.com you should check it out. My studio number is 831-421-9017, and I’m available later today.