Leica M9 :: digital journalist review

Having just written encouraging you to give some money to support the Digital Journalist website, there’s actually an article that I think is worth looking at there too. It’s a review of the new Leica M9 by David Lykes Keenan.

For a long time I’ve been wondering about the digital equivalent of my Leica M6 with its 35mm f2 lens. I’ve used a Leica alongside my Nikon’s for about twelve years, initially with the slightly unusual (but distinctly more affordable) Leica CL with 40mm lens (very dainty…), then when I sold my house, with my M6. It’s beaten up and clunky to use, but still wonderful.  I’ve tried to find various digital combinations that worked in anything like a similar way (discrete, quiet, fixed lens, thoughtful). I’ve used a Nikon D200 with a 20mm lens (so a 30mm equivalent), and more recently a D700 with a really old Nikon 35mm f2 lens. This is the most satisfying option, but is still a fairly large camera, and doesn’t make you think in quite the same way as a rangefinder does.

And there is that thing that I really don’t like about the D700, which is the pop-up flash, which to me is a very vulnerable point. I’ve actually taped up the whole top of the prism, to prevent the flash accidentally popping up while it’s on my shoulder, and potentially getting damaged as it swings around.

So the new Leica M9 is here, and offers pretty much what you’d have asked for – full-frame, better (much better) colour rendition than the M8/M8.2 original digital Leicas, very similar handling to the original M6 etc. But still not a patch on the latest Nikon or Canon bodies at low-iso’s which is still a major issue – they’re just so good, that the Leica has to be very impressive to challenge. And they do just cost so much – Calumet list it at £4850 including VAT – the D700 is ‘only’ £1765 – not far off 1/3 of the cost. They don’t do the same thing, but that is quite a stretch…

So, like my thoughts on the Nikon D3s – I’d like one, but probably not at this time – it’s more of a financial decision than a practical one. If I had £5k hanging around, I’d have to do a lot of justifying to myself for a Leica M9 to make sense for my business. But, but, but – the M6 was a heart not head purchase too, and some of my favourite pictures that I’ve made were on Leicas. And that’s not just romance – the way you use a Leica/rangefinder informs all your other work too – allowing space and time for things to happen around you, allowing activity to come into your frame, rather than pursuing it.

Here’s a little gallery of Leica images, which I’ve enjoyed. And if anyone feels their five grand is burning a hole in their pocket, well just let me know, and I’ll let you have my address – and I’ll have the black finish please…