The Leica M9 After Eight Weeks

On 09/09/09 Leica announced it was releasing the M9, a digital full-frame rangefinder, available immediately.  In the rarified world of Leicaphiles, this was not quite the Second Coming, nor the announcement of a cure for cancer, but it was close. I was extremely lucky to get one early — supply has well outstripped demand, waiting lists are long, and as of early November, rumors spread that one of Leica’s suppliers had “let them down.” The members of the Leica Forum who have patiently waited for theirs are getting less patient, deservedly so.  But I was, as I said, lucky, and on September 22nd, I posted a review after a single day’s use: 24 Hours With the Leica M9 Additionally, I have put together a gallery of M9 images here: M9 Images

I’ve now been using the M9 on virtually a daily basis for eight weeks, and while I believed at the outset that it was “the perfect camera,” and by definition you can’t improve on such an accolade, I’ve nonetheless grown to think of it as something more.

As a writer, I’ve long believed I “think through my fingers.” That is, I don’t know exactly what I think until the act of writing clarifies everything; my fingers on a keyboard are an extension of my mind, and typing is a more precise medium than speaking, not just for conveying thought, but for actually processing it. Henri Cartier Bresson talked of his (Leica) camera as an extension of his eye, but even though I’ve taken pictures all my life, it wasn’t until I started carrying an M9 around with me that I understood what he meant to the same extent that I understand the concept of thinking through my fingers.

Women with Apple

One reason some photographers fall in love with a rangefinder like the M9 is because it is small, discrete, you don’t freak people out standing in a outdoor market while people choose their apples.

I say that the M9 becomes an extension of the eye, not simply because when you’re carrying a camera, you mentally frame what you see.  The M9 becomes an extension of the eye because you begin to think in terms specific to it, and to the blessing of fast Leica lenses with their magnificent bokeh, or selective focus.


The M9 weighs 22 ounces without a lens.  The full-frame SLRs — those Indy Car monsters that can race faster but perhaps not as elegantly as the Grand Prix model Leica — all weigh about as much as a 7th-grader’s book bag; the M9, with a 35mm Summicron lens can literally fit in my coat pocket.

Aside from the fact that the M9 takes 18 megapixel images on a full-frame sensor and produces large (up to 32 mb) RAW files, the photographic advantage of any Leica M are the rightfully acclaimed M lenses, which wide open have a signature in the diffusion of detail from the in-focus to the selectively out-of-focus area.


In the focused-upon area, these lenses can be crisp as a breadstick.

No Tres

Or soft and creamy in the out-of-focus area.


The M9 is amazingly versatile for such a small camera, with much better high ISO performance than the M8 (if still not the ISO 3200-without-noise of the legendary Nikon D3 or other comparable cameras.)


An M9 is to ur-Leicas what I imagine a present-day Porsche 911 is to its same model number from the 1960s: recognizable in form, easy to use by anyone familiar with the concept, simple and classic without certain doodads necessary to sell other cars, but updated for the modern era.  Yes, there are point and shoot cameras with image stabilization and live view monitors and cheap DSLRs with 62-point focusing (I have no idea what the actual number is), whereas the M9 is a simple, classic tool, able to capture images virtually identically to the way one would have captured them with a film camera in 1973.

King o Road

It has been 8 weeks that I’ve been able to work with an M9.  I have no complaints. Oh, I wish it was water-sealed.  And there have been a few times when it has frozen, just like my M8s did.  But it’s a pretty glorious contraption, built to last, built to be an extension of the eye by which you can capture whatever it is you come across in your daily walk.  I suspect I will carry it, or its successors, until I look like this guy.


3 Responses to “The Leica M9 After Eight Weeks”

  1. […] The Leica M9 After Eight Weeks « Tulip Frenzy Says: November 13, 2009 at 10:27 pm […]

  2. […] Collecting LEICA M9 sites Here's an update: The Leica M9 After Eight Weeks Tulip Frenzy __________________ […]

  3. Hilton Braithwaite Says:

    I like your clear direct description of the m9 about Town…..I have
    used leica all of my Photographic lifetime ,more/less.
    I look forward too the day i am able to make my purchase…………

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