Leica

Leica M7

Originally published: April 3, 2011

In my opinion this is the best rangefinder film camera still in production. It is everything you would expect from a Leica. It was the first real Leica film camera I have ever used. It is everything I thought it would be. My first Leica was the Leica M8 so I got used to a fair amount of automated features. I like some auto features because they let me focus on composition and my photography and not technical stuff. That said, I don’t shoot in auto all the time. I just use it as a benchmark to judge my settings. Usually I agree with them but sometimes I don’t and I change things. Shooting the M7 and a Leica M8 is a dream. This camera lives up to its name and legacy in every way.

In my opinion this is the best rangefinder film camera still in production. It is everything you would expect from a Leica. It was the first real Leica film camera I have ever used. It is everything I thought it would be. My first Leica was the Leica M8 so I got used to a fair amount of automated features. I like some auto features because they let me focus on composition and my photography and not technical stuff. That said, I don’t shoot in auto all the time. I just use it as a benchmark to judge my settings. Usually I agree with them but sometimes I don’t and I change things. Shooting the M7 and a M8 is a dream. This camera lives up to its name and legacy in every way.

Leica’s are world renowned for two things. Their built quality and their optics. Optics are a function of lens so we won’t talk about that here, see my Leica Lens reviews for more on this. Leica’s built quality is second to nothing. Their MADE IN GERMANY cameras are the best constructed in the world. I say this because their point and shoot camera’s (excluding the X1 which is made in Germany) are rebranded and improved Panasonic digital cameras. Leica prides them selves on their all metal construction. This is one of their defining features and something that I truly enjoy.

Leica’s rangefinder cameras are inherently smaller and more discreet then DSLR’s. It feels weird holding my Nikon D3s or Nikon D700 after using a Leica for a while. It is something truly pleasurable. I am able to carry around an M7 with lens and an Leica M8 with lens and feel like I’m carrying less then when I am carrying my Nikon D3s and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. It also allows you to take pictures in situations that you might be noticed if you are using a DSLR. An example of this would be  Kuwait where the use of DSLR cameras for non-press use was banned. The reason for this was their were big and intimidating. I paraphrased that one but you get the idea. If you were shooting with a Leica no one would notice you. Which is great.

Leica’s optics are another draw to this camera, they are the best in the world bar none. People will argue that point but there is something unique about them. Something special that you need to experience for yourself. Their entry point makes them unreachable for some however, if you look around you will be able to get very good deals on older equipment.  By no means does this mean that this equipment is bad or tainted. Leica’s current M series cameras can use every lens made since 1950. And there are cameras around from that time as well that are still perfectly functional.

Shooting Leica is a pleasure and something every photographer should aspire to do at some point. Leica’s are not suited for sports photography but you can use them for just about everything else….and if you get one you will. they are a joy to shoot because of their size, built quality, optics and german functionality. Their reduce the camera to the basics there are very few buttons on this camera or any Leica, they are spartan and ready to shoot where ever whenever for as long as you need them to.

 

Leica M9

Originally published: April 3, 2011

just got this camera yesterday and haven’t had a chance to shoot a lot with it yet. I will post a full review when I have had some more time with the camera. For now I will do a little bit of compare and contrast with the Leica M8 (Digital) and the Leica M7 (35mm film). The M9 is a superior camera in every way, It is certainly better then the M8 because it is full frame, upgrades the megapixels a bit, and also has an increased ISO range. Opening the box is a moment of pure ecstasy. After ripping through everything to get to the camera, I looked around and found out they put a bunch of other stuff in there other then the camera…who knew?

One cool improvement is in the battery charger. Of course this doesn’t change the function of the camera at all, but it sure makes it easier to travel with. For starters the charger is about 1/3 of the size of the previous charger which was quite large and bulky. But thats not all! It also has interchangeable cables, I didn’t look at them all yet but the coolest by far is the car charger cable. This means you can charge your Leica M9 (or Leica M8 since they use the same battery) anywhere! muahaha. Also I assume there is an adapter for European voltages either included or available for purchase which is convenient for my frequent jaunts to that particular continent.

Something that was probably there with the Leica M7, and Leica M8 that I didn’t notice is there is a signed card by someone who inspected the camera to make sure that it was in perfect condition.

Compared to the Leica M7: The M9 is slightly thicker then the M7. You only notice this when you put them in your hand. You can feel the difference. In that respect the M7 feels better, frankly then either digital M. However It is in no way a deterrent to using the camera. It just is and thats fine. This is probably the only advantage that the M7 markedly has. The Viewfinder on my M7 is a 0.58 viewfinder which is better when using wide angle lenses since it has some wider frame lines built in. The M9 is a hybrid viewfinder (0.66 I believe) and  doesn’t have some of the wide angle frame lines. This doesn’t affect the picture taken, however it does make framing a little easier with wider lenses. Of course the M9 is more versatile then the M7 since you don’t have to carry around any film, or ever have to change film. When you decide to switch ISO’s a quick visit to the back of the camera and the dedicated ISO button changes that in seconds. Also in my opinion, I think that the M9 is easier to use with gloves on then the M7. I used the M9 in the city after I bought it yesterday, and it was in the 30’s so I had gloves on and everything was very easy to use from the aperture ring of the lens, to the shutter speed dial as well as the back of the camera. All very impressive.

Compared to the M8: For starters, aesthetically speaking the black M8 has a Leica MP style leatherette grip, while the Black M9 has a more classic Vulkanit grip. If you were so enamored with the M8’s leatherette then you can opt for the Grey/Steel Grey version of the M9. It has this grip. I think this was a better choice for Leica because it can appeal to more people. It would be even better if you could have the choice of the M8/MP leatherette on either a Black or Steel Grey M9, options are good. Alas the world is not perfect and the M9 is not part of Leica a la carte. Otherwise the M9 comes out on top, it has a full frame sensor, which people said was impossible, It has a better ISO range and improved firmware. All leading to the conclusion that the M9 is a superior camera to its predecessor.While there is still debate about Leica M6 vs Leica M7, I don’t believe that there is any debate about the superiority of the M9.

 

UPDATE DECEMBER 24, 2010 AT 1:01 PM -

One thing I noticed is that the Leica M8 had a dedicated top LCD screen for battery and picture count, the M9 doesn’t have that you have to press the info button on the back of the camera and then the battery and picture count comes up on the back LCD.

 

Leica M8

Originally published: April 3, 2011

The Leica M8 was the first real digital rangefinder camera. There was the Epson RD-1 or something but it never caught on and wasn’t that good. The M8 will join such cameras as the D3 in the halls of camera history. It was a landmark. Something that was said to be impossible. And alas here we are in 2010 where there is a full frame sensor in a rangefinder! something that was said to be impossible again. Leica defies the odds and takes it in stride they continue to innovate on their products and make them even better. There are always cynics and pixel peepers who will say that their are things wrong with this camera. In the end its a digital Leica…how amazing is that? pretty amazing.

This camera changed my photography career. It always sounds like a joke when people say that it helps you focus on what is important in a picture. But it it really does. You become part of the camera in a way that you never can with a Canon or Nikon. It lets you focus on composition rather then messing around with settings. I believe it is the ultimate photography experience.

I really don’t have that much I can say about this camera that hasn’t been said very eloquently by Ken Rockwell and Steve Huff. This camera is really amazing, I am at a loss for words right now, that may be because I’m tired but read my Leica M7 article because I wrote that first if you want more on the build quality and functionality of this camera. Let the pictures speak for themselves.

Leica M8 and 24mm Summilux f/1.4 @ f/.40