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Replacing the Leica M9 with the Leica M – why it was worth it for me.

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Hello dear readers of my blog,

i just wanted to share my thoughts on the Leica M and explain why it finally replaced my M9. The reasons might be interesting if you wonder if it is worth it for you, too.

This is no review of the camera. I am not going to repeat what others already wrote about the Leica M. Instead i want to explain what matters to me and why i finally bought it.

When you have read what i wrote under “My gear” you know that i love the M9. So much, that i thought i would never replace it with the M. I still think that in terms of pure image quality (at base ISO) nothing beats the M9. Pictures in fact have a very unique look that i am a big fan of. But images from the M9 are not (technically) better than those coming from the M. They are just different.

So the biggest difference between the M9 and the M is of course the sensor (18mp CCD sensor on the M9 versus a 24mp CMOS sensor on the M). And while CMOS brings many advantages like live view, focus peaking, better high iso quality, etc., i totally understand people who prefer the CCD sensor – not only in Leica cameras. In a market where almost every consumer camera has a CMOS sensor, CCD stands out. I sometimes find it hard to distinguish a picture from a Sony A7 combined with a Leica lens from one that was shot with the M and the same lens but i can always tell when the image was shot with the M9 (or M8 for that matter).

I prefer colors from the M9 and i believe that is due to its CCD sensor. Out of camera jpegs never impressed me though on the M9 and the M has the edge here if that is important to you. So better shoot RAW on your M9. Shure the M has much better dynamic range. There is more room to work with your shadows and highlights in post.

There is a debate going on wether the M9 files are sharper than the M’s and to me the M9 files indeed do look sharper on screen. But comparing images on screen is problematic. The more resolution your camera has the more compressed they show on screen and even looking at 1:1 pixels is not a fair comparison because the higher the pixel count the higher the magnification. What i can tell is, when you downsize the images to match screen resolution before you export them results from the M are great and compareable to those from the M9 in terms of sharpness. And if you print, you will be very happy with your results. Here the extra resolution can be a big plus depending on the size of your print.

I think that the combination of modern CMOS sensor and higher pixel count on the M makes it worth shooting it with the best lenses out there. In my opinion the camera shows the differences much clearer than the M9 did. Images from the 50mm Noctilux 0.95 look at least as good on the M. Same is true with the 90mm Summicron APO for example. Other lenses, especially older ones, dont come to life in the same way they did on the M9. So older lenses work better on the M9 while the latest lenses help the M especially in terms of color rendition and overall look and feel. Images then have the same pop and 3Dness that you love on the M9.

Apart from that the M is indeed a worthy successor. I mentioned the expanded dynamic range that i appreciate, the better low light performance, better ooc jpegs and that is not all.

The build of the M is superior (but not by much cause the M9 is already among the best). For example the little wheel on the back of the M works better for me than that on the M9, both when you review your pictures and when you move around the menue. The buttons also feel more responsive. You will notice the exta weight of the M though and the little thumb rest does not help much to hold the camera safely. I used a Thumbs Up on the M9 and it is a great tool on the M as well. The extra Leica hand grip might be worth it for you but i prefer to keep the system as small (and light) as possible.

The new shutter is smooth and very silent. Definetly an improvement here as well. The display is higher resolution, which combined with live view (and/or focus peaking) is great. If you shoot lenses wider than 28mm you still can see what is in the frame. A big plus if you don’t want to carry extra view finders. Working with filters is much easier now, too, because you can see the effect in live view. The battery life is also much improved and the body is even weather sealed. As i am much into outdoor photography i appreciate the M for that.

Last not least my M9 had sensor problems twice in three years and needed a repair twice. This might not be the biggest issue in the world but having a sensor that is free of corrosion is a good thing.

So for my type of photography the M is the better camera. Yes, the difference in output is definetly noticeable and not everybody will prefer the M but it also features a lot of improvements that make it a better package for most, especially when you are into landscape photography and work with wide angle lenses and filters.  And it is still a true Leica rangefinder camera that works perfectly well with almost any Leica lens ever made. Photos to showcase this will follow so keep coming back for more.

Thanks for reading.

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2 thoughts on “Replacing the Leica M9 with the Leica M – why it was worth it for me.

  1. Hi Elderin,

    This is a great read. As you know, I’ve been a fan of the M 240 for a long time and for many of the reasons that you stated. However, I still have great respect for the M9. Last we spoke, I think you were purchasing a 50 Lux, correct? Have you had any time to use it yet?

    Best regards,

    Patrick

    Like

  2. Hi Patrick,

    thats right, I am about to refill my lens arsenal again. I own the 50 Lux and was undecided wether to get the 28 elmarit or summicron next. Then i read your Leica Q review and checked out images from this and the M with a cron at flickr. Now i want the cron. 🙂 For the 90mm i think i opt for the Summarit again. It was great on the M9 and it will be on the M as well i think.

    Thanks for reading and always appreciate your comments.

    Like

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