In my previous post I talked about getting the Leica M9 for the first time, loving it, and then 2 weeks later having to send it to Germany to have it fixed! Well, I got it back after about 5 weeks and have now had a chance to shoot with it at some more weddings over the summer.
So, in no particular order, here are some thoughts and notes about the camera…
- Its fun to use. Just having a small, light, mostly mechanical, manual focus camera, is different enough from my super high-tech SLRs to make shooting fun again. I find myself wanting to shoot as much as possible with it.
- Manual focus is very accurate, even wide open, and its easy to see when the exact thing you want is in focus. Whereas with my Canons, I might shoot 3 or 4 frames, refocussing between each one, to make sure that at least one of them is sharp, with the Leica, if I think I got it, I almost always did.
- High ISO performance was never going to be as good as the Canon 1D MkIVs, but is actually a bit better than I expected. Its perfectly fine at 800ISO and still useable at 1600ISO, I try not to go up to the max of 2500ISO though. Avoiding underexposure is important.
- White balance is a bit hit and miss. It seems to be very sensitive to light sources in the frame which will throw the auto white balance wildly off. This can almost always be easily fixed with a click of the "auto" button in Aperture though.
- Similarly the exposure meter is very sensitive and will massively underexpose if there's a bright background or light source in the frame. Manual exposure or auto exposure lock can solve this problem.
- It would be better if the camera displayed the selected shutter speed in the viewfinder when using manual exposure. Its all very well being able to easily change the shutter speed with your eye to the finder, but not being able to see the shutter speed you're choosing is a problem.
- Outdoors in good light the colours can be really beautiful. This is one of those things that contributes to the different "look" of the Leica files. Colours can be really natural and subtle and more "real" than the Canons.
- I'd forgotten what a difference a full frame chip makes to the way the pictures look. There's a three dimensional look and depth that is very different to the 1.3x crop of my Canons.
- The Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar is a fantastic lens. Very sharp at every aperture and with a nice manual focus feel.
- The Voigtlander 28mm f2 Ultron is also great. Its sharp wide open with a little bit of vignetting (which I don't mind). I use mine with the Summicron f2 lens coding and there's no noticeable colour cast in the corners. It does slightly shift focus backwards as you stop down. Having tested this with a LensAlign test chart I don't see it affecting the practical use of the lens for f2.8 or f4. Its very slightly noticeable at f5.6, but by f8 the depth of field covers any focussing error.
- The Voigtlander 90mm f3.5 that I bought secondhand front focusses quite a bit. I'm going to have to get this one adjusted at some point. Its unusable wide open. Not a problem with the camera though.
- Even with a Sandisk Extreme 60MB/s SD card, the camera is pretty slow at writing to the card and displaying pictures on the rear LCD. This is not a camera for fast shooting of extended sequences.
- I wear glasses and the 28mm frame lines are quite difficult to see. You can't really see all the corners at the same time.
- The battery seems to last for around 500+ pictures. I can fill a 16GB SD card with around 400 pictures and there's still a fair bit of battery power left.
- The shutter makes a nice, quiet click, but the motor that recocks the shutter makes a whirring sound that's a bit annoying. I'd love to see the next version of the camera have a manual wind-on lever, but I doubt that will ever happen.
- The rear LCD is frankly a bit rubbish. For a modern camera its way below the quality of everything else on the market and amazingly Leica haven't even changed it in the latest Monochrom body. Having said that, the slowness of the camera, combined with the low quality of the screen means that I actually don't look at the screen as much as I do on the Canons. This is probably a good thing and means I'm not spending my time doing that instead of looking for pictures!
So, those are some of my thoughts so far. In an ideal world, the high ISO performance would be a couple of stops better, the "computer" side of the camera would be a bit faster, and the rear LCD would be better, but really the camera is great. The ergonomics, image quality and lens choices are fantastic and above all its an enjoyable camera to shoot with. I'd like another one, but with the M10 rumoured to be announced very soon, I think I'll wait a while.