I’ve had the Leica M9 for about a year now. With the recent announcement from Leica about their new M products, it’s prompted me to consider and write-up what’s been good & not so good about using the M9 rangefinder camera. I’ve used it in almost every situation that I’d used my Canon 5D Mk II: portraits (with natural light and strobes), landscape and macro, plus I’ve been through a lengthy repair process. So I feel rather qualified to briefly summarise my experience using this camera.
My M9 developed a sensor crack or scratch late last month, so it’s been sent away for a service. It can’t be fixed in Australia, so it will end up at Solms Germany. So it’s back to Canon for a while (which is fine). I’ve had the M9 for just over a year, and when it comes back from the service, I will write up a summary of my thoughts after using it rather heavily for the past year. Stay tuned.
This is a follow-up post to my previous one – SD cards on the M9. This post wont concern many M9 users – unless of course, you’ve had an image corruption. If you’ve never had a corruption, feel free to skip this post.
Towards the end of 2011, Leica copped a hammering over M9-related SanDisk SD card writing gliches (e.g. zero-byte image files) introduced by this blog and others. The problem struck such a bad chord, Leica ended up setting up a corner of their forum to collect user’s problem reports. I’ve also encountered this issue a couple of times. In early Dec 2011, Leica released a firmware upgrade (v1.176). But have all SD card writing issues really gone away? Perhaps not – I read with interest this post on dpreview.com regarding unreadable images on a Sandisk Extreme Pro 8Gb card (replicated by others here). Using 2 separate M9s (one personal & one loaner camera) on two separate shooting occasions using 2 different copies of the same card (one brand new), James reported no images on the card on each occasion. This was after extensive shooting sessions and confirming images all-the-while via the back LCD. After using special recovery software, he was able to recover the images to some extent. Of course these were exceptional situations, but the fact it happened at all *twice* and separately, is rather alarming especially after the firmware update. One particular aspect of this latest problem was the corruption of the bottom third of many of his images. This has lead to a rather extended process of investigation. His dealer opted to take up the issue with Leica to investigate the matter. Weeks went by waiting for an update, all the while James was camera-less, but in the end, apparently there was no resolution other than an assumption of “user error”. The final outcome: last week James, fed up, returned his M9 for a refund and he’s moving to a different camera system. As a fellow M9 user and as a human, I really felt for him – I think it’s an awful situation. I honestly think Leica or his dealer could have done a lot better. Leica have lost him as a customer.
In this article I describe my experience with the Leica M9 after about 5 months of use.
When the Leica M9 camera was announced in late 2009, I did not pay any attention to it. I was a Canon person through-and-through. As a user of the Canon 5D & later the 5D Mk II plus various L lenses (mostly prime), I was content. However in 2010, I came to use the Zeiss 21mm Distagon ZE on the 5D MkII and fell in love with the Zeiss build and excellent image quality, even though it was a manual focus prime lens. Eventually I found myself using Zeiss lenses almost exclusively, especially after adding the Makro Planar 50mm & 100mm lenses. About a year ago, somehow I found myself reading about the M9. Now that I was a frequent manual focusser on the Canon, I became open-minded about the M9 (since it is purely manual focus) and my curiousity grew. The M9 is billed as the world’s smallest full-frame digital camera. As a person who enjoys photography when travelling, the bulk and heft of a DSLR plus various lenses is readily recalled when reading such a claim. However the high cost of the M9 put it out of my mind – or at least I tried to. As Dirk Ahlgrim wrote on his blog about the camera “if you can’t get it out of your head, you have to get it into your hands”. This situation equally applied to me. Eventually I rationalised my gear, and sold off a bunch of Canon gear to help fund the M9.