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Author Topic: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion  (Read 3741 times)

NormanBates

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Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« on: October 15, 2011, 01:30:25 PM »
(sorry if there's already a thread for this: I didn't find it)

I think I know how to describe the different feeling of shooting with a tool such as a Leica M9: the camera makes you work to get your pictures, giving you just enough help so you can be successful, but not too much so that it is easy; and that makes you work harder to get your pictures, and think harder about them while you're shooting; and in the end, it makes you feel you take the pictures, not the camera

of course, I can't get myself an M9 either, but I live the "Leica experience" in a low-budget way by using vintage Leitz glass on my Canon DSLR; because my theory is that it is not the camera that creates that experience, but the (amazing) glass and the extra work and love required to use it

maybe someone with experience with both setups can chime in and confirm if the glass is the most important part, and how many extra nirvana points are actually supplied by the body

my recommendation to anybody seeking that "experience" without having to spend a small fortune: get yourself a vintage  Leitz Elmarit-R 35mm f/2.8 (if you camera is APS-C) or a Leitz Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4 (if your camera is full frame); they should cost between $400 and $800 each
(yes, I like the Elmarit-R 35mm f2.8 better than the faster but softer Summilux-R 35mm f/1.4)

that 35mm gets a lot of praise whenever I post any videos shot with it, usually while talking about different aspects of the image; last time, talking about the color-correction tools, then, out of the blue, someone posts: "I’m loving that 35mm lens. Looks so pretty."

see it in action, for example, here (for the bits in the mountains):
Small | Large



edit: keep in mind, in any case, that vintage glass is always a lottery, you may get a lemon; I've got 2 bad lenses, plus 2 that could have been better, out of 11 vintage lenses bought on ebay and on a specialty online shop; I think that means I've had pretty bad luck. but in exchange for that I've gotten quite good at repairing vintage lenses :)
see what a lemon means here:
http://www.similaar.com/foto/lenstests/lenstestsc.html
« Last Edit: October 15, 2011, 01:37:23 PM by NormanBates »

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Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« on: October 15, 2011, 01:30:25 PM »

noisejammer

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2011, 03:14:45 PM »
Hmm... I really do appreciate the value of working for your images - it teaches you to look and that's the fastest way to grow as a photographer. On the other hand, I really don't understand why people will pay the premium for a Leica system which - let's be honest - is optically little better than a 5D2 with a couple of premium Zeiss lenses.

A case in point - say you bought a 5D2, ZE 21/2.8, ZE 35/1.4, ZE 50/2 MP and ZE 100/2 MP. At current prices you would be down about $8k - considerably less cash than an M9 with the cheapest lens Leica offers. Instead of a compact camera with a single lens, you would have a system that is capable of an awful lot more. Ok, the 5D2 is a bit bulkier and it doesn't have red dot or the cache of the Leica... but surely it's the result that matters not your ability to shell $40k for largely obsolete technology.

Let's be clear - there are some things that Leica has done really well... I do applaud using DNG as a raw format. On the other hand, they failed to stick to the M-bayonet specification which means that Zeiss and Voigtlaender lenses don't focus correctly when you use the rangefinder. The M9 has no live view, so you get to choose between Leica lenses or recalibrate the camera for Zeiss & Voigtlaender.... and it's really difficult to compare the perfomance of lenses when you're only allowed to focus one of them.

Given the difficulty obtaining Leica lenses - some are on multi-year backlogs - I can only wonder whether the "Leica mystique" is really another triumph of presentation over content.

NormanBates

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2011, 07:08:18 PM »
I can't know about the camera, but the glass is truly awesome

I got to use it because it was the recommended choice of Shane Hurlbut, ASC, among all the still lenses, because they are the ones that feel closest to his beloved Panavision Primo cine primes ($18K to $40K each; they actually use Leica glass):
http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2010/02/06/still-lenses/
http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2010/07/03/leica-r-mount-lenses-for-the-canon-hdslrs/
http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2009/09/09/panavision-primo-primes-cinema-quality-imagery/
http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2010/02/03/cinema-style-lenses/

RFranko

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2011, 08:49:43 PM »
Leica M9 revisited
Quite frankly I feel the Leica M9 is nothing more than ego candy. It is in the class of expensive, impractical and exotic sports cars.  As far as being in the arena of professional working cameras, advanced amatuers and the like, with all their many advanced features, it is sadly lacking. Does it create better pictures as the writer might hint? No. As the saying goes, "It's not the bow and arrows, it's the indian," as the article and the images presented with it clearly reflect. Even a Leica M9 can't save you from creating lousy pictures, save the goal posts and rainbow. So much for my opinion of the article Leica M9 revisited. ::)

UncleFester

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2011, 11:42:10 PM »
Copy/paste from Ken Rockwell's site..

(comparing to slr)


"Rangefinder cameras have higher image quality

Because there is no flipping mirror, lenses can be designed without having to keep the back of the lens far enough away from the image plane to avoid getting hit by the mirror.

For wide-angle lenses, allowing lens designers to make lenses whose rear elements can come very close to the image plane lets wide-angle rangefinder lenses be much smaller, sharper and have less distortion than SLR lenses.

Because there is no flipping mirror, there is much less vibration to blur hand-held images. At speeds of around 1/30 - 1/8, the flipping mirrors of SLRs often blur shots made from tripods unless a mirror lock-up is used.

Rangefinder cameras have far more precise focusing for wide and normal lenses. "

So, attaching an expensive German lens to a dslr is less refined than to what is was intended for. More experimental where slr lenses are better suited.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2011, 11:56:05 PM by UncleFester »

noisejammer

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2011, 12:39:04 AM »
The archetypal Nikon fan-boy doesn't really rate as much of an authority....

Almost every serious user of manual focuslng lenses (on a dslr) employs magnified live view and a camera loupe to compose and judge focus. The mirror doesn't move so there's no mirror slap, you get to compose and focus wherever you like so that field curvature doesn't appear. You don't have focus shift issues either.

Fwiw, whether hand held or tripod mounted,  I routinely outperform the autofocus on my 1D4. There is simply no way I believe you can do as well with a single central focus point using the focus and recompose technique. Ultimately, if the lens isn't in perfect focus, it won't reach the performance that it might otherwise.

UncleFester

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2011, 01:50:22 AM »
I'm no fan of Rockwell by any stretch, but what he's says about distance of rear element to image plane is close to what I read many years ago about why rangefinder cameras are capable of sharper images than their slr counterparts.

Mirror slap is a non-issue with mirror lock-up.

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2011, 01:50:22 AM »

Rocky

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2011, 02:53:20 AM »
It looks like that the M9 has been badly "trashed" by people that have never used it. It is not fair. I can feel that these people might have never a good manual focusing, well made range finder film camera before either.
All Leica M  (from M2 to M9) are manual focusing cameras. Due to the excellent focusing mechanism of the Leica lenses and the mavelous coupling to the range finder in the body, it is a joy to do the manual focusing with very acurate result. With the proper techique, it can be almost as fast as the current mirrorless digital camera. If zone focusing is used. It can be even faster any DSLR.
One op claim that the M9 does not follow the specification of the M mount. I do not know how or where he got this idea. the M9 can use ANY Leica M Mount lens made by Leica dated back to the 50's. This is a good prove that Leica did not change any focusing related item on the M ount on M9. The only thing M9 has added on the M mount is the elctronic comunication between the lens and the body to let the body know the focal length of the lens being used. If the other brand lens cannot focus on M9, It is their problem. The same poster claim the Zeiss M mount lens will not work on M9. The B and H mail order store is full of review about how wonderful the Ziess lenses works with M9.
As M9 is asking a high price and being an obsolete equipment at the same time, it is also highly debatable.  M9 does not have auto focusing, does not have live view and does not have IS. But it is the only FF camera that does not use AA filter. neither canon nor Nikon can do it.  A lot poster in CR claim that they use manual focusing even their DSLR is AF equiped.  With multiple focusing points (can be as much as 51 ) being chosen by the camera, sometimes it is too much uncertainty. So is without auto focusing really being obsolete, or is it just another choice?
M9 is a minialist's camera. It give you what you need to take excellent picture without the bells and whistles. So is it an obsoleted equipment?
The pictures from the 2nd review at CR are being trashed also. It is even more unfair. He is just trying to show us how good the low light capability of M9, even without IS. The M9 is more hand heldable than DSLR due to lack of mirror bounce.
M9 is expensive, that is a fact. Our CR guy have never use any Leica M model before. After a few weeks, the M9 becomes his main camera and replaced his DSLR. That got to tell you something.

Rocky

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2011, 03:05:55 AM »
I'm no fan of Rockwell by any stretch, but what he's says about distance of rear element to image plane is close to what I read many years ago about why rangefinder cameras are capable of sharper images than their slr counterparts.

Mirror slap is a non-issue with mirror lock-up.
For lens sharpness, Rockwell is semi-right. It is easier to design short lenses (50 mm and shorter) for range finder cameras. As a case and point, in the early days of the film SLR, the "Standard lens" is 55mm to make the design easier. Whether it is sharper or not, It will depends on the actual design, the manufacturer and the price.
With the mirror locked up, it will slowdown the operation of DSLR a lot.

gmrza

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2011, 03:09:30 AM »
I'm no fan of Rockwell by any stretch, but what he's says about distance of rear element to image plane is close to what I read many years ago about why rangefinder cameras are capable of sharper images than their slr counterparts.

Mirror slap is a non-issue with mirror lock-up.

The advantage a rangefinder has is that, without a mirror in the way, the lens mount can be brought closer to the the focal plane.  As a result there is not the need to employ a retrofocus design for short focal length lenses.  Unfortunately retrofocus designs lose out on edge to edge sharpness.
Zeiss Ikon Contax II, Sonnar 50mm f/2, Sonnar 135mm f/4

UncleFester

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2011, 04:30:23 AM »
I'm no fan of Rockwell by any stretch, but what he's says about distance of rear element to image plane is close to what I read many years ago about why rangefinder cameras are capable of sharper images than their slr counterparts.

Mirror slap is a non-issue with mirror lock-up.
For lens sharpness, Rockwell is semi-right. It is easier to design short lenses (50 mm and shorter) for range finder cameras. As a case and point, in the early days of the film SLR, the "Standard lens" is 55mm to make the design easier. Whether it is sharper or not, It will depends on the actual design, the manufacturer and the price.
With the mirror locked up, it will slowdown the operation of DSLR a lot.


Image sharpness. It's a combination of the two. Lens on rangefinder body.  This is why it doesn't work out so well with a Summilux on a dslr

UncleFester

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2011, 04:32:53 AM »
I'm no fan of Rockwell by any stretch, but what he's says about distance of rear element to image plane is close to what I read many years ago about why rangefinder cameras are capable of sharper images than their slr counterparts.

Mirror slap is a non-issue with mirror lock-up.

The advantage a rangefinder has is that, without a mirror in the way, the lens mount can be brought closer to the the focal plane.  As a result there is not the need to employ a retrofocus design for short focal length lenses.  Unfortunately retrofocus designs lose out on edge to edge sharpness.

Copy/paste from Ken Rockwell's site..

(comparing to slr)


"Rangefinder cameras have higher image quality

Because there is no flipping mirror, lenses can be designed without having to keep the back of the lens far enough away from the image plane to avoid getting hit by the mirror.

For wide-angle lenses, allowing lens designers to make lenses whose rear elements can come very close to the image plane lets wide-angle rangefinder lenses be much smaller, sharper and have less distortion than SLR lenses.

Because there is no flipping mirror, there is much less vibration to blur hand-held images. At speeds of around 1/30 - 1/8, the flipping mirrors of SLRs often blur shots made from tripods unless a mirror lock-up is used.

Rangefinder cameras have far more precise focusing for wide and normal lenses. "

So, attaching an expensive German lens to a dslr is less refined than to what is was intended for. More experimental where slr lenses are better suited. ;)

NormanBates

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2011, 05:15:46 AM »
So, attaching an expensive German lens to a dslr is less refined than to what is was intended for. More experimental where slr lenses are better suited.

of course, attaching a rangefinder lens on a DSLR body would be an extremely dumb idea: either you lose infinity focus, or you use an adapter with built-in optics to compensate for the focal-flange-distance difference, which kills your lens and makes it look like a cheap piece of crap

I'm using Leitz lenses for the Leica-R mount, which is an SLR mount with a large focal flange distance (they work on everything: Canon, Nikon, Sony A, etc)

therefore, I don't get the advantages of the shorter focal flange distance and the freedom that it gives to the lens designer: I'd love to use a Leitz Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 on a Canon 5D2, but it won't work (and I wouldn't be able to pay for it anyway)

still, these Leica-R lenses are better than what you'd find elsewhere; and, as I said before, they improve my craft and give me a feeling of completion, by making me work harder to get my images and then (sometimes) rewarding me with beautiful results

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2011, 05:15:46 AM »

aldvan

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2011, 06:27:55 AM »
noisejammer wrote:
"because my theory is that it is not the camera that creates that experience, but the (amazing) glass and the extra work and love required to use it"

Clichés die hard... As I wrote may and many times, that statement was (quite) right at the times of film cameras. And, to be correct, it should sound 'it is not the camera that creates that experience, but the glass, the extra work and love required to use it PLUS THE QUALITY OF THE FILM (and film processing, printing etc...)
Today the camera IS the film. The quality of a sensor assembly and of the processor DOES a great difference, let me say, very often more than the lens itself.

"RFranko wrote:Quite frankly I feel the Leica M9 is nothing more than ego candy. It is in the class of expensive, impractical and exotic sports cars."
RFranko is right: Leicas are in the class of expensive, impractical and exotic cars, BUT I suppose that he never drove an expensive, impractical and exotic car, since, in that case, he never wrote 'nothing more than ego candy'. The experience of driving such kind of a car, for people able to take advantage of it, is something very rewarding and a chance to improve your skills, just as in the case of the Leica.
I would like to add that shooting with a great piece of technology give me a sense of responsibility. When I left my film cameras and related lenses, for long time I went around with cheap digital cameras. It wasn't until I restored a very good DSLR equipment that I acquired again the pleasure to think about each shot I make...
 

noisejammer

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2011, 10:38:29 AM »
It looks like that the M9 has been badly "trashed" by people that have never used it....
Ok - since I'm accused of never having used a Leica - actually, I have. On the price/performance scale I was completely underwhelmed and walked away from one that was offered to me. That said, I still use a 1950's Agfa (aka Ansco in the States) rangefinder and (having owned a rangefinder more than 30 years) I do understand the rf technique and limitations pretty thoroughly.

Quote
All Leica M  (from M2 to M9) are manual focusing cameras....
All Voigtlaender, ZE, ZF ZF.2, ZK and ZM lenses are manual focusing too. In principle, you can use the zone focus system on any lens (assuming it has a reasonably accurate focal scale and you can judge the distance sufficiently accurately.) This does not correct for field curvature or focus shift and it certainly does not allow you to achieve critical focus. Let me be clear on this - people pay a very considerable premium for the large aperture on Leica glass. Using Dofmaster, I get that a 50mm lens at 8 ft, f/1.4 gives you about 4" either side. Maybe you can get that right with a rangefinder. The field curvature of fast lenses is intrinsically pronounced so you either need to pre-compensate or live with poor focus from focus and recompose. Your final alternative is to focus on your subject and crop the image - but that reduces the camera's effective resolution to something like 11 megapixels. (purely an estimate based on the rule of thirds costing you 1/6 of your field in each direction.)

Now you can argue that you don't need to use the lens wide open - but then you may as well use a X100 which is more compact and costs $1k... there are plenty of other options but I think my point is clear.

Quote
One op claim that the M9 does not follow the specification of the M mount. I do not know how or where he got this idea....
My comment that Leica has corrupted the M-bayonet specification was stated unequivocally by Carl Zeiss to Lloyd Chambers when he enquired on why several ZM lenses were not focusing correctly on his (correctly calibrated) Leica M9. Since this statement could lead to a charge of libel by Leica against CZ and nothing happened, I am inclined to believe that it is absolutely true. Sorry, Lloyd's is a subscription site but you do get roughly what you pay for.

For the record, I do respect some user opinions but few have the resources to test multiple copies of multiple lenses - hence the tend to like what they get and if it's not quite right, they will never know. This - coupled with the joy of ownership - makes user reviews rather biased.

Finally - I would like to address the comment on retrofocus designs for lenses degrading performance.
While I am familiar with the argument that more elements means weaker performance, I would like to suggest that readers consider the EF 70-200 IS Mk II. It has a lot more elements and is still much sharper than the older 200/2.8L. I know this is hardly conclusive but it does bear consideration. Secondly, a retrofocus lens brings to a focus with a narrower cone. (From my grad school courses I think this was called numerical aperture.) A smaller numerical aperture makes it easier for a photodetector to register a photon - hence the T-stop of a retrofocus design may be better on a digital imager.

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Re: Leica M9 – A Second Opinion
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2011, 10:38:29 AM »