Leica M9 – a few thoughts

Leica launched the M9 today – the full-frame digital version of M rangefinder camera series. DPreview published its hands-on review already.

With its 24x36mm 18 Mpixels sensor, the M9 will be positioned in the same price category as the Nikon D3X and the Canon 1DS Mk III, both proposed above $6,500.

As far as I know, no price has been published for the North American market yet, but the list price published for the UK and for Continental Europe leads me to believe that the M9 will sell somewhere between US$6,750 and US$7,500 on this side of the Atlantic.

That’s a lot of money. I’m not a Leica collector, or a pro photographer always looking for ways to produce different images. I’m just an amateur, taking a few thousands of pictures per year, most of them in situations where a single lens reflex is far more efficient than a rangefinder camera like the M9. And I could not help doing some math:

  • a used Leica M7 can be found for $2,500. The cost difference with a brand new M9 will be $4,250 at least
  • $4,250 can buy enough B&W film to take 10,928 pictures and have them processed, scanned medium res and copied on CDs at Costco
  • $4,250 can buy enough B&W film to take 3,400 pictures and have them developed, scanned in high res and copied on CDs by a pro photo lab.
  • $4,250 can also buy a plane ticket to the destination of my dreams, where I would spend two months taking pictures

I would not even use a M7. Leicas are about street photography, the smaller, the better. An old Leica CL (or even better, its Minolta sibling, the CLE) is not as prestigious as an M7, but it does the job. For $400. How many more pictures?

Olympus OM-1n (50mm f:1.8 lens) / Leica CL (40mm F:2 lens)
Olympus OM-1n (50mm f:1.8 lens) / Leica CL (40mm F:2 lens)

2 thoughts on “Leica M9 – a few thoughts

  1. Just been looking at your views on cameras and their heritage. Easy to understand and no techno-babble. Thanks for that at least. Regarding your last views on the Liecas, I was shaking with laughter (and agreement) at your no-nonsense approach. Your ‘math’ was to-the-point and absolutely without fault. I’m glad someone with your obvious wealth of (amateur) knowledge has the courage to speak out against the rediculously wealthy ‘bling-merchants’ who seem to want these obscenely priced ornaments written into the history books. I’ve just completed an A-level photography course at my local college as a mature student (I’m 50) using my cheap and cheerful Sony Alpha 350. An easy camera to use but the temptation is to leave it on ‘auto’ all the time thereby almost guarantee-ing reasonable results. I also have an Olympus 0m2n with a selection of lenses and an outo winder. THIS is where the enjoyment of photography comes alive for me. Pre-focusing for moving subjects, composing my image in the viewfinder carefully, adjusting the shutter/aperture for clarity or depth of field. And the knowledge that if it falls off the seat of my car when I go round a corner I don’t have to call the insurance company because it hasn’t broken in thirty years and is unlikely to do so now!!

    1. Thank you for the comment.
      In all fairness I have to say that it’s getting increasingly difficult to get film processed at an acceptable price. The payback of a Leica M9 will be a bit faster. But film photography is not about money. It’s about using cameras which puts you in direct control of all the technical parameters, through simple and intuitive commands.

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