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)