I assume that anyone spending $10-20K for an M9 system (camera and a few lenses) will do their own homework, so I won't insult anyone with comments about the quality of this camera or the pictures it takes. All I'll say is that in the right hands it is capable of producing stunning images. But at the same time, it isn't for everyone.
I have pretty much the full Nikon pro suite, but it's not about one brand being better than the other - both take fine photographs. There are many things my D3 can do that the M9 can't, and vice-versa. The M9 is a different tool, useful for different situations. Whether it's the camera for you depends on whether you encounter those M9 "sweet spot" situations often enough to make it worthwhile.
The M9 is best when you're working in a slow and methodical way, carefully composing, adjusting every setting, leaving nothing to chance. If you're the type of photographer who keeps his auto-focus lenses on "manual" most of the time, rarely letting the camera make important exposure decisions, then Leica might appeal to you. You probably also use your favorite prime lens more than any zoom.
For me, the form factor is a big part of it. The M9 isn't all that much bigger than (say) one of the bigger point-and-shoots - but this is no point and shoot in terms of picture quality. Carrying something around my neck that's well under half the weight and bulk of a Nikon D3 with 24-70 lens, while not sacrificing an ounce of image quality, is important to me.
If you're on the fence, I'd encourage you to rent one for several days to experience the Leica mystique firsthand. You'll either fall in love, or you'll be unimpressed and save yourself several thousand dollars.
on April 6, 2011
Before you get a Leica, you have to ask yourself why. You'll be giving up automatic focus. You'll be giving up seeing the picture before you take it. You'll be spending a lot of money. Look at the price here, and note that it comes with no lens. Likely, you will want a lens. It's eye-blinkingly daft to get a camera like this and put cheap lenses on it. And heck, even the cheap lenses are going to cost more than most other cameras do. Heck, the flash gun I bought cost more than my wife's Canon. Suck it up now, you're going to be spending $10K and more like $15K by the time you're done. You're either rich, a pro, or crazy and possibly all three. I know lots of pros who sneer at the price on this.
You're going to have to learn how to use the camera. You won't just take it out of the box and start shooting. It took me a couple thousand shots to decide that hey, maybe I know how to use it -- and that was with a single lens. I also know I'm getting better with each few hundred pictures I take. But let's also remind ourselves that Cartier-Bresson only ever used a 50mm lens, too. You're going to learn what they mean by "f8 and be there."
So why the heck would you want this camera?
It's small. If you compare size and weight against any camera that would come close for sheer quality, you have it beat hands down. Your kit is smaller, your bags are lighter. Your back will thank you.
You can get into places you can't get into before. I've been to places where they have said "No DSLRs" and this isn't an SLR. I've been to places where they say "no removable lens cameras" and they let me through anyway. It isn't off-putting like a mondo DSLR with bazooka-sized lens and a boom mic that looks like it belongs under a stallion. You're someone with an old-timey camera; it is a relic and therefore harmless.
You can use, with very few exceptions, any lens that Leica made back to 1952. With an adapter, you can use any lens back to the 1930s, too. To be fair, you can also use these lenses on a Four Thirds camera, too, but it's still true.
It's a Leica. There's a mystique to a Leica, and yeah, after you take five thousand pictures, after you learn brightlines and framing and when to go manual, and practice, practice, practice, your shots will look like Leica shots. There's nothing in the world that looks like a Leica shot except a Leica shot and yours will start looking like that. One of those five thousand will be good enough that your spouse will say, "You ought to enter that into a contest." Many, many of the iconic shots of the last hundred years were shot with a Leica and that Leica look will rub off a little.
But it isn't the camera, it's you. It's the devotion. It's because you made the commitment (which is the polite way to say cash) to having a real camera and learning not to be a poseur with it. The biggest reason *not* to get this camera is that it's a better camera than you are photographer and that will be painfully obvious when you get it. You're going to have to get better at being a photographer because this camera doesn't cover for you, it laughs at you in front of you. You will get better because you have to to maintain face. You'll become a better photographer because the alternative is for everyone to know that the best digital camera in the world is being wasted on the likes of you.
That is what it is. It happens to be the best digital camera in the world. The only rivals to it that are non-digital are film Leicas, or really esoteric things like Hasselblads or view cameras. And let's face it, film is dead. It's sad that film is dead, but film is dead. One-horse shays are also dead. There is also a joy to putting a 32MB card in this thing and shooting a thousand-plus shots. No changing film every thirty-six. Wow. That's worth kissing film goodbye right there.
So anyway, think long and hard before buying it. If you make the plunge, like I did, and go to the trouble of learning to take pictures again, it's a joy. It's amazing. It's the best thing that ever happened to me on the back side of the viewfinder. There are things that were better on the front side of the viewfinder, but no camera can do that.
on May 10, 2011
This camera is the ultimate cure for camera-envy. You know, the disease that always makes you wonder "what if?" and "is that better than mine?" It's not about prestige or name-recognition (the first modification I made to my M9 was to stick silver duct tape over the famous red dot and the "M9" engraving). For me, camera envy equates to wanting the best tool available to capture moments that will never be repeated. And it's not just about image quality or I'd be lugging around an 8x10 view camera every day (which I have done). It's also about convenience, portability, simplicity, and the picture-taking experience.
Enter the Leica M9.
The pictures are good. So good. Just go ahead and check out people's images on flickr. And then remind yourself that what you are seeing has been processed, possibly re-sized, and only you know how good your computer monitor is at color management. Let me just tell you that the images are amazing. I have owned many dSLRs over the years and you never get sharpness like this. Maybe it's the lack of an AA filter on the sensor, maybe it's the lenses. But it's definitely something. Something good.
If you're coming from a Leica film camera, you'll never believe how liberating it is to be able to shoot continuously for hundreds of frames before having to change out your roll (aka memory card). It's a whole new world. I take more risks now because I don't have to worry that I'll run out of film. It feels just like getting my first digital camera. "Wait, you mean if I totally mess up a shot I can just delete and then shoot again?" Yes. Yes, you can. Or don't even bother deleting because you can still take 400 more. You want to see what a shot will look like at every possible aperature setting? Just try it. It won't cost you a penny. Anything goes. And unlike film, the MORE you shoot, the cheaper you can tell yourself photography is. Take 1000 frames and your new camera cost you $7 a shot. Take 70,000 frames and now it only cost $0.10 a shot. That's $3.60 for 36 "exposures" - let's see ... how much does film cost again?
If you're coming from a dSLR you'll love how low-profile the M9 is. When I had a Canon 5D Mark II, I had the thing not around my neck most of the time but in a bag (because it's heavy). But then you know what it's like, you pull out your elephant gun and while you might see a giant, red ring and think, "Oh, it's an L lens," other people nervously scoop up their children and duck for cover. The mirror sounds remind me of playing the arcade game Buckhunter. And also I feel ridiculous the whole day, especially as I walk by other people with their dSLRs. There's just NO slick way to pull it off. None. With your Leica M9, you can get a beatup neck strap, stick it in an old case (or get a new case and beat it up yourself), and you look like you're shooting with your dad's old camera. No one runs. More often than not, people look right into my shot because they're trying to figure out what's wrong with me. Can't I afford a new camera?
One caveat. You have to know how to shoot. You can't hide behind autofocus, programmed settings, nor even a zoom lens (I'm not counting the Tri-Elmar as a zoom ok?). You'll have to actually stand where you need to stand to take the picture you want, you'll have to decide what f/stop to use, and you'll have to focus. Why can't Leica develop autofocus? Why would you want it? Then you'd have to tell the camera which AF mode to use, scroll thru menu after menu, then check to make sure the camera did what you asked by zooming in using the LCD screen. I'd much rather just focus and go on to my next shot. I know it's sharp because I focused it myself. And if you suck at it, you'll be surprised at how fast you get better, especially since you can see the results right away if you want. By now I can pretty much guess the focus and have the camera ready to go by the time I bring it up to my eye. Some will say that it's more work to shoot with a rangefinder. But you could also say that it's easier to be in control and get the exact shot you want the first time around.
It's been said before but I'll say it here too. This camera becomes an extension of you, of your eye. It's so simple that you can really get to know exactly what it'll do, you can trust it. The quality you get for the size and weight you'll be carrying around is unmatched.
In conclusion, at first glance I may look like I have the crappiest, oldest camera on the block - but rest assured, camera envy is GONE. For what I want - the M9 is the best, hands down, in every category. How often does that happen?
on September 21, 2010
I am not an easy grader, and am a perfectionist. A perfectionist forced to compromise.
I give Leica M9 a solid 8 out of 10; maybe 8.5 out of 10. Certainly not higher.
Some dumb compromises in Leica M9: e.g. cheap screen. Why not sapphire screen like M8.2? Leica claims they wanted to meet a specific price target. Come on, the person who pays $7,000 for the body alone, will pay a couple of hundred dollars more for a better screen. Since I have no respect for such short comings, I prefer to rate Leica lower rather than higher. Now, bear in mind - i heart Leica tremendously.
So far I have had a few leica M6 cameras, M7, R something, M8.2 and now M9. Multiple lenses. Oh, also the lovely D-Lux 4.
M9 is by far the best leica camera I have had. In fact, the best digital camera I have owned. It has its quirks. But leica owners tend to be a quirky bunch too (and I mean that with utmost respect).
First, i have to tell you that it took me roughly seven months to receive my leica. While I was waiting, and getting impatient, bought a Nikon D700, multiple lenses, and then a D3S. It is a bit embarrasing and difficult to travel with the Nikons. Too loud and draw too much attention to themselves, everyone thinking I am a professional photographer. I hate that as I am just a humble street photographer. It is the speed of D700 and D3S that I miss in my Leica M9.
Leica M9 body feels great. Like a beautiful mechanical watch. I bought the grey one. Frankly the faux leather on it, feels a bit too ice-y cold, and a bit cheap. Maybe if i were to do it over, i would have gotten the black body. Maybe not....everyone has those!
The battery life is short. You need an extra battery with you for a long day trip with lots of shooting.
So easy to use the camera. Menu items down to bare essentials. The camera is light, easy to carry, does not draw any attention to itself or to you, unless people in the know see that and envy you.
My biggest problem with Leica cameras and the M9 is that I like to take lots of candid street shots. Like on a recent trip to San Francisco I witnessed an arrest in the tenderloin area (what on earth was I doing in one of the worst streets in the country? well...they have amazing Thai restaurants there).... I could have taken 20 nice pictures with my D3S. With Leica I did 20 shots, and one or two came fine but not great. Even my D-Lux 4 is better in that sense. Mainly because of the lack of auto-focus. Some swear by leica hyperfocal focusing. Well, they are ahead of me for sure.
So if you have the time, and only care about taking pictures of not moving subjects, then Leica is great. So grandma shots should be fine. If you want to take pictures of your child or grand kid running at the speed of light or even an old tire-less VW, then pull out your iphone.
Exaggeration aside, you will not regret buying Leica M9, unless they come with 9.2 immediately after your purchase. You will forget the high price tag. The colors are lively, the black and whites are gorgeous and you do not break your back by carrying a heavy camera.
Leica is a great camera but is not enough as your only camera. You need a D-Lux 5 or a nikon/canon type as well....I am happy for you that you do not have to wait as long as I did to receive yours. Many camera shops seem to have them in stock now. A friend of mine bought his on Amazon and received it within one day from his order. Not bad.
Best wishes to you whatever camera you go with.
on July 6, 2011
I made the move. I got a Leica. The M9 to be exact. And frankly, this is not something I expected to ever do. I resisted the Leica digital cameras for many reasons. I thought the early incarnations were too expensive and that they underperformed compared to the Japanese digital cameras.
But the M9 changed all that for me. Let me explain.
Starting with the sensor, this is a spectacular camera. It's a proprietary 18.5 megapixel CCD full frame device. It doesn't use an anti-aliasing filter. That translates to higher resolving power. In short, in regards to resolution, images from the M9 will meet or beat the 21-25MP images from the most expensive Canon and Nikon cameras.
It uses a new cover glass to eliminate infrared light contamination, and the sensor provides stellar performance with Leica M lenses. The use of external UV/IR filters is not required.
This technology is not something you can just gloss over. It's a marvel. In fact, I can't believe Leica came up with an 18.5 MP full frame sensor in a camera that is about as small as some point and shoots. Leica engineers themselves thought this impossible just a few years ago. Everything changes.
The camera is solid as a rock, but much lighter than any of my DSLR bodies. It's small enough to be stealthy but big enough to do the job. It handles like a dream and I am loving the fact that I can throw this camera around my neck and work all day without getting tired.
The viewfinder is bright and that's a good thing because the focus is manual - rangefinder type. I admit that this was where I thought I'd have the most trouble. My old eyes don't see as well as they used to. But the combination of being able to use lenses with aperture marks on them for hyper-focal distance focusing and the bright viewfinder have left me getting 97% of my shots in focus.
The shooting experience with this camera is joyful. The ability to use an aperture ring warms my heart. The buttons are all easy to use. Set it and forget it. This is the way cameras used to work. I hate nested menus and in the case of the M9 don't need to deal with many to get my shots.
The shutter is quiet but the shutter button takes some getting used to. No half-press to autofocus. And two frames per second is about as fast as this camera advances. I won't be shooting birds in flight with the M9.
The M9 brilliantly uses Adobe's DNG as its RAW format. This will save a ton of time, pain and agony for anyone who's used to waiting for the various RAW converters to upgrade to meet their camera. In theory, just about any program can open a DNG. There is no proprietary software required.
While it's no Canon 5D MK II, low-light performance on this camera is excellent at ISO 800 and acceptable at ISO 1250. CCD cameras trade more detail for more noise. In most cases, the super fast glass from Leica helps you overcome the lack of high ISOs. What it lacks in low-light performance, it makes up for in sharpness and detail.
The battery and memory card fit underneath a plate you have to open on the bottom of the camera. There is a good old-fashioned cable release slot on the camera which means just about any old cloth/or metal generic cable release will work in the M9. You don't need anything electronic, proprietary or fancy.
I absolutely love the auto-bracketing feature on the M9. This is an HDR shooter's dream. You can control the brackets in three, five or seven stop intervals. You can select 1/3, 1/2 or 1-stop brackets. You can also change the order of the shots. Once that's all set - press the button once and you get all the exposures in the bracket. It's flawless and foolproof.
Working with the Leica lenses is amazing. Back in the day, lenses had aperture rings. Now most cameras force you to set the aperture electronically. Thank goodness that's not the case here. The Leica lenses have real aperture rings. This makes setting the aperture for hyper-focal distance focusing a snap. This is how street photographers tend to work. They preset a hyper-focal range and then as long as their subject is between point A and B they shoot. Everything is in focus. I love it.
One more thing about the lenses - they are drop dead gorgeous - even wide open. There is no sweet spot on a Leica lens. The entire lens is the sweet spot. They are sharp, contrasty and lovely. Oh and they are expensive and hard to find.
I've rented or borrowed several Leica lenses; some from my pals at Borrowlenses.com (yes they have this camera and some lenses in stock) and some from Leica fans who were gracious enough to let me try them out. I ended up buying a Leica 35mm F/2 Summicron ASPH. It's beautiful and that's all I can say about it. That's all I need to say about it. It's as nice as any lens I've ever owned. Period. Now I am looking for the very hard to find - no make that nearly impossible to find - Leica 90mm F/2. Since Leica isn't currently selling any of these lenses, I have to look for old stock or used. Nobody who has this lens seems to want to sell it. Accordingly, I will probably settle for the F/2.5 version since those are more available. I expect to be able to shoot about everything I need to using just those two lenses. What a relief it is not to have to carry 10 lenses everywhere I go!
The initial images I made with this camera were mind-blowing. You can't see it as well on the web or on a computer but when you print the pictures from an M9/Leica lens combo, your subjects appear to literally jump off the page. It's almost a 3D effect. When I first saw it I wasn't sure what I was looking at. That was what really pulled me into the Leica fold. The image quality is out of this world. Nothing in the 35mm realm touches it. Nothing. It's more like working with medium formats.
Now let's talk about the downsides. The camera is expensive. The body alone is just under $7000. The lenses start at $1700 and go up. This is not a camera for those on a budget. Is it worth the money? To me yes. Not everyone will agree. But these cameras are hand-made and very precise. If any camera body is worth $7000 the M9 is it.
The other downside is that the Leica cameras are popular and since their factory is small, they can't keep up with demand. It's almost impossible to find lenses for the M9 unless they are used. Even then it's not easy to get the highly-desirable fast glass. Most Leica owners love their cameras and lenses and few offer them for resale. It's a real problem and Leica needs to address it.
One last issue to cover is the battery life. It pretty much sucks. I mean really, you HAVE to have at least two batteries. This camera drinks battery juice like I used to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken - by the bucket. If you're used to the modern Canon and Nikon battery life you'll be disappointed at the Leica battery performance. Two or even three batteries may be needed to do an entire day of shooting. And like everything else Leica, the batteries are not cheap - but they aren't outrageous either.
The Leica M9 is the world's smallest, lightest, full frame digital camera. It's also for me personally, the perfect digital camera for everything but sports and wildlife. It's light, ergonomically efficient, well-built, powerful, beautiful, elegant and most of all simple. The move to simplicity in photography reminds me of my early days shooting. With a Leica I can just concentrate on seeing. I don't need to worry about the camera. It's just an extension of my eye. But that's me. For you, it might be a different story.
Back to me :) If it sounds like I am in love with the M9 well - I am. It's almost a religious experience. It's not for everyone. Really - it isn't. It takes time to understand. It is something you work with and eventually, it becomes a part of you.
Review Copyright Scott Bourne - Photofocus.com
on October 26, 2012
Okay, I admit it, I was driven to check out the Leica digital rangefinder cameras because of the great time I've been having and the excellent photos I've been taking with the little Leica X2 point-and-shoot! For a short while I had an M8 but quickly sold it to help fund the M9.
I guess the rangefinder paradigm is not for everybody but I fell in love with shooting 35mm film on my dad's old Contax many years ago when I was in my twenties! I acquired a Zeiss Ikon last year to get back some of that "vibe" and shoot film again and have really been loving it. I've been a Canon 5DmkII shooter for some time but thought maybe the M9 might just be the perfect camera for me - at this point I would say my hunch has proved out!
The body is solid and the build quality is superb. I find it a perfect fit in my hand with just the right amount of heft - it's great to know that highly engineered objects of this kind of precision and quality are still being made! I think I'd be hard pressed to find any plastic on this camera!
I shot Canon gear for years and finally, after some considerable time hands-on with the M8, but mostly the M9, I've completely liquidated my 5DmkII and a bunch of Canon "L" lenses. With careful packing, the M9, a spare battery and three lenses all fit in a little Domke F-5XA camera bag and it only weighs a few pounds! Compared to the bag I used to lug my 5DmkII and 24-105mm, 70-200mm and 16-35mm lenses around in, this is effortless, plus it's much more discrete to carry.
It's also so discrete to shoot. The compactness of the M9 has been liberating for me. People just don't react the same way to the M9 that they did to my 5D with the massive 24-105mm hanging off of it - they're more relaxed and comfortable. This thing just doesn't look *that* imposing.
I'm finding the Leica M lenses to be simply phenomenal! They're extremely sharp, even in the extreme corners (where my Canon glass didn't fare so well). These lenses are sharper and more contrasty than what I've gotten used to, even when shot at wide apertures - and that even applies to the wide-angle lenses! Through some trial and error and lens trading through eBay, I've finally settled on the 21mm Elmarit, 50mm Summicron, 35mm Summilux and 90mm Elmarit as my "kit".
The CCD sensor in the M9 bucks the CMOS trend and certainly affords the M9 a unique image signature that I'm finding really lovely. Overall, it feels very film-like to me. From my own experience, I've noticed that the M9's files require much less post-processing than my Canons or any of my other cameras.
Though I agree that a good photographer can take a great picture with just about any camera, a superb one like this certainly makes it a lot easier to get the results and consistency I want. I really love this camera!
on October 24, 2010
By the time I could afford a Leica, film was on its way out. I learned how to take photos on a Rollei 35S, and shot for nearly two decades with a Nikon FM2. Developed my own B&W prints. Then I had kids. No more chemicals, no more dark room. When the M8 came out, I looked into it but it seemed to have too many problems (not full sensor, weird IR problems...)
I waited for the M9. Then I waited for it to be available. And waited. And waited.
I have to say this camera rediscovered to joy of photography. Manual focus, manual controls. And the glass is really something else to behold. The images this camera produces, especially in low light, are fantastic. I would encourage anyone who is interested to go to Flickr and check out the M9 group to see the photos.
This camera is not for everybody. But I think anyone thinking about spending as much money on a camera outfit (body + lenses) as a Hyundai probably knows what he or she is getting into. I am only here to attest (as an actual user and owner for nearly a year) that this camera delivers on everything it promises.
on January 17, 2011
I started photography with my dad's 1960's Nikon F - fully manual lens, aperture, shutter speed control, and film. Then, for a brief period, I had an Olympus P&S film camera. In 2000 I discovered digital, and, in the 10 years, have run the gamut from Fuji 6900> Fuji S602 > Canon 10D > Canon 1D Mark II > Canon 1Ds > Canon 1Ds Mark III and now I have the Leica M9 (and also the 1Ds Mark III).
While I appreciate the convenience afforded by the Canon 1Ds Mark III, the Leica forces me to slow down and think, as I did with my Nikon F. While the Canon 1Ds Mark III represents speed, the M9 represents a need for thoughtful deliberation. It helps that Leica offers spectacular Leica lenses such as the 35/1.4 Summilux and 50/0.95 Noctilux to go with the M9. Honestly, despite trading Canon speed for Leica thoughtful photography, I do not feel like I lose much. My pictures have taken on a three-dimensionality, primarily because I love isolating subjects with huge apertures. Colors are lovely ("Leica-like") and Black and Whites are wonderful (I will say that I used Nik Software Silver Efex Pro for my B+W processing). Also, the Leica is built like a tank. It has heft, and sense of purpose. A joy to carry and to use.
I recommend the M9 for anyone serious about photography. I thank Mehran for pointing me in its direction.
on April 11, 2011
I've been using my M9 for the better part of a month and still have no regrets; something unusual with any large purchase no matter how sure one is. Long used an old Leica M3 film camera, and had been using a Sony Nex cropped system to give my lenses something to do for the past year. Being back at full frame and not feeling like the sensor is limiting the lenses; is a joy that never stops giving with every shot. Notice my Sony Nex is a remarkable camera in its own right for budget image quality, however no camera smaller than a baby compares to the M9. The prohibitive cost of Leica glass shouldn't stop you; In my lens collection most of my favorite M glass is made by Cosina Voigtlander, which while bargain priced still deliver the exceptional Optical and Build quality Leica owners expect and 6-bit profiles fine with a sharpie.
If you an Rangefinder aficionado and wish for a Digital camera to end all; find a way to get an M9. The Leica M8 and even worse the Epson RD-1s are both pale shadows of what this camera provides and are old and ancient. While its true that its your eye and not the equipment that makes the shot; with the M9 you will never have to second guess the hardware. Not to mention the M9 with its full frame, exceptional low light performance, resolution and speed; is not going to be subject to Digital rot(both in value and utility) on the level past digital cameras (including previous range finders) will be subject to.
on January 18, 2011
I give this product 5 stars because it is made well and stands up to Leica's tradition of high quality. Also it really does not have direct competition as the other high-end full-frame 35mm cameras (at near this price level) are SLR's. This is a well-built rangefinder with a lot of manual control and a very good successor to the Leica film rangefinders.
I switched over to digital and said goodbye to Leica a few years ago. I figured Leica would soon be out of business and the M8 did not entice me since the cropped frame shifts the use of the old M lenses I had, starting to collect dust. I pretty happily used a variety of digital point-and-shoots and SLR's which gave good images and automatic adjustments. But I often missed my Leicas for a few reasons. Foremost the digital cameras miss focus at times and the do it the most often in low light, where I like to shoot and what a Leica rangefinder does quite well. Second the newer digital lenses sort of forbid hyperfocal focusing, which I often used on my Leicas. Third the Leica is compact and quiet. My main camera for years was a 1948 Leica IIIc which was compact and rugged. Even the Leica M's are more compact and less obtrusive than my Nikon D300 and similar SLR's. I missed the Leicas but figured I would not return and started selling old lenses and accessories.
Then I was happy to see this full-frame body plus a revival of the M lenses (as you can see by a rise in the used prices of the lenses). You can use antique screwmount lenses, Voigtlander lenses (with some extreme focal lengths), Zeiss lenses, and the Leica M-lenses.
I thoroughly enjoy this camera and I expect any fan of rangefinder photography will as well. That said, if you like the automation of point-and-shoots or well featured SLR's then this likely is not for you. The Leica requires manual control. If you like full control over the camera you really can't find it easily from other manufacturers. Of course, many people find full control more of a burden than liberating so rangefinder photography continues to fall by the wayside in the consumer market.
One thing that surprised me is that the low-light focusing capability does not seem as good as my IIIc was. Even though the M's, all of them, have better designed rangefinders than the old screwmount bodies, I found my IIIc the easiest to focus camera of any Leica I ever used. In conditions where I had an f/2 wide open at slow shutter speeds the split image worked very well and, in my first few weeks, I find myself struggling with my M9. I'd say the issue is with the illumination balance of the split image. This could amount to subtle differences between individual bodies rather than anything about the IIIc vs. M3 vs M6 vs M9 or such. This is the fourth Leica rangefinder I have spent any length of time with so I'm not sure. At this point I would say the IIIc is my favorite camera I've ever used and the M9 a close second. However, since I'm done with film that makes the M9 my new favorite.
UPDATE: After using the M9 for a couple of months I put the Leica magnifying loupe on the eyepiece. They sell two of them, a x1.25 and a x1.4 magnifier. I have the x1.4 which makes the viewfinder x1.0 magnification rather than the x0.72 out of the box. For me this makes all the difference. Originally I felt the focusing was more difficult than with my old IIIc. I had never used film M's as much as my IIIc and got very used to its x1.0 viewfinder window. Now that I have this on the M9 I get, I'd say, the best camera of all. I have the focusing feedback of the x1.0 window plus the brighter and bigger view the M offers plus the wider rangefinder base. So the focusing is outstanding. I expect to leave the x1.4 loupe on all the time. I can see the 50mm and longer framelines. You lose the 35mm and 28mm with that magnification. I might do what I did with the IIIc and put a sportsfinder (metal frame) in the shoe for composing 35mm and 28mm frames and do any focusing with the loupe and viewfinder. With the wider lenses, if you have enough light to stop them down a bit, you often don't even need to focus with the rangefinder at all.