Leica M9 18MP Digital Range Finder Camera (Black, Body Only)
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- Smallest full frame digital camera in the world; first Rangefinder camera with a 24 x 36mm format sensor
- 18-megapixel sensor allows the full 35mm format; custom-designed CCD sensor for optimal performance
- Newly-developed cover glass to eliminate infrared light contamination, i.e. no IR filters needed
- Simple Menus and easy handling
- Body only, lenses sold separately; compatible with SD cards up to 2 GB, SDHC cards up to 32 GB (not included)
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|Compatible Mountings||Leica M|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||2 fps|
|Display Fixture Type||Fixed|
|Display Resolution Maximum||230,000|
|Effective Still Resolution||18,500,000 Pixels|
|Expanded ISO Minimum||80|
|External Memory Included||Yes|
|Flash Memory Type||SD/SDHC card|
|Flash Modes Description||Manual, Slow synchronization|
|Focus Type||Automatic with Manual|
|Form Factor||Rangefinder-style mirrorless|
|ISO Range||Auto, Pull 80, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500|
|Image Aspect Ratio||3:2|
|Item Dimensions||3.15 x 1.46 x 5.47 inches|
|Item Weight||1.29 pounds|
|Maximum Shutter Speed||1/4000 of a second|
|Maximum horizontal resolution||5,212|
|Minimum Shutter Speed||4 seconds|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||18 MP|
|Optical Sensor Technology||CCD|
|Photo Sensor Technology||CCD|
|Removable Memory||Secure Digital card|
|Shipping Weight||4.8 pounds|
|Supported Battery Types||Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery & charger|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical (rangefinder)|
|Water Resistance Level||Not Water Resistant|
The world's smallest full frame digital camera. This 18 megapixels camera continues the legacy of the Leica M rangefinder with the most modern digital technology.Digital photography enters a new dimension: the Leica M9 is the world's first digital rangefinder camera with a full-format 24 x 36 mm sensor. As the world's most compact full-format system camera, the M9 extends the legendary heritage of the Leica rangefinder M System and unites over 50 years of continuous technical improvements to the system with the best in cutting-edge digital technology.
From the Manufacturer
Digital photography enters a new dimension: the Leica M9 is the world's first digital rangefinder camera with a full-format 24 x 36 mm sensor. As the world's most compact full-format system camera, the M9 extends the legendary heritage of the Leica rangefinder M System and unites over 50 years of continuous technical improvements to the system with the best in cutting-edge digital technology.
The successful combination of an extremely high-resolution image sensor, the superior performance of M lenses and sophisticated processing of the captured digital information ensures the best imaging results in all photographic situations. With its wide-ranging technical specifications, the camera adjusts to all fields of photography - from reportage and 'available light' to the capture of discreet and fine-art images alike. The M9 is the ideal tool for all photographers who demand the highest standards in image quality and a freedom of composition.
The 18-megapixel CCD image sensor, specifically designed and developed for the M9, enables the capture of the full 35-mm film format without any compromises. All M lenses mounted on the Leica M9 therefore offer the same angle of view as with film camera models, meaning the enormous potential performance of the current M lens portfolio with focal lengths from 16 to 135 mm is now fully available in a digital camera for the very first time. In addition, most Leica M lenses built since 1954 can still be used on the new M9. Once again, Leica Camera AG proves their commitment to full system compatibility and the enduring value of the M series.
The sensor of the M9 features a newly developed glass cover that is designed to guarantee the suppression of infrared light in practical photography, avoiding the necessity of mounting special UV/IR filters.
Concentrating on essentials, its simple handling is a significant feature of the Leica M System. In the case of the Leica M9, the handling has been further improved by simplification of the menu navigation: setting the sensitivity only requires holding down the ISO button while simultaneously turning the dial to select the required setting. All other functions important for everyday situations are quickly and easily accessible by pressing the set button. Furthermore, the menu also offers a snapshot profile option. In this mode, the M9 automatically sets as many settings as possible and provides a valuable aid to spontaneous and discreet photography. The camera also features automatic lens recognition via 6-bit coding. On the basis of the coded information, the M9 can compensate for any system-inherent lens vignetting effects (darkening in the image corners).
Despite the considerably larger sensor, Leica has been successful in making the Leica M9 body comparable to the compact size typical of M cameras. With its compact dimensions of only 139 × 37 × 80 mm (5.47 × 1.45 × 3.15 inches), the Leica M9 maintains the ideal size of the M series and is now the world's smallest full-format digital system camera.
As a working tool for professionals and ambitious amateur photographers, all features and functions of the Leica M9 are designed for absolute dependability and endurance. The one-piece, full-metal housing is made from a high-strength magnesium alloy. Additionally, the top deck and bottom plate are machined from solid brass blocks providing perfect protection for the precious inner mechanisms. The digital components and shutter assembly of the M9 are similarly constructed with extreme endurance in mind. For photographers, this means absolute reliability for decades of use.
Leica M9 Features and Highlights
The CCD sensor specially developed by Kodak for the Leica M9 has been optimised to fully exploit the particular qualities of the Leica M lens system. As a result, the Leica M9 achieves highest resolution values that guarantee outstanding image quality. The image sensor of the M9 employs further-advanced and meticulously designed micro lenses with a low refractive index. The micro lenses at the sensor edges are laterally displaced towards the image center to precisely match the characteristics of M lenses. This optimized micro lens design, based on many years of precision optical engineering experience, captures and concentrates even the most oblique rays on the sensor and reliably prevents image brightness fall-off at the edges and corners of the image. As a result, all existing Leica M lenses maintain their full performance when used for digital photography.
The intentional decision to exclude a moiré filter, which optically filters out the finest image details, was made to permit full the exploitation of the superb resolution of Leica M lenses. Any moiré patterns occurring with the M9 are eliminated in the camera's digital signal-processing software. The optimized signal-noise ratio of the CCD image sensor reduces the need for digital post-processing and ensures that images possess an unrivaled, natural visual impact. This results in high-contrast, particularly high-resolution exposures with natural color rendition from corner to corner.
All Leica M lenses mounted on the Leica M9 offer the same angle of view as with film camera models. Therefore, for the first time, the immense performance potential of the lenses is now maintained and can be fully exploited for digital photography. In line with Leica's renowned commitment to extreme system compatibility, most Leica M lenses built since 1954 can be used on the new M9. As a result of the high mechanical and optical precision and extraordinarily good imaging performance, and particularly that of the current range, Leica M lenses are now ideal for use in digital photography. Performance criteria, such as the individual coating of each element, have long been a Leica standard, and there was no need to develop and implement any special measures for 'digital lenses.'
The efficient image sensor on the M9 demands a particularly high spatial resolution that is, above all, offered by the latest M lenses. The excellent correction of optical aberrations and high resolution make them all the more suitable for digital use. The current M lenses are supplied with a 6-bit code on the bayonet mount that is scanned optically by the M9. On the basis of the coded information, the M9 can compensate for any (almost negligible) system-inherent vignetting effects if necessary. In addition, the lens type is recorded in the EXIF data of the image files and, when using the latest flash units like the Leica SF 58, automatically adjusts the reflector to match the focal length of the lens attached.
The Leica viewfinder / rangefinder system sets the Leica M9 apart from the market-dominating SLR and compact digital cameras and makes it particularly suitable for vibrant reportage photography, 'available light' exposures and discreet portraiture. Photographers become part of the action and frame whatever they wish to capture in the viewfinder--a scene, a mood, a moment. Simultaneously, the photographer still perceives what is going on outside the viewfinder frame. The decisive moment can be anticipated, and can therefore be captured at precisely the right instant. This results in particularly authentic images that are not impaired by the presence of the photographer.
The clear view of the subject remains even during exposure and, even in the most adverse lighting conditions, the bright, high-contrast viewfinder guarantees extremely fast and precise focusing. In combination with the minimal delay between releasing the shutter and capturing the shot--in digital photography too--the combined viewfinder/rangefinder system positions Leica M cameras among the fastest cameras in the world.
In contrast to SLR photography, where focusing must take place through the lens and focal length and aperture determine focusing accuracy, the rangefinder base of the Leica M remains precisely the same and independent of the actual lens being used. This is the reason why its focusing precision is immensely superior for shorter focal lengths. The high-contrast, rectangular RF spot in the center of the viewfinder guarantees fast, precise and pin-sharp focusing, even under adverse lighting conditions.
The frame selector lever allows photographers to simulate different compositions with alternative focal lengths and assess the most appropriate lens for the shot without changing lenses. Because their position is automatically adjusted by automatic parallax compensation depending on the focusing distance, the six different bright-line frames always show the precise image framing. The bright-line viewfinder shows all other information relevant to the capture of a perfect image and the peripheral area around the envisaged subject, thus providing ideal conditions for spontaneous and unobtrusive photography.
The Leica M9 features a new, microprocessor-controlled, particularly silent, metal-leaf, focal-plane shutter that enables shutter speeds of up to 1/4000 seconds. This allows the photographer to maintain complete creative freedom by using a selective focus at maximum apertures, even in bright situations. The short flash synchronisation speed of 1/180 seconds enables daylight flash exposures with selective focus.
Together with its compact form, the camera's virtually silent shutter is another keystone for discreet and unobtrusive photography. Additionally, photographers can select the appropriate moment for re-cocking the shutter. When longer exposure times requiring an extremely steady camera stance are essential, a slight pressure on the shutter release button in 'soft release' mode is sufficient.
The Leica M9 concentrates the photographer's attention on photographic essentials, not on setting the camera. Particular diligence, many years of experience and a vast knowledge of how professional photographers work have all influenced the handling concept for the digital functions of the Leica M9. The result is a simple, clearly laid-out and intuitive user interface that concentrates purely on essentials; multifunction buttons and complex menu hierarchies have been avoided.
The key control element is an intuitive four-way switch and dial combination that enables fast menu navigation. Pressing the 'set' button activates the capture parameter menu on the 2.5-inch monitor screen. The most important image-capture settings are quickly and easily set in this menu: sensor sensitivity, exposure correction, white balance, image-data compression and resolution. Free profile storage spaces are also available for fast access to frequently used or application-specific combinations. The menu button is also used for changing more permanent, values outlining basic controls in the clearly structured system menu. The photographer can also choose whether the captured image is displayed immediately for assessment on the large monitor, how long it should be displayed and whether an additional tonal value histogram is shown.
The Leica M9 has a delayed shutter release function with a choice of two countdown times -2 and 12 seconds.
The technical features of the Leica M9 allow it to quickly adapt to its intended use. Its sensitivity ranges from ISO 160 (PULL 80) for wide-open apertures on bright days to ISO 2500. At the same time, very low noise and finely detailed images are achieved throughout the sensitivity range, even at the highest settings. The very low noise characteristics, a bright viewfinder / rangefinder, low-vibration shutter and fast lenses make the M9 the perfect camera for 'available light' photography.
Innovative flash technology
The M-TTL flash technology in the Leica M9 enables both precise and creative control over flash and mixed lighting effects. Prior to the actual exposure, a measuring flash is emitted that is metered through the lens. The flash power is then precisely determined with consideration for the natural lighting conditions, ensuring that natural lighting is maintained as much as possible In combination with the aperture priority exposure mode, the auto-slow sync function ensures subtle lighting of the subject, whereby the longest shutter speed may be set manually or, when using 6-bit coded lenses, automatically, according to the 1/focal length rule of thumb.
Image assessment with the tonal value histogram
As a professional digital camera, the Leica M9 naturally offers an RGB tonal value histogram, which can be displayed at any time for the assessment of stored images. This feature is also available in conjunction with the automatic image review function. A useful additional aid is the indication of overexposed image areas by means of a so-called 'clipping warning.' These two quality control tools are updated for enlarged views and thus allow the quality of even the finest image details to be assessed. Pressing the info function button displays all photographically relevant settings, including additional metadata stored in the image files. These functions enable full control over captured results at the shooting location of the digital images.
The M9 comes with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, a professional digital workflow solution for Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. The software is available as an online download for all Leica M9 customers. This also ensures that the latest release is always readily available. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom offers a vast range of functions for the management, processing and presentation of digital images, quite independent of image format. If the images from the M9 are saved as raw data in the standardized and future-proof Adobe Digital Negative Format (DNG), Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, with its sophisticated and precise processing options, guarantees direct and extremely high-quality image processing with maximized image quality. The 14-bit-per-channel color information captured by the image sensor is then processed at a16-bit-per-channel color information until the final presentation, and ensures that the most delicate tonal differentiations are preserved in maximum quality after completion of the post-processing sequence.
Materials, finish and dimensions
The tough and resilient top deck and base plate of the M9 are machined from solid brass blocks, while the full-metal body is manufactured from a high-strength magnesium alloy that ensures a long and reliable professional working life. The rechargeable battery and the SD card slot are protected from dust and moisture under the base plate, which uses a specialized locking mechanism effectively preventing unintentional opening and the subsequent loss of the battery and SD card. In addition, this long-established construction concept, already employed for decades in the Leica M System, significantly increases the structural stability of the camera body.
The experienced technicians at the Leica factory in Solms, Germany are responsible for the hand-assembly and hand-calibration of M9 bodies and the precise testing of all mechanical and electrical components. The experience gathered over decades of maintenance and repairs by Leica Customer Service creates a solid foundation for long life and enduring value. Even today, the service department maintains and repairs all M cameras built since 1954.
The Leica M9 offers a special function for manual sensor cleaning: selecting the appropriate item from the menu and pressing the shutter release locks the shutter open to allow access to the sensor for cleaning purposes. Due to the short register of Leica M cameras, the sensor is easier to access than in DSLR cameras in which the sensors are located behind the mirror box and shutter assembly.
What's in the Box
Battery charger 100-240 V with two power cords (Euro, USA, may differ for other export markets) and one car charging cable, lithium-ion battery, USB cable, carrying strap
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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?