Leica, as part of the 09-09-09 Festivities surrounding the Launch of the Leica M9, threw a little soiree at Dale Photo & Digital in Hollywood, FL. Roland Wolff, Director of New Market Development for Leica Camera USA, was on hand and he brought along a Leica M9 to play with.
I got there early and got some extra hands-on time with the new camera. I was so excited about this that I stupidly left my SDHC card at home so I don’t have any good sample files to share. Fear not, for I shall acquire them. I have little slideshow after the jump.
Physically, the M9 handles very similarly to the M8/M8.2. The only real difference is in the top plate which no longer sports an LCD display with frame counts and battery life. The body dimensions are pretty much identical, so your M8 leather cases will fit the M9 just fine. Luigi from Leicatime has already tested his line of leather cases. Tim Isaacs’ Thumbs Up Model 1 CESP also fits perfectly on the M9.
We did some quick-and-dirty field tests there in the store and found that DR performance was about 1 stop better on the M9, with photos showing the same amount of sharpness the M8/M8.2 is famous for.
Of course, the full frame sensor is the most significant update to the system. No more 1.33x crop factor. A new IR cut filter was incorporated, so you no longer have to mount filters on the lens. Unless you want to. The M9 is now the smallest full frame digital camera on the market.
The viewfinder is still the same opto-mechanical affair, but now has brightlines for 28/90, 35/135, and 50/75 just like the M7. Any lens wider than 28mm requires the use of an external viewfinder for framing.
The shutter release now has a “soft” mode. This means that, when activated, the shutter will fire with a half-press of the shutter release. This is in addition to the “discrete” mode that holds the shutter recock action until one releases the shutter release. The two can be combined.
Exposure bracketing is a new feature that many users have been clamoring for. You can set the M9 to fire 3, 5, or 7 shots over a range of +/- 2 stops. The You can also set the stop increment and the order in which the bracket is fired.
On the back, the controls are pretty much the same with the exception of the “Protect” button which is replaced with the far more useful “ISO” button. “S” mode is gone from the Command dial on top and an 8s setting takes it’s place.
So, where did all the controls go? Why, in the menus, of course!
The M9 boasts a completely updated and reworked menu system. With most all of the whizzy new features squirreled away in there. Most significant of these is the ability to manually select which lens you are using! So, in one fell swoop, Leica has done away with the two largest grievances of the M8/M8.2: the need for UV/IR cut filters and the requirement to code lenses. CV and Zeiss owners rejoice! Your glass will now go on without any hassles (other than maybe bringing up the wrong framelines – even that may be eliminated since the M9 mimics the M7’s framelines.)
That’s about it for this part. I will hopefully be following this up with some image samples and analysis. Hopefully, I can get leica to loan me one for review.
Big thanks to Roland Wolff from Leica for bringing the toys for all to see and the fine folks at Dale Photo & Digital for hosting the event.