Really Right Stuff, purveyors of fine camera accessories, have recently added a new product for the Leica M digital rangefinders. The BM9 is a version of their famous L-plates that allows cameras to be mounted on a tripod (using any Arca Swiss style clamp) in either the horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) orientation without having to tilt the tripod head over 90o, forcing the photographer to have to completely recompose the shot and altering the center of gravity of the tripod.
The BM9 is actually much more than an L-plate. It is a system that allows for custom combinations to suit the needs of any photographer. Consisting of a Base Plate, an L-bracket, and a Grip, the BM9-B stylishly adds multiple mounting options to Leica digital M cameras while shoring up handhold-ability for folks with large mitts (like yours truly).
[DISCLAIMER] The BM9-B Set was provided to me by Really Right Stuff for me to review. [/DISCLAIMER]
The BM9-B is only available in an anodized black finish. This might irk owners of chrome Leica M8’s or steel paint M9’s, but to be honest, the finish is so rugged and durable, it’s worth the minor color mismatch. Heck, just mount black lenses on the camera and the BM9-B will look like it was born there.
I have to hand it to the talented designers and engineers over at RRS. They managed to produce a camera accessory that has tighter tolerances than the camera its supposed to go on. They even uncovered a small discrepancy in the baseplate size between the M8 and the M9. They could have covered that by loosening the tolerances on their baseplate, but RRS would hear none of that and actually produce two version of the BM9: one for the M8 and one for the M9. That, dear readers, is called sticking to your guns. Not many manufacturers these days are willing to go the extra mile like that.
The three components are held together with stainless steel hex screws and RRS provides the Allen wrench needed to assemble the whole shebang. Once you tighten up the screws, you’d never know this accessory has three components. They fit together perfectly.
Mounting the BM9-B on your M involves removing the Leica baseplate and using the BM9-B instead. With the full set, you may have to tilt the M body slightly to hook the tab on the left side onto the BM9-B baseplate. Twist the handle on the bottom and the BM9-B is locked into place. Please note that the twist lock is slightly stiffer than the one on the standard Leica baseplate. This is perfectly normal.
The BM9-B + Grip is direct competition to Leica’s own Handgrip M8/M9. However, while Leica’s offering follows the Bauhaus esthetic of the M line, it really isn’t that comfy to use for long periods, and (to me, at least) looks butt-ugly.
The Leica Handgrip M8/M9 does not provide any mounting options other than a standard 1/4″ threaded tripod socket on the bottom. Other 3rd party grip solutions are mounted on top of the M8/M9 baseplate. While this is a practical idea, I don’t find it terribly elegant. The Grip option on the RRS BM9-B is a smooth molded affair that sweeps around the side of the camera body and feels very comfortable in the hand.
Going beyond the ergonomics, the BM9-B works exactly as advertised: providing a way to securely clamp your digital M camera with any Arca Swiss compatible tripod head. Tack on the L-bracket and the BM9-B offers mounting solutions in both axes.
The L-Bracket even provide a mounting lug for you neck strap since it blocks the Leica’s mounting lug on the left side of the camera. This has the added benefit of keeping your BM9-B tethered to the camera even when it is removed. At first, I though that the L-Bracket would interfere with operating the camera, but since my left hand is pretty much permanently clamped to the lens barrel, I hardly notice it.
The following two shots show the BM9-B in action:
As you can see from the two photos, there is virtually no lens position shift when you move the camera from the portrait to landscape positions. Just another example of fine craftsmanship that is the hallmark of Really Right Stuff.
The price for the BM9-B base plate (no bracket or grip) is $145.00
The price for the BM9-B + L-Plate is $198.00
The price for the BM9-B Set (Baseplate + L-Plate + Grip) is $250.00
Is it worth it?
With a double duty clamping option and a better grip than the one offered by Leica, the RRS BM9-B is a must-have accessory for every Leica M owner.