Ahoy! Boats, reviews, photography, bikes and an occasional rant

March 31, 2010

Ducati Monster 696 review

Filed under: Motorbikes — Tags: , , , — admin @ 10:08


Leica M9, Elmarit 21 asph, f8 @ 500 sec 160 ISO. Collobriere, France, October 2009

Last October my brother visited and we hired a new Ducati Monster 696 with the intention of blasting around the French countryside. Although I am very happy with a M900 Monster I was keen to see what 15 years worth of evolution had done for the beast.

First impressions are of a tight, well engineered nimble bike with quick steering but with harsh suspension. It would have been nice to be able to adjust the set up for my light 60 kilos. The new Monster is aimed at everyone so I wasn’t surprised that the suspension was firm. But I suppose better too firm than too soft.

The engine was smooth and the bike quite comfy, all things like switch gear and mirrors worked well. The engine certainly revs but it lacks the bottom end grunt of the M900. Brakes worked well as you would expect from a Ducati. The noise was disappointingly quiet but that could easily be turned up with some aftermarket Termis, no doubt it would also liberate some power as well as some decibels. The engine feels restricted to me with a very flat power curve though it revs freely and now and then the rev limiter would kick in.

To be honest I didn’t like it. That’s an awful thing to say I know. I really wanted to but after riding it I just don’t. What got me most of all was the harshness of the ride. The M900 soaks up bumps with ease and is surprisingly comfy to ride even on rough roads but the 696 jars and crashes over the smallest irregularities in the road which makes riding it very tiring. I also found the throttle very snatchy and hard to use smoothly, maybe this could be adjusted by a remap or maybe freer pipes.

You can see the family resemblance easy enough but I don’t like the plastic feel that it has or the LCD display. I mean, plastic tank covers which are really flimsy too. I know you can change it’s colour easy enough but that’s not reason enough to have so much plastic everywhere. I know that plastic is lighter too but it’s just so nasty. The headlight is a split screen affair that most people seem to like though it looks too plasticy to me.

At one point I took it out on my own to see what I could do with it down a favourite winding road. Suddenly it all made sense, the stiff suspension is needed when you’re sweeping at high speed around the bends but who wants to ride like that all the time? Plus, I had to shift my feet on the pegs as my feet kept touching the road which was really annoying. The pegs are far too low.

It seems to me that Ducati have tried to create a bike that can do everything for everyone but it certainly didn’t work for me. Taking the bike back to Columbus (Excellent Ducati Rental) should have been a great trip along the sea front all the way to Cannes. This is an awesome bike road but by the time I arrived I couldn’t wait to give it back, it was so uncomfortable and my wrists were sore from the jarring ride. I have heard that the Monster 1100 is a completely different beast. Maybe I should hire one of them next time! That or the Street Fighter.


Leica M9, Elmarit 21 Asph, 80 ISO f11 @ 125 sec Ducati 696 Nr St Tropez, France. October 2009

Leica M9 is a bargain

Filed under: Leica m9 — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 10:07

st tropez

Leica M9, Elmarit 21 asph, 160 ISO f11 @ 250 Bay of St Tropez, March 2010

Buying an M9 was not a rash decision for me, it wasn’t a sudden thing at all. This was the camera I had wanted for 15 years, ever since I realised that the future was digital. The Leica M9 is everything I want in a camera. I had to laugh when critics complained that it could only take 7 shots continually and only two frames a second. Admittedly this is rather pathetic compared to most DSLRs but this is missing the point. Using a rangefinder just isn’t like using any other camera.


Canal du Midi Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

How could I justify spending so much money on a camera? Well, I’ll tell you. I do not plan on buying another camera for a very long time. When the M10 comes out I will still own an awesome camera capable of taking superb images. This will never change. Leicas are built to last. I do so hate this disposable world we live in.


Island of Porquerolles, France. Stasha nesting sailing dinghy Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

Many people who love the rangefinder philosophy and those wonderful Leica lenses but can’t afford an M9 can still buy any number of film Ms to use but this may be a false economy. Asides from the damage that film causes to the planet it’s a costly process. With the amount I use my camera it won’t take more than 5 years to get the cost of the camera back in saved film and developing costs alone.


Church pew, Portugal. Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

Then consider that an M9 will always be worth something. Sure, it will be superseded soon enough but historically it is an important camera, as important as the M3 was in it’s day and as such will always be desirable. I dare say it will lose much of it’s value over time but it will always be worth something which is more than can be said for most digital cameras.


Tired girl on Metro. Portugal. Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

Because the M9 is such a competent camera if I do take any nice shots I can easily sell them and this too will help to pay it off. But having said all that, even if I never sold any shots from it and assumed it will lose all it’s value over the time I own it, it would still be worth it to me just because it’s so beautiful and inspiring to use.


Mad tiled pavements. Lisbon. Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

Let’s look at value for a moment. Yes, £6000 is a lot for a camera but if I keep it for ten years (which is entirely feasible and likely even) it will only have cost about a tenner a week to own. What is £10 these days? It won’t buy you much , a newspaper and a package of cigarettes would cost as much. It’s a pittance that almost anyone can afford.


A crypt in Portugal. Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

Everyone is amazed that I would pay so much for a camera but these are the same people who probably lose more each time they part ex their old car for a new one. It costs about £200,000 to bring a child up in the UK and these same parents are amazed when they learn the price of the M9. Yes, the M9 is expensive compared to other cameras but it’s nothing compared having children or redecorating a house, even a holiday could cost more.


Foggy morning. Portugal. Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

You could buy a lesser camera and replace it every two or three years but you will probably lose about the same as if you bought an M9 and held onto it for a decade.

Then there are the lenses. What a choice! Even other manufacturers make lenses to fit the Leica M so you are completely spoiled for choice and since the M9 can use just about any Leica lens ever made that is a lot of lenses.


Children play at a wedding. Cadiz, Spain. Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

Then there’s the inspiration that the Leica gives you. I have never owned a camera that I wanted to use more. It doesn’t sound as beautiful as my M3 did but it’s pretty quiet and the discreet shutter setting is very clever and makes the camera even more stealthy than it is anyway. And it’s totally perfect, a joy just to hold and admire. The detailing is amazing and the quality of every part is obvious.


Morning after a storm. France Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

How many cameras inspire you so much that you actually want to get up pre dawn to be ready for the morning light when it arrives? Not many. The Leica M9 is that camera. Your heart glows just thinking about it waiting for you to pick it up and point at something.


Girl on bike, Florence, Italy. Leica M9 Elmar 50mm

Let’s also consider the invisibility of an M camera. There’s something quite spooky about this. Often you can get right in people’s faces and they just don’t see the camera. This happens a lot but I have never quite worked out why this is. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t look like most cameras, maybe it’s to do with it’s shape, perhaps because half of your face is still visible to your subject when you are behind the camera, unlike DSLRs with their central viewfinder. I really don’t know, but if you want stealth you couldn’t do much better than a Leica M9.


Panerai Yacht Eilean. Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

All this for just a tenner a week. Bargain. I really don’t understand those who moan about the price of Leicas. I think they represent fantastic value. If I have a problem, I know that I will be taken seriously and treated as a valued customer, you won’t get this with a Nikon. This alone is worth a lot to me. One might also mention that the camera comes with Adobe Lightroom which is a very powerful and clever program.


The high mountains. France. Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

The M9 has been my constant companion for about 4 months now and I just love it. I’m glad I didn’t wait, I would have missed out of 4 months of glorious picture taking. What if I had died before I got my hands on one? I’d have been really annoyed about that.


Seagull after my lunch! Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

Update September 2012

It’s been three years already since i bought my M9. My how time flies. I have just re read this article and am pleased to say that nothing has changed at all. I still feel exactly the same about my M9 now as I did when I bought it.

Next year 2013 is Leica’s 100th anniversary so no doubt it will be a year of surprises from them. Will they bring out the M10? I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Will I want one? I doubt it. How will it differ? It will surely have more resolution but I don’t need any more than the M9 can offer. I took a nice picture of a friend’s motorcycle and had a huge 1.3 metre wide print made of it. The quality was astonishing, with practically no visible grain. Each picture is already 35 meg and that causes enough headaches as is what with storage and back ups.

So I’ll stick with my M9 thanks.


Flood! France. Leica M9 Summilux 21mm

Update: July 2016

Amazingly it has been almost seven years since I bought my M9. Still nothing has changed. It’s still a brilliant camera and it works beautifully. Values seem pretty steady and M9 prices seem to start at about £2000 so my camera has only lost half its value in seven years. That doesn’t seem too bad to me. The value of an M9 has likely fallen about as far as it will so.

My body now has a few brass areas where the paint has worn through. It has a lovely patina. Better than new.

One last observation. Recently I tried to take some pics of a friend’s kids. They have known me forever and have never minded me taking shots of them but this time they were not happy and ran and hid. Why is this? They didn’t like the camera I was using, they were intimidated. It was a compact Sony Nex7 so I don’t know why it freaked them so much but I know one thing, that never happened with the M9.

I’ll update this post again after I’ve owned and enjoyed my M9 for ten years but I can’t see anything changing. Leica did bring out the M10 but they called it a 240 or something. Is it any lighter or smaller than an M9? No. In fact it’s heavier. So I was right all along about the M9. A classic.


Hoopy wooden bicycle. 50 Summilux

March 29, 2010


Filed under: Leica m9 — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 22:19

marine de cogolin

Leica M9, Elmarit 21 asph 160 Iso, f8 @ 125 Marines de Cogolin, France Jan 2010

After 4 months with the M9 I must confess to being more than happy with it. After all, I’d waited ten years for it! It takes incredible photographs. The picture above was straight out of the camera. Of course the lens in awesome, as you would expect from Leica. Just using this camera is inspiring and it’s hard to put a price on a feature like that. Yes I am obsessed and will be posting a lot more about the Leica M9 in the coming months.

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