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Leica m9

Tilt Shift effects. An experiment

Recently I discovered an Australian photographer called Keith Lutit. He makes little time lapse films using a tilt shift lens. Have a look for yourself, it’s mesmerising.

It got me thinking about trying this with the M9 but there are lots of reasons why this won’t work or would be extremely difficult to do. There are some lenses out there like the Lens Baby but the quality looks poor. If you use existing M lenses you will not be able to get the lens close enough to the sensor to make it work so you won’t be able to focus on infinity.

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Leica Digilux 2. Chrysler Crossfire at the Sequoia National Park in California. This one works really well.

The answer is to buy an SLR but I am a rangefinder man so that idea is no good for me. However there is a simple way to create a very similar effect in Photoshop. It’s not bad actually as the following pics demonstrate. I won’t go into detail about how it’s done, just google, ‘tilt shift photoshop tutorial’ and you’ll find loads.

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Leica Digilux, Doolittle at anchor in Croatia. Looks so sweet.

Basically you use a gradient tool and the lens blur effect. Some experimentation is necessary to get the right area and amount of blur. It’s also very important to select the right photo to do it with. If you want to create the effect of a miniature world, the best photos are those taken from above with plenty of objects in them.

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Leica Digilux 2, Some old French geezers playing boules at Moustiers, in the Gorge de Verdun.

After adding the blur effect, increase the contrast and the saturation slightly to give the images more intensity. That’s it. Once you get the hang of it, you can produce images in just a few minutes.

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Leica Digilux 2, Shamrock barrelling downwind under spinnaker at Cannes. The effect works on most subjects I find, even in black and white.

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Leica M9, 21mm Asph. Cornwall.

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Leica M9, 21 asph. City of Florence in Italy in miniature.

Then I discovered that it even works with paintings. The most obvious choice of artist I could think of was Lowry with his match stick men. It worked really well. No doubt you could try this with any number of paintings.

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All the photos can be viewed full screen by clicking on them. They look much better bigger.

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Leica m9

Plustek 7400 film scanner review

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Beautiful old Alfa shot with Leica M3 and Tmax 100 asa film. Scanned with Plustek 7400 film scanner.

Recently I was going through some old B&W prints and I realised that I had taken some really great pictures over the years so I decided that the time had come to scan the negs and really organise my archive. In over 30 years of taking pictures it amounts to thousands of images. It’s actually a massive task but it’s not going to get done by itself. So I decided to buy a scanner and get on with it.

My idea was to scan all my negs at the highest res possible rather than just scan images when I needed. This way I can chuck out the original negs and simplify my life. Most people would keep them but I live on a small boat and simply don’t have the space to keep them. There’s always the risk that they would get damaged anyway in the damp environment.

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I did some research and in the end found the Plustek 7400 35mm film scanner. It cost a bit over £200 and comes with carriers for 6 negs or 4 slides. It also comes with Silver Fast scanning software. The unit itself is not too big and has a reassuring weight to it. In use it is quiet but the carrier does not advance automatically so you have to scan one image at a time. The 7400 has the latest LED technology which means better quicker scans and with no warm up time.

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At this point I have to mention the software Silver Fast. I’m afraid I find this clunky, untidy and frankly crap. It’s awful to use, over complicated with a very unhelpful ‘help’ guide. Not only that but try and do ANYTHING while it’s scanning and you will crash the program. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal but having crashed once, the scanner is no longer recognised and the only solution is a computer re-boot. I did some research on some forums and discovered that I am not alone. I am on Windows 7 and maybe this has something to do with it. Personally I think not. I think that Silver Fast is a piss poor bit of software. There are other scanning programs I could buy but I only plan on scanning my negs once and then I am done so I will live with it as at the very least, it does allow me to scan.

Rant over, let’s scan. Because I am only scanning once I decided to scan at the max resolution of 7200 dpi. In reality this means 10,000 px wide scans in B&W which end up about 25 meg each. I tried saving files as Tiffs but the file size was massive and I could not see any difference at all between the Jpg and the Tiff. All my scans are now done as max quality JPGs. I found that the images could be adjusted for exposure, contrast etc just as well from a JPG as they could from a Tiff. So as far as I could tell there was no advantage to scanning and saving as a Tiff.

The B&W scans are excellent as you can see from the first pic on this post. I only scan once for each image but you can have multiple passes if you want but obviously this slows down the process massively and to be honest, I couldn’t see the difference. One pass at max res with the image saved as a uncompressed JPG is good enough for my purposes. Each scan takes about 2 to 3 minutes which isn’t too bad. I try not to think about the thousands of negs still ahead of me!

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Here’s a crop showing the zoom at 50% of the scanned image and below is a 100% version.

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A lot depends of the quality of your negs of course. Many of my shots were taken with all sorts of cameras and often in low light with fast film so there is not much quality there to start with. I could probably get away with scanning at a lower res but at least if I scan at the highest res possible I can always lower the quality later. When you come across a good neg, well exposed and developed the quality of the scan is excellent. Each individual piece of grain is visible. It’s really quite impressive.

Dust and scratches can be a problem that will really depend on how well your negs were stored. I always used the waxed paper neg holders and so long as they don’t get wet they seem to do the least damage to negs. My negs get handled a lot and so many of them had some dust marks and sometimes the odd scratch. I have decided not to get too anal about this. I think one could drive one’s self completely mad by worrying about every tiny bit of dust. I started to de dust one photo of my mate Tom but it got completely out of hand when I started to remove bits of dust that were actually stuck to his clothing!

Most of my negs were not too bad and I found the best way to remove dust is in Lightroom. Zoom in to 1:3 and use the navigator on the left to make sure to cover the whole image. It can be a bit of work but it’s not too bad thanks to Lightroom’s excellent dust removing tool. It takes a bit of practice but once learned is pretty quick.

Silver Fast offers some dust removing options but I didn’t like the look of the image after it had been worked on, it seemed to lose a lot of sharpness. Also it tripled the time to scan so I made the decision to repair the images post scanning. I found a clever though simple free program made by Polaroid. It’s easy to use yet surprisingly effective. There was a certain amount of messing about with the settings but there are not that many so it didn’t take long to discover what worked best. I had a lot of trouble finding it but in the end I found it here. I don’t know how long this bizarre link will remain but it’s worth a try. I had great trouble locating it. It works as a stand alone program or as a Photoshop plug in.

As yet I have not tried to scan any slides or colour negs, for now I’m just really happy to see some old B&W images again. Like seeing old mates again. I’ll post a review of the scanner with colour images as soon as I get a chance.

Conclusion: An excellent and easy to use scanner. Superb quality and pretty quiet. Only let down by the Silver Fast software it comes with.

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Leica m9

Leica S2 gives you wood

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One of the plated winches aboard the awesome J Class yacht Shamrock. Picture by Leica S2 with the 70mm f2.5 lens. 160 ISO, f5.6 at 250 sec.

You’ve heard it all before, the Leica S2 is one amazing camera with a price tag to match. I was lucky enough to get to play with one for a few hours out in the real world and not in some shop. Thanks to Marc at DPM Images in Toulon. I was in Cannes at the annual classic yacht regatta and what better place to test the S2 and it’s 70mm lens.

At the same time, I thought it would be interesting to also take pics with the M9 and compare the cameras. I know this is rather odious as they are so different but when you’re carrying around £30k worth of kit it pays to get the most out of it. In any case I was interested.

The picture of the winch above shows fantastic quality, no distortion and a soft bokeh. What you would expect from what is to all intents and purposes a medium format camera. It’s massive 30 x 45mm sensor is about twice as big in area as the M9’s sensor and it’s DNG files are over 70 meg! It’s so funny to remove the lens and see the massive mirror inside. It’s so big you could use it for shaving!

So, first impressions. I’m a died in the wool M user. One of the things I hate about most SLRs is that they are simply too big to have with you at all times and the S2 is no exception. It is big, but no bigger than a Nikon D3 and it’s considerably simpler to use. It looks ridiculously basic next to the D3 with all it’s many buttons, dials and levers. The S2 has a speed dial, one rotating dial at the back which is used for selecting many of the options and 4 buttons around the monitor. That’s about it. There’s an on/off switch obviously and a depth of field preview and that’s your lot. Talk about clean.

It’s a nice looking camera thanks to it’s uncluttered design. After just a few minutes I felt that I had a handle on the functions and could easily work my way around the menus. So off I went to take some pictures. The autofocus seems to work well though the motor is noisy, more noisy than the shutter which is surprisingly quiet considering how big the mirror assembly and shutter are and it helps to make the whole camera surprisingly unobtrusive for it’s size. I was surprised how few people even noticed it. Even the many pros that are always image hunting didn’t recognise it for what it was. Just as well really. My time with the S2 was limited and I didn’t want to waste a minute talking to anyone about it.

Like I said, I’m no fan of big cameras but the S2 gives you wood. Just looking through the lens is fantastic. It’s all just so smooth and beautiful and so capable. When I see my M9 images on the screen I am still blown away by the quality even after a year of using it. The S2 is exactly the same just bigger. At 7500 x 5000 (approx) pixels in size, the images the S2 makes are ENORMOUS and my poor computer just can’t handle the file sizes at all.

Just for the fun of it I did some comparison shots and blew them up to 100% so you can see for yourself. I used an Elmar 50mm f2.8 collapsible lens on the M9 which was about as close as I could get to the S2’s 70mm lens. I took identical shots with both cameras. See the results below.

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Leica S2 at f5.6 the 70mm lens has a very shallow depth of field. Colours are bang on, these winches really do look like this.

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Here’s a 100% crop. That is one staggeringly good quality. MASSIVE!!

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This is the M9 version. Nothing wrong with this image. Depth of field is more but apart from the amount of pixels there’s not much in it.

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Here’s the M9 100% crop. Beautiful just a lot smaller than the S2’s image.

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Leica S2, 70mm lens, 160 ISO f4 at 250 sec. This is the end of the boom on Avel a very old sailing boat owned by the Gucci family. Look at that super soft Bokeh. Just gorgeous. All of these pictures are straight out of the camera, nothing has been done to them at all.

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Here’s the 100% crop of the above image. Looks like there’s a bit of camera shake here despite the 250 sec shutter speed. Not surprising that some care needs to be taken with a mirror as big as this. No doubt for consistently sharp shots a high shutter speed or a tripod is needed. Asides from the slight shake, it’s still pretty impressive.

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Here’s the M9 shot. Nice shot but quite different. Bear in mind that the 2.8 Elmar is a very old design, I wonder how a faster, more modern 50mm would have faired.

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M9 100% crop of above image. Sweet. No camera shake here. The image might be smaller but it’s beautiful.

So there you go. The S2 takes pictures like a M9 only bigger. It is an awesome and awe inspiring camera. With some care and thought some truly spectacular shots could be produced. Although it can be used in the street it’s much more a studio camera.

So the conclusion: The Leica S2 is incredible. The images that this camera is capable of will blow you away. That’s partly the lens and partly the sensor and the fact that it’s enormous. It’s user friendly, nice looking and quite inspiring. It is quiet, surprisingly discreet and wonderfully made.

On the down side there are only four lenses available for it and it costs more than most people earn in a year. To any decent pro, this is not a problem, no doubt this camera will quickly earn back it’s cost. That big mirror needs a fast shutter speed or you risk camera shake. Of course Leica offer a range of lenses that have a shutter built in which address this issue.

I only took shots at 160 and 320 ISO so I can’t comment on the noise levels. At 320 there’s practically nothing however. The S2 only goes to 1250 ISO. This camera is not to be compared to your average Nikon. It is out on it’s own. Obviously a camera like this is not for everyone but for those who need such huge and perfect images and have the skill to get the best out of the camera will not be disappointed.

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Leica m9

Leica M9 and Visoflex III

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Leica M9, Visoflex III, Elmar 50mm Dragonfly on a basil plant.

The Visoflex was a device manufactured by Leica almost 50 years ago. It enabled their rangefinder cameras to be converted to an SLR. Even today the Visoflex can still be used on the latest M cameras. I was fortunate to be donated one. I have been having a lot of fun with it ever since.

There are those out there who will laugh at the Visoflex because it must be said, it’s not the easiest or the fastest system in the world to use. That said it is very versatile and obviously robust since you can still find fully working examples for sale for a fraction of their worth although prices are rising as folk realise they can be fitted to the M8 and M9.

Leica made a few versions but I am only going to be discussing the Visoflex III version. The main difference between the III and other models is a very clever bayonet lock system that means the unit can be affixed to the body without having to first remove the prism assembly. This speeds things up a bit.

Having played with the Visoflex, I wouldn’t be surprised if Leica introduced a newer version along with some adapters so it can be used with more modern Leica lenses. It is quite brilliant and has great potential for image making, especially with the M8 and M9.

If you want to do macro work, like the photo above, all you need is the Visoflex housing and either a 35 or 50mm lens. Once mounted on the Visoflex these lenses will not be able to focus to infinity but they can be used for very close up shots. You need no other adapters or bits and pieces.

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Here the Visoflex is attached to the M9 with a 50mm Elmar collapsible lens. The lens cannot be used collapsed or it would interfere with the mirror assembly inside the Visoflex. This set up is all you need for basic macro work. A 35mm lens can also be used.

If you want to do even more close up work, never fear, even that is possible with the use of the Leica Bellows. Here it starts to get a bit more complicated. The bellows attach to the Visoflex using the standard Leica bayonet mount but at the other end there is a screw thread so you’ll need an adapter that allows the mounting of bayonet Leica M lenses. (16596).

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Here the Elmar 50mm lens is attached to the bellows and allows for awesome macro ability. The image is focused by rotating a knob which moves the bellows backwards and forwards. The quality of the mechanism is amazing and the bellows still work perfectly even though they are nearly 50 years old. Classic Leica build quality.

You’ll probably need a tripod to get the best results and there are two sizes of mount on the underside of the bellows. The Visoflex also has a tripod mount. However the bellows are light as is the Visoflex and although the whole caboodle is quite bulky it’s not as heavy or cumbersome to use as you might think. I was able to take perfectly excellent sharp shots using it hand held.

If you don’t want to use the Visoflex as a macro tool you can simply use it as an SLR. This is helpful with long lenses where the small rangefinder window makes focusing tricky. The lens I have is the Elmarit 135mm f2.8 with goggles. This lens can be used directly on the M9 and works perfectly well. If you want to use it on the Visoflex, the lens head must be unscrewed and attached to a short focusing ring adapter. (16462)

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Here the Elmarit 135mm is fitted to the Visoflex using the adapter which also allows focusing. This set up is no longer than the Elmarit fitted to the M9 with the goggles and makes the M9 a true SLR.

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This shot shows the various elements that allow the Elmarit to be mounted to the Visoflex. The focusing ring attaches to the Visoflex using the normal Leica bayonet and the lens head (unscrewed from the rest of the lens with goggles) is screwed into the adapter.

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The Elmarit 135 with goggles attached directly to the M9. As you can see it is no longer than the Visoflex fitted with the adapter and lens head. Talk about choice. This lens cannot be fitted to the M9 with the added grip in place, that has to be removed and then replaced afterwards.

The Elmarit 135mm is a lovely lens although it is quite heavy. Once attached to the M9 using the Visoflex it is compact but heavy. No one would ever steal it from me, one clout around the head and they will be going straight to hospital!

By using adapter plate 16598 it is possible to use the Elmarit head with the bellows for a macro system with a surprising amount of depth of field.

There are a number of other lenses that can be used on the Visoflex but they are generally old lenses and each one needs it’s own adapter plate. This is the most confusing aspect of the Visoflex. Leica even made lenses up to 800mm which can be used so that makes the M9 a very versatile camera being able to take Leica lenses from 16mm to 800mm!!! If you want to learn more, there are plenty of other sites with all this sort of info.

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The Visoflex III. It weighs 480 grams. The shutter release is adjustable so that the mirror kicks up at the right time. The position of the shutter release on the M8 and M9 is slightly different to earlier M cameras but the very slight offset is no problem and the camera works fine. A soft touch button screwed into the M9 shutter release would be a good idea.

The round knob on the side has three positions. Yellow is the fast action setting, where the mirror ‘clacks’ up at high speed. The black setting is much slower and is used for long exposures where camera shake might be a problem. The red setting lifts the mirror up. This is also the setting used for storing the Visoflex.

The lever on the bottom is for locking the Visoflex to the camera body. The red dots are lined up, the Visoflex inserted and then the lever is lifted up to lock the unit to the body. This means that the prism assembly does not need to be removed beforehand. The prism can be removed by sliding it backwards and it can be replaced with a vertical viewer if required.

Conclusion: Brilliant fun and actually surprisingly effective. Makes the camera a bit bulky and heavy but the versatility gained makes up for this. The added weight reduces camera shake. The ground screen has no prism and isn’t very bright. This can be solved by fitting a new glass available from http://www.brightscreen.com

Use as a SLR with lenses from 65mm to 800mm or as a macro camera with no need for adapters with any 35 or 50mm lens. Add bellows for stronger magnification. A crazy system that has many merits despite it’s ‘clunkyness’ Whatever you might think about the Visoflex system, the bottom line is that it can produce stunning images and at the end of the day, that’s what photography is all about. N’est pas?

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Leica m9

Leica M9 emergency battery option

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What was fabulous about the film M Leicas was that they could work even if they had no batteries. You might lose the light meter but you could still take pictures. The biggest problem with digital cameras is that will only work with a battery. If your battery is flat, there is nothing you can do.

Because of this fact, many people carry a spare battery with them only it’s a pain, always remembering to take it with you and knowing where to put it. It could easily get lost or damaged. The solution, at least for the Leica M9 is actually quite simple.

The optional grip that replaces the bottom plate on the M9 could easily be modified to take a slightly smaller battery. This means that you will always have another battery (albeit with reduced capacity) so you never need to miss that shot.

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Lets look a bit closer at the logistics. The outer diameter of the grip is 23mm. Assuming that the thickness of the metal and rubber is no more than 2mm allows an internal diameter of about 19mm. By reducing the M9 battery in width it is possible to make it fit inside the grip handle.

The battery only needs to be reduced in width, the grip is easily tall enough to take a battery the same height. The top of the grip handle could have a screwed thread to gain access to the emergency battery within. A spring (not unlike the one under the battery in the camera body) would push the battery out when the cap is removed.

The emergency battery would still fit and lock in the camera body with no modification necessary to the camera. The one slight issue is the battery charger. The emergency battery would still fit in and charge but would not lock in place. This could be solved by using a plastic frame which would hold the battery in the charger, both easy and cheap to make.

I calculate that the emergency battery would have about 50% of the capacity of the original giving a further 150 or so shots. In other words, a very useful ‘second chance’.

If you didn’t need (or want) to carry an emergency battery in the grip, the empty space could be used for any number of items. Perhaps a small sensor cleaning kit or simply a lens cloth. Even a small survival kit could be carried within. The possibilities are endless!

The only issues I can see is a slight increase in weight. The original battery weighs about 50 grams so I estimate the emergency battery would weigh about 25 grams. Not much extra weight really. The battery charger may have to be modified for the reduced capacity of the emergency battery but maybe not. In any case it would be a simple enough feat for Leica.

I for one would welcome an emergency battery that I could carry at all times in the camera grip. Please comment and if there is enough interest maybe Leica could be persuaded to create it. I did write to them about it and although they were very impressed with the idea are simply too busy to deal with it. Maybe this is something a third party could manufacture. If someone does take up this idea please remember where you saw it first and share your good fortune. We are a non profit making company, please help us to change our status!

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Leica m9

Leica M9 for Lefties

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This idea came from watching my left handed friend use my M9. He placed the whole camera over his face as if the camera was an SLR. This is not the reason though, it was simply because he was left handed! Because he is a pro photographer, he had no trouble using the camera but you could see that it wasn’t right. That got me thinking.

Creative people are often left handed so I began to wonder how many left handed photographers are there out there who own a Leica M camera? Must be quite a few. What they need is their own M especially for them.

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Here it is. I give you the M9L (for Left handed). How mad does that look? Maybe it looks perfectly normal if you’re left handed, I really can’t say, being right handed and very happy with the M9 as it is.

If you are left handed, please comment on this idea. I’d love to know what you think. It must be terrible living in a world that’s all arse about face. If enough of you like the idea, then maybe Leica will make the M9L.

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Leica m9

Leica M9 reconsidered

Please note that this post was written in July 2010 long before Leica launched the M9-P Sorry for any confusion!

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It was a post card that I received from an elderly sailing friend that set me thinking about an M9 re-design. He had recently bought a new GPS to replace his trusty old one but was annoyed that it just did far too much. All he wanted was a few basics like the Longitude and Latitude. He couldn’t have cared less for maps and cross track error. His missive said that he was getting used to the GPS although it had far too many USELESS (in caps) functions.

For a long time now I have believed that we are being offered far too much of everything and it’s getting completely out of hand, almost as if manufacturers of electronic goods are showing off by installing so many functions that the instruction manual weighs more than the product! None of these extra functions make us any happier, nor is the end result any better. At best we are blindly trusting electronics to run our lives, at worst, we are losing any skill we once had as these ‘indispensible’ features do everything for us.

My last camera is a case in point. It was a Leica Digilux 2 and it was good. It took better pictures than me and for 95% of the time it was spot on. The bottom line is that I got lazy and my photos lost that certain ‘je ne c’est quoi’ so when the M9 was launched I thought, ‘great, here’s a chance to get back to basics’ but in fact even the M9 does far more than I will ever require from it.

So of course I played with the menu, considered the choices and set the camera up as I wanted. It even has profiles so you can easily get back to a previous setting that you liked. What happens in practice is that you forget to put the profile back to the one you normally use or the profile you think you are using has changed because you changed something somewhere else. Many times I took a picture only to realise I had only a black and white JPG and not a DNG. Having all these choices does not make me a better photographer, nor do I take better pictures and I’m certainly not faster either.

I tried an experiment with the M9. I imagined it was my beloved old M3 and all I had to play with was the shutter speed, lens aperture and composition. It was a revelation. I found that I didn’t even need the light meter after a while, the human eye being surprisingly good with practice. My pictures suddenly looked better to me. It might only have been because they were taken by me and not by an electronic brain. There might have been something subconscious in my subject that no computer could see. A sixth sense which made me stop down a little more than the camera might have done, but which gave a completely different result.

Take the M9, a simply awesome camera but still way too complicated and I believe that it’s too far from Leica’s philosophy to be quite right. No doubt Leica themselves thought that no one would cough up £5000 for a body that didn’t try to justify it’s high price with impressive electronics. But I beg to differ. Having used the M9 for half a year I would be quite happy if it didn’t have any of the features and I don’t think I will be alone here.

For decades about the most technical advancement any M user had was a light meter. We had no choice about ISO, you put a film in and lived with it until it was used. None of these restrictions stopped people taking amazing pictures with their M cameras. So I’m going to suggest something that will surprise many but may well be applauded by others. See what you think, and please comment so we can get a consensus.

We need the M9P (P for pure) and do away with ALL the superfluous nonsense. No screen, no menu, no choice. Not only will this M9P be simpler and less likely to go wrong (surely reliability is a core Leica philosophy), the battery will last longer and you’ll spend more time taking pictures than looking at a menu on a screen. You keep the light meter, the Aperture priority option and AE lock. ISO would be chosen by rotating a knob in the middle of the back (exactly where the ISO reminder dial was on film M’s). Exposure compensation can be easily added to the ISO knob. (see pic below). There would be no other controls.

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Two dials: Outer dial adjusts exposure compensation, inner dial for ISO adjust. The advantage over the standard M9 is that this important information is always visible at a glance without having to press any buttons! Adjustments can be made without even looking.

I’d go even further than this too. I’d be happy to see a lever for cocking the shutter and lose the continuous shooting option. The motor that cocks the M9 shutter isn’t very quiet and it’s a shame that it’s not nearly as discreet as film Ms with their almost silent silky ‘click’. Having a wind on lever would not only add a mechanical touch to the camera and make it much quieter and more reliable, while using still less power but would also be able to act as a small power generator every time the shutter was cocked. In an emergency, the wind on lever could be disengaged from the shutter and operated enough times to charge the camera and allow it to carry on taking pictures even when the battery has run down.

Think about it for a moment, it makes a lot of sense. Let’s work our way through the menu and you’ll see that there is a logical solution to not having a screen. I suggest a camera that would work with default settings that could be user changed when the camera is connected to the PC.

Lens Detection: This could be set on Auto and you can simply use coded lenses. Lenses can be coded in minutes using only a felt tip pen so there’s no argument for not doing this. The camera could have a default setting so if it didn’t recognise the lens it would go automatically to a setting that would work for all lenses. If you only use one lens you could preset the camera for that lens by using the ‘Camera control’ software that Leica would supply with the M9P.

Save user profile: You won’t need this option as you have no settings to prefer over others.

Advance: This will be set to Standard so that you can have AE mode when the shutter dial is set to ‘A’.

Self Timer: Set for 10 seconds as it was on old M cameras.

Auto Iso Set up: Here’s another one you won’t need. If you want more sensitivity, simply turn the ISO dial at the back of the camera.

Sharpening: M9P doesn’t take JPGs. If you want that, make one in Lightroom afterwards.

Colour Saturation: As above.

Contrast: As above.

Bracketing set up: No need for this either. Want to bracket, rotate the speed dial or aperture ring!

Exposure compensation set up: Simple, by using the knob on the back of the camera.

Monitor Brightness: What monitor?

Histogram: What histogram? Film Leicas never had these.

Folder management: I can’t see the point in this. If you wanted to name the folder you could do it when the M9P was connected to the PC.

Auto Review: Nothing to review!

Auto Power Off: Could be set to 5 minutes or user set via computer.

Flash Sync: M photography has never been about using fake light. Personally I couldn’t care less about any flash functions and if it wasn’t for the need for somewhere to put viewfinders etc I’d remove the hotshoe altogether. In any case, this could be user set when camera is branched to the PC.

Auto Slow Sync: As above.

Colour management: Can be user set via computer.

DNG Set Up: Set on uncompressed. After all if you have the best camera in the world, why would you risk lowering the quality? In any case, user set when connected to PC.

Reset: Nothing to reset!

Sensor Cleaning: This could be simply achieved by holding down the shutter release, then turning the on/off switch to Self Timer. (or whatever).

Date: Set by PC connection. Do you really need to see the date?

Time: As above.

Acoustic signal: No loss and no need for it either.

Language: No menu, no language. A truly International camera, any one can use it.

USB Connection: Default: PTP but can be user set to mass storage by PC connection.

Format SD Card: I see no reason why you couldn’t only do this when the camera is connected to the PC. Most Pros would have plenty of spare cards which can all be formatted before they go out.

Firmware: This doesn’t need to be in the camera menu. It could easily be viewed or changed via the PC connection.

That is the M9 menu. As you can see there is no reason why the M9P couldn’t be set up to work perfectly well with some default settings which can all be changed by connecting the camera to the PC. The simple fact is that an M9 is completely useless without a PC anyway. With digital photography you need a computer to go with it. The camera is just for capturing images until you can get back to it, download and work on them.

There are other buttons on the back of the M9 of course. The Play button is no longer needed. There’s nothing to play.

Delete: Some might think this useful but even my 16 gig card can take over 400 pictures at no compression DNG quality so who cares if I take a few bad ones. I’d rather carry another card.

ISO: As already mentioned, the logical step is to put the ISO setting on a round dial like the old Ms used to have. (I’m sure Leica can come with a more elegant solution than my pitiful efforts in Photoshop!)

Info: This could be reduced to remaining pictures and battery life. A simple window as the M8 had would suffice.

Set: The only button here that matters is the White balance which should be set to Auto since for 999 times out of a 1000 the camera does it perfectly. Since there is adjustment for this in Lightroom anyway I don’t think anyone would miss it. It could be set via the PC connection of course if you really wanted.

Losing the screen and all it’s associated electronics would also free up space in the camera body allowing Leica to reposition the sensor further back. This would mean that the lens mount could then be flush with the camera body. This would reduce the thickness of the camera by a good 5mm.

So that’s about it. An M9P would be simpler to use, lighter, the batteries would last longer, it would be more reliable but most of all it would be less expensive. Maybe this would allow Leica to drop the price so that even more people could afford to get into the M philosophy. Either the M9 or the M9P will be able to take exactly the same high quality image.

I’m convinced there’s a large market for this M9P. I would be quite happy without a screen. You think you want one but you have a viewfinder for composing the shot anyway, and the screen it pretty hopeless for viewing images anyway so why not wait until you get home to branch the camera and look at your shots. After all, in the old days, you had to develop them first so it’s still much quicker!

Even a very simple M9P would offer massive advantages over any M film camera ever made but the best part is that as a photographer, you will be made to think and make those choices alone without some gadgetry doing it for you. You will learn and you will improve your technique. Allowing the camera to do your work for you won’t make you a better photographer. All these so called ‘time saving devices’ are making us more stupid. If we’re not careful, we’ll become a race of morons, completely unable to think for ourselves. It fascinates me that my own eyes and brain are quite capable of calculating light and I like to keep my brain active. Taking your own pictures is a good way to do this.

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Leica m9

In the footsteps of Cartier Bresson

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If the photo above seems familiar that’s because it’s a modern interpretation of a very old and famous photograph taken by Henri Cartier Bresson. He was always one of my favourite photographers and a great influence. I loved his style. His pictures spoke of real life. He was able to take the most mundane subjects and turn them into iconic images. The picture below was taken in Hyeres in the south of France in 1932, it’s just a bit of a spiral staircase with a guy on a bike riding past yet it’s brilliant.

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Experts will tell you that he only ever used a 50mm lens, they will also tell you he never set shots up and caught images by chance. Like the famous image of a guy jumping across a puddle. They say that he simply stuck the lens through a hole in the fence and took a picture. It was sheer good luck that there was a bloke in the perfect place at the perfect time. If this is true, then it seems I will never get near to Cartier Bresson as a photographer as I don’t have anywhere near the same degree of luck!

For many years I wanted to see if I could find the place where he took that picture in Hyeres. Soon after I bought the M9 I decided to go and have a look since I was passing anyway. Hyeres is a lovely town and very old indeed. Surprisingly after just an hour wandering, I came across the same spot.

It hasn’t changed dramatically in 80 years. You can still see without any doubt that when I took the picture, I was standing in practically the same spot Cartier Bresson had done all those years ago. I used a 50mm lens and a shutter speed of 60th sec to capture the image but there’s a little less showing in my picture.

I tried the same shot (sans velo) with the 21mm lens but it was way too wide. I almost got away with the 50mm but not quite. It was not possible to stand farther back or higher up. I’ll have to try it again with a 35mm. Perhaps he took the shot with a 35mm and cropped a little afterwards.

All I know is I felt very happy to have found the same spot and to try and replicate it, albeit in a modern way. True, I have used a girl and a folding Brompton bicycle with smaller wheels but the movement is similar. The stairs and rails were not the original ones. I image that they would have been cut down and melted down for use during the war. It is fortunate indeed that they made the new railings at least similar to the originals although it’s a shame they are now white and not black. The tiles have been replaced on the steps and the road has obviously been re-covered but apart from that it’s pretty close and little changed in 80 years.

I dedicate this photo the memory of Henri.

Categories
Leica m9

Leica M9, instant deployment case

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There’s no point having a great camera if you don’t have it with you when you need it. The Leica M9 is pretty compact for what it is but it’s still quite a lump to lug about. If you wear it around your neck you run the risk of damaging it or the lens as it swings about. You can put it in a camera bag but it’s hardly a hands free option.

Luckily I have a very talented partner who made me an instant deployment case to my design that I can wear around my waist. It is basically a top loading camera case that can be worn. My M9 has a grip and it’s this that allows the camera to be extracted from the case. The whole operation takes seconds and can be achieved using only one hand. I’m right handed so wear it on my left hip.

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Some might say that it looks a bit odd but I couldn’t care about that. What’s important is that my valuable M9 is protected and I can get it out and start shooting easily. Worn with a belt the weight is not really noticeable and the best bit is that my hands are free and there’s no chance I will leave the camera somewhere by accident as you might if you had it in a camera bag.

The best bit is that no one has any idea what the case is and what might be inside it. I’m not one of those M9 owners who wants everyone to know I have one. I am much happier if no one has a clue. I bought my M9 to take pictures , not to draw attention to myself.

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The case is made from a thick outer leather with a super soft pig skin leather interior. It is completely hand made and hand stitched. The lid remains attached to the case so it can’t be lost and to allow for a one handed operation. The lid overlaps the case and is held in place with nothing more complicated than a magnetic catch. In case you are wondering, a magnet placed near the camera or the SD is no problem.

Although not strictly waterproof, the overlapping lid helps to keep water off and the entire case was treated with many applications of hide food which should help to fill the thread holes and shed water as well. In practice the case works exactly as planned. It means my camera is always with me and well protected too. 

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Leica m9 T Shirts

Leica M9 T shirt

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Leica M9 T shirt from Redbubble.