Leica M9 First Impressions (2)

Leica M9  – My First Impressions (Part 2) – Leica M9 as a Creative Tool

My last post – Leica M9 For Model Photography tested the Leica M9 in my normal field of work. Yesterday I got some down time with the Leica M9 so wanted to give my first impressions for the Leica M9 as a Creative Tool.

Here is a shot from yesterday after morning coffees. Taken with the Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens at f1.4. DNG file converted in LR3.

The Leica M9 is a fantastic creative tool. Because it feels like using one of my film cameras every shot taken is carefully considered which often results in a better photo. A Leica M9 with a single lens such as the Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 menas you spend less time worrying about what lens to use and more time chosing your composition. Due to it’s small size it is very easy to take the Leica M9 everywhere with you meaning you are more likely not to miss a special shot.

For anyone that used to follow me on Flickr, when I first started out with my photography journey back in 2010, I used to use a Panasonic Lumix G1 and often with a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens attached. My style was varied and creative. As my cameras increased in size – Nikon D90, then Nikon D700, then Nikon D800 and the lenses got bigger too peaking at the Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s I was less and less likely to have a camera with me unless on “a shoot”.  A shoot being a model photography or wedding photography job. As a result the variety of my Flickr stream plummeted and I was posting 99% people photos.

I think the Leica M9 will help me capture what I see when I see it and in turn let me produce a wider variety of creative pictures.

Here is another from yesterday.
Leica M9 Window Light

(I will add to the post as edit photos I like).

Leica M9 Landscape

On Day 4 I am happy with my Leica M9 purchase and am getting to grips with fast focusing using the rangefinder. I like how the Leica M9 lets me see and capture the day to day objects and in creative form.



Leica M9 First Impressions (1)

Leica M9  – My First Impressions (Part 1) – Leica M9 For Model Photography

As you may have read in my recent blog posts I just bought a new (to me) Leica M9 body on eBay from a guy in the UK that goes by the name of ‘brownjefferson’. Jefferson was a super nice guy and answered all my many questions before I parted with my hard earned cash. He asked me to give his website a mention so if you are interested please check out – http://www.schoolboycouture.co.uk.

Look what the nice postman left me today :D ...a Leica M9!

So, onto the Leica M9. I was firstly impressed just by the box it is packaged in. You can see a lot of thought when into it. As I only bought a body the first thing I did was to attach my Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens. A favourite and the reason for getting the M9 strangley enough. Jefferson had kindly charged the battery so I spend the first evening taking photos of random objects around the house.


I chose this photo to share as firstly it shows you what the Leica M9 & Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 combo can do but mainly how having a Leica M9 in your hand makes you see the world differently! More of that to come..

I normally shoot as a model photographer / wedding photographer so I put an advert up on Facebook “Test Shoot – Model Wanted” ready for the next evening.  I wanted to test the Leica M9 for Model Photography.

Model Vickay came over and we shot around 200+ images, some with strobes, some without, all on ISO 500 as I had not worked out how to change the ISO at that stage! (Thanks Ken, on Flickr for coming to my rescue!)

Here are a few samples from the model shoot:

Leica M9 - Test Shoot (2)
Leica M9 - Struts it's Stuff
Leica M9 - Portrait Test Shoot

After 2-3 hours of model photography style photos I had some clear opinions on the Leica M9. To give this article some context I normally shoot with a Nikon D800 36MP DSLR as my main camera (using MF lenses in manual mode) plus medium format and 35mm film cameras. (I will do a seperate Leica M9 vs Nikon D800 comparison in a separate post).

The next point I must make is I realise the Leica M9 is not normally used for fashion photography or anything that can be fast paced but I like to push myself I think that just because othes don’t do it, it doesn’t mean I can’t! 🙂

Leica M9 for Model Photography – Pros & Cons


Appearance – small size makes it appear less threatening to the model (especially new models) when compare to the Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s lens on a DSLR body.

Size – the tiny lenses mean location shoots would far easier with less gear to carry. I could have the Leica M9 around my neck and have an addition (perhaps wide lens) in my pocket and that is it for camera gear. This make me far more flexible as to the locations I can work in.

Slow Handheld Shutter Speeds – I love the fact you can shoot static subjects handheld without leaning against something at 1/4 at obtain sharp results.  With a wall or other support I think 1/2 or 1 second is do-able if there is insufficient light and you want to keep ISO below 800.  This is FAR better than a DSLR and the soft touch feature of the Leica M9 helps minimise camera shake when taken a photo. Nice.

Build quality – super solid and far more like my old film cameras than modern day flimsy plastic ones. (see my very short lived experience with a Sony NEX6 on a previous post!). The Leica M9 feels like it is build to last and is on a par with the build of most Leica M glass from Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander (to name a few).


Minimal focal length* – this was an unexpected Biggy* for me. Many lenses (I’m sure some don’t) have a minimal focal distance (“MFD”) of 0.7M. I am used lenses on a DSLR having a MFD of 0.5M or less so I now realise my photography style is often to get in very close for tight crop shallow DOF photos. I found myself frustrated and having to back up for each model photo until I was at the 0.7M range for the lens to focus.

Rangefinder focusing – I have used this focus system on my Voigtlander Bessa R3A and Yashica MG-1 but I prefer the SLR style see-the-photo in the viewfinder, in every way. Using my huge Mamiya RZ67 is a dream because of that viewfinder and seeing exactly what you will get in your photo. I much prefer this plus I do not have to focus my subject in the centre of the viewfinder and then re-compose for each shot.

Comfort – DSLRs are made to fit the hand and I can do a 14hour wedding without too much discomfort. The Leica M9 is not build for comfort so I may look at getting either the hand grip, plastic eye cup (if exists) and any other assessories that may help.

Speed – Again coming from DSLR roots, when shooting in full manual mode/ manual lenses I found I can work fast and keep a nice tempo for model photography so model are rarely waiting. The rangefinder focusing is slower (for me) so I need to master it, but for now this is a negative for me. (Note this is being marked for the model photography / wedding photography environment that I most often work).


Practise makes perfect… I need to shoot more with my Leica M9.  I have only had the camera 3 days so an update will be posted once I have had the camera longer.  The Nikon D800 will not be going on eBay and I look forward to using both camera side by side going forward.

I’m sure you have learnt nothing new from that mini hands on review and I am sure everyone with tell me the Leica M9 is a street photographer’s camera but this review is just my thoughts for my style of shooting.

Check a back soon for more examples and updates!  🙂


Leica M9 – Best Leica M Mount Lenses (For Me!)

With my new (to me) Leica M9 black body arriving soon my head is already starting to wander with regards to lenses on my to buy list.

To recap from my last post (here) I bought the Leica M9 body to let me shoot Voigtlander lenses on a full frame sensor body. I want to have a smaller camera to use for documentary style wedding photography. The D800 is great but is hardly discrete. So my brain is already excited at the thought of all the Leica M lenses I can now use. That said I have started to think what lenses I would buy next.

The Leica M mount lenses I own so far are:

> Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4

> Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4

Leica M mount lenses on my to buy list:

I understand many Leica purists would never put a non-Leica lenses on a Leica body but until I have a fatter wallet I am more than happy with the results some of the Voigtlander lenses give.  I have my eye on the following 2 lenses in no particular order:

> Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 Asph II (Steve Huff review here – http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/12/02/voigtlander-nokton-35-1-2-aspherical-ii-lens-review-on-the-leica-m9/

Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 asph

> Voigtlander 28mm f2 Ultron (Ken Rockwell review – http://www.kenrockwell.com/voigtlander/28mm-f2.htm)

Voigtlander 28mm f2 Ultron

>UPDATED* Carl Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 (Steve Huff review – http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2009/12/14/zeiss-zm-50-planar-lens-review/#comment-254065)

Zeiss Planar 50 f2 ZM

Why these lenses you may ask?  The Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 is said to be sharper than my Voigtlander 40mm wide open and I would buy it for it’s shallow DOF low light abilities. I love my Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s on my Nikon D800 so a f1.2 lens on the Leica M9 just seems to make sense to me.

UPDATE* I recently read Steve’s review (above) on the Zeiss Planar 50mm f2. Oh my!!! That ticks all my boxes and more! Added to list and now quite possibly at the top! I already own an M42 Zeiss Planar that I have used on my D800 and it i crazy sharp at f1.8, plus the colours are far nicer than the Nikon glass.

I will be using the Leica M9 for wedding photography aswell my model photography. In the UK wedding photography will normally include some low light photography even during the daytime due to our changeable weather. As a Leica M9 wedding photographer I am well aware that the M9 cannot compete with my Nikon D800 at high ISO. By using fast lenses (ie. wide aperture like f1.2, f1.4, f2) I can try to shoot at or below ISO 800 on the Leica body to avoid excessive noise on the images.

It terms of focal length 35mm on my Nikon D800 can be too tight in small spaces such as a cramped room full of people at a wedding reception. I think my 21mm f4 will be a little wide but more so will too slow for the dim indoor lighting faced at many wedding venues. The Voigtlander 28mm f2 Ultron provides the perfect focal length and speed to accompany my current 40mm f1.4 lens. As the Voigtlander 28mm f2 is also cheaper than it’s 35mm cousin I may buy this lens quite soon ready for the next wedding.

I am not really interested in focal lengths greater than 50mm on the Leica M9 as I can use the Nikon D800 for longer distances. The Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s is a beast of a lens so lets me get my discrete wedding photography photos from a safe distance. Up close most people would run a mile due to it’s size but that is where the Leica M9 comes in, for discrete documentary style wedding photography up close.

For info on all Voigtlander lenses see here – http://www.voigtlander.com/cms/voigtlaender/voigtlaender_cms.nsf/id/pa_fdih7j7h5j.html

Leica M9 wedding photography samples coming soon! See here for my wedding photography style – http://www.matthewosbornephotography.co.uk/Wedding-Photographer.html

UPDATE – September 2013* I now have all the above lenses.  By far my favourite is the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii. Sharp with a shallow DOF and easy to nail focus at f1.2


Leica M9 & Voigtlander Classic 40mm f1.4

I ran one of my photography tuition and lighting workshops today with model Leia who kindly helped me out. The guy coming for my photography workshop brought his Leica M9 and kindly let me try it with my favourite Voigtlander Classic 40mm f1.4 lens. The full frame CCD 18MP Kodak sensor in the Leica didn’t disappoint. The colours alone blew me away! The build quality feels fantastic and it weighs a ton! More so, I finally see the results of the Voigtlander Classic (Nokton) 40mm f1.4 lens and all it’s bokeh beauty on full frame! My first real camera was a Panansonic Lumix G1 which is were I first met and fell in love with the Voigtlander 40mm look. That was a m43 sensor (x2 crop) so it equated to 80mm on a 35mm camera. I then bought the Voigtlander Bessa R3A 35mm rangefinder film camera just for that lens.


I have wanted a small form digital camera to work alongside my Nikon D800 DSLR for my model photography and wedding photography for a few months so I can mount my Voigtlander lenses. I looked at the Fuji X-Pro1 but from reading reviews settled on a buying a Sony NEX-6.

The Sony NEX-6 arrived last week and just looks like a plastic flimsy toy. I’m sure it can take nice photographs but it just gave me no confidence. I am used to solid build film cameras like the Voiglander Bessa R3A rangefinder and Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. Safe to say I wont be using it.

So.. After the photography workshop I hit the internet and starting my Leica M9 research. Several hours later I saw a bid ending on eBay for a black Leica M9 body.

The rest was history!

Leica m9

I never thought I would see this day but I think I can now safely say I am a ‘proper’ photographer. The Leica M9 suits me down to the ground as I shoot manual focus lenses on the Nikon D800 anyway and I love older lenses made of metal and glass. It will work very well along side similar well build cameras and share lenses with my Voigtlander Bessa R3A.

I will sleep with a smile tonight. 🙂


For those interested in joining me for photography tuition or a workshop in my studio in Coventry, UK, you can see more details here – http://www.matthewosbornephotography.co.uk/Photography-Tuition.html

I cannot wait for my next wedding photography shoot. The wedding couple are in for a real treat! I’m not sure who will be more excited about their big day, them or me!