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Understanding the Appeal of the Leica M9

Top of the line DSLR cameras are cheaper, more versatile, and superior in most specs when compared to the $7,000 Leica M9, so why would a photographer ever choose an M9? In this video, NYC hip hop photographer John Ricard argues that it boils down to two things: usability and focus.

(via CurrentPhotographer)


 
  • Vitaliy Prokopets

    Very good points! I find that limitations a lot of times can give you the most freedom.

  • Maxdronov

    looks like advertising – this guy doesn’t have a strap on the camera, and he likes his iPhone more :)

  • Simon

    I don’t need $7000 camera to focus my mind, but I guess some people might.

  • http://twitter.com/meloCreative Paul Melo

    I understand his point. I have often complained that current DLSRs have too many extraneous buttons and features. Anything over 2K should do away with the goofy ‘Scene’ modes and extra buttons. Back to basics. And make every button on a DSLR programmable so that the photographer can setup his/her camera for their specific use, layout.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Right?? I will gladly help these people focus their mind for that cash.

  • wesnile

    I only use the most basic features of my Nikon DSLR. I dont need to spend $5000 more to make sure that’s the only thing I do.

  • http://profiles.google.com/pauljmoleiro paul moleiro

    I think the M9 is a cool camera but this guy is a prick, he’s saying the most obvious stuff and acting like he’s the first person to ever think that specs alone don’t what’s a good camera

  • Giacomogb

    7 minutes to talk about limitation and how “gears don’t metter” on a 7000$ camera? sounds just absurd…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    If people want to spend $5k extra rather than read the manual to find M mode and RAW shooting mode then that’s fine, but the rest of us would end up not having to worry about white-balance, we’d have shutter on our thumb dial, aperture on index finger dial, and focus on the lens (on Nikon DSLRs). One menu for ISO, just like the Leica.

    I understand his desire for simplicity and core photography features, but come on, $7,000?

  • Pingback: Why the Leica M9 is a better camera (video) | Leica News & Rumors()

  • Tferroato

    “The iPhone is a better camera than the M9.”
    I still don’t get it. Why do people still buy these cameras?

  • Davie

    I miss $6,500

  • Mouring

    I don’t seem to have an issue “focusing” with my old XSi or 7D. In fact, I didn’t have much of an issue when I was shooting with the XT which has a horrible ISO control.

    Aperture on the top dial, Shutter on the back, a button to change focus point if in auto, a button to let me swap ISO. All without looking at my camera, and a lot of times all automatic without any effort of thinking about it.

    Yes, I know I’m backwards with aperture on top. It is a hold over from the week I was called on to shoot video with the 7D. And I kept changing the shutterspeed. =) I’ve grown use to it and love the setup.

    Arguments like his doesn’t sway people. It is just a justification for what one uses. And as many well-known photographers have stated and proven. “It isn’t the camera that makes good pictures, but the operator behind it.” Yes the camera can improve on what you shoot. Perfect glass will always provide better pictures clarity than cheaper flawed glass, but unless the person behind the camera know the camera and can make it sing it is just another piece of electronic waste to be discarded.

  • Elias

    You all are missing the point of this video. It’s not about having a $7k camera, it’s about functionality and vision, which he states several times. This is exactly why I enjoy shooting old film SLRs. The limitations turn into strengths when you learn to work within them.

  • Kjboorman

    True, but he still didn’t address the fact that the camera is SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Sure, it’s great having a focus and limiting yourself, but you don’t need to spend so much to do so. My 7D for example doesn’t have any of that scene crap, and often I’ll limit myself to a single lens during personal projects and see how far I can go with that.

    Basically I’m just upset that I will never, ever own an M9.

  • Kjboorman

    True, but he still didn’t address the fact that the camera is SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Sure, it’s great having a focus and limiting yourself, but you don’t need to spend so much to do so. My 7D for example doesn’t have any of that scene crap, and often I’ll limit myself to a single lens during personal projects and see how far I can go with that.

    Basically I’m just upset that I will never, ever own an M9.

  • Elias

    An excellent point. I enjoy putting a fixed focal length on my digital for the same reason. And I think we’re all upset we’ll never own an M9 :) Admit it people!

  • Mike W

    Watching that video was a waste of time….
    “look at what I’am able to do, I can take some great shots of people looking into my camera, people posing for me at 3-4-5 feet away this camera is fantastic at that”
    Come on man are you serious

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clint-Simonsen/1331925753 Clint Simonsen

    It’s A M9!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NJZEIZA53CHPLTO54FZVWDPFKM cool

    You know what, this guy bought iPhone (for camera use), Nikon D1000 and D3x before buying Leica M9. He got M9 recently and start giving lectures as like all fanboys do, thanks to Youtube.

    You may not like Scene Modes. But there are millions of people out there who need them. In fact, those ‘Scene Mode-people’ only bring huge profit to camera companies. If Leica rangefinder is superior, why Leica is selling DSLR and PS cameras themselves?

  • Joe

    I agree, for thirty + years I have been shooting both Nikon / Canon . I just purchased the M9 for all the reasons Michael talks about .
    It truly does make taking pictures a much different experience .
    Great post .
    Joe Elario

  • Ilker

    He talks as if he is the role model of all photographers. I didn’t even hear his name before this video. Just because you need a setting doesn’t mean somebody else doesn’t either. There are millons of photographers out there. I wonder if he started photography with a Leica or with an SLR that has modes on it. If you don’t need an extra setting, then don’t use it. I’ve been using Nikon for years and I know that there are many settings on it that I don’t need, but they never get in my way. Also, Nikon has buttons that you can program, but Leica doesn’t(as far as I know). Plus, I don’t want to carry a $7000 camera and a $4000 lens on my bag wherever I go. From this perspective, I wonder which one causes more limitations. M9 or DSLR? Would you take out your $11000 photo gear out on a rainy day or in a place with a lot of dust. I wouldn’t.

  • http://twitter.com/Seshan Seshan

    I don’t get his point on adjusting, Shutter speed, apature, ISO and WB, On the D7000, When shooting MANUAL like the Leica, not on scene mode, You have two dials, one right infront of the shutter button that adjusts apature, and one on the back right where your thumb sits that adjust shutter. It also has a dedicated ISO button just like the Leica and a dedicated WB button. This guy is a f*cking tool.

    If you want to shoot “simple” like the leica you can do that just fine with a SLR.

    Now I’m not hating on Leica, if I under stand why some people like them, that’s fine, but his point was just stupid.

  • Jon Spanos

    The D7000 is not over 2K.

  • Jon Spanos

    He isn’t talking about focus like lens focus. He is talking about FOCUSING on what a camera is for, TAKING PHOTOS.

  • http://twitter.com/jamesholroyd jamesholroyd

    I was just lucky enough [stock options FTW!] to be able to afford an M9. I had some serious doubts, but I looked at it as a relatively inexpensive [compared to a Corvette] mid-life crisis that would hold it’s value fairly well in the short term if I didn’t feel it was worthwhile . [Jeez, ya think I justify much?]

    After a little more more than a month, I can cheerfully say that I am totally smitten with this camera. It’s fun to use, and it makes great pictures. The lenses are stellar, even some of the cheap Cosina-Voigtlanders. Is it perfect? No. But it suits my needs for portability, image quality, stealth (as long as you remember to tape up the logos), and fun factor to a “T.” I find it a perfect balance between my film cameras [everything from a $10 garage sale Olympus XA to a Nikon F100] and a full-on DSLR. You still get the “chimpability” to shoot a bunch and not worry about wasting film or having to wait to see what you captured, yet you don’t have the rapid-fire-40mb/second-and-hours-sorting-through-it-all-later that a DSLR can lure you into.

    Now, when I pick up my Nikon and find myself buried in the menus to get to what I want, I get a little annoyed. I know what everything does, but it feels a little foreign after the stark Teutonic simplicity of the Leica.

    Did I mention it’s fun to shoot?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rekanize Donovan Rekanize Fannon

    Meh, every time he brushed on something I felt was a good point, he loaded up on tons of B.S. suppositions to support his points that, frankly, were stretching it a bit in order to justify his defense of the M9…

    Not that I think he had to defend the M9, personally, but his complaints about the other cameras (especially the scene modes and iPhone apps) were pretty laughable… Not everyone approaches these cameras in the way that he illustrates with his examples.

    You can simplify and streamline your use of a DSLR to follow vision in the way he’s describing. You can actually focus on using photo apps of a camera-phone to create something of substance, rather than the short attention span scenario he described.

    For all his verbosity, he didn’t say very much.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tritacarne Simone Gobbo

    You are right James, your points are far better than the video ones…

    IMHO the whole point of the question is:

    Do you want simplicity and want to return to the good old times? Buy a crappy Nikon FE with 24/35/50/85 and you are done, now you can spend the 6750$ remaining in film or something nice for your girlfriend.

    or

    The above question, BUT you want a LEICA? add 750$ and buy an M3 with a pair of lenses, you will have a LOT of cash spare to buy pretty anything.

    I can’t say that the M9 is a total waste of money if someone can afford it as I can’t say that a Ferrari is, but I’m pretty sure that very few people can go to work every day with a Ferrari without thinking that maybe they bought the wrong car…

    Ok people, now I must go, have to take pictures of the F50 in my garage with my D700… ;)

  • Anonymous

    For $7000 I’d rather limit myself with a 5d MarkII ($2300) and an 85mm f1.2L ($2200) and still have $3000 to make a trip to almost anywhere I want to go around the world to get some great shots of whatever I want.

  • Fred

    Watching this video made me seasick. Why does the camera operator feel the need to rock the camera back and forth. Very annoying. I see this on way too many video blogs with inexperienced operators.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vinyldutch Ruben Lammerink

    I completely agree with this guy,

    About a year ago a dear friend of mine gave me a Leica M3 with a 35mm lens, yes this is a Film camera not digital, film! In the beginning I saw that as a limitation, 36 frames max, that’s not enough, Manual everything, what a pain! But after shooting a couple of rolls of film my photography started to change, I started to See, Visualise and think out pictures and wait for the exact moment. Something I would never learned as quickly on my Canon 5D mk2 as I had so much more things on my mind.

    I love this quote it’s so true:

    “When I shoot film I’m always looking for the next photo, when I shoot digital I keep looking at the last photo.”

    Don’t get me wrong both cameras have their power, If I shoot an assignment I use my 5D but for personal projects nothing beats the Leica and “that look” of that 35mm lens.

    Select your tools for the right job, and sometimes limitations end-up helping you think more creative!

  • http://www.facebook.com/maxdronov Maxim Dronov

    guys, do not compare digital M Leica and film M Leica. These are completely different things. Film Leicas were GREAT…

  • bri

    lame. First off.. if you go out and buy an M9, you obviously have more money then brains.

    bottom line is gear doesn’t matter.
    Just because a DSLR has all those menus and options and features doesn’t mean you have to use them. So this guy is telling us to go out and spend and extra 5 or 6 grand so that you aren’t tempted by having extra features!?!?

    wow.

  • http://profiles.google.com/peter.andersen Peter Andersen

    Apparently less IS more after all. Horrible argument – so many other things about the Leica that make it attractive. If this really was advertising it missed by a mile.

  • Mouring

    *COUGH* So am I.

  • http://profiles.google.com/k6martini Kevin Martini

    So Leicas are for Harry Potter to help him focus. Got it.

  • Supranational

    I hope u know what u talking about.

  • Costas

    Indeed, it seems that most manufacturers are missing the point and this is done for almost 100 years. A great manual focus lens, a small rangefinder body with bright finder and (at most) aperture priority are essential for a such an “ever ready tool”, all other features are like the applications that software companies give you with the operating systems and are intended to make your life easy, but you never use. As we can saw in the last years, the Leica imitation is reviving again (as it happens many times in the past). First Canons and Nikons, Konica, Contax,Cosina, even Hasselblad had at some point a rangefinder model and recently the “mirrorless” and “compact” from Ricoh, Olympus, Panasonic and most of all the new X100, all are made with Leica in mind for people who can never afford a Leica and for sure we will see other models in the future. I will not be surprised if someone will think to rebirth the Contax, a brand that every 20-30 years came like a ghost to compete Leica and with the G2 was very close. Of course, there cannot be sports, landscape, macro photography, etc without SLRs, DSLRs, medium and large format but for some other kind of photography Leica is still uber alles.

  • Goku1259

    This guy is a douche. I am pretty sure i could sell him a barbie camera because the settings are so “simple” to set. The fracking iphone is better then an M9…. nucking futs i say!!

  • Sebahandy

    This Guy is right. Back to basics with a 10k € camera :)
    But it is not about the Leica. I own a 5D Mark II and a 50D. When i go on a trip i automaticlly try to solve all situations i might come in. Will i take both cams with me or only one those cams plus lenses are heavy, im not joking. Or, will i just take with me the light 50D BUT what if ill come to a situation in DUSK? I guess i know what he mean is “not” to think about gear to shot a picture. We all have so much gear that we think we could solve any situation. This is about to take a camera that limitate the possibles and go out, try to do your best.
    If i understand him right it´s about my latest experience, take your DSLR with any kind of lense and just focus manually, switch off the focus lights. Don´t let the machine tell you where your focus is. Feels cool see them later on the computer display.

  • Sebahandy

    This Guy is right. Back to basics with a 10k € camera :)
    But it is not about the Leica. I own a 5D Mark II and a 50D. When i go on a trip i automaticlly try to solve all situations i might come in. Will i take both cams with me or only one those cams plus lenses are heavy, im not joking. Or, will i just take with me the light 50D BUT what if ill come to a situation in DUSK? I guess i know what he mean is “not” to think about gear to shot a picture. We all have so much gear that we think we could solve any situation. This is about to take a camera that limitate the possibles and go out, try to do your best.
    If i understand him right it´s about my latest experience, take your DSLR with any kind of lense and just focus manually, switch off the focus lights. Don´t let the machine tell you where your focus is. Feels cool see them later on the computer display.

  • Anonymous

    or you could buy a decent DSLR and duct tape over all the extraneous features giving it “character”

    or you could shoot film. Mamiya 7 would help you “focus” and not look like a douche…

  • Dafne

    If you have $7,000 to spend on a camera like that, and you really want it, just do it, I know I would, but don’t make a video justifying your purchase like a little kid tries to justify why he likes harry potter… that’s just sad.

  • Jon

    I totally agree with what he’s saying, and the haters on this site are completely missing the point. First of all, let’s put aside the bitching about the fact that the M9 costs $7000, when ‘other cameras do the same for $1000′. The reason it costs so much is pretty basic…it’s the same reason cars like Porsche or Ferrari are more expensive…not mass produced, small batches and a lot of hand assembly. Not built by a pile of robots. A toyota corolla will also drive just fine. Nikon and Canon can price their cameras way lower because they make a huge line…in Canons case they also make fax machines, and copiers, and a whole slew of little pink purse cameras that sell like hotcakes. If Canon only made the 5D, and a few other models, you’d be damn sure it would be at least $7000. Second, he is absolutely right about the distractions caused by having too much stuff on digital cameras these days…there is nothing wrong with digital capture, but it’s gone waaaay overboard in terms of 100s of menus, giant over molded heavy bodies, and lenses that are ridiculous in their size and weight. No matter what the task is. Leica isn’t for everyone, and it’s important to realize they’ve never claimed to be. But the supremacy of their optical quality in such small lenses us without question….rant all you want folks, but their lens quality control and sharpness, and consistency from lens to lens isn’t a matter of ‘my opinion’. It’s fact, and all the haters are free to review the data. Sure, a now plastic Nikon lens is fine, but German optics (zeiss, Leica) have a long history in the scientific as well as photo world. I think the Japanese have strayed a bit in the past few years…their lenses are less expensive, but I don’t think the quality is what it used to be in some cases…not all, so don’t bother writing back citing the example of the new nikon 15-5000 zoom as ‘kicking ass’, because you’re missing the point. Lastly, this guy has a valid point that a lot of people have commented on in the past few years…that there’s a lot of value in minimizing the gadgets, focusing on the basics of exposure, and getting in close to your subjects. The great Robert Capabilities said, “if your pictures aren’t good enough, your not getting close enough”. No one..no one…can argue Capa’s skill, in any era. There’s a place for 500mm zoom lenses and giant cameras with HD, 10 frames per second, etc. But theres also a place for close in, intimate photography where one moves silent among his or her subjects and documents life without intrusion. In this arena, Leica has always reigned supreme. They’ve never claimed to be a sports camera. Check out Chris Weeks on this…he uses a big canon, and an MP, and an M9…and is mature enough to know the strengths of each without getting into stupid debates about cost. Good equipment of any kind, including canon and nikon, always costs money. Get over it.

  • Davisgfx

    $7000 for a camera thats fragile, slow, unable to shoot in low light, and gets its ass whooped by virtually every camera on the market. Stupid. I’d rather have a camera that I can rely on to get the shots I want. The Leica may be smaller and lighter, but what’s the point if you can’t get the shots you want? I’ll take my D700 any day of the week.

  • asked

    toyota or mercedes?

  • http://photographystreet.wordpress.com/ Vittore

    very nice camera but… Sensor is not so nice.

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  • David

    It’s ‘eye-so’, not ‘I-S-O’.

  • http://twitter.com/davidji David English

    I thoroughly enjoy my M9. It’s quiet, discreet and takes great pictures. When I am shooting the M9 I feel a much greater part of the process dealing with the manual focus, selecting the aperture, choosing the shutter speed controlling the iso. Compared to my Nikon D700 the Leica slows me down and I compose my shots as opposed to scatter shooting. So for me the Leica M9 is like riding my Harley, it requires full awareness and focus and is all about fun. My Nikon D700 is like my van, totally useful, convenient and dependable, push the button and take pictures. Efficient.
    Both are great cameras.