Testing the M9-M in Tokyo


by Bellamy /

4 min read

A hands on with the M9-M
After the announcement from Leica in Germany the Ginza Tokyo pro store held a reception for the Japanese market. We got a hands on with the delightful M9-M…and what a camera it is.

The good people at Leica really care for the customers in Japan, so when I got the invite to the reception and release party in Japan for the new Leica releases I knew it would be a snazzy affair. When I turned up there was a presentation from the German top brass who had come to Tokyo to talk about the new cameras being released. In case you have not been the new Leica pro store in Ginza has a large presentation area enough to seat 30 or so people.
We were treated to a video presentation about the new M9-M, the 50mm Summicron APO ASPH, the X2, the V-Lux 40, the Hermes edition M9-P and the new lens range for the S series cameras. But I was there for the M9-M, pure and simple.
After the presentation and a quick question and answer, we were given the chance to glug some champagne and have a chat with the Leica guys, before they bought the cameras in for us to play with. Obviously, we were not allowed to play with the M9 Hermes edition. It was kept behind glass, as well it should be for an estimated $40k!

We got to see a video about how this was made, and it is remarkable. the differences are so subtle that you would hardly notice, but they are there. Everything about the camera screams artisanal perfection, down to the handmade boxes, the bag and the specially made lenses. People say that supercars are silly, but they are just car companies showing how far they can push the medium, and this is no different.

There was a big queue to play with the M9-M, but I patiently waited my turn and then managed to get a go on it. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the camera. I know it has a high price tag, but after using it and seeing the comparison pictures between the M9 and the M9-M I can see the work that went into developing this sensor. This camera has a level of range that is completely different to that of the M9. Sure, you can convert images to black and white on your M9, but the images on this are so much richer. The tones and the quality throughout the iso range are seriously impressive.

This is an image taken with the 50mm summicron APO ASPH at iso 640, F2 1/125th. As you can see the detail is absolutely incredible. The blacks are deep and the tones of grey are very stable. The Summicron is an incredible lens, really incredible. I asked about the high price tag and they told me that the lens is very difficult to make and has drawn on over 100 years of lens making experience to produce. Still it is an awful lot of money. Regardless of all that, I want one.

After a few shots with the 50mm I wanted to try it out with my trusty 35mm Summicron ASPH, which I consider one of the benchmark lenses and the ideal lens for a test on this camera, as it is the lens that I use on my cameras.

This is a shot of the famous Dave Powell aka ShootTokyo looking through his fancy Noctilux at yours truly. I decided to shoot at iso 1600 as I shoot at this iso on film pretty often and I wanted to see how it compares to Neopan or something of a similar nature. This shot was taken at iso 1600 f4 1/45th, I am very very impressed by the level of noise handling and the blacks. This is straight from the camera, no touching up or editing in any way. This is very impressive.

I was able to get a few more shots off, but there was not really a lot of subject matter, so I just had to make do with whatever I could find. There were a lot of people waiting to try the camera out, so I quickly set it to iso 400 and tried it out. This shot was taken at iso 400 f2.8 1/350th. I am honestly floored by this camera. I have tried out a lot of digital cameras, and none of them have really made me feel that they were in any way close to film, but this one gave me a feeling that it could be. OK, so there is no winder, and it makes that funny shutter noise that I cannot stand, but this is the first digital camera that I have ever actually really desired.

I had a chat with the guys from Leica and they asked me what I thought about the camera, I told them that I liked it a lot and feel that it is the first camera that has stepped into the recreation of the film feeling. I think this camera shows a coming of age for digital sensors and is going to really change the landscape. They also asked me what I thought about the future of film and I told them that I feel it is having a renaissance now, and you know what? They agreed. They said that they hoped that this camera would be something that film shooters would aspire to use, without making sacrifices.

After shooting this, I think they just might.


21 comments on “Testing the M9-M in Tokyo”

    soft lad (@i_am_softlad) May 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm / Reply

    And what did the Leica reps say when you broached the subject of millionares being the only people being able to afford the kit (£6,000 body, £5,000 lens)?

      Bellamy May 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm /

      they were a little cagey about that, it has to be said.

    Dieter Fröhling May 13, 2012 at 10:16 pm / Reply

    Thanks for that insightful report.

    Had read the article in LFI magazine the other day. Well, not pricey, but nevertheless out of my personal budget.

    But what for a digital camera… start saving…

    elnoma May 13, 2012 at 11:35 pm / Reply

    You can imagine the guys back in Solms running game theory scenarios with the price (or just plucking some options out of the air). Any attempt to justify especially the summicron price will sound like rubbish because it is not justifiable – except that they have determined a price that they are cofident people will pay, in line with how many they can make.
    My guess is that these lenses will be on backorder for years and years to come. It’s just that 99.9% of enthusiast camera buyers (literally) will not care to be on the list.
    Yes we had a groundbreaking camera and lens release this week but the big news to me is the beginning of the end of the love affair that I sense in some of the top leica/RF bloggers online.
    Leica is going where even most leica fans cannot follow.

    Jukka Watanen May 14, 2012 at 12:40 am / Reply

    To me the images seen thusfar represent “the essence of B&W shooting” not ready from the camera, but a “setch-a base to work”. The wonderful thing about them is that the images at 2500 asa look like TRI-X in acufine and 800 asa. The images at 10.000 asa, then look like neopan 1600 souped in Rodinal. visible and clear grain, but sharp like h*ll and very nice.
    Here is a camera, teamed up with a couple good lenses, you are prepared to work anywhere, in any light conditions.

    Joey Kendrake May 14, 2012 at 2:30 am / Reply

    What about radiation concerns? Will these cameras contain radiation if they’re assembled in Japan?

    The governments are keeping us in the dark about the real numbers, and the potential problems with Reactor 4.

      Bellamy May 14, 2012 at 6:19 am /

      Are you serious? Aside from the fact that these cameras are made in Germany, there is not a high level of background radiation in Japan. Yes, the government lies, but there are a lot of people doing their own tests. You would have just as much danger by buying something from Germany or China.

    dave May 14, 2012 at 8:48 am / Reply

    Bellamy – I image Pieter was Safecasting the event last night so I am sure we are safe…

    Kosta May 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm / Reply

    The images do look nice, but they still have that ultra-clean look about them (which can be nice).

    I hope that radiation comment was not serious…

    Rick May 14, 2012 at 11:35 pm / Reply

    Vimeo has a couple of vids up…

    50mm Summicron Asph:

    M9-P Edition Hermès:

    Robert T Wilson May 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm / Reply

    wow! the shots do indeed look cool!

    I think the concept of the M-M is brilliant, the price, not so much, but Leica is Leica and I am sure they will sell out of these . I wonder how many will get used though?


    James May 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm / Reply

    With a camera like this which has high ISO performance and high resolution sharp sensor, this is probably going to be a camera that will last a life time.

    Would you have any idea what can possibly be improved on if they were to release an upgrade to this? Even higher ISO? Higher megapixels?

    Yvan May 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm / Reply

    “they hoped that this camera would be something that film shooters would aspire to use, without making sacrifices.” … I see a joke here. These Leica people definitely have the sense of humour.

    FUKUI, Norisuke May 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm / Reply

    It was very impressive event.
    M-Monochrom and APO-Summicron 50 are the best .

    I had greeting you in this event.
    I have called you up “Japan Camera Hunter-San?”
    Do you remember me? :-)

    Steve May 22, 2012 at 11:54 am / Reply

    The images appear to have dark and light bands running across them (see 2nd and 3rd images). Do you know what’s causing that?

    Harry Mueller April 7, 2013 at 3:02 am / Reply

    Is there a difference between the M9 M and the M9 MP. I have the M9 MP? Just wondering. Good site and enjoy reading all your information. I have a Leica M7 and thinking about selling it to get a MP. You think there is a big difference between the cameras? I know the M7 is more electronic and the MP is pure mechanical. I was just thinking about future value. I do like shooting with the M7 and the aperture preferred setting which gives you precise shutter speed. The battery is lasting a long time. Just Leica camera thinking!

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