6 reasons I switched to the Leica M9, by Scott Wyden Kivowitz
Now now, before you all get your knickers in a twist, this is a guest article by Scott Wyden Kivowitz. He approached me with the idea of writing something like this and I think that it has a place on here. I like to hear the reasons why people choose the medium and the setup that they do. Over to you Scott…
6 Reasons I Switched To The Leica M9
Let me start out by saying that the brand of your camera plays very little role in the quality of your work. With that said…
I have been a Nikon photographer for as long as I can remember. Why is that? Well, the first camera I ever owned was a Fuji SLR with a rangefinder split view style focus. It was a crummy camera, but it was my fathers – so I used it.
Entering college, I knew that I needed a better SLR than the old Fuji, and being that my grandfather had given me a bunch of his old Nikon lenses, I purchased a Nikon N80. I loved that camera.
When my grandfather passed away, I inherited all of his Nikon gear, so it was a smart decision for me to continue with Nikon as I moved towards digital.
So that is what I did.
My first DSLR was a Kodak DCS-14n, a horribly slow SLR – but full frame. Wow, was it incredible. (and way too overpriced). Then Nikon announced the D70 and I picked one up. Similar quality, smaller and faster camera, but with a cropped sensor.
Eventually I moved up to a D300 and then a D3. The camera kept getting bigger and better. Dare I stress, bigger?
When Nikon announced the D700, I realized that I could sell my fairly new D3 for two D700 bodies. At the time, I was working at a retail store so the deal was well worth the switch.
Now years later, I realized a few things about the gear I was using and how I was shooting. Digital messed with my head. It’s the truth. Shooting non-stop, digitally, can really change your approach to photography.
In April, 2012 – I sold one of my Nikon D700 bodies for a chance to swap it with a Leica M9. It was the best decision I could have made. Here are the 6 reasons I decided to switch.
1. Size: The Leica M9, being a rangefinder, is smaller than a DSLR. Although the camera is made of metal instead of the alloy that your typical DSLR is made of, it is light. In fact, it’s extremely light. To compare, the Nikon D700 is 995 g (35.1 oz) and the Leica M9 is 593g (20.9oz).
2. Quality: The Leica M9 packed a full frame 18 megapixel sensor. Yes, the Nikon D700 is also full frame, but there is something about the quality of images produced by this sensor that can’t be beat.
3. Control: The Leica M9 is fully manual. There are only two automatic features about it. The first is aperture priority, which still lets you control the aperture of course. The other is the self timer. Being forced to control your camera in every aspect brings you back to the basics. It makes you slow down, appreciate the craft, technique and theory more than ever.
4. Lenses: No manufacturer can compete with the quality of Leica lenses. In fact, even Zeiss makes better lenses than most other brands (in my opinion). In addition, Leica lenses are built by hand, not machine. That means that an actual person has to put the thought and care in the lens. The Leica glass is extremely sharp and the sizes don’t add too much weight to the light rangefinder body.
5. Purpose: The Leica M9 is not a camera that a photographer would typically use for an event that needs the speed of a DSLR. For instance, you wouldn’t use it during a boxing match. However, you would use it to take photographs of the boxers before or after the event. I wanted the Leica M9 for all the shooting that didn’t need the speed of my Nikon D700. I continue using the DSLR for shooting gigs where it is necessary, like a recent karate event. The Leica M9 is my new daily camera. It comes with me on photowalks, for portrait, real estate and landscape work.
6. Frills: The Leica M9 does not have frills. As I stated previously, for the most part, it is completely manual. The camera does not have live view, a GPS or any other frills that most DSLR cameras have currently. That means the camera is designed for shooting. In fact, the LCD quality is horrible (which many photographers have issues with), but the included RGB histogram lets you verify that your exposure is where you want it. Again, it is designed to keep you shooting, not playing with menus options.
In the end, there is a time and place for the Leica M9. I hopped on the chance to make the switch because of the small size, amazing quality and the complete manual control. The body, being such a great size, is easy to transport anytime and at the same time, has the full frame quality that I need to use the small camera professionally.
The Leica M9 is still new to me. I have had the camera for a few months and am blogging about my time with it. Please join my journey at my blog.
Thanks for reading and happy shooting,
Scott Wyden Kivowitz is a New Jersey Photographer with a passion for photography. Scott regularly hosts photowalks in New Jersey and loves educating other photographers on all aspects of the art. Scott is also the Community & Blog Wrangler at Photocrati, teaching other photographers on how to increase business with their website.
Thank for sharing your thoughts on this Scott. It is interesting to hear why some people select the gear that they do. I am sure that there are plenty of people who have differing views on this matter too.
Check out Scott’s page and please comment. I would really like to hear other peoples opinions on this subject.
phewwww, for a moment I thought you really switched yourself to an M9. The only upside to that would be that you can then very gracefully offload all your film stuff to me :)
Scott: thanks for the input. All valid reasons!
The more you get used to leica M style of shooting, you realize that leica M actually is FASTER that Dslr with autofocus, because you learn to previsualize your image, set the distance by feel, by the position of the focus lever. You have the camera in focus already when you rise it on eye level, ready to push the button. Also you don`t “Zoom” you know the angle of the lens and walk in the right position to have a perfect composition. These are just some of the reasons, leica is the street photographers favourite. One more thing, there are great stuff in various leica forums in Flcker… all the best, Jukka
Thank you Jukka, I’m slowly gaining speed shooting with the camera, but the rangefinder experience takes time to feel that natural.
Pretty much the same reasons I had when moving from M8 to M6. Slows things down, makes one appreciate the craft and concentrate on each image. Kept the M8 though.
What film do you shoot with the most?
If you are worried about film price, check at http://www.filmemporioum.com in New York. They have motion picture films (Eastman 5222 double X and Fuji Eterna 500 Tungsten negative stock that you can process in C-41. both of them fantastic materials, very good price.
Sorry, I goofed on the link. Try:
Scott, nice write up, but I would like to add a minor correction to your first reason as to why you got the M9:
In the modern sense, an alloy is a composition of two or more metals, creating a material that usually enhances the good properties of the metals being alloyed, while reducing or eliminating the less desirable properties. So you are right in that the Nikon D700 is mostly made up of an alloy, an magnesium based alloy if I’m not mistaken. However, since the top and bottom plate of the Leica M9 is made of brass, this too is an alloy. Basic brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Also the main body of the M9 is also a magnesium alloy.
So basically the frame of both cameras are alloys and they’re both made of metal :-) The weight difference is likely due to the volume of the cameras, not the choice of material.
PS.: On a separate note, whenever you read camera manufactures say that their camera is a magnesium alloy, most likely its a aluminum-magnesium alloy, with aluminum being the major element in the composition. From a marketing point of view, saying that your camera is an aluminum alloy is just not nearly as sexy as magnesium alloy.
I know that magnesium alloy is a metal, but it’s supposed to be a lighter metal than others. But you are correct, the size of the M9 plays a huge role in the weight.
Bellamy: almost wanted to buy a ticket to Japan, and burn you at the stake….. then, opps sorry.
Scott: nice article……
Scott, have you ever tried the new Sony A7r? I own it now, but never owned the Leica. It’s an amazing camera, full-frame (like you haven’t at least heard of it, of course you have). Any thoughts or comparisons you’ve seen? Similar form factor….