Leica Leica M9P in the eyes of a M240P shooter

Location
Finland
So I went ahead and got myself a neat Leica M9-P.

This move was totally bonkersville for me because I've been shooting my M240-P happily for 2.5 years and what shortcomings this camera has, it is the M10 lineup that fixes them for me, not M9...
  • Better-behaving high ISO. Banding-free 6400 would be nice, banding-free 12500 is even better.
  • Quiet shutter is nice.* M10P would be a dream.
  • While I don't use live view regularly, M10 models have some improvements there that I could enjoy. Also they have help for tripod work.
While those benefits and niceties exist, it's a lot of money to upgrade from M240 to M10, and there are even some mild downsides as well. Battery life being the foremost thing.

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Colors "kept" but lifted shadows from the background and leaves.

Yet I have gone for M9-P. I will be shooting the two M cameras side-by-side for a while and evaluate things.

There's no denying that M9-P (in silver) must be one of the prettiest digital cameras of all time. Frameline illuminator window, the works. I hope I can find reasons for my purchase other than the looks... Much like some cameras before M9P I bought them for a price that I thought made them safe bets for good reselling later on. If I don't like the M9 experience, I'll sell it for little loss and gain the experience from it.

The first impressions after 24 hours of ownership

I visited a nearby town 90 minutes away where I picked up the camera and a new lens (CV 35/1.4 Classic) and I made it a minivacation by booking a room overnight. It's been a heat wave around here and it wasn't all that easy to spend much time on one's feet but I got my touristy shots and some nice lakescapes. I approximate about 12 hours "shooting time" outside.

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Colors "kept intact", applied contrast.

Here's the immediate first impressions about M9 for someone who'd been shooting the 3-years-newer model MP240.

  • M9P is slimmer and lighter in hand. But without the thumb grip that I have attached on my MP240 the ergonomics aren't comparable as is.
  • The shutter sound is not as loud as people make it to be. It's a very sharp click followed by the whirr. The whirring noise after shot is a nice feedback indicating when the camera will be able to take another exposure. Nice!
  • I immediately enabled the soft shutter advance and while it's nice, it could be softer still. I realize there still has to be a two-step shutter because the camera has to wake up before anything can happen. The camera goes to sleep pretty quickly and I have to be constantly wake it up to be ready for action. I didn't miss anything critical but when the camera is asleep the shutter doesn't do anything.
  • Despite using the soft shutter feature, my shots using 50mm at 1/60 sec came out mostly blurry from camera shake. M240 is way more dampened and usable. Is it the lighter weight of the camera, is it the shutter mechanism, is it the shutter trigger?
  • I tend to shoot a bit more frantically than the usual M shooter but I never encountered the limits of the tiny buffer or the 2 FPS shutter. M240 has a rating for 3 frames per second but in my practical shooting they're very similar.
  • The buttons on the back are super nice. The back wheel skips occasionally but is better than what MP240 has.
    • But the controls on top: shutter release, shutter speed and drive mode switch are all cheaper-feeling than what M240 has.
  • The ISO selector is much nicer than what's on MP240. I can make quick changes in full stops if I want to (and I want to).
  • The screen... all the reviews warned me about it but no review could prepare me enough for the reality. The pictures simply cannot be judged from the screen. It's like staring at a bowl of oatmeal, resolution wise.
    • ...can't judge color or white balance, can't judge focus, super tough to judge composition, you can just barely judge exposure...
    • ...but the highlight clip blinkies are somewhat overly conservative (or/and the sensor is just more clippy) so that even the blinkies shout "false alarm" quite a bit. If I enable the histogram it blocks the view from judging the composition and edges.
    • Overall I think I get why Leica didn't make an M9-D: because M9's screen is already so useless that seasoned shooters regard it as good as nonexistent?
  • Judging from the screen the DR is abysmal. Much more difficult to make a neat exposure. (Luckily the raws have pretty much recoverability so this is only a problem out in the field when trying to make the optimum compromise.)
  • Likewise the sensitivities seem pretty hot for the ISO. (Or the screen is just too limited, rendering tones in a harsh way.)
  • The optics in the viewfinder seem a bit unclear to me. M240 has a different coating and probably fares better in the sun. I had marginally more trouble focusing the M9P -- observing the rangefinder patch.
  • The framelines of M9P are "much more way off" than what I'm accustomed to with M240.
Some early notes from the processing/pixel peeping
  • I shot almost everything with CV 50 Heliar because it's a known lens and I wanted to evaluate the new lens separately. CV 50 behaves a bit differently on M9 than on M240. It's probably the pixel density that does it. The files are smoother on the M240.
  • I don't get many files that have the extremely sharp/crisp pixels that M9 is famously capable of. Then again, I shot my CV50 wide open, no exceptions (maybe one shot is closed down to f/4, out of 500+).
  • M9 doesn't record the aperture approximation even to EXIF data? Not a big loss but anyway.
  • Red and blue channels tend to clip first and green comes much later.
  • More moiré. Explained by the lesser pixel density!
  • The files may have that Kodachrome look, I don't know. People love to bash the M240 colors but that's what I have grown to. If in 2012 M240 files had that magenta cast all over, well to my eyes the M9 files have a cyan cast instead.
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Maybe the very cold-running auto white balance of M9P in part contributes to the Kodachrome look? "SOOC" out of camera.
 
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albertk

Veteran
  • Despite using the soft shutter feature, my shots using 50mm at 1/60 sec came out mostly blurry from camera shake. M240 is way more dampened and usable. Is it the lighter weight of the camera, is it the shutter mechanism, is it the shutter trigger?
Congrats.
Yes, that has been my observation too, that is, with the M8. Very often I had camera movement from engaging the release, wobbles that showed up in the picture from light points in the picture.
It almost never happens in the M240.
So soft-release is really super in the 240 family.
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
Location
London
If it turns out you can’t see “the look” of the files compared to your M240 (and there’s nothing wrong with that, this thing of ours is subjective) then you might want to sell it and remain with your M240 or maybe sell it and the M240 for an M10?
 
Location
Finland
If it turns out you can’t see “the look” of the files compared to your M240 (and there’s nothing wrong with that, this thing of ours is subjective) then you might want to sell it and remain with your M240 or maybe sell it and the M240 for an M10?
This is precisely what I intend to find out. This purchase was never meant to be a final decision for me. I have every intention of selling whichever M I decide to sell. :)

The shutter "shock" right now bums me out, that's a huge plus towards M240 in my book. I will try soft trigger on the M9 and just shoot more, see if the problem eases with practice.

I think I should give M9 a prolonged period, maybe 3-6 months with a month of exclusive M9 shooting time, before making a decision.

The fact is after all that I "grew up" with the M240 and as such I like the color and everything it has to offer. Hell, I even like the thickness and weight!

And yes, after a decision has been made I have to consider whether I sell both of them to get an M10 for little extra cash spendage, or do I get an M10P for a bit more or a M10R or M11 for a way lot more. But my immediate reaction towards this idea is this: I am not currently lusting after M10 because MP240 is pretty good as is.
 
Location
Finland
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The Leica M9 unique color must be in part a sort of a placebo effect because I took two shots one night of the same subject with M9 and M240 and color graded them separately... but then viewed them side by side and found them practically identical.

(Of course it's the raw developer's job also to equalize all raw files to a constant starting point. Pros don't need the hassle of managing different camera output looks when delivering unified content to the clients. That said, by default darktable applies the same tone curve for M9 and M240 files upon import so there's not special equalizing happening here...)

But what color there is when I import the files to darktable is not bad. Just different from M240.

The biggest thing must be the difference in the AWB processing between the two cameras.


But something is there that makes M9 files react to my presets and processing a bit differently than M240. Poorer dynamic range flattens shadows a tad more, perhaps a bit more filmlike? The noise floor of the CCD?

I fear that soon selling M9 will be out of the question. But that's what we're here to find out.
 
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I am very connected to the M9 and M Monochrom. Just fits me.

If you have the M9P with the new sensor: keep it, will be hard to find another one. It is the last of the breed, the best CCD camera made.

For anyone with the original sensor: The M9P and M Monochrom mount the cover glass differently than the M9, it is much more difficult to remove. I have seen two cameras that came back with the left/right side calibration out. I ended up writing software to fix the issue, basically do a calibration then apply it to all files. I got fancy and found where the ISO and camera SN were stored in the DNG file, so was "automated".
 
Location
Finland
I realize that M9 is a special camera to many.

It has a 2016 sensor with paperwork so it should be set for a long time.

But I have my reservations still. A tad cheap feeling in hand compared to M240 and the ISO performance at 2500 is worse than I hoped. These are still my early impressions but it's very uncertain for M9P at this moment.

Today: I am feeling cheap about getting a ~60 EUR thumbie. What if I sell the camera as my early urge might be. At the same time, if I don't get a thumbie for the camera, I will never maximize the ergonomical potential of the camera, thus advancing towards the "predetermined outcome". It's a vicious cycle. :)

Since getting the Thumbie for my M240 I have one unused hot shoe mounted thumb grip lying around. But the hot shoe profile is different between the cameras -- M240 has a half a millimeter taller profile and the grip fits it nicely but won't fit M9. Shame...
 
Location
Finland
I feel so terrible about thinking about making hasty decisions...

But maybe I'll put the camera back for sale. Might be a while before someone comes and buys it.

There is no honey moon period for M9 simply because the experience is all familiar to me already. It's a good experience to be sure.

I partly considered if I made it my mission to shoot M9 solely for some months, learn to work around the shortcomings and becoming a better photographer that way. Character-building exercises. But I don't know.

M9 color is indeed quite something. Between the Ms it's perhaps the mature one, color-wise. Some people say M9 has punchy, saturated colors to its fault but M240 definitely has even more saturation, at least on my setup. Yet despite the differences in a direct A/B shootout I manage to even out the results almost automatically. For those who prefer to work with less color grading and more with camera's natural style I definitely see how M9 works best, subject to taste of course.

These cameras don't lose value, rather quite the opposite. But there's liability to every asset also.
 
Location
Finland
So far it's been quiet on the markets. No worries.

Today on a stroll I started to suspect that the vertical alignment on the rangefinder patch might be a smidgen off. That would explain how the viewfinder seems so hard to read sometimes, compared to M240. Something to do the next week...
 
Location
Finland
The beginning of September marks the time when hundreds of thousands get their tax refunds.

The extra bit of money is extra income for many. Fuel to power distant dreams.

The buyer of my Leica M9-P was one such man.

A very joyous fellow who like me tasted the red (dot) apple with Leica Q and now had to proceed to the stronger stuff. I wish him success in his journey. Perhaps Q and M9 are a better pairing than what I did, pair Q and MP240.
 
Location
Finland
I was just about to ask how you went with the M9P but I guess you've sold it.

Have you had a chance to try an M10 yet? I'd be very curious to hear what you think about the M240 and the M10.
I have held an M10P in my hands. Fired the shutter a few times but haven't walked with it or anything. So unfortunately can't say I have any real experience on the camera. I have a new friend in town who owns one but is covid-shy at the moment.

It's nice. Very nice. But it's definitely not "5000 euros nicer". The fact is that one gets the full rangefinder experience with an MP240 just as well. The M10(P/R) is just nicer sprinkling on top of the same cupcake. I realize that M10 is a series of fine improvements all around the body that do add up but yeah, they're just that sprinkling.

And the M11 is just around the corner and I can wait for it. And when it comes out there will be a year-long waiting time and by that time people are already anticipating for M11-P.
 
Location
Finland
Many people get into Leica M when they want to slown down their photography and study the moment more carefully. I didn't quite take my MP240 that way. I noticed how fast it is to focus through the rangefinder and the Leica suddenly was my speed demon, for a well balanced combination of focus speed and focus accuracy.

So that must explain in great part how M9P didn't then fit my style all that well. It requires more care in exposure and framing, and takes longer to review images and all that. Everything perhaps felt unnecessarily slow and sluggish. This is just how I managed to grow myself into a particular mold of speed and reaction with the M240.

The camera wasn't at fault, it was just slightly incompatible with the style I've developed.
 
I have held an M10P in my hands. Fired the shutter a few times but haven't walked with it or anything. So unfortunately can't say I have any real experience on the camera. I have a new friend in town who owns one but is covid-shy at the moment.

It's nice. Very nice. But it's definitely not "5000 euros nicer". The fact is that one gets the full rangefinder experience with an MP240 just as well. The M10(P/R) is just nicer sprinkling on top of the same cupcake. I realize that M10 is a series of fine improvements all around the body that do add up but yeah, they're just that sprinkling.

And the M11 is just around the corner and I can wait for it. And when it comes out there will be a year-long waiting time and by that time people are already anticipating for M11-P.

You're thinking of skipping the 10 and potentially going for the 11?

I have the M8.2, M9P, M240 and M10.

I kinda like the M240 more than the M10 in terms of the colour, and it seems to have slightly better dynamic range too. The M10 is no slouch don't get me wrong, but the M240 has a slight edge because of the dynamic range.

The M10 completely wins over the M240 when it comes to ISO performance though. I have done a couple of paid wedding gigs with the M10 as my main and the M240 as the 2nd with a different lens attached. Before I got the M10, I did a wedding or two with the M240 as the main and the M9P as the 2nd. The M10 completely and totally does the job when the lighting starts getting a lot less than optimal, where the M240 struggles.

Because of that I am thinking that the M10 may be my forever camera. If I win the lottery then yes I'd go for the M11 but .. the M10 could be it.

I might wait for M10 prices to come down after the M11 comes out, maybe sell my M9P and M240.
 
Many people get into Leica M when they want to slown down their photography and study the moment more carefully. I didn't quite take my MP240 that way. I noticed how fast it is to focus through the rangefinder and the Leica suddenly was my speed demon, for a well balanced combination of focus speed and focus accuracy.

So that must explain in great part how M9P didn't then fit my style all that well. It requires more care in exposure and framing, and takes longer to review images and all that. Everything perhaps felt unnecessarily slow and sluggish. This is just how I managed to grow myself into a particular mold of speed and reaction with the M240.

The camera wasn't at fault, it was just slightly incompatible with the style I've developed.

I've found that focus speed and accuracy is the same across all the four Leicas I own. The only occasions that I've doubted myself or the speed and accuracy was when either lens or the focusing mechanism on the body needed servicing.

You know what weird thing is - the M8.2 is much faster than the M9P. I think the larger file in the M9P wasn't properly served by the processor chip.
 
Location
Finland
I've found that focus speed and accuracy is the same across all the four Leicas I own.

My manual metering technique is clumsy and relies on fluent picture reviews. In this regard the M9P's older tech caused a bit of a slowdown. Another way the camera requires more deliberation are the framelines that are calibrated differently from M240/M10. Maybe the framing could be learned over time but that's how I initially perceived it -- requiring more time to frame.
 
Location
Finland
You're thinking of skipping the 10 and potentially going for the 11?

I have the M8.2, M9P, M240 and M10.

I kinda like the M240 more than the M10 in terms of the colour, and it seems to have slightly better dynamic range too. The M10 is no slouch don't get me wrong, but the M240 has a slight edge because of the dynamic range.

The M10 completely wins over the M240 when it comes to ISO performance though. I have done a couple of paid wedding gigs with the M10 as my main and the M240 as the 2nd with a different lens attached. Before I got the M10, I did a wedding or two with the M240 as the main and the M9P as the 2nd. The M10 completely and totally does the job when the lighting starts getting a lot less than optimal, where the M240 struggles.

Because of that I am thinking that the M10 may be my forever camera. If I win the lottery then yes I'd go for the M11 but .. the M10 could be it.

I might wait for M10 prices to come down after the M11 comes out, maybe sell my M9P and M240.
One of the slight issues with M240 is the poor-ish high ISO capability. The banding that gets visible by ISO 6400 or equivalent. Would be nice to have banding-free sensitivities up to ISO 12500 or equivalent. I reckon M10 gets around to that point? The M10R might be able to sustain banding-free ISO sensitivities of 25k. Would be nice indeed.

Right now since I don't have an M10 and need to shell out serious money to get one, I might as well wait for the M11 and consider it instead. It's expectedly only a grand more over an M10R I think.

I might skip 10, I might skip 11.... :)

Money questions may very well direct me towards other accompanying camera products. Instead of doing a trade of M240 + 5000 = M10R, I could take that money and get an SL2-S on the side instead. A real low-light monster but I still have my reservations about the body size and EVF experience in the dark.
 
My manual metering technique is clumsy and relies on fluent picture reviews. In this regard the M9P's older tech caused a bit of a slowdown. Another way the camera requires more deliberation are the framelines that are calibrated differently from M240/M10. Maybe the framing could be learned over time but that's how I initially perceived it -- requiring more time to frame.

Can you give me a bit more detail on this?

The rangefinder focusing mechanism works exactly the same way in all their cameras, don't they?


Re ISO and the M240 - I get banding from ISO3200 for sure, that's the frustrating part.

Re the M10 - The vast majority of my photos only go up to ISO3200. I've sometimes gone up to 6400 but rarely. Photos at 6400 are a bit grainy but fine (when I said "a bit grainy", I'm comparing it to the M8.2 and the M9P which would be A LOT grainy). I don't know if you know my photography but I shoot in some fairly low light circumstances. I've never had to go beyond 6400 with the M10.

If you're considering the SL cameras, I would just go for the Sony A7S. Much cheaper with well established ISO and photo quality performance. ISO performance exceeds the SL2. I like my Leicas but I don't see a need to go for the SL series when the Sonys are a better option.
 
Location
Finland
Can you give me a bit more detail on this?

The rangefinder focusing mechanism works exactly the same way in all their cameras, don't they?

Yes, focus is no different but framing is. There's often talk about how M9 framelines are calibrated to be accurate at 1 meter distance and M240 went (back?) to the 2 meter standard. I've grown with the M240 framelines and they feel natural to me.

Re ISO and the M240 - I get banding from ISO3200 for sure, that's the frustrating part.

Re the M10 - The vast majority of my photos only go up to ISO3200. I've sometimes gone up to 6400 but rarely. Photos at 6400 are a bit grainy but fine (when I said "a bit grainy", I'm comparing it to the M8.2 and the M9P which would be A LOT grainy). I don't know if you know my photography but I shoot in some fairly low light circumstances. I've never had to go beyond 6400 with the M10.
I'd go quite often to 6400 and possibly up. It's a real torture test to shoot city lights in darkness because you have to underexpose and lift shadows and your ISO is still well over native values.

I don't mind uniform noise one bit, as long it's uniform. Banding looks really ugly.
 
Yes, focus is no different but framing is. There's often talk about how M9 framelines are calibrated to be accurate at 1 meter distance and M240 went (back?) to the 2 meter standard. I've grown with the M240 framelines and they feel natural to me.


I'd go quite often to 6400 and possibly up. It's a real torture test to shoot city lights in darkness because you have to underexpose and lift shadows and your ISO is still well over native values.

I don't mind uniform noise one bit, as long it's uniform. Banding looks really ugly.


ahhhh you know what, I interchanged between my Leicas that maybe I just inherently expected the discrepancy and adapted to them without realising it.

But if city lights is what you're shooting, a tripod might be what you need. Can I see some of your shots?

These shots were taken by myself, handheld, around 1/4 shutter speed, ISO 3200, across a dark lake. This is probably about the limit I could do with the M10 and without a tripod.


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