Thursday, January 8, 2015

First few hours with my Leica M9 in 2015

I'm pumped up! Finally my Voigtlander lens is here. But bummer its not the 40mm because i like bokeh in my pictures, anyway its the 15mm super wide heliar, enough for testing both of my newly acquired Leicas. I've been waiting for these lenses for weeks now. My Leicas are there on the desk, sitting and waiting for the lens. Its odd that my 40mm has not yet arrived since thats the first lens i bought. These HK mail is weird. I hope its not lost though! To be honest i haven't tested my Leica M8, somehow i'm more excited with the Leica M9, maybe because it's younger and supposedly better than the M8 IQ wise but everyone said its the same except for the crop factor of the M8.

I bought the 15mm for my M8 because its the first Leica i bought so that it'll convert to 21mm or 24mm, i love a wide angle lens. i didn't expect to win the bid for my M9, if i knew i was crazy enough back then to get the M9, i should have not bought the M8. Oh well, its water under the bridge now. 24mm is wide enough for me, i never thought to go 15mm wide, but now with the full frame M9, i have a 15mm super wide angle lens.

With this tiny lens to go with the M9, it looks super awesome. For me the size is just right for the Leica M9. If only all Leica M mount lenses are this small. And this is the first time i brought the M9 out into the sunshine. Man, this thing is more sexier under the sun!

Holding the M9 feels solid. like a brick made of metal. Its unlike the Fuji X-Pro1, which kinda feel hollow. like theres a hole inside the body. but with that its lighter. The M9 is heavy but it's solid heavy, if you get what i mean. You hit someone on the head with a Fuji X-pro1, boom! concussion. You hit someone on the head with the M9, boom! dead!

Everyone on the internet cringed at the LCD screen of the Leica M9. That LCD is a joke. I couldn't agree more. It was so bad that it reminded me of the old school Nokia symbian phones of the early 2000s. It didn't serve the M9 justice. It is so bad that it cannot be use for chimping, previewing or checking for focus or camera shake, so bad that its better to just switch off the LCD or dont use it for review thus saving battery power. You have to treat the M9 just like you treat a film camera. Know you got it right after it is developed. The LCD is so poor it doesn't belong on a what used to be a $7000 camera. And it still doesnt belong now! You cant see the great IQ of the M9 on its LCD, you have to look it on your computer. Unlike Fuji X100S, what's on its LCD is what you probably get on your computer screen. Every time i took a shot with the M9 and i'm so used to chimping, i probably think i didn't nail the shot. Ok, it was that bad. Enough of the LCD. Lets talk about something else.

I have to say i got a great deal on the M9. I just check the shutter actuations and it was only 386 shutter count. I mean this camera is seldomly used. Probably a collector's camera. Dont know why it got sold but i believe in "your gain, my loss" kinda phrase. If you wanna check your M9 shutter actuations you have to check your EXIF data, maybe using the free EXIF Viewer for Mac, and check the imageuniqueid number. I could not get it using the built-in "get info" via Mac. Its in Base16, there'll be a lot of zeros, you have to convert it to Base10, just google for the converter, and then you'll got your shutter actuations. This is a link which i find useful on checking your shutter actuations. 

The shutter sound is awesome. It reminded me of film days. Like i said, i'm gonna treat the M9 just like a film camera. No chimping. Manual focus. Those are the days. The shutter is not so loud, not so quiet. But i think it's not so discreet though. If you try candidly taking a picture of the guy within 2 meters , i think he can hear you. unless it's a loud street or environment. That is why i really like the X100 series, it is silent.

Rangefinder focusing takes a little bit of getting used to but its fun. I love the experience. I love the simplicity or "i'm in charge" old school kinda thing, although i'm still slow at it. I'm super slow to be honest. Just now i'd try to take a picture of my friend while she posed, i think she posed for more than the comfortable posing time LOL. I was so focus trying to align the rangefinder square patch. I wish there was an autofocus button that i could use so that she dont have to pose that long haha. i'm still learning the system. pardon me lol.

The M9 looks awesome under the sun, i just wanna fondle it all day and all night long.

I'm a JPEG shooter and with the Leica M9 i try to shoot RAW. I've been shooting with both format DNG + Jpg fine, i'm trying to see if the JPG is good enough for me, i know RAW will be great but there's something in the JPG look that i just cant replicate with the RAW file. I know its my limited knowledge of processing RAW and using Lightroom. But after looking at both format, i think i'll stick with DNG (RAW). It preserved the shadow detail better. With the JPG, its kinda darker, more contrast but losing the shadow detail. shadow turns to black. and a little bit greenish too. but that could depend on the lens's coding. I've used the 16-18-21 coding for the 15mm voigtlander. I read around and 21mm elmarit 11134 was recommended. I've yet to try it.

Let's see some pictures right? I only used the M9 for few hours and there's only a few pictures that are worth showing, the others are just snapshots, testing exposures and such. Shooting with the M9 i found that it underexposed a bit. and again i'm not sure maybe its the coding of the lens. I was shooting outside under the sun and it underexposed. I had to bump the exposure in PP to a full stop. I'm still in testing phase and getting to know the camera, i might not get the exposure right yet. The metering i have to be honest is tricky, i'm so used to auto everything in Fujifilm and with its great metering i get most exposure right. But with the M9, if i shoot directly at a light source, of course everything turns dark except for the light itself. Its like spot metering but i honestly dont know what's the metering on the Leica but it feels like spot. so sensitive to bright light. but then again, i'm still getting familiar with the camera. Trying to take a picture of my kid with a bright window behind her, boom! Dark face, bright window. This is a manual camera, just like film. Prepare your Sunny 16 app.

So what its like shooting 15mm on a full frame?
So far my maths is Leica M9 + 15mm Voigtlander = Cyan corners + vignetting. 

This is RAW. Processed in Lightroom.

I don't mind so much of the vignetting. but the cyan corners on the left is worst.

and this is OOC. See how underexposed it is. Probably the lens coding. or maybe it's just the way it does exposure.

There's a program that can fix or reduce this cyan corners. Its called CornerFix. I haven't create my own profile (just take a picture of a white wall and let the program try to fix the cyan and vignetting).
That profile is used as a reference to fix all your cyan pictures. I found a 15mm profile online by someone in the leica forum and used it, here's the result.

Well, it didn't really fix mine, so i guess i need to create my own profile. It did remove the cyan but instead giving a yellow corners instead. I'll post the result of my own profile on another post. But if you search cornerfix on google, it did help a lot of users! Good for you CornerFix!

I've used auto ISO max at 640 and auto shutter, so i'm on aperture priority. Composing with the 15mm is way off. I had to guess the composition. There's no way to compose using the M9's viewfinder, i need a 15mm external viewfinder to compose correctly. The widest the Leica M9 viewfinder can go is 28mm. I set my photo review for 1s, just for checking composition. Thats the only use of the LCD although i felt disgust looking at the quality of the LCD. i was like eeeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkk! I mean i can go on spilling out my hate of the LCD but you have to tried it yourself. Beat yourself in the head if you say "The LCD's alright".

The menu is simple on the M9. Its brilliant. No mumbos jumbos to deal with. Just set it once and forget. Set and forget. Forget about it!...(imitate Robert DeNiro slang). 

One thing Leica did to the digital Ms is that they staying true to their traiditions, taking out the battery and SD card is like taking out the film in Leica film days. You have to unscrew the bottom plate of the Leica and take it off, its unlike modern digital cameras where there is a flip door for battery and SD card. I didn't mind Leica did this but some are irritated by it.

I've set my max iso at 640 because i read somewhere that its the best ISO to bump up in low light. I could have use ISO1250 but i chose not to. Its about something how sensor meters the light bla bla bla, there's a chart that go with it, i'm not going into the technical stuff or the science of it, i just wanna take pictures. i never understand it anyways and i didn't even try. Here's the science though if you're interested . I didn't bother to read the whole thing, i just need to know that i just need to use ISO640, and bump it up in PP (post processing). By the way, thanks Jim Kasson for your research. I just realised there's like 16 part for that one particular topic.

The Voigtlander 15mm center is sharp. I'll post more pictures soon. I love wide angle. I dont have to take that many steps backward to get the whole picture. Although it will get distorted towards the edges. But thats the signature of wide angle.

I can take sharp images at 1/8sec with the M9. Its pretty incredible. No OIS and everything but the Leica M9 still take sharp pictures at slow shutter. Its amazing. The body is so rock solid that it's kinda stable and hard to shake. Of course your hands need to be extra steady. My friend used to say my hands are like a tripod or monopod because i can glide his GoPro videos like it was using a steadicam. So far indoor low light with max ISO640 is sufficient for me. I could pushed it in PP and i still get decent quality. 

So far i'm loving the IQ of this Leica M9. I am probably still in my honeymoon mode with the Leica, so everything is beautiful. Our Love is still blooming. Except for that LCD.

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