Q&A: Peter asks about new Leica M vs. M9P/ME, and lenses.

Inspiration, Leica 35mm Summarit f/2.5, Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE f/1.4, Q&A

Leica M and M-E - Prosophos.

Hi Peter,

I wonder if you would want to give me your personal opinion about my next photographic step.

I adore the way you placed life’s little moments in the picture. As a physician too I already know how fragile life can be and that we have to live it by enjoying or at least inhaling every little good moment. Your photos are wonderful.

I mostly make pictures of people who I care about and when I am abroad for meetings or holidays. I am a hobbyist but invest in my eye and technique. As an interventional cardiologist I also developed an eye for quality materials and technique and therefore I recently decided to go for my childhood dream camera, an M…no snob-ism involved.

Initially I used a second hand M9P for a day to see if I would like it, and I did. The colors and clarity are stunning. I came from a Nikon D700 with 24,35,50,85 primes. I kept the D700 and a 50 mm since sometimes I will likely need AF or high ISO capabilities and its not a bad camera at all. However the M has something special. It forces me more to make a perfect composition and exposure and the results seems very nice.

I always said I would keep my budget within certain constrains so now I would like your opinion on how to spend my money best:

  • new M + 35 summarit, 50 summilux, 90 elmarit / summicron preASPH

  • ME or M9P + 35 summilux 35, 50 summilux, 90 elmarit / summicron preASPH

I do not need video or live view but I am a bit worried about the M9P/ME high ISO capabilities and its re-activeness. The new M also will be more responsive and more silent.

Did you experience the high ISO quality or responsiveness of the M9 as a creatively limiting factor? I tend to use the lowest ISO setting I can and do not do a lot inside but as you do, sometimes I do. However I would like to have wide aperture lenses usable at full aperture or slightly stopped down. That way I guess I will rarely need higher than ISO 800 and I guess than image quality is still OK. I still have the Nikon D700 when really low light performance counts but I expect me to not have it with me anymore…
I tend to go for the extremely expensive summilux 35 more then a more expensive camera (new M). Do you like its character and can you comment on the difference with the rendering of the summarit 35?

Also did you have any troubles with skintones on the M9? What is your workflow there? Do you set your white balance ad hoc or later?

Many thanks

Peter.”

Hello Peter,

So many questions!  I’ll be concise, but hopefully comprehensive, in my responses.

In a nutshell, given you already have a D700, I would recommend:

  • M-E or M9(P) with EITHER 35 or 50 Summilux*.

(*i.e. one lens.  I wouldn’t bother with any other for now.  And really, it will free you.)

I should also inform you that I am biased towards CCD sensor-based cameras, even though the new “M” will have many features, the “older” technology wins out for me at base ISO (at least until I’ve seen evidence to the contrary).

Your question about the 35 Summilux vs. 35 Summarit:   Both are capable, but the 35 Summilux is the optically “superior” lens (sharpness, micro-contrast, etc), however it tends to “paint” with bold strokes which is desirable for some subject matter but may be too harsh for others.  The 35 Summarit, on the other hand, is a little more classic/delicate in its rendering with a smoother bokeh.   It’s a lovely little lens.  You may view examples from both the 35 Summarit and 35 Summilux on my site:

https://prosophos.com/category/leica-35mm-summarit-f2-5/

https://prosophos.com/category/leica-35mm-summilux-asph-fle-f1-4/

Ultimately, which you prefer is really a matter of personal taste, but if you opt for an M9 (vs. the new M), you really should purchase a Summilux lens for low light work.  Also, the Summilux (50 or 35) lenses are something special and need to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

As for your question regarding whether the low ISO constraints of the M9 limit creativity, I’ll let my images speak for themselves.  I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but as a practical answer.

Finally, I shoot in DNG (RAW) format and am able to make minor colour adjustments easily during post-processing, so I do not have any issues with “skin tones”.

I hope this helps, and I thank you for your very kind comments regarding my work.  Despite my answer above, I really do think the new M will be a terrific camera, so I believe you can’t go wrong either way.

Respectfully,

—Peter.

8 thoughts on “Q&A: Peter asks about new Leica M vs. M9P/ME, and lenses.

  1. Well thanks for asking these questions Peter as I am sure there would be a few people interested. Thanks for answering Peter!

    Good luck Peter and enjoy!

    I have just jumped into the RF world, finally, via an M6 (classic) to go with a 50 lux ASPH I have had on hand waiting patiently. To fulfil one of my 2013 goals was to shoot more film so will be a good way to also try out using a RF camera.

    After one roll of Velvia i can say I really enjoyed it, though I don’t think it’s a camera best designed for this type of film. Not sure why but feel B&W film will be a better match. Peter I would interested on your thoughts here? Did you gravitate to one over the other (BW vs. colour) when using your MP?

    I have an old Canon EOS 5 SLR and felt the Velvia colours rendered better on this camera than the M6!!

    M6 now loaded with TX400!

    1. Hi Andrew,

      I ended up gravitating towards Kodak Tri-X 400, but that decision was primarily made because of the need to do home processing. I was dissatisfied with the (lack of) quality control of the local film labs.

      Having said that, the look and resolution of classic B&W film is appreciably nicer than most commercial colour film (sans colour, of course).

  2. Hello Doctor Peter,

    I’ve recently gone through about the same thought process you’re dealing with now. I’ve been following Peter’s blog here for a while and his images with the M9 helped me decide to upgrade my system to the M-E from a Ricoh GXR-M and Nikon D200 prior to that.

    I did not consider the M240 because it really doesn’t exist yet for those of us not at the top of the big waiting lists and its delivery date has already been pushed back a couple times. I didn’t think I’d see one till end of this year, if then.

    I was given permission, by my better half, to make the jump and did not want to wait and she change her mind. For my primary lens I decided on the a 50mm Summilux. I couldn’t afford the latest version but found a mint pre-ASPH that was 6 bit coded.

    Since I travel a lot as a pilot I quit carrying my Nikon D200 a long time ago and the Ricoh GXR-M filled the void. For my Leica kit, I’ve decided on the 28 – 50 – 90 lens combination. I had a 35mm Summicron v2 that I was shooting with on my Ricoh GXR-M but found it a little wide for my primary lens on the M-E. I figured if I wanted to go wide, the 28mm would do the job.

    I’ve since added a Leica 90mm Elmarit-M e46 and have my eye on a pre-ASPH 28mm Elmarit.

    Which ever way you decide as you can see from Peter’s photos here on his blog with the different Summilux’s he shoots with you will be very happy with the results. Don’t worry about the ISO, I agree with Peter I just really love the look and feel the Kodak CCD sensor delivers and at least one fast lens solves most of the ISO issues.

    Good luck and look forward to your images that I hope Peter here will share!

      1. Thanks my friend Peter.

        Indeed I fully agree with your answer: an M9 + fast lens is the best combo so far — as the samples of the new M isn’t quite good.

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