Transition Period.

Inspiration, Q&A, Teaching point

For the first time in five years, I am without a digital Leica M (my Leica M9 is gone, and so are my Leica lenses).

I don’t see myself purchasing another digital Leica M again, unless:

  • The sensor is state of the art.  Leica seems intent on never going back to CCD (despite my best efforts), but the CMOS sensor in the M240 was a disappointment.  There are better CMOS sensors out there.
  • Leica regains its focus on still image photography.   With the M240 and its already-obsolete-at-launch EVF, they produced a product with “me too” add-on gimmickry at a premium price.  Thank goodness they weren’t silly enough to drop the rangefinder focusing mechanism, or else all would have been lost.
  • Leica improves its quality control, and the reliability of its products.


The Leica M3 and Voigtländer Nokton 40mm are still with me.

The Mamiya RZ67 is with me.

My deep connection to rangefinders will remain with my M3, and I will continue to develop my portrait photography with the formidable RZ67.  Both of these are, of course, film cameras.

I’ll therefore be exploring another digital system.

In fact, it’s already in my hands.


59 thoughts on “Transition Period.

  1. I know I don’t have your experience by far, but I can give you some advice regarding Sony A7R. It IS great, and you can keep all your leica glass, that will work wonders.

    Now that I write you, I can tell you I love your photographs. I aspire being half as you are with the photographs I take to my own children. I’m seriously considering the Noctilux for my A7, not the 0.95, althought I would love to, because of the insane price, but the f/1. Sill bearable to my economy.

    Keep the good work, and congrats,

    1. Diego, thank you very much.

      I have taken a good look at the A7R, and I may have (or may have not) purchased it 😉 .

      As for the Noctilux, the native Sony 55mm F1.8 ZA for your A7R will outperform the Noctilux f/1, though of course will not offer an aperture of f/1. However, if you can tolerate f/1.1, the Voigtlander Nokon 1.1 will be a better bet too. Just my opinion, of course.


      1. Yeah, the Nokton is really interesting, and as you say, better than the noctilux quality wise. However, I really like the “dreamy” look of the swirl bokeh of the Noctilux f/1, and also the falloff. If I can find it sharp at the center, this is exactly what I like. The Voigtländer is just “too perfect”, which is nice, sometimes.

      2. Ditto on that.

        I had the Noct 0.95 to use recently for a little over a week and discovered that it was pretty much unusable on the M 240 in daylight conditions. Too much CA in the OOF areas of the frame; didn’t matter if it was high contrast or low contrast, high or low light — there was “Italian flagging” everywhere. The images were so bad that I had to convert the color images that I wanted to use into monochrome.

        Terrible shame. I used three versions of the Noct 1.0 together with film over the years, but nothing ever looked as bad as what I was getting with the 0.95. I returned the 0.95 and decided to keep my 50 Lux ASPH instead — it doesn’t have any of the CA problems that the 0.95 does.

  2. Peter, I’m intrigued, but I’m very happy with my M240 and my Nikon Df. The Df/D4/D4S sensor has about the nicest colour rendition I’ve come across. I have a more troubled relationship with my D800E but there still isn’t anything better for landscape work.

    I look forward to your test shot…

  3. Why don’t you keep the m9? Or m9p I only enjoy your m9 shots.i think m9 is magical tool for your point of view, for some reason i dont see the joy on any other camera you playing with

  4. Hello Peter.

    I have been looking at a system to complement my M, and I bet you’re testing the same system. Small, fairly lightweight, NOT full frame, micro contrast very similar to Leica (something you demand), and very fast primes that yield fframe shallow depth. Many pros are raving about the system. I look forward to your reveal!

  5. Hello Peter, What a surprise!
    I love your M9 images & its really your signature.
    Having influenced by your Leica experience, I have let myself own a good set up of M9, MM & various lenses.
    I guess life will evolve itself and it will be good for you.
    Happy for you!

    1. Hi Michael,

      Make no mistake about it: I still believe the M9 and Leica lenses currently offer the best small-camera size-to-image-quality combination. I’m just ready for a change, but still want to shoot with a rangefinder (hence my holding on to my M3).

      I know some people tend to get a little upset when I make changes to my equipment (this always surprises me), but — as I wrote to a few people tonight who emailed me privately — I urge you all to follow your own path…

      1. Thank you Peter! In my heart, you are my “teacher” & reference. So when you make that change again, suddenly, a balance is lost from within. More & more that balance readjusted itself. However, when I come to think about it deeper, that will also mean I will need to grow & “follow my path”! Thanks so much again for the inspiration.

      2. It would be funny if you announced that, all along, your M9 images were actually taken with a Digital Rebel. 🙂 Seriously though, I like the delay in announcing what you’ve chosen to replace the M9. It causes the readers/viewers to think about change themselves yet forces them think of their own “best camera” requirements without influence.

        1. mikeyjive wrote:

          “It would be funny if you announced that, all along, your M9 images were actually taken with a Digital Rebel.”

          Or, if all subsequent images are taken with the M9, but I tell you it’s another camera 😉

          Seriously though…

          Yes, re-thinking things is a good idea. As I wrote in another email tonight, with respect to my decision vs. another individual’s upcoming one:

          1. Rangefinders are unique. Therefore any other system will be (very) different.
          2. People are different. Each of us has to find our own path.

          What this means, of course, is that my choices may differ from yours. The system I’m moving towards will be very different (Point #1 above) and I might like it, but you may not (Point #2).

          1. Oh yeah, forgot to guess. I will say some sort of Medium Format system. If it was the Sony, you’d have kept the Leica lenses. And, as nice as the Micro Four-Thirds and APS-C offerings are, I also think it’d be difficult to leave the M9 for those options without some second thoughts.

  6. Bravo for change! I am not a follower or a forecaster of equipment…if I were, I would venture a guess just for the fun of it….but I can’t wait to see what you do/find/create next. What a wonderful expression of spring!

      1. Honestly, I have this internal turmoil that makes it difficult for me to use another camera besides it. The problem is, it is large (similar to a nikon d4) and thus will use my Leica M240 frequently (I won’t comment about it’s image quality because I already know your opinion, haha).

        Last, I will admit I’m also a camera hoarder and also own a Nikon Df. I purchased it mostly to shoot at night (plan on using it a lot very soon when traveling shooting landscape). The Nikon Df is nice and I really like all the external dials and controls. I still find myself drawn to the M240 because of the rangefinder mechanism. I really enjoy the challenge of shooting a rangefinder.


        1. I really like what you’ve done with your S2. For me, the “makes it difficult to use another camera” feeling comes from my Mamiya RZ67, loaded up with Kodak Tri-X. Honestly, anything else I shoot with these days seems subpar. The Df IQ is very nice, I just wish its per-pixel sharpness was better.

  7. Considering the quote you posted in January about bigger sensor = better image quality, and not being fooled by marketing, one must assume it is a full frame digital or else you have succumbed and become fooled by marketing. 🙂

  8. It has to be Fuji XT1 and 56/f1.2. That should give you a look similar look to the one you get now.

    But if CCD is your preference you should have gotten yourself a second hand Leica S2! 🙂 Yes the lenses are very expensive but you can also use older lenses for the Mamiya and Hasselblad system

    1. I had two requirements: (1) I wanted one camera and one lens that delivered exceptional image quality with great versatility, and (2) I limited the budget to a portion of the proceeds of the sale of my M9P and 50/1.4 and 75/2.5.

      1. The question is then, do you need full frame? If yes I predict A7R and the 55 1.8, otherwise it has to be XT1 + 56 1.2 (or 35 1.4?). The fujifilm PP is the one tham now makes me feel you will find a problem… In any case, good luck with your choice, I look forward to seeing your “new” work with the new camera/lens.

  9. I am very interested in what you are going to announce Peter. I bought an M240 last year, but ended up selling it as I preferred the rendering of my M9. As my M9 was getting a bit long in the tooth, I looked around to see if there was anything out there that could replace it. I purchased a Sony A7R, which I initially used with my Leica lenses. This didn’t last long though, as I found accurate focusing with them was too time consuming, plus the native Sony lenses are incredibly sharp. I purchased the Sony 55 1.8 in December and have been using it for a few months now along side my m9 and 50 Summilux. My conclusion is that the Sony is sharp and incredibly detailed, but it does have an artificial CMOS look to it in certain photos, particularly shooting against the light. It also renders the bokeh differently to the Summilux. Both very good, but the Summilux has clear layers which I love. Finally, the Sony doesn’t seem to produce any lens flare at all. I really enjoy shooting my Summilux into the sun and getting nice flare but retaining high contrast images. I cannot get this dreamy look with the Sony.

    So what did I do? I purchased a mint M9-P.

  10. Phase One with new CMOS sensor…..Now that would be a serious investment!

    No idea actually, I do care but I don’t…’ll keep delivering the goods Peter (which I have much faith in!). And besides if it doesn’t “gel” well there are hundreds of M9’s being sold each day. The supply is growing in Oz.

    My other guess was a new iPhone 5s….

  11. Very interesting! Look forward to hearing about the change. I think it is a good choice to move on from gear you are not entirely happy with. Especially given how much it costs!

  12. Well, ain’t we got fun?!

    All else being equal, I’d have thought the new Fuji X-T1. Very good, fast primes, analogue control, great EVF, and pretty useful manual focusing. BUT it is a 1.5x crop sensor, something you’ve previously avoided assiduously, not to mention you’ve been a raw shooter and the mainstream converters by adobe still are something short of perfect with that trans x sensor, so if you wanted to get the most out of it you’d probably need to “complicate” your post processing workflow.

    As a former Nikon user (who might yet have a lens or two), I’m guessing not a Canon. Sony gives you slightly decreased performance with no concomitant gain in its DSLR line. You’ve previously tried and failed to bond with the Pentax 645D, so not medium format (and beside something like the Phase One line would likely not be a “portion” of the Leica gear proceeds not to mention there’s the Mamiya already).

    That leaves us with two candidates: the small, light, but lens challenged A7r or the not quite perfectly executed imitation retro Df. I’m going Df as a guess on the basis of the use any Nikon lens, the fact it’s stills only, the shoot black cats in a coal mine high ISO capability, the fail the RX-1 was with you, and finally your “roots” being the D3. If you can get around the somewhat fiddly controls and it’s mostly AF character, I suspect it’d be a wonderful tool in your hands.

    All of which probably proves I don’t have the faintest clue… but what else is new?

  13. Dear Peter,

    your photos with M9 and lenses and comments on M9 and lenses accompanied my own rangefinder journey over the past years. Although I do not share all your opinions (especially on sensors), your photos and your way to take pictures were and will continue to be an invaluable enrichment. Sorry to hear your disappointment on Leica that motivated your radical change. For me it will be exciting to read and see, what you have chosen and how your photographic style will develop along with the new tools.

    For me personally, Leica remains – despite all quirks and shortcomings – the ultimate tool for people centric photography. For the remainder, it is the Fourthirds Olympus cameras with the wide range of lightweight but capable lenses from Olympus and Panasonic that gives me the best compromise of quality, flexibility and versatility.

    Looking forward,


    1. Thank you Johannes. I am in complete agreement that rangefinders are the ultimate tool for people-centric photography, and that is why my M3 remains. When Leica has sorted out its digital faults and regained their focus (no pun intended) I’ll obviously look to them again. But, for my general family-oriented and work-horse photography needs, I am looking to a more robust system. Thank you again for your comments.

    1. Ha ha… I haven’t even posted a shot yet! It’s been surprisingly difficult… the light yesterday was awful, but today it’s better.

      Thanks for playing, but you must choose one — and if you’re really brave, pick a lens to go with it.

  14. Ok, Peter. You have chosen a Nikon without AA Filter – the D800E, add a high speed standard lens with good manual focussing capabilities – the Zeiss Otus – and replace the original focussing screen with something that is supporting MF.

  15. You’re full of surprises Peter….. 🙂 I envy your ability to “camera cleanse”! I really have no idea which way you’ve gone but I can’t imagine you moving away from a FF camera, if I were in the same boat…..maybe A7 or A7r with Zeiss Otus 55/1.4

  16. Peter, I read with great interest your comments and am eager to learn what camera you are currently testing. Anyway, I understand your frustration with Leica. I suspect most people would wonder why I am sticking with my M9. Before I relate my experience with this camera, let me say that I really do love it. I love to hold it…I love its simplicity…I love the CCD sensor and what it can deliver…I love its build…. It reminds me of the Pentax Spotmatic film camera that I had for so many years and loved. Same kind of look and feel. HOWEVER,

    I’m losing confidence in the M9. I bought my M9 in 2010, and in 2012 discovered that I had a cracked sensor. Now Leica replaced the sensor within two weeks free of cost. Nevertheless, it was an experience that started me thinking about putting so much money into a camera that has something like this happen, particularly because I know that I was not the only person to have experienced this. I don’t know how many owners have experienced cracked sensors, but it’s been a problem discussed about this camera model.

    Last week, again, I brought my camera to Leica since I was seeing spots on my images that appeared to be more than dust. I remove dust on the sensor with a Giotto Rocket Blower but didn’t resolve the spots that I was seeing. I thought that the spots may have been oil spots because I had also had this experience previously with the camera. Sure enough some of the spots were oil spots, but Leica could not tell me how the oil spots got on the sensor and only acknowledged that lenses are lubricated and can leak oil. Anyway, this turned out to be the good news because oil spots are easily cleaned. However, the bad news turned out to be that my sensor was also damaged, and to be more specific the coating on the sensor was damaged. I asked how this could of happened, particularly when I am very careful with the camera and do not frequently change my lenses–I have a 35 asph version 2 Lux, which I use 80% of the time, and the 50 asph Lux. I was asked if the camera was exposed to much humidity. During the summer when I am in Maine, there can be a lot of humidity. I store the camera in a class book case, but don’t do anything else to protect it. Leica apparently has a good will program, and it was suggested that the cost of materials could very likely be covered under this program, particularly given my experience and the fact that my camera is only a little over 4 years old. I will be responsible for the cost of labor.

    This has really shaken my confidence in the camera and what the future might hold for it. I am going to stay with it because I so enjoy shooting with it even with its limitations, particularly regarding its ISI. But do you have any advice about maintaining it. Any thought about the oil spots that I have experienced twice now? Any thoughts about the coating being damaged considering I was not abusing this camera at all or continuously exposing it to extreme temperatures or humidity? How do you protect your equipment and what did you do to protect the M9? Did you do anything special with the M9 when traveling–In the fall, I plan to take the camera to Ireland. Thanks for any help or suggestions.

    1. Hi George,

      Like you, I consider the M9’s image quality and ergonomics second to none. I still believe this, even though I have a new camera system in my hands. I’ve just gotten to the point where my frustration with Leica reliability (more specifically, lack of) has overtaken my desire to own the camera.

      I was careful with my M9, in the sense that I was careful not to drop it, or knock it against anything, or get it wet, but took no other precautions. The way I see it is that the camera is there to be used, not babied.

      Given this, I have no special advice for its maintenance.

      Thanks for your detailed message,


  17. FWIW, I sincerely hope you didn’t purchase an A7.

    I received one as a Christmas present from my wife and began using it on December 25th. By January 5th it was dead… the system board and CMOS chip had fried. Sony took over a month to repair the camera, but I’d lost all faith in the camera and them as a company by the time it was returned. I’ve since sold it and used the proceeds to fund my new M 240.

  18. Peter, I have seen passion. But you my friend when it comes to photography, A King of Passion :). I understand your dillemma, and what lead you to your decision, I am facing that issues as well. But I dont think I will ever sell my M9, is like you telling me to sell my baby, just because he or she is old and sick now. Get my point.

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