These days, it looks like every major camera manufacturer is coming out with a new addition to the MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) class of bodies and lenses. The latest, of course, is Canon, with its EOS-M camera. These units, typically smaller than your average DSLRs, have been getting better and better, packing some serious punch into a very small form factor.
Thing is, in all the hype behind cameras like the EOS-M and Fuji’s X100 and X-Pro1 bodies, people forget that MILCs have been around before companies like Sony, Fuji, and Olympus made them popular. Way back in 2006, a good three years before Olympus came out with its retro-styled Micro-Four-Thirds-based camera, Leica introduced its first digital rangefinder, the M8.
Powered by a 10.3MP crop sensor, the body retained almost all of the classic Leica styling that’s been aped so much now, and kept the lens mount the same, so that almost all M-series lenses could fit onto this new digital body.
The M9, which BorrowLenses.com carries, kept the same general body shape of the M8, but upped the sensor to an 18.3MP full-frame sensor. It also added some very nice features, including better high ISO performance, a better EV compensation system, and exposure bracketing (though it feels kinda weird to try and shoot HDR with a Leica).
Leica users also happen to be some of the
biggest zealots most passionate folks out there. I’m not talking about the rich guys who like to hang an M9 from their neck for the cache that the little red dot on the camera’s body provides. I’m talking about the guys who, day in and day out, use (and abuse) their Leicas to produce great imagery.
The drop-dead simplicity and reliability of the original Leica film cameras made them a favorite from the streets of Paris to the war zones of Vietnam. Even today, there are some fantastic shooters using Leica film cameras to create some astonishing images. Last month, we featured photographer Daniel Milnor’s work, for example. Daniel’s favorite camera and lens combo is a Leica M4 film camera and a 50mm lens.
Assuming for a moment that where’s there’s hype, there’s sometimes a modicum of substance, I decided to shoot with the Leica M9 for an extended period of time. The idea wasn’t to do a full-on review, but rather, to talk about the experience of shooting with the digital successor to a legendary system.
This, folks, is the Leica Diary.
I chose these lenses after reading a bit about one of the most famous Leica users in history, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Bresson is said to have shoot the majority of his images with a 50mm, occasionally branching out to the 35mm and the 90mm lenses. I would be, I thought, in good company with this kit, and I didn’t want to overload myself with an abundance of choices.
The Leica, to my delight, uses the DNG format for its RAW files, which is absolutely fantastic for me, as my workflow involves converting everything to DNG. I used Lightroom 4.1 to process my images, and will refrain from doing much more than the occasional B&W conversion using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.
After the first week alone, I’ve got a plethora of thoughts and experiences to share, and plan on doing so in bite-size, manageable chunks. Look for Part II of my Leica Diary next week, as I go over my initial shooting experiences.