|1. Leica cameras are considered to be less obtrusive than a DSLR thanks to the quieter shutter. 2. The all-metal die-cast magnesium exterior is available in a choice of steel-gray or black-paint dip-painted finish with a synthetic leather covering. 3. The 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD monitor is available for image review, though it’s not Live View.
ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: $6,995
While the high price point of the Leica M9 is certainly not for the faint of heart, you can’t deny the stylish elegance for which the historic M Series of Leica rangefinders are known. As a rangefinder, it offers a couple advantages over traditional DSLR systems. The viewfinder system shows more than just the frame, for instance. This allows photographers to be more flexible by showing them the surrounding areas of a scene instead of only the composition, particularly useful for photographers shooting action or photojournalists taking reportage. That being said, while you can set some of the basics like ISO, white balance, exposure correction and bracketing, the M9 lacks many of the typical features that you’d find in a DSLR, including autofocus.
The M9 improves on the previous M8 and M8.2 generations, the first digital cameras in the line, by increasing the previous 27mm sensor to full-frame, 18-megapixel proportions. The full-frame 24x36mm sensor, developed by Kodak, provides image resolutions of 5270x3516 and no crop factor when used with M Series lenses, compared to the 1.33x magnification of the M8/8.2’s APS-C sensor. The Leica M9’s Leica M bayonet is compatible with more than five decades of highly regarded M Series lenses that range from 16mm to 135mm, making it a compelling choice for photographers already invested in Leica who haven’t made the jump to digital with the M8/8.2. The M9 includes 6-bit coding for recording lens type in EXIF data, which allows the M9 to compensate for vignetting by model. Newer Leica flash units also will automatically adjust to the focal length of the attached lens.
Bundled with the camera is a free Photoshop Lightroom download, ideal for use as the image-management and editing software for the M9’s native RAW format, which is Adobe’s open-standard DNG format. Sensitivity ranges from a low of ISO 80 to a high of ISO 2500 in 1/3 ISO increments. The camera accepts SD/SDHC cards up to 32 GB.