Leica finally delivers – at a price – for the rest of us, it’s Micro Four Thirds all the way

Written by Gary on September 11th, 2009

Leica M film camera fanatics around the world have long been waiting for a true digital version of their much valued 35mm film interchangeable lens rangefinder cameras which were the mainstay of well-heeled street photographers of the 20th century.

The Leica M8 digital had to utilise a 1.3x crop sensor and inadequate IR filtration in order to deal with the optical problems posed by the very short lens mount to sensor distance of the Leica M lenses.

Now with the new Leica M9, it seems that Kodak have been able to overcome the issues and even do so with a full frame 35mm sensor which finally realises the potential of the much coveted Leica M lenses.

Although I am not a Leica camera user (I can only afford the Panasonic GH-1 and Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens), I come from a background of Olympus OM use and can appreciate the benefits of the Leica design when used as a candid camera.

I use my GH-1 in a similar way by combining it with an Olympus OM 21mm lens so I can set a focus and aperture without lifting the camera to my eye, and in shutter priority mode with auto-ISO know that I should be able to get the shot I need.

If all one wished to do is this, then Leica have their fixed lens option – the Leica X1 but at $US2000 – most people would get far more bang for their buck with the Micro Four Thirds system – see this blog.

Back to the Leica M9.

At 18mp, full frame, with no anti-alias filter to degrade the sharpness of the Leica M lenses, it becomes the smallest, lightest, full frame digital camera with interchangeable lenses and promises to be able to deliver high quality images – perhaps even better than current 20+ mp full frame dSLRs.

BUT, there is a BIG problem – the body will set you back $US6000, then you need to look at about $US3000 for a lens. Only a fanatic will pay that much for such a specialised camera – although it is a very nice camera system.

In addition, the lack of live view means there is no alternative to the rangefinder view, so you cannot get a through-the-lens view and this means that even if you could use other non-Leica-M mount lenses, you would not be able to focus with them. This of course will not be an issue with those who buy the M9 as they will already have their set of Leica M lenses and would not use anything else anyway.

This all brings us back to why so many people are excited by the Micro Four Thirds system – it brings for the first time, most of the benefits of the the Leica M world (no rangefinder version yet though) and combines them with features of the dSLR world as well as the digital video world, and all in a relatively affordable, compact and light package.

A GH-1 with 14-140mm HD lens sounded expensive at $US1599, but when you consider that the lens itself is worth more than half of this price, and the versatility this camera offers, it is really not a bad option.

More information on the Leica M9 at:

Oh, and it seems demand for the Leica M9 is high, even at that price with photographers trading in their big, heavy Canon 1DsMIII and Nikon D3’s – see here.


6 Comments so far ↓

  1. roger brown says:

    gary may i ask does the leica D 25mm 1.4 auto focus on the GH1? im considering getting this lens or wait till next month to get the new 20mm 1.7 lumix lens

  2. admin says:

    Hi Roger, yes the 25mm f/1.4 does AF with GH-1 but only after you install the firmware update for the lens.

    It does not do continuous AF in video mode (only the 14-140mm HD does that), but you can do intermittent AF during video.

    It is a beautiful but big, heavy and expensive lens – and of course works on Four Thirds as well.

    I love the aperture ring – unfortunately this does not work with Olympus cameras though.

    I suspect the 20mm will have a lot more aberrations and less resolution, but most of the aberrations will be corrected in camera.

    I must admit, I would like both lenses, but could not really justify having them both. I am not sorry I bought the 25mm lens though – it is very nice indeed!

  3. roger brown says:

    thanks for that gary i take it the apature ring works when its mounted on the GH1? yeah i know what you are saying its seems to be a very good lens its hard to resist it 🙂 though the 20mm 1.7 might be a lot more practible,anyway thanks for the fantastic blog you have here regards roger

  4. admin says:

    aperture ring works fine on the GH-1.

    the 20mm would suit the size of the GH-1 better, and will be cheaper.

  5. roger brown says:

    might just get a GF1 with the 1.7 lens might be the better option can have 2 micro four third bodies

  6. Caske says:

    Now after which I’ll stumble across a article like this and I’ll recall that there really are still exciting pages …