Saturday, June 15, 2013


Buying a used camera may seem marginal subject matter for a post, but this camera has a lot of baggage to it, so be prepared for a long story.
I was at at Pro Photo Supply picking up a SD card for another camera where I was trying to figure out whether the problem was the camera or the card in preparation for a vacation. Looking at the used camera area I noted there was a Leica M9. The price was significantly lower than the going price for a typical used M9. It turned out it was a "buy as is- repair needed/no guarantee". The camera had a bent SD contact point that the owner did not want to repair. The price that Leica had quoted to correct the problem plus purchase price would still be less than the going price used. So- why hadn't  this pretty good condition camera otherwise not flown off the shelf? The sales guy- who is pretty Leica knowledgeable- offered that the asking price was more of a gamble that people were willing to take for a nonfunctioning camera(one can buy a brand new top of the line Canon/Nikon/Sony/name it for less than the then-asking price and the typical M9 owner doesn't need to gamble on price). His advise was that the seller would be receptive to a lower price as it had sat on the shelf for several weeks. I put in a lower offer and it was accepted. 6 weeks later, I received it after repair from Leica NJ and it was in good working order. My cost was 65 cents on the dollar for a good condition used M9.
The preceding is not to crow about a good buy, but to explain how someone who wanted to buy the camera as soon as it was announced in 2009 finally purchased it in 2013. Backtrack to 1985 for my first Leica- a M3 with a Noctilux lens.  At that time, most of my photos were indoors at night with available light and while I was having some success with Nikons and f1.4 lenses, I was still looking for "better".   I had read that rangefinder cameras were easier to focus in low light, were more usable with low shutter speeds (no mirror bounce) and the Noctilux was 1 stop faster than the lenses I had at that time. I used the camera for the first time and loved the colors, the rendition of tones

and the responsiveness.

I acquired a M4-2  and  90mm lens, then traded the M4-2 for an M6. I needed 2 camera bodies as I switched b/w B&W and color as well as low speed vs high speed films. That kit was my company for the next twenty years.

Just as some music becomes part of you as the "soundtrack to your life" my Leicas were the witness and company to travels and experiences with family and friends.

Around 1992, I expanded my lens collection to a 35mm Summilux, the pre-aspheric version. I was very taken with it's small size and it became my favorite lens despite the fact that as one guy put it, f 1.4 should have "only use in emergency" due to the lens being soft and flare-prone wide open (think deluxe Holga).

shutterbug that I am, I spent no small amount of time taking photos at my own wedding.

At the turn of the century (quaintness intentional) I started to use digital photography . One of digital's great attractions  from the start was that one body could serve for either B&W or color in a wide range of ISOs. Together with a 35mm or 50mm  lens this would suffice for 90% of the photos I take.
In the early 2000's, I continued to use film as the digicams touted as high quality (Nikon D70) produced unsatisfactory results in demanding settings (low light, people) although it did work pretty well for other purposes. It was not until 2007 that a I used a digital camera (Fuji S5) which had an acceptable combination of dynamic range, ISO range and pixel count for all-around use.

The S5 with a 30mm F1.4  was still much bigger, however, than the MP/35mm combo (the MP was a 50 year-old birthday gift from my dear wife), so I relied on my MP for many applications until 2008 when Nikon introduced the D700.

Oh- yes, the Leica M8 came out in 2008. For a camera that wasn't very good in low light, made a 35mm lens into a 50mm lens, was buggy (infrared issues, etc) it was really expensive. As one of my colleagues put it - "that's a lot of (baby) deliveries". When the M9 came out in 2009, many of those shortcomings had been addressed but the damn thing was even more expensive than the M8. In the meanwhile the Nikon DSLR's had evolved to being really good.  The digital output in color was better than  film by then.  I still preferred film for B&W, but used it seldom as I could do 90% of what I wanted with the D700 with a 35 or 40mm lens.

Back to the future. I can now use the MP for B&W and the M9  for color which was the set up that had served me so well for so many years. I can also easily keep it to one camera and still have a very good monochrome option.  As important, I returned to the rangefinder operating mode that is my photographic home.

An excellent site on all things Leica is