GETTING BACK TO BASICS with the Leica M9


Here’s the truth. Anyone can take a beautiful photograph. The advanced technology in today’s cameras, even the most basic point-and-shoot, makes it easier than ever. And with a few artsy apps and a creative eye, even an iPhone can deliver gallery worthy images. Seriously. 

But what if you want to do more than make a pretty picture? What if you want to slow down the experience of preserving a moment, a place? Or distill the creative process of photography down to its essence?  

Enter the Leica M9

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Until recently, I thought I knew a thing or two about photography. After a week with the M9 in hand, as part of a Seedlight photography workshop, I realize I want to know more, that I’m ready to dig deeper. 

Taking place in remote Chilean Patagonia, the Leica sponsored workshop, led by Conservation Photojournalist Bridget Besaw, and hosted by Patagonia Sur, provided the ideal setting to learn and record the story of Patagonia conservation in legendary Leica style.

A self-taught shutterbug, I grew up in the age of auto-everything photography. My first camera was a Canon Sure Shot. As I moved up to Canon SLRs then DSLRs, I improved my knowledge of F-stops and shutter speeds and refined my photograher’s eye. But I never really started from scratch. Which is why shooting with the Leica was such a pleasure - and a challenge.

First, there was the transition from a through-the-lens SLR to a what-you-see-is-not-entirely-what-you-get rangefinder camera. Then, as embarrassing as it is to admit, there was the challenge of manually selecting the perfect trifecta of focus, shutter speed and aperture. Additionally, the Leica required me to anticipate the decisive moment and prepare for it, as opposed to reacting to it.   

It was precisely this getting back to basics, however, that made shooting with the M9 such a joy. It felt like I was truly making a photograph, rather than taking one. If I shot indiscriminately, the Leica punished me with out-of-focus, ill composed images. But when I got it right, the reward was a photograph I could be proud of. 

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shot with Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/1 at f/1.7

Honestly, I never did get it right. It was hard work framing correctly with the rangefinder and getting the focus right, especially at shallow depths of field or situations where the subject was active. 

But that’s what made the Leica so addicting. It simultaneously frustrated and inspired me. It slowed me down and connected me with the pure visceral joy of crafting a photograph. 

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shot with Leica Summilux-M 24 mm f/1.4 at f/6.7

Favorite feature: It’s impossible to narrow down the M9’s best features to a single one. From its superior image quality and Zen-like simplicity to its unassuming size and durability, the M9 is an exceptional camera in every category. 

Not so favorite feature: The price tag. Superiority doesn’t come cheap. The body alone is seven grand. Add to that the expense of Leica glass and we’re talking serious money. A Leica 24mm f/1.4 Summilux-M lens, for example, costs as much as the camera and a Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M sells for $10,995.00. (Sure glad I didn’t know that when I was thigh-deep in river rapids with the Noctilux photographing the fly-fishing shot above. YIKES.) 

Bottom line: I’m hooked. The M9 is top of the wishlist. 

Click here to view a full photo gallery of images produced at the workshop. 

The Leica M9 is available for purchase at Leica.com or from authorized Leica retailers, including The Travel Store at EllenBarone.com powered by Amazon. Suggested retail price, $6,995.00. 

Camera Specs:

  • Camera Format:  Full-Frame
  • Resolution Effective Pixels:  18.0 Megapixels 
  • Sensor Type / Size:  CCD, 24 x 36 mm
  • Bit Depth:  14-bit
  • Memory Card Type:  SD, SDHC
  • Display Screen: 2.5” Rear Screen   LCD (230000)
  • ISO Sensitivity: 80-2500
  • Shutter: 8 - 1/4000 sec
  • Metering Method:  Center-weighted average metering
  • Exposure Modes:  Aperture Priority, Auto, Manual, Shutter Priority
  • White Balance Modes:  Auto, Manual, Preset Manual
  • Dimensions (WxHxD):  5.47 x 1.46 x 3.15” / 139 x 37 x 80 mm
  • Weight:  20.64 oz / 585 g Body with battery

About Leica Camera:

Leica represents a union of craftsmanship, technology and experience. It is at once an extension of art, knowledge and philosophy, providing a state-of-the-art optical experience in a precision, hand-made photographic instrument. Leica Camera has a simple mission: to provide users with an incomparable experience, an instrument that defines an unsurpassed heritage and sets a standard of excellence for the industry to meet. www.leica.com

About Seedlight Workshops:

Seedlight workshops use advocacy photojournalism to elevate environmental awareness through the creation of powerful imagery that reminds the viewer of the importance of protecting the planet. Seedlight workshops connect photographers with a passion for the environment to environmental organizations with urgent, compelling stories that need telling.  Photographers are partnered with local and global environmental organizations working at the heart of the story. Each workshop focuses on creating effective visual media projects while helping environmental organizations to better utilize visual storytelling in their work. www.seedlightworkshops.com

About Patagonia Sur:

Patagonia Sur is a for-profit conservation venture that invests in, protects, and enhances scenically remarkable and ecologically valuable properties in Chilean Patagonia.  An innovative blend of conservation + capitalism, Patagonia Sur seeks to deliver competitive financial returns to investors by preserving pristine ecosystems and the traditional culture of Patagonia in perpetuity by developing and nurturing a diverse portfolio of self-sustaining and environmentally sensitive businesses.www.PatagoniaSur.com

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".