Field Review: Leica M9 (Day 6)

As a Blind Photographer, I’ve found that shooting with a Leica M9 rangefinder allows me to shoot without my glasses. Why is this amazing? Because I’m almost legally blind. The only other cameras that can really allow for these abilities are the Micro Four Thirds cameras, but because of this it is essential that readers understand how a rangefinder focuses and works.

Here’s the jist of it: many of the readers of this blog shoot DSLRs. Think about the center focusing dot in your viewfinder being replaced with a rectangle. Now imagine pointing the lens at someone’s face so that the rectangle is over their nose. What you will immediately see is that the subject’s nose may not be seen through the viewfinder.

This is where focusing comes in. In order to focus the camera on their nose, one must focus the lens. When focusing, you’ll see different parts of reality move in and out of the rectangle. Line the nose up with what you’ll see in reality and you’ve got a perfectly focused lens.

Does this sound confusing? It is in a way, but that’s what actually is so great about it. Of any camera I’ve used or reviewed, the Leica M9 is the one that has the best manual focusing—hands down.

Perhaps this is why Leica toutes “precision” amongst their marketing. For a visually impaired photographer to be able to shoot without glasses on and focus correctly, accurately, and precisely is a big feet that a company should be proud of.

So does this mean it’s the perfect camera? Well, no. Long telephoto lenses don’t usually work well on rangefinders so sports and wildlife shooting can be very tough to do. Add onto this the fact that they can be very costly too. Further, there is no weather sealing for when one wants to go shooting in the rain (a favorite hobby of mine) and high ISO abilities aren’t at the levels of Canon or Nikon’s high end DSLR cameras.

To be fair though, the sheer simplicity of a rangefinder like this can be very appealing to many users. Additionally, they are built like tanks and are used in war zones and by many Magnum photographers.

If you’re going to make an investment into a rangefinder, decide carefully. It is a different type of camera meant for a different type and style of shooting.

The field review is almost finished! Stay tuned!

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.