Now is a Good Time to Buy a Digital Leica M9


The Leica M9 came out in 2011, wow, it has already been 6 years.

A digital Leica won’t solve your life problems

Tokyo, 2011. Leica M9, flash, f16
Tokyo, 2011. Leica M9, flash, f16

I thought buying a digital Leica M9 would solve all my life problems in photography. It didn’t.

Eric Kim Leica M9 back.

I got a used Leica M9 in 2011 for around $5,000 USD, and it was awesome. I enjoyed the rangefinder experience, with fully manual focusing, and the optical viewfinder. Zone focusing was good for street photography.

Of course it soon collected dust on my shelf like all my (other) cameras. Regardless, I think it was a great camera.

What I don’t like about Leica M9

dark-skies-over-tokyo-dodge-leica-m9-2012eric kim street photograpy - black and white - Monochrome-5
Tokyo, 2012. Leica M9, flash, f16

Things that suck about it:

  1. Worst LCD screen I’ve seen. If you shoot above ISO 800, the lcd images look very pixelated. But this doesn’t happen to the real files.
  2. Buffer and write speeds are slow. If you take 6 photos in a row, the camera will freeze for a second or two, before you can shoot again.
  3. Color photos don’t look good above ISO 400.

What I like about Leica M9

Shooting street photography in Downtown LA with the Leica M9, 35mm lens, and off-camera flash. Photo by Rinzi Ruiz

Good things about it:

  1. Full frame: You can use normal M mount lenses on it, without annoying crop factor.
  2. True, manual focus, with optical viewfinder. Less technology than most modern digital cameras. Good to slow down, to zen out.
  3. Still looks cool. I prefer the Leica M9-P (without the Leica logo). Or you can just put black gaffers tape over the logos.
Downtown LA, 2011. Lowrider. Leica M9

Leica M8 makes good black and white files

Leica M8.2, Downtown La, 2016

I also think the Leica M8 is great for black and white photos. These are cheap now too. Just buy one with a used Voigtlander lens for an economic value digital rangefinder.

eric kim la sweat contact sheet
Contact sheet. Note, the buffer in the Leica M8 is slow as fuck.

Leica rotting sensor

Leica M9 Titanium – Only $30,000+. Aren’t you glad you didn’t buy this?

The Leica M9series has an issue with a rotting sensor issue. So if you buy a used one, make sure it was serviced by Leica in Germany.

Where to buy?

My old M9 Blacked our.

I would use eBay with a reputable seller. Or buy in Japan. Or on Craigslist. Or the Leica Forum, or the Rangefinder Forum.

Why Buy Leica M9 now?

Leica M9, Canon 430ex Flash, GoPro HD 960
Leica M9, Canon 430ex Flash, GoPro HD 960. My street photography flash setup (for recording).

It’s at the bottom of the digital product depreciation cycle. I don’t think it will get cheaper. Prices have stabilized, and the M9 is very cheap compared to M240 and Leica M10.

So if you want a digital rangefinder experience, the Leica M9 is the best bang for the buck.

Fingernails. Downtown LA, 2012. Leica M9 and flash.
Downtown LA, 2012. Leica M9 and flash.

Also, I think the digital files on the M9 (CCD SENSOR) has better colors and film grain simulation compared to the newer M240 and M10 (CMOS SENSOR).

How to shoot Leica?

Downtown LA, 2011 (shot with the Leica M9 and a 35mm lens and flash)