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Thread: Liberated by the M9...

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    Liberated by the M9...

    Landscape photography is my primary passion and my main tool for this type of shooting has been my Nikon D700 FF DSLR and assorted pro-level glass. I also have a m4/3 setup with a good variety of native lenses that I use as a backup or for not-so demanding situations.

    Given the weight and bulk of the Nikon setup, I've been toying around with the notion of giving it all up and just using m4/3s but couldn't bring myself to give up the DR and noise performance of the FF setup. I will also preface this by saying that I am very demanding in terms of IQ in my photos - to the point where I was ready to have the AA filter on my D700 removed as I found the output of this camera to be bit mushy in landscape use (e.g. leaf detail) and I like to shoot compositions that look best printed large.

    I did get a Pany G3 to replace my G1 and it closes some of the IQ gap but still not comparable in terms of DR and noise to the D700.

    This internal dialog intensified recently as I was planning a trip to Zion and Bryce and given the amount of hiking I wanted to do, was not looking forward to carrying all the FF gear

    The internal debate heated up and I must have made up my mind each way three different times when a sudden flare up of some back and hip issues forced my hand and pretty much forced me to leave the heavy gear at home.

    Enter the M9 and Leica glass - I've been slowly accumulating this setup and had a nice collection of primes which suited my landscape needs well so I packed this up as my main setup with m4/3 as backup. I've always lusted after Leica gear but never associated Leica with landscape work so I wasn't sure what to expect in the field.

    My Leica kit consisted of an M9 + 35mm cron, 50mm lux, 90mm elmarit, and Zeiss 25mm f2.8 Biogon. This all fit nicely in a an A&A ACAM7100 messenger bag with assorted ND filters, spare battery, and nicknacks.

    This kit was highly portable and I had no difficulty taking it with me everywhere - even on the more challenging vertical hikes.

    I know several folks have gone through the same process - either migrating to m4/3 exclusively or Leica gear, but it was a revelation for me in terms of the IQ I was able to achieve with such a compact setup. The M9 plus aforementioned lenses easily out-resolve my D700. And while the ISO noise performance of the M9 is not as good, that is one area where I am most willing to compromise as I usually use a tripod for my critical landscape work and can live with longer exposure times.

    I truly feel liberated and can now let go of my D700 without feeling like I was giving something up. In fact, I can safely say that I was able to take shots with the M9 setup that I would not have taken with the D700 as I would not have brought it (or the appropriate lens) along on some of the hikes. Also, working exclusively with primes and an RF camera, I find my framing and compositions are more well thought out and I've become more selective in what I shoot. In fact, I've noticed that I am cropping much less with my M9 photos than I was with my D700 and zooms - which seems counterintuitive, but there it is...

    I offer this experience to others who may be in a similar situation and are on the fence with switching over - and also for others who have gone through a similar process to share their experiences.

    A sampling of photos to share from my trip taken with the M9:

    Sunrise behind the Paria Plateau:



    Bryce at sunrise:



    Bryce - contrast of colors:



    Bryce - sand dunes:



    Bryce - Castle in the Sand:



    Zion - Lone Tree:



    Zion - Curves:



    Zion - Flowers and Rock:



    Road to Zion:

    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Joe, love the story about the journey!

    . . . . . I moved to Leica after loving the experience of using the small GF1 . . . . . The rangefinder was a perfect fit for where I wanted to go with my photography!

    Great photographs as well!

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Thanks Dan - it was a difficult decision at first but turned out way better than I expected
    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Such beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing!

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    I think these images speak volumes about the wisdom of your decision. Unless you have a need for more resolution the Leica M9 and the lenses you have can provide world class images.

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Thanks Joe for sharing the beautiful photos and more so your personal experience and journey which might help others who are in a similar conundrum.

    I myself have been a recent convert from DSLR to RF systems. And I can appreciate your experience. I may not have taken as many shots now compared to using a DSLR, however, I do find that I have more keepers now while using the RF.

    This may sound like a cliche, but I find the result and shooting experience amazing. I am more careful with the framing now as I am only using primes, as compared to zoom lenses previously.

    This is not to beat up DSLR, it has served its purpose in the past. But I believe shooting RF does contribute to a different shooting thought process.

    I hope I am able to share some of my own shots soon. Not the nicest, but I feel this is a good forum to share experiences and learn positively.

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    I'm with you, Joe.

    I made the same leap a couple months ago. Used to schlep (or leave behind) a Sony 850 and a truck load of heavy lenses when traveling. I also dabbled in m4/3s for convenience and, while nice, wasn't satisfied with image quality.

    I've since moved to an M9, 50 cron, and Zeiss 28. A 90 is next on the list and it has completely reinvigorated my shooting, both around town and traveling, hiking, etc.

    In addition to straight up image quality, there's also something special the lenses bring that I haven't seen since film, so I like that. And more than anything, I am enjoying the back-to-the-basics manual, thoughtful, mechanical process. It's unfortunate (as I try to get my son involved in photography) that the only real digital option equivalent to my manual/50mm film experience in the early 80s that made me love photography is with a near-$10k kit!

    Anyway, your Bryce work is stunning and inspiring! Keep it up!

    A recent shot I took on a weekend trip where I would have left behind my big FF DSLR due to time and energy constraints:



    -Jeff

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Nyce Bryce shots and story too.

    I also find the RF + manual lenses quite liberating. I started off with vintage Japanese and german glass on my Rebel XT and Pentax KX, next thing you know I own a M8u and a cron 50 , enter the elmar 90/4 and the stunning 135/2.8 Elmarit ( made here in Kanada you know :P)


    I need a wide angle for nature work also, are the Zeiss lenses comparable to the leica glass?

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by dude163 View Post
    Nyce Bryce shots and story too.

    I also find the RF + manual lenses quite liberating. I started off with vintage Japanese and german glass on my Rebel XT and Pentax KX, next thing you know I own a M8u and a cron 50 , enter the elmar 90/4 and the stunning 135/2.8 Elmarit ( made here in Kanada you know :P)


    I need a wide angle for nature work also, are the Zeiss lenses comparable to the leica glass?
    Hey Dude - I can't say enough about the Zeiss 25mm f2.8 Biogon - very, very sharp across the frame and great color and contrast.

    The Leica equivalent is marginally better based on what I've read (though I haven't used one) but at > 3x the price, the Zeiss is an outstanding value imo.

    I picked up a like-new copy for $850 - best $850 I ever spent ;-)

    Here's a sample taken with this lens - only levels, nr, and sharpening applied.



    Thanks for the comments.

    Cheers,
    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    nice!

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffnesh View Post
    I'm with you, Joe.

    I made the same leap a couple months ago. Used to schlep (or leave behind) a Sony 850 and a truck load of heavy lenses when traveling. I also dabbled in m4/3s for convenience and, while nice, wasn't satisfied with image quality.

    I've since moved to an M9, 50 cron, and Zeiss 28. A 90 is next on the list and it has completely reinvigorated my shooting, both around town and traveling, hiking, etc.

    In addition to straight up image quality, there's also something special the lenses bring that I haven't seen since film, so I like that. And more than anything, I am enjoying the back-to-the-basics manual, thoughtful, mechanical process. It's unfortunate (as I try to get my son involved in photography) that the only real digital option equivalent to my manual/50mm film experience in the early 80s that made me love photography is with a near-$10k kit!

    Anyway, your Bryce work is stunning and inspiring! Keep it up!

    A recent shot I took on a weekend trip where I would have left behind my big FF DSLR due to time and energy constraints:



    -Jeff
    Jeff - thanks for the kind words and thanks for sharing your photo - a great example of what can be done with a highly portable system like the M series cameras.

    Cheers,

    Cheers,
    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Fantastic! Lovely shots.

    I haven't been out that way in a loooong time - dying to get back. Armed with an M9 this time. Awesome to see what it can do.

    As for the 2,8/25 - it doesn't get any better than this. Extremely high resolution. Sharpest lens I've ever shot (and I've got a bag of ZMs and Canon Ls alike). On the M8 it was my favorite lens; on the M9 not as much so but only because of focal length.

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by David K View Post
    I think these images speak volumes about the wisdom of your decision. Unless you have a need for more resolution the Leica M9 and the lenses you have can provide world class images.
    David and I are close friends, and fellow lovers of everything photographic. We're also both reformed gear hounds, mostly due to financial constraints rather than desire. We've both been through more gear than even a died-in-the-wool gear hound has a right to be. We've also both crossed the 60 year old plateau... and while still able to carry anything we want, have perhaps picked up some better wisdom from the years of doing just that.

    I'll ask David to amplify on his comments above, but also to ask him if he doesn't agree with the statements I am about to make. Call them confessions from an older guy who has plenty yet to learn ....

    I made a very tough decision just a couple of years ago myself. I gave up MF all together, traded my Contax 645 kit along with my Aptus 75S. I loved the quality. I couldn't live with the weight and lack of use because of it.

    I upgraded my M8 I had shot for several years to a new M9, and four new prime Leica lenses to go with it in the trade. Four in addition to a reasonable collection I already owned and shot daily. That was one of the hardest photographic related decisions of my life. David I'm sure can attest to that, as he participated at a distance providing telephone moral support. While still happily shooting away on his own MF system, I mite add

    I've got to say, that was probably as large a turning point in my photography career since the day I bought my first digital back. I'll be the first to admit I do greatly miss MF for studio work, and am considering once again getting back in for that purpose. But I am in no rush, as the M9 just sort of fits me like a glove. David tells me the M9, more than any other camera, was just made for me. I think he's right.

    I've not found a single thing yet that I couldn't shoot with my M. I'm not saying that it is the best choice for everything. What I am saying is that it is more than capable of capturing a fantastic image of anything I've tried to do, even things far afield from it's considered "normal" use by most other owners.

    I've shot what I consider to be great landscapes, incredible people, architecture, and food with my M's. I'm just now making up some macro tubes to give that a go and see what my M9 can do in that realm. I'm regularly shooting VideoGraphs now with my M9 - still images with moving elements. Everything I want to push the edges on as an artist, so far the M system has been up to - even my admitted extremes.

    Joe, I guess I would have to say you reinforce my own beliefs. Many thanks for posting your work, and sharing your story. It isn't about a Brand, it's about the photographers eye, a competent, precise electronic capture device, and the glass mounted on the front of it that counts. It doesn't have to weigh 80 lbs like my old Sinar 4x5 did in it's day, to get great quality landscapes. Today you can get amazing quality from a very small package, and save your body stress for more productive adventures.

    Joe, I look forward to seeing more of your work. And hey, if you ever want company on a trip up to Yosemite to do some M landscapes, let me know. We don't live that far from each other, and I would love to do it!

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Jones View Post
    It isn't about a Brand, it's about the photographers eye, a competent, precise electronic capture device, and the glass mounted on the front of it that counts.
    Chuck - what a great response - thanks so much for sharing your own experiences. This statement in particular sums it up for me - I've never been a brand fanatic and frankly don't understand why folks get so attached to a particular brand. A camera is a tool - a means to an end - either it serves that purpose and your needs or it doesn't. And what one person requires out of their equipment might be very different than what someone else might require - you can't judge a camera in the absence of its application imo.

    Funny thing too is I have been thinking about MF myself - specifically picking up a Contax 645 system so your comments are very timely and apropos. The weight and bulk issue is the thing holding me back from getting it and your further validation of the M9 in a variety of applications is very useful.

    I too find the M9 fits me very well and have decided to keep working with it before deciding on MF as I feel I've just barely tapped this wonderful photographic device. It's so easy these days to hop onto some new gear when you feel unhappy or stuck in your work, when in fact, you really haven't fully exploited the capabilities of the gear you already own.

    With the M9 I feel there is much more photographic potential to tap into that I'm in no hurry to add more gear - quite the opposite as I will be putting up my Nikon gear for sale shortly

    I go up to Yosemite every year so would love to hook up with you if you are thinking of going - keep in touch!

    Cheers,
    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by jtwloh View Post
    Thanks Joe for sharing the beautiful photos and more so your personal experience and journey which might help others who are in a similar conundrum.

    I myself have been a recent convert from DSLR to RF systems. And I can appreciate your experience. I may not have taken as many shots now compared to using a DSLR, however, I do find that I have more keepers now while using the RF.

    This may sound like a cliche, but I find the result and shooting experience amazing. I am more careful with the framing now as I am only using primes, as compared to zoom lenses previously.

    This is not to beat up DSLR, it has served its purpose in the past. But I believe shooting RF does contribute to a different shooting thought process.

    I hope I am able to share some of my own shots soon. Not the nicest, but I feel this is a good forum to share experiences and learn positively.
    Thanks for your comments - please do share some photos!

    Cheers,
    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Negative View Post
    Fantastic! Lovely shots.

    I haven't been out that way in a loooong time - dying to get back. Armed with an M9 this time. Awesome to see what it can do.

    As for the 2,8/25 - it doesn't get any better than this. Extremely high resolution. Sharpest lens I've ever shot (and I've got a bag of ZMs and Canon Ls alike). On the M8 it was my favorite lens; on the M9 not as much so but only because of focal length.
    Thanks for the kind words - the Zeiss is awesome
    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaladhi View Post
    Such beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing!
    Thanks Jaladhi - much appreciated.
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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Joe, what a fantastic series!!!! you have really captured the spirit and the essence of the place. I am finding the itch to go back and edit a few of my pics from Bryce and Zion from this spring....
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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    I'm glad it is working out. You do sound so happy and in the end isn't that what is all about?

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Joe, you have inspired me to go back and re-visit a few of my own, some taken with the very lens that is now yours











    [IMG]http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6166/6196784591_8bc3bee59e_b.jpg[/IMG

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    Thumbs up Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Joe, A Great Story & Brilliant Work As Always!

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Joe,

    brilliant shots!

    I have paused my M - adventure after I sold my M8, but kept all my M glass till now. Tried A900, D700 and currently shoot M43 (EP3 and GH2) and E5. I think the 43 / M43 comes closest to Leica and Leica glass, but still different.

    Reading through this thread and your findings I am starting to lust to go back again to an M9 and sell my E system, which is a WONDERFUL system but is very heavy and bulky (pro grade lenses) and I would definitely not carry for long hikes. I even find myself on short hikes to prefer my M43 gear, as I do no longer want to carry such weight. There are for sure situations where a DSLR with tele zoom is hardly beatable, but I guess I can achieve the same (or even better) with M43.

    So - what actually makes me stay with DSLR and not switch to an M9 and use all my wonderful lenses? Should say that for high end work I use a Hasselblad H3D39 with 28 and 100 lenses, unbeatable in IQ, but also unbeatable in weight and bulkiness.

    So I might give the M9 a try

    Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    HI Joe
    Great images - I think lots of us have travelled the same route . . . one just has to learn that digital M is not just a PJ camera but also makes a fine landscape camera.

    all the best

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Yes, it is interesting. I have been using the M cameras for travel (and by extension landscape) since I first got one, and they seem to be perfectly suited for the task to me. Even more so now, as you can check your exact framing after the photo if that is of such rigid concern to you. I have always shot landscape with rangefinders -- the Mamiya 7II is another example of a superb landscape camera which is also a rangefinder...
    The benefits of rangefinders -- compact body and lens size compared to sensor/film size and easier to design (consequently higher quality) lenses mean that for a lot of landscape photography they are ideal. Perhaps they are not as useful if you rely on lots of external items like polarizing filters, graduated neutral density filters and so on, but for the most part I think they do quite well!
    My photos are here: http://www.stuartrichardson.com and more recent work here: http://stuartrichardson.tumblr.com/ Please have a look at my book!
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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry View Post
    I'm glad it is working out. You do sound so happy and in the end isn't that what is all about?
    Thanks Terry - ironically it was your decision to take m4/3 exclusively to Africa that prompted me to really re-think my camera choices for this trip and ultimately for all my work moving forwards.

    So thanks for the inspiration!

    Cheers,
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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by ashwinrao1 View Post
    Joe, you have inspired me to go back and re-visit a few of my own, some taken with the very lens that is now yours

    Ahhh - must be why the lens felt so at home

    Nice shot here Ashwin - I took almost the same shot as this but haven't tried it in b&w - I like yours very much.

    Thanks for sharing your photos - it's great to see someone else's interpretation of the same place ;-)

    Cheers,
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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by shtarka1 View Post
    Joe, A Great Story & Brilliant Work As Always!
    Thanks Steve - now if I could only do street work like you do

    Cheers,
    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Lovely images, I know exactly what you mean. I'm a landscape photographer myself who is slowly moving to Leica.

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by ptomsu View Post
    Joe,

    brilliant shots!

    I have paused my M - adventure after I sold my M8, but kept all my M glass till now. Tried A900, D700 and currently shoot M43 (EP3 and GH2) and E5. I think the 43 / M43 comes closest to Leica and Leica glass, but still different.

    Reading through this thread and your findings I am starting to lust to go back again to an M9 and sell my E system, which is a WONDERFUL system but is very heavy and bulky (pro grade lenses) and I would definitely not carry for long hikes. I even find myself on short hikes to prefer my M43 gear, as I do no longer want to carry such weight. There are for sure situations where a DSLR with tele zoom is hardly beatable, but I guess I can achieve the same (or even better) with M43.

    So - what actually makes me stay with DSLR and not switch to an M9 and use all my wonderful lenses? Should say that for high end work I use a Hasselblad H3D39 with 28 and 100 lenses, unbeatable in IQ, but also unbeatable in weight and bulkiness.

    So I might give the M9 a try

    Thanks for sharing your ideas.
    Thanks - I tried an M8.2 for a short time and while it was a good camera, it wasn't quite up to par in terms of IQ (and noise) and given the crop factor, it made going wide more difficult. I also found I had a hard time focusing on the M8 - not sure if there's a reason, but I find the M9 easier to focus.

    I'm also still debating hanging onto the DSLR and my long lenses for wildlife work but now considering moving to m4/3 for that after seeing Terry's results from Africa

    Cheers,
    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by thedigitalbean View Post
    Lovely images, I know exactly what you mean. I'm a landscape photographer myself who is slowly moving to Leica.
    Aravind - thanks! You've got some stunning images on your website - love the wildlife photos.

    We're neighbors - I live in the Santa Cruz mountains and work at Apple - would love to hook up with you sometime

    Cheers,
    -- Joe

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Richardson View Post
    Yes, it is interesting. I have been using the M cameras for travel (and by extension landscape) since I first got one, and they seem to be perfectly suited for the task to me. Even more so now, as you can check your exact framing after the photo if that is of such rigid concern to you. I have always shot landscape with rangefinders -- the Mamiya 7II is another example of a superb landscape camera which is also a rangefinder...
    The benefits of rangefinders -- compact body and lens size compared to sensor/film size and easier to design (consequently higher quality) lenses mean that for a lot of landscape photography they are ideal. Perhaps they are not as useful if you rely on lots of external items like polarizing filters, graduated neutral density filters and so on, but for the most part I think they do quite well!
    Thanks for the comments Stuart - seems natural to use RF for landscape for the reasons you point out - funny that it took me so long to realize that ;-)

    I did run into situations where I wanted to use a polarizer or ND Grad filter but couldn't - will have to get properly equipped for that next time.

    How do you deal with filters on an RF camera?

    Cheers,
    -- Joe

    http://mountainjoe.zenfolio.com/ - excuse the mess

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    HI Joe
    Great images - I think lots of us have travelled the same route . . . one just has to learn that digital M is not just a PJ camera but also makes a fine landscape camera.

    all the best
    Thanks Jono - seems we all have to walk the path on our own to end up in the same place ;-)
    -- Joe

    http://mountainjoe.zenfolio.com/ - excuse the mess

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by mountainjoe View Post
    Thanks - I tried an M8.2 for a short time and while it was a good camera, it wasn't quite up to par in terms of IQ (and noise) and given the crop factor, it made going wide more difficult. I also found I had a hard time focusing on the M8 - not sure if there's a reason, but I find the M9 easier to focus.

    I'm also still debating hanging onto the DSLR and my long lenses for wildlife work but now considering moving to m4/3 for that after seeing Terry's results from Africa

    Cheers,
    Not sure if the IQ is in general better on the M9 compared to the M8, because this is still the same sensor and processing. Difference is FF and so you use the full field of the M lenses, which were always designed for FF and thus the impression could easily come up that IQ is better - nothing scientific, just my thoughts.

    WRT finder, this is for sure a better one in the M9 as it is no crop and thus also the mechanical RF is working better. I could see easily the difference when looking and focussing with my MP and M8.

    WRT moving to m43 for wildlife - still not completely sure, results are good but you loose the luxury of a great OVF such as the ones in a D700 or E5. Thus I might want to stick to my E5 which actually is the issue as I would would like to use it for funding the E5. But I am kind of hesitating to further invest into the E system, as I have the feeling it is going nowhere, because Olympus is just investing in m43 - similar story to their OM system some 20 years ago - it quietly died. I know that you could use 43 glass on m43 bodies, have these adapters, but they simply suck in terms of AF accuracy and speed between these 2 systems, so this is a no option for me. So finally might be seeing myself moving to m43 for tele, if there is finally a pro grad m43 camera available, which currently is not. And then have the M9 for general work every day which I would really love and m43 for just the few occasions where I need super compact and/or long tele. And the H3D39 for really demanding stuff.

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Joe,

    Thanks for posting those great pictures. I know that I carry my M9P around everywhere I go. Size and weight are important considerations, so kept my 35mm Cron V4 to make the smallest and lightest walkaround kit. Your pictures with the Zeiss make that lens tempting instead of getting a Leica wide.

    Aloha,
    Jan

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    Re: Liberated by the M9...

    Quote Originally Posted by JWW View Post
    Joe,

    Thanks for posting those great pictures. I know that I carry my M9P around everywhere I go. Size and weight are important considerations, so kept my 35mm Cron V4 to make the smallest and lightest walkaround kit. Your pictures with the Zeiss make that lens tempting instead of getting a Leica wide.

    Aloha,
    Jan
    Hey Jan! Well it's your M9 that took these photos so thanks for selling it to me ;-)

    You won't be disappointed with the Zeiss - it's that good.

    Cheers,
    -- Joe

    http://mountainjoe.zenfolio.com/ - excuse the mess

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