Mine were ordered early on and got delivered in November, I might have had one earlier but since my other M cameras are chrome, I figured might as well have the gray one.
The color is hard to pin-point, it is a grayish lacquer paint job, very beautiful to my taste. the closest comparison I can give is titanium, the finish looks just like my watch, maybe a little darker, but with about the same reflection and shine as titanium. In my opinion its a beautiful finish.
Moving on to more important things.
Resolution is pretty much identical to the M8, in terms of resolving power per millimeter, the big difference is the fact that the sensor is almost twice as big. instead of 10megapix there are 18megapix.
IR-filters - along with the 18megapix sensor is also a new IR filter on the sensor, this is probably the second most important aspect of the new M9. You do not need UV-IR filters on the M9. I have tested this on my lenses, and really, it works.. Colors get kind of muted with the IR filter in place, and cleans up beautifully once the IR filter is removed. The last week I have been pulling IR filters off my Leica lenses, one at a time as I used them.
* One small issue might be the headache of putting filters back on lenses if using the M8 for a backup camera and actually needing it.. so Im thinking that I am more likely to stick the M8 and a back of filters in the bag, it would have been nice if I could leave the filters on the lenses and have a setting for this. I don't expect Leica do make that setting.
2. if you overlay the shot from the M8 and float it over the center of the M9 image, you will then see that by toggling between the two images, they are roughly identical in terms of sharpness and contrast.
*I have a little more thoughts here, but more on this later.
So basically the BIG news on this camera is the sensor size. when you open the shutter to clean the sensor there is no doubt, it looks like the thing disappears out each side of the shutter... its huge, just like a film strip, 24x36mm.
Focusing - Here is a very interesting side effect which is likely to be noticed by any experienced rangefinder shooter immediately, the M9 is easier to focus than the M8. I would not have believed this had you told me a month ago, the M8 have always been notoriously difficult to focus, we prescribed it to the digital effect, that the sensor was not as thick as film etc. The interesting part is that the problem focusing as much is related to the magnification of the sensor image..
With the M9 we are back to a full 24x36mm sensor, and suddenly it is as easy to focus the camera as it always were with a film M. If you had a hard time focusing your M8, its not your fault, its because of the small sensor, the Leica rangefinder were made for 24x36mm tolerances.
The Leica M9 camera itself have changed a little, we lost the battery and card read-out on the top left corner in favor of putting that information on the backside display. My opinion is "Meh, prefer the shoulder display but don't really care". In the process when pressing "INFO" we now also see the lens used, and know that it is being recognized by the camera, that is nice.
Where the shoulder battery display used to be, there is now a little cut instead, giving the camera more family resemblance to the M7 and MP cameras, I think maybe it looks better than the M8, but we all know looks don't take pictures. (unless its the model in front of the camera.)
Leica M9 with Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 at iso 160
The B&W from the Leica M9 is by far the best B&W I have seen from a digital camera, importantly the high-light burn out and rounded entry into the burn is important as it create a very organic film look. If anything the biggest problem is that the files are so smooth that several of my friends have commented on the smoothness and we generally feel the pictures literally "need" artificial grain now to breakup the smoothness, think of the B&W files created from RAW as t-max in a 6x9 120 camera, smooth as a baby's behind. This applies in general, when you get the exposure right with this camera, the files easily rivals the images I print from medium format. Other digital cameras can handle the resolution, but the Leica M9 files also handle the film look on the big prints.
We got the option to select lenses manually by the menu, great, some feel this is significant, personally I don't want to spend time in the menu each time I change lenses. I guessing it would work fine if I had one old Leica lens and used the camera with this lens almost all the time. I still hand code my lenses and it works just fine.There is a new option for selecting the exposure compensation, now you can choose to just dial the wheel to set the EC, lovely, I love this feature, it is very fast to enter a compensation, the catch is that if I touch the ring, chances are the compensation have been changed, so you GOTTA check when you bring the camera up if it have been on and walked around for a while... still, it is a very fast and smart way to set the EC, so just get over the problems and enjoy it, I can't imagine this feature not being made available on the next M8 firmware update as its quite nice.
My FAVORITE software feature is probably the direct ISO feature, YEAH, Leica dropped the "LOCK" feature from the key interface and instead wrote ISO, pressing it show all the ISO options, hold the key down and turn the dial to select, let go to set, no need to press set or enter or anything, just press ISO, select speed and let go... done... GREAT IMPROVEMENT..!
I love this feature. I hope Leica will make this available as a menu option "ISO on LOCK key" so M8 users can use this.. would be a lovely holiday firmware upgrade for M8 users.! Come on Leica - You can do it, we don't hate M8 users, lets share the goodness.
Another new feature, the soft-release, it releases when the shutter is depressed, but before it become tight, so its just a smooth move down and click... no friction.. basically they set it to take the picture were we normally stop to hold a exposure, then recompose. I don't really care for that feature, but its there in case somebody will love it. mine is always set to discreet.
There are a lot of noise on the internet from M8 users advertising their "disappointment with the M9", people saying "This is nowhere near what I had hoped the M9 would be, and not close to justifying me upgrading my M8". Clearly art and taste is personal stuff and can not be discussed, be as a owner of both cameras I have to say, "I don't get it". The M9 to me is everything I had hoped for, the quality of the images simply blow me away, and I am not terribly easy to blow away in that regard.
Even stranger to me, I have heard from several people who are pushing the idea that the UV-IR filters if used on the M9 will improve sharpness and color balance.. This is complete nonsense, the new sensor is NOT as IR sensitive as the M8 sensor was, therefore there is no concern of a secondary IR focused image. To top this off, two of these people have told me that "they are expecting Leica to ADD a menu option to use UV-IR filters in a future firmware update." Guys... STOP smoking crack, the biggest complaint about the M8 was the filters, there are NO WAY Leica is bringing filters back now after they got rid of them.
SOFTWARE - update - You probably already know that Leica dropped PhaseOne for the official M9 software package. As a matter of fact there are no software disk in the box at all, instead there are a website where you can register your M9 and get a Adobe Light Room serial.
This have been somewhat controversial because most users feel PhaseOne have done a better job of processing M8 DNG files than Adobe Lightroom have. Personally I was fine with this as I have never really figured PhaseOne out and have been using LightRoom instead, LightRoom do things the way I think them, so that works well for me.
TODAY I discovered that the LightRoom 3 Beta read the Leica guestimate of the f.stop from the meta files. Clearly Leica gave something when they got in bed with Adobe and made LightRoom the official M9 software. We can only guess that Leica have given more than just access to the g.stop info in the files, lets hope they also have given a bit of the info required to process the files expertly. I am guessing that Adobe probably have made some effort to process Leica files as good as possible as part of this deal. Surely this will be analyzed to death by pixel-peepers in the near future.. I like LightRoom and its easy to work with, so I will stick with LightRoom for now. But thank you for including the capture f.stop (estimate) in the metafile read-out.
Wrap up.... 3 big things.
NEW huge 18megapix sensor... lovely colors and sharpness.
NO MORE UV-IR filters.. GREAT
EASY to focus, just like any film M always was.
The Leica M9 really is a lovely camera and will be a huge attraction for people who used to shoot film... However pure play digital shooters with a M8,who never really had a relationship with film are not likely to see a lot of reason to upgrade. (with exception to those who positively must have the very latest and greatest, for them the M9 is going to be a "must have")
This is probably the single most satisfying camera I have unboxed in a very long time. Most cameras are wonderful, exciting, and yet while unboxing we already know that the next version with X feature will be more exciting. The M9 is a full-frame digital M, the image quality is outstanding, and it does exactly what I would expect a Leica M camera to do.. not more and not less. I suspect a LOT of film shooters will start buying Leica M9 digital cameras.
Guys, all I can say is, if you have the money, the M9 IS worth it, its a "just do it" kind of thing. But lets get real, the M8 was not a cheap camera by any means, and if you got into a M8, honestly, you are not really in desperate need of upgrading, the M8 a outstanding camera and you are not going to suddenly find it being useless just because the M9 have been released.
So far Im using a blower and Dust-Aid Platinum to clean the sensor
Dust-Aid Platinum can be had from Amazon.com at DustAid Platinum DSLR Sensor Cleaner