Leica M9P (M9U) un-boxing, comparison & impression

First of all, let’s clarify the terms, M9P or M9U to use in here.

This camera was produced as a Leica M9 and later upgraded to M9P. The M9P is different from the M9, e.g. top plate

and durable LCD screen made of sapphire glass. The upgraded M9P is sometimes referred as M9U to distinguish it

from the original M9P.

   (* For convenience, I will call it M9P in this article)



Leica box from Ireland. It took almost 2 weeks…


    It is a good to read the manual before starting. That time adds the joy to new acquirements   🙂

How to check the number of shutter actuations?

We’ll review the M9P step by step, but let’s check shutter actuation first.

There is no such thing in film camera, but in digital camera shutter actuation information is available for users in many cases.

It does not influence performance as long as it works, but it influences to resale price at the end. Not only for that,

don’t you want to know about it anyway?

There are 2 ways to check the number of shots. Read ‘hex code’ embedded into each image using EXIF viewer and translate

it  into decimal (if you know hex code conversion). Or you can display ‘debug menu’ to read the actuation number directly

from camera. First, turn on the power and press the button on the back as below sequence;

         delete, up up, down down down down, left left left, right right, info. 

You will see ‘maintenance menu’ displayed on the screen. Scroll down and select the ‘Debug menu’.

At the bottom of debug menu, the number of shutter actuation is.

This camera has 16,712 shots when I checked.



Leica M9P + Summicron Rigid 5cm f2.0 + Zeiss Ikon (Stuttgart) turret finder

M8 vs M9P


I put M8 and M9P together for this comparison shot.

There is no big difference in shape. The M8 has a flat edge & round LCD window on the left of the camera, while the M9P

has a stepped corner and no LCD window on the top.

The M8 has a “Leica” logo in front of the camera with a distinctive red circle. Many people like this mark, but also many

Leica users does not like it. There is even a special tape to cover this mark.



     The M8 on the front clearly states model name on the body, but the M9P on the back does not have

a model name nor a red logo.

Although the red circle logo is a symbol of Leica, it is not a symbol of the days when documentary photographers work on their

masterpieces with Leicas. It is fancy icon introduced since the Leica became a luxury product.

When the Leica IIIc, IIIf, and IIIg were in production in the past, the camera did not have a model name on the body at all.

”If anyone recognize whether it is Leica IIIc or IIIf, he/she is a person already know about Leica very well, so no need to inscribe

model name anywhere. If general public could not figure out which one is which, it does not matter, because Leica is not the camera

for general public. It is professional photographer’s tool.’

That’s what did Leica mean when Robert Kapa, Cartier Bresson working with Leicas.

From M3, the Leica started inscribing model name on the body. It was written on the top plate but there was no mark or letter

on the front of the camera. I remember the red logo (also called as ‘Coke’) introduced during M6 production.

Personally, I have no objection to the red circle. I’ve been searching for M9 (also has red circle like as M8) long time and accidently

win the bidding of M9P. However, it is something written like ‘I am THE luxury’ in a luxury item, inevitably feeling b.s. sometimes.

Black chrome and black paint 


The above picture shows the same black camera, but you can see at a glance that the materials are different.

M8 looks like a matte dark gray, but in reality it is a black chrome. It does not reflect or glare on the surface.

The M9, on the other hand, is black paint reflecting a lot more & glaring in the same lighting.


M8 is obviously older model but looks newer in appearance

The black chrome finish on the M8 does not wear easily and keeps the matte finish for a long time. If you handle with respect,

it will keep a neat appearance. Of course, if used heavily, black chrome also wear and reveal the material underneath which is

aluminum casting.

The M9’s black paint literally start wearing from Day 1, as soon as taken out from box. As the paint worn easily, the brass

underneath revealed soon. If used 2 or 3 years hard, you will begin to have the camera of the war correspondent.

There are people who cannot wait this period and rub it with sandpaper to reveal the brass as instant-weathered camera.

Not only users but the maker, also brought a ready-weathered version of Leica camera.

Leica weathered.jpg

       Leica’s original ready-weathered camera

       It is a new camera definitely, but was released after exposing brass from the factory …

Variations of classic camera, Leica M9P

There were classical camera lovers in the days of film photography. When the Nikon F5 and Canon EOS were

fiercely fighting in AF (autofocus) speed competition, some used the old cameras out of world like Leica IIIf,

Hasselblad 500C and Tachihara 4X5…etc

Since photography have changed to digital, these classic cameras become a nice / beautiful paperweight for many users.

Of course, if switch to a film, you can still use those camera. Only problem is not easy to do so as regular work.

It is not technically difficult, but once get used to the convenience of digital, hard to return to the dark room again.

However, there is one digital camera as an extension of the old classic ones, the Leica M.

If you look closely, the digital M is thicker and taller than the film M, and there’s no lever or rewind knob of course.

But, from the overview, it is easy to recognize the M8, M9, and M10 as the same breed of M3, M2, M4, M4P, M6,

and M7 that started in 1955. (M5 and CL are different tribe …)


So, you can imagine that some of M Leica’s users are ex-lovers of classic camera, and they love seasoned and weathered stuff

rather than brand new factory output. They are in general complaining about wear-resistant M8 black chrome and asking more

weathering prone painting. They are also disagreed the ‘Leica fashion’ (red logo) and covered with tape that roundel.

The image of Leica being projected by them is the Leica IIIf used by Cartier Bresson in the 1940s and 1950s, almost brushed out

brass camera.

*The Hasselblad 500C is another example of the classic camera being used in digital era. Because many digital backs are made for

the Hasselblad 500 series, it is easy to bring it to new life in digital photography. But 500 series was discontinued already quite some

years, so it is not in the same league with Leica M which is one of current production in 2017.


Shutter speed

The highest shutter speed of the M8 is 1/8000 second. However shutter speed has dropped to 1/4000 sec from its successor,

M8.2 and continue all following Leicas up to M10. The sound of shutter operation is somewhat quiet comparing M8’s.

In general, there is no big problem with 1/4000 sec, but in case of f0.95 lens, 1/4000 second is often not fast enough.

 Exposure meter


 Shutter blade, upper is M9P & lower is M8

The shutter blade of M8 has single white line reflecting light from lens. An exposure meter cell on the bottom of the shutter box

capture the light and determine the exposure value (shutter speed and/or ISO). Because the light is reflected in a narrow band

in the center, the exposure value calculated for the center area of the image.

The M9P has extra gray lines above and below the white line, therefore, while taking the light from a center, the surrounding area

is taken into account. In other words, the M8 and M9 may display different exposure value when aim the same scene.

In fact, there is no right or wrong exposure value. It depends on individual’s taste, preferences and intention in photography,

also variation per model and maker. You just need optimizing the value for your own taste.

In my case, use M8 with normal setting and M9 with +1/3 or +2/3 exposure setting to maintain details in dark area.

I found the shadows of M9P image fall into pitch black much easier than M8.

But again these setting are personal preferences.



Leica M9P + Canon 50mm f0.95

The very first thing you need to do when take the Leica M camera out is checking rangefinder.
You know, without rangefinder, Leica M is not the M any longer. It the heart of the Leica M camera & also known drifting
over time, so should be checked regularly.

For my M9P, infinity focus is fine, but there is a slight ‘front focus’ (actual focal plane is closer than RF indication) in close

distance range. Since using the Leica M8, I become somewhat insensitive about this problem. III series of rangefinder

mechanism were built in 1930, M series were designed in 1955 with all mechanical parts, cam, lever and gear.

There is absolutely no hint of electronics in here. What it means, it is not comparable with modern mirrorless camera

which delivers pin-point accurate focusing consistently. With Leica M, better to know how to live without it….

One way to deal with this issue is adjusting shooting position for a known combination of lens and body unless serious enough

to ship the camera and lens to repair center. For example in my combination, M9P + 50mm f0.95 for half body shot,

I adjust rangefinder coincide and move forward my face (& camera) 1 or 2 cm for compensation of ‘front focus’.

It works decently OK most of time. At longer distance like full body shot, I just coincide rangefinder since depth of field

become deeper. With M9P + Summicron f2.0, I just use rangefinder without compensation because Summicron has a lot more

DoF compare to Canon f0.95.


M9P + Summicron Rigid 5cm f2.0 (left),

M8 + Canon 50mm f0.95 (right)

So sorry… Summicron DR

The Summicron Dual Range lens is the most sophisticated and rugged lens in the Leica M lens.

It is the only M lens that has close-focus capability. To make the lens working in close range where DoF is razor thin,

Leitz had to make it much durable and precise, otherwise it won’t work as intended at all.

Unlike the SLR lens which focuses on the screen & adjust correct position by human vision, rangefinder mechanism

requires at least 1/30mm precision on the optical part, focus ring, and the cam on the backside of the lens throughout

whole moving range. Keeping accurate focus to a close distance is extremely difficult task, if not impossible mechanically.

Because of that reason, I think, no other ‘close focus lens’ existed before and nothing else released after Summicron DR.

The problem with the digital M body is that the close focus cam of the DR lens gets caught in the shutter box.

In case Leica M8 which is 1.33x cropped sensor, it can be understood that the shutter box is cramped. Unfortunately though,

the full-frame M9 does the same. It is too bad news….

If you put the lens at the shortest distance, still can attach the lens to the body. However, at a distance about 3 to 4 meters,

lens the focus ring won’t move any further.

Only way to use DR to Digital M is grinding off close focus cam, effectively made as Rigid Summicron.

It is pity though to do surgery because DR is perfectly fine with film body and it is the only lens for close focus design in

M history.

For extra remark, the optical design of the Summicron DR is the same as the Summicron Rigid but different from

collapsible Summicron.

Visoflex III


Leica M9P + Visoflex III + Elmar 65mm f3.5

For film M body, both Visoflex II and III are working fine, but digital M only accept Visoflex III.
It is because digital M is taller, the prism of II is interfered with top plate. If the prism of Visoflex II replaced with Visoflex III type,
the unit can be installed to the digital M body. However, the actuator arm that presses the shutter release button is a little bit
short, so still cannot use Visoflex II without a certain modification. (I tried this mixed II-III combination only to find not working properly …)

You can mount 65mm and longer focal length lens to Visoflex housing. Most old Leica lens has separate head from barrel,

the special short mount or universal mount like 16464K is used for focusing. But the current production of Leica lens

cannot be mounted because the head is not separated.


Visoflex III convert Leica M to SLR type

Wrap up…

The Leica M8 has distinct personality. The lack of infrared blocking makes the camera special in rendering and color.

If tuned properly, it delivers one of kind image. Especially in black-and-white photo, it overlaps IR effect to normal BW photo,

creating deep black tone and bright skin with slight glaring.

(This effect is visible when UV/IR filter not used, thus pass through infra-red to sensor)

Leica M9P is a normal digital camera. It is only full frame CCD sensor camera existing.

It is a unique breed from old classic camera in 20 century & still working flawlessly in digital era.

It is charm of M9P and attracts enthusiasts for its own.




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