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When you’ve been building ever-improving variations of the same basic camera for more than 50 years, some new models are not as earth shattering as others. Leica’s introduction of the M8—its first “Digital M,” was a real earth mover, as was the M9, Leica’s first full-frame digital M camera (the M8 featured a 1.3x APS-H format imaging sensor). In the case of Leica’s newest addition, the Leica M9-P, the changes and improvements are more about nuance and have more to do with design aesthetics and scratch resistance.
Essentially a twin of the M9, the M9-P is a bit stealthier than the M9 due to the absence of the red Leica badge that normally winks at you from the front of the M9. By removing the red badge from the face of its black-painted body, the Leica M9-P gains an edge in terms of unobtrusiveness, which when shooting under the radar is well worth any loss of ego gratification. In place of the red badge, the Leica name is now subliminally inscribed on the top plate where it’s less likely to blow your cover.
In addition to its cosmetic makeover, the Leica M9-P also features a new sapphire crystal cover with advanced anti-reflective coatings for its 2.5” LCD that, according to Leica, is extremely resistant to scratches and is all but unbreakable.
Features shared by both the M9 and M9-P include a full-frame (24 x 36mm) 18MP imaging sensor, which when complemented with the tonal range, contrast, and resolving power of Leica optics, results in the finest quality still photographs you’re ever likely to produce. Stills can be captured as JPEGs (six levels) or DNG (18MP compressed / 36MP uncompressed) in a choice of Adobe RGB or sRGB.
The viewfinder on the M9-P, which in the world of rangefinder cameras is as accurate as it gets, has a 0.68x magnification and features brightlines for 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 135mm lenses. When shooting with a wider-angle 24mm, 21mm or Leica Tri-Elmar you should consider an optional shoe-mounted optical finder for composing tighter compositions. For reviewing captured image files or setting menu selections, the Leica M9-P features a 2.5” 230,000-dot TFT LCD. While “modest” compared to the higher-definition (640,000 to 920,000-dot-plus) LCDs common to the most basic digital cameras nowadays, it performs its duties as advertised. Regardless, one would expect a higher-def LCD in a camera of this price and performance caliber.
The handling and shooting characteristics of the M9-P are as intuitively simple and precise as the shooting characteristics that have made Leica Ms the standard to which other cameras are compared. The M9-P’s analog shutter speed dial and the real-deal f/stop and focusing rings are rivaled in simplicity by the camera’s straight-shooting exposure menus, which should prove to be alarmingly simple to the most menu-phobic photographers among us.
Other features common to both the Leica M9 and M9-P include Aperture priority and full manual exposure control, rock-solid construction, an ISO range of 160-2500, a shutter speed range of 32-seconds to 1/4000th-second with 1/180th-second flash sync, SD/SDHC memory card compliancy, compatibility with virtually all of Leica’s legendary “M” lenses and the satisfaction of knowing you’re shooting with one of the finest cameras on the planet.
The Leica M9-P is available in a black paint or classic silver chrome finish.
The second big announcement has to do with optics, which in this case is the arrival of the 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH. Featuring eight elements in seven groups (including one element with dual aspheric surfaces), an overall length a hair over 2”, weighing only 9.8 ounces and close-focusing down to 2.3’, this compact ultra wide should quickly find favor among dyed-in-the-wool Leicaphiles.