As a mostly film photographer, it felt a bit strange not packing my bag with a stash of Acros or Portra and perhaps my Sekonic or Weston meter. And given my history with cameras that have any amount of electronics that might fail out in the field, I have to admit I thought several times about grabbing my Leica M2 or Nikon FM2n and some film as a back up for this Sunday day hike. But I decided to surrender myself to digital and slip the Leica M9-P and an extra battery into my camera bag and head out.
The Tomales Point Trail on the Point Reyes National Seashore is a good workout of machine...and man. The trail head is at Pierce Point Ranch and the roughly nine and a half mile hike meanders along seaside cliffs and windswept coastal plain out to Tomales Point and the very tip of Point Reyes. This trail is misleading. From first glance on the map, It appears fairly flat and easy. In reality, the length, changes in elevation, trail conditions, wind and fog can turn this fairly pleasant walk into an adventure.
Lighting conditions this day went from overcast to heavy fog. Since the M9-P is new to me, I opted for some level of automation, set the camera in the aperture priority metering mode and dialed the ISO to 200. While waiting for the Leica to arrive from Ken Hansen Photographic, I ordered an Angelo Pelle half case and strap. The case hugs and protects the camera nicely and the leather strap made carrying the camera all day secure and comfortable. This particular case has a built in hand grip which made holding the camera more secure. Cases and straps can look nice online or on the camera in your living room. The real test is out shooting and this case and strap performed nicely.
The Leica M9 is a pretty simple camera and everything falls into place quickly if you've shot any Leica M. Menus are easy to understand, even for an analog guy like me. The rear display is mostly useless for looking at your images as you're shooting them and as such, made me ignore it for the most part. Which I suppose is what Leica intended as the M9 is a digital camera that is really trying to emulate a film camera.
The rangefinder is clear, bright and contrasty. Focusing is easy. Like all of the M bodies, the camera will automatically call up frame lines for most any lens you mount. Data displayed in the viewfinder is minimalist. Shutter speed if you are in aperture priority mode or the under/over/right on metering display similar to the M6, M7 and MP film cameras.
I set the camera in "black and white" mode for my first few shots of the day.
The rest of the day, I shot in the "standard" color mode.
On the return trip to Pierce Point Ranch, the fog started settling in. I am pretty impressed by how well the M9 renders images taken in fog.
I shot these with my 35mm F/2 Summicron lens. Cool thing about the M9 is that it will accept all of the current and vintage Leica lenses I own as well as my Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM lens (with the screw mount to M mount adapter)
So far, this camera has been fun to shoot and the learning curve doesn't appear to be all that steep. Funny how many times I took a shot this day and then my finger went to advance the film lever. Old habits.
Great day of hiking and lots of fun learning a new camera. Arriving home in Bodega Bay, I was greeted by a nice sunset. Perfect end to a perfect day.