Jun 302011

Sunday morning, we will board the plane that will start our trip. Whatever gets in my camera bag that day will be with me for a full year. I am currently contemplating two options (and yes, I know I am lucky to have them).

1) Leica M8 with 35mm Lux Asph or

2) Leica M9 with 35mm Lux Asph and 60mm Hexanon.

I guess it happened to all of us, the sudden doubts before a big trip. Therefore I tried to organize my thoughts in several points before getting to a decision :

Lenses / focals : 35mm on the M8 corresponds to 46mm on the M9. This results almost exactly at the middle of the 35mm and 60mm focals. It would be the one lens approach with no lens swap, and a single field of view for the whole trip. Thi is very tempting. On the negative side, I love the 60mm Hexanon and its selective focus ability. I would also give me a bit more reach for some landscapes. Leaving it behind would be tough. Finally, I also got very accustomed to the 35mm field of view, I fear that 46mm might be a bit too tight in many occasions.

Cost / Safety¬† : The M8 + 35 Lux combo is worth less then half of the M9 system (used prices). Even though I’ve got insurance for my equipment, I am worried about the constant need to watch it, be it in the streets, hotels or on a lonesome beach. Photography is a big part of this trip, but I don’t want it to spoil it either. A theft or destruction of the M8 + 35mm Lux would be a tough hit, but replacing the 60mm Hexanon would result almost impossible due to its scarcity.

File quality : The M9 is the most modern camera. Better dynamic range, color renditions and high ISO performance. The pixel count is also almost the double (18mpx vs 10mpx). But does it really show in street photography shots ? I don’t crop much and never have printed bigger than A3 (though I would like too). It also means that the M8 files will be smaller, which is convenient for back-up both on hard disk and online through Flickr. I was looking at a series I took in Barcelona in 2009 with M8 + 35mm Lux, one of my best in my opinion, and I am not sure it would look better if taken with the M9.

Ergonomics : The M9 does not need IR filter (reflection prone), is quieter and has a more refined menu system. The M8 has the 1/8000th speed which basically means I won’t need ND filters in bright light like I do with the M9. All the rest is pretty much the same and I don’t use much of the menu options (Auto-ISO, bracketing, JPG, timer, …) As for weight, the M8/9 are quite small and light compared to equivalent quality DSLR, yet the 60mm Hexanon would mean an extra 400 grams in my bag. (which does matter when you have 15 kilos in your backpack).

So ?? : I fear I am in a deadlock … circling over my options (like the boy in the shot below running around a fountain in Lausanne). Three more days to decide, I hope I don’t lose sleep over it. Any help, suggestions, or experience to share is more than welcome !!

Sigma DP2 at 40mm at F2.8 at 1/500, ISO400.

PS : I would have loved to take a camera such as the DP2 on my trip, yet the slow start-up time + bad high ISO performance discarded it).

  21 Responses to “Equipment selection – times of doubt”

  1. Tough choice. I think it comes down to choosing which little voice in your head you could tolerate least during your extended trip: the one that says “if only I had that other lens for this shot” vs the one that says “remember, that’s an M9 + 60Hex and 35Lux in my pack, keep my attention at least partly on it at all times.” If you’re a minimalist traveler, take the M8/35 and enjoy the freedom from weight and mental burden, go with the simplicity that’s like riding a singlespeed bicycle. If you’re more likely to look back on the trip and ask yourself why you didn’t take the most flexible/capable setup you had access to, take the M9+2 lenses.

  2. I would take the M8 + 35 and your DP2. I saw your itinerary…there might be times when you would like to have a small point and shoot for discreet shoots(and a back-up body). But I feel for you though that’s really a tough choice and a trip of a lifetime. Also think about the weight. I think the 35Lux is a good compromise on the M8 since it is between the 35 and the 60 on an M9. My 2cents. Good luck.

  3. You’re going to have an awesome trip. the photos in your mind will be the best of course, and whatever triggers those feelings… having finally found a 60Hex after 4 months of searching around, you definitely don’t want to go searching for that one again… (time or $). the 35 Lux Asph + M9 is such an amazing combo, and one of my absolute favorites, and travel with a one lens combo is nice (weight, simplicity, and importantly, if it were me, not even having the chance of being torn between which to use or take with me, just settle into a single length and maximize it… and probably get better at that length at least in my case). If you like the 50ish length, then M8+35Lux is a great way to get there with above mentioned benefits. Have a great trip!

  4. Option 2 seems offers more and isn’t much more to carry. The small chance of theft/destruction hasn’t held you back before. Good luck, and have a great trip!

  5. Not an easy call, though I’m not in the same league I would take the camera I feel most comfortable using, the one that is the most intuitive for your type of photography or perhaps in this instance the one that is most reliable. Life is too short for regrets especially when you return home wondering if you could have done better with the lens or camera sitting waiting for your return.

    Bon Voyage

  6. Not an easy choice! I think, for the trip of a lifetime, I would only bring the best. I have regretted leaving equipment at home during travels.
    Also, I like to carry a wide angle while traveling abroad. 50mm is nice, but sometimes you want to capture a whole scene. But this is more of a personal choice.
    In the end you should use the equipment you feel most comfortable with. :)

  7. How many times would you travel around the world like this? If anything happened to your equipment we all write to Leica so they let you a new set to keep going!! :-)) I think a pro back up for your Sigma is the M9 rather that the bad high ISO M8.
    You could take the M8+35 lux + 20mm Skopar to make it a 28mm as a cover for your 35 (46mm).
    If not why not take the M9 + 35 lux + 50 Cron? This are my two choices. I hope it helps you.
    Like you said sometimes, the 60 Hexanon is a limited edition hard to find piece of glass, and your trip is not between Montecarlo and Paris.

  8. The 60 Hexanon, whilst rare, wasn’t designed to be left in the cupboard while it’s owner goes on a once in a lifetime round the world photographic adventure. How would you feel it you were the best in the team but then left out of the final in case you hurt yourself?

    You know the right thing to do. =)

  9. Don’t forget to take a lot of passion for photography.



    Barcelona Daily Photo

  10. How about getting a Fuji X100? Great high ISO, built in ND filter, and a fast(ish) max aperture. It should be a better choice than the DP2 you mentioned. Any way, just enjoy the trip!


  11. Super easy decision ;-)
    Take 1 AND 2. For a once in a liftetime trip, the M8 would be a nice backup in case the M9 gets defect or stolen. Put it in the carry on of your girlfriend as a safety measure and leave it in the hotel room.
    Depending on your mood and weather etc., you can then go with option 1 (light) or 2 (sophisticated).
    On my longer / important trips, I always have a (valid) backup with me, e.g. M8 & M9, or M7 & M9, or two Hasselblad bodies. For every lensmount I plan to use I always have two camerabodies with me.
    I learned the hard way that this is needed, although when things went bad I could easily rent equipment in New York for a few days until things were fixed.
    An additional Leica M-body is such a small thing and gives you so much backup, that taking both along seems a logical and clear option.
    Anyhow, have fun and a safe trip,

  12. The M8 with one lens is very tempting BUT, after a bit more thought, the M9 makes much much more sense. Even though you said you don’t really crop, you can always “crop M9 to M8″ (workflow in LR), getting virtually exactly what you would get from the M8. So with that in mind, why not take the M9 with the 35mm lux alone? However, I agree with a previous poster, chuck the 50mm cron in too.

  13. If you had the possibilities a Fulji X100 alone could be it? It is much lighter than the M9 + 35. And it gives you the 35mm perspective.

  14. Hi Yanick, I am actually debating a very similar issue. I recently had the chance to acquire at a great price an M8.2 which was thought of as a back-up solution but now I feel more often than not, that I should just use it for my street shooting – I mount on it a Summicron C40 and it is a perfect solution for my preferred 50mm-field of view and the quality of the Leica Summicron lens. At the same time, I often hear this voice inside me – “I should have taken the M9″ although there is absolutely no logical reason for it since the pictures won’t turn out too different. I think Christian made an interesting point – which voice would you be more comfortable listening to? :-) Of course there is the question of ISO performance – how often have you gone anywhere near the ISO 800?

    As to the lens, I would think along the lines of Daniel – I would keep the Hexanon at home and take the 35 Lux, the and the 50 Cron – this should be fine for most situations and when it comes to landscape, you can always do some stitching in photoshop if you need wider angle. What about your 90 Elmarit?

    I can relate very well to these questions. At least for you, as you said, it is not a financial question – you are lucky to own both. I may need to make a decision simply because keeping both isn’t financially sensible.


  15. I would take the M8 and 35 Lux..
    I love my large prints taken with that combo..Personally I love my M9, the cameras resolve slightly differently but both are very special.
    I know i would feel more relaxed to have the M8 with me at all times while traveling..There would be many more times I would be concerned about safety/conditions for the M9 than i would concern myself about resolution of the M8. IMHO
    Have a wonderful trip what ever you decide.

    P.s..I would lend my Hexanon to Lucy while away, hehe.

  16. M8 + 35 lux, may be + a 50 cron. M8 is still a very good camera. You may need M8’s higher speed if you are not using ND in Australian summer. I would still take the Sigma as a backup. After all you want to experience the journey and not worrying about your equipments. To me you took great photos regardless of the camera used. The above photo is a great example.

  17. M9 + 1.4/35

    Your M8 body as a ready to be air-mailed back-up body at HQ
    Included in this parcel a 28mm, that you might already have?

    A wide open 35mm with perfect focus, shooting from a tower people who enjoy, that’s your signature ;) !

    The Sigma?? With all due respect for what you can do with it… +the extra batteries and charger…


  18. Decisions, decisions Yanidel. Its great to see Cuba on the itinerary. For me the choice is simple M8+35 and take the DP2. Enjoy the trip and smoke a Cohiba with a Cognac while in Havana and don’t forget to pass by La Bodeguita del Medio and have a Mojito like Hemingway use to do back in the days.

    You know what, take the M9 and whatever your heart says, you’ll be viewing those picture for the next 60 yrs and it would be a true shame not to have the maximum output on all images. Bon chance!!!!

  19. If I had to choose between those two options, I would bring the M9, 35mm and 60mm. When traveling, I find wide angle lenses very useful. I would not go anywhere without a good wide angle to capture landscapes, and streets and squares in the city. Wide angle lenses give such a feeling of “being there”, which I think is great for telling the stories and conveying the memories.

    And as someone here mentioned; cameras and lenses are meant to be used, not to stay at home while their owner is traveling the world. Last time I traveled, I brought my dslr and a bag full of lenses, so bringing only the M9 and a couple of lenses really sound like traveling light to me anyway ;)

    a) Bring the M9+35mm [you will regret taking the M8]
    b) Announce your destinations well in advance here, on RFF and L-c-f. Meetup with locals and borrow their different lenses for a day or two. I am sure you will find great willingness.

    Backup is essential. You will kick yourself endlessly if you are suddenly without camera for a prolonged period. Six options available [2, 3, 4, and 5 serious]:
    1) Give your girlfriend the M8 with Hexanon and tell her it is a very expensive necklace [well, it is] and that she must wear it at all times unless you need it – or
    2) Take the DP2 as backup – or
    3) Bring a film camera (like the Ricoh GR) as a backup or
    4) In case your girlfriend refuses to carry the M8 – arrange for somebody to be able to forward the M8/M9 via reputable transporter if the other M [hopefully not] breaks down. Could be a problem in customs though or
    5) Write Stefan Daniel at Leica. Maybe they will put a security blanket under your travel? Come of with a loaner if something happens? In return they can get a full story for their blog.
    6) Ask Steve Huff to document your trip – I am sure he will bring enough spares ;-)

    i) Buy yourself an Ortlieb Velocity or Ortlieb D-Fender rucksack [first one is not lockable at all] for optimal carrying comfort and protection against rain.


  21. Hey Yannick, I’m a bit late to the party, but I had a similar decision to make, although my total equipment value is less than just one of your lenses. I was unsure whether I wanted to wander the streets with a few thousand dollars hanging from my neck, but in the end I just went with the M7/35mm for all of the trip and I never regretted it or thought about what I left home.
    That said, the small compact backup option is always a good idea

 Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>