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..the M9 has plenty of drawbacks: The tech is a few years old now and high ISO is really nothing to write home about, the LCD is just horrid...
Mirek Elsner wrote:
...High ISO performance, especially from artificial light is not good. Probably any other modern camera with APS or bigger sensor provides better high ISO images. With many of my higher ISO images I ended up converting them to B&W where the noise was more acceptable....
Katie, the above represents the conventional wisdom that I mentioned earlier, which states the M9/M-E is a poor camera for high-ISO. In my view, the M9 in fact is an excellent camera for night photography if a certain technique is used because it produces, in my view, superior color rendition, better than that of cameras that are famous for their high-ISO performance. If you're interested in high-ISO shooting you should read this thread. Based on extensive tests described in the thread, the technique for the M9/M-E is to increase ISO in-camera up to ISO 640, but from that point on increase Exposure in LR4/5 rather than in-camera and you will get less noise and better image quality.
Night Photography: Shooting at ISO 640 and Pushing in Post
The thread on this technique that I linked above, lists the following steps for Exposure and Processing:
At ISO 640 start (with the Elmarit 21mm ASPH) by exposing at f/2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/60 or 1/90, and (with a Summicron-28) by exposing at f/2.0 and a shutter speed of 1/120 or 1/180, although I tend to use this lens at f/2.8 at night for the greater depth-of-field. The aim is not to blow out the highlights. On a dark night, I find that I don't need much depth of field because of the rapid drop-off in light intensity.
Lightroom 4/5 Post-Processing
1. Click Auto in the Exposure Panel and use this as the starting point.
2. Adjust the Exposure Slider to the point at which you like the look.
3. Press "J" and see whether any of the highlights are blown out.
4. If necessary (from Step 3), pull back on the Highlights Slider.
5. I like to pull back the Black Slider to negative numbers so that picture has a look that I like.
6. Click White Balance Eye Dropper in an area you want to be neutral grey, but I don't like to neutralize the colors completely because I want a "real" look from the lights in the picture.
7. Try moving the Clarity Slider between +10 – +30. (I find that increasing Clarity creates a good feeling of light in a high contrast scene, but sometimes this may not be necessary or even may not look good.
8. If you increased Clarity, you can probably pull back a bit on the Exposure.
9. In the Noise Reduction panel, after setting the View to 100%, move the Color Slider to the right until the color noise disappears.
10. Still at 100% View, move the Luminance Slider to the right if necessary to remove more noise, but be careful no to go too far. Some pictures will not need any Luminance Slide increase.
In the 10 post-processing steps listed above, step 5 is pull back the Black Slider to negative numbers so that picture has a look that you like. In the three pictures below, when I pressed Auto in the Basic Panel, the Black Slider went to +26 — and the pictures looked a bit washed out and flat; I pulled the Black Slider back to –26 for Nos. 1–2 and to –10 for No. 3. I find that pulling the Black Slider to the left to get negative number provides a look consistent to the rapid fall-off of light in partially lit, dark scene.
Now, in post-processing, starting with the list of steps for post-post processing above, there are many possibilities, including "selective pushing" (equivalent to dodging). In No. 5 below I have used the new LR5 facility of the Radial Filter to push the face area by 4 stops (equivalent ISO of 10,240). I'm also including No. 4 because it's my favorite night picture, although I doubt many people like it.
No. 1 | Elmarit-21 ASPH | ISO 640 pushed 0.9 stops | f/2.8 | 1/60 sec
No. 2 | Elmarit-21 ASPH | ISO 640 pushed 1.8 stops | f/2.8 | 1/60 sec
Pak Nam Pran
No. 3 | Summicron-28 | ISO 640 pushed 2.25 stops | f/4.0 | 1/125 sec
No. 4 | Elmarit-21 ASPH | ISO 640 pushed 2 stops | f/2.8 | 1/90 sec
No. 5 | Summicron-28 | ISO 640 pushed 4 stops [on face] | f/4.0 | 1/60 sec
So I take it most shoot RAW? I have always only ever shot RAW and am currently using LR4. Is this compatible with the M-E or will I need to upgrade (yet again) to 5?
Yes, I only shoot raw. LR5 is preferable to LR4 because it has a new Radial Filfer that, together with feathering, allows you to dodge and burn much better than using the Adjustment Brush in LR5. If you buy a new M-E you can download LR5 free from the Leica website, Someone recommended buying a used M9 — I would much prefer to buy a new M-E, which has a two-year warranty, so that you don't have to worry about what sort of problems the seller of the used camera may have had. Also, you'll be getting one of the latest cameras coming off the assembly line, which will have any of the unannounced manufacturing improvements that Leica occasionally makes.