Leica M9 Digital Rangefinder Camera
What it is:
The cult of Leica originated in the ’40s, when Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Magnum photographers first brought the so-called “decisive moment” into the cultural consciousness. Their startlingly immediate images of street life, war, and people are as fresh today as they were the day they were snapped. The weapon of choice for this school of photographers was the Leica rangefinder, a small, lightweight camera that offered photojournalists an easy way to capture high-quality pictures on the move. Though the film era may be waning, Leica is now producing rangefinders for the era of digital photography, and the M9 is its latest entry into the category. This $7,000 camera is for folks who are serious about their still photography; the M9 doesn’t do video.
Rangefinders work in a way fundamentally different from what we’ve come to accept as standard camera functionality. A standard viewfinder displays only what is in the frame, meaning that elements outside of lens range aren’t seen. Therefore, the shot you see in the viewfinder is the shot you get. With a rangefinder, however, you look through a viewfinder that is aligned with the lens but not connected; small marks on the glass delineate the area in frame, with space around the marks remaining visible, allowing you to look further afield when composing the shot. When you drop the shutter, there is no moment of blackness. This lets you focus on your next shot without that momentary disorientation.