Equipment selection – times of doubt

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).

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