Here’s Why I Think The Leica M9 May Be My Favorite HDR Camera

I find myself using HDR more often than not. It’s helping me satisfy clients who can only shoot in the middle of the day or in situations where the dynamic range of the image simply goes past the boundaries of the sensor. I am less interested in HDR as art than I am as necessity.

My desire to shoot most scenes as if they will be made via HDR (even when I am not sure it is necessary) comes from the ease with which my Leica M9 auto brackets.

Lots of cameras offer auto-bracketing, but the M9 seems to have perfected it. On some cameras, where I don’t use the feature as often, I might forget for a second how to implement the auto-bracket feature. But not on the M9. It’s set it and forget it.

Not only is it easy to set auto-bracketing on the M9, the auto-bracketing options are significant. You can set three, five or seven shots with 1/2 EV all the way to 2.0 EV between each shot. This wide range makes sure that there’s no chance you’ll miss an image for lack of dynamic information. Most other cameras I have tried are limited to three or five shots and many won’t let you shoot more than one full stop between exposures.

One of the problems with HDR/tone-mapping is that it tends to introduce noise into the finished photo. One of the advantages of the M9 is that it is a full-frame camera with almost no noise at low ISO and none introduced by an AA filter.

While there is no PERFECT HDR camera – for me, the M9 is my FAVORITE HDR camera. Do you have a favorite HDR camera? If so list it in the comments section. Thanks.


About scottbourne

Founder of Professional photographer. Author. Speaker.

Posted on September 23, 2011, in Gear and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I love my nikon D700 to death but I also carry a small Canon S95 with me when Out and about. It’s not bad at autobracketing,even if it is a tad slow

  2. I’m still waiting to get my hand on one to try it out.

  3. My favorite HDR camera is my Ricoh GXR with the A12 28mm module (APS size sensor with 28mm equiv lens). The Ricoh has 3 excellent custom functions that are directly accessible from the (PSAM) mode dial. Custom function 3 is my 3 exposure auto bracketing HDR setting.

    I’ve also experienced that because it is an EVIL camera that there’s less shake between the shots when hand-holding and that the 3 frames are better aligned with PhotoMatix than with my DSLR. I think not having a slapping mirror helps.

    More than 3 exposures in the auto brack function would make the GXR even better (I hope that Ricoh will put that in a future firmware enhancement, but won’t hold my breath).

  4. I love my Canon 1D MKIII for HDR’s. It alows me the choice of three, five, or seven besieged shots as well. I also have the freedom of -3 to 3 EV in 1/3 increments. I can also set it to auto cancel the bracketing or leave on until cancelled.

  5. Haha auto correct changed bracketed to besieged. Lol

  6. Love my D700 for HDR. 8fps (with vertical grip), 9 exposure bracketing, incredible lack of noise up to ISO 2500 at least. I’ve shot over 50,000 photos with it in less than 2yrs between HDR and timelapse. Haha!

    I do wish it would shoot 2EV stops instead of the maximum of 1 though. There are times that 5 photos would be easier to capture than 9, especially without a tripod.

    The Promote Control is another HDR shooter’s friend. Practically no limitations on EV stops, number of photos, or exposure range that you’d want to capture. I find myself using it a lot when the camera is on a tripod, especially the timelapse functionality.

  7. I have a Canon PowerShot SX20 and this higher-end point-n-shot does +/- 2 stops with no problem, three shot automatic bracketing. I don’t do a _lot_ of HDR so getting those high and low shots to replace the blown clouds and lost shadows in the master shot have sufficed for me.

    When a scene has required more, Like a dusk cityscape, I’ve manually varied the exposure (via shutter speed alone) over the course of 10 frames. Perhaps a bit extreme, but I wanted the extra latitude in case I wanted detail in the skyscraper lights, and in the shadows of the dark buildings.

    But to answer your question as to what my _favorite_ HDR camera is, I’d have to say it’s my iPhone and for one specific reason… I can, with the touch screen, tell the HDR photo apps what my bright point and my shadow points are, and the software ensures that both ends are captured. No, it’s not 7 or 9 individual photographs of different latitude, but after having shot with a DSLR, and having the camera internally meter too high, or too low and thusly STILL miss the shadow point, or STILL blow a highlight, I really wished for a DSLR (EVIL, whatever) with an HDR mode like my iPhone, where I can touch the screen to tell the camera- make sure THIS and THAT are both in range, and take as many exposures as you need to make the shot work. 2, 4, 6 I don’t particularly care.

    As I said, I’m not super heavy into HDR, but I DO appreciate when I can tell the photo app to get BOTH the sunlit rimmed cloud in the sky, and the black front fender (in shadow) of the Alaska Railroad locomotive. And a minute and a half later, the HDR app gives me the exact photo I wanted- with BOTH ends faithfully reproduced. Do I know how many stops I need to do that? No. But cameras today are smart enough to be able to do that for me… and there’s GOT to be more imaging horsepower in a $1500+ DSLR than in the puny optics & CPU in a cameraphone.