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Leica is renowned for the longevity of its cameras as much as it is for the high quality of its optics, and the M9 doesn't disappoint.
The rangefinder shell is built from a die-cast magnesium alloy, while the top and bottom plates are made from brass. The whole bottom plate needs to be removed to access the digital camera's battery and card, and while this is slightly awkward, it does give the camera far more protection than a simple plastic door.
Everything is clearly designed and built to last for years of service, right down to the powerful spring that releases the rangefinder's battery.
In terms of design, the Leica M9 adheres to the M-series motif, and differs only slightly from the M8. The battery display/shot indicator has disappeared from the camera's top plate, while on the rear the only change is an ISO button in place of the M8's Protect control.
Sensitivity is easily accessed, and with the Set button beneath this so are the rest of the camera's key controls, such white balance and file type. But it'd be helpful to have a way of manually adjusting exposure compensation, rather than having to go through the menu to do so.
Although the camera's buttons are small, they're well spaced apart from each other, and each is clearly labelled. Once you as a photographer are familiar with the menu system, nothing is particularly difficult to access, and the 28 menu options appear in a single long list.
There are even four user profiles that may have settings assigned to them, although none of the external controls can be customised to bring up a function of your choosing.
Handling is a mixed experience on the Leica M9. Although the large body means you can hold the camera without inadvertently knocking any controls, there's no grip or contouring.
The strap lug on the side of the camera's body protrudes into the palm of your hand. It's far more comfortable to slot this between your index and middle finger, although accessing the shutter release buttons and drive mode options becomes difficult if you have anything but the largest hands. Should you find all this to be an issue, you can buy a grip that fits into the camera's tripod thread.
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