17.7.11

Leica M9 Titanium, the Titan






The first impression when you pick up the Titan is that the M9 is still a handy camera. It feels solid and you cannot miss the metal, yet it is very comfortable to graps.

Finger loop
Part of this is due to the finger loop which is perfectly positioned. Slipping the middle two fingers though the loop, it draws the curved side of the camera snug into the cradle of my palm.

As I lift the camera to my eye, the finger loop rotates to leave my index finger poised above the shutter. It rotates, not on a bearing but actually a butterfly shaped insert that swivels within a slot in the side of the camera.






Cladding
This ergonomic feeling is remarkable because the Titan looks thicker than a chrome M8 or black M9. This may be an aspect of the dark grey titanium. The central body is, in fact, slightly deeper but it's easier on the hand than an M8 plus handgrip.

The titanium cladding is wrapped around the existing shell, from the front right to the back left.


The titanium cladding stops on the front just where your middle fingers grip the body. This allows the body, where it is gripped between the right fingers and thumb, to be just 1mm thicker than the M8 and standard M9.

You can see how the titanium cladding overlays the camera's inner structure, only on this corner of the camera. The base plate follows this line around the whole of the camera. Whereas the base plate on the M8 is narrower than the top plate (which is built out to accommodate the viewfinder) on the Titan the baseplate is 0.5mm deeper than the top plate, giving the camera a more seated design.

You can clearly see the styling from the camera front, the titanium cladding flowing vertically, the leather wrap horizontally.


Body dimensions
I've made these measurements because size always comes up in discussions among Leica aficionados.

Leica measurements given in the technical specifications are not consistent, as the depth given for the Titan and the M7 is clearly measured from the tip of the control wheel to the front of the bayonet mount. The measurements for the M8 and standard M9 are for the top plate only.

My M8 measures 37mm on the top plate and 35.5m on the base plate. The full depth, from the control wheel to the bayonet mount, is 43mm and, if you account for the frame lever, about 45mm. Width 138.

The Titan measures  37.5 on the top plate and 38 on the base plate. The full depth is the 43mm as there is no frame lever. Width 140mm.

My M7 for comparison, measures 33.5mm on the top plate, 31.5mm on the base plate. The full depth is 38mm, from the DIN wheel to the frame selector. Width 143mm. Height 79mm.

Titan:    140 x 38 x 80 mm (width x depth x height)
M9 (P)  139 x 37 x 80 mm (Leica specs)
M8         138 (excl lugs) x 37 x 80 mm
M7         137 (143 inc winder) x 33.5 x 79 mm 

Base plate
This comparison of the baseplates gives a rough idea how far the digital Ms are from their slender forebears.


The M8, M9 baseplate is the one with the handgrip.



Accessorising
The Titan is not suited for much in the way of accessories. The built-in soft release precludes a cable release. The lack of lugs means you won't be carrying it on a traditional neck strap. However Leica does offer a leash, which holds the camera vertically as well as the under shoulder holster.

The Titan cannot take accessory handgrips made for the other digital Ms. They would fit except for the presence of the small lever which controls the socket for the finger loop.












 
On the other hand a standard grip would look pretty silly as it is externally narrower and the Titan’s baseplate is carefully sculpted to match the lens hood.

This is the one area where design has clearly come before functionality. In practice, however, the Titan’s finger loop replaces the need for a handgrip. I use a handgrip to control the weight of the Noctilux on the M8. I do not miss it on the Titan.

Weight.
My measurements except where stated:

Titan with battery, kit lens, hood 960g
Titan with battery, finger loop 598g
Titan without battery or finger loop, 540g
Finger loop 12g
35mm Summilux in Titanium with hood 356g

 M9 585g, M9-P 600g (with battery - Leica)

M8 with battery 544g
M8 with battery, 28mm Summicron, hood 854g
28mm Summicron with hood 304

M7 with 50mm Summicron 890g
M7 650g
35mm Summicron with goggles and hood 262g

Gripe
The only logical argument for splashing out on titanium is that it is lighter and stronger though more brittle than other metals. But the Leica M9 Titan is not made of titanium. It is the standard M9 with titanium wrapped around it. Titanium cladding.

Unfortunately the technical specifications on Leica’s website are vague. “External parts made of solid titanium with special coating to protect against fingerprints. Partially covered with slip­resistant calf leather.”

Some of these parts are replacements for the existing brass housing. Others are additional cladding.

The result is that the Titan weighs more than the M8 or M9. However, it's about the same as the M9-P.

Leica declares this in the German and Japanese language versions of its technical specifications though the error on the English has been widely repeated: “Weight approx. 335g.”

Given the lack of detail prior to selling the camera and the distinct impression that the Titan was made of titanium – and the unstated implication that the Titan might be assumed to be lighter than the standard M9 – this is an unfortunate, misleading error.

Even when purchasers of the Titan repeated the supposed 335 g weight in unboxing videos, Leica did not correct the data on their website.

Happily the Titan, naked, still weighs less than an M7.

Soft Release
The soft release is fixed, as far as I can see. I have never used a cable release with a digital M, finding the electronic timer adequate.
While the loss of any feature is a negative for some, I think in this case it is balanced by the far more useful soft release. Taken further, the design could help correct the much discussed lack of weatherproofing on the Ms.

Menu options control the soft release: Standard, soft, discreet, discreet & soft, 

The hot shoe cover is removable though you would not want to lose it. Leica thoughtfully provides a replacement cover for the oval hole on the right side where the finger loop attaches.

Framelines
The absence of a framelines preview lever is no loss to me. Getting rid of unnecessary points of egress at least moves in the direction of making the M more weather proof. However, the only such problem I have encountered in a digital M is dust between the LCD screen and its cover.

The framelines illumination is provided by an integral LED. They are evenly lit and dim instantly in response to changes in ambient light.

I use the LED-illuminated framelines much more than I did the standard framelines. I used to ignore them, estimating a lens's angle of view instead and concentrating on my subject.

Maybe it's something to do with my 50 year-old eyes but a light press of the shutter gives me a nice, contrasty reminder of the framelines and then they disappear, leaving me with an uncluttered view of the subject.

Isn't that just what people say they like about the M3?

As I humorously speculated on the Titan’s launch, the oversize Leica badge does indeed light up. Really. It does. You should always listen to fools.

There is a hole behind the badge that allows just a little of the LED light to reach the hand engraved resin. Close up, in the dark, you can see a faint red glow. Now I mean close up and not across the room!

There is also a red tinge to the focus patch. I wonder if there was some idea to illuminate the focus patch to make it easier to use in dim light. I have tested this and it seems, though counterintuitive, to work.

Firmware

The red light can appear to add contrast; other times the red flares out, rather like the viewfinders prior to the M7 mark ii or MP. You have to keep your eye centred.

The red tint to the focus patch is only present while the frameline illumination is activated.

However the firmware requires a tweak to allow one to determine how long the framelines remain illuminated. The default is 10 seconds. It would be nice to have the following options: Off, 2 secs, 30 secs, for tripod work. Why should this be less important than the LCD review screen?

Speed dial
One advantage of titanium is that milled, it has sharp edges. Both the shutter speed dial and the menu dial are very grippy, well torsioned and easy to use.

Auto review
The Titan shares the LCD screen of the standard M9. As one fellow member of LUF points out in his M9 review, the frustrations of the LCD have more to do with a lack of processing power and the review file itself, rather than the specification of the LCD screen.

Another firmware suggestion: A maximum setting of five seconds is barely enough time for the processor to finish rendering a review image. This should be increased to 7 seconds.


Not a triclops


The Titan is a happy camera. It feels good in the hand. Is as simple as any digital M yet it is stripped down further.

I am disappointed that it is no lighter the standard M8 or M9, but we are talking about cameras which are light by the standards of the competition, and compared with their film counterparts.

Coming up...
The Titan in use and some images with the new 35mm Summilux. Actually it does great stuff with this 1960s 35mm Summicron.

Sweet red dots


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