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Yosemite with Leica S2 and Leica M9

I’m back from a wonderful trip in Yosemite and the White Mountains, enjoying overcast, stormy, and sunny weather in the course of four days, a huge private wilderness almost entirely to myself (with no overnight parking, the high country is vacant until 8am or so). Get up before dawn, and for a few hours it’s a wholly private experience, especially so if the weather is not blue sky.

I shot almost entirely with the Leica S2 and Leica M9 (both are reviewed in DAP). Shooting intensively for 3.5 days from dawn to dusk, I learned a lot about how the S2 works in my favorite kind of outdoors hiking/shooting.

I’ll be writing up my full field experiences with the S2 and the 35/70/120mm lenses. But at the least, the S2 was unfazed with continuous melting snow for 3-4 hours one day, with camera and lens continually covered with large water droplets, and I have few concerns about its robustness in adverse weather (and the lens shades are highly effective for snow and rain). In a nutshell, the S2 is a drop-in replacement for a Nikon or Canon DSLR in terms of size/weight, but it also offers the potential of 37 megapixels with no anti-aliasing filter.

It pays to explore new roads in the mountains (terrain varies so quickly), and while visiting the starkly beautiful White Mountains and the bristlecone pines, I followed a steep 4WD road down into a picture-perfect narrow valley abutting the wilderness. Below are a few snaps of my hour-long visit there; I considered staying overnight but was concerned that a storm might make exit difficult.

Aspens at dusk
Leica S2 + 120mm f/2.5 APO-Macro-Summarit-S
Wilderness at the end of the road
Leica S2 + 70mm f/2.5 Summarit-S
Porcupine damage? Dozens of trees damaged.
Leica S2 + 70mm f/2.5 Summarit-S

Leica M9 shooters should get in line for the new 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH. I’ll have a review in DAP soon enough (to be added to the wealth of material already there on the M9 and lenses), and it’s one lens I’m not inclined to send back. The 35/1.4 ASPH is the best all-around lens you can get for the M9, though given a choice of one lens only, I’d probably stick with the Noctilux.

Landscape shooters looking for high quality while traveling light should give the M9 serious consideration. The camera and 3-4 lenses easily fit into a small hip pack, and your neck and back will hardly notice. But don’t go there if you don’t have 20/20 vision for focusing. If only Leica could make it 30 megapixels (lenses are good enough for it), and add Live View... that would be a wow.

Written Record in Aspen Bark
Leica M9 + 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH
Transition Zone
Leica M9 + 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH
Crossing a Trout-filled stream
Leica M9 + 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH

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