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Leica M9 β Preview

18 Megapixels
Full-Frame CCD 1.0x

The following review is not suppose to be some kind of a professional review. If you are looking for such reviews you will not find it in my homepage. I just plan to write a simple review with my thoughts to assist my friends with the camera they want to buy since most of the time the guy at the electronics department doesn't know much about the camera apart from the price of it by scanning the barcode. If you found my website from the internet then good for you! The reviews are just my thoughts and I am happy to share with anyone. It is possible I will make the occasional mistakes and if I do please let me know about it!


The Leica M9 was announced with the X1 on 9/9/2009 and is currently the worlds smallest full-frame system camera. The Full-frame CCD sensor is developed by Kodak specifically for the M9. The Leica M series had been a living legend for decades. The M stands for "Messsucher", the German term for a combined rangefinder and viewfinder, and for a unique, individualistic kind of photography. Coming from a non-rangefinder camera background this is pretty new to me. The Leica M with its intuitive controls was just so simple to use! Unlike my 1Ds Mark II the Leica M9 has no superfluous functions or overcomplicated menus (I once talked to a professional photographer and he said most professionals now-a-days doesn't even know how to use all the functions of their DSLR...sounds disastrous doesn't it?).

The Leica M was fun to use and a love at first sight! There were pretty much no options/functions and I was given the oppertunity to concentrate on the essencial: creating memorable pictures.

Many people worry about the rangefinder manual focus. I was too! I was wondering if I would be able to survive without autofocus. I would say if you could tell when a photo is in focus with AF you should be able to do fine in MF on a regular SLR camera. The rangefinder experience just makes MF easier. When two images superimpose with each other your subject is in focus. Another thing a SLR user should be aware of is you don't quite get 100% coverage. There are some indicator lines for you to guesstimate the composition. It took me a while to get use to. With most DSLRs in the market you do not get 100% viewfinder coverage. Its the opposite with the rangefinder. You can be using a medium telephoto lens and be able to see everything in wideangle on the sides in the rangefinder. It helps to know when something/someone is about to walk into your photo or sometimes help to comspose your photo.



  Leica M9



List Price (body Only) HKD $57,000 (USD $7,750)
Body material Magnesium Alloy
Sensor Size • 36 x 24 mm Kodak CCD
• 18 megapixels
• 0.8mm integral IR-cut filter
• No moiré filter
A/D conversion 14-bit linear
Digital Multiplier 1.0x
Processors Dual
Sensitivity range • ISO (ISO 80 'pull')
• ISO 160
• ISO 200
• ISO 250
• ISO 320
• ISO 500
• ISO 640
• ISO 800
• ISO 1000
• ISO 1250
• ISO 1600
• ISO 2000
• ISO 2500
• ISO 3200
File Formats DNG and JPG
Color spaces sRGB, Adobe RGB
Metering Center-biased reflected from white & grey stripes on shutter blades
Exposure bracketing 3,5,7 frames, 0.5 - 2.0 EV
Exposure compensation Menu or rear dial
Shutter discreet and soft release mode
Shutter speed 32 - 1/4000 sec
Flash sync 1/180 sec
Continuous shooting/ Buffer 2 fps, 8 images
Hotshoe • Yes
• Compatible with SF58, SF24D
Self-timer 2 sec, 12 sec
Viewfinder Rangefinder
User profiles 4
White balance Auto, 7 presets, Kelvin, Manual
Rotation sensor Yes
LCD monitor 2.5" 230,000 pixels
Languages • English
• German
• French
• Spanish
• Italian
• Russian
• Japanese
• Simplified Chinese
• Traditional Chinese
Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
Weight 587g
Battery Lithium-Ion battery pack (3.7 V, 1900 mAh)
Storage SD/SDHC
Body finishes Steel gray, Black
Bundled software Adobe Lightroom 2
Manual Leica M9 manual (English)




Compared to the SLR photography, where focusing takes place through the lens, and lens focal length and aperture set limits on focusing accuracy, the rangefinder base of the Leica M remains precisely the same regardless of the lens being used and therefore provides extraordinary precise focusing with all lenses. This means you do not have to worry about AF compensation and focus being off. The rangefinder shows an image is in focus when you see two superimposing images overlap with each other.







Leica engineers created a timeless standard when they designed the Leica M bayonet in the 1950s. This lens mount ensures absolute system compatibility with all M cameras up to the incomparable new Leica M. Almost all older M lenses are fully compatible with and function flawlessly on the M9. However, Leica system compatibility is decidedly forward-looking, with an eye toward the future. the new 6-bit coding mounts are automatically recognized but manual user programming is also possible for uncoded leica lenses.
No other professional camera is as compact as a Leica M. The rangefinder focus system means no need for a bulky mirror box and no mirror blackout time. There is no mirror box in this SLR system so you can actually see the subject as you are taking the photo. Without a moving mirror, hand held slow shutter speeds as low as 1/8s can easily be achieved.
The Leica M is built to be consistant, dependable, and tough under almost any imaginable conditions. This is why resilience and endurance are always prime concerns in the design and construction of every M camera. Brass for the top deck and baseplate and high-impact magnesium alloy for the chasis.
The M9 features a 2.5-inch 230,000 pixels LCD Monitor on the back, the simple, intuitive meny navigation system controlled by only a few buttons ensures rapid access to the entire range of camera functions.


The Leica M9 is 80mm in height and 139mm in width. Since the Leica M9 system has no mirror box it only measures 37mm in thickness. The M9 may be small but it is built like a brick. Its one heafty camera weighing at almost 600g and feels well balanced in your hands.


ISO Sensitivity and Noise levels

Some people wonder why their compact camera produces chunky looking photos and think if they need a new camera to have better picture quality. The chunky looking texture in the photos is due to noise. If you put your camera on auto ISO it will try to use a higher ISO setting so that a faster shutter speed can be used to prevent camera shake as well as prevent underexposed photos. auto gives you a decent photo but not necessary with the best image quality. If I do leave the camera on auto I usually select the ISO by myself. ISO Sensitivity on a digital camera is the ability of the camera to increase light sensitivity of the image sensor. As ISO is increased, the sensor's digital input signal is amplied but at a cost. Noise increases as ISO is increased and its side effects are usually seen in a form of a grainy texture. Low noise at high ISO does not necessary mean the sensor is good since many modern cameras employ noise reducation at higher ISO settings, which may be degrading to image detail. I think the M9 noise control is pretty good till ISO 1000 for my tastes. Pictures speak louder than my words so heres some photos for you to compare and judge!

ISO 80 ("Pull")

ISO 160

ISO 200

ISO 250

ISO 320

ISO 500
ISO 640
ISO 800
ISO 1000
ISO 1250
ISO 1600
ISO 2000
ISO 2500


Pros Cons
  • JPEG output shows impressive detail at base ISO
  • Good balance between noise reduction and IQ at high ISO
  • World's smallest Full-frame DSLR
  • Smaller dimensions and lighter than comparable DSLRs
  • Solid build quality and handling
  • Simple user-interface
  • Built in IR-cut filter
  • Accurate Rangefinder
  • Very usable high ISO
  • Rangefinder is easier to use in low light manual focusing
  • Require some skill for framing with a rangefinder
  • Takes quite a bit of skill to master the rangefinder for a sharp image
  • no built-in flash
  • 2.5" LCD has relatively low resolution compared to the competition
  • LCD cannot be used for live view for MF assist
  • Lens could be quite an investment if your ancestors didn't leave you with any glass.
  • Unlike its predecessor the M9 features a plastic LCD cover instead of the sapphire used on the M8.2
  • No built-in image stabilization

The Leica M9 is a camera made so simple so that you can concentrate on taking the photo rather than setting the camera. I wouldn't say its a bang for the buck since you get a lot more features with a Canon or Nikon but its one great masterpiece. There is not much point in talking about the pros so let me talk about what I think about the cons. The rangefinder is hard to use but its about taking quality photos that are worth keeping rather than quantity. There is no built-in flash but with the fast lenses available for the M-mount who needs a flash when all you need is available light? The LCD screen has pretty low resolution but that’s because its a menu screen and not really for playback. I am still using my old and reliable Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II because I love the 2" screen behind it. If you give me 3" I would be looking back at photos all the time and it’s going to take my time off from taking more photos. The 2.5" screen cannot be used for Live View. Live View is great but Live View is not really Live View after all. The image is first recorded onto the image sensor then played back. You have the rangefinder and this is true Live View. Ok I know you probably are not satisfied yet. The Full-frame sensor on the M9 is made of CCD and not CMOS. CCD chips generally generate a lot more heat so unless you want to fry the camera I wouldn't use it even if it were available. Leica lenses are expensive but if you have the budget for the M9 I'm sure you're no cheap scape. As for the sapphire LCD cover...unless you want to pay 10K for this toy you'll be fine. Finally...the lack of IS. Usually camera shake comes from triggering the shutter and the flapping of the mirror of the SLR. The M9 has no flapping mirrors and with its discrete shutter mode it’s a camera in its own class. In simple terms, as long as your hands are still the camera shouldn't shake by itself. This is not a camera for everyone but for the Leica lovers this is the first digital Leica that is made the way a camera is suppose to be. Many had been waiting patiently for the full frame M and here it is!


  Rating (out of 5)
Build quality


Highly Recommended!

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ISO 160



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