Leica M9 review

The 18MP digital camera with a full-frame sensor proves doubters wrong

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Leica m9

Leica describes the M9 as an investment for life, and in its build quality it's easy to understand its confidence. For existing M-mount users it's the next logical progression from either analogue M-series bodies or the M8/M8.2, and in terms of its resolution it's unrivalled for such a small camera.

Combined with high-quality optics - generally a given with Leica - it really can produce remarkable images. Photos have excellent detail, sharpness extending well into the corners and edges of the frame and beautiful out-of-focus characteristics. It really can produce images that are comparable in quality to those from a professional DSLR – but at a cost.

Just because it can produce excellent images, it doesn't mean it always does, with the auto white balance performance heading a small list of grievances.

We liked

A large and clear viewfinder, combined with a rock solid build and attention to detail. The simplicity of its operation makes it an enjoyable camera to use, while the sensor is capable of resolving plenty of details.

We disliked

A small and low-resolution LCD, together with a few handling issues and often erroneous auto white balance performance mean that the Leica M9 isn't quite the dream digital camera many would imagine it to be.

Verdict

Leica M8 and M8.2 owners should know that although the pixel pitch has remained the same with the new M9 model, Leica claims to have improved noise performance.

There's also a thicker UV/IR filter built-in and an extra processor, as well as the more obvious difference of their being no crop factor for lenses.

A difference of around £2,000 separates the two models, which is significant.

Although it doesn't have any immediate rivals as such, the availability of M-mount adapters for compact system models (and the Ricoh GXR series) does at least provide a few viable, and far cheaper, alternatives for those with a few M-series lenses.

Coupled with the fact that the M9 is already beginning to show its age it, it's difficult to see Leica winning too many new customers. But then this isn't a camera necessarily designed to compete with others, rather an update to a long-revered series of beautifully crafted cameras with photo image quality very much as the priority.

The Leica M9 is a beautifully-crafted camera, capable of excellent image quality. Although its price puts it out of the reach of many, the lucky few are unlikely to feel disappointed with the results of which it's capable.

Tech Specs

Product TypeMirrorless Camera Body Only
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Effective Camera Resolution18 Megapixel
USBYes
Wide AngleNo
Product FamilyM
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card
ColourSteel Grey
Digital ZoomNo
Brand NameLeica
FeaturesContinuous Shooting Mode
Screen Size6.4 cm (2.5")
Viewfinder TypeOptical
Weight (Approximate)585 g
Image Sensor Size23.90 mm x 35.80 mm
Maximum Image Resolution5212 x 3472
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height80 mm
Width139 mm
Depth37 mm
Product SeriesM
Image FormatsRAW, JPEG
Focus ModesManual
ManufacturerLeica Microsystems GmbH
Product ModelM9
Product NameM9 Mirrorless Camera
Exposure Control
  • Auto
  • Aperture Priority
  • Manual
Manufacturer Part Number10705
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.leica-camera.com
Marketing Information

As the world's most compact full-format digital camera system, the Leica M9 sets a new benchmark for modern M photography. It boasts outstanding performance and consummate technical prowess - attributes that it shares with Yaniel Merino, the promising up-and-coming boxer from Cuba. The M9 followed him for a day in his home city of Havana, where he trains under fairly basic conditions and dreams of winning the Olympics. His dream has been captured authentically and vibrantly by the M9. Discrete, compact and precise, the M9 is as superb a performer as Yaniel himself and like him, also claims to be among the best in the world.