It’s been a long time coming: the Leica M9 is the first full-frame digital rangefinder. Does it live up to the Leica name?

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Leica M9

Product:

Leica M9 review

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Price as reviewed:

£4,850.00

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Leica M9 at a glance:

  • 18.5 million effective pixels
  • 230,000-pixel, 2.5in LCD screen
  • Brightlines for 28-135mm
  • 2fps continuous shooting
  • Three-mode shutter release including ‘discreet’ and ‘soft’ mode
  • Street price around £4,850

Leica M9 – Introduction

In the beginning, there was the Leica M3. Released in 1954, the M3 was Leica’s first M-mount rangefinder, and offered significant improvements in features and ergonomics over earlier screw-mount models. As well as an all-new bayonet lens mount, the M3 was the first Leica to feature automatic brightline frames in its viewfinder, and the first to integrate the viewfinder and the rangefinder into a single window.

The M3, and the later M-series cameras, revolutionised 35mm photography and greatly contributed to Leica’s reputation among professionals as well as wealthy amateurs.

The M9 isn’t the first digital Leica rangefinder – that honor goes to the M8 of 2006 – but it is the first to offer a full-frame CCD sensor, which means there is no increase in the effective focal length of compatible optics.

The M8 was an intriguing ‘first try’, but one with significant faults, most notably a remarkably noisy shutter and the need to use a special IR blocking filter on every lens it is coupled with. The shutter was hushed a little in the upgraded M8.2, which also featured a tougher LCD screen, but the cropped sensor remained a sticking point for many Leica enthusiasts.

And these Leica enthusiasts have been waiting a long time: it is worth remembering that ‘serious’ DLSRs started to become affordable for enthusiast photographers around ten years ago. A decade on, the Leica M9 is the first full-frame digital camera designed for the M-mount user. As such, it has a lot to live up to.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Build and handling
  4. 4. White balance and colour
  5. 5. Metering
  6. 6. Autofocus
  7. 7. Resolution, noise and sensitivity
  8. 8. Dynamic range and Gamut
  9. 9. LCD and viewfinder
  10. 10. Our verdict
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