Leica M9 review

October 24, 2009

Leica M9



Price as Reviewed:


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?

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.

  • Shutter Type: Electronically controlled focal-plane shutter
  • Memory Card: SecureDigital/MMC and SDHC
  • LCD: 2.5in TFT with 230,000 pixels
  • Output Size: 5216x3472 pixels
  • Viewfinder Type: Optical, approximate 28mm field of view, with brightlines
  • Weight: 589g (without battery or card)
  • Exposure Modes: Manual, aperture priority
  • Focal Length Mag: 1x
  • Max Flash Sync: 1/180sec
  • White Balance Bracket: No
  • Field of View: Approximate, indicated with brightlines
  • Sensor: CCD with 18.5-million effective pixels
  • File Format: DNG (raw), JPEG, raw + JPEG simultaneously
  • Power: Rechargeable Li-Ion battery
  • Shutter Speeds: 30-1/4000sec in 1⁄3EV steps plus bulb
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • Drive Mode: Max 2fps for 8 frames
  • Compression: Two-stage JPEG
  • Connectivity / Interface: USB 2.0
  • Metering System: Centreweighted using three reflective bars on shutter curtains
  • Dimensions: 139x80x37mm
  • Lens Mount: Leica M
  • Exposure Comp: ±3EV in 1⁄3EV steps
  • ISO: ISO 160-2500 plus ISO 80 ‘pull’ setting
  • Focusing Modes: Manual focus only
  • Built-in Flash: No
  • Dioptre Adjustment: No
  • White Balance: Auto, 7 presets, plus custom

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