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?
Dynamic range and Gamut
The Kodak-designed CCD sensor of the Leica M9 has a dynamic range of around 11EV, which is very good, although slightly lower than the best current DSLRs, the best of which offer 12EV. In normal use, the M9’s sensor is capable of recording a very wide tonal range, although careful metering is essential since the M9’s metering system, like all centreweighted systems, can be fooled into under or overexposure relatively easily.
Negative exposure compensation does help to retain the atmosphere of exceptionally dark scenes, which, naturally, the M9 attempts to render as a medium grey. When presented with an 18% grey target that fills the frame completely, the M9 delivers a midtone of 125, almost exactly a midpoint between 0 (black) and 255 (white).
This graph shows the brightness values recorded by the test camera when it is used to photograph a stepped graduation wedge. The wedge has transmission values in 1⁄2EV steps ranging from 0 to 12EV. The camera’s exposure is set so the 12EV section in the wedge has a brightness value of 255. Software analysis of the image then determines the recorded brightness values of all the other steps and calculates the camera’s dynamic range.
Leica M9 Gamut
The M9’s colour gamut comfortably exceeds the sRGB colour space, and also exceeds the Adobe RGB colour space towards the purple/magenta end of the spectrum. Like most digital cameras, however, the M9 cannot quite replicate the full range of delicate green shades in the Adobe RGB colour space.