Leica investigating SanDisk memory cards issues with the M9

Photographer Gil Lavi described on his blog in details his experiences with a brand new Leica M9 camera and different SanDisk memory cards, mainly from the Ultra/Extreme series. His camera crashed on several occasions and he lost multiple images, some of which were written as 0 KB file size. Similar issue occurred with a second M9 camera and different SanDisk memory card:

"It was just before that end of the photo shoot that the other new SanDisk SD card Extreme crashed inside the M9, making the camera dead and the card unreadable in any device. With all the embarrassment, I had to reshoot everything all over again with my backup equipment.

Today, 5 days later, the camera started to behave very strangely with. I could see the pictures that I had just shot on the screen but then after few moments it disappeared from the card. Occasionally the camera got stuck stating “writing” indefinitely. I waited up to 20-30 minutes after shooting just one frame before removing the battery to fix it. Other times it said “no sd card”. The card was formatted in the camera minutes before used.

When I got back and downloaded the files, most of them were “written” but as 0 KByte files. Tried both DNG and Jpeg."

It seems that Leica is currently investigating the problem. I have been using SanDisk Exteme memory cards for almost two years and never had this problem. Has anyone experienced similar issues?

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  • http://www.fredfacker.blogspot.com Fred Facker

    This is an extremely scary issue for professional photographers. I’d be way too scared to rely on an M9. If those images disappear, so does my paycheck and probably any chance of booking that client again. I hope Leica is putting everything they’ve got into this problem.

  • Rich

    I just returned from a week long vacation in the Pacific Northwest and had an identical problem. I have lost one entire 8Gb card of images taken on my M9 with a SanDisk. Luckily, I had a second similar card which worked, but with a hiccup. This card “locked up” the camera, but after removing the card and battery and re-booting the camera, I was able to get access to the images and download pics. I too was shooting DNGs, I wonder if this has something to do with the problem.

  • broxibear

    Ouch, a photographer’s nightmare…I suppose he was lucky he had the opportunity to reshoot.

  • me

    Never had any write issues with my M6. ;)

  • Doo Sik Lew

    I had an identical experience with an Ultra 16GB card and a brand new M9. Very frustrating losing shots all the time and have the camera lock up every couple of shots. Same issue on a second brand new M9. Then I read on some forums that the 8GB Ultra card is the most stable with the M9 so “downgraded” to the 8GB and fortunately that has fixed the problem for me.

    Frustrating though that I am limited to the 8GB card. The original 16GB card works flawlessly in several different cameras even with movie recording and has not had a single blip outside the M9…

  • J Shin

    Speaking as a former computer engineer, I would like to note that this sort of problem is quite common. It could be manufacturing variations (not Leica!), difference in how each company implements interface standards, or an odd combination of settings that did not happen to have gotten tested. If they can figure out the nature of the problem, Leica should be able to patch it, so it’s good that they are investigating it at least. If they can’t figure it out, then I’d worry (like the infamous R8 film-scratching thing).

    If you are going to whine about your $7k blah blah blah, consider the fact that we just paid $40k for a vehicle with a computer problem that cannot be fixed. Turns out to be a standards implementation problem. We get around the problem by never touching certain switches, and carrying a lot of fuses around. True story.

    • http://www.flickr.com/genotypewriter genotypewriter

      It could be manufacturing variations (not Leica!), difference in how each company implements interface standards, or an odd combination of settings that did not happen to have gotten tested.

      With the money Leica’s charging for these cameras, you’d think they contract Nasa to implement the SD card interfacing part.

      There are digital cameras starting from $50 out there from sometimes unknown manufacturers and they don’t have any of these problems. Anyone who says the electronics in the digital Leica M bodies are much more complex (why?) they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  • john

    a 7000 dollar camera should not use SD cards.

    • Ronan

      Agreed. CF all the way. Never had a SINGLE issue with ANY of them for YEARS.

      • http://www.marksperryphoto.com Mark

        The modern Leica’s might as well be novelty cameras anyway despite their high price. It’s not the SD cards, it’s the design.

        I would NEVER rely on a Leica for pro photography. That’s just asking for trouble.

        • Robert Falconer

          “I would NEVER rely on a Leica for pro photography. That’s just asking for trouble.”

          And yet a great many pro photographers do.

          That being said, this is definitely something Leica needs to address. The Germans are masters of mechanical and optical engineering, but Japanese electronics engineering usurped them years ago.

          • Ronan

            Not as their primary camera (unless sucking up to Leica).

            Look at ALL the great photographers currently making a profit.

            Nikon, Canon.

            Canon, Nikon.

            And for studio work, Hasselblad.

          • Ronan is dumb

            Ronan, look at magnum photographers…what do they use? A great many photojournalists use leicas…thats what they are designed for…your designed for exhibiting a high amount of autism apparently.

          • http://www.marksperryphoto.com Mark

            This is a response to “Ronan is Dumb”

            Magnum photographers only started using digital Leica’s when Leica started giving them to them for free. So of course they’ll do nice little videos for Leica and talk about how they love the M. But I’d bet when you’re in Afganistan you reach for the D3, or the 1DS IV. Or if you’re magnum maybe even the M6. Certainly not the M9.

          • http://www.marksperryphoto.com Mark

            *I meant 1D IV

            Also photojournalists pretty much can’t afford to buy Leica cameras these days. Why would they? 10 grand for 1 body and 1 lens? And if it breaks you have to wait weeks and pay top dollar for repair? You’d have to be out of your mind or surfing on oil money to use an M9 as a field journalism camera. It’s a novelty camera for the wealthy, or finacially irresponsible. Anyone who thinks different is seriously diluded, or hasn’t worked on a commercial job.

    • Anthony

      Couldn’t agree more. The SD format was total BS from the start. there was no specifications that required the sd card itself to be durable, and the pathetic “speed” ratings came way after the format was established. besides that, the SD card association didnt even enforce the write standards and all the manufactures basically trashed the performance of all the SD card ranges. even the 150 X or class 6. Cause there’s no standard that says the cards have to “sustain” 20mb/s, you end up with cards which peak for 3 seconds at 19mb/sec and then drop to 13 mb/s. Guess what? you cant even try to record 1080p video with that. can barely do 720p, and dont even get into bit ratings.
      And besides that the dumb a_s write lock switch WHICH NO ONE EVER USES, which becomes problematic over 50 or so removals from the sd card slot. Total BS
      The company most noteworthy for this is adata. absolute crap sd cards.

      Leica should Use CF. Period. no BS SD. faster write speeds, robust design, no dumb a_s lock switch and more physical space for nand.

      You shouldnt have to always buy a sand disk card to get a reliable storage card. I’ve had several CF cards, no brand reliance at all.

  • http://louiefavorite.com Louie Favorite

    I’ve used a Sandisk Extreme 8GB in my M9 since it arrived about 3 weeks ago. So far, no problems. And it has been used a lot, not just being a lay about camera.
    *^*^*^ (that’s the sound of me knocking on wood)

  • CK Dexter Haven

    Wasn’t there a recent report that a very high percentage of a famous CARD-maker’s products in the marketplace were PHONIES/counterfeit? Maybe the issue is with people buying discounted cards from non-authorized dealers and getting shoddy memory?

    http://www.overclockers.com.au/wiki/Fake_Memory_Cards

    There’s a saying: Only a sucker pays ‘retail.’ But, when you’ve got a job on the line, you’d probably better not skimp on the details.

    • Ronan

      All his cards were bought at dealers + checked by SanDisk after the issues. They were all real, no problems.

  • Peter

    From Leica.com faq.:

    Which tpes of memory cards will work with my LEICA M9?
    In principle, all cards complying with the SD/SDHC specifcations will work. Since this market with its many distributers changes quickly, Leica cannot constantly check the compatibility.
    The M9′s performance is very much based on the card’s speed.
    Therefore, we suggest using the faster types on the list below containing memory cards checked byLeica.
    Type of card
    Extrememory 4GB SDHC SanDisk Extreme III SDHC 8GB 30MB/s
    hama SDHC 4 GB SanDisk SDHC 4GB class2
    Kingston SDHC 4GB class2 SanDisk SDHC 8GB class2
    Lexar Professional SDHC 4GB 133x class6 SanDisk Ultra II 16GB class4
    Lexar Professional SDHC 8GB 133x class6 SanDisk Ultra II SDHC 2GB 15 MB/s
    Panasonic SDHC 8GB class6 SanDisk Ultra II SDHC 32GB class4
    PNY SDHC 8GB Toshiba 16GB SDHC class4
    SanDisk Video HD 16GB class4 Toshiba 4GB SDHC class6
    SanDisk Extreme III SD 2 GB Transcend SDHC 16GB class6
    SanDisk Extreme III SDHC 4 GB Transcend SDHC 1GB
    SanDisk Extreme III SDHC 4GB 30 MB/s Transcend SDHC 32GB class6
    ultron High Speed SD 512MB

  • http://www.redelijkheid.com Willem

    Same issues here (every so often). Thankfully, I’ve lost only two photos (the 0MB filesize). The lock-up of the camera (red light keeps flashing till eternity) happens about once a ‘shoot’.
    I use The SanDisk Ultra cards (4, 8 and 16GB) in general.
    Guess I’ll try to use the 4 and 8GB versions for a while. The M9 with the 16GB SD Ultra is not very reliable.

  • Dallas

    Had the same problem a week or so ago… M9 with SanDisk Ultra… lost all images… could not even reformat the card… or recover using data recovery software.

  • The Midnight Barber

    Seems like Gil just wants more traffic to his blog.
    Since he has signed up all over the web promoting this problem.
    But he did post a response from Leica…
    “Therefore the problem that you are describing was initially an isolated issue that was resolved by formatting any new card to the FAT standard after San Disk issued cards with a new card format.”
    Had he just formatted the card in-camera it would solve this problem.

    • Ronan

      Wrong.

      If you bother to do a bit of research you will see that doesn’t resolve the issue.

      Theirs thousands of people with the same issues btw.

      • The Midnight Barber

        I’d like to see the thousands of people with this problem.
        Seems to just be a few people on here, with no proof of them actually owned said camera.
        The fact remains that Gil has essentially spammed every photo board with this supposed problem, that he discovered.
        In all my use with the M8 and M9 never once have I had this problem.
        Guess I’m lucky I’m not one of the thousands out there who’s cameras are useless.

  • http://www.KevinMoloney.com Kevin Moloney

    With both M8 and M9 I have had infrequent and irregular episodes where the camera stops writing to Sandisk cards and hangs up with a data write error. To regain camera functions I need to remove the battery for a couple seconds then all is fine until it starts acting like there’s a buffer overrun again. With a camera as slow as an M (no 10 FPS) that should never be a problem. I have only Sandisk cards at the moment so I can’t say this is a Sandisk only problem. It’s also hard to force this to happen. I’ve tried, but when the camera is being watched and the pictures are not critical it behaves well.

  • Kuba

    I had the same problems with Sandisk and Kingston SD cards. SD card every time was readable in my computer, but last picture on the Card was always 0 kB.

  • http://www.xavierlhospice.com xavier

    Actually YES i did but with my M8 once ! I was shooting with sandisk and i noticed the camera kept on writing way too long, first I saw the picture then they disappear from the back screen and I could not read anything on my mac since it had 0Kb. I first remove the battery, it happened again, and the phenomenon stopped. I have had prior to this recent event a strange thing. My M8 would not fire in continuous making a strange sound. But it was working fine in single. I guess the second time was in a similar situation and the weather might have been one of the trigger since the first time I was in Louisiana, a specially hot day and the second time in Paris during the hottest day of the few days heatwave… I think it might be the cause, too hot the electronic “panic”….

  • Joaquim Prado

    Thanks why I love Film! :)
    Never had a x-ray accident since most x-ray machines will burn films with ISO higher than 1800 but even a TMX3200 and wasn’t burned by a x-ray, lucky!

  • Disiderio

    Goes to show that the m8 and m9 is more a fashion accessory than a professional piece of equipment.

  • Ricardson Williams

    I use M9 and now downgrade to M8 and never had a problem with Sandisk… I use Sandisk Extreme Pro 16GB.

  • Pedro Almeida

    Send me a Leica M9 + 50mm 1.0 and I will investigate this problem free of charge. :D

  • AB

    I had problems with my Sandisk SD cards before. Exactly the same problems. No amount of formatting on the PC or in-camera would rectify the problem. I am dead-set certain the Sandisk cards I bought were 100% genuine.

    At the beginning of the year, I finally gave up and tried Transcend Class 10 8Gb cards and I have not had a problem since. My Sandisk SD cards are now in my Panny GF1. The bummer is that I cannot take any videos above 720p because they Sandisks are only Class 4 SD cards.

    There are a lot of speculations as to what the real problem is; from counterfeit SD cards, damaged SD card slots, to antiquated SD card software and firmware used by the Leica M9.

    Let’s hope Leica will get to the bottom of the problem.

  • http://www.istockphoto.com/huntedduck David

    Never had a SD car problem with my M9, but have had a couple of occational mis-writes on my D700 with SanDisk Ultra CF.

  • Josh G.

    I am having issues with Sandisks cards as well. Shame when you put a 150 dollar card into a 7,000 dollar camera and it starts messing up after a few pictures. I think I will do what everyone else suggests and try a different brand. I definitely expected top of the line cards to work with a top of the line camera.. disappointed in Leica for not resolving this ASAP.

  • Nobody Special

    But it’s a Leica!!! They’re small but mighty good……the camera of true professionals that you can buy at fancy boutique shops in the fanciest parts of cities the world over.

    Sorry. Couldn’t help but notice all the complaints above – heck, at first thought it sounds like a disk issue – but obviously not. Leica needs to stop patting itself on the back at big events and world photo shows and start getting to design a camera that doesn’t cost a left —, that isn’t a ‘modern boutique-antique’.

    They also need to wake up and get over themselves and come out with cameras that have less, or at least fewer flaws, bad disks or not. The M’s only cost $7.5K to $8.5K – what a deal. Here’s a challenge to Leica; make a better camera for less money that is better, and more ‘modern’ in every way.

    • AB

      +1 I totally agree with you

      The SD card problems experienced by us is truly strange and unacceptable. Many have opined it might be due to counterfeit SD cards, but I beg to differ as the ‘failed’ Sandisk Ultra SD cards are now residing happily in my Panny GF1.

      Faster continuous shooting.

      The read/write performance can be much better.

      The quality of the M9′s 2.7 inch LED display is simply unacceptable, granted it was the only 2.7 inch LED display they could find at the time.

      The ISO quality has to improve. I don’t mean the Leica M should Out-ISO a Canon or a Nikon. But a decent usable ISO 3600 should be a must for the M10.

      But the traditional Leica buyers are an eclectic bunch. They would rather adapt to the quirks and idiocyncracies of a Leica than to hope for Leica to make improvements. Just go to l-camera-forum and you’ll know what I mean. They remind me of the loyal Jaguar and Saab buyers of the olden times – 1980′s and early 1990′s. They liked the antiquated or quirky styling, mediocre appointments and performance of their Jaguar cars and didn’t want change. But those Jaguars failed to attract new buyers to the marque and when the Japanese (Lexus & Infiniti) and Germans finally got their act together, Jaguar was doomed. Saab has been consigned to the footnotes of the automotive graveyard.

      I hope I’m wrong, but Leica might be heading in the same direction. The warning bells began ringing when Leica began marketing their products as luxury items rather than cameras.

      • Robert Falconer

        I think one has to appreciate Leica’s position here. The company is in a bit of a catch-22 situation. They’re somewhat hamstrung by the very mystique and quality that has come to define their brand over the past 80+ years. A Leica M rangefinder camera (and remember that they’re selling every M9 they can make right now) is hand-crafted and assembled in Germany. Off-shoring a Leica M to Malaysia (to compete with Canikon) to reduce production costs might increase profitability and reduce cost to the consumer—but would anyone want to buy one? I doubt it. Neither would anyone want to buy a Rolls-Royce made in China.

        That being said, I do believe that if Leica are going to insist on charging stratospheric prices for their cameras that they need to ensure that said cameras are beyond reproach. That means none of these electronic problems; a proper resolution screen on the back; the adoption of autofocus in the M range (difficult, I know, but not insurmountable—Contax managed it with the beautiful G-series rangefinders); and perhaps some additional innovations.

        A lot of people still like to work with rangefinder cameras in many situations, and Leica does still produce consistently the finest quality lens line in the world.

        The company should focus on developing a modern rangefinder that retains Leica quality but brings the M into the 21st century. They still make the world’s greatest rangefinder. By evolving a market they already dominate they could target professionals more aggressively—simultaneously touting their efforts to the public at large. This would be wiser, I think, than releasing another special edition M9 made out of unobtanium that’s marketed to wealthy fashionistas.

        I’m hoping that they understand this and that the M10 will incorporate at least some of the suggestions I’ve made here (though I think autofocus will probably not arrive until an M11 or M12).

        • Nobody Special

          I agree with both your comments. I can’t help but feel that Leica and it’s main owner seems to have made decisions that may back-fire on him/them. They have to promote the traditional M, but the way to a new tech marvel with it’s ‘spirit’ cannot really evolve in the confines of the M body. It’s an admirable goal, but for them to move forward they have to bring prices down in the body and really re-invent the concept.

          I also don’t think that up til now, they have the imagination that would push the traditional out of the way, or the will to do it. Maybe the whole Leica has turned into a hobby idea for them – meaning they have a company, decided to further turn it up-market and sit on the basic design. From a forward thinking/designer mentality it’s a little baffeling as there really is plenty of proof from them now about the way they have chosen to direct the company.

          The S2, with it’s stratospheric pricing shows they went upmarket and didn’t mind spending the money. So it kind of feeds the question(s) as to why they just didn’t spend the dollars on a M type-mount camera that would step beyond the traditional M while still keeping it in the line-up. A new design that would be up to spec’ with the big time cameras that are there now and break the door open. Oh well, I hope they make it, but only time will tell.

  • Markus Wierzoch

    After I have had problems with with two different SD cards in my M9 (a SanDisk 8GB Extreme Pro 45 and a SanDisk 8GB Extreme 30, bought from B&H and Adorama respectively), I did some research on this issue and it seems to be quite common – nearly 600 posts in this l-camera forum thread tell the story.
    I assume that Leica only provides customer service for their camera above the $20K mark, as the company doesn’t seem to answer any related questions at this point.
    I tried different Apps on both PC and Mac to restore my pics and finally found “Disk Drill” (Apple App Store) that did the trick for $50…

  • Banksie

    I own a $125, 000 Mercedes-Benz AMG. It’s an absolute pleasure to drive, very planted at high speeds and yet built with safety in mind. But its electronics are a bit antiquated when compared to less expensive Japanese cars. Plus it’s not inexpensive to maintain. It’s also a bit quirky and eccentric at times. It tends to go through tires, too. And I’m sure the car itself is overpriced. In the end, there are much better cars that will get the job done (i.e., getting me from point A to point B.) In a real world, I’d be better off with an Acura or Lexus. Or a Toyota or Honda. I can’t argue that.

    • Ronan is dumb

      you sound like your from top gear…i own a 4500000 stradale challenger and you dont see me bringing it up to make a point dbag

      • http://www.marksperryphoto.com Mark

        You just did.

  • http://www.carlahrberg.se Carl Ahrberg

    I have experienced the same problem as Gil Lavy did with the new SanDisc Extreme Pro cards, 8GB 45 MB/s. The cards ceased to work and the camera went completely dead as long as a card remained in the camera. The camera is still OK and the Extreme III cards (8GB 30 MB/S) works fine.

    Yes, I am stupid enough to use my M9 in my professional work! It works extremely well in most situations and I have no reasons to complain about it. I still think they make great and useable cameras. The bad behaviour of the new cards in the camera was, of course, a bit of a shock. But when Leica has made the necessary studies of the current memory cards, we will hopefully be wiser and know what it is all about.

  • http://neko.cc Michael

    I’ve had the same problem with the SanDisk Ultra 16Gb card (freeze, endless write LED flashing, zero byte file). I’ve been in touch with Leica support, and they are dealing with it seriously. I’d say the 16Gb card is a new design over the 4Gb (maybe 8Gb). I’m trying the 4Gb version & the recommended Lexar one & hammering it to test.

    Leica recently opened a sub-forum on their site to collect user reports. I’d encourage you to post your findings but include as much detail about the model/class/speed/type as possible.

  • iluvhatemail

    32gb extreme, never an issue

  • Amr

    I happened to me exactly as he described . .

    I was in Nuremberg for a visit with friends, and i faced the same embarrassing moments with my brand new Leica M9. My friends were shocked how such a 7k$ camera has such a problem.

    I stopped shooting that night . . first thing in the morning i went to a camera shop and bought Panasonic card 16GB, and since that day, which is a month and half ago, i haven’t faced any problem.

    I contacted Leica, and they were so defensive like i’m buying the bad cards, i told them it’s a serious issue with M9 and you can check L-Camera Forum and you’ll see.

    They send me their approved cards, i replied, 99% of the people who faced this problem are using your recommended cards . .

    As of that, i bough a “real” genuine Panasonic 16GB by 100 Euros. And oh yes, it is not in their “List”.

  • http://www.jonathanvansmit.com Jonathan

    This has now happened to me. Last weekend, my M9 locked up, the red light blinked for an eternity, and then I found that it had deleted several frames. I’ve re-loaded the firmware, re-formatted the SanDisk Ultra 16GB card, and the same thing happened last night except that my entire night’s work was deleted, nearly 100 frames. I had been shooting a drug user at some risk to my safety so I was heartbroken when this happened. I shoot dark Kowloon streets at night, often in dubious alleyways using 15mm and 21mm up really close to my subjects. The M9 is ideal for this as it’s relatively unobtrusive and tolerably quite, and I can aim and focus etc by feel with Leicas but now I’m seriously considering whether I should get a 5D as my M9 is looking really trashed after less than a year’s use. The rear control ring is impossibly stiff, the top plate is dented, all corners brassed, bottom plate dented after dropping it, and the white M9 logo has mostly fallen out. By comparison, my little Ricoh GRD, which suffers even worse treatment, is still in perfect condition.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/34767179@N08/ Araakii

    How come no one has mentioned about recovering the “lost” photos? The data is still in the card even though the files appear to have 0kb size. I had this issue a couple times but I managed to recover all shots but one.

  • KW

    I bought a pack of Sandisk Ultra 4 GB cards from Costco. I went on a trip and shot a bunch of pictures. When I got back home and tried to transfer the pics to iPhotos on my Mac, the card could not be read. I was so upset that none of my pictures could be downloaded. They are still on the card, and I can see them with my camera, but they just can’t be transferred. Now I only use eFilm PRO Class 4 cards by Delkin Devices. Super expensive but worth it.

  • schaetz

    same problem with my M9 and a san disk 32 GB pro, first few pics disappeared after shooting , then the M9 answered no sd found, just before it happened i tried to transfer images on my computer and it failed!

  • http://palmbeachrealestatephotography.com/ Robert Walker

    I first heard about this Leica problem from Ken Rockwells site. If I was Gil and had a pair of cameras that cost more than many cars and could not use them professionally, well I would be less than happy. SanDisk now makes the suspect cards in China, so there goes quality control. I have always lusted after a Leica and could not afford one. I did order a Fuji X100 today from Adorama as it is in stock. If it takes good pictures and records them, maybe one could argue it is a “better camera” than the M9 Leica that does not work dependably…?

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