First Leica camera test results published at DxOMark


Even though the M9 technology is now over 3 years old, DxOmark tested for the first time the sensor inside the Leica M-E camera. This is their conclusion:

"The 24x36mm full frame CCD sensor utilized in the Leica M Series rangefinder cameras produce significantly poorer raw image quality, compared to results from DSLRs featuring a CMOS alternative.

In fact, with a DxOMark Overall Score of 68, or 69 for the Leica M9, M9-P and ME Type 220, these cameras offer the worst image quality DxOMark have tested on a full frame sensor, with the exception of the 10-year-old Canon EOS 1Ds.

No doubt Leica enthusiasts will assert we’re comparing apples and pears, and the advantages the Leica M System offers in terms of simple control, portability and discretion, as well as first class engineering, are more important.

It’s fair to say too these results purely examine the data from the sensor, excluding the impact top quality Leica M Mount glass will have on the real world results. At base ISO sensitivities Dynamic Range and Color Depth scores aren’t quite as far away from competition, like the Canon EOS 1Dx and 5D MKIII, as the DxOMark Overall Scores might suggest."

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  • syed

    meh…..nobody really cares about those dumb sensor tests. what matters is walking around with a camera in hand, and getting great photos…..not the statistics behind the sensor. those things will only please Canikon users, who don’t care about photos…..just technical details.

    • rock kenwell

      That’s a stupid observation. Leica’s are crap. Face it.

      • ademjefferson

        Leica’s are crap now thats funny. I had all kinds of canon’s 1d’s II & III 5d II & III & let me tell you none of them could reproduce the crispness of my ccd M9 from iso 160-400. The M9 was the closest 35mm you can buy that will give you the look of medium format ccd’s ( aptus 75, iq180 & so on) Wich you would never shoot over iso 400. & if leica’s are crap why are you on here?

        • crazy leica fox

          i’m here to see all the pretend photographers who buy leicas and you are here to be seen by me.

          • Artem

            I am really sorry for you. You have so poor life. And so poor imagination! Get your life! (But can’t believe that you will listen this).

          • crazy leica fox

            forget photography… leica fans like you can’t even compose an argument properly

          • Charles

            You are a crazy leica fox!!!

          • So, let’s see your photos dude. Do you take them? This should be the test. Put up up your superior photos or shut up. Simple.

        • anybody who can afford leica can afford canon or nikon, but being honest that I want leica but I don’t want to pay for it yet until the new Leica M release, so for now I’m enjoying my Fuji X-pro with M mount 🙂


      You’re on the wrong website with that opinion haha

  • regular

    Honestly, I usually support DxO, but here it is getting ridiculous.

    Hey, Paul Carroll, you should really hide the “professional” photos from your site before writing this kind of assertions on a popular website, because you expose yourself to a massive “RotF!Wtf?” bashing.

  • Completely useless test and downgrading of the Leica sensor! Except for high ISO performance (and we all know that a CCD sensor cannot complete with a CMOS here) the Leica is as good as the latest Canon pro-DSLR ! And image resolution is not even included !!

  • lol Leica blind aka religious followers are agressive though I don’t know why. you guys are rich. relax! ok? just buy one Leica for masturbation and one Canon for making photos))

    • docphoto

      you might want to read your comment through again to find out who really is agressive… i never heard any leica users bitch about a 5DmII user before…. the other way ’round… well… take a look at yourself.
      Just to let you know: I own both… Canon for client stuff, Leica for joy!

      (PS: no.. i m not rich.. i just worked my ass off for my gear!)

    • Maybe it’s just that your poor…

    • Nick

      I have an M9 and a D800, different cameras for different uses. Yes the Leica is rubbish at high iso, but with a 35 Summarit on it, with my 90 Elmarit in my bag, it’s perfect for travel, and for having it on me for those moment so of good light I pass in my day to day life.
      Add my M6 with 50 ‘cron for B&W and I have the perfect ultra portable set up.
      It’s a perfect travel set, because frankly my back can’t take the D800, Gitzo that’s needed to get the best out of it, and big nikon glass to all the places I want a good quality FF camera to be.
      The results crap all over my X100, and I don’t want to kill myself everytime I have to change a setting!

    • Give us a link to your great Canon shots.

  • Not too bad for essentially a 4 year old camera in the face of comparison to the behemoth that is the 5Dmk3. Shame they don’t test for always in the bag portability and joy of use.

    • shame indeed

      good thing they didn’t or modern mirrorless camera makers will win that category too

  • Florian

    A Nikon is all about technique, a Leica is about soul.

    • ProtoWhalePig

      You posted that on Facebook too, right? It’s just as meaningless here as it was there.

      • GT


  • i own a m8 with cv 2,5/35 and a d600 with 1.8/50 myself, so no need for me to be jealous. I have done a lot of comparisms of the same settings with each camera. My conclusion: At Base ISO 160 and at 320, I would always take the crispy 10MP shot of the M8 compared to the smeary 24MP D600 shot. At 640 and above its a different story. I sometimes prefer the M8 640 over a D600 ISO 1600 sometimes not. ISO 640 and above the d600 is the clear winner, but I do not love the pics, I instead wish I would own the cv 1,2/35 to be able get the shot with my beloved M8. I dont know what DxO is measuring, but it has nothing to do with the look, beauty, crispness, pop and appearance of an image.

  • Paul J

    My leica’s produce images that are better than my Canons by a very long shot. It’s not even comparable.

    All this science, is at times, irrelevant for real world. It’s high ISO is sub par, I’ll give you that, but I rarely shoot over 160 ISO and it’s fine up to 800. If you need more than that then yoi will vbennefit from a dSLR or the new M. Dynamic range, however, is a non issue when you are a photographer who know’s what you are doing. Compared to the 6 stops of dynamic range in transparency, 11-12 stops is a walk in the park.

    If you say that Leica’s are “crap” then you are only fooling yourself and cutting yourself off from what are some of the nicest and finest image making tools available for the photographer who knows what he or she is doing.

    • Joe

      I think it’s Leica’s pricing model that cuts most people off “… From what are some of the nicest and finest image making tools available…”, not people’s perception of Leicas being “crap”.

    • mad leica hatter

      that’s a lie… anyone who knows what they’re doing will go for a better system than a leica.

      • Charles

        It’s not a lie, it’s an opinion. Same way no one could claim you’re lying when you disagree.

      • So, let’s see your photos dude. Do you take photos? This should be the test. Put up up your superior photos or shut up. Simple. Give us the link to your masterpieces….

  • Aris

    This test matches my own observations with the M9. In fact a few APS systems beat the M9 on key metrics such as dynamic range, color depth and low light capability.

    But the M9 is more fun to use, and much less fussy than the menu driven crowd. By going back to the basics, including RF focusing, the M9 is way more nimble, reactive and “alive” than any of the mirrorless alternatives, and less intrusive/cumbersome than the good DSLRs.

    Those advantages help generate great pictures.

    A pity that so many leicaphiles feel it is also necessary to portray the M9 as providing better quality on technical KPIs, as that is untrue. The M240 must be heartbreaking for the fantasies entertained by some since the M9 was launched. That CCD simply has no advantage at all on any metric. It was already outdated in 2009.

  • Leica people, there’s no need to be defensive. The sensor is just not very good in any of the M series digitals. It has to be babied in high contrast situations, and in low light the noise is terrible. Fortunately shadow detail is good and there is often some detail in the highlights that Lightroom can find.

    Settle down. M cameras have other redeeming features, and I enjoy shooting with my M9 more than with my other cameras.

    • Charles

      What you say implies that people walk around celebrating, “Yay! My M9 works in high contrast situations!! (even though it doesn’t work in other situations)” This is a misrepresentation of conventional wisdom. People like the M9 in good light at low ISO because it outperforms most other cameras there. It’s like saying Ferraris have to be “babied” on racetracks. No – that’s where they outperform other cars. And you write “high contrast situations” as to imply that the “look” of an M9’s photos are laudably high contrast because the only passable photos the camera produces are taken in settings that automatically deliver that “look.” I think that’s a specious characterisation of the camera.

      I also think that people are far too generous about the M9’s ISO performance above 400-500. It is simply USELESS. For all my attempts, I find that a dark, smudgy, handheld shot will deliver equal detail and a more pleasing appearance than ISOs above that aforementioned range. In light where that won’t fly, use a Noctilux or don’t take a photo (I don’t take a photo). The noise isn’t as bad as it looks on the LCD but it is nonetheless appalling looking. I’ve heard people talk about acceptable 800 and higher – are these people insane?

      • Joe

        If you visit the leica user forum, you’ll see that most of the people there are insane. There’s actually a thread on there now bitching about these results and denouncing them as useless. Maybe so, but I wonder what the reaction would be if DXO test the new M and give it a favourable score. Im sure it wouldn’t as hostile, but double standards is nothing new to most Leica users.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    why test an old sensor? why not test the new M?

    • I was wondering that too, maybe it’s coming next.

      • Sky

        Yep, agreed. That’s definitely a point to start – I hope they’ll keep on testing new Leica as they come out.

    • Lich

      Even before this test, it was known that the M9 sensor performances only on par with the original 5D, which was released 4 years earlier.

      The new M will no doubt be of similar performance to the D600 and a99, no matter where Leica states the sensor was manufactured in.

      • leica fox

        the original 5D is still much better than the M9 sensor

    • SCOOBY

      they cant afford the new camera yet to take apart. this is why they are slow with the reviews!!!

  • SiO

    My little Sigma DP2 Merrill beats all 3 cameras resolution wise as base ISO and smashes them in colour depth terms too….oh and it cost £620 ;o)

    • oIs

      the sigmas are good but you haven’t used a D800 or a 5D III so you should curb it a bit… sigmas are definitely not better plus the other cameras can take far better lenses than the dp2m’s lens

      • SiO

        I own an M9 and an X1 and use the Nikons on a daily basis. So I have a little experience with them lol. The Sigma still shines lolol

        • oIs

          m9 quality is crap. what nikon do you have, D5200?
          you still haven’t used a d800 or a 5d iii

          • SiO

            Obviously you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    • KRoberts

      Good for yoy, but who cares?

    • Sky

      And got useless AF, one lens permanently stuck to the body, and one of worst firmware I seen on the market. Oh… and you are stuck with horribly bad RAW developing tool… well… good for you. Rest of the world doesn’t give a shit.

      • SiO

        I use manual focus and only need a 50mm lens as I have legs and get amazing shots from the camera so yes, good for me lol

  • Hendrik Mintarno 葉俊賢

    When compared to Canon, you have to go down at least 2 stop using Canon lens to achieve crispness of Leica lens (which also means, you lose the wide open bokeh).

    • mad leica hatter

      we all know not all lenses are the same.
      so which canon lenses are you talking about? let’s hear it… unless you’re imagining things

      • regular

        Any high-speed Canon lens, prime or zoom.
        Compare a Canon f/1.2 with any Leica lens… unless you are imagining things.

  • Chicago Photographer

    lets remember it’s not just the sensor, but also the glass in front of it. Take they score for the Nikon D800. Sensor wise according to them its better than most if not all medium format sensors. Which may be true according to their tests. But look at the final image from both and the look, depth and sharpness from a medium format file, no contest. Same with the Leica, the CCD sensor combined with great glass just looks better. If anyone looks at a CMOS sensor camera that has an AA filter at Pixel level, they all look soft. Not so with the CCD.

    • Nobody Special

      I am interested to see how images from the D800 look with one of the Zeiss wides in Nikon mount would look. It’s a tempting camera for me, as the M’s have always (were) a back-up to my SL/SL2mot/R bodies and glass, but are to restrictive in use for an everyday feild camera for me. BUT, a D800 with a new Zeiss in Nikon mount lens might be interesting.

      • Cynog ap Brychan

        I have a D800 and the Zeiss 25mm, which I think is probably the weakest lens Zeiss makes (it’s also the cheapest). It is easily outperformed by the Nikon 14-24 mm at the 24 setting. That said, I have no reason to believe that other Zeiss lenses, like the 21 mm are nothing short of superb, and I would love to have a few to go with my D800.

    • Leica Fan

      Yes, the glass is overrated as well. But let’s forget that for a moment. Now we just laughing Leica owners who have paid silly money for their poor cameras!

      • Show us your masterpieces. Give us a link to your photos. Wouldn’t this be your best argument?

  • Mike

    My M6 loaded with a roll of Ilford Pan F 50 would get a better score than the M9.

    I love my Leica’s and the summicrons that I have mounted on them but have no interest in digital leicas as they are so poor. I’d rather shoot my Nikon V1 than an M9/E.

    • Sky

      You’d rather shoot the worst mirrorless system of ALL available on the market than digital Leica?

      Wow… just: WOW. I’m shocked (seriously).

      • ois

        The “worst mirrorless system of ALL” is Leica M

        • Sky

          you are either joking or totally clueless hater.

          It’s nowhere near as bad as Nikon 1. Or Pentax Q – though personally, considering the size, I’d score Pentax Q above Nikon 1 anyway.
          Look at the lenses. Look at the image quality. Look at depth of field. It’s miles better than anything Nikon 1 ever will offer. Not to mention the bodies which are actually great photographic tools (even if they are overpriced and use outdated tech), not cheap toys with Nikon label stuck on it so that blind dumb fanboys would buy it.

  • bg

    who cares!

    • Dixie

      Leica zombie on denial! 😀

      • De Nial is a river in Egypt.. and Leica’s are superb..

  • It’s very simple.

    1. Leica’s M9/ME sensor is not as good as current 35mm sensors.
    2. All 35mm sensors have been ‘good enough’ and considerably better than much film, for a long time.

    There’s nothing to be confused about. If ASA 800 worked for you, you’ll have no complaint about sensor quality.

    • Sky

      hm… it really depends. If you use high ISO performance as an indicator of how good the sensor is – than sure, point 1 stands truth. Otherwise? Not at all – Leica matches or exceeds some of modern day 35mm sensors (notably: these from Canon, cause Sony seems to be ahead even here).

  • Charles

    Is a bit weird the way the people who own other camera brands come on here to attack Leica, while claiming Leica owners are defensive, etc….

    Whenever I read about another camera, I never find some Leica owner’s comment down the bottom harping on about how cheap and crap Nikon, Canon, et al, are.

    • joe

      That’s because leica users are too sophisticated to use crude words such as “crap”.

  • Henry

    How to loose much money and just get a snobby hype.
    Previous M6 user.

    • Charles


  • Erica

    Well, I’m glad I can change between my M9, D600, Fuji X10. If I need speed I take the D600, if I have time and want to slow down I take the M9 and if I’m lazy I take the X10. I love the result from all these camera’s, but ’cause of the great Leica glass, the foto’s from the M9 are usually the best.

    • oIs

      they’re all crap cameras

      • Roscoe Patterson

        Says the troll without a camera.

  • dotcom

    Very funny reading the emotional reactions of the Leica users (and others having a laugh at them). All this tests says is that Leica did not do a very good job in development of the sensor for M9. It could have done it better, as better sensors were already available at that time and there is no trade-off in being able to put worse sensor in a smaller body or anything like that. Yes, awkward for such an expensive instrument, M9 users will just have to live with that. Maybe it will push them towards a purchase of the new (and hopefully better) M and there will be plenty of cheap used M9s to choose from 🙂

    • logan

      Fun fact: the M9 is still the smallest FF interchangeable lens camera on the market. To make it that small, sacrifices had to be made. In reality, even based on the DxO test, the biggest sacrifice was high-iso performance. In general, the sensor is still excellent and now the new M is out and it has a sensor that can compete with the D800, and it’s still the smallest FF camera on the market (besides the M9 of course).

      I was not surprised by these results at all. The ease of use and it’s stealthy nature are worth the relatively poor high-iso performance for me.

      • Roscoe Patterson

        “and now the new M is out and it has a sensor that can compete with the D800…”
        Haha…another forum joker…wake up already.

        • zivko zivadinovich

          Agree. What a bozo. These Leica fans are som edie hards, arent they 😉

          • Charles

            “some diehards,” and “aren’t,” otherwise it’s arent, like Hannah Arendt.

            You trolltards should learn to write before you put down your garbled antagonism into words.

            If you want to be offensive, that’s your right, but being offensive and retarded is more of an offence to yourself. You’re like hobos under a bridge guffawing at passing joggers.

          • zivko zivadinovich

            Oh, did I touch the nerve, Mr Charles? It’s called smartphone typing, and yes, errors appear from time to time.
            Get a life already, will you…read your comment then come back to us here and tell us who really is actuall an offensive trollhard.
            You are exactly a reflection of a Leica owner so many other people tend to despise these days.

          • Pablo Ricasso

            And I’m not a Leica-hater.

  • KRoberts

    Many comments. So much anger. If you donät own a Leica, why do you bother? I have a M9, a Conon 5DMkII and some other cameras. I didn’t by the M9 because i believed it would outperform my Canon cameras. I use the cameras for different kind of photography and work. If you don’t understand what a Leica is or if you don’t like the camera, please don’t put your meaningless comments on this site.

  • Ralph

    The micro four thirds crowd are loving this – Leica out performed by sensors 1/4 the size. Considdering many people look down their nose at such small sensors, they’re all greatly entertained by the results;

  • shutterdragon

    I use Nikon for serious photography, Fuji for casual, and Leica when I want to play with a camera. Leica has turned into a jewelry company…

  • Bob2

    DXO was probably being nice and political, waiting until the M10/M240 was released before releasing its M9 comparisons–why else wait all those years? No doubt DXO will release the new M’s 24MP sensor test/comparison shortly, and it will test much much better, bringing Leica up to current, modern standards.

    Of course, this mean nothing if you just accept the M8/M9 as they are and use them within their limitations.

  • Carl vonZinger

    Of course it’s interesting to compare an M9 and it’s 4 year old sensor to the new “state of the art” sensors, especially the Nikon D800, along with the Canon 5DMKlll. The M9 holds up rather well against the Canon, but then again, nothing else holds up against the D800, either. Low light ISO was never the M9’s forte but it still captures a VERY detailed file. What would ever make a current M9 owner consider selling just because the obvious is pointed out by DXO’s excellent test statistics?!? M9’s will still be making excellent images in years to come. Relax, better camera technology evolves, but not all dinosaurs go extinct …

  • Nick932

    I bought a D800E and returned it back. The pics do not even come close to what Leica do. I wonder sometimes what DXO compares.

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