Leica digital over a decade

When the Leica M9 came out in 2009, it was quite a technical achievement: A full-frame sensor on a compact rangefinder camera that accepted almost all of the existing M-mount lenses. The sensor was a CCD and it rendered crisp, warm images, reminiscent of Kodachrome (it was made by Kodak, after all). The 18 MP resolution was more than sufficient at the time.

The M9 was my primary camera for several years. Leica released follow-up models with better, more modern sensors, live-view and other technical improvements. I stuck with the M9, choosing to invest in lenses rather than spending my money on incremental camera improvements. But over time those incremental improvements began to add up and by about 2015, the M9 began to feel dated. It seemed slow and it was missing important new features like the ability to use an EVF.

These days I mostly shoot with the M10, SL2 and particularly the Q2 Monochrome, pictured above. These cameras are very capable – fast, high resolution with incredible low light capability and bright and clear EVFs. All the while, my poor M9 was gathering dust.

But I wondered how would it stack up against the current state of the art. So I brushed off the dust and put the M9 into my bag with the Q2-M. I’ve been shooting with both cameras on my recent walks and taking comparison shots.

This is not intended to be scientific or precise. Just a little fun. All of the comparison images below were post-processed in Lightroom for tone and contrast and to allow for side by side comparisons. Also, since I was using a 35mm Summilux on the M9 and the Q2-M has a fixed 28mm Summilux ASPH, some cropping was also necessary where I didn’t zoom with my feet. I tried to use the same aperture and the lowest reasonable ISO on both cameras. The goal was just to get them to look as similar as possible.

Images on the left are from the Q2 Monochrome, released last year. On the right is the M9 from 2009.

What do you think? To my eye the M9 holds up pretty well. I’m actually seeing more micro-contrast in the images from the M9.

Obviously, when you zoom in, there’s more detail and crispness in the RAW files from the Q2-M due to the larger sensor and better lens. But, even after 11 years, which is an eternity in the world of digital camera technology, the M9 can still give the new guys a run for their money.

Here are some more images, old and new, from the M9 – this time in color to show off that sensor.