Contax N Digital vs Leica M9
The Contax N Digital and the Leica M9 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2002 and September 2009. The N Digital is a DSLR, while the M9 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Leica provides 18.1 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Contax N Digital||Leica M9|
|Digital single lens reflex||Rangefinder camera|
|Contax N mount lenses||Leica M mount lenses|
|6.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor||18.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|no Video||no Video|
|ISO 50-1600||ISO 80-2500|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|2.0" LCD, 200k dots||2.5" LCD, 230k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|4 shutter flaps per second||2 shutter flaps per second|
|152 x 138 x 80 mm, 990 g||139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Leica M9? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The physical size and weight of the Contax N Digital and the Leica M9 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the N Digital is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica M9 is considerably smaller (47 percent) than the Contax N Digital. Moreover, the M9 is substantially lighter (41 percent) than the N Digital. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the N Digital nor the M9 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
As can be seen in the images above, the N Digital has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Contax N Digital»||6.0 in||5.4 in||3.1 in||34.9 oz||100||n||Feb 2002||7,399||Contax N Digital|
|Leica M9«||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||20.6 oz||..||n||Sep 2009||7,999||Leica M9|
|Canon T2i« »||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.7 oz||440||n||Feb 2010||699||Canon T2i|
|Canon 10D« »||5.9 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||500||n||Feb 2003||1,999||Canon 10D|
|Canon Rebel« »||5.6 in||3.9 in||2.8 in||22.9 oz||400||n||Aug 2003||899||Canon Rebel|
|Canon 1Ds« »||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||44.6 oz||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999||Canon 1Ds|
|Canon D60« »||5.9 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||30.2 oz||620||n||Feb 2002||2,999||Canon D60|
|Leica M10-P« »||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||23.3 oz||210||Y||Aug 2018||7,995||Leica M10-P|
|Leica M10« »||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||23.3 oz||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595||Leica M10|
|Leica SL« »||5.8 in||4.1 in||1.5 in||29.9 oz||400||Y||Oct 2015||7,450||Leica SL|
|Leica X Vario« »||5.2 in||2.9 in||3.7 in||24.0 oz||450||n||Jun 2013||2,850||Leica X Vario|
|Leica M Typ 240« »||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.7 in||24.0 oz||..||Y||Sep 2012||6,950||Leica M Typ 240|
|Leica M8« »||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||20.8 oz||..||n||Sep 2006||5,499||Leica M8|
|Nikon D100« »||5.7 in||4.6 in||3.2 in||27.5 oz||370||n||Feb 2002||1,999||Nikon D100|
|Nikon D1X« »||6.2 in||6.0 in||3.3 in||38.8 oz||1200||Y||Feb 2001||5,999||Nikon D1X|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The N Digital was somewhat cheaper (by 8 percent) than the M9 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the M9 offers a higher resolution of 18.1 megapixels, compared with 6.1 MP of the N Digital. This megapixels advantage translates into a 71 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the M9 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 11.90μm for the N Digital). However, it should be noted that the M9 is much more recent (by 7 years and 6 months) than the N Digital, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the M9 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Leica M9 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the M9 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 26.1 x 17.4 inch or 66.2 x 44.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.8 x 13.9 inch or 53 x 35.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.4 x 11.6 inch or 44.1 x 29.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Contax N Digital are 15.2 x 10 inch or 38.6 x 25.5 cm for good quality, 12.2 x 8 inch or 30.9 x 20.4 cm for very good quality, and 10.1 x 6.7 inch or 25.7 x 17 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Contax N Digital has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica M9 are ISO 80 to ISO 2500 (no boost).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Contax N Digital||Full Frame||6.1||3040||2008||none||..||..||..||..||Contax N Digital|
|Leica M9||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||none||22.5||11.7||884||69||Leica M9|
|Canon T2i||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.1||11.5||784||66||Canon T2i|
|Canon 10D||APS-C||6.3||3072||2048||none||21.1||10.9||571||57||Canon 10D|
|Canon Rebel||APS-C||6.3||3072||2048||none||21.0||10.8||544||55||Canon Rebel|
|Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63||Canon 1Ds|
|Canon D60||APS-C||6.3||3072||2048||none||..||..||..||..||Canon D60|
|Leica M10-P||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||..||..||..||..||Leica M10-P|
|Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86||Leica M10|
|Leica SL||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88||Leica SL|
|Leica X Vario||APS-C||16.1||4928||3272||1080/30p||23.4||12.7||1320||78||Leica X Vario|
|Leica M Typ 240||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||24.0||13.3||1860||84||Leica M Typ 240|
|Leica M8||APS-H||10.4||3936||2630||none||21.1||11.3||663||59||Leica M8|
|Nikon D100||APS-C||6.0||3008||2000||none||..||..||..||..||Nikon D100|
|Nikon D1X||APS-C||5.9||3008||1960||none||..||..||..||..||Nikon D1X|
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The N Digital and the M9 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinder in the M9 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the N Digital (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the N Digital has a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.68x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Contax N Digital and Leica M9 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Contax N Digital||optical||Y||2.0||200||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||n||n||Contax N Digital|
|Leica M9||optical||n||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.0||n||n||Leica M9|
|Canon T2i||optical||n||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n||Canon T2i|
|Canon 10D||optical||Y||1.8||118||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Canon 10D|
|Canon Rebel||optical||n||1.8||118||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5||Y||n||Canon Rebel|
|Canon 1Ds||optical||Y||2.0||120||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||n||Canon 1Ds|
|Canon D60||optical||Y||1.8||114||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Canon D60|
|Leica M10-P||optical||n||3.0||1037||fixed||Y||1/4000s||5.0||n||n||Leica M10-P|
|Leica M10||optical||n||3.0||1037||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0||n||n||Leica M10|
|Leica SL||4400||Y||3.0||1040||fixed||Y||1/8000s||11.0||n||n||Leica SL|
|Leica X Vario||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n||Leica X Vario|
|Leica M Typ 240||optical||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||n||Leica M Typ 240|
|Leica M8||optical||n||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||2.0||n||n||Leica M8|
|Nikon D100||optical||Y||1.8||118||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Nikon D100|
|Nikon D1X||optical||Y||2.0||120||fixed||n||1/16000s||3.0||n||n||Nikon D1X|
One feature that is present on the N Digital, but is missing on the M9 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The N Digital writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the M9 uses SDXC cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Contax N Digital and Leica M9 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Contax N Digital||Y||none||none||-||-||none||FW||-||-||-||Contax N Digital|
|Leica M9||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Leica M9|
|Canon T2i||Y||stereo||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon T2i|
|Canon 10D||Y||none||none||-||-||none||1.1||-||-||-||Canon 10D|
|Canon Rebel||Y||none||none||-||-||none||1.1||-||-||-||Canon Rebel|
|Canon 1Ds||Y||none||none||-||-||none||FW||-||-||-||Canon 1Ds|
|Canon D60||Y||none||none||-||-||none||1.1||-||-||-||Canon D60|
|Leica M10-P||Y||none||none||-||-||none||none||Y||-||-||Leica M10-P|
|Leica M10||Y||none||none||-||-||none||none||Y||-||-||Leica M10|
|Leica SL||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||full||3.0||Y||-||-||Leica SL|
|Leica X Vario||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica X Vario|
|Leica M Typ 240||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Leica M Typ 240|
|Leica M8||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Leica M8|
|Nikon D100||Y||none||none||-||-||none||1.1||-||-||-||Nikon D100|
|Nikon D1X||Y||none||none||-||-||none||FW||-||-||-||Nikon D1X|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Contax N Digital (unlike the M9) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the N Digital and the M9 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M9 was replaced by the Leica M Typ 240, while the N Digital does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Contax and Leica websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Contax N Digital better than the Leica M9 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Contax N Digital:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.68x).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).
Arguments in favor of the Leica M9:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (18.1 vs 6.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 72%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 200k dots).
- More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 152x138mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 405g or 41 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
- More modern: Reflects 7 years and 6 months of technical progress since the N Digital launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the M9 comes out slightly ahead of the N Digital (9 : 8 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the N Digital or the M9 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 20D vs Leica M9
- Canon 50D vs Contax N Digital
- Canon 5D Mark IV vs Leica M9
- Contax N Digital vs Leica Q2
- Contax N Digital vs Nikon D3100
- Contax N Digital vs Olympus XZ-1
- Contax N Digital vs Panasonic GX9
- Contax N Digital vs Panasonic LF1
- Fujifilm X-T20 vs Leica M9
- Leica M9 vs Nikon D3000
- Leica M9 vs Olympus E-M10 III
- Leica M9 vs Sony A850
Specifications: Contax N Digital vs Leica M9
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Contax N Digital||Leica M9|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Rangefinder camera|
|Camera Lens||Contax N mount lenses||Leica M mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2002||September 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 7399||USD 7999|
|Sensor Specs||Contax N Digital||Leica M9|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||36.0 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||864 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||43.3 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||6.1 Megapixels||18.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3040 x 2008 pixels||5212 x 3472 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||11.90 μm||6.91 μm|
|Pixel Density||0.71 MP/cm2||2.09 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||50-1600 ISO||80-2500 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||69|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||22.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||11.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||884|
|Screen Specs||Contax N Digital||Leica M9|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0 inch||2.5 inch|
|LCD Resolution||200k dots||230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Contax N Digital||Leica M9|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Manual Focus|
|Continuous Shooting||4 shutter flaps/s||2 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Contax N Digital||Leica M9|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||Firewire||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||no HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Contax N Digital||Leica M9|
152 x 138 x 80 mm
(6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
139 x 80 x 37 mm
(5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||990 g (34.9 oz)||585 g (20.6 oz)|
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