PW

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.

Headline Specifications
Contax N Digital VS Leica M9
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.

Body comparison

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.

Size Contax N Digital vs Leica M9
Compare N Digital versus M9 top
Comparison N Digital or M9 rear

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.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Contax N Digital» 6.0 in 5.4 in 3.1 in 34.9 oz 100 n Feb 2002 7,399iContax N Digital
 
Leica M9« 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.6 oz .. n Sep 2009 7,999iLeica M9
 
Canon T2i« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699iCanon T2i
 
Canon 10D« » 5.9 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 500 n Feb 2003 1,999iCanon 10D
 
Canon Rebel« » 5.6 in 3.9 in 2.8 in 22.9 oz 400 n Aug 2003 899iCanon Rebel
 
Canon 1Ds« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 44.6 oz 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999iCanon 1Ds
 
Canon D60« » 5.9 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 30.2 oz 620 n Feb 2002 2,999iCanon D60
 
Leica M10-P« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 iLeica M10-P
 
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 iLeica M10
 
Leica SL« » 5.8 in 4.1 in 1.5 in 29.9 oz 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450iLeica SL
 
Leica X Vario« » 5.2 in 2.9 in 3.7 in 24.0 oz 450 n Jun 2013 2,850 iLeica X Vario
 
Leica M Typ 240« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Sep 2012 6,950iLeica M Typ 240
 
Leica M8« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.8 oz .. n Sep 2006 5,499iLeica M8
 
Nikon D100« » 5.7 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 27.5 oz 370 n Feb 2002 1,999iNikon D100
 
Nikon D1X« » 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999iNikon 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.

 

Sensor comparison

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.

Contax N Digital and Leica M9 sensor measures

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).

N Digital versus M9 MP

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.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Contax N Digital Full Frame 6.1 3040 2008none........Contax N Digital
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469Leica M9
 
Canon T2i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466Canon T2i
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157Canon 10D
 
Canon Rebel APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455Canon Rebel
 
Canon 1Ds Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704none21.811.095463Canon 1Ds
 
Canon D60 APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none........Canon D60
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none........Leica M10-P
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386Leica M10
 
Leica SL Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188Leica SL
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078Leica X Vario
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084Leica M Typ 240
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359Leica M8
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........Nikon D100
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........Nikon D1X
Neither the N Digital nor the M9 offer Live View, so that they cannot project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen. Moreover, both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison

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.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Contax N Digitaloptical Y 2.0 200 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 n n Contax N Digital
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n Leica M9
 
Canon T2ioptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n Canon T2i
 
Canon 10Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon 10D
 
Canon Rebeloptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Canon Rebel
 
Canon 1Dsoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n n Canon 1Ds
 
Canon D60optical Y 1.8 114 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon D60
 
Leica M10-Poptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n Leica M10-P
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n Leica M10
 
Leica SL4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0 n n Leica SL
 
Leica X Variooptional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n Leica X Vario
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n Leica M Typ 240
 
Leica M8optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n Leica M8
 
Nikon D100optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D100
 
Nikon D1Xoptical 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.

 

Connectivity comparison

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.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Contax N DigitalYnonenone--noneFW---Contax N Digital
 
Leica M9Ynonenone--none2.0---Leica M9
 
Canon T2iYstereononeY-mini2.0---Canon T2i
 
Canon 10DYnonenone--none1.1---Canon 10D
 
Canon RebelYnonenone--none1.1---Canon Rebel
 
Canon 1DsYnonenone--noneFW---Canon 1Ds
 
Canon D60Ynonenone--none1.1---Canon D60
 
Leica M10-PYnonenone--nonenoneY--Leica M10-P
 
Leica M10Ynonenone--nonenoneY--Leica M10
 
Leica SLYstereomonoYYfull3.0Y--Leica SL
 
Leica X VarioYstereomono--mini2.0---Leica X Vario
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereomono--none2.0---Leica M Typ 240
 
Leica M8Ynonenone--none2.0---Leica M8
 
Nikon D100Ynonenone--none1.1---Nikon D100
 
Nikon D1XYnonenone--noneFW---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.

Review summary

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.

ilogo

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).

ilogo

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.

N Digital 08:09 M9

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.

Expert reviews

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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cam
era
  labs  
dp
re
  view  
e
photo
  zine  
ima
ging
resource
photo
graphy
  blog  
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Contax N Digital.......... Feb 2002 7,399iContax N Digital
 
Leica M9....4.5/54.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999iLeica M9
 
Canon T2i+ +77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699iCanon T2i
 
Canon 10D..+ +..o.. Feb 2003 1,999iCanon 10D
 
Canon Rebel..+ +..o.. Aug 2003 899iCanon Rebel
 
Canon 1Ds..+ +...... Sep 2002 8,999iCanon 1Ds
 
Canon D60..+ +o.... Feb 2002 2,999iCanon D60
 
Leica M10-P........4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 iLeica M10-P
 
Leica M10....4/5..4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 iLeica M10
 
Leica SL..84/1004.5/54/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450iLeica SL
 
Leica X Vario....4/54/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850 iLeica X Vario
 
Leica M Typ 240....4/5.... Sep 2012 6,950iLeica M Typ 240
 
Leica M8..+ +...... Sep 2006 5,499iLeica M8
 
Nikon D100..+ +oo.. Feb 2002 1,999iNikon D100
 
Nikon D1X..+ +..o.. Feb 2001 5,999iNikon D1X
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

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.

Contax N Digital:
Check Ebay offers
Leica M9:
Check Ebay offers

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.

~

    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 Specifications
    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 Technology CCD CCD
    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
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    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%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.73x 0.68x
    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
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    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
    Battery Type 4xAA BLI-312
    Body Dimensions 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)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

    You are here Home  »  CAM-parator  »  Contax N Digital vs Leica M9