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Epson R-D1 vs Leica M9

The Epson R-D1 and the Leica M9 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in March 2004 and September 2009. Both the R-D1 and the M9 are rangefinder-style mirrorless cameras that are based on an APS-C (R-D1) and a full frame (M9) sensor. The Epson has a resolution of 6 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
Epson R-D1 VS Leica M9
Epson R-D1 Leica M9
Rangefinder camera Rangefinder camera
Leica M mount lenses Leica M mount lenses
6 MP, APS-C Sensor 18.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 200-1600 ISO 80-2500
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0" LCD, 235k dots 2.5" LCD, 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
1 shutter flaps per second 2 shutter flaps per second
142 x 89 x 40 mm, 620 g 139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Epson R-D1 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Epson R-D1 and the Leica M9 is provided 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the R-D1 is only available in black.

Size Epson R-D1 vs Leica M9
Compare R-D1 versus M9 top
Comparison R-D1 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 notably smaller (12 percent) than the Epson R-D1. Moreover, the M9 is markedly lighter (6 percent) than the R-D1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the R-D1 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. A larger imaging sensor (as in the M9) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (R-D1). You can compare the optics available in the Leica M Lens Catalog.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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
 
Epson R-D1» 142 mm 89 mm 40 mm 620 g .. n Mar 2004 2,999iEpson R-D1
 
Leica M9« 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999iLeica M9
 
Canon 550D« » 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699iCanon 550D
 
Canon 350D« » 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899iCanon 350D
 
Canon 300D« » 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899iCanon 300D
 
Leica M10« » 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 iLeica M10
 
Leica X Vario« » 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850 iLeica X Vario
 
Leica M Typ 240« » 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950iLeica M Typ 240
 
Leica M8« » 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499iLeica M8
 
Nikon D50« » 133 mm 102 mm 76 mm 620 g 400 n Apr 2005 749iNikon D50
 
Nikon D70s« » 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 500 n Apr 2005 899iNikon D70s
 
Nikon D70« » 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 400 n Jan 2004 999iNikon D70
 
Olympus E-300« » 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799iOlympus E-300
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The R-D1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 63 percent) than the M9, which puts it into a different market segment. 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. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Epson R-D1 features an APS-C sensor and the Leica M9 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the M9 is 134 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Epson R-D1 and Leica M9 sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the R-D1 (6MP), but the M9 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 7.85μm for the R-D1). Yet, the M9 is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 6 months) than the R-D1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. 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 Epson R-D1 are 15 x 10 inch or 38.2 x 25.4 cm for good quality, 12 x 8 inch or 30.6 x 20.3 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.7 inch or 25.5 x 16.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Epson R-D1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica M9 are ISO 80 to ISO 2500 (no boost).

R-D1 versus M9 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Epson R-D1 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........Epson R-D1
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469Leica M9
 
Canon 550D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466Canon 550D
 
Canon 350D APS-C 8.0 3456 2304none21.810.863760Canon 350D
 
Canon 300D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455Canon 300D
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386Leica M10
 
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 D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.856055Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950Nikon D70s
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950Nikon D70
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none........Olympus E-300
Neither the R-D1 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 R-D1 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Epson R-D1, the Leica M9, and comparable cameras.

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
 
Epson R-D1optical n 2.0 235 fixed n 1/2000s 1.0 n n Epson R-D1
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n Leica M9
 
Canon 550Doptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n Canon 550D
 
Canon 350Doptical n 1.8 115 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon 350D
 
Canon 300Doptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Canon 300D
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n Leica M10
 
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 D50optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70soptical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D70s
 
Nikon D70optical n 1.8 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D70
 
Olympus E-300optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Olympus E-300

The R-D1 writes its imaging data to SDHC 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 Epson R-D1 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
 
Epson R-D1Ynonenone--nonenone---Epson R-D1
 
Leica M9Ynonenone--none2.0---Leica M9
 
Canon 550DYstereononeY-mini2.0---Canon 550D
 
Canon 350DYnonenone--none2.0---Canon 350D
 
Canon 300DYnonenone--none1.1---Canon 300D
 
Leica M10Ynonenone--nonenoneY--Leica M10
 
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 D50Ynonenone--none2.0---Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70sYnonenone--none2.0---Nikon D70s
 
Nikon D70Ynonenone--none1.0---Nikon D70
 
Olympus E-300Ynonenone--none2.0---Olympus E-300

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Epson R-D1 (unlike the M9) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the R-D1 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 R-D1 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 Epson and Leica websites.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Epson R-D1 better than the Leica M9 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Epson R-D1:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (63 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in March 2004).

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Arguments in favor of the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (18.1 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 73%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
  • Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (2 vs 1 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 142x89mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 6 months of technical progress since the R-D1 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the M9 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 4 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.

R-D1 04:12 M9

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the R-D1 and the M9 in practical situations. 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 table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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
 
Epson R-D1.......... Mar 2004 2,999iEpson R-D1
 
Leica M9....4.5/54.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999iLeica M9
 
Canon 550D+ +77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699iCanon 550D
 
Canon 350D80/100+ +oo.. Feb 2005 899iCanon 350D
 
Canon 300D..+ +..o.. Aug 2003 899iCanon 300D
 
Leica M10....4/5..4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 iLeica M10
 
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 D5078/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Apr 2005 749iNikon D50
 
Nikon D70s......o5/5 Apr 2005 899iNikon D70s
 
Nikon D70..+ +..o.. Jan 2004 999iNikon D70
 
Olympus E-300..+oo4.5/5 Sep 2004 799iOlympus E-300
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Epson R-D1:
Check Ebay offers
Leica M9:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Epson R-D1 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 Epson R-D1 Leica M9
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Rangefinder camera
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Leica M mount lenses
    Launch Date March 2004 September 2009
    Launch Price USD 2999 USD 7999
    Sensor Specs Epson R-D1 Leica M9
    Sensor Technology CCD CCD
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 864 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 43.3 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 6 Megapixels 18.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3008 x 2000 pixels 5212 x 3472 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.85 μm 6.91 μm
    Pixel Density 1.63 MP/cm2 2.09 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200-1600 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 Epson R-D1 Leica M9
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification ..x 0.68x
    Rear LCD Size 2.0 inch 2.5 inch
    LCD Resolution 235k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Epson R-D1 Leica M9
    Focus System Manual Focus Manual Focus
    Continuous Shooting 1 shutter flaps/s 2 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Epson R-D1 Leica M9
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB no USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Epson R-D1 Leica M9
    Battery Type EU-85 BLI-312
    Body Dimensions 142 x 89 x 40 mm
    (5.6 x 3.5 x 1.6 in)
    139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 620 g (21.9 oz) 585 g (20.6 oz)

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