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Leica Digilux 3 vs M9

The Leica Digilux 3 and the Leica M9 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2006 and September 2009. The Digilux 3 is a DSLR, while the M9 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless camera. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (Digilux 3) and a full frame (M9) sensor. The Digilux 3 has a resolution of 7.4 megapixels, whereas the M9 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
Leica Digilux 3
versus
Leica M9
Leica Digilux 3   Leica M9
Digital single lens reflex Rangefinder camera
Four Thirds lenses Leica M mount lenses
7.4 MP – Four Thirds sensor 18.1 MP – Full Frame sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 100-1,600 ISO 80-2,500
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5" LCD – 207k dots 2.5" LCD – 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 2 shutter flaps per second
146 x 87 x 77 mm, 606 g 139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica Digilux 3 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Leica Digilux 3 and the Leica M9. 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the Digilux 3 is only available in silver.

Size Leica Digilux 3 vs Leica M9
Compare Digilux 3 versus M9 top
Comparison Digilux 3 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 Leica Digilux 3. Moreover, the M9 is slightly lighter (3 percent) than the Digilux 3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the Digilux 3 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 will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (Digilux 3) and the Leica M Lens Catalog (M9).

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 n Sep 2006 1,499ebay.com
2.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 550D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 30D 144 mm 106 mm 74 mm 785 g 750 n Feb 2006 1,399ebay.com
5.
 
Canon 350D 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899ebay.com
6.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
7.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 130 mm 80 mm 93 mm 640 g 300 n Jun 2015 4,249ebay.com
8.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850ebay.com
9.
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950ebay.com
10.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499ebay.com
11.
 
Leica V-LUX 1 141 mm 86 mm 142 mm 734 g 360 n Sep 2006 849ebay.com
12.
 
Olympus E-330 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 n Jan 2006 999ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-500 130 mm 95 mm 66 mm 479 g 750 n Sep 2005 599ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-300 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799ebay.com
15.
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599ebay.com
16.
 
Panasonic L1 146 mm 87 mm 64 mm 606 g 750 n Feb 2006 999ebay.com
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The Digilux 3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 81 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica Digilux 3 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Leica M9 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the M9 is 284 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.0. The sensor in the Digilux 3 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the M9 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Leica Digilux 3 and Leica M9 sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the Digilux 3 (7.4MP), but the M9 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 5.51μm for the Digilux 3) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the M9 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 11 months) than the Digilux 3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further 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 inches or 66.2 x 44.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.8 x 13.9 inches or 53 x 35.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.4 x 11.6 inches or 44.1 x 29.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica Digilux 3 are 15.7 x 11.8 inches or 39.8 x 29.9 cm for good quality, 12.5 x 9.4 inches or 31.9 x 23.9 cm for very good quality, and 10.5 x 7.8 inches or 26.6 x 19.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica Digilux 3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica M9 are ISO 80 to ISO 2500 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the Digilux 3 is build around a CMOS sensor, while the M9 uses a CCD imager. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

Digilux 3 versus M9 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none21.010.612753
2.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
3.
 
Canon 550D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
4.
 
Canon 30D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.510.873659
5.
 
Canon 350D APS-C 8.0 3456 2304none21.810.863760
6.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
7.
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185
8.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
9.
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084
10.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
11.
 
Leica V-LUX 1 1/1.8 10.0 3648 2736480/30p18.49.5-72729
12.
 
Olympus E-330 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none20.810.47352
13.
 
Olympus E-500 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none20.710.34551
14.
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none20.410.1-4048
15.
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.842955
16.
 
Panasonic L1 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none20.810.48052
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.
The Digilux 3 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The M9 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The Digilux 3 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 Digilux 3 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the M9 has a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.47x), 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 Leica Digilux 3 and Leica M9 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3optical n2.5 / 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
2.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
3.
 
Canon 550Doptical n3.0 / 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7/s Y n
4.
 
Canon 30Doptical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s Y n
5.
 
Canon 350Doptical n1.8 / 115 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
6.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
7.
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0/s n Y
8.
 
Leica X Variooptional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
9.
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n n
10.
 
Leica M8optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0/s n n
11.
 
Leica V-LUX 1235 n2.0 / 207 tilting n 1/2000s 2.0/s Y Y
12.
 
Olympus E-330optical n2.5 / 215 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
13.
 
Olympus E-500optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
14.
 
Olympus E-300optical n1.8 / 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
15.
 
Panasonic L10optical n2.5 / 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
16.
 
Panasonic L1optical n2.5 / 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The Digilux 3 has one, while the M9 does not. While the built-in flash of the Digilux 3 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the Digilux 3 and the M9 write their files to 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 Leica Digilux 3 and Leica M9 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3Ystereo / mono---2.0---
2.
 
Leica M9Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 550DYstereo / -Y-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon 30DY- / ----2.0---
5.
 
Canon 350DY- / ----2.0---
6.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
7.
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
8.
 
Leica X VarioYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereo / mono---2.0---
10.
 
Leica M8Y- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Leica V-LUX 1Ymono / mono---2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-330Y- / ----2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-500Y- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-300Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic L10Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic L1Y- / ----2.0---

Both the Digilux 3 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 Digilux 3 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the features and operation of the Digilux 3 and M9 can be found, respectively, in the Leica Digilux 3 Manual (free pdf) or the online Leica M9 Manual.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica Digilux 3 and the Leica M9? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Leica Digilux 3:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (81 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2006).


Advantages of the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (18.1 vs 7.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 60%.
  • 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.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.47x).
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 146x87mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 11 months of technical progress since the Digilux 3 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the M9 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 5 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.

Digilux 3 05:10 M9

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the Digilux 3 and the M9 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3............ Sep 2006 1,499ebay.com
2.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 550D..+ +..77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 30D..+ +..+ +o.. Feb 2006 1,399ebay.com
5.
 
Canon 350D..80/100..+ +o.. Feb 2005 899ebay.com
6.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
7.
 
Leica Q Typ 1165/5....80/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249ebay.com
8.
 
Leica X Vario3/5......4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850ebay.com
9.
 
Leica M Typ 2404/5......4/5.. Sep 2012 6,950ebay.com
10.
 
Leica M8......+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499ebay.com
11.
 
Leica V-LUX 1............ Sep 2006 849ebay.com
12.
 
Olympus E-330......+o.. Jan 2006 999ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-500..76/100..+ +.... Sep 2005 599ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-300......+o4.5/5 Sep 2004 799ebay.com
15.
 
Panasonic L10..85/100..+3.5/54/5 Aug 2007 599ebay.com
16.
 
Panasonic L1..85/100..+..3.5/5 Feb 2006 999ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price 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.

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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 use the search menu below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Leica Digilux 3 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 Leica Digilux 3 Leica M9
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Rangefinder camera
    Camera Lens Four Thirds lenses Leica M mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2006 September 2009
    Launch Price USD 1,499 USD 7,999
    Sensor Specs Leica Digilux 3 Leica M9
    Sensor Technology CMOS CCD
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 864 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 43.3 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 7.4 Megapixels 18.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3136 x 2352 pixels 5212 x 3472 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.51 μm 6.91 μm
    Pixel Density 3.28 MP/cm2 2.09 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 1,600 ISO 80 - 2,500 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 Leica Digilux 3 Leica M9
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.47x 0.68x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 2.5inch
    LCD Resolution 207k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica Digilux 3 Leica M9
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Manual Focus
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 2 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica Digilux 3 Leica M9
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica Digilux 3 Leica M9
    Battery Type BP-DC3 BLI-312
    Body Dimensions 146 x 87 x 77 mm
    (5.7 x 3.4 x 3.0 in)
    139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 606 g (21.4 oz) 585 g (20.6 oz)
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    Check M9 offers at
    ebay.com

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