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Leica M8 vs M9

The Leica M8 and the Leica M9 are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2006 and September 2009. Both the M8 and the M9 are rangefinder-style mirrorless cameras that are based on an APS-H (M8) and a full frame (M9) sensor. The M8 has a resolution of 10.4 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 M8 versus Leica M9
Leica M8 Leica M9
Rangefinder camera Rangefinder camera
Leica M mount lenses Leica M mount lenses
10.4 MP, APS-H Sensor 18.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 160-2,500 ISO 80-2,500
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5 LCD, 230k dots 2.5 LCD, 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 2 shutter flaps per second
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 591 g 139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M8 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 Leica M8 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.

Both cameras are available in two different colors (black, silver).

Size Leica M8 vs Leica M9
Compare M8 versus M9 top
Comparison M8 or M9 rear

In this particular case, the Leica M8 and the Leica M9 have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the M9 is slightly lighter (1 percent) than the M8. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M8 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 (M8). You can compare the optics available in the Leica M Lens Catalog.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499i
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
 
Canon 1100D 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 495 g 700 n Feb 2011 449i
 
Canon 550D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699i
 
Canon 400D 127 mm 84 mm 65 mm 556 g 370 n Aug 2006 799i
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
 
Leica M Typ 262 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Nov 2015 5,195i
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850i
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950i
 
Nikon D3000 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 n Jul 2009 599i
 
Nikon D5000 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 n Apr 2009 749i
 
Nikon D40X 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 520 n Mar 2007 729i
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999i
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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 M8 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 31 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 M8 features an APS-H sensor and the Leica M9 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the M9 is 78 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica M8 and Leica M9 sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the M8 (10.4MP), but the M9 nevertheless has marginally larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 6.84μm for the M8) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the M9 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 11 months) than the M8, 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 neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the 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 M8 are 19.7 x 13.2 inches or 50 x 33.4 cm for good quality, 15.7 x 10.5 inches or 40 x 26.7 cm for very good quality, and 13.1 x 8.8 inches or 33.3 x 22.3 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica M8 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 160 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica M9 are ISO 80 to ISO 2500 (no boost).

M8 versus M9 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the M9 has a markedly higher DXO score than the M8 (overall score 10 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1.4 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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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
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
 
Canon 1100D APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562
 
Canon 550D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
 
Canon 400D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.066462
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
 
Leica M Typ 262 Full Frame 23.7 5952 3976none........
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.156362
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
 
Nikon D40X APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.411.451663
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.842955
Neither the M8 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

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The M8 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica M8 and Leica M9 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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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
 
Leica M8optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n
 
Canon 1100Doptical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Canon 550Doptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
 
Canon 400Doptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
 
Leica M Typ 262optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Leica X Variooptional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Nikon D3000optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D40Xoptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Panasonic L10optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the M8 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 M8 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
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Leica M8Y-----2.0---
 
Leica M9Y-----2.0---
 
Canon 1100DYstereomono--mini2.0---
 
Canon 550DYstereo-Y-mini2.0---
 
Canon 400DY-----2.0---
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
 
Leica M Typ 262Y-----2.0---
 
Leica X VarioYstereomono--mini2.0---
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereomono---2.0---
 
Nikon D3000Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Nikon D40XY-----2.0---
 
Nikon D80Y-----2.0---
 
Panasonic L10Y-----2.0---

Both the M8 and the M9 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M8 was replaced by the Leica M9, while the M9 was followed by the Leica M Typ 240. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica website.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica M8 and the Leica M9? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Leica M8:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (31 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 10.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 32%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.4 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 11 months of technical progress since the M8 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the M9 emerges as the winner of the match-up (5 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision 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.

M8 03:05 M9

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M8 or the M9. 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 where reviews by experts come in. 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.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Leica M8..+ +...... Sep 2006 5,499i
 
Leica M9....4.5/54.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
 
Canon 1100D80/10069/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449i
 
Canon 550D+ +77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699i
 
Canon 400D+ ++ +o4.5/54/5 Aug 2006 799i
 
Leica M10....4/5..4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
 
Leica M Typ 262.......... Nov 2015 5,195i
 
Leica X Vario....4/54/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850i
 
Leica M Typ 240....4/5.... Sep 2012 6,950i
 
Nikon D3000+72/1004/53.5/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599i
 
Nikon D5000+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749i
 
Nikon D40X79/100+ +4/5o4/5 Mar 2007 729i
 
Nikon D80++ +o4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999i
 
Panasonic L1085/100+3.5/5o4/5 Aug 2007 599i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated 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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Leica M8:
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: Leica M8 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 M8 Leica M9
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Rangefinder camera
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Leica M mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2006 September 2009
    Launch Price USD 5,499 USD 7,999
    Sensor Specs Leica M8 Leica M9
    Sensor Technology CCD CCD
    Sensor Format APS-H Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 27.0 x 18.0 mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 486 mm2 864 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 32.4 mm 43.3 mm
    Crop Factor 1.3x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10.4 Megapixels 18.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3936 x 2630 pixels 5212 x 3472 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.84 μm 6.91 μm
    Pixel Density 2.13 MP/cm2 2.09 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 160 - 2,500 ISO 80 - 2,500 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 59 69
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.1 22.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.3 11.7
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 663 884
    Screen Specs Leica M8 Leica M9
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.68x
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 2.5inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M8 Leica M9
    Focus System Manual Focus Manual Focus
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 2 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica M8 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 M8 Leica M9
    Battery Type BLI-312 BLI-312
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 591 g (20.8 oz) 585 g (20.6 oz)

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