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Leica M8 vs Olympus E-420

The Leica M8 and the Olympus E-420 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2006 and March 2008. The M8 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless camera, while the E-420 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-H (M8) and a Four Thirds (E-420) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 10.4 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 10 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
Olympus E-420
Leica M8   Olympus E-420
Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica M mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
10.4 MP – APS-H sensor 10 MP – Four Thirds sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 160-2,500 ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5" LCD – 230k dots 2.7" LCD – 215k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 591 g 130 x 91 x 53 mm, 440 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M8 and the Olympus E-420? 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 M8 and the Olympus E-420. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M8 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the E-420 is only available in black.

Size Leica M8 vs Olympus E-420
Compare M8 versus E-420 top
Comparison M8 or E-420 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-420 is notably larger (6 percent) than the Leica M8. However, the E-420 is markedly lighter (26 percent) than the M8. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M8 nor the E-420 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 Leica M Lens Catalog (M8) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-420).

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, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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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 M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-420 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 1100D 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 495 g 700 n Feb 2011 449ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 400D 127 mm 84 mm 65 mm 556 g 370 n Aug 2006 799ebay.com
5.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Nov 2015 5,195ebay.com
7.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D3000 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 n Jul 2009 599ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D5000 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 n Apr 2009 749ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D40X 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 520 n Mar 2007 729ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999ebay.com
12.
 
Olympus E-450 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2009 499ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-400 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Sep 2006 699ebay.com
17.
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599ebay.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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The E-420 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 89 percent) than the M8, 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 Leica M8 features an APS-H sensor and the Olympus E-420 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-420 is 54 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 2.0. The sensor in the M8 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-420 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica M8 and Olympus E-420 sensor measures

With 10.4MP, the M8 offers a slightly higher resolution than the E-420 (10MP), but the M8 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.84μm versus 4.74μm for the E-420) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-420 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 5 months) than the M8, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the M8 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The Leica M8 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 160 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-420 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the M8 is build around a CCD sensor, while the E-420 uses a CMOS 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.

M8 versus E-420 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. 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
1.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
2.
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.452756
3.
 
Canon 1100D APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562
4.
 
Canon 400D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.066462
5.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262 Full Frame 23.7 5952 3976none24.813.7247890
7.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
8.
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.156362
9.
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
10.
 
Nikon D40X APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.411.451663
11.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
12.
 
Olympus E-450 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.551256
13.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
14.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
15.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451
16.
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.010.612753
17.
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.842955
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.
The E-420 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The M8 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 M8 and the E-420 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 Olympus E-420 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
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 M8optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0/s n n
2.
 
Olympus E-420optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y n
3.
 
Canon 1100Doptical n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
4.
 
Canon 400Doptical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
5.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262optical n3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n n
7.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
8.
 
Nikon D3000optical n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
9.
 
Nikon D5000optical n2.7 / 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
10.
 
Nikon D40Xoptical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
11.
 
Nikon D80optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
12.
 
Olympus E-450optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y n
13.
 
Olympus E-620optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y Y
14.
 
Olympus E-520optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y Y
15.
 
Olympus E-410optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
16.
 
Olympus E-400optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
17.
 
Panasonic L10optical n2.5 / 207 swivel 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 E-420 has one, while the M8 does not. While the built-in flash of the E-420 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The M8 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the E-420 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-420 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the M8 only has one slot.

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 Olympus E-420 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 M8Y- / ----2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-420Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 1100DYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon 400DY- / ----2.0---
5.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262Y- / ----2.0---
7.
 
Leica M9Y- / ----2.0---
8.
 
Nikon D3000Y- / ----2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D5000Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D40XY- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D80Y- / ----2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-450Y- / ----2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-620Y- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-520Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-410Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Olympus E-400Y- / ----2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic L10Y- / ----2.0---

Both the M8 and the E-420 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The M8 was replaced by the Leica M9, while the E-420 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the features and operation of the M8 and E-420 can be found, respectively, in the Leica M8 Manual (free pdf) or the online Olympus E-420 Manual.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica M8 and the Olympus E-420? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Leica M8:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2006).

ilogo

Advantages of the Olympus E-420:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 151g or 26 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (89 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 5 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-420 emerges as the winner of the match-up (8 : 6 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 06:08 E-420

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 E-420. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. 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 M8......+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-420..85/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2008 599ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 1100D..80/100..69/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 400D..+ +..+ +o4/5 Aug 2006 799ebay.com
5.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
6.
 
Leica M Typ 262............ Nov 2015 5,195ebay.com
7.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D3000..+..72/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D5000..+ +..75/1004/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D40X..79/100..+ +4/54/5 Mar 2007 729ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D80..+..+ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999ebay.com
12.
 
Olympus E-450........4/54/5 Mar 2009 499ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/100..72/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-400..85/100....4/54/5 Sep 2006 699ebay.com
17.
 
Panasonic L10..85/100..+3.5/54/5 Aug 2007 599ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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.

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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 Olympus E-420

    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 Olympus E-420
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2006 March 2008
    Launch Price USD 5,499 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Leica M8 Olympus E-420
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-H Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 27.0 x 18.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 486 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 32.4 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.3x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10.4 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3936 x 2630 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.84 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 2.13 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 160 - 2,500 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 59 56
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.1 21.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.3 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 663 527
    Screen Specs Leica M8 Olympus E-420
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.46x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M8 Olympus E-420
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF or XD cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Leica M8 Olympus E-420
    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 Olympus E-420
    Battery Type BLI-312 BLS-1
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    130 x 91 x 53 mm
    (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)
    Camera Weight 591 g (20.8 oz) 440 g (15.5 oz)
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