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Leica M9 versus Leica M8

The Leica M9 and the Leica M8 are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2009 and September 2006. Both the M9 and the M8 are rangefinder-style mirrorless cameras that are based on a full frame (M9) and an APS-H (M8) sensor. The M9 has a resolution of 18.1 megapixel, whereas the M8 provides 10.4 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Leica M9 vs Leica M8

The physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Leica M8 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the M9 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Leica M9 vs Leica M8
Compare M9 versus M8 top
Compare M9 and M8 rear

In this particular case, the Leica M9 and the Leica M8 have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the M8 is slightly heavier (1 percent) than the M9. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M9 nor the M8 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 find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Leica M Lens Catalog.

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, 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)
Used
Price
(USD)
Leica M9» 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.6 oz .. n Sep 2009 7,999- i
Leica M8« 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.8 oz .. n Sep 2006 5,499- i
Canon T5i« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.5 oz 440 n Mar 2013 649- i
Canon T2i« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699- i
Canon T1i« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.3 oz 400 n Mar 2009 799- i
Canon XTi« » 5.0 in 3.3 in 2.6 in 19.6 oz 370 n Aug 2006 799- i
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 n Jan 2017 6,595 i i
Leica T« » 5.3 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 13.5 oz 400 n Apr 2014 1,850- i
Leica X Typ 113« » 5.2 in 2.9 in 3.1 in 17.1 oz 350 n Sep 2014 2,295 i i
Leica X Vario« » 5.2 in 2.9 in 3.7 in 24.0 oz 450 n Jun 2013 2,850 i i
Leica M Typ 240« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Sep 2012 6,950- i
Leica Digilux 3« » 5.7 in 3.4 in 3.0 in 21.4 oz 750 n Sep 2006 1,499- i
Nikon D40X« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 n Mar 2007 729- i
Nikon D80« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999- i
Panasonic GH2« » 4.9 in 3.5 in 3.0 in 15.6 oz 330 n Sep 2010 1,499- i

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 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Leica M9 vs Leica M8

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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica M9 features a full frame sensor and the Leica M8 an APS-H sensor. The sensor area in the M8 is 44 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.3. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica M9 and Leica M8 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 somewhat more recent model (by 2 years and 11 months) than the M8, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. 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.

M9 versus M8 MP

For most 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"). Of the two cameras under review, the M9 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the M8 (overall score 10 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This 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.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Leica M9» Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472-22.511.788469
Leica M8« APS-H 10.4 3936 2630-21.111.366359
Canon T5i« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161
Canon T2i« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
Canon T1i« » APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363
Canon XTi« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.066462
Leica M10« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-24.413.2213386
Leica T« » APS-C 16.2 4944 32781080/30p23.012.7108275
Leica X Typ 113« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p----
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
Leica Digilux 3« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----
Nikon D40X« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.411.451663
Nikon D80« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.111.252461
Panasonic GH2« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60i21.211.365560
Neither the M9 nor the M8 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: Leica M9 vs Leica M8

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The M9 and the M8 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 M9 and Leica M8 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Leica M9»optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 2.0 n n
Leica M8«optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 2.0 n n
Canon T5i« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Canon T2i« »optical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 3.7 Y n
Canon T1i« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.4 Y n
Canon XTi« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Leica M10« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 4000 5.0 n n
Leica T« »- n 3.7 1300 fixed Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Leica X Typ 113« »- n 3.0 920 fixed n 2000 5.0 Y n
Leica X Vario« »- n 3.0 920 fixed n 2000 5.0 Y n
Leica M Typ 240« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n
Leica Digilux 3« »optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D40X« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D80« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Panasonic GH2« »1534 n 3.0 460 swivel n 4000 3.0 Y n

Both the M9 and the M8 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.

Review summary: Leica M9 vs Leica M8

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M9 or the Leica M8 – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Advantages of the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.1 vs 10.4MP) with a 32% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.4 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 11 months of technical progress since the M8 launch.


Reasons to prefer the Leica M8:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (31 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in September 2006).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the M9 emerges as the winner of the contest (5 : 3 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

M9 05:03 M8

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the M9 and the M8 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. This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Leica M9»--4.5/54.5/5- Sep 2009 7,999- i
Leica M8«-HiRec--- Sep 2006 5,499- i
Canon T5i« »-76/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649- i
Canon T2i« »HiRec77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699- i
Canon T1i« »HiRec74/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799- i
Canon XTi« »HiRecHiRecrev4.5/54/5 Aug 2006 799- i
Leica M10« »--4/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i i
Leica T« »--4/5-4/5 Apr 2014 1,850- i
Leica X Typ 113« »--3.5/5-4/5 Sep 2014 2,295 i i
Leica X Vario« »--4/54/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850 i i
Leica M Typ 240« »--4/5-- Sep 2012 6,950- i
Leica Digilux 3« »----- Sep 2006 1,499- i
Nikon D40X« »79/100HiRec4/5rev4/5 Mar 2007 729- i
Nikon D80« »RecHiRecrev4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999- i
Panasonic GH2« »HiRec79/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Sep 2010 1,499- i

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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 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.

 

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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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