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Leica M9 vs S2

The Leica M9 and the Leica S2 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2009 and September 2008. The M9 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, while the S2 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and a medium format (S2) sensor. The M9 has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the S2 provides 37.5 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Leica M9 versus Leica S2
Leica M9 Leica S2
Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica M mount lenses Leica S mount lenses
18.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 37.5 MP, Medium Format Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 80-2,500 ISO 80-1,250
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5 LCD, 230k dots 3.0 LCD, 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 1.5 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g 160 x 120 x 80 mm, 1410 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M9 and the Leica S2? 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 physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Leica S2 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. 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 M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the S2 is only available in black.

Size Leica M9 vs Leica S2
Compare M9 versus S2 top
Comparison M9 or S2 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica S2 is considerably larger (73 percent) than the Leica M9. Moreover, the S2 is substantially heavier (141 percent) than the M9. It is noteworthy in this context that the S2 is splash and dust-proof, while the M9 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

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, 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 M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
2.
 
Leica S2 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1410 g .. Y Sep 2008 22,995i
3.
 
Canon T5i 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 n Mar 2013 649i
4.
 
Canon T2i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699i
5.
 
Canon T1i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799i
6.
 
Leica M10-R 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jul 2020 8,295 i
7.
 
Leica S3 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2018 18,995 i
8.
 
Leica M10-P 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
9.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
10.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 16,900i
11.
 
Leica S Typ 007 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2014 24,490i
12.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295i
13.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850i
14.
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950i
15.
 
Leica S Typ 006 160 mm 120 mm 80 mm 1260 g .. Y Sep 2012 21,950i
16.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499i
17.
 
Leica S1 339 mm 214 mm 119 mm 2500 g .. n Aug 1996 21,490i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The M9 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 65 percent) than the S2, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.

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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. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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 S2 a medium format sensor. The sensor area in the S2 is 56 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 0.8. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica M9 and Leica S2 sensor measures

With 37.5MP, the S2 offers a higher resolution than the M9 (18.1MP), but the S2 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 6.91μm for the M9). It is noteworthy in this context that the M9 is a somewhat more recent model (by 11 months) than the S2, and its sensor might 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 S2 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S2 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 37.5 x 25 inches or 95.3 x 63.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 25 x 16.7 inches or 63.5 x 42.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica M9 are 26.1 x 17.4 inches or 66.2 x 44.1 cm for good quality, 20.8 x 13.9 inches or 53 x 35.3 cm for very good quality, and 17.4 x 11.6 inches or 44.1 x 29.4 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica M9 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica S2 are ISO 80 to ISO 1250 (no boost).

M9 versus S2 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. 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 M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
2.
 
Leica S2 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
3.
 
Canon T5i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161
4.
 
Canon T2i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
5.
 
Canon T1i APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363
6.
 
Leica M10-R Full Frame 40.9 7864 5200none........
7.
 
Leica S3 Medium Format 64.0 9800 65334K/24p........
8.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none........
9.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
10.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none........
11.
 
Leica S Typ 007 Medium Format 37.5 7500 50004K/24p........
12.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p........
13.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
14.
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084
15.
 
Leica S Typ 006 Medium Format 37.5 7500 5000none23.912.282476
16.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
17.
 
Leica S1 Medium Format 26.4 5140 5140none........
Neither the M9 nor the S2 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.
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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The M9 and the S2 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 S2 (96%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the S2 has a higher magnification (0.86x vs 0.68x), 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 M9 and Leica S2 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
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
1.
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n
2.
 
Leica S2optical Y 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
3.
 
Canon T5ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon T2ioptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
5.
 
Canon T1ioptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n
6.
 
Leica M10-Roptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.5 n n
7.
 
Leica S3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
8.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
9.
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
10.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
11.
 
Leica S Typ 007optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 n n
12.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
13.
 
Leica X Variooptional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
14.
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
15.
 
Leica S Typ 006optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 1.5 n n
16.
 
Leica M8optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n
17.
 
Leica S1optical n none none none n .. 0.01 n n

One feature that is present on the S2, but is missing on the M9 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The M9 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the S2 uses Compact Flash or SDHC cards. The S2 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the M9 only has one slot.

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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 M9 and Leica S2 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
1.
 
Leica M9Y-----2.0---
2.
 
Leica S2Y----mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon T5iYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon T2iYstereo-Y-mini2.0---
5.
 
Canon T1iYmonomono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Leica M10-RY------Y--
7.
 
Leica S3YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
8.
 
Leica M10-PY------Y--
9.
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
10.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica S Typ 007YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
12.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereomono--mini2.0---
13.
 
Leica X VarioYstereomono--mini2.0---
14.
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereomono---2.0---
15.
 
Leica S Typ 006Y----mini2.0---
16.
 
Leica M8Y-----2.0---
17.
 
Leica S1----------

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica S2 (unlike the M9) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the M9 and the S2 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The S2 was replaced by the Leica S Typ 006, 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.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Leica M9 better than the Leica S2 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Advantages of the Leica M9:

  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 96%).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (2 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 160x120mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 825g or 59 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (65 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 11 months after the S2).


Arguments in favor of the Leica S2:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (37.5 vs 18.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 44%.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.86x vs 0.68x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (460k vs 230k dots).
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2008).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the S2 emerges as the winner of the match-up (9 : 6 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. 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.

M9 06:09 S2

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 M9 or the S2. 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 following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica M9......4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
2.
 
Leica S2.......... Sep 2008 22,995i
3.
 
Canon T5i....76/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649i
4.
 
Canon T2i..+ +77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699i
5.
 
Canon T1i..+ +74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799i
6.
 
Leica M10-R4.5/5......4/5 Jul 2020 8,295 i
7.
 
Leica S3.......... Sep 2018 18,995 i
8.
 
Leica M10-P........4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
9.
 
Leica M104.5/5....4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
10.
 
Leica S-E Typ 006.......... Sep 2014 16,900i
11.
 
Leica S Typ 0074/5........ Sep 2014 24,490i
12.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5....3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295i
13.
 
Leica X Vario3/5....4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850i
14.
 
Leica M Typ 2404/5....4/5.. Sep 2012 6,950i
15.
 
Leica S Typ 006.......... Sep 2012 21,950i
16.
 
Leica M8....+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499i
17.
 
Leica S1.......... Aug 1996 21,490i
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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Leica M9:
Check Ebay offers
Leica S2:
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica M9 vs Leica S2

    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 M9 Leica S2
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Leica S mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2009 September 2008
    Launch Price USD 7,999 USD 22,995
    Sensor Specs Leica M9 Leica S2
    Sensor Technology CCD CCD
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Medium Format Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 45.0 x 30.0 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 1350 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 54.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 0.8x
    Sensor Resolution 18.1 Megapixels 37.5 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5212 x 3472 pixels 7500 x 5000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.91 μm 6.00 μm
    Pixel Density 2.09 MP/cm2 2.78 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 2,500 ISO 80 - 1,250 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 M9 Leica S2
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.68x 0.86x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M9 Leica S2
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 1.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF or SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica M9 Leica S2
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash no PC Sync PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica M9 Leica S2
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BLI-312 BP-PRO1
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    160 x 120 x 80 mm
    (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.1 in)
    Camera Weight 585 g (20.6 oz) 1410 g (49.7 oz)

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