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Leica M9 vs X Vario

The Leica M9 and the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2009 and June 2013. The M9 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, while the X Vario is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and an APS-C (X Vario) sensor. The M9 has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the X Vario provides 16.1 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Leica M9   Leica X Vario
Leica M9 Leica X Vario
Rangefinder camera Fixed lens compact camera
Leica M mount lenses 28-70mm f/3.5-6.4
18.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 16.1 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 80-2500 ISO 100-12500
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
2.5" LCD, 230k dots 3.0" LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g 133 x 73 x 95 mm, 680 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M9 and the Leica X Vario (Typ 107)? 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: Leica M9 vs X Vario

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Leica X Vario. 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.

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

Size Leica M9 vs Leica X Vario
Compare M9 versus X Vario top
Comparison M9 or X Vario rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica X Vario is notably smaller (13 percent) than the Leica M9. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M9 nor the X Vario are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the X Vario has a lens built in, whereas the M9 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the M9 and their specifications 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. 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)
Camera
Model
 
Leica M9» 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.6 oz .. n Sep 2009 7,999- i Leica M9
 
Leica X Vario« 5.2 in 2.9 in 3.7 in 24.0 oz 450 n Jun 2013 2,850 i i Leica X Vario
 
Canon T5i« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.5 oz 440 n Mar 2013 649- i Canon T5i
 
Canon T2i« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699- i Canon T2i
 
Canon T1i« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.3 oz 400 n Mar 2009 799- i Canon T1i
 
Leica M10-P« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 n Aug 2018 7,995 i i Leica M10-P
 
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 n Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
 
Leica Q Typ 116« » 5.1 in 3.1 in 3.7 in 22.6 oz 300 n Jun 2015 4,249- i Leica Q Typ 116
 
Leica T« » 5.3 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 13.5 oz 400 n Apr 2014 1,850- i Leica T
 
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 Typ 113
 
Leica M Typ 240« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
 
Leica X2« » 4.9 in 2.7 in 2.0 in 12.2 oz 450 n May 2012 1,995- i Leica X2
 
Leica M8« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.8 oz .. n Sep 2006 5,499- i Leica M8
 
Nikon Coolpix A« » 4.4 in 2.5 in 1.6 in 10.5 oz 230 n Mar 2013 1,099- i Nikon Coolpix A
 
Ricoh GR« » 4.6 in 2.4 in 1.4 in 8.6 oz 290 n Apr 2013 799- i Ricoh GR
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

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 X Vario was launched at a lower price than the M9, despite having a lens built in. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Leica M9 vs X Vario

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 X Vario an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the X Vario is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica M9 and Leica X Vario sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the X Vario (16.1MP), but the M9 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 4.80μm for the X Vario) due to its larger sensor. However, the X Vario is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 9 months) than the M9, and its sensor will 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 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 inch or 66.2 x 44.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.8 x 13.9 inch or 53 x 35.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.4 x 11.6 inch or 44.1 x 29.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica X Vario are 24.6 x 16.4 inch or 62.6 x 41.6 cm for good quality, 19.7 x 13.1 inch or 50.1 x 33.2 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inch or 41.7 x 27.7 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 X Vario (Typ 107) are ISO 100 to ISO 12500 (no boost).

M9 versus X Vario 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the X Vario has a markedly higher DXO score than the M9 (overall score 9 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.9 bits higher color depth, 1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Leica M9» Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472-22.511.788469Leica M9
 
Leica X Vario« APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078Leica X Vario
 
Canon T5i« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161Canon T5i
 
Canon T2i« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466Canon T2i
 
Canon T1i« » APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363Canon T1i
 
Leica M10-P« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-----Leica M10-P
 
Leica M10« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-24.413.2213386Leica M10
 
Leica Q Typ 116« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185Leica Q Typ 116
 
Leica T« » APS-C 16.2 4944 32781080/30p23.012.7108275Leica T
 
Leica X Typ 113« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p----Leica X Typ 113
 
Leica M Typ 240« » Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084Leica M Typ 240
 
Leica X2« » APS-C 16.1 4928 3264-----Leica X2
 
Leica M8« » APS-H 10.4 3936 2630-21.111.366359Leica M8
 
Nikon Coolpix A« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.413.8116480Nikon Coolpix A
 
Ricoh GR« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.613.597278Ricoh GR

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The X Vario indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the X Vario can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Leica M9 vs X Vario

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the M9 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the X Vario relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the X Vario can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the EVF 2. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica M9 and Leica X Vario in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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
Camera
Model
 
Leica M9»optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n Leica M9
 
Leica X Vario«- n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n Leica X Vario
 
Canon T5i« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n Canon T5i
 
Canon T2i« »optical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n Canon T2i
 
Canon T1i« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n Canon T1i
 
Leica M10-P« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n Leica M10-P
 
Leica M10« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n Leica M10
 
Leica Q Typ 116« »3680 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0 n Y Leica Q Typ 116
 
Leica T« »- n 3.7 1300 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n Leica T
 
Leica X Typ 113« »- n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n Leica X Typ 113
 
Leica M Typ 240« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n Leica M Typ 240
 
Leica X2« »- n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n Leica X2
 
Leica M8« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n Leica M8
 
Nikon Coolpix A« »- n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/2000s 4.0 Y n Nikon Coolpix A
 
Ricoh GR« »- n 3.0 1230 fixed n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Ricoh GR

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

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the M9 and the X Vario write their files to SDXC cards.

 

Connectivity comparison: Leica M9 vs X Vario

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 X Vario (Typ 107) and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Leica M9»Y-----2.0---Leica M9
 
Leica X Vario«Ystereomono--mini2.0---Leica X Vario
 
Canon T5i« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Canon T5i
 
Canon T2i« »Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---Canon T2i
 
Canon T1i« »Ymonomono--mini2.0---Canon T1i
 
Leica M10-P« »Y------Y--Leica M10-P
 
Leica M10« »Y------Y--Leica M10
 
Leica Q Typ 116« »Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-Leica Q Typ 116
 
Leica T« »Ystereomono---2.0Y--Leica T
 
Leica X Typ 113« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Leica X Typ 113
 
Leica M Typ 240« »Ystereomono---2.0Y--Leica M Typ 240
 
Leica X2« »Y----mini2.0---Leica X2
 
Leica M8« »Y-----2.0---Leica M8
 
Nikon Coolpix A« »Ystereomono---2.0---Nikon Coolpix A
 
Ricoh GR« »Ymonomono--micro2.0---Ricoh GR

The X Vario is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Leica. In contrast, the M9 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the M9 was succeeded 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: Leica M9 vs X Vario

So how do things add up? Is the Leica M9 better than the Leica X Vario or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.1 vs 16.1MP) with a 6% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image framing and settings control.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Accepts interchangeable lenses, so that lens characteristics can be altered.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2009).


Reasons to prefer the Leica X Vario (Typ 107):

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (9 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • 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 (920k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Has an integrated lens, whereas the M9 necessitates an extra lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (133x73mm vs 139x80mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 9 months of technical progress since the M9 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the X Vario is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

M9 06:13 X Vario

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M9 or the X Vario. 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: Leica M9 vs X Vario

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 (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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Leica M9»--4.5/54.5/5- Sep 2009 7,999- i Leica M9
 
Leica X Vario«--4/54/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850 i i Leica X Vario
 
Canon T5i« »-76/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649- i Canon T5i
 
Canon T2i« »+ +77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699- i Canon T2i
 
Canon T1i« »+ +74/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799- i Canon T1i
 
Leica M10-P« »----4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i i Leica M10-P
 
Leica M10« »--4/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
 
Leica Q Typ 116« »-80/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249- i Leica Q Typ 116
 
Leica T« »--4/5-4/5 Apr 2014 1,850- i Leica T
 
Leica X Typ 113« »--3.5/5-4/5 Sep 2014 2,295 i i Leica X Typ 113
 
Leica M Typ 240« »--4/5-- Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
 
Leica X2« »--3/5-4/5 May 2012 1,995- i Leica X2
 
Leica M8« »-+ +--- Sep 2006 5,499- i Leica M8
 
Nikon Coolpix A« »+75/1004/54.5/54/5 Mar 2013 1,099- i Nikon Coolpix A
 
Ricoh GR« »-79/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2013 799- i Ricoh GR
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Leica M9:
Check Ebay offers
Leica X Vario:
Check Amazon price

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 make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica M9 vs Leica X Vario

    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 X Vario
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses 28-70mm f/3.5-6.4
    Launch Date September 2009 June 2013
    Launch Price USD 7999 USD 2850
    Sensor Specs Leica M9 Leica X Vario
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 23.6 x 15.7 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 370.52 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 28.3 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 18.1 Megapixels 16.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5212 x 3472 pixels 4928 x 3272 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.91 μm 4.80 μm
    Pixel Density 2.09 MP/cm2 4.35 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 80-2500 ISO 100-12500 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 69 78
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.5 23.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.7 12.7
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 884 1320
    Screen Specs Leica M9 Leica X Vario
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.68x
    Rear LCD Size 2.5 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M9 Leica X Vario
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica M9 Leica X Vario
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    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 X Vario
    Battery Type BLI-312 power pack BP-DC8 power pack
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    133 x 73 x 95 mm
    (5.2 x 2.9 x 3.7 in)
    Camera Weight 585 g (20.6 oz) 680 g (24.0 oz)

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