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Leica M9 vs Nikon D1X

The Leica M9 and the Nikon D1X are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2009 and February 2001. The M9 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless camera, while the D1X is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and an APS-C (D1X) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 5.9 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
Nikon D1X
Leica M9   Nikon D1X
Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
18.1 MP – Full Frame sensor 5.9 MP – APS-C sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 80-2,500 ISO 125-800 (125 - 3,200)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5" LCD – 230k dots 2.5" LCD – 120k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g 157 x 153 x 85 mm, 1100 g
Leica M9:
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Nikon D1X:
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M9 and the Nikon D1X? 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 M9 and the Nikon D1X 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the D1X is only available in black.

Size Leica M9 vs Nikon D1X
Compare M9 versus D1X top
Comparison M9 or D1X rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D1X is considerably larger (116 percent) than the Leica M9. Moreover, the D1X is substantially heavier (88 percent) than the M9. It is noteworthy in this context that the D1X 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. 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 (M9) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D1X).

As can be seen in the images above, the D1X has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.

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.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999i
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 M10-P 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295i
10.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850i
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950i
12.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499i
13.
 
Nikon D300S 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
14.
 
Nikon D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799i
15.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699i
16.
 
Nikon D2X 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999i
17.
 
Nikon D1 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g .. Y Jun 1999 5,499i
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 D1X was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the M9, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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. 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica M9 features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D1X an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D1X 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 Nikon D1X sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the D1X (5.9MP), but the M9 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 7.92μm for the D1X). However, the M9 is a much more recent model (by 8 years and 7 months) than the D1X, and its sensor will 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 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 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 Nikon D1X are 15 x 9.8 inches or 38.2 x 24.9 cm for good quality, 12 x 7.8 inches or 30.6 x 19.9 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.5 inches or 25.5 x 16.6 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 Nikon D1X are ISO 125 to ISO 800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 125-3200.

M9 versus D1X 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"). 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 M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
2.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
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 5200none25.314.3292495
7.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none25.114.1273993
8.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.612.8149178
10.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084
12.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
13.
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
14.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
15.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
16.
 
Nikon D2X APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.110.947659
17.
 
Nikon D1 APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.
Neither the M9 nor the D1X 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 range of features. The M9 and the D1X 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 D1X (96%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the M9 has a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.53x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica M9 and Nikon D1X 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 M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
2.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0/s n n
3.
 
Canon T5ioptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
4.
 
Canon T2ioptical n3.0 / 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7/s Y n
5.
 
Canon T1ioptical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4/s Y n
6.
 
Leica M10-Roptical n3.0 / 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.5/s n n
7.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n3.0 / 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
8.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
10.
 
Leica X Variooptional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n n
12.
 
Leica M8optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0/s n n
13.
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0/s Y n
14.
 
Nikon D300optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0/s Y n
15.
 
Nikon D200optical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s Y n
16.
 
Nikon D2Xoptical Y2.5 / 235 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
17.
 
Nikon D1optical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 1.5/s n n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One feature that is present on the D1X, 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 D1X uses Compact Flash 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 M9 and Nikon D1X 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 M9Y- / ----2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D1XY- / ----FW---
3.
 
Canon T5iYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon T2iYstereo / -Y-mini2.0---
5.
 
Canon T1iYmono / mono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Leica M10-RY- / -----Y--
7.
 
Leica M10-PY- / -----Y--
8.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Leica X VarioYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereo / mono---2.0---
12.
 
Leica M8Y- / ----2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D300SYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D300Y- / ---mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D200Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Nikon D2XY- / ----2.0---
17.
 
Nikon D1Y- / ----FW---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D1X (unlike the M9) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the M9 and the D1X have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1X was replaced by the Nikon D2X, 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 and Nikon websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M9 or the Nikon D1X – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.1 vs 5.9MP) with a 74% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
  • Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 96%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.53x).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 120k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 157x153mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 515g or 47 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More modern: Reflects 8 years and 7 months of technical progress since the D1X launch.

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Advantages of the Nikon D1X:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • 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.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2001).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the M9 is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 9 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 14:09 D1X

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M9 or the D1X. 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 table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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 M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
2.
 
Nikon D1X......+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999i
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....4/5 Jul 2020 8,295 i
7.
 
Leica M10-P....3/5....4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5......3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295i
10.
 
Leica X Vario3/5......4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850i
11.
 
Leica M Typ 2404/5......4/5.. Sep 2012 6,950i
12.
 
Leica M8......+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499i
13.
 
Nikon D300S5/5+ +..82/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
14.
 
Nikon D300..+ +..+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799i
15.
 
Nikon D200..+ +..+ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699i
16.
 
Nikon D2X......+ +.... Sep 2004 4,999i
17.
 
Nikon D1......+ +.... Jun 1999 5,499i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Leica M9:
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Nikon D1X:
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Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, 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 Nikon D1X

    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 Nikon D1X
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2009 February 2001
    Launch Price USD 7,999 USD 5,999
    Sensor Specs Leica M9 Nikon D1X
    Sensor Technology CCD CCD
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 23.7 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 369.72 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 18.1 Megapixels 5.9 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5212 x 3472 pixels 3008 x 1960 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.91 μm 7.92 μm
    Pixel Density 2.09 MP/cm2 1.59 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 2,500 ISO 125 - 800 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 125 - 3,200 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 Nikon D1X
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.68x 0.53x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 2.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 120k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M9 Nikon D1X
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Leica M9 Nikon D1X
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash no PC Sync PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 Firewire
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica M9 Nikon D1X
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BLI-312 EN-4
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    157 x 153 x 85 mm
    (6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
    Camera Weight 585 g (20.6 oz) 1100 g (38.8 oz)
    Leica M9:
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    Nikon D1X:
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