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Leica M9 vs Nikon D70

The Leica M9 and the Nikon D70 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2009 and January 2004. The M9 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, while the D70 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and an APS-C (D70) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 6 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 D70
Leica M9   Nikon D70
Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
18.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 6 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 80-2,500 ISO 200-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5 LCD, 230k dots 1.8 LCD, 130k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g 140 x 111 x 78 mm, 679 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M9 and the Nikon D70? 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 M9 and the Nikon D70. 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 D70 is only available in black.

Size Leica M9 vs Nikon D70
Compare M9 versus D70 top
Comparison M9 or D70 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D70 is notably larger (40 percent) than the Leica M9. Moreover, the D70 is markedly heavier (16 percent) than the M9. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M9 nor the D70 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 (M9) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D70).

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras 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 7,999 i
2.
 
Nikon D70 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 400 n Jan 2004 999 i
3.
 
Canon 700D 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 n Mar 2013 649 i
4.
 
Canon 550D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699 i
5.
 
Canon 500D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799 i
6.
 
Canon 300D 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899 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 T 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 384 g 400 n Apr 2014 1,850 i
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295 i
11.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850 i
12.
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950 i
13.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499 i
14.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999 i
15.
 
Nikon D50 133 mm 102 mm 76 mm 620 g 400 n Apr 2005 749 i
16.
 
Nikon D70s 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 500 n Apr 2005 899 i
17.
 
Nikon D100 144 mm 116 mm 81 mm 780 g 370 n Feb 2002 1,999 i
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 D70 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 88 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.

Sensor comparison

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. 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 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 Nikon D70 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D70 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 D70 sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the D70 (6MP), but the M9 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 7.85μm for the D70). However, the M9 is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 7 months) than the D70, 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 D70 are 15 x 10 inches or 38.2 x 25.4 cm for good quality, 12 x 8 inches or 30.6 x 20.3 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.7 inches or 25.5 x 16.9 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 D70 are ISO 200 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

M9 versus D70 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 provides substantially higher image quality than the D70, with an overall score that is 19 points higher. This advantage is based on 2.1 bits higher color depth, 1.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 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.

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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 3472none22.511.7884 69
2.
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.3529 50
3.
 
Canon 700D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.2681 61
4.
 
Canon 550D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.5784 66
5.
 
Canon 500D APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.5663 63
6.
 
Canon 300D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.8544 55
7.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none...... ..
8.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.22133 86
9.
 
Leica T APS-C 16.2 4944 32781080/30p23.012.71082 75
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p...... ..
11.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.71320 78
12.
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.31860 84
13.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.3663 59
14.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.2524 61
15.
 
Nikon D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.8560 55
16.
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.3529 50
17.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none...... ..
Neither the M9 nor the D70 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

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The M9 and the D70 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 D70 (95%), 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 0.50x), 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 D70 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
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.
 
Nikon D70optical n 1.8 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon 700Doptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon 550Doptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
5.
 
Canon 500Doptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n
6.
 
Canon 300Doptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
7.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
8.
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
9.
 
Leica Toptional n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
11.
 
Leica X Variooptional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
12.
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
13.
 
Leica M8optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n
14.
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
15.
 
Nikon D50optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
16.
 
Nikon D70soptical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n
17.
 
Nikon D100optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D70 has one, while the M9 does not. While the built-in flash of the D70 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The M9 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D70 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 D70 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.
 
Nikon D70Y-----1.0---
3.
 
Canon 700DYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon 550DYstereo-Y-mini2.0---
5.
 
Canon 500DYmonomono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Canon 300DY-----1.1---
7.
 
Leica M10-PY------Y--
8.
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
9.
 
Leica TYstereomono---2.0Y--
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereomono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica X VarioYstereomono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereomono---2.0---
13.
 
Leica M8Y-----2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D80Y-----2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D50Y-----2.0---
16.
 
Nikon D70sY-----2.0---
17.
 
Nikon D100Y-----1.1---

Both the M9 and the D70 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D70 was replaced by the Nikon D70s, 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.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M9 or the Nikon D70 – 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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Advantages of the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.1 vs 6MP) with a 73% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (19 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (2.1 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.4 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.50x).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 130k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 140x111mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 94g or 14 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.0).
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 7 months of technical progress since the D70 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D70:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (88 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in January 2004).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the M9 is the clear winner of the match-up (15 : 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 15:06 D70

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the M9 and the D70 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.

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], 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 7,999 i
2.
 
Nikon D70....+ +.... Jan 2004 999 i
3.
 
Canon 700D....76/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649 i
4.
 
Canon 550D..+ +77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699 i
5.
 
Canon 500D..+ +74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799 i
6.
 
Canon 300D....+ +.... Aug 2003 899 i
7.
 
Leica M10-P........4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M104.5/5....4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica T3/5....4/54/5 Apr 2014 1,850 i
10.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5....3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295 i
11.
 
Leica X Vario3/5....4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850 i
12.
 
Leica M Typ 2404/5....4/5.. Sep 2012 6,950 i
13.
 
Leica M8....+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499 i
14.
 
Nikon D80..++ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999 i
15.
 
Nikon D50..78/100+ +4/54.5/5 Apr 2005 749 i
16.
 
Nikon D70s........5/5 Apr 2005 899 i
17.
 
Nikon D100....+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, 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
Nikon D70:
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 Nikon D70

    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 D70
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2009 January 2004
    Launch Price USD 7,999 USD 999
    Sensor Specs Leica M9 Nikon D70
    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 6 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5212 x 3472 pixels 3008 x 2000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.91 μm 7.85 μm
    Pixel Density 2.09 MP/cm2 1.63 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 2,500 ISO 200 - 1,600 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 69 50
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.5 20.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.7 10.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 884 529
    Screen Specs Leica M9 Nikon D70
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.68x 0.50x
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 1.8inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 130k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M9 Nikon D70
    Focus System Manual Focus Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Leica M9 Nikon D70
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 1.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica M9 Nikon D70
    Battery Type BLI-312 EN-EL3
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    140 x 111 x 78 mm
    (5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
    Camera Weight 585 g (20.6 oz) 679 g (24.0 oz)

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