Leica M9 versus Olympus PEN-F
The Leica M9 and the Olympus PEN-F are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2009 and January 2016. The M9 is a fixed lens compact, while the PEN-F is a rangefinder-style mirrorless. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and a Four Thirds sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 MP.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Olympus PEN-F is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the M9 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus PEN-F is notably smaller (19 percent) than the Leica M9. Moreover, the PEN-F is markedly lighter (27 percent) than the M9. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M9 nor the PEN-F 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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (M9) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (PEN-F).
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 comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Leica M9 (⇒ rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||585 g||..||no||2009||7,999||discont.||check|
|Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft)||125 mm||72 mm||37 mm||427 g||330||no||2016||1,199||latest||check|
|Canon G9 X (⇒ lft | rgt)||98 mm||58 mm||31 mm||209 g||220||no||2015||529||discont.||check|
|Canon M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||301 g||255||no||2015||499||discont.||check|
|Canon G7 X (⇒ lft | rgt)||103 mm||60 mm||40 mm||304 g||210||no||2014||699||discont.||check|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||no||2017||6,595||latest||check|
|Leica T (⇒ lft | rgt)||134 mm||69 mm||33 mm||384 g||400||no||2014||1,850||discont.||check|
|Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt)||133 mm||73 mm||95 mm||680 g||450||no||2013||2,850||latest||check|
|Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||YES||2012||6,950||discont.||check|
|Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||591 g||..||no||2006||5,499||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||134 mm||91 mm||67 mm||574 g||440||YES||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||120 mm||83 mm||47 mm||390 g||320||no||2015||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||85 mm||45 mm||469 g||310||YES||2015||1,099||latest||check|
|Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||122 mm||69 mm||37 mm||420 g||330||no||2013||999||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||90 mm||76 mm||442 g||330||no||2010||1,499||discont.||check|
|Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||102 mm||58 mm||41 mm||298 g||280||no||2015||999||discont.||check|
The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The PEN-F was launched at a markedly lower price (by 85 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.
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 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 Olympus PEN-F a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the PEN-F is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the M9 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the PEN-F offers a 4:3 aspect.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the PEN-F offers a higher resolution of 20.2 megapixel, compared with 18.1 MP of the M9. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.34μm versus 6.91μm for the M9). However, it should be noted that the PEN-F is much more recent (by 6 years and 4 months) than the M9, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. 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.
Unlike the M9, the PEN-F has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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. Of the two cameras under consideration, the PEN-F has a markedly higher DXO score than the M9 (overall score 5 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and -0 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Leica M9 (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||no||22.5||11.7||884||69|
|Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|Canon G9 X (⇒ lft | rgt)||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||21.5||12.3||495||63|
|Canon M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.2||11.4||753||65|
|Canon G7 X (⇒ lft | rgt)||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||23.0||12.7||556||71|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||no||..||..||..||..|
|Leica T (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||16.2||4944||3278||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||1082||75|
|Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||16.1||4928||3272||1080/30p||23.4||12.7||1320||78|
|Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||24.0||13.3||1860||84|
|Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-H||10.4||3936||2630||no||21.1||11.3||663||59|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.1||12.5||842||73|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60i||21.2||11.3||655||60|
|Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||4K/30p||22.8||12.6||591||70|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The PEN-F indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the PEN-F can use is 1080/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the PEN-F has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the M9 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica M9 and Olympus PEN-F 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.
|Leica M9 (⇒ rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||4000||2.0||no||no|
|Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft)||2360||no||3.0||1037||swivel||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
|Canon G9 X (⇒ lft | rgt)||no||no||3.0||1040||fixed||YES||2000||6.0||6||no|
|Canon M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||no||no||3.0||1040||tilting||YES||4000||4.6||5||no|
|Canon G7 X (⇒ lft | rgt)||no||no||3.0||1040||tilting||YES||2000||6.5||7||no|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||1037||fixed||no||4000||5.0||no||no|
|Leica T (⇒ lft | rgt)||no||no||3.7||1300||fixed||YES||4000||5.0||4.5||no|
|Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt)||no||no||3.0||920||fixed||no||2000||5.0||YES||no|
|Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||920||fixed||no||4000||3.0||no||no|
|Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||8000||2.0||no||no|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2360||no||3.0||1037||swivel||YES||8000||18.0||no||YES|
|Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2360||no||3.0||1040||tilting||YES||4000||8.0||5.8||YES|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2360||no||3.0||1037||swivel||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
|Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||no||no||3.0||1037||tilting||YES||8000||9.0||7||YES|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1534||no||3.0||460||swivel||no||4000||3.0||15.6||no|
|Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||2359||no||3.0||1228||tilting||no||2000||16.0||10.2||no|
The PEN-F is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. 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.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M9 or the Olympus PEN-F – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Leica M9:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2009).
Advantages of the Olympus PEN-F:
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- 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 (1037k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (125x72mm vs 139x80mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 158g or 27 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (85 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 6 years and 4 months of technical progress since the M9 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the PEN-F is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 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.
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 PEN-F in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Leica M9 (⇒ rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||4.5/5||-||2009||7,999||discont.||check|
|Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft)||-||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2016||1,199||latest||check|
|Canon G9 X (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||-||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||2015||529||discont.||check|
|Canon M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||reviewed||4/5||2015||499||discont.||check|
|Canon G7 X (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||77/100 Silver||4.5/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||2014||699||discont.||check|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4/5||-||4.5/5||2017||6,595||latest||check|
|Leica T (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4/5||-||4/5||2014||1,850||discont.||check|
|Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4/5||4/5||4/5||2013||2,850||latest||check|
|Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4/5||-||-||2012||6,950||discont.||check|
|Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||HiRec||-||-||-||2006||5,499||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||80/100 Silver||5/5||5/5||5/5||2015||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||81/100 Silver||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2015||1,099||latest||check|
|Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||78/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||999||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||86/100 HiRec||79/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2010||1,499||discont.||check|
|Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2015||999||discont.||check|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, 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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.
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