Leica M9 vs Olympus PEN-F
The Leica M9 and the Olympus PEN-F are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2009 and January 2016. The M9 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless, while the PEN-F is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and a Four Thirds (PEN-F) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M9 and the Olympus PEN-F? 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.
The physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Olympus PEN-F are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
Both cameras are available in two different colors (black, silver).
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 compare the optics available 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 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.
|1.||Leica M9||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||585 g||..||n||Sep 2009||7,999|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||125 mm||72 mm||37 mm||427 g||330||n||Jan 2016||1,199|
|3.||Canon 700D||133 mm||100 mm||79 mm||580 g||440||n||Mar 2013||649|
|4.||Canon 550D||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699|
|5.||Canon 500D||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||520 g||400||n||Mar 2009||799|
|6.||Leica M10-P||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Aug 2018||7,995|
|7.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|8.||Leica T||134 mm||69 mm||33 mm||384 g||400||n||Apr 2014||1,850|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||133 mm||73 mm||78 mm||486 g||350||n||Sep 2014||2,295|
|10.||Leica X Vario||133 mm||73 mm||95 mm||680 g||450||n||Jun 2013||2,850|
|11.||Leica M Typ 240||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||Y||Sep 2012||6,950|
|12.||Leica M8||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||591 g||..||n||Sep 2006||5,499|
|13.||Olympus E-M1 II||134 mm||91 mm||67 mm||574 g||440||Y||Sep 2016||1,999|
|14.||Olympus E-M5 II||124 mm||85 mm||45 mm||469 g||310||Y||Feb 2015||1,099|
|15.||Olympus E-M10 II||120 mm||83 mm||47 mm||390 g||320||n||Aug 2015||649|
|16.||Olympus E-P5||122 mm||69 mm||37 mm||420 g||330||n||May 2013||999|
|17.||Panasonic GX8||133 mm||78 mm||63 mm||487 g||330||Y||Jul 2015||1,199|
|Notes: 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 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 megapixels, compared with 18.1 MP of the M9. This megapixels 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).
The Leica M9 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN-F are ISO 80 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
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 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 adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|1.||Leica M9||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||none||22.5||11.7||884||69|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|6.||Leica M10-P||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||..||..||..||..|
|7.||Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||..||..||..||..|
|10.||Leica X Vario||APS-C||16.1||4928||3272||1080/30p||23.4||12.7||1320||78|
|11.||Leica M Typ 240||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||24.0||13.3||1860||84|
|13.||Olympus E-M1 II||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|14.||Olympus E-M5 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|15.||Olympus E-M10 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.1||12.5||842||73|
|16.||Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|17.||Panasonic GX8||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.5||12.6||806||75|
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 variety 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the M9 has a higher magnification than the one of the PEN-F (0.68x vs 0.62x), 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 Olympus PEN-F along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Leica M9||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.0||n||n|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|3.||Canon 700D||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|4.||Canon 550D||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n|
|5.||Canon 500D||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.4||Y||n|
|6.||Leica M10-P||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||Y||1/4000s||5.0||n||n|
|7.||Leica M10||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0||n||n|
|8.||Leica T||optional||n||3.7 / 1230||fixed||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||optional||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n|
|10.||Leica X Vario||optional||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n|
|11.||Leica M Typ 240||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||n|
|12.||Leica M8||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/8000s||2.0||n||n|
|13.||Olympus E-M1 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
|14.||Olympus E-M5 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|15.||Olympus E-M10 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0||Y||Y|
|16.||Olympus E-P5||optional||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/8000s||9.0||Y||Y|
|17.||Panasonic GX8||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The PEN-F has a touchscreen, while the M9 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.The PEN-F has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the M9 does not have a selfie-screen.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the PEN-F is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Olympus PEN-F has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the M9 and the PEN-F write their files to SDXC cards. The PEN-F supports UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s), while the M9 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
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 Olympus PEN-F and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Leica M9||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|3.||Canon 700D||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Canon 550D||Y||stereo / -||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Canon 500D||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Leica M10-P||Y||- / -||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|7.||Leica M10||Y||- / -||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|8.||Leica T||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||-||2.0||Y||-||-|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Leica X Vario||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Leica M Typ 240||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Leica M8||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Olympus E-M1 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.0||Y||-||-|
|14.||Olympus E-M5 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|15.||Olympus E-M10 II||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|16.||Olympus E-P5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|17.||Panasonic GX8||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the PEN-F offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the M9 does not provide wifi capability.
Both the M9 and the PEN-F have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M9 was replaced by the Leica M Typ 240, while the PEN-F does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Olympus websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Leica M9 better than the Olympus PEN-F or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Leica M9:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.62x).
- 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).
Arguments in favor 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 a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- 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 built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-II standard.
- 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 number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the PEN-F is the clear winner of the contest (21 : 4 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.
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 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 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.
|1.||Leica M9||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||..||Sep 2009||7,999|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||..||..||4/5||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,199|
|3.||Canon 700D||..||..||..||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2013||649|
|4.||Canon 550D||..||+ +||..||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699|
|5.||Canon 500D||..||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799|
|6.||Leica M10-P||..||..||3/5||..||..||4/5||Aug 2018||7,995|
|7.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|8.||Leica T||3/5||..||..||..||4/5||4/5||Apr 2014||1,850|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||3.5/5||..||..||..||3.5/5||4/5||Sep 2014||2,295|
|10.||Leica X Vario||3/5||..||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jun 2013||2,850|
|11.||Leica M Typ 240||4/5||..||..||..||4/5||..||Sep 2012||6,950|
|12.||Leica M8||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2006||5,499|
|13.||Olympus E-M1 II||5/5||+ +||5/5||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||1,999|
|14.||Olympus E-M5 II||5/5||+ +||4.5/5||81/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2015||1,099|
|15.||Olympus E-M10 II||4.5/5||+ +||..||80/100||5/5||5/5||Aug 2015||649|
|16.||Olympus E-P5||5/5||+ +||..||78/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999|
|17.||Panasonic GX8||5/5||+||..||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2015||1,199|
|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. 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.
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. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Leica M9 vs Olympus PEN-F
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 Model||Leica M9||Olympus PEN-F|
|Camera Type||Rangefinder camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica M mount lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2009||January 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 7,999||USD 1,199|
|Sensor Specs||Leica M9||Olympus PEN-F|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||18.1 Megapixels||20.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5212 x 3472 pixels||5184 x 3888 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.91 μm||3.34 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.09 MP/cm2||8.96 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||80 - 2,500 ISO||80 - 25,600 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||69||74|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.5||23.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.7||12.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||884||894|
|Screen Specs||Leica M9||Olympus PEN-F|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2360k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Swivel screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica M9||Olympus PEN-F|
|Focus System||Manual Focus||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||2 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/16000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||no shake reduction||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica M9||Olympus PEN-F|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Body Specs||Leica M9||Olympus PEN-F|
139 x 80 x 37 mm
(5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
125 x 72 x 37 mm
(4.9 x 2.8 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||585 g (20.6 oz)||427 g (15.1 oz)|
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