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Leica M9 vs Panasonic GF1

The Leica M9 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 are two digital cameras that were announced in September 2009. The M9 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless, while the GF1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and a Four Thirds (GF1) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 12 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
Panasonic GF1
Leica M9   Panasonic GF1
Rangefinder camera Mirrorless system camera
Leica M mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
18.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 12 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 80-2,500 ISO 100-3,200
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
2.5 LCD, 230k dots 3.0 LCD, 460k 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 119 x 71 x 36 mm, 385 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M9 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1? 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 physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Panasonic GF1 are illustrated 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 GF1 is only available in black.

Size Leica M9 vs Panasonic GF1
Compare M9 versus GF1 top
Comparison M9 or GF1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GF1 is notably smaller (24 percent) than the Leica M9. Moreover, the GF1 is markedly lighter (34 percent) than the M9. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M9 nor the GF1 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 (GF1).

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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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.
 
Panasonic GF1 119 mm 71 mm 36 mm 385 g 380 n Sep 2009 749 i
3.
 
Canon T5i 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 n Mar 2013 649 i
4.
 
Canon T2i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699 i
5.
 
Canon T1i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799 i
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 2,295 i
10.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850 i
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950 i
12.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499 i
13.
 
Panasonic GX1 116 mm 68 mm 39 mm 318 g 320 n Nov 2011 699 i
14.
 
Panasonic G10 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 388 g 380 n Mar 2010 499 i
15.
 
Panasonic G2 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 428 g 360 n Mar 2010 599 i
16.
 
Panasonic GH1 124 mm 90 mm 45 mm 385 g 300 n Mar 2009 899 i
17.
 
Panasonic G1 124 mm 84 mm 45 mm 360 g 410 n Sep 2008 599 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 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 GF1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 91 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 imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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 Panasonic GF1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the GF1 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 GF1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica M9 and Panasonic GF1 sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the GF1 (12MP), but the M9 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 4.33μm for the GF1) due to its larger sensor. It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation. 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 Panasonic GF1 are 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 are ISO 100 to ISO 3200 (no boost).

M9 versus GF1 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 review, the M9 provides substantially higher image quality than the GF1, with an overall score that is 15 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.3 bits higher color depth, 1.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.8 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.

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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.
 
Panasonic GF1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.3513 54
3.
 
Canon T5i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.2681 61
4.
 
Canon T2i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.5784 66
5.
 
Canon T1i APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.5663 63
6.
 
Leica M10-R Full Frame 40.9 7864 5200none...... ..
7.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none...... ..
8.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.22133 86
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p...... ..
10.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.71320 78
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.31860 84
12.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.3663 59
13.
 
Panasonic GX1 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60p20.810.6703 55
14.
 
Panasonic G10 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.1411 52
15.
 
Panasonic G2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.3493 53
16.
 
Panasonic GH1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/24p21.611.6772 64
17.
 
Panasonic G1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000none21.110.3463 53

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The GF1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the GF1 can use is 720/30p.

Feature comparison

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 GF1 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the GF1 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the DMW-LVF1. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica M9 and Panasonic GF1 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.
 
Panasonic GF1optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon T5ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon T2ioptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
5.
 
Canon T1ioptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n
6.
 
Leica M10-Roptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.5 n 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 X Typ 113optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
10.
 
Leica X Variooptional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
12.
 
Leica M8optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n
13.
 
Panasonic GX1optional n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.2 Y n
14.
 
Panasonic G10202 n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6 Y n
15.
 
Panasonic G21440 n 3.0 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n
16.
 
Panasonic GH11440 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
17.
 
Panasonic G11440 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The GF1 has one, while the M9 does not. While the built-in flash of the GF1 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 GF1 uses SDHC 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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 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.
 
Panasonic GF1Ymonomono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon T5iYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon T2iYstereo-Y-mini2.0---
5.
 
Canon T1iYmonomono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Leica M10-RY------Y--
7.
 
Leica M10-PY------Y--
8.
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Leica X VarioYstereomono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereomono---2.0---
12.
 
Leica M8Y-----2.0---
13.
 
Panasonic GX1Ystereomono--mini2.0---
14.
 
Panasonic G10Ymono---mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic G2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic GH1Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic G1Y----mini2.0---

Both the M9 and the GF1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The GF1 was replaced by the Panasonic DMC-GF2, 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 Panasonic websites.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M9 or the Panasonic GF1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Advantages of the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.1 vs 12MP) with a 25% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (15 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.3 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 (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p 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 (460k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (119x71mm vs 139x80mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 200g or 34 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (91 percent cheaper at launch).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the GF1 comes out slightly ahead of the M9 (9 : 8 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

M9 08:09 GF1

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 GF1. 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 why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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.
 
Panasonic GF1..85/10069/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2009 749 i
3.
 
Canon T5i....76/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649 i
4.
 
Canon T2i..+ +77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699 i
5.
 
Canon T1i..+ +74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799 i
6.
 
Leica M10-R4.5/5......4/5 Jul 2020 8,295 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 X Typ 1133.5/5....3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295 i
10.
 
Leica X Vario3/5....4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850 i
11.
 
Leica M Typ 2404/5....4/5.. Sep 2012 6,950 i
12.
 
Leica M8....+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499 i
13.
 
Panasonic GX13/5+77/1004.5/54.5/5 Nov 2011 699 i
14.
 
Panasonic G103/5..70/1004/54/5 Mar 2010 499 i
15.
 
Panasonic G2....72/1004/54.5/5 Mar 2010 599 i
16.
 
Panasonic GH1..+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 899 i
17.
 
Panasonic G1..+ +70/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2008 599 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

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. 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, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Leica M9:
Check Ebay offers
Panasonic GF1:
Check Ebay offers

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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Leica M9 vs Panasonic GF1

    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 Panasonic GF1
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2009 September 2009
    Launch Price USD 7,999 USD 749
    Sensor Specs Leica M9 Panasonic GF1
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    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
    Crop Factor 1.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 18.1 Megapixels 12 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5212 x 3472 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.91 μm 4.33 μm
    Pixel Density 2.09 MP/cm2 5.34 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 2,500 ISO 100 - 3,200 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 69 54
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.5 21.2
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.7 10.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 884 513
    Screen Specs Leica M9 Panasonic GF1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.68x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M9 Panasonic GF1
    Focus System Manual Focus Contrast-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 SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica M9 Panasonic GF1
    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 Panasonic GF1
    Battery Type BLI-312 DMW-BLB13
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    119 x 71 x 36 mm
    (4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)
    Camera Weight 585 g (20.6 oz) 385 g (13.6 oz)

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