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Leica M9 versus Panasonic GH4

The Leica M9 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2009 and February 2014. The M9 is a fixed lens compact, while the GH4 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and a Four Thirds (GH4) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixel, whereas the Panasonic provides 15.9 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Leica M9 vs Panasonic GH4

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Panasonic GH4 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 width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the M9 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Leica M9 vs Panasonic GH4
Compare M9 versus GH4 top
Compare M9 and GH4 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GH4 is notably larger (11 percent) than the Leica M9. However, the GH4 is slightly lighter (4 percent) than the M9. It is noteworthy in this context that the GH4 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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (M9) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (GH4).

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, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Leica M9» 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.6 oz .. n Sep 2009 7,999- i Leica M9
Panasonic GH4« 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 Y Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4
Canon T5i« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.5 oz 440 n Mar 2013 649- i Canon T5i
Canon T2i« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699- i Canon T2i
Canon T1i« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.3 oz 400 n Mar 2009 799- i Canon T1i
Leica M10-P« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 n Aug 2018 7,995 i i Leica M10-P
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 n Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
Leica T« » 5.3 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 13.5 oz 400 n Apr 2014 1,850- i Leica T
Leica X Typ 113« » 5.2 in 2.9 in 3.1 in 17.1 oz 350 n Sep 2014 2,295 i i Leica X Typ 113
Leica X Vario« » 5.2 in 2.9 in 3.7 in 24.0 oz 450 n Jun 2013 2,850 i i Leica X Vario
Leica M Typ 240« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
Leica M8« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.8 oz .. n Sep 2006 5,499- i Leica M8
Olympus E-M5 II« » 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M1« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 17.5 oz 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399- i Olympus E-M1
Panasonic GH5« » 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Panasonic G6« » 4.8 in 3.3 in 2.8 in 13.8 oz 340 n Apr 2013 599- i Panasonic G6
Panasonic GH3« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.2 in 19.4 oz 540 Y Sep 2012 1,299- i Panasonic GH3

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 GH4 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 81 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Leica M9 vs Panasonic GH4

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 Panasonic GH4 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the GH4 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 GH4 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica M9 and Panasonic GH4 sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the GH4 (15.9MP), but the M9 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 3.76μm for the GH4) due to its larger sensor. However, the GH4 is a somewhat more recent model (by 4 years and 4 months) than the M9, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further 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.

M9 versus GH4 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 GH4 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 0.7 bits higher color depth, 1.1 EV in additional dynamic range, 0.2 stops of reduced 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.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Leica M9» Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472-22.511.788469Leica M9
Panasonic GH4« Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p23.212.879174Panasonic GH4
Canon T5i« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161Canon T5i
Canon T2i« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466Canon T2i
Canon T1i« » APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363Canon T1i
Leica M10-P« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-----Leica M10-P
Leica M10« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-24.413.2213386Leica M10
Leica T« » APS-C 16.2 4944 32781080/30p23.012.7108275Leica T
Leica X Typ 113« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p----Leica X Typ 113
Leica X Vario« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078Leica X Vario
Leica M Typ 240« » Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084Leica M Typ 240
Leica M8« » APS-H 10.4 3936 2630-21.111.366359Leica M8
Olympus E-M5 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M1« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773Olympus E-M1
Panasonic GH5« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777Panasonic GH5
Panasonic G6« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p21.311.563961Panasonic G6
Panasonic GH3« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p22.712.481271Panasonic GH3

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The GH4 indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the GH4 can use is 4K/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Leica M9 vs Panasonic GH4

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the GH4 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica M9, the Panasonic GH4, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

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)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Leica M9»optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 2.0 n n Leica M9
Panasonic GH4«2359 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 8000 12.0 Y n Panasonic GH4
Canon T5i« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon T5i
Canon T2i« »optical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 3.7 Y n Canon T2i
Canon T1i« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.4 Y n Canon T1i
Leica M10-P« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 4000 5.0 n n Leica M10-P
Leica M10« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 4000 5.0 n n Leica M10
Leica T« »- n 3.7 1300 fixed Y 4000 5.0 Y n Leica T
Leica X Typ 113« »- n 3.0 920 fixed n 2000 5.0 Y n Leica X Typ 113
Leica X Vario« »- n 3.0 920 fixed n 2000 5.0 Y n Leica X Vario
Leica M Typ 240« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n Leica M Typ 240
Leica M8« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 2.0 n n Leica M8
Olympus E-M5 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M1« »2360 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus E-M1
Panasonic GH5« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y Panasonic GH5
Panasonic G6« »1440 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 4000 7.0 Y n Panasonic G6
Panasonic GH3« »1746 n 3.0 614 swivel Y 4000 6.0 Y n Panasonic GH3

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The GH4 has a touchscreen, while the M9 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

The reported shutter speed and shutter burst refer to the use of the mechanical shutter. In addition, the GH4 features an electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (flickering).

Both the M9 and the GH4 write their imaging data to SDXC cards.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Leica M9»Y-----2.0---Leica M9
Panasonic GH4«YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Panasonic GH4
Canon T5i« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Canon T5i
Canon T2i« »Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---Canon T2i
Canon T1i« »Ymonomono--mini2.0---Canon T1i
Leica M10-P« »Y------Y--Leica M10-P
Leica M10« »Y------Y--Leica M10
Leica T« »Ystereomono---2.0Y--Leica T
Leica X Typ 113« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Leica X Typ 113
Leica X Vario« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Leica X Vario
Leica M Typ 240« »Ystereomono---2.0Y--Leica M Typ 240
Leica M8« »Y-----2.0---Leica M8
Olympus E-M5 II« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M1« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--Olympus E-M1
Panasonic GH5« »YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5
Panasonic G6« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-Panasonic G6
Panasonic GH3« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Panasonic GH3

Both the M9 and the GH4 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M9 was replaced by the Leica M Typ 240, while the GH4 was followed by the Panasonic GH5.

Review summary: Leica M9 vs Panasonic GH4

So how do things add up? Is the Leica M9 better than the Panasonic GH4 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.1 vs 15.9MP) with a 9% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • 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).

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Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • 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 (1.1 EV of extra DR).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p 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 (1036k 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 (12 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (81 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 4 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 GH4 is the clear winner of the contest (18 : 5 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.

M9 05:18 GH4

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the M9 or the GH4 handle or perform in practice. 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Leica M9»--4.5/54.5/5- Sep 2009 7,999- i Leica M9
Panasonic GH4«HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4
Canon T5i« »-76/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649- i Canon T5i
Canon T2i« »HiRec77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699- i Canon T2i
Canon T1i« »HiRec74/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799- i Canon T1i
Leica M10-P« »----4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i i Leica M10-P
Leica M10« »--4/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
Leica T« »--4/5-4/5 Apr 2014 1,850- i Leica T
Leica X Typ 113« »--3.5/5-4/5 Sep 2014 2,295 i i Leica X Typ 113
Leica X Vario« »--4/54/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850 i i Leica X Vario
Leica M Typ 240« »--4/5-- Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
Leica M8« »-HiRec--- Sep 2006 5,499- i Leica M8
Olympus E-M5 II« »HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M1« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399- i Olympus E-M1
Panasonic GH5« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Panasonic G6« »HiRec-5/5-4.5/5 Apr 2013 599- i Panasonic G6
Panasonic GH3« »HiRec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2012 1,299- i Panasonic GH3

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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.

 

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. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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