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Leica M9 vs Panasonic LX5

The Leica M9 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2009 and July 2010. The M9 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless camera, while the LX5 is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and a 1/1.7-inch (LX5) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 10 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 LX5
Leica M9   Panasonic LX5
Rangefinder camera Fixed lens compact camera
Leica M mount lenses 24-90mm f/2.0-3.3
18.1 MP – Full Frame sensor 10 MP – 1/1.7" sensor
no Video 720/60p Video
ISO 80-2,500 ISO 80-3,200 (80 - 12,800)
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 2.5 shutter flaps per second
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g 110 x 65 x 43 mm, 271 g
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Check LX5 offers at
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M9 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5? 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Panasonic LX5 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the LX5 is also available in two color-versions, but different ones (black, white).

Size Leica M9 vs Panasonic LX5
Compare M9 versus LX5 top
Comparison M9 or LX5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic LX5 is considerably smaller (36 percent) than the Leica M9. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M9 nor the LX5 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the LX5 has a lens built in, whereas the M9 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the M9 and their specifications in the Leica M Lens Catalog.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons 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 7,999ebay.com
2.
 
Panasonic LX5 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 n Jul 2010 499ebay.com
3.
 
Canon T2i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699ebay.com
4.
 
Canon T1i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799ebay.com
5.
 
Fujifilm X10 117 mm 70 mm 57 mm 350 g 270 n Sep 2011 599ebay.com
6.
 
Leica M11 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 640 g 700 Y Jan 2022 8,995 amazon.com
7.
 
Leica M10-R 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jul 2020 8,295 amazon.com
8.
 
Leica M10-P 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 amazon.com
9.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295ebay.com
11.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850ebay.com
12.
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950ebay.com
13.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus XZ-1 111 mm 65 mm 42 mm 275 g 320 n Jan 2011 499ebay.com
15.
 
Panasonic LX7 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Jul 2012 499ebay.com
16.
 
Panasonic FZ150 124 mm 82 mm 92 mm 528 g 410 n Aug 2011 499ebay.com
17.
 
Panasonic GF3 108 mm 67 mm 32 mm 264 g 300 n Jun 2011 549ebay.com
Note: 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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The LX5 was launched at a lower price than the M9, despite having a lens built in. 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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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 LX5 a 1/1.7-inch sensor. The sensor area in the LX5 is 95 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 4.4. The sensor in the M9 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the LX5 offers a 4:3 aspect. The LX5 has the particularity of featuring a switch that allows to toggle between multiple aspect ratios, while maintaining the same field of view and full image resolution.

Leica M9 and Panasonic LX5 sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the LX5 (10MP), but the M9 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 2.14μm for the LX5) due to its larger sensor. However, the LX5 is a somewhat more recent model (by 10 months) than the M9, and its sensor might 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 Panasonic LX5 are 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 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-LX5 are ISO 80 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 80-12800.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CCD (Charged Coupled Device) sensors. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

M9 versus LX5 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under review, the M9 provides substantially higher image quality than the LX5, with an overall score that is 28 points higher. This advantage is based on 2.9 bits higher color depth, 0.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.7 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 3472none22.511.788469
2.
 
Panasonic LX5 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/60p19.610.813241
3.
 
Canon T2i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
4.
 
Canon T1i APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363
5.
 
Fujifilm X10 2/3 12.0 4000 30001080/30p20.511.324550
6.
 
Leica M11 Full Frame 60.3 9528 6328none26.314.83376100
7.
 
Leica M10-R Full Frame 40.9 7864 5200none25.314.3292495
8.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none25.114.1273993
9.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.612.8149178
11.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
12.
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084
13.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
14.
 
Olympus XZ-1 1/1.7 10.1 3664 2752720/30p18.810.411734
15.
 
Panasonic LX7 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p20.711.714750
16.
 
Panasonic FZ150 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p19.410.913240
17.
 
Panasonic GF3 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.610.045849
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The LX5 indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the LX5 can use is 720/60p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the M9 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the LX5 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the LX5 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 LX5 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
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
2.
 
Panasonic LX5optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y Y
3.
 
Canon T2ioptical n3.0 / 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7/s Y n
4.
 
Canon T1ioptical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4/s Y n
5.
 
Fujifilm X10optical n2.8 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 10.0/s Y Y
6.
 
Leica M11optical n3.0 / 2333 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.5/s n n
7.
 
Leica M10-Roptical n3.0 / 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.5/s n n
8.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n3.0 / 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
9.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
11.
 
Leica X Variooptional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
12.
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n n
13.
 
Leica M8optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0/s n n
14.
 
Olympus XZ-1optional n3.0 / 614 fixed n 1/2000s 2.0/s Y Y
15.
 
Panasonic LX7optional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0/s Y Y
16.
 
Panasonic FZ150202 n3.0 / 460 swivel n 1/2000s 12.0/s Y Y
17.
 
Panasonic GF3none n3.0 / 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.2/s Y n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The LX5 has one, while the M9 does not. While the built-in flash of the LX5 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the M9 and the LX5 write their files to SDXC 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-LX5 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
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Leica M9Y- / ----2.0---
2.
 
Panasonic LX5Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon T2iYstereo / -Y-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon T1iYmono / mono--mini2.0---
5.
 
Fujifilm X10Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Leica M11Y- / ----3.2Y-Y
7.
 
Leica M10-RY- / -----Y--
8.
 
Leica M10-PY- / -----Y--
9.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
10.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica X VarioYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereo / mono---2.0---
13.
 
Leica M8Y- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus XZ-1Ymono / ---mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic LX7Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic FZ150Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic GF3-stereo / mono--mini2.0---

Both the M9 and the LX5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The M9 was replaced by the Leica M Typ 240, while the LX5 was followed by the Panasonic LX7. Further information on the features and operation of the M9 and LX5 can be found, respectively, in the Leica M9 Manual (free pdf) or the online Panasonic LX5 Manual.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica M9 and the Panasonic LX5? Which camera is better? 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 10MP) with a 37% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (28 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (2.9 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (2.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • More flexible: Accepts interchangeable lenses, so that lens characteristics can be altered.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2009).

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Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Flexible image proportions: Has a multi-aspect sensor that allows for alternative image shapes.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/60p 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 (2.5 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Has an integrated lens, whereas the M9 necessitates an extra lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x65mm vs 139x80mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight even though it has a lens built in (unlike the M9).
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (10 months) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the LX5 emerges as the winner of the match-up (13 : 10 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 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 10:13 LX5

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 LX5. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999ebay.com
2.
 
Panasonic LX54/5+..73/1004.5/54.5/5 Jul 2010 499ebay.com
3.
 
Canon T2i..+ +..77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699ebay.com
4.
 
Canon T1i..+ +..74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799ebay.com
5.
 
Fujifilm X10......76/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2011 599ebay.com
6.
 
Leica M114.5/5..4.5/5..4.5/54.5/5 Jan 2022 8,995 amazon.com
7.
 
Leica M10-R4.5/5..4/5....4/5 Jul 2020 8,295 amazon.com
8.
 
Leica M10-P....3/5....4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 amazon.com
9.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595ebay.com
10.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5......3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295ebay.com
11.
 
Leica X Vario3/5......4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850ebay.com
12.
 
Leica M Typ 2404/5......4/5.. Sep 2012 6,950ebay.com
13.
 
Leica M8......+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus XZ-14/5....74/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 499ebay.com
15.
 
Panasonic LX73/5+ +..75/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2012 499ebay.com
16.
 
Panasonic FZ1503/5+ +..76/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2011 499ebay.com
17.
 
Panasonic GF33/582/100..71/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 549ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated 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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

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Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, 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 Panasonic LX5

    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 LX5
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses 24-90mm f/2.0-3.3
    Launch Date September 2009 July 2010
    Launch Price USD 7,999 USD 499
    Sensor Specs Leica M9 Panasonic LX5
    Sensor Technology CCD CCD
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor 1/1.7" Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 7.85 x 5.89 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 46.2365 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 9.8 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 4.4x
    Sensor Resolution 18.1 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5212 x 3472 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.91 μm 2.14 μm
    Pixel Density 2.09 MP/cm2 21.59 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/60p Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 2,500 ISO 80 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 80 - 12,800 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 69 41
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.5 19.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.7 10.8
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 884 132
    Screen Specs Leica M9 Panasonic LX5
    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 LX5
    Focus System Manual Focus Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 2.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica M9 Panasonic LX5
    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 LX5
    Battery Type BLI-312 DMW-BCJ13
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    110 x 65 x 43 mm
    (4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7 in)
    Camera Weight 585 g (20.6 oz) 271 g (9.6 oz)
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