Leica M9 vs Sony A6500
The Leica M9 and the Sony Alpha A6500 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2009 and October 2016. The M9 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless, while the A6500 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and an APS-C (A6500) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 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 Sony Alpha A6500? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Sony A6500. 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.
The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the A6500 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A6500 is notably smaller (28 percent) than the Leica M9. Moreover, the A6500 is markedly lighter (23 percent) than the M9. It is noteworthy in this context that the A6500 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 compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (M9) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (A6500).
The power pack in the A6500 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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.
|1.||Leica M9||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||585 g||..||n||Sep 2009||7,999|
|2.||Sony A6500||120 mm||67 mm||53 mm||453 g||350||Y||Oct 2016||1,399|
|3.||Canon T5i||133 mm||100 mm||79 mm||580 g||440||n||Mar 2013||649|
|4.||Canon T2i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699|
|5.||Canon T1i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||520 g||400||n||Mar 2009||799|
|6.||Leica M10-R||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jul 2020||8,295|
|7.||Leica M10-P||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Aug 2018||7,995|
|8.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|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.||Panasonic GX8||133 mm||78 mm||63 mm||487 g||330||Y||Jul 2015||1,199|
|14.||Sony A6600||120 mm||67 mm||69 mm||503 g||810||Y||Aug 2019||1,399|
|15.||Sony A6300||120 mm||67 mm||49 mm||404 g||400||Y||Feb 2016||999|
|16.||Sony A77||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399|
|17.||Sony NEX-7||120 mm||67 mm||43 mm||400 g||430||n||Aug 2011||1,349|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A6500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 83 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.
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 tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 Sony A6500 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the A6500 is 58 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the A6500 offers a higher resolution of 24 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 3.91μm versus 6.91μm for the M9). However, it should be noted that the A6500 is much more recent (by 7 years) 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 the M9 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A6500 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A6500 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica M9 are 26.1 x 17.4 inches or 66.2 x 44.1 cm for good quality, 20.8 x 13.9 inches or 53 x 35.3 cm for very good quality, and 17.4 x 11.6 inches or 44.1 x 29.4 cm for excellent quality prints.
The A6500 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Leica M9 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A6500 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-51200.
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 A6500 offers substantially better image quality than the M9 (overall score 16 points higher). The advantage is based on 2 bits higher color depth, 2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 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.
|1.||Leica M9||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||none||22.5||11.7||884||69|
|6.||Leica M10-R||Full Frame||40.9||7864||5200||none||..||..||..||..|
|7.||Leica M10-P||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||..||..||..||..|
|8.||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.||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 can also record movies. The A6500 indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the A6500 can use is 4K/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A6500 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the A6500 has a higher magnification than the one of the M9 (0.70x vs 0.68x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica M9, the Sony A6500, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Leica M9||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.0||n||n|
|2.||Sony A6500||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||11.0||Y||Y|
|3.||Canon T5i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|4.||Canon T2i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n|
|5.||Canon T1i||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.4||Y||n|
|6.||Leica M10-R||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.5||n||n|
|7.||Leica M10-P||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||Y||1/4000s||5.0||n||n|
|8.||Leica M10||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0||n||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.||Panasonic GX8||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A6600||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||11.0||n||Y|
|15.||Sony A6300||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||n||1/4000s||11.0||Y||n|
|16.||Sony A77||2359||Y||3.0 / 921||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||Y||Y|
|17.||Sony NEX-7||2359||n||3.0 / 921||tilting||n||1/4000s||10.0||Y||n|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The A6500 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 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 A6500 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 M9 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A6500 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A6500 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 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 Sony Alpha A6500 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.||Sony A6500||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|3.||Canon T5i||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Canon T2i||Y||stereo / -||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Canon T1i||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Leica M10-R||Y||- / -||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|7.||Leica M10-P||Y||- / -||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|8.||Leica M10||Y||- / -||-||-||-||-||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.||Panasonic GX8||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|14.||Sony A6600||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||YES||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|15.||Sony A6300||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|16.||Sony A77||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony NEX-7||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the A6500 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 A6500 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M9 was replaced by the Leica M Typ 240, while the A6500 was followed by the Sony A6600. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Sony websites.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M9 or the Sony A6500 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Reasons to prefer the Leica M9:
- 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).
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A6500:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 18.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 15%.
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (16 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p video.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.68x).
- 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 (922k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 139x80mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 132g or 23 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- 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.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (83 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 7 years of technical progress since the M9 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A6500 is the clear winner of the contest (27 : 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the M9 and the A6500 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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.
|1.||Leica M9||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||..||Sep 2009||7,999|
|2.||Sony A6500||5/5||+ +||3.5/5||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2016||1,399|
|3.||Canon T5i||..||..||..||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2013||649|
|4.||Canon T2i||..||+ +||..||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699|
|5.||Canon T1i||..||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799|
|6.||Leica M10-R||4.5/5||..||4/5||..||..||4/5||Jul 2020||8,295|
|7.||Leica M10-P||..||..||3/5||..||..||4/5||Aug 2018||7,995|
|8.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|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.||Panasonic GX8||5/5||+||..||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2015||1,199|
|14.||Sony A6600||4/5||+||4/5||83/100||4.5/5||4/5||Aug 2019||1,399|
|15.||Sony A6300||4.5/5||+||..||85/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||999|
|16.||Sony A77||5/5||91/100||..||81/100||..||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399|
|17.||Sony NEX-7||5/5||+ +||..||81/100||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2011||1,349|
|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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price 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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Leica M9 vs Sony A6500
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||Sony A6500|
|Camera Type||Rangefinder camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica M mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2009||October 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 7,999||USD 1,399|
|Sensor Specs||Leica M9||Sony A6500|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||18.1 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5212 x 3472 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.91 μm||3.91 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.09 MP/cm2||6.55 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||80 - 2,500 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||69||85|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.5||24.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.7||13.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||884||1405|
|Screen Specs||Leica M9||Sony A6500|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2359k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica M9||Sony A6500|
|Focus System||Manual Focus||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||2 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||YES|
|Image Stabilization||no shake reduction||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica M9||Sony A6500|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Body Specs||Leica M9||Sony A6500|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
139 x 80 x 37 mm
(5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
120 x 67 x 53 mm
(4.7 x 2.6 x 2.1 in)
|Camera Weight||585 g (20.6 oz)||453 g (16.0 oz)|
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