Leica M9 vs Sony A7
The Leica M9 and the Sony Alpha A7 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2009 and October 2013. The M9 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless, while the A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame 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 A7? 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 Sony A7 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 width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the A7 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 A7 is notably larger (7 percent) than the Leica M9. However, the A7 is markedly lighter (19 percent) than the M9. It is noteworthy in this context that the A7 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (M9) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7).
The power pack in the A7 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.
|1.||Leica M9||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||585 g||..||n||Sep 2009||7,999|
|2.||Sony A7||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||474 g||340||Y||Oct 2013||1,699|
|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.||Sony A7 II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
|14.||Sony A7S||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||489 g||380||Y||Apr 2014||2,499|
|15.||Sony A7R||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||465 g||340||Y||Oct 2013||2,299|
|16.||Sony RX1R||113 mm||65 mm||70 mm||482 g||270||n||Jun 2013||2,799|
|17.||Sony RX1||113 mm||65 mm||70 mm||482 g||270||n||Sep 2012||2,799|
|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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The A7 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 79 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 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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the A7 is 1 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the A7 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 5.97μm versus 6.91μm for the M9). However, it should be noted that the A7 is much more recent (by 4 years and 1 month) 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 A7 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A7 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 A7 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 A7 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-51200.
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 A7 offers substantially better image quality than the M9 (overall score 21 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.3 bits higher color depth, 2.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
| DXO |
|1.||Leica M9||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||none||22.5||11.7||884||69|
|2.||Sony A7||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
|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.||Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|14.||Sony A7S||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||1080/60p||23.9||13.2||3702||87|
|15.||Sony A7R||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.6||14.1||2746||95|
|16.||Sony RX1R||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||13.6||2537||91|
|17.||Sony RX1||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.1||14.3||2534||93|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The A7 indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the A7 can use is 1080/60p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7 has an electronic viewfinder (2400k 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 A7 has a higher magnification than the one of the M9 (0.71x 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 A7, and comparable cameras.
|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|
|13.||Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
The M9 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A7 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A7 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 A7 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|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||-||-||-|
|13.||Sony A7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the A7 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 A7 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M9 was replaced by the Leica M Typ 240, while the A7 was followed by the Sony A7 II. 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 what is the bottom line? Is the Leica M9 better than the Sony A7 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of 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).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A7:
- 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 (21 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.3 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.5 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.3 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p 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 (0.71x 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 (1230k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 111g or 19 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.
- 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 (79 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 4 years and 1 month of technical progress since the M9 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7 is the clear winner of the contest (23 : 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 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 A7 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 why hands-on reviews by experts 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.
|1.||Leica M9||..||..||..||4.5/5||..||Sep 2009||7,999|
|2.||Sony A7||5/5||+ +||80/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,699|
|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||Jul 2020||8,295|
|7.||Leica M10-P||..||..||..||..||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.||Sony A7 II||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|14.||Sony A7S||4/5||..||86/100||4.5/5||5/5||Apr 2014||2,499|
|15.||Sony A7R||5/5||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||2,299|
|16.||Sony RX1R||5/5||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2013||2,799|
|17.||Sony RX1||5/5||..||79/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|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. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
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Specifications: Leica M9 vs Sony A7
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 A7|
|Camera Type||Rangefinder camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica M mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2009||October 2013|
|Launch Price||USD 7,999||USD 1,699|
|Sensor Specs||Leica M9||Sony A7|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||35.8 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||855.62 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||43 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||18.1 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5212 x 3472 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.91 μm||5.97 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.09 MP/cm2||2.80 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||80 - 2,500 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 51,200 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||69||90|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.5||24.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.7||14.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||884||2248|
|Screen Specs||Leica M9||Sony A7|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2400k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||1230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica M9||Sony A7|
|Focus System||Manual Focus||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||2 shutter flaps/s||5 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board 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 A7|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Body Specs||Leica M9||Sony A7|
|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)
127 x 94 x 48 mm
(5.0 x 3.7 x 1.9 in)
|Camera Weight||585 g (20.6 oz)||474 g (16.7 oz)|
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