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Leica M9 versus Sony A7S II

The Leica M9 and the Sony Alpha 7S II are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2009 and September 2015. The M9 is a fixed lens compact, while the A7S II is a rangefinder-style mirrorless. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 12 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 Sony A7S II

The physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Sony A7S II are illustrated 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. 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 Sony A7S II
Compare M9 versus A7S II top
Compare M9 and A7S II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7S II is notably larger (10 percent) than the Leica M9. Moreover, the A7S II is markedly heavier (7 percent) than the M9. It is noteworthy in this context that the A7S II 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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (M9) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7S II).

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, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons 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
Sony A7S II« 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
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
Sony A7R III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 650 Y Oct 2017 3,199 i i Sony A7R III
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A7R II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S

Any camera purchase will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 A7S II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 63 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: Leica M9 vs Sony A7S II

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 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 A7S II is 2 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.

Leica M9 and Sony A7S II sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the A7S II (12MP), but the M9 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 8.40μm for the A7S II). Moreover, the A7S II is a somewhat more recent model (by 6 years) 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.

M9 versus A7S II MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 consideration, the A7S II offers substantially better image quality than the M9 (overall score 16 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.1 bits higher color depth, 1.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.8 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.

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
Sony A7S II« Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385Sony A7S II
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
Sony A7R III« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.014.73523100Sony A7R III
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792Sony A9
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498Sony A7R II
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287Sony A7S

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The A7S II indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the A7S II can use is 4K/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Leica M9 vs Sony A7S II

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7S II 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica M9 and Sony A7S II in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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
Sony A7S II«2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7S II
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
Sony A7R III« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7R III
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y Sony A9
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7R II
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« »2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7S

The A7S II is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the M9 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the M9 was succeeded by the Leica M Typ 240.

Review summary: Leica M9 vs Sony A7S II

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica M9 and the Sony A7S II? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Advantages of the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.1 vs 12MP) with a 23% 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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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha 7S II:

  • 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 (1.1 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.6 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • 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 (1229k vs 230k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (63 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years of technical progress since the M9 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7S II is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 5 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

M9 05:16 A7S II

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the M9 and the A7S II 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 rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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
Sony A7S II«Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
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« »----- 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
Sony A7R III« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2017 3,199 i i Sony A7R III
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A7R II« »HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« »-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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