Leica M9 vs Sony RX1R
The Leica M9 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2009 and June 2013. The M9 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless camera, while the RX1R is a fixed lens compact. 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 Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R? 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 RX1R are illustrated 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the RX1R 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 RX1R is considerably smaller (34 percent) than the Leica M9. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M9 nor the RX1R are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the RX1R 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 power pack in the RX1R 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. 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||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony RX1R||113 mm||65 mm||70 mm||482 g||270||n||Jun 2013||2,799||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon T2i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699||ebay.com|
|4.||Canon T1i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||520 g||400||n||Mar 2009||799||ebay.com|
|5.||Leica M11||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||640 g||700||Y||Jan 2022||8,995||amazon.com|
|6.||Leica M10-R||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jul 2020||8,295||amazon.com|
|7.||Leica M10-P||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Aug 2018||7,995||amazon.com|
|8.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595||ebay.com|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||133 mm||73 mm||78 mm||486 g||350||n||Sep 2014||2,295||ebay.com|
|10.||Leica X Vario||133 mm||73 mm||95 mm||680 g||450||n||Jun 2013||2,850||ebay.com|
|11.||Leica M Typ 240||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||Y||Sep 2012||6,950||ebay.com|
|12.||Leica M8||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||591 g||..||n||Sep 2006||5,499||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony RX1R II||113 mm||65 mm||72 mm||507 g||220||n||Oct 2015||3,299||amazon.com|
|14.||Sony A7R||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||465 g||340||Y||Oct 2013||2,299||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony A3000||128 mm||91 mm||85 mm||411 g||470||n||Aug 2013||329||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony RX1||113 mm||65 mm||70 mm||482 g||270||n||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|Note: 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 RX1R 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the RX1R 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 RX1R 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 RX1R is much more recent (by 3 years and 9 months) 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 neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Sony RX1R implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the RX1R 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 Leica M9 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-102400.
In terms of underlying technology, the M9 is build around a CCD sensor, while the RX1R uses a CMOS imager. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 RX1R offers substantially better image quality than the M9 (overall score 22 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.5 bits higher color depth, 1.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.5 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|
|2.||Sony RX1R||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||13.6||2537||91|
|5.||Leica M11||Full Frame||60.3||9528||6328||none||26.3||14.8||3376||100|
|6.||Leica M10-R||Full Frame||40.9||7864||5200||none||25.3||14.3||2924||95|
|7.||Leica M10-P||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||25.1||14.1||2739||93|
|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||23.6||12.8||1491||78|
|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 RX1R II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||1080/60p||25.8||13.9||3204||97|
|14.||Sony A7R||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.6||14.1||2746||95|
|16.||Sony RX1||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.1||14.3||2534||93|
|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 RX1R indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the RX1R can use is 1080/60p.
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 RX1R relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the RX1R can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-EV1MK. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica M9, the Sony RX1R, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Leica M9||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.0/s||n||n|
|2.||Sony RX1R||optional||n||3.0 / 1229||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|3.||Canon T2i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7/s||Y||n|
|4.||Canon T1i||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.4/s||Y||n|
|5.||Leica M11||optical||n||3.0 / 2333||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.5/s||n||n|
|6.||Leica M10-R||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.5/s||n||n|
|7.||Leica M10-P||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||Y||1/4000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|8.||Leica M10||optical||n||3.0 / 1037||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||optional||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|10.||Leica X Vario||optional||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|11.||Leica M Typ 240||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||n||n|
|12.||Leica M8||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/8000s||2.0/s||n||n|
|13.||Sony RX1R II||2360||n||3.0 / 1229||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|14.||Sony A7R||2400||n||3.0 / 1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||4.0/s||n||n|
|15.||Sony A3000||202||n||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5/s||Y||n|
|16.||Sony RX1||optional||n||3.0 / 1229||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0/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 RX1R has one, while the M9 does not. While the built-in flash of the RX1R is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The M9 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the RX1R uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo 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 Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R 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 RX1R||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon T2i||Y||stereo / -||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Canon T1i||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Leica M11||Y||- / -||-||-||-||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|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.||Sony RX1R II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|14.||Sony A7R||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|15.||Sony A3000||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Sony RX1||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Both the M9 and the RX1R have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The M9 was replaced by the Leica M Typ 240, while the RX1R was followed by the Sony RX1R II. Further information on the features and operation of the M9 and RX1R can be found, respectively, in the Leica M9 Manual (free pdf) or the online Sony RX1R Manual.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M9 or the Sony RX1R – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Leica M9:
- 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 available for much longer (launched in September 2009).
Arguments in favor of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 18.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 15%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (22 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.5 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.9 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.5 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p 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 (1229k vs 230k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (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 (113x65mm 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).
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- 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: Reflects 3 years and 9 months of technical progress since the M9 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the RX1R is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the M9 and the RX1R in practical situations. 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.
This is why expert reviews 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], 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||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony RX1R||5/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2013||2,799||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon T2i||..||+ +||..||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699||ebay.com|
|4.||Canon T1i||..||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799||ebay.com|
|5.||Leica M11||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2022||8,995||amazon.com|
|6.||Leica M10-R||4.5/5||..||4/5||..||..||4/5||Jul 2020||8,295||amazon.com|
|7.||Leica M10-P||..||..||3/5||..||..||4/5||Aug 2018||7,995||amazon.com|
|8.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595||ebay.com|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||3.5/5||..||..||..||3.5/5||4/5||Sep 2014||2,295||ebay.com|
|10.||Leica X Vario||3/5||..||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jun 2013||2,850||ebay.com|
|11.||Leica M Typ 240||4/5||..||..||..||4/5||..||Sep 2012||6,950||ebay.com|
|12.||Leica M8||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2006||5,499||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony RX1R II||5/5||..||..||82/100||..||4.5/5||Oct 2015||3,299||amazon.com|
|14.||Sony A7R||5/5||+ +||..||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||2,299||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony A3000||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||4/5||Aug 2013||329||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony RX1||5/5||..||..||79/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Leica M9 vs Sony RX1R
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 RX1R|
|Camera Type||Rangefinder camera||Fixed lens compact camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica M mount lenses||35mm f/2.0|
|Launch Date||September 2009||June 2013|
|Launch Price||USD 7,999||USD 2,799|
|Sensor Specs||Leica M9||Sony RX1R|
|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||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||80 - 2,500 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 102,400 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||69||91|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.5||25.0|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.7||13.6|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||884||2537|
|Screen Specs||Leica M9||Sony RX1R|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||1229k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica M9||Sony RX1R|
|Focus System||Manual Focus||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||2 shutter flaps/s||5 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica M9||Sony RX1R|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Leica M9||Sony RX1R|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
139 x 80 x 37 mm
(5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
113 x 65 x 70 mm
(4.4 x 2.6 x 2.8 in)
|Camera Weight||585 g (20.6 oz)||482 g (17.0 oz)|
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