DxOMark’s Leica M9 Sensor Test Results Have Leica Photographers Befuddled


If you’re a fan of Leica’s digital rangefinders and have been skeptical of DxOMark’s ability to determine sensor quality through its rigorous tests, you might want to skip over the lab’s newly published test results on Leica’s M series sensors.

Leica’s new M Type 240 will be hitting store shelves soon, and will be equipped with a new CMOS sensor. It’s a notable break from the CCD sensors that Leica has stuck in its digital M cameras since the M8 was announced back in 2006.

As Leica aficionados await the new cameras and their new sensors, DxOMark decided to put Leica’s previous generation of sensors through its sensor tests for the first time. The gear testing lab tested three M9 generation cameras: the M9, the M9-P, and the M-E Type 220.

The results have many people scratching their heads. DxOMark found that the highly regarded cameras are inferior in image quality to CMOS-powered cameras on the market.



And not just the highest-end DSLRs, mind you, but even Micro Four Thirds cameras!


In its conclusion and summary of the tests, DxOMark reports that “CCD Sensors just aren’t as good as the latest CMOS offerings“:

The 24x36mm full frame CCD sensor utilized in the Leica M Series rangefinder cameras produce significantly poorer raw image quality, compared to results from DSLRs featuring a CMOS alternative.

In fact, with a DxOMark Overall Score of 68, or 69 for the Leica M9, M9-P and ME Type 220, these cameras offer the worst image quality DxOMark have tested on a full frame sensor, with the exception of the 10-year-old Canon EOS 1Ds.

No doubt Leica enthusiasts will assert we’re comparing apples and pears, and the advantages the Leica M System offers in terms of simple control, portability and discretion, as well as first class engineering, are more important.

“Worst image quality”… Those are some pretty harsh words, and have some Leica sites filing these test results under the “Humor” category.

DxOMark writes that while their tests do not account for the quality of Leica glass and other features of the cameras, there appears to be a “gulf in image quality” between Leica’s CCD sensors and other CMOS sensors on the market, particularly at higher ISOs.

The lab is now waiting to see whether Leica’s new transition into the CMOS game will “address this problem and [put] Leica back in the digital game.”

Leica M9, M9-P and M-E Type 220 – Ahead of the new Leica M we round up the DxOMark Scores of its predecessors [DxOMark]


    DxOMark actually published these results a really long time ago (at least for the M9 and M9-P) – they just decided reiterate them in this “roundup” or whatever – so the low scores aren’t news. They shouldn’t be surprising, either: even to the naked eye, the raw files from these cameras exhibit a ton of luminance noise at high ISOs and a fair amount of chroma noise at low ISOs, which is the reason that they have low “Sports” and “Portrait” scores, respectively. The low scores in those two categories explain the entire difference between the scores for these cameras and the Canon 5D Mark III, which has the same dynamic range score. The fact that some people may find the nature of the noise from the Leica sensors appealing isn’t reflected in the test scores, and I’m not sure how it could be. But you can’t deny that the noise exists.

  • E

    Based on what we see here (I haven’t gone to DxO to see the full reports) there’s nothing groundbreaking here. Leica’s old CCD sensor is rubbish at lowlight/high iso (not really that high to be honest ;) ), we all know that. To be honest I have never seen a CCD sensor with good lowlight capabilities by today’s standard. The rest of the scores compare pretty well to most contemporary sensors.

  • Steve Stevenson

    Leica’s are good for certain things.
    However, one of the best decisions I ever made was selling my Leica gear and getting Nikon gear.
    Their lenses may be great, but when it comes to digital they fall behind.

  • Selsk

    Oh they already tested the brand new Leica ME. Let’s compare it to the Fuji X-Pro1 which was released over a year ago. Oh wait we can’t.

  • G

    Dunno why the bothered testing the ME though. .it is just an M9 without a frameline preview lever. Results are as expected: the same!

  • wickerprints

    I’m no fan of Leica, but again this proves that DxOMark is rubbish. If you publish a set of statistics purporting to quantify the overall performance of a sensor, and then you have to EXPLAIN after the fact the reason why the score is low is because the sensor doesn’t do so well at high ISO, then you have failed to create a meaningful measure. The resulting confusion and disagreement is evidence that the statistic is not representative of the way the sensor behaves.

    I really, really don’t understand why photographers have such an obsession with DxOMark, as if their findings are the gospel truth. They publish garbage numbers because they are too stupid and ignorant of basic statistical concepts to know better, and unfortunately, it seems that so are the photographers that believe their findings. If you were to try to publish such fundamentally flawed analyses in a scientific journal of any type, you would be laughed at.

  • D

    It’s head in the sand time…

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    Who needs ISO when you have f1.0? :P

  • Lainer

    Hahahhahahahahahahahaha! Good-bye Leica!

  • Joe Blow

    Yes, but you get the famous Leica Glow [rolls eyes] that’s so important to amateur dentist photographers.

  • Jay

    But, that red logo sticker got 99.99 score :)

  • ietion

    my interpretation on their ‘low light iso’ is ‘the highest ISO value a camera can go maintaining an ‘acceptable’ standard’. They explain it has to do with SNR, so I am guessing a certain db value is the ‘acceptable’ limit. 40D scores 703. 5D scores 1368. Having both and having tested both with same lens, same place, same time, same settings, I can barely see a difference. So, either I don’t get the interpretation right, or their score is useless.

  • Ashraf Saharudin

    Well no doubt to their superb glasses, but when it come to digital, the Japs are doing way better…

  • Dan Chippendale

    The M-E isn’t a new camera anyway. It’s a new version of an old camera. No surprises it doesn’t score too well. The M-E (and M9) is insanely good at low ISO. Runs rings around most cameras still.

  • sekk

    People who want some decent depth of field, for starters.

  • lidocaineus

    Side note: please be aware that the word “Japs” to refer to those who consider themselves Japanese is fairly insulting.

  • gochugogi

    Here on Oahu those whom utter the J-word in public and are cruising for bruising…

  • Kenneth Reitz

    This should come as no surprise at all to anyone who’s ever shot with an M9. The images may be beautiful, but the technical performance of the sensor is quite obviously a step below any other digital full frame I’ve used.

    I love my M9-P. It’s never been about the sensor.

  • Kenneth Reitz

    Indeed, the image quality is incredible below ISO 400.

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    DOF is overrated.

  • David Liang

    Try shooting landscape or architecture.

  • RB

    Just curious… what brand of camera do you use?

  • kirkandorules

    Yeah man, leica is totally going to get destroyed by that other digital rangefinder on the market!

  • kirkandorules

    Sorry to hear that you’re not familiar with hyperfocal distance, and doubly sorry that your lenses aren’t acceptably sharp wide open.

  • faloc

    not everyone affords a Noctilux xD

  • faloc

    Personally I just tend to ignore DxOMark, it is rubbish

  • faloc

    there arent any other Digital Rangefinders…. Leica is the only brand that makes Digital Rangefinders combined with mechanical perfection. If u think Fujifilm is a rangefinder, ur soo utterly wrong! Leica will still live on strong! it has core of customers who keeps buying their awesome glass and amazing bodies!

  • faloc


  • faloc

    atleast Leica uses fullframe….. not APS-C

  • kirkandorules

    THAT’S THE JOKE /ranier wolfcastle

    I was being sarcastic. Leica rangefinders are not competing with SLRs from Canon/Nikon, view cameras from Panasonic/Olympus, or P&Ss from Fuji, so this comparison is pretty pointless.

    Leica has a niche market, but they own it.

  • Nick Zou

    I tend to believe the scores. Of course I don’t own a Leica but I have played around with the M9 to get a sense of what it can do. In short, it takes amazing photos. But you know what? But I took the same lens and mounted it onto an E-M5, and guess what? Those pictures turned out amazing as well! That’s the thing about Leica it is all glass. 6k for an M9… pfffhhh, okay there Leica. 4k for a Summilux 50mm, yes please, here’s my liver and my credit card.

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    Not everyone shoots landsacpe or architecture? I’d kindly pass. I’ll stick to my genre and you to yours. Again. DOF is overrated. :P

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    Before we go there… not everyone can afford a leica M9. :P

    I know i can’t.

  • rbrockmann

    Please define “rangefinder”, and also please specify under what category would the Fujifilm X-100 fall.

  • lidocaineus

    So basically by saying “not everyone shoots landsacpe (sp)” you’re saying shoot what you want to shoot… but then you’re ragging on people who want increased DOF to shoot what they want to shoot? That doesn’t make any sense.

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    LoL. Ragging on…..

    1. If you can’t sense the tongue-in-cheek…. let me be the first to say i’m sorry. But you did use the word ragging, or did you mean it in any other way?

    2. IMO, if you want to shoot landcapes… uhmmm…. m9… REALLY? but i digress…

    3. I’m ragging on…….. because … it is ragging no? Maybe you’d understand tease better as a substitute for ragging?

  • lidocaineus

    Either you’re not a native English speaker or you’re not a very effective communicator and don’t know what ragging means, and/or your understanding of tongue-in-cheek is flawed, especially with your subsequent replies. I’ll ignore that since it’s tangential anyway.

    So you’re either not serious or you are serious – can’t really have it both ways. Which would make #2 yet another contradictory statement (shoot what you want to shoot with) or not. Please take a basic communications class.

  • W.Goldberg

    it’s just clear leica needs to go. they are seriously overpriced red dot, they borrow technology from others and that fat boss needs to take a paycut and pass on the savings to the consumer, and even if that happens, who’s gonna buy that junk?

  • Wag Goldberg

    oh yea baby, you can spank me anytime, “japs” insulting? you guys are soooo lame.