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Leica M9

35mm MF digital rangefinder camera

Specification

Production details
Announced:September 2009
Order No.:10704 - black paint
10705 - steel-grey paint
System: Leica M (1954)
Rangefinder and Viewfinder
Rangefinder:Built-in, combined with viewfinder
Viewfinder:Built-in, combined with rangefinder
Finder magnification:0.68x
Actual rangefinder base:69.25mm
Effective rangefinder base:47.09mm
Bright-line frames:35mm & 135mm, 28mm & 90mm, 50mm & 75mm
Parallax compensation:Yes
Imaging plane
Maximum format:35mm full frame
Mount and Flange focal distance:Leica M [27.8mm]
Imaging plane:35.8 × 23.9mm CCD sensor
Resolution:5212 × 3472 - 18 MP
Shutter
Type:Focal-plane
Model:Electronically controlled
Speeds:32 - 1/4000 + B
Sensor-shift image stabilization:-
Exposure
Exposure metering:Through-the-lens (TTL)
Exposure modes:Aperture-priority Auto
Manual
Physical characteristics
Weight:585g
Dimensions:139x80x37mm
Accessories
Body cap:14195
14397

Manufacturer description

The history of 35-mm photography began almost 100 years ago with the legendary Ur-Leica. Today, it is the Leica M9, a landmark camera that carries the proud heritage of Leica M cameras into the digital age. The Leica M9 is the world’s first digital system camera of its size to be built with a full-frame sensor – a CCD sensor developed specifically for the M9 – that is capable of perfectly capturing the full 35-mm format (24 × 36 mm) in ultra-high resolution. The new M9 – in the familiar, classic, and timeless M design, represents the quintessence of its predecessors based on the consummate technological level of our time. It is the perfect contemporary tool for those who set the highest standards in image quality and are committed to creating images of enduring value.

Like every M camera of the past half century, the M9 is concentrated, by design, on the most photographically relevant functions. Its manual focusing – based on the combined viewfinder and rangefinder concept – and aperture priority exposure mode enable photographers to achieve maximum creative expression without imposing any limitations on their creative freedom. In combination with the 2.5-inch LCD monitor on the back, the simple, intuitive menu navigation system controlled by only a few buttons ensures rapid access to the entire range of camera functions.

With its extremely high-resolution image sensor in full-frame 35-mm format and cutting-edge image-processing system, the Leica M9 is uncompromisingly dedicated to capturing images of the very highest quality. The photographer may choose between image storage in JPEG format for fast processing, or as raw data in DNG format that supports a multitude of post-processing options. Alternatively, both formats may be stored simultaneously. In the DNG format, photographers may also choose between a compressed, but faster and greater space-saving option, or an uncompressed version that preserves maximum image quality.

Of course the Leica M9 offers photographers access to the complete Leica M lens system lenses, long acclaimed by experts and users as the best in the world. Its development began in 1954, and the M-System has been continually advanced and improved ever since. The high-resolution, full-format image sensor of the M9 fully exploits the performance of legendary Leica lenses from corner to corner.

It is hardly unusual that a Leica, once owned, becomes a lifelong companion. This also applies to the digital M9: Its closed, full-metal housing, crafted from a high-strength magnesium alloy, and its top deck and bottom plate machined from large blocks of brass, provide perfect protection for its precious inner mechanisms. The digital components and shutter assembly of the M9 are similarly constructed with endurance in mind. Free firmware updates ensure that the camera benefits from the latest technology. In short: The Leica M9 is an investment for a lifetime.

Discretion and unobtrusiveness are particular strengths of the M-system. In operation, the shutter of the M9 is as quiet as a whisper. An extremely low noise level when cocking the shutter is ensured by a sophisticated motor and gearing system. In discreet mode, the shutter is only cocked after the photographer‘s finger is lifted from the shutter release button when, for instance, the camera is concealed under a jacket. When shooting handheld at long exposure times, or whenever extreme steadiness is essential, slight pressure on the shutter release button in ‘soft release’ mode is sufficient to trigger the camera. In addition to these advantages, the fact that the combination of camera and lens is significantly more compact than any other full-frame camera system contributes to the fact that M photographers are frequently unnoticed and often simply blend into the background.

The Leica M9 adapts to its intended uses in a seamlessly flexible manner. Its sensitivity ranges from ISO 80 for wide-open apertures on bright days to ISO 2500 for low-light image capture. Very low noise levels and finely detailed images are achieved throughout the sensitivity range, even at the highest ISO settings. Very low image noise characteristics, an extremely bright viewfinder/rangefinder, low-vibration shutter and the availability of super fast lenses make the M9 the perfect camera for available-light photography.

The Leica M9 aids photographers with automatic functions whenever they’re required, but it never dictates how to shoot or interferes with the picture-taking process. Depending on the light level, the automatic ISO shift function increases the sensitivity of the camera as soon as the shutter speed falls below a hand-holdable value. At the same time, it also limits the shift to a maximum value determined by the photographer. This means that correct exposure without camera shake and the lowest possible sensitivity is always available to guarantee the best possible image quality in all situations. In addition, the M9 also offers automatic exposure bracketing with a user-selectable number of shots and exposure increments. This function ensures that even high-contrast subjects are perfectly captured.

The Leica M9 embodies the heritage and amassed experience of more than five decades of the M-System. It is also, simultaneously, a digital system camera at the absolute pinnacle of modern technology. For Leica designers, photography has always been their prime concern – whether film or digital. The combination of an extremely efficient image sensor, the latest digital components, and the classic viewfinder/rangefinder principle – consistently optimized over many years – make the Leica M9 absolutely unique in all the world.

The CCD image sensor in the M9 was specifically designed and developed for this camera and offers full 35-mm film format without any compromises. All M lenses mounted on the M9 offer the same exact angle of view they had when shooting film material and therefore can now be used to an optimum effect. In other words, all the outstanding characteristics of Leica M lenses are now fully maintained for digital photography as well. In short, the high resolution and superior image quality of the M9 has the ability to fully exploit the enormous potential of M lenses.

In the case of the M9, it wasn’t a matter of modifying the lenses to match the image sensor, but rather the other way around. Our dedication to further developing the image sensor has resulted in a component perfectly matched to its intended role in the very compact M-System as well as to the performance of M lenses. The special layout of the micro lenses found in the M9 sensor makes it tolerant of oblique light rays impinging on its surface, thus assuring uniform exposure and extreme sharpness from corner to corner in every image. As a result, future Leica M lenses can be designed and optimized with uncompromising dedication to the achievement of the highest performance and compact construction. A newly developed sensor filter ensures the suppression of undesirable infrared light. The conscious decision to do without a moiré filter, a cause of image deterioration through loss of resolution, ensures maximum resolution of fine detail. The optimized signal-noise ratio of the CCD image sensor reduces the need for digital post-processing and ensures that M9 images possess an unrivaled and natural visual impact.

The key control element of the M9 is an intuitive four-way switch and dial combination used in conjunction with the 2.5-inch LCD monitor on the back. To set the ISO sensitivity, simply maintain light pressure on the ISO button while simultaneously turning the dial to select the required setting. All other functions important for everyday situations are quickly and easily accessible by pressing the set button: white balance, image-data compression, resolution, exposure correction, exposure bracketing, and programmable user profiles. The user profiles can be programmed with any combination of camera and shooting settings, stored under an assigned name, and accessed quickly whenever required for a particular situation. An additional pre-defined snapshot profile is also available. In snapshot mode, the M9 automatically sets as many settings as possible, thus providing a valuable aid to spontaneous and discreet photography. All other functions – from automatic lens recognition via six-bit lens- mount coding and selection of the required color space to cleaning of the sensor – are easily found in the clearly arranged main camera menu.

Pressing the “info” button in shooting mode displays the precise charge level of the battery, the remaining number of frames on the installed memory card, and the most important basic shooting settings, for example the shutter speed, on the camera’s brilliant 2.5-inch LCD monitor. In image-view mode, users can switch between an image-only view (with a zoom option up to single pixel level) or access other information by simply turning the dial. The available data includes information on the ISO sensitivity setting and shutter speed in use, plus a precise histogram display.

The extremely efficient image sensor of the M9 demands a particularly high spatial resolution to deliver all the image quality delivered by the latest M lenses. Their excellent correction for optical aberrations and high resolution makes them a perfect match for the awesome digital capture capabilities of the M9. The current M lenses are supplied with a six-bit code on the mount that is scanned optically by the M9. On the basis of this coded information, the M9 can compensate for any negligible, system-inherent vignetting effects. In addition, the lens type is recorded in the EXIF data of the image files and, when using the latest flash units like the Leica SF 58, the camera automatically adjusts the flash head to match the focal length of the lens in use. Leica users can contact Customer Service to arrange for retrofitting the six-bit coding to the mounts of most existing M lenses.

Micro lenses are employed to ensure that more light reaches each individual pixel of the M9 sensor. As a consequence of the extremely compact design of Leica M cameras, rays of incoming light at the edges of the image field impinge obliquely on the sensor and would therefore not be captured by a sensor employing conventional micro lenses. As a consequence, the image sensor of the M9 employs advanced and meticulously designed micro lenses which have a low refractive index. In addition, the micro lenses at the edges of the sensor are laterally displaced towards the image center to match the characteristics of M lenses precisely. This optimized micro-lens design, based on many years of precision optical engineering experience, captures and concentrates even the most oblique rays on the sensor and reliably delivers full image brightness across the image field without any fall-off at the edges and corners of the image. This ensures that all existing Leica M lenses maintain their full performance when used for digital photography.

The Leica M9 can display a precise RGB tonal value histogram of the captured image after each shot, and also offers optional integration of the histogram in the automatic image view display. The clipping warning display over- and underexposed zones in each image, warning the photographer of potentially unusable images. An innovative feature is that the histogram is recalculated every time a new part of the image is viewed, thus enabling a precise quality assessment of small image areas and even the finest image details.

The M9 is also eminently suitable for flash photography. With either the Leica SF 24D, a compact flash unit ideally matched to the M9, the high powered Leica SF 58, or other brands’ flash units with SCA 3502 adapters, M-TTL flash technology enables precise creative control via flash and mixed lighting effects. Prior to the actual exposure, the units emit a measuring flash that is metered through the lens. The flash power is then precisely calculated and set taking into consideration the ambient, natural light level. Thanks to this precise balancing of flash illumination and existing light, the mood of the scene is maintained and the picture looks completely natural. In combination with the aperture priority exposure mode, the auto-slow sync function ensures a subtle lightening of the subject that enables the longest shutter speeds to be set manually or, when using six-bit coded lenses, automatically based on the 1/ focal length rule of thumb.

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35mm full frame

43.27 24 36
  • Dimensions: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm

Travellers' choice

Note

Among autofocus lenses designed for 35mm full-frame mirrorless cameras only. Speed of standard and telephoto lenses is taken into account.

One of the best

According to lens-db.com; among lenses designed for the same maximum format and mount.

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Unique Leica Look

Leica lenses are one-of-a-kind optical masterpieces that are impressive because of their unique Leica Look. This is ensured through exceptional optical design combined with selected materials and the highest quality standards.

Leica lenses reveal their full potential only when mounted on Leica cameras, since only these have sensors precisely matched to their optical characteristics.

Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

14195

Protection cap, for camera body with LEICA M bayonet mount.

14397

Protection cap, for camera body with LEICA M bayonet mount.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.

Format

Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),

where:

CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.

Mount

A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance can also be different.

The flange focal distance (FFD) is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.

Speed

The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Electronic manual focus override is performed in the following way: half-press the shutter button, wait until the camera has finished the autofocusing and then focus manually without releasing the shutter button using the focusing ring.

Electromagnetic diaphragm control system

Provides highly accurate diaphragm control and stable auto exposure performance during continuous shooting.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.

Weight

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front and/or rear lens elements over multi-coatings.

Filters

Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.

Teleconverters

Teleconverters increase the effective focal length of lenses. They also usually maintain the closest focusing distance of lenses, thus increasing the magnification significantly. A lens combined with a teleconverter is normally smaller, lighter and cheaper than a "direct" telephoto lens of the same focal length and speed.

Teleconverters are a convenient way of enhancing telephoto capability, but it comes at a cost − reduced maximum aperture. Also, since teleconverters magnify every detail in the image, they logically also magnify residual aberrations of the lens.

Lens caps

Scratched lens surfaces can spoil the definition and contrast of even the finest lenses. Lens covers are the best and most inexpensive protection available against dust, moisture and abrasion. Safeguard lens elements - both front and rear - whenever the lens is not in use.