Leica M9 Review

 
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Leica M9 Optics

The Leica M9/M9-P is sold body-only, however we decided to test the Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 as its "kit" lens.

Note that apertures reported in M9 image EXIF are very approximate, as M-mount lenses do no provide aperture information to the body electronically or mechanically. The camera appears to estimate current aperture by comparing light readings from its ambient light sensor to its metering sensor.

Lens Test Results

50mm f/1.4 Prime Lens
Excellent far-field performance.

50mm, f/8

As you'd expect, the Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 lens is an outstanding optic, providing excellent sharpness and contrast across the field at f/8, with minimal distortion and low levels of chromatic aberration. Excellent performance here.

Macro
A much larger-than-average macro area, with very good detail.

Macro with 50mm, f/8

The Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 captured a much larger-than-average macro area, measuring 14.67 x 9.76 inches (373 x 248 millimeters). Detail was very good, but this lens is obviously not designed for macro work. (Leica specifies a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:11.3, with a minium focus distance of 0.7m /2.3 ft.)

Geometric Distortion
Low distortion.

Minimal distortion along horizontal edges of the frame

The Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 lens produced less than 0.1 percent pincushion distortion along horizontal edges, which is practically imperceptible. Interestingly, vertical edges showed up to about 0.3 percent pincushion distortion, but that's still pretty low and likely reduces with focus distance. This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide-angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

Chromatic Aberration and Corner Sharpness
Low to moderate levels of chromatic aberration in JPEGs. Moderate blurring in extreme corners at f/1.4, but excellent sharpness across the frame stopped down to f/8.

Aperture at f/1.4
f/1.4: Upper left
C.A.: Moderate
Softness: Moderate
f/1.4: Center
C.A.: Low
Softness: Sharp
Aperture at f/8
f/8: Upper left
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Very sharp
f/8: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Very sharp

Chromatic Aberration. In JPEGs, lateral chromatic aberration was moderate in the corners wide-open, exacerbated somewhat by softening, though some axial CA was visible in the center. CA wasn't as noticeable when stopped-down to f/8. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness. The 50mm lens showed moderate softness in extreme corners wide-open at f/1.4, but softness only extended a small amount into the frame, and the center was fairly sharp which is remarkable for f/1.4. Stopped-down to f/8, corners were very sharp, as was the center.

Vignetting. There's some moderate vignetting (corner shading) wide-open as indicated by the darker corner crop at f/1.4 above. At f/8, corners were actually a bit brighter than the center. The Leica M9 is capable of automatically applying shading correction based on lens ID when enabled, however it didn't appear to apply much if any for this lens.

Chromatic Aberration Correction

In-camera JPEG RAW via ACR
f/1.4: Center f/1.4: Center
f/8: Upper left f/8: Upper left

As you can see from the crops above, Adobe Camera Raw converted DNG files (on the right) show brighter chromatic aberration than in-camera JPEGs. The Leica M9 appears to suppress CA in JPEGs, though reduced visibility of CA may also be a by-product of higher contrast and other rendering differences between the camera and ACR.

All-in-all, a very good performance from a very fast, full-frame prime. Note that we'll be posting a more detailed review of this lens on SLRgear.com. Stay tuned!

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Leica M9 / M9-P Photo Gallery.

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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