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New LEICA M vs M9 – Daylight picture RAW files comparison

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Here are Raw files for a daylight photo I took with the same Noctilux lens on both cameras at 1/350s f8 fixed daylight white balance.

 

Observations in LR 4.4RC:

- M has much warmer tone than M9. Facing the real scene I would say that M9 is closer to reality than M is

- M looks less prone to moiré

- M has more resolution due to its 24Mpix sensor

- M produces a smoother and cleaner image than M9 which shows more jaggy contours.

 

But the best thing is that I let you check by yourself:

Leica M Raw File

Leica M9 Raw File

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Thanks for doing this. It's cool to be able to stack these files side by side in LR. I was able to make the M9 dng look identical (to my eye) to the 240 file with some tweaks. I think the 240 has a slight edge on DR but only to the more critical eye. It is clear, though, the the M9 produced a much more blue file right out of the camera. So blue that it makes me question whether the auto WB setting is off. In any case, thanks again for the time it took to do this!

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Before taking picture I selected manually white balance to daylight, no auto WB. But for RAW this does not matter at all. WB setting is only relevant for what is shown on camera's display or later on your computer.

 

To compare things equally, it is important to adjust software white balance to the same value for each image (daylight WB in this case).

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Thanks for sharing. Both have moire in the same places, but the M9 is more noticeable at smaller image resolution due to the wider bands, where the M is noticeable only when I'm looking at 1:1 (look at the roof top near the middle right border). I used the dropper to choose the exact same spot for WB, and the overall look is almost the same, except the M shows a more orange+red roof tops. I think it's been said that reds are too hot on the M and the color profiles still need to be improved/finalized.

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Thank you for the first usable daytime comparison pic! - now stop testing and enjoy it as your artistic tool! :-)

 

At base ISO, they're quite close, only goes to show how good the M9 already was - not M43 at all, even with a simpler lens than the one used here.

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I hate to say this, because I am a fan of CMOS but the M9 image just plain has a lot more micro contrast and pop than the M image (after WB with dropper to same point and comparing in LR4.4). I was surprised at how much crisper the M9 files are looking at the leaves on the bushes and the tiles on the roofs. M9 had more moire but that could be due to less filtration in front of the sensor than the M's (IR filter thinner and different color lenses). In the first image, look at the stones in the column and by the double arched doors. The M9 micro contrast just shows where the other looks a bit mushy. In the second image look at the tree leaves and the building on the right with the white blinds. I think you can even see the difference on these tiny 1200 pixel wide images. On a 27" iMac the differences are very evident.

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Thanks for posting these. They are very helpful. Just as someone above posted, I picked the exact same spot to set white balance on both images. This helps equalize the colors on the two images and they become very close in color. A couple things I noticed is that dynamic range does seem slightly better in the M image. It is most noticeable to me when looking at the sunny side of the tile roofs. The highlight detail in the M9 image starts to suffer while in the M image it continues to hold up well. Also, there is moire in each image (which is no surprise on an image with patterns like the roof tiles... well maybe a bit of a surprise that the M with its higher pixel density has roughly similar amounts of moire), but it shows up a little differently. Granted, this is pixel peeping, but on the M image I'm finding bands of moire on the red roof middle right side. In the M9 image it shows up more as a splotch of moire. They both cleaned up pretty easily with the LR moire brush, but the end result on the M image seems a little cleaner.

 

As a big fan of the M9, I'm pleased that the M9 image really holds up pretty well against the new M, but we shouldn't be too surprised at that, especially at ISO 200. It does look to me that we will get a bit more DR out of the M than the M9 and I'm anxious to compare higher iso images as I expect a more distinct difference in the images above ISO 800.

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Guest borge
I hate to say this, because I am a fan of CMOS but the M9 image just plain has a lot more micro contrast and pop than the M image (after WB with dropper to same point and comparing in LR4.4). I was surprised at how much crisper the M9 files are looking at the leaves on the bushes and the tiles on the roofs. M9 had more moire but that could be due to less filtration in front of the sensor than the M's (IR filter thinner and different color lenses). In the first image, look at the stones in the column and by the double arched doors. The M9 micro contrast just shows where the other looks a bit mushy. In the second image look at the tree leaves and the building on the right with the white blinds. I think you can even see the difference on these tiny 1200 pixel wide images. On a 27" iMac the differences are very evident.

 

Thanks for posting this!

Even from viewing this small jpeg file it almost looks like the M´s files are unsharpened and flat / 2D compared to the sharper looking files from the M9. The M9 file look more three-dimensional as well.

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I'll jump in here to this fascinating discussion thanks to the efforts of lovelyleica who took the time to take this shot, which I must say is a gorgeous shot!

I, too, put both of these files into LR and made exactly the same adjustments except that I increased the contrast of the M9 file by +30 (the M(240) file clearly has more contrast, but the M9 file can easily be adjusted to more or less catch up).

 

Other than the +30 contrast adjustment that I made to the M9 file and not the M file, I made the following adjustments to both files:

 

-72 to the Highlights (to bring out the detail in the beautiful clouds)

+20 to the Shadows (both files, I think, benefitted from at least this much; the M(240) looks as if it could benefit from additional adjustment to catch up to the M9 file)

 

Here are the results, with the M(240) first. I agree with an earlier comment that the M(240) produced slightly rosier colored stones on the Church buildings. It's unclear to me whether this is in fact what the stones look like. In any case, I actually like the rosy look; it adds a certain very slight richness to the image. Having said this, the M9 file looks pretty darn good. And my instinct is that more fiddling with the LR adjustments could bring the images even closer together in color tones.

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A couple things I noticed is that dynamic range does seem slightly better in the M image. It is most noticeable to me when looking at the sunny side of the tile roofs.

 

It's not more dynamic range you're seeing, it's different exposure, at least in this shot.

 

If you look at the closer, shaded rooftop, it's much darker in the M240 shot, indicating that the image was exposed further to the right, so you'd expect more preservation of highlights, less shadow detail -- both evident.

 

With a 1.3 stop ISO improvement, altering just slightly the noise floor in the shadow areas, there should be some small increment in dynamic range. But, again, like (and related to) ISO, I think it's below expectations.

Edited by photomeme

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It's not more dynamic range you're seeing, it's different exposure, at least in this shot.

 

If you look at the closer, shaded rooftop, it's much darker in the M240 shot, indicating that the image was exposed further to the right, so you'd expect more preservation of highlights, less shadow detail -- both evident.

 

With a 1.3 stop ISO improvement, altering just slightly the noise floor in the shadow areas, there should be some small increment in dynamic range. But, again, like (and related to) ISO, I think it's below expectations.

 

Well, I do think there is a difference in exposure, but I'm not convinced that accounts for all I'm seeing there. I'll play with them some more in Photoshop later. But, honestly, I feel like a pixel peeper trying to find angels dancing on the head of a pin.

 

As for expectations, I'm not as bothered as I think you are. I really had no expectation that the M would significantly exceed the M9 in IQ at ISO 200. In fact, I would not have been completely surprised if it struggled to match the M9 at close to base ISO. And, again, I didn't really expect it to beat the M9 in ISO beyond 1.5 stops... although I've not seen enough to convince me that the true increase is the 1.3-1.5 stops that Sean Reid estimates.

 

So, the question for me is whether to keep the M when it arrives - with an IQ that appears to be damn close (maybe better, maybe not) to the M9 at low ISO's, a little more range at the high ISO end, probably better DR, better build quality and some more robust features (buffer size, fps); or to keep my - now off warranty - M9. I think I have some time to figure it out.

 

We'll see.

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To my eyes, the bottom picture had more pop than the upper one. I would guess it's the M9 but didn't look at EXIF to be sure.

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... In the second image look at the tree leaves and the building on the right with the white blinds. I think you can even see the difference on these tiny 1200 pixel wide images. On a 27" iMac the differences are very evident.

 

Did you look for the red and white pillar laying on its side on the pebbled flat roof? Try in Lightoom with 2:1 enlargement. You'll see some differences in the branches and leaves of the tree as well if you use the DNGs which are up for download.

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Just coming back to whether we are comparing apples and apples here.

 

As some have noted, I also noticed that LR indicated the M(240) to be at f8 while the M9 to be at f9.5. Same shutter speed (350 ) and ISO. Based on this, the M(240) does indeed appear to be shot at a 1.5 stop wider aperture.

 

Initially, I dismissed this as inaccurate on the theory that LR hasn't yet come out with a profile for the M(240) and so the f8 prbably wasn't accurate. But this is a pure guess.

 

If in fact the M(240) was shot at 1.5 stop wider, I suppose one could question whether this is really apples and apples and whether the additional light (and arguably marginal sharpness from an f8 vs f9.5) could have given the M(240) an advantage over the M9.

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Many thanks for this comparison, very useful. I have to say I prefer the M file.

 

Now, if someone would be kind enough to do a similar comparison using either or both the 18mm f3.8 ASPH and the 21mm f3.4 ASPH then I'll be a very happy bunny.

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Just coming back to whether we are comparing apples and apples here.

 

As some have noted, I also noticed that LR indicated the M(240) to be at f8 while the M9 to be at f9.5. Same shutter speed (350 ) and ISO. Based on this, the M(240) does indeed appear to be shot at a 1.5 stop wider aperture.

 

Initially, I dismissed this as inaccurate on the theory that LR hasn't yet come out with a profile for the M(240) and so the f8 prbably wasn't accurate. But this is a pure guess.

 

If in fact the M(240) was shot at 1.5 stop wider, I suppose one could question whether this is really apples and apples and whether the additional light (and arguably marginal sharpness from an f8 vs f9.5) could have given the M(240) an advantage over the M9.

 

We would have to ask the OP because the EXIF aperture info is a guess by the camera and is not reliable. I expect the OP had the same aperture on both shots. But with the cloudy sky, it is doubtful that the exposures are exactly the same since they were taken at least a few seconds apart (the OP stated he used the same lens, so obviously he had to take the time to change the lens).

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We would have to ask the OP because the EXIF aperture info is a guess by the camera and is not reliable. I expect the OP had the same aperture on both shots. But with the cloudy sky, it is doubtful that the exposures are exactly the same since they were taken at least a few seconds apart (the OP stated he used the same lens, so obviously he had to take the time to change the lens).

 

Indeed, Im sure the OP has the answer. One reason the shots are so beautiful, in addition to the gorgeous scene, is the Noctilux .95 that was used. This much seems clear from the LR data on the M9.

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The exposure time is 1/350th in both; the F8 vs F9.5 is just camera guessing at aperture since has no electronic linkage to populate the actual aperture.

 

The changing light is a variable, but I don't think the change is significant. There are subtle nuances such as the how the light falls on the hills in the background. I do think the M9 should have been set at ISO 160 because the ISO 200 robs it of a 1/3-stop DR range. There are also different filter stacks on each sensor, so how much light is lost with the CMOSIS vs Kodak sensor is a variable as well.

 

Once edited, it really is quite amazing at how the similar the results are. It leads me to think the M-240 upgrade (from a M9) is 80% about features (ie - Live View, 3" LCD, quieter shutter, etc.) and maybe 20% about image quality. The M-240 does seems to have slightly more highlight dynamic range, but it appears to be a very slight advantage.

 

My gut feeling is, by upgrading to a M-240, I'm not losing any image quality, but I'm not sure I'm gaining any either. Maybe the M240's upper ISO's are better than the M9's, but I want to test a M-240 myself before making that judgement.

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