Thursday, March 12, 2015


Whenever a discussion comes up, evaluating the Leica M9 compared to the Leica M240, there will inevitably be comments that claim that the image quality of the Leica M 240 is inferior to the M9, that the CCD sensor in the M9 is superior to the CMOS sensor in the Leica M 240.  Some even go so far as to ask for the return to CCD sensor in future Leicas.

I personally have never subscribed to that way of thinking at all, as a matter of fact, I have always thought that fundamentally there is no great difference in the way the two different sensors perform. 

Unfortunately, I have never had a chance to make any direct comparisons, and I am happy to report that this is no longer necessary.  That task has been very eloquently performed by David Farkas of the Leica Store Miami.  He took this very subject to task in a three part series in the Red Dot Forum (, titled

“The Great Debate: CCD vs. CMOS”.

In the first part, David showed a relatively large number of photos taken of the same subject with both cameras.  He then posted the pictures with no identification, but asked the readers to try to identify which picture had been taken with which camera.
The results were inconclusive with an almost even split of wrong and right answers.

Magenta Tulips - 1    Magenta Tulips - 2
  image 1                                                                                                  image 2
Which image is from the M9

In the second part, David again showed photographs, also without identification.  But this time only one example was shown in each instance, and the readers were asked to identify if the picture was taken with an M9 or Leica M 240 camera.  Again, the answers showed no identifiable ability to tell the two cameras apart.

Finally, in the third and last part, David evaluated the results he obtained.  In his final thoughts he writes:

“For me, and I imagine for many others who couldn’t tell a definitive difference between either the head-to-head match-ups in Part 1 or the individual shots in Part 2, the results of the experiment are fairly clear. To restate: the hypothesis being tested was to see if the CCD look is real, unmistakable and couldn’t be emulated in post processing. To this end, I think I have at least demonstrated that with just a small amount of global adjustments in Lightroom, M240 files could make for some convincing M9 shots. And while I will give credit to the M9 for the great images it is capable of capturing, the M240 is still a better overall system. I would advise against forsaking the usability and image quality benefits of the newer generation CMOS-based camera based on the conviction that the CCD-based M9 offers superior color rendering. As I already mentioned above, the M9 can turn out gorgeous images. This was never up for debate. In fact, for those that absolutely, positively, just adore the look of CCD, and hold the results of this test as even greater evidence of its superiority, then there is good news. Used M9s can be had for around $3,000 and Leica still offers a CCD-based camera brand new, the Leica M-E for $4,995.

But, I do believe that much of the public perceived shortcomings of the M240 look come from its inherent higher dynamic range, the resulting flatter default files, and some users not taking full advantage of both the malleability of the M240 DNG files and the flexibility afforded them in Lightroom. We live in a wonderful time for photography. Our tools in the field and in the digital darkroom are better and more elastic than they’ve ever been. As photographers, our vision is only limited by our own creativity. Perhaps it’s time to put the CCD vs. CMOS debate to rest and just go out and shoot.”

Leica M9 or M 240?

It is nice to see someone verifying what I have thought all along.  In the final analysis, the Leica M 240 is the better of the two cameras.  Not only does it render at least equal results. With its higher resolution, the final image quality has to be superior.  The Leica M 240 is also a more capable camera in other respects, like featuring live view and the electronic Visoflex as an accessory, making close-up photography and photography with long lenses possible.  Also, with the Leica R adapter, the M240 is perfectly capable to utilize the Leica R lenses just, as with other adapters, it can be equipped with lenses from a large number of other manufacturers.  While not for everyone, the motion picture capabilities need to be mentioned as well.  In addition, there are several other features not found in the Leica M9.

This doesn’t mean that the M9 suddenly is a bad camera.  To the contrary, as David Farkas mentions on several occasions, the M9 is a very capable camera.  The M240 is simply more capable, part of which is the result of Leica having switched to the CMOS sensor.

Avatar of David Farkas  David Farkas 

David Farkas is a self-admitted Leica junkie and an avid photographer since he was seven years old. He also owns and operates leading Leica dealer Leica Store Miami in beautiful Coral Gables, Florida with his wife Juliana. David has years of experience shooting with just about very Leica camera and lens made within the last few decades.




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  1. Ha! Thanks for posting. I have always thought that the people, claiming the CCD sensor in the M9 was superior, were just fooling themselves. In reality, you cannot really tell if a photo was taken with one or the other camera. Thanks to David Farkas for setting the record straight.

  2. I wonder what causes such flawed thinking?

    1. I have been following Leica for a long time. I think there are several explanations. One could be that many of the people who invested in the M9 are not ready or willing to move up to the M240. So they have to make themselves feel better by giving attributes to the M9 that don't exist. Another reason might be that there is a certain group of Leica followers who are rather conservative. To them the digital M9 is probably as far removed from the original M cameras as they want to go. This became apparent when the M240 was first introduced, when many of them rejected virtually all of the new features of the M240 as not necessary. So now they have to look for additional reasons why their choice of an M9 was the better one.