Leica M9-P Review: The Classic Camera that Stands the Test of Time

Leica M9-P Review: The Classic Camera that Stands the Test of Time

Camera Review

Leica M9-P Review: The Classic Camera that Stands the Test of Time

Leica M9-P

Leica M9-P

It’s hard to believe that 14 years have passed since Leica Camera AG introduced the Leica M9-P. As a photography enthusiast who has been interested in Leica cameras for years, I still remember the excitement surrounding the release of the M9. While technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, there’s something special about holding onto a well-crafted piece of equipment that still delivers stunning results. At the time of the M9’s release, I couldn’t afford one, so I turned to my mentor’s Leica M9 for inspiration. He always brings his Leica M9 to weddings and coffee meets, so that’s how I learned about this camera and set the stone to eventually own one in 2011. In this post, I’ll be sharing my personal experience with the Leica M9, which might differ from yours. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have a different story and would like to share it with our audience.

Top engravement
Shutter dial and on off switch

CCD vs CMOS Sensors

Before delving into the details of the Leica M9, it’s important to understand the difference between CCD and CMOS sensors. While CCD sensors are known for their excellent image quality, they are power-hungry and expensive to manufacture. In contrast, CMOS sensors are more energy-efficient and cost-effective but can produce more noise in low-light conditions. The Leica M9 uses a CCD sensor, which is one of the reasons why it produces such beautiful, detailed images. However, the downside is the higher noise rendered by the higher bandwidth on CCD amplifiers. From a cost perspective, it makes sense for Leica to opt for fitting CMOS in its rangefinder camera, which later produced the Leica M240, M10, M262, and M11.

Leica M9-P, Noctilux 50mm f1.0 E58, Hong Kong
Leica M9-P, Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH FLE 11663, Tokyo

Leica Heritage

Leica has a long history in the world of photography, and the company’s reputation for producing high-quality cameras and lenses is well-known among professional photographers and enthusiasts alike. The M9 was introduced in 2009 as a digital rangefinder camera, and it quickly became known for its excellent image quality, compact size, and stylish design.

Leica M9, Alpa Macro Switar 50mm f1.9 AR, United Kingdom
Leica M9, MS Optics Perar 35mm f3.5 II, United Kingdom
Leica M9, Alpa Macro Switar 50mm f1.9 AR, Italy
Leica M9, MS Optics Perar 35mm f3.5 II, France

Rangefinder Manual Focusing

What’s particularly special about the Leica M9 is its manual focusing system. As someone who enjoys the control and precision of manual focus, I was particularly excited to try out the rangefinder mechanism. It did not disappoint. The rangefinder allowed me to achieve incredibly precise focus, even in challenging lighting conditions. I found that the simplicity of the M9 was refreshing, and it reminded me of using a film camera. One thing I learned from our local repairman, who has worked as an official repairer for Leica for many years, is that Leica vintage lenses tend to suffer from front or back focusing and need further calibration due to the age of modern sensors. The higher the megapixels, the easier it is to spot whether an image is in or out of focus. Often, when I get a new lens, I need to check with my M9 to see whether it suffers from this problem. It takes time and effort to calibrate; for example, my Noctilux 50mm f1 was corrected by Master Yu to have it sharp at wide open.

Leica M9-P, Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH FLE 11663, Tokyo
Leica M9-P, Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH FLE 11663, Tokyo

Myth about the CCD Sensor

The first thing I want to address is the myth surrounding the CCD sensor of the Leica M9. There are multiple discussions about its color rendition and how it can create magical photos. While it is true that this camera performs really well, especially during daylight hours, and produces colors similar to those of positive slide film, rich in contrast and with excellent color restoration, the magic only works in good lighting conditions. Otherwise, the CCD sensor is just like any other CMOS camera. To me, the charm of the Leica M9 is its lower megapixel count, which brings vintage lenses to life, such as Dallmeyer, Cooke, Kinoptiks, etc., making them look vivid and enhancing their mood. The Leica M9 gives a very interesting color tone that I always love. However, I sometimes ask myself, do I miss this camera, or do I miss the period of time when I used it to capture my memories?

Leica M9-P, Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH FLE 11663, Tokyo
Leica M9-P, Noctilux 50mm f1.0 E58, Hong Kong

Vintage lenses and Leica M9

If you plan to use vintage lenses to create a specific mood, the Leica M9 is a great camera to achieve that. Somehow, lower resolution cameras produce images with more depth. I miss the days when we imported images into Lightroom and studied how different each lens was without applying a preset or accepting the “Leica” color.

Leica M9-P, Summilux 50mm f1.4 II, Hong Kong
Leica M9-P, Noctilux 50mm f1.0 E58, Hong Kong

The Art of Simplicity

While the Leica M9 has some limitations, such as its lack of video recording and WiFi connectivity, it remains a popular choice among photographers who value image quality and craftsmanship above all else. Although the high price point may be a dealbreaker for some, those who are passionate about photography and willing to invest in a tool that helps them create stunning images for years to come will find the Leica M9 definitely worth considering. However, if you are a pixel peeper or a professional who requires extremely sharp and reliable images, the Leica M9 is not the best tool for that purpose. Lack of all these functions makes me feel that it is simple and down to earth. We only need something practical to use every day as a daily camera, focusing, metering, and controlling the amount of light entering into the sensor. And produce images that you want. It’s as simple as that.

Leica M9-P, Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH, Hong Kong
Leica M9, MS Optics Perar 35mm f3.5 II, Switzerland
Leica M9, Alpa Macro Switar 50mm f1.9 AR, United Kingdom

High ISO and Noise

Honestly, the ISO performance of the Leica M9 was pretty bad. It looks unacceptable above ISO 800. I have tried shooting with ISO 1600, and the Leica M9 Monochrom is relatively better because the noise looks more like film grain, which I am comfortable with. Sometimes I push its limit to see if I can produce something I want. There were images that I loved using ISO 1600 or even higher, but noise is not an issue to me. If you want to enjoy silky smooth JPEG or RAW files and avoid dealing with ISO, then I think the Leica M10 is a better choice.

Leica M9, Noctilux 50mm f1.0 E58, Hong Kong
Leica M9, Noctilux 50mm f1.0 E58, Hong Kong

Untrustworthy LCD screen

I always joke about the Leica M9’s LCD screen and how my old Nokia phone has a better display than it. You might think your photo is in focus and accurate, but once you load it into your laptop for preview, it won’t be the case. When I try to zoom in, I can’t really tell the details and sharpness in the photo. Maybe the camera is discouraging me from checking my images and keeping my head down to focus on making better images, just like a film camera.

Leica M9-P, Canon 50mm f0.95 M, Hong Kong
Leica M9-P, Noctilux 50mm f1.0 E58, Osaka
Leica M9, Noctilux 50mm f1.0 E58, Hong Kong

CCD corrosion

I believe that nine out of ten users would be interested in the topic of sensor corrosion, particularly in regards to the Leica camera’s CCD. This issue is more significant than I initially thought, as I have personally sent my camera to both Leica and Kolari to address the problem. The cause of the corrosion is not the sensor itself, but rather the glue between the IR filter and the sensor, which is due to cost-cutting measures (as I’ve heard from fellow members in forums).

To determine whether a Leica camera has been repaired with the latest sensor ID15 and ID16, it is essential to identify this information. Alternatively, one can seek a camera repaired by Kolari, which comes with a certificate of authenticity. According to their claims, the latest IR filter used by Kolari will never suffer from the corrosion issue.

Repaired M9 CCD Sensor
Leica M9-P, Noctilux 50mm f1.0 E58, Hong Kong


In conclusion, the Leica M9 camera is ideal for those who appreciate the unique appearance and feel of a rangefinder camera and value the precision and control that manual focusing offers. Its CCD sensor produces stunning, detailed images with a distinctive, almost nostalgic vibe. While the M9 may not have all the latest features, it is a well-engineered and stylish device that has stood the test of time. For those who appreciate quality and craftsmanship in their photography equipment, the Leica M9 is a must-have camera.

Leica M9, MS Optics Perar 35mm f3.5 II, France
Leica M9-P, Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH FLE 11663, Tokyo

It’s always a debate whether to get an M9 again or stick to the M10. Personally, I would love to have the Leica M9-P once more, but sometimes it feels like a fantasy. I have owned the M9 three times and the M9-P twice, and each time I ended up selling it. Currently, I am using my Leica M10 and am looking forward to trying out the Leica M11-P. Regardless, it is important to focus on what we have right now and create images that we love. After all, it’s just a camera, and we shouldn’t let the camera control our photography journey.

Leica M9-P, MS Optics Perar 35mm f3.5 II, Hong Kong

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  1. Hey Anson, I’ve got the M10-P as well as M9-P. Seems like a luxury and an overkill but I can’t get myself to part with the M9 because of the texture of the images it produces. It is my opinion and I do think it produces more emotion in the photos plus the BW jpegs out of the camera are incredible. Maybe I’ll wait for Q3 to come out and decide whether it’s worth trading in the M9. Nice photos and nice review.

    • Thank for your comment. I completely understand that. I have a hard time parting with it as well. I hope Q3 will be something good enough for you to move forward!

  2. Great review, I’ve just pruchased a new copy of M9-P, hate that I sold my old version in 2020. cant wait to start feel som analog feeling again in the digital work flow.
    Might concider to trade / sell my M11 in the wait for the M11-P and use Q3 in the mean time.

  3. Thanks for the review. Because of your review, I just got back a M9P and it is pure joy to be able to shoot with it again. Had used M240/MP240, M10/M10P, M10R and then the M11 now, but all of these simply cannot be compared with the ease of use (much lighter, quick startup, despite the M9 does use up the battery very quickly), and best of all, the colour renditions and the contrasts of the M9P simply perform much better than the rest. I love getting that Kodachrome feeling back. Thank you.

  4. I love my M9P too and use it together with my M8u (that also has a bog place in my heart) and my M10R. The latest one has the most megapicels but not the biggest amount of emotion output in me….
    M9P with 35FLE is a dream

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