The Battle of the Digitals: Leica M9 vs. M240

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Leica, which was founded in 1849, is a German camera manufacturer with a long history of producing the high-end film and digital cameras as well, as excellent camera lenses. Leica has gained a deserved reputation for being the maker of the “best” cameras that money can buy, with many photographers dreaming of owning one. Two of their most popular digital cameras are the M9, which was introduced in 2009 and the M240, which was introduced three years later in 2012.  While both cameras have been discontinued and replaced by newer models, the M9 and M240 both remain extremely popular and are still widely available. Let’s take a look at both cameras and see which one is the best of the “best”.

The Similarities

Despite their age, the M9 and M240 share a number of similarities beginning with both cameras being in the full frame format, using a sensor that measures approximately 36.0mm x 24.0mm, although the M9’s sensor is slightly smaller, but still remaining full frame.  As one would expect in a full frame camera, the M9 and M240 both produce excellent image quality, even in low-light conditions, which is why photographers are so drawn to the full frame format.

Another significant similarity between the two cameras is that they are manual rangefinder style cameras.  This means that while both cameras have the ability to shoot aperture priority, the other functions are manual and neither camera features automatic modes or specialty scene or creative scene modes other than film simulation.  In rangefinder style cameras such as the M9 and M240, the focus is manual as well, with the image displayed being a split image when not in focus.  The photographer will adjust the focus until the images are aligned, indicating perfect focus.  In both cases the M9 and M240 are meant for photographers that understand manual camera settings and are comfortable shooting and focusing a camera manually.

Since the Leica M9 and M240 were not designed for action and sports shooting, they both have a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/4,000 to 30 seconds.  Somewhat related is the speed of the cameras as measured in frame rate, with the M9 shooting at 2 frames per second, which is slightly slower than the M240 that shoots at 3 frames per second.  Both cameras share Leica’s “Maestro” processor, which processes the image as either JPEG or RAW files and writes them to the camera’s single memory card slot, which holds either a SD or SDHC memory card.  The M240 can use a SDXC memory card as well.

Other similarities include the lack of a built-in flash, as well as the absence of WIFI, Wireless or GPS capabilities, although the M240 will accept an optional GPS unit.  Both cameras also feature a fixed LCD display, as well as rugged build and the ability to capture approximately 500 images on a single battery charge!

The Differences

While the M9 and the M240 share a number of similarities, they are also quite different in a number of ways.  The biggest difference is in regards to resolution of the two camera’s sensors with the M9 capturing images at 18.0 megapixels compared to the M240’s 24.0 megapixels.  While this is a significant difference in resolution, in reality, it is hard to tell the difference in image quality between the two cameras.

Another difference between the two cameras is in ISO performance with the older M9 having a native ISO range of 160 – 2,500.  In the M9, the range can be “pulled” down to 80, but cannot be “pushed” beyond ISO 2,500.  In the case of the M240, the native ISO range is 200 – 6,400, but it can be “pulled” down to 100.   However, it cannot be “pushed” beyond 6,400.

The lack of video capabilities on the M9 is another difference between the two cameras.  In the case of the M240, the camera is capable of shooting full HD video with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 at a frame rate of 24-25 frames per second, as well as other formats as well.  While video capabilities are a nice feature, many may find it challenging and slightly odd to shoot quality video in a manual rangefinder camera!

Other differences include the size of the rear LCD display, which measures 2.5” in the M9, while the newer M240 has a 3.0” display.  The M9 is also slightly smaller, measuring 5.5’ x 3.1” x 1.5”, compared to the M240, which measures 5.47” x 3.5” x 1.65”.  The M9 body is also lighter at 20.64 ounces for the body compared to 23.99 ounces for the M240 body.  In addition, due to its age, the M9 uses the older CCD sensor, while the M240 uses a CMOS sensor.

The Pros and Cons

While the M9 and the M240 are both excellent cameras, they are not perfect and each camera has a number of positive and negative features.  The significance of these pros and cons will vary from photographer to photographer and the type of photography that they do.  Anyone considering either of these cameras should consider these features and their importance prior to purchasing either the M9 or the M240.

The biggest positive feature of both the M9 and the M240 is the rugged build of both cameras.  While many manufacturers are using magnesium alloy shells in their cameras, Leica took it to another level using milled brass top and bottom plates.  Interestingly, Leica was still able to keep both cameras relatively light despite the all-metal construction.

Another positive feature of both the M9 and M240 is their simplicity.  Both cameras are made for experienced photographers and are manual cameras that require the photographer to set aperture, shutter speed, ISO and even manually focus the lens!  The M9 and M240 are made for experienced photographers who understand camera settings and want full control of the camera.

Both the M9 and M240 both share the same “con” or negative feature and it is in regards to the cost of the camera and the lenses that the camera uses.  While Leica has a long history of producing excellent camera bodies and lenses, their products are very expensive and out of the reach of many photographers with a complete kit with a single lens costing as much as $10,000!

Just the Facts, A side-By-Side Comparison

While most serious photographers look at image quality over technical specifications, many feel that the specifications are equally important.  The Leica M9 the Leica M240 both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item Leica M9 Leica M 240
Year Introduced 2009 2012
Format Full Frame Full Frame
Megapixels 18.0 24.0
Sensor Type CCD CMOS
Processor Maestro Maestro
Image Format JPEG & RAW JPEG & RAW
Sensor Size 35.8mm x 23.9mm 36.0mm x 24.0mm
Sensor Cleaner No No
Auto-focus Points N/A N/A
Scene Modes No No
Creative Exposure Modes Film Simulation Only Film Simulation Only
Modes Aperture Priority, Manual Aperture Priority, Manual
Metering Center Weighted Center Weighted
View Finder Type Optical Optical
View Finder Coverage 100% 100%
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second 2 3
ISO 160 – 2,500 200 – 6,400
Lowest Expandable ISO 80 100
Highest Expandable ISO N/A N/A
Shutter Speed Range 1/4,000 – 4 Seconds 1/4,000 – 60 Seconds
Built In Flash No No
Card Slots 1 1
Card Type SD & SDHC SD, SDHC, SDXC
LCD Size 2.5” 3.0”
LCD Fixed, Swivel or Tilt Fixed Fixed
Video No Yes
Video Type N/A Full HD, With Frame Size Of 1,920 x 1,080 At 24-25 Frames Per Second.  Other Formats As Well.
Video Format N/A Motion JPEG
Internal Autofocus Motor No No
GPS No Optional
Wireless No No
WIFI No No
Battery Leica 14464 BP-SCL2 Lithium-Ion
Battery Life Approximately 500 Still Images Approximately 500 Still Images
Body Construction Brass For Top & Bottom Plates; Remainder Of The Body Magnesium Alloy Brass For Top & Bottom Plates; Remainder Of The Body Magnesium Alloy
Unique Features Mirrorless; Manual Focus, Rangefinder; Robust Build; Weather Sealed; Small & Lightweight Mirrorless; Manual Focus, Rangefinder; Robust Build; Weather Sealed; Ability To Use Leica M & R (With Adaptor) Lenses
Size Without Lens 5.5’ x 3.1” x 1.5” 5.47” x 3.5” x 1.65”
Weight Without Lens 20.64 Ounces 23.99 Ounces
Manufactured In Germany Germany
Body Only or with Kit Lens Body Only Body Only
Included Accessories Leica 14464 Battery, Battery Charger, Carrying Strap, Body Cover, USB Cable, Software DVD, User Manual, Warranty Card BP-SCL2 Lithium –Ion Battery, BC-SCL2 Battery Charger, Carrying Strap, Hot Shoe / Accessory Socket Cover, Body Cap
Cost, Body Only $6,999.00**

Check out the latest discounts and prices here!
$6,950.00**

Check out the latest prices and discounts here!
Cost With Kit Lens N/A N/A
  • Information from Leica’s & various other websites, including pricing.
  • ** Both cameras have been discontinued, but are still available from select re-sellers and are available used.  The price shown is suggested retail when introduced, with the current street price being significantly less.

My Overall Recommendation

There is no doubt that Leica makes great cameras and the M9 and M240 are among the best film and digital cameras that Leica has ever made.  Although discontinued and replaced by newer models, both cameras remain very popular due to their excellent image quality and Leica’s excellent reputation for superior bodies and optics.  While the increased ISO range of the M240 is nice, I prefer the older M9 for a number of reasons.

The first reason, since it is an older camera, it is typically less expensive, which makes a big difference since a Leica Summilux 50mm lens alone costs over $3,000!  Second, the ability to shoot video with the M240 is just not appealing to me and seems odd with a rangefinder camera.  If I want to shoot video, I will stay with one of my Japanese cameras, which are better suited!  That being said, anyone looking for a classic rangefinder style digital camera cannot go wrong with either the M9 or the M240.  If you want and can afford the “best”, Leica could be the answer!

 

Robert Alexander
 

A camera geek and freelance photographer, Robert (Aka "Rob" or "Bob") spends way too much time examining the finer points of cameras.

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