Monday, September 7, 2009

Leica M9

The web is abuzz with the (obviously not by accident) leaked specs for a new Leica camera called the M9. Apparently this will be a full frame rangefinder with 18 megapixels. I scoured the (adorned with very enjoyable Cuban street photography) pdf brochure and this looks likie a fantastic camera. If you're asking about the price you are decidedly not in the market for this thing. Expect it to cost as much as a D3x. Even though the brochure is clearly real, there are some strange things. This camera's native RAW format is DNG (hurrah Leica!!!) but Leica claims the format maintains the sensor's total 16 bits per channel? That makes no sense. No current photographic sensors have a 16 bit ADC and if they did, it would be utter overkill. There are simply not enough photons to make the signal-to-noise ratio low enough to warrant more than 14 or even 12 bits considering the pixel size on a 18 MP FF sensor. You're just more accurately imaging noise, which really doesn't help you with anything but create bigger files. Not even the D3 with far larger pixels needs 16 bits as 14 bits is already overkill simply because of basic physics. Anyway, the uncompressed DNG files are supposedly 36 MB, which is precisely right for a 16 bits capture on a 18 MP sensor. Concerning the DNG files, why is there no lossless compression that is standard in DNG (lossless jpeg), but only a gamma trick similar to the one Nikon uses in its lossy compressed NEFs? This seems strange to me. Lossy DNG compression is very much nonstandard and unnecessary as the lossless jpeg compression is just as efficient, but it is lossless. All in all, this is a very interesting camera, with some interesting technology. It is going to be very light and should be ideal for street photography and also landscapes. On the other hand, this thing is going to be extremely expensive. If you need the quality but cannot grok the premium price you'll pay for this Leica and don't mind a little extra volume and weight, consider a Canon 5D mk II or a Sony A850.


  1. Regarding photons and bits and compression and such, you may well understand physics, but you clearly don't understand how a marketing signal/noise ratio works :-)

  2. :-)

    Yeah you're right of course.