Leica M9 sharpness vs. Sony RX1R, Nikon D800E, Fuji X100s.

Inspiration, Q&A, Teaching point

The website Dpreview, the “original” internet hangout for camera geeks and enthusiasts, has a useful studio scene comparison tool that allows one to pit camera against camera.   I was using it today to compare Sony‘s new RX1R (the new AA filter-less version of the RX1) vs. the old trusty Leica M9.  For fun, I also included two current cameras that have generated much enthusiast interest: the Fuji X100s and the Nikon D800E (admittedly, the Fuji X100s is the only camera of the bunch that doesn’t use a full frame sensor, so it’s sort of the oddball in this sensor grouping but, to me, it’s relevant as a portable and formidable photographic tool).

Here is the overall studio scene, as seen on Dpreview:

Prosophos - dpreview overview

And here are the (left) side 100% crops of the above scene, from each camera, focusing on the label of the Martini bottle (see the red arrow above):

(please click on this image to view at MAXIMUM size and sharpness)

Prosophos - dpreview M9 againts latest cameras

(Note: the crops above vary in size, depending on the megapixel count of each sensor.)

See anything, possibly unexpected here, regarding sharpness?

Finally, here are the centre 100% crops , focusing on the Queen of Hearts card in the original scene:

(please click on this image to view at MAXIMUM size and sharpness)

Prosophos - dpreview central 100%

Using the Dpreview comparison tool, one can obviously pick and choose other portions of the scene to make comparisons about sharpness, texture rendering, etc.  I’ve chosen two areas that I believe are representative of lens sharpness performance (corner vs. central) with respect to these cameras (the feathers in the far right of the scene are also worth checking out).


If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing my open letter to Leica.

Prosophos Open Letter to Leica


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17 thoughts on “Leica M9 sharpness vs. Sony RX1R, Nikon D800E, Fuji X100s.

  1. Wow, I couldn’t find the labels, viewing much enlarged on my phone, until AFTER I’d picked out what was to me clearly the sharpest image, and I must say I was delighted to see it was the Leica. Thanks for this post.

  2. Thanks for sharing Peter. Out of interest what lenses were used?

    Funny that the RX1R (r for resolution!!) seems the softest of the lot. The x100s does very well. The good “old” CCD wins this round.

  3. OK, I’ll be pixel peeper for a day…

    I have a comment, a question, and a response:

    1. First, the comment:
    – Huh! Well I’ll be damned!

    2. The question:
    – When you say “focus” do they actually “focus” on that particular spot on the photo (I never understood this about the DPReview comparometer…) or do they actually focus on a predefined central point, and then highlight certain elements of the photo depending on which “hotspot” you pick? I know it’s rather irrelevant, but it’s kind of a curiosity…

    3. Now the response:
    – I really do wish they did specify which lens was used for what particular elements of the photo. Take for example, the following image (posted to my site):


    The OM-D and D800 appear to do at least as well as the M9; and the RX1R appears to show significant moire, while the M9 (which should, in theory, do the same…) shows none.

    All-in-all, an intriguing discussion which seems to be directed at talking yourself out of an RX1R.


    Hope you’re well,

    1. Mark, the answer to your question about the focus point is self-evident when one examines the corner sharpness vs. central sharpness (they differ).

      As for the rest of the methodology questions you and Andrew raise, they are best answered by examining the info on Dpreview. I *will* say that these scenes are shot with the lenses stopped down.

      Also, my examination in this post has to do with the quality of lens “sharpness”, which is only one facet of lens performance. And don’t forget, the sensor plays a separate role in the image quality chain, with other attributes (megapixels, dynamic range, etc.).

      When the original RX1 came out, I was one of the first to predict on the very date it was released that it was going to be an amazing image quality machine – in fact, I predicted it would be the best in its class:


      Since then, I’ve posted my support and respect for this camera:


      So, the point of all of this? That with respect to sharpness, the RX1R is actually *less* sharp than other cameras, even the M9 (which is awesome for a 4 year old CCD! camera). In the comparison above, the RX1R comes 3rd in corner sharpness but is near the top in central sharpness.

      Finally, Mark, I am not trying to talk myself out of anything. In fact, I may or may not have already purchased the RX1R 😉


      1. Don’t forget, even lens sharpness, as a performance measure may differ on a given lens, depending on whether the point of focus is near or far…. there are so many variables that one can throw in the mix that I usually avoid this stuff and just look at complete *images* produced by a given camera and lens and say “good” or “not good”.

        1. Peter,

          So you’re saying they actually *do* focus on each and every preset point? I’m intrigued. How does one reconcile this with the fact that one can hide the “preset positions” and basically click anywhere one likes? I was always under the impression (incorrect as it may be…) that the focus point was central, and that one could just “click around” the image.

          er…not to say that I’ve ever used this tool before. Ever.


          Anyway, I do agree with you about the whole image, and the concept of “good/not good”; I certainly don’t buy that you’ve bought and RX1R…you’re too much of a rangefinder junkie.

          …and I am starting to understand why.

          Now I’m off to buy my OM-D. Um…when the store opens. Until then…more wine should suffice.

          1. Hi Mark,

            I’m saying that I don’t believe they focus on each point separately, they focus on the middle point of the scene, that’s why you get performance differences across the frame.

            So you don’t think I’ve purchased the RX1R? Hmmm….

            As for the OM-D, its files are sharp… but…. (that’s another story).

            1. Ah my Peter…you’re such a tease!

              Now I’m totally flummoxed and bamboozled. (I always wanted to be both at once…)

              Thanks for the fun post. Sleep tight, and I’ll see you in the morning with your first RX1R post.



              1. You really going to buy an OMD…..mines for sale….6 months old/new…Gariz case, 3 lenses (12mm 2, 25mm Pan Leica 1.4 and 45mm 1.8). AMAZING condition!! 🙂

                email if keen.

  4. This was a timely post Peter as I was just reading one of those review sites and very recently were comparing the new M240 with the M9. Basically the reviewer did not find the new M to be superior to the M9 and stated he too prefers the M9 images as they show more detail in the type of imagery he likes to photograph.

  5. Pixel peeping is fine but as Cartier-Breeson said, “sharpness is a bourgeois concept.” While it may have been true when Henri said it, today’s camera capabilities are different than WHEN he said it. I am not surprised that the Leica shows up like it does on DPReview but, for me and my output, the little X100S does a superb job. Until recently I was still using Nikon D2H bodies for my work and even had images from those little 4.1MP sensors used on billboards. The content of an image is what makes it work and a photographer such as yourself would create fantastic imagery using a simple point&shoot. Fantastic eye, Peter!!!

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