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LEICA M typ 240 vs.
LEICA M9 vs.
Fuji X100S vs.
Nikon D600

Image Quality Comparison
© 2014 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Sharpness   ISO 3,200   Recommendations

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March 2014   Better Pictures   Nikon   Canon    Fuji    LEICA   All Reviews

LEICA M typ 240 review

LEICA M9 Review

Fuji X100S review

Nikon D600 review (same sensor and electronics as D610)


Introduction         top

Intro   Sharpness   ISO 3,200   Recommendations

Let's compare a LEICA M typ 240, LEICA M9, Fuji X100S and Nikon D600, each with a 35mm f/2 lens. Let's see how well the real-world combinations of lenses and cameras compare.

No one ever dares do comparisons against LEICA because the LEICA is incomparable, but what if we tried?

There are a zillion ways to do comparisons. If you have a different or a better way, please do it and share your results.


Weights         top

Actual measured weights with card and battery:

Nikon D600 35/2 AF-D Total
850g/30.0 oz. 200g/7.0 oz. 1,050g/37.0 oz.


LEICA M 240 + EVF-2

35/2 ASPH Total
710g / 25.0 oz. 254g/9.0 oz. 964g/34.0 oz.


LEICA M9 35/2 ASPH Total
593g/20.9 oz. 254g/9.0 oz. 847g/29.9 oz.


Fuji X100S (lens included) Total
445g/15.7 oz 0.0 445g/15.7 oz.


The LEICA M 240 weighs almost as much as the heaviest Nikon combination.

The LEICA M9 weighs 117g/4.1 oz. less than the M 240.

The Fuji X100S weighs less than half of the M 240 or Nikon combinations!


Sharpness Comparison         top

Intro   Sharpness   ISO 3,200   Recommendations

I shot each with the best 35mm f/2 lens available from each maker:

I shot the LEICA M typ 240 using a $3,300 LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.

I shot the LEICA M9 with the same lens.

I shot the FUJI X100S with the FUJINON 23mm (35mm equivalent) f/2 ASPH, which is included with the X100S.

I shot the Nikon D600 with the $360 Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D.

To keep things interesting, I shot each lens wide-open at f/2, where differences between lenses would be most obvious. If shot at f/5.6 or f/8, the optics would all be perfect and all we'd be seeing is the difference in sensor resolution, and if shot at diffraction-limited apertures like f/16, they'd all look the same.

All these are at the center of the image; the corners would be a different story (the Nikon lens isn't as good in the corners at f/2, but the same stopped down).

These are all direct out of the camera from JPG images; if I had shot raw files, then the differences would be just as much based on differences in the coefficients used to construct images in the software used to create visible images from raw data. Each RAW software uses different coefficients to create images from different cameras; one cannot compare cameras with raw files because the software makers aren't sharing their coefficients with us. You can do it, but you'd be comparing larger systems with more variables; we're comparing cameras here, not workflows.

These are all printed at the same size. If you printed these complete images (not shown) at this same magnification, each print would be 40 x 60 inches (1 x 1.5 meters).

The images from the 24MP cameras are shown here at 100% pixel-to-pixel, while the 18MP and 16MP images are shown at 115% and 122% respectively, exactly as they'd have to be printed at this size for gallery display.

If all you ever do is look at pictures on iPads or 4k monitors, none of this matters; these displays have only a fraction of this resolution and downsample everything for display.


Sharpness Analysis

The M9 makes crummy JPGs. The M9 is super-sharp shot as DNG, but its JPGs are very soft. Since this is a comparison of actual camera-original JPGs, the M9 loses.

The X100S is about the same as the LEICA M 240. The M 240 has a hair more resolution, while the Fuji X100S is a hair crisper, so I'll call it a draw.

The D600 is a little crisper than the rest. I don't know if it's that the Nikon's lens is better, or that Nikon just makes sharper JPGs, or that the Nikon has a little more contrast here.


ISO 3,200         top

Intro   Sharpness   ISO 3,200   Recommendations

I shot each at ISO 3,200 and used the same lenses as above.

I shot each at f/5.6 so we'd have very sharp optical images on each sensor so differences in sharpness due to noise reduction will be clear. I set each to ISO 3,200 and set a manual shutter speed so the exposures from each matched.

Here are the complete frames. Click any for the camera-original JPG file:

LEICA M 240 at ISO 3200

LEICA M9 at ISO 3200

Fuji X100S at ISO 3200

Nikon D600 at ISO 3200


Here are crops from 40 x 60 inch prints as before. The animal is in focus, the lampshade in the background is not.


ISO 3,200 Analysis

The LEICA M 240 is the sharpest, but also the noisiest. All this means is that it uses the least noise reduction at its default setting. This is great if you add your own noise reduction later, since it leaves you with more options.

The LEICA M9 is as clean, but much softer than the others.

The X100S is cleaner, but a little softer than the M 240, so I'll call it a draw between them.

The lampshade is the sharpest in the X100S shot because the shorter lens and smaller sensor of the X100S gives it deeper depth of field; the lampshade is out of focus in all these shots.

The Nikon D600 is as sharp as the M 240, and cleaner. It wins.


Are they really ISO 3,200?

Here's a dirty secret: when you set your camera to high ISOs, some camera makers are more honest than others. These cameras are no more shooting at ISO 3,200 than Katie's pink unicorn is alive.

Often a camera maker will cheat and make the camera slower than indicated, so it seems like that camera is cleaner at that indicated ISO. The only way you'd know is by comparing the actual exposure times used to produce equally bright pictures.

I set each camera for the same exposure (picture brightness), not the same exposure time. I set an exposure time in Manual exposure mode so each matched the others! If a camera is cheating, it will have to use a longer exposure time to get the same photo as a more honest camera.

I've seen where SLR makers cheat more at high ISOs on their more expensive cameras to make them look better for the higher price, or so they can add what looks like a higher ISO setting. An ISO 204,800 setting on the top model might really be the same speed as the ISO 102,400 setting on the cheaper model. The US Federal Trade Commission got involved in the 1960s when audio power amplifier makers were making up wattage ratings, and it's time the FTC stepped in today since ISOs are being used to sell cameras.

The only way you can detect ISO fraud is by direct comparison to an honest camera or light meter. The EXIF always reads the indicated ISO; the problem is that setting ISO 3,200 doesn't always get you ISO 3,200.

At f/5.6 in all these shots, the LEICA M 240 and LEICA M9 both needed 1/250. The funny part is that I really only set the M9 to ISO 2,500 to do this; it has no ISO 3,200 setting. No worries, it's the same effective speed: ISO on the M 240 is about the same sensitivity as the M9 set to ISO 2,500.

The Fuji X100S needed 1/220. That's close enough to 1/250 for me to call it the same.

Here's the fun part: the Nikon D600 needed only a 1/800 second to produce the same picture as each of the others! If we believe that the D600 is really shooting at ISO 3,200, this means that the other cameras are really only giving us ISO 1,000 when set to ISO 3,200.

The best way to have done this comparison is to have used the same manual exposure setting for aperture and shutter speed, and then to have varied the indicated ISO setting until I got the same picture brightness. This would mean that each camera was working at the same real, effective ISO, regardless of what it was indicating. If I had done that, the Nikon D600 would have been even sharper and cleaner, or the others softer and noisier, with the same exposure settings. The Nikon would have read a lower ISO to get the same picture as the others. I could have set the D600 at 1/250 and used only ISO 1,000 to get the same photos with the same exposure as the others set to ISO 3,200!


Recommendations         top

Intro   Sharpness   ISO 3,200   Recommendations

Purely based on center sharpness and high ISO cleanliness, the Nikon D600 and Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D combination easily wins — even before considering the likely cheating going on at high ISOs in the other cameras.

The LEICA M typ 240 with LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH is about the same as the Fuji X100S and its included lens.

The LEICA M9 is the softest, because its internal JPG engine is poor. Shot as DNG it's at least as sharp as the others, but that's not today's experiment. I've pulled fantastic 40 x 60" prints out of it shot as DNG. The M9 is about as clean at ISO 3,200, just softer again.

Of course picture quality has nothing to do with sharpness or noise. Picture quality has everything to do with what's in your picture, the lighting and the colors, which is the responsibility of the artist. It's never about your camera; as you should know, Your Camera Doesn't Matter — but amateurs sure worry about it a lot which is why they're not out making great pictures.


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Thanks for reading!



Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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