Shootout Leica vs. Panasonic: The Duel I Never Thought I'd Make

11GTCS

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It's been about 6 months since I sold my D750 and went down the MFT rabbit hole. MFT is an amazing format and I deeply enjoy the portability it offers. The problem I've run into is that once you get into even close to higher end bodies a la GX9/EM1 (what I've shot) and some of the faster lenses, the size advantage rapidly disappears for street shooting. Perhaps not vs a DSLR, but certainly vs one of the more well known street cameras out there: Leica.

I've wanted a Leica forever. It's genetic, my grandfather owned a camera store and was a Leica fanatic (though he never did get them to make him a dealer), and my earliest memories are of sitting in the back with him while he fixed cameras. I have little doubt a big reason why I'm an engineer today is those sessions staring in wonder at all the beautiful timing mechanisms of older film cameras. This intersects with my issues with MFT premium body bloat as I get ready to defend my master's thesis and was wondering what to get to celebrate. I ended up picking up an M typ 240 body from a working pro for a bargain, it's heavily brassed but well taken care of, and I didn't care about the cosmetic condition. I couldn't afford any actual Leica glass (in time!), so I snagged a pair of Zeiss ZM lenses, a Biogon 35/2.8 and Planar 50/2. The Biogon and body came today, so I figured I'd make the first post in what will be an extended shootout between my GX9 (till I sell that) and GM1 vs the Leica.

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My new M type 240. Leica is one of the few camera brands that looks even better the more worn the camera is!

People will no doubt complaint that this isn't a fair comparison. They'll note that even the Zeiss 35/2.8 costs as much as the GM1 and PL 25/1.4 or the GX9 body. They're right. For me, however, it was more a comparison of two ways of engaging with photography. The old ways with a manual only camera that's still actually surprisingly portable, or an MFT way of ultra modern shooting, with AF in the dark and people complaining if the stabilization doesn't let them hand hold 5 second shots so they can capture moonlit landscapes without a tripod. Both have their merits and this won't be a dig on either of them, more a realistic comparison based on my shooting.

As far as size, the GX9 124x72mm in size, and 101mm deep with the PL 25mm 1.4 Summilux mounted (no hood). The M typ 240 is 139x80mm and 95mm with a 50/1.4 Summilux attached. I don't own that lens, but wanted to do a side-by-side a comparison as possible. With the 35/2.8 I own mounted, it's much smaller at 75.9mm deep. One noticeable thing when handling the two is the ergonomics. I immediately ordered a thumbs up-type hotshoe grip for the Leica, it's something basically everyone does because of the shape of the body. With that mounted, the camera feels incredibly intuitive in the hand, with the pointer finger of the trigger hand naturally falling to the shutter dial and leaving the left hand free to focus and change aperture. The GX9 is similarly comfortable but much lighter. It relies on a front grip scoop which I don't prefer, I shot lots of rangefinders like the Leica when I was learning photography so I prefer to have the camera supported by my thumb, which pivots the whole hand back and up, giving that natural placement of the pointer finger on the top plate. The Leica is significantly more streamlined, with the eyepiece not sticking out as the GX9 does, which has snagged for me, even on clothing.

I did a test shot with both cameras, one with the 35mm and one with an effective 50, but those are the lenses I had to work with and the DOF wide open for the two is pretty similar at 1.4 MFT vs 2.8 FF. The field of view is a little different, but the shots will still work to show relative sharpness and color rendition. I'll do many more posts on this as time goes on, but I promised myself I wouldn't touch the camera beyond this until I successfully defend next week, so just a single shot comparison will have to do for now. Both images were shot raw and processed lightly in Capture One 12. Here is the shot out of the GX9, it is lovely with a sort of dreamy look uncommon in modern lens design. The colors are slightly muted in a very Leica way, they've long stated that they believe all color balancing should be based on Kodachrome slide film, and it shows in the way they've programmed the camera in lens corrections/color science.

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And here is the shot from the M typ 240 and ZM 35/2.8. The immediate difference (FOV aside) is the color science. The Zeiss lens and its T* coating definitely give a bit more pop to the colors, though this is really mainly visible in the reds of the quilt. The FOV difference is mostly because MFT lenses can focus quite close, the 0.7m minimum focus of rangefinder glass can be limiting. The Zeiss shot is noticeably sharper, more than can be attributed the closeness of focus in the first shot, but there is a significant price difference in the lenses and both give a pleasing image. I think the rendering of the PL 25mm Lux is very unlike the actual 50mm Summilux, and much more like a Summicron, with a fairly vintage look to the OOF areas. The Zeiss lens looks very... Zeiss, with crisp smooth out of focus areas and a very smooth transition that gives the 3d look people talk about with their stuff.

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As a note, to all the stabilization freaks in the audience, the fact that I shot this unstabilized and handheld at 1/15th is a testimony to what you can do with a rangefinder. I used to shoot Hasselblad's handheld, so I've had some practice with trying to minimize camera shake, but still. I think the aperture info is wrong on this, the lens is uncoded and I'm 99% sure I shot wide open but who knows.

But this is a dialog! What do you think! I love MFT and plan to keep shooting it alongside the Leica, but I think the true rangefinder handling of the Leica make it an amazing people camera, and that 240 sensor definitely has a great look!
 

robcee

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ironically, you shot the M at ISO800 and the stabilized GX9 at ISO3200, which is going to hamper your dynamic range and makes for an unfair comparison.

That said, I really like the rendering on both of these. The mft shot cleaned up really well.

Cute pup. :)

Also, I AM SUPER JEALOUS OF YOUR LEICA! The brassing. The heritage. The machining... *explodes*

ps, good luck on your defense. Stop wasting time on camera forums! ;) ♥
 

11GTCS

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ironically, you shot the M at ISO800 and the stabilized GX9 at ISO3200, which is going to hamper your dynamic range and makes for an unfair comparison.

That said, I really like the rendering on both of these. The mft shot cleaned up really well.

Cute pup. :)

Also, I AM SUPER JEALOUS OF YOUR LEICA! The brassing. The heritage. The machining... *explodes*

ps, good luck on your defense. Stop wasting time on camera forums! ;) ♥
Yeah, it's definitely an unfair comparison in a bunch, but the sharpness isn't going to affected and the dynamic range available to the GX9 at 3200 is 5.74 stops, which I think is probably enough to shoot that scene, I don't see anything clipped in either shot aside from the window in the Leica composition. I agree, the noise handling of the GX9 sensor is pretty solid, the PDR chart for both cameras is actually almost identical.

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(source: http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm)


Thanks! I'm pumped too. And eh, don't worry, I've got a week to make my slides, taking it in chunks just keeps me sane.
 

robcee

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I'm actually surprised by that chart. The M240's sensor is supposed to be excellent. I guess our MFT sensors are pretty good. :)

Good luck with the sanity, my friend. Sounds like you've got it covered.
 

BosseBe

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Damn you @11GTCS now you have lusting for a Leica! ;)
(But then I always have been wanting one, so nothing new.)

Good luck with your Masters, from seeing your clear writing and attitude I think you will have no problems!
BTW, what is your Masters in, science I hope?
 

mfturner

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This is a fun shootout, keep the comparisons coming.

My street camera back in the day was a Nikonos 2, with 35mm lens. I took that everywhere, hiking in Canada, overseas in Malaysia and Thailand, I still have that thing but rarely use it since film isn't easy nowadays. But I love rangefinders until I add a strong telephoto. .. the Fuji gsw690 was a bit over the top though.
 

leendertv

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I really like to see some comparisation shots with the GX9 on a lower ISO.
You do not only loose DR on high ISO but also sharpness.

The Panasonic Leica 15mm f1.7 is also a fantastic lens on the GX9.
 

11GTCS

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Damn you @11GTCS now you have lusting for a Leica! ;)
(But then I always have been wanting one, so nothing new.)

Good luck with your Masters, from seeing your clear writing and attitude I think you will have no problems!
BTW, what is your Masters in, science I hope?
Yes, an M.S. in Engineering and Management, kind of a cocktail masters but my thesis is in metaheuristic optimization of asset dispersal, so basically applied mathematics and data management.

xD I know the feeling, I've been wanting one since I was a kid!

I really like to see some comparisation shots with the GX9 on a lower ISO.
You do not only loose DR on high ISO but also sharpness.

The Panasonic Leica 15mm f1.7 is also a fantastic lens on the GX9.
I'll see what I can do this afternoon! My GX9 is going on the block to fund all this so I'll only be able to do a few shots. I have the 15mm 1.7, I like it, but it is pretty wide for my shooting preferences (I'm a 50-90mm FF guy normally)
 
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I had a Leica once. It was a Leica IIIF with a l.5 50mm and a Elmar 135mm lens. Loved the look, loved the feel, hated the loading of the camera. Also had a Contax IIIA with same complaint but the shutter of the Contax was problematic. I have been able to use a Leica M 6 and it was nice. I love the prestige of Leica but decided that I could buy a whole system for the body of a new Leica and as age has taken over, money has become much more important, :)
 

11GTCS

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I had a Leica once. It was a Leica IIIF with a l.5 50mm and a Elmar 135mm lens. Loved the look, loved the feel, hated the loading of the camera. Also had a Contax IIIA with same complaint but the shutter of the Contax was problematic. I have been able to use a Leica M 6 and it was nice. I love the prestige of Leica but decided that I could buy a whole system for the body of a new Leica and as age has taken over, money has become much more important, :)
My first ever Leica was a iiiC. I’ve also briefly shot with an M3, but with glasses the finder was useless, at least to me. I need something with lower magnification. Buying new Leica is a hobby for the rich or professional shooters, but what i paid for a used body like this is less than two of most of the newer lenses in this system.
 

11GTCS

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Okay so, at popular request, here is more of a head to head shootout. Before I get into the shots, now that I have a Zeiss 50mm Planar f/2.0, I figured I'd show the two cameras side by side with mostly equivalent lenses (as far as DOF and FOV, I don't have the money for a real lux so I can't show two 1.4's side by side). The Leica is slightly shorter but the lens is far more compact, especially when comparing them with hoods on. The leica is also noticeably heavier, it takes getting used to after all the tiny MFT cameras.

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In the interest of time and not using my Leica until I defend, I just went to the local park and shot a few frames. All the shots on both cameras are 200, which is the base ISO for both. I shot the first set at the equivalent DOF, so the PL at f/1.4 and the Zeiss at f/2. Because the 1.4 gathers so much more light, I had to move into shadows to get the shot, since I didn't have an ND filter and both cameras top out at 1/4000. All of these photos are GX9 on the left/top, PL on the Right/bottom

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Barring composition and modeling issues (my patient wife was blinded by the sun in the Leica shot), I don't see tons of differences here. For portrature, both are pretty similar (obviously one is sunlight and one is diffuse light) But I'd say, if anything, the PL 25 renders better for portraiture wide open (the Zeiss is famous for producing the most pleasing portraits wide open because of its clinical render). The Zeiss does have better X factor with DOF, you can see how her furry collar pops and looks definitively more 3d than the PL.

I then shot two sunlit shots at f/2.8 to compare them at a similar, stopped down, aperture. You can see that the Leica shot is slightly wider, that's just me not checking, since the Leica body doesn't focus as closely as the Panasonic.

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I think this is my preferred aperture for both of these lenses for casual portraits. Nice corner sharpness, just better all around performance. The colors, even corrected, on the Panasonic are dead wrong (the hair color on the Leica shot is my wife's actual hair color. If I corrected for hair color the background colors were wrong, so it's one of those things that just can't be corrected for. I'm sure she isn't complaining, that copper look is nice, but it's not accurate. The Zeiss lens and Leica body really shines here in my opinion; again the pop (microcontrast, draw, whatever you want to call it) is so much better and the colors are amazing SOOC. The vest looks different but that's because it's actually out of focus because of DOF differences, even though she's standing further away in that shot.

Finally, I took a couple pictures of the old train station we were standing next to at f/5.6, the mathematically best aperture for the MFT lens. To me these are kind of a draw, the FF body allows for slightly more dynamic range and shadow recovery, but both are very sharp for the most part.

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It's worth noting that this shows the higher noise in an MFT sensor regardless of ISO. In the crops below, you can see that both edge separation and noise are higher on the clock tower, and the Zeiss/Leica definitely win in every respect on this shot when you zoom in. That's pixel peeping for sure, but you can definitely see once you know its there on the shots above. All the edges look just slightly less crisp. it could be corrected CA (that's my guess), but it is what it is. The resolution of these images is so similar (20 vs 24) that I wouldn't attribute anything to that.

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I'm interested to see your thoughts! Cost aside, this is a far closer comparison than I'd have ever really given it credit for, and both cameras honestly do great.
 
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To be real honest, I do not see much difference in most camera comparisons. Maybe a little color shift in some but as far as real differences, not much. I have shot with the excellent Nikon D750 which I have and a lowly Olympus OM D EM10 and find little real difference as long as the lenses have comparative quality. On our last trip to Ireland, my wife took her F750 with high-quality lenses and I took the Olympus OM D EM 10 for weight. I did pack a Nikon D800 which was not used. The lenses I had for the Olympus were the kit 40-150, a Sigma 60mm 2.8 and a 25mm Panasonic 1.7. She used the 70-200 2.8. a 12-24, a 28-70 2.8 as her lenses. Except for the kit 40-150mm. the results with both cameras were great and I saw little difference in quality or discerning highlights. The little Olympus has a trophy shot which is mounted on canvas at a 20 X 30-inch size and it is great.
 

11GTCS

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To be real honest, I do not see much difference in most camera comparisons. Maybe a little color shift in some but as far as real differences, not much. I have shot with the excellent Nikon D750 which I have and a lowly Olympus OM D EM10 and find little real difference as long as the lenses have comparative quality. On our last trip to Ireland, my wife took her F750 with high-quality lenses and I took the Olympus OM D EM 10 for weight. I did pack a Nikon D800 which was not used. The lenses I had for the Olympus were the kit 40-150, a Sigma 60mm 2.8 and a 25mm Panasonic 1.7. She used the 70-200 2.8. a 12-24, a 28-70 2.8 as her lenses. Except for the kit 40-150mm. the results with both cameras were great and I saw little difference in quality or discerning highlights. The little Olympus has a trophy shot which is mounted on canvas at a 20 X 30-inch size and it is great.
Yeah the differences are marginal. At this point, pretty much every camera made is solid in the IQ department, it's really just small things like preferred color or lens availability and shooting experience.
 

11GTCS

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That's because GX9 underexposed scene (f/5.6 1/640 vs f/4.8 1/500 for Leica).
I actually deliberately overexposed on the Leica because I was worried about shadow recovery (I wasn't copying settings, and the center weighted metering on the Leica takes a little more interpretation), so I have a shot that I discarded that was 1/650. You can see it there too, that tiny of a difference in shutter speed isn't going to change that. You also can't rely on the Leica EXIF, it has to guess aperture, the actual aperture was f/5.6. that's a difference of a third of a stop, which at base ISO isn't going to do anything to noise.
 

mfturner

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I think it's easy to underestimate the importance of shooting experience, which for me includes the user interface and what people refer to as ergonomics, along with "how does it handle urgency?"

I've been pondering a shootout of my Samsung S10+ cameras against my PM1 and M10. I was hoping the S10+ would replace the 14-42 ez kit zoom on either body, but after taking a trip with the S10+ as my only camera, I was disappointed, even the ancient PM1 would have allowed photos when the S10+ was still thing to focus.

So I can understand that in your hands, the Leica might win over the Panasonic, even if the photos aren't hugely different.
 

11GTCS

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I think it's easy to underestimate the importance of shooting experience, which for me includes the user interface and what people refer to as ergonomics, along with "how does it handle urgency?"

I've been pondering a shootout of my Samsung S10+ cameras against my PM1 and M10. I was hoping the S10+ would replace the 14-42 ez kit zoom on either body, but after taking a trip with the S10+ as my only camera, I was disappointed, even the ancient PM1 would have allowed photos when the S10+ was still thing to focus.

So I can understand that in your hands, the Leica might win over the Panasonic, even if the photos aren't hugely different.
It's definitely a more... traditional experience, which I deeply value. The only reason I don't shoot film is convenience, I prefer a more minimal shooting experience with fewer buttons. With practice I'll get back to being able to shoot nearly as quickly as with the GX9, but the pure manual experience and going back and forth often leaves me with the first shot blown out or black because I forgot to look at the meter before I shot
 

Machi

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I actually deliberately overexposed on the Leica because I was worried about shadow recovery (I wasn't copying settings, and the center weighted metering on the Leica takes a little more interpretation), so I have a shot that I discarded that was 1/650. You can see it there too, that tiny of a difference in shutter speed isn't going to change that. You also can't rely on the Leica EXIF, it has to guess aperture, the actual aperture was f/5.6. that's a difference of a third of a stop, which at base ISO isn't going to do anything to noise.
(I've deleted first version of this text as I've did one significant error in it.)

I've looked again on the DXOMark measurements for M240 and GH5 (probably the same sensor as GX9 which wasn't measured) and Leica has clear advantage over the GX9 at the same exposure. So difference isn't so surprising but there is one thing which causes another disadvantage for the GX9.

GX9 image is clearly much more sharpened (look at the tiles on the roof or the clock) which enhanced also noise. Leica image is also sharpened but only for the edges with great brightness differences so it did not enhanced noise as overall sharpening of the GX9's image.

DXOMark measurements also show that there isn't large difference between Leica and Panasonic in maximum achievable image quality (achievable SNR).
Under good light GX9 should be capable of taking images on par with Leica. Only thing necessary is to shoot at extended ISO100 (if possible).
 

11GTCS

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(I've deleted first version of this text as I've did one significant error in it.)

I've looked again on the DXOMark measurements for M240 and GH5 (probably the same sensor as GX9 which wasn't measured) and Leica has clear advantage over the GX9 at the same exposure. So difference isn't so surprising but there is one thing which causes another disadvantage for the GX9.

GX9 image is clearly much more sharpened (look at the tiles on the roof or the clock) which enhanced also noise. Leica image is also sharpened but only for the edges with great brightness differences so it did not enhanced noise as overall sharpening of the GX9's image.

DXOMark measurements also show that there isn't large difference between Leica and Panasonic in maximum achievable image quality (achievable SNR).
Under good light GX9 should be capable of taking images on par with Leica. Only thing necessary is to shoot at extended ISO100 (if possible).
If any sharpening took place, I didn't know about it. Both were shot RAW and processed in Capture One, and I never told it to sharpen. I believe I do have a small amount of sharpening set as the default, but it would be the same for both lenses. The only settings I played with were exposure, highlight/shadow recovery, white balance, and levels.
 

Walter

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To be honest: I can't see any point in such comparisons.

I might be convinced of a change of mind if I saw any excellent, artistic, time-enduring (for generations) photographic masterworks - in the photos taken, of course - which prove that the amount of (additional) money spent makes the difference. In the last ten years I haven't come across any photo that shows that the Leica or any other high-priced camera makes the difference. It still is the person behind the lens and body.

In the last century there were photographers who proved exactly this ... and were lucky to have the best tool for it, a Leica. But it's the genius of the photographers and their special way of showing us what they saw in the way they saw it which makes the difference. The Leica was just the tool to reach that aim in the best possible way at the time.

There are many superb shots in the mu-43 threads with cheaper ad mid-price cameras ... and there are quite a lot of average shots taken with highest-price gear as well. To me it's the outcome that counts, and that is the perfect photo (able to really touch peoples' hearts).
 

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