Quick Shots Part 2: Leica M9, Olympus E-P2 and Nikon D3s


Since posting the just for fun “Quick Shots” yesterday I noticed many of you were looking for a better comparison between the Leica M9 and Olympus E-P2. I had a few e-mails asking me all kinds of questions as well as some of you asking me to redo it using a stationary subject. Even though yesterdays post was a “just for fun” moment and only done for curiosity, I decided to do a better comparison today. I mean, these cameras are not meant to compete against each other so as I said yesterday, this is just for fun. Since I have these cameras on hand, why not see what they can do side by side? I even threw the Nikon D3s in to the mix today.

I went out and found this old house that apparently had a fire recently. I decided to use this as my subject for todays shots so I pulled out my tripod and took the image with three cameras. This is still “just for fun” as it gives me something to do (though I nearly froze to death in the below zero windchill getting these shots).

I added the Nikon D3s to the mix as I had it with me but the only lens I had for it here is the 50 1.8 so I shot it at 2.5 stopped down a bit. I blame the lens here for any softness in the Nikon shot though I included it here.

So here are the three shots. One from the M9 with a link to the full size original, one from the E-P2 with link and one from the D3s with link. I also am providing 100% crops here if you do not want to download the full size images.

You can click any of the images below for a 1400 pixel wide version.

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OK, here we go. I will show you all three images and let you guys discuss the results.

Leica M9 – 50 Summicron at F2.8 – Base ISO of 160 – NO PP – Straight from ACR 5.6 w/defaults ย – CLICK HERE FOR FULL SIZE 18MP IMAGE



Now the Micro 4/3 Olympus E-P2 with the Panasonic 20 1.7 prime lens set at F2.5. Base ISO of 200 ย – NO PP – ACR 5.6 Defaults – CLICK HERE FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE



Nikon D3s50 1.8 at F2.5 0- Base ISO of 200 – NO PP – ACR 5.6 Defaults – CLICK HERE FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE



and three crops of the chimney. Look at the M9 chimney ๐Ÿ™‚


So there you go. I am going to let you guys discuss the results. These were shot using A mode on all three cameras and I set each cameras ISO to its base ISO for maximum performance. No sharpening was applied and defaults were using in Adobe Camera Raw 5.6. I stopped down the Nikon lens from 1.8 to 2.5, the Panny lens from 1.7 to 2.5 and the Leica lens to 2.8. Yes, I should have done all three at 2.8 but I didn’t, and I am not going out in the snow and cold again to redo them so take it or leave it! Ha ha. My thinking was if I was stopping down the Nikon and Panny from 1.7 to 2.5, the 50 cron being an F2 lens should be stopped down to 2.8. Also, the only lens I had on hand for the D3s was the 50 1.8 so that is all I could use. Sure I could have shot these at F5.6 but I am more interested in the performance of a lens wide open or close to it. Almost any lens will do good at 5.6.

This will give you guys an idea of the file quality of each camera and it also shows the white snow was handled fine by each of these cameras as far as DR goes. I feel the Leica has the best file quality here and the D3s may have the edge in DR but YMMV. Enjoy!


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  1. The chimney shots are revealing.

    The Leica photo appears more detailed because of the obvious magnification difference afforded by the extra focal length. It’s by no means sharper because of this.

    There is also a WB flaw towards green blue. If WB was performed then the M9 shows a cool cast. I tend to like warmer pictures as a rule.

    Finally the chromatic aberration is simply horrible. All along the edges of snow and either side of the chimney stack obe can see obvious red and blue fringes. Horrible.

    Anyone thinking the M9 is a clear winner here is a victim of Leica hype unfortunately.

  2. Great, thanks for the effort ! I know my Summicron is better than that Lumix 20mm on my E-P2. The Lumix 20mm is superb, sharp, but is a bit “flat” and less 3D in its drawing, like a pancake :), but really good for copy work.

    Now I don’t need to buy an M9 for now (I was seriously thinking of it), and just stick with my old M. I’ll probably get it one day in the used market instead, no craving for it now. I agree with SteveK too.

    Once I get my E-P2 hot-rodded to remove the anti-alias filter, it will be a different ballgame. Like the Sigma DP2 now is probably as sharp as that M9.

  3. It’s not that strong though, that shot just screams bad lens copy ๐Ÿ™‚ I regularly pair up my D700 with a 50/1.8 and the results at f/2.5 are much better than that.

  4. The nikon 50mm f1.8 is hardly a dog – more likely the fault lies with a heavy AA filter on the Nikon. My d700 was much the same, and Ken Rockwell has noted this as well in his comparison between the d700 and original 5D. On the side of the nikon files is *extreme* flexibility when it comes to pushing and pulling and very very low noise. I switched from 7d from d700 because I’m shooting video now too but I sorely miss the d700 raws. Lifting shadows in the 7d’s iso 640 raw files was a let down to say the least.

  5. Nice comparison.

    However, it’s a big anomaly to use that Nikon lens. The Lumix is good, but it’s not the same as the Summicron.

    As it is, this is just a Leica M9 show.

    I think it would have been better if you could just strap the Summicron as well on the E-P2. Then borrow a high quality Nikkor like the 28-70 zoom lens …

    Then I’ll come back to see the results ๐Ÿ™‚

    However, the lack of anti-alias filter on the M9 will always give it an edge in sharpness. The E-P2 has the filter reduced a bit, but still not comparable to that of a Sigma DP2 for example (although just a seriously niche product). But anyway, I’d still like to see that comparison mentioned, thanks, if you have time.


  6. Yes, I also think that the CA on M9 is horrible. Why, with such a costly lens would this happen, while it does not seems on a $100 lens like the Nikkor 50/1.8?
    It just doesn’t make that much of a sense to me. It also shows on the leica crop.

  7. @Overheat Go for the GF1. I’ve not used the Pen myself, but for me the killer is the LCD screen on the GF1 – don’t forget that that’s your viewfinder! When using manual lenses you zoom in using the LCD to focus and as far as I can see the better quality that your LCD is the more likely you’re going to focus accurately. I’ll comfortably sacrifice IS for the ability to actually see what i’m looking at! Hand on heart, since buying the GF1 before Christmas I have not a single regret. Love it, and I love that it has rekindled my passion for photography and the art of getting a good photo through more manual means.

  8. The GF-1 / PEN debate is one I’ve been thinking about for a while now, but to be honest, I think I’m going to go for the GF-1 for three reasons: 1. The screen is miles better (it’s beautiful). 2. The 1.7 lens is available as a kit and therefore saves me money (and it matches). 3. Panasonic sell Leica M mounts too, although I could probably get better value ones elsewhere… still researching.

  9. I demand:

    An x1 with The same zoom as my dlux4 with a byonette with AF primes available. Lenses around f2. That system would sell for around 5k, 3k for the cam and zoom. Just bring the af to the speed of the gf1 and provide on the lense control and the possibility of zone focussing like the scale on the lx3-dlux4… This whole discussion saved me lots of cash between 1k and 10k… Thanks guys

  10. Adam,

    Yes I agree and is why I mentioned this. The 50 1.8 is only a $120 lens so it can not be expected to perform up to a $2000 or even a $400 lens. It is all I had at the moment. Still, I would not trade my M9 for a D3s no way, no how. I just am not inspired to take that camera anywhere. IMO, its only for pros who really need its capabilities. Hence, the “pro” build and features. For everyday stuff, a D3s would not be a fun camera to shoot with. Just my opinion of course.

  11. Steve, you’ve made our week end….. thanks a lot for some very interesting pictures and comments.
    Have a good one,

  12. I think you’re copy of the nikkor 50/1.8 is a tad soft, I remember mine being a bit sharper than that f/2.5..

    Strap on a zeiss on that d3s and i’m sure it’ll be able to match the m9, even with a lower mpx count ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Steve, I do admire your work and no bull s*** style of reviewing cameras. But I tempted to disagree on this comparison. May be trying put the same Summicron on the EP2 and see how it does! I am using the old summilux 50 F1.4 on the EP2 and the files looks great. I cannot say for sure about M9 as I am still waiting for it. But I normally use Nikon for jobs, so try putting a Zeiss 50mm F2 as testing lens you may find your conclusion a bit different. But I must say as a whole system the Leica performs very very good in a certain way. (I am using M8.2)

  14. SteveK,

    That’s why you could put the crappiest guitar into Jeff Beck’s hands and he’d run circles around gear junkies. It’s NEVER about the gear and that we know for sure. In fact, the less we have, the more we can focus on what’s important and master the only tool at hand. I am sure that while we are here discussing crops and pixels about the latest expensive gear, there is some kid getting up at sunrise with his father’s old M3 loaded with Tri-X and taking some kick ass shots. I really hope so anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I was staring at the chains inside the top right broken windows. But I only saw a piece of rope in EP2 and D3s crops. I am surprised to see how bad the Nikon was. Thanks Steve for another ‘fun’ compario.

  16. Steve, I think you’re examples illustrate the plain fact that we’ve reached the point on the digital technology curve where the marginal gains from upgrading to the most expensive cameras are quite small and probably only worth it for the professional photographer. For everyone else (and I include myself here) their skill and vision is BY FAR the more limiting factor. But it seems many people who frequent these blogs & forums are in denial of this and really believe that if only they could buy the more expensive camera then they would make so much better photos!

  17. I’m surprised at how much of a dog that 50mm f/1.8 is…
    Interesting to see the chromatic aberrations on the M9 + Summicron that are presumably being fixed in the firmware of the D3s…

    Cool test. Makes me like my Leica and not want the boat anchor of a D3s…

  18. We are surely tempted to conclude that the Oly gives a great result when compared to the insanely more expensive Leica. But… the E-P2 is not actually such a cheap camera! I wonder how the Pentax K-x, for instance, would do in this comparison? It’s half the price of the E-P2 but has an APS-C sensor.

    By the way, why the heck are we comparing the M9, the D3s AND the E-P2?!

    Steve: I’m still new to your blog, but I’ve been having a lot of fun already. Good work!

  19. Surely the answer to that, Steve, is to strap the GF1 / E-P2 to a faster lens. I use my GF1 with an FD 50mm 1:1.2
    Crikey, you could even strap it to the Noctilux (Now i’d pay to read that review!)

  20. Sorry guys here that killer question again…EP-2 vs GF1? Same IQ or one better than the other. From Steve’s reviews, the GF1 seems much more snappy and responsive… I maybe wrong here… Geewhiz can’t wait to see a real 21st century camera coming from Leica with the IQ those give… it will be awsome. Tahnks for freezing for us steve

  21. Considering that extra sharpness never made a photo an “art piece” (excepted with landscape or architecture photography perhaps) i really think that the leica philosophy to go toward sharpness rather than high iso capability is wrong !!!

    come on … we all look at our photos on a 2Mpx screen … and not at 100% !!!
    perhaps it’s important for some people who make 10meters prints but for the rest of us the sharpness of the D3 or the M4/3 is enough …. not so long ago film resolution was way worst.

    i was ready to buy a Leica but i’ve just ordered a GF1 waiting for the M10.

  22. The price difference is immense and as far as value for money goes, the E-P2 spanks the Leica and Nikon hands down. I own the GF1 and love it (especially when it’s strapped to legacy manual lenses) so am very very biased. Put it this way: i’m currently very happy with the quality and versatility of the MFT system at the moment (and I don’t become satisfied easily). Still doesn’t mean I don’t lust after the M9. But seriously, the very fact that you’re putting the E-P2 up against the likes of the M9 and D3s even when only “just for fun” indicates just how fantastic the E-P2 (and the MFT system as a whole) is. Nice review, tvm.

  23. Where did the cat go?

    The Leica sharpness is impressive and the Nikon is let down by the lens as you stated.

    Thanks for the real world test.

  24. Yep..can see the crappy corners of the D3 just by blowing up the images here on Steve’s site. Overall, the M9 image is the best hands down but the EP2 surely isn’t bad.

  25. Thual, that is a great method of comparing those large files. I just did the same and you are 100% correct in what you are seeing. But again I blame the Nikon softness on the lens used. Thx.

  26. I downloaded the full size images, and opened them in photoshop, put the 3 images on 3 different layers, and… wow. The M9 file gives the biggest file (in pixels), and it’s also the sharpest. The Nikon image corners are the worst, are they not ? For image quality, my vote goes for the M9, no discussion…

  27. wow…i think that ep-2 is giving the two others a run for their money.

    we’re talking an extreme difference in price – iq not so much.

    obviously there are differences, but still…wow.

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