A really quick comparison of the Canon G1x and Leica M9 – What?!?! by George Sutton
(From Steve – This was sent in by George last week and figured I would post, as crazy as it is, for anyone interested in some thoughts on the new Canon G1X compact.)
Here is my initial impression of the Canon G1 X including a comparison with the Leica M9. The G1 X has a lot of positives but essentially it is an advanced point and shoot with excellent IQ and modest versatility. It is perhaps best described as a small self-contained DSLR. Its principal competition is probably Fuji X100 and Leica X1 (what is with all the Xs in camera names these days??). In comparison the Canon is less expensive and more versatile.
Its main advantages are the following:
— excellent IQ — DSLR quality
— very sharp lens
— 4x zoom lens compared to fixed lens on many comparable cameras
— articulating back
— good ISO performance all the way to 12500
— face detection autofocus
— good movies
— autofocus is not lightening fast — limited ability to keep focus on fast moving kids
— viewfinder is not very useful
— instruction book not included — requires 240+ page download
— menues are somewhat complicated
I think the controversy over this camera has been figuring out its niche. It is a high-end point and shoot, a great camera for traveling and landscapes when you don’t want to carry a bigger camera. It also has very good high ISO performance. I picked it over a Sony NEX because the Sony is significantly larger with a comparable zoom attached. Carrying a Sony is like carrying a Leica M9 and I have no plans to replace my Leica. The G1 X is too large to fit in a pants pocket but it will fit a jacket pocket. And it is self-contained. Lack of lens choices is both an advantage and a limitation.
The photos below show the G1 X at its widest and longest. The photos only demonstrate the camera’s IQ, nothing more. The enlargements are approximately 100% crops.
Canon G1X at its widest – f/5.6 and 1/180 – click image for full size
Canon at its longest – f/5.6 1/160 – click image for full size
Leica M9 – Click for full size
100% crop from the Leica
The comparison shots with the Leica are interesting in two respects. The Canon lens is very sharp, close to the Leica. The bigger difference is the greater depth and richness in the Leica shots. Maybe that is just subjective, a desire to see some benefit in paying more than ten times the price for the Leica. But that said, the Canon produces a very good photo. For me the camera is a keeper for that reason together with the added versatility compared to an X100 or X1.
The other interesting thing is the moire in the Leica enlargement. If you ever wondered why many digital cameras have low pass filters this shows the reason. Canons have low pass filters (also known as anti aliasing filters), Leica does not. A low pass filter blurs the image slightly to avoid moire. The Leica occasionally shows moire but the rest of the time produces a slightly crisper image. This can be seen in the vents in the building that show through the ad. Look above the model’s hands then follow the line of vents across the whole frame. Moire happens when small parallel lines produce false shapes and colors. This shot not only produced some wild false colors but also produced obvious false lines and shapes.
In the Canon shot the same vents are remarkably sharp and the colors and shapes are accurate. (That isn’t a criticism of Leica. Eliminating a low pass filter is a trade-off — some images will end up with moire in order to make all shots clearer). Hope you found this interesting.
The Leica image shows not just bad bad moire, but also some funny dark smudgy lights in the windows below the moire.
Personnaly I see the G1X images better than the leica image.
But would love to see a challenge. To be fair the Leica sensors and algorithms are very dated now.
If Leica took the screen off to increase sharpness (and unfortunately allow so much moire) isn’t that a bit unfair in comparing Leica lenses? Shouldn’t the Leica lens also be tested on a filtered mirror camera. Would love to see a comparison of Leica Lenses vs say Canikon Lenses using an adapter on a Canikon FF camera.
cheers Dave S
What a funny bunch of comments. The favorite photos I have ever taken were with a Leica CL and Yashica 635. I bought a Rolleiflex, and sold the 635, but the Rollei for all the fame and quality never rested in my hands like the 635. I have a Panasonic GF1, I wanted it to take overas my personal have fun camera, but it never sat in my hands like my Canon G12, which was a replacement for my G10. I like my G1 and G2, but when Olympus brought out their 5060 with a 28mm equivalent I dropped my G’s as I was not satisfied by a35mm or 38mm equivalent. I liked the lens on the Olympus, but their menu sucked! The G10 was great as I use Canon for work and the pro camera menus are intuitive to the P & S line. At the end of the day if you like the camera and you are comfortable shooting with it that is success! Think about the shots you did not take when you shot film because of the cost or time involved. So don’t overthink it! Get the camera which feels confortable and don’t lament what isn’t, because you are better off going out and shooting and recognizing the limits becausethe G1x looks like it beats my GF1 because that big 14-42 is not convenient! Hey, and my PC is not a Mac, but I would not know what to do with a Mac!
I’ve just sold a G12 and am looking at a G1x as a more portable option than my 5D’s and 20kg of L lenses. Here it’s being seriously compared to an M9. “What?!?!” indeed, and I’d add “TF???”
What comes across most in this thread is partiality, but since I don’t have $10,000 for a portable, then £550 street is a no-brainer, thank you one and all, especially George.
What are the white marks in the sky on the first Canon image?
“The bigger difference is the greater depth and richness in the Leica shots. Maybe that is just subjective, a desire to see some benefit in paying more than ten times the price for the Leica”…
Looking at the images on the web I would agree but looking at the downloaded images there is surprisingly little difference. Maybe this Canon is better than I thought. But would I swop it for my X100? If only Canon had improved the viewfinder!
My wife always tells me if you want something and you can afford it then get it. I guess the point of this discussion is that there is very little (not $9,000 +/-) difference in the quality of these pictures only the costs associated with taking them.
Don’t ever justify how you spend YOUR money. Besides a fool and their money are soon parted anyway. It seems that Leica has got the Kool Aid that some people want to drink.
There is actually a very big difference in technical output quality from the two cameras – the M9 is lightyears ahead of the Canon in IQ.
But it all depends on what you are looking for. If you are mostly interested in content, composition etc. then the Canon may suite your needs, but if you also want extraordinary IQ the M9 is much better.
Think the Canon could be a nice choice for holiday shooters that want better IQ and high ISO performance than is possible with a cheaper P&S.
Ups. this comment was for Dougbm.
The Canon wide angle image has obvious halos around outlines. That means it is either a JPEG, direct from camera, or is over-processed from a RAW fils. Either way it does not show the best IQ that you can get from a G1X.
I have the G1X ii and it is capable of matching, in every way, the IQ of the Leica image that is shown here. Whether the Leica is capable of better IQ still is an open question.
Hi George – may I ask – which 50mm did you use? Are these RAW or Jpeg? Did you do any PP on them? Are they shot through the glass of your office windows?
Thank you for posting this – it’s very interesting to see a camera like this compared to a DSLR, not because they’re likely to be comparable, but because it’s good to see how much of a trade off in IQ there is for the sake of size/price etc. I find the M9 usually doesn’t need much sharpening, whereas I’d guess the Canon might benefit from a bit of sharpening?
I’d be interested in how it compares to a true compact like the canon s95 too – anyone had any experience?
Thanks for the comparison, but can you explain what are these funny shaped clouds in the first (Canon) shot? You can see them above the KeyBank building and on the top left corner. They do not look like clouds more like reflections. Thanks.
They are reflections on my office window. I should have turned off the lights and cleaned the Leica sensor. I would clean that up if it were anything more than a comparison.
just out of curiosity, where is this?
If I had to guess I would say maybe some where in Colorado?
It is downtown Salt Lake City.
very cool that you can see the mountains just outside the city.
(I don’t live in the states 🙂
Thank you once again
Thank you for posting these files.
I’m a happy x-canon G series user, but quite frankly I think given all the other product in the market, canon really missed the mark with the G1X.
For $800 I expect a faster lens, Better AF and my own personal rub, the OVF or should I say lack of a real EVF/OVF. I personally find the 60-70% coverage optical tube offensive!
Such a shame as I think Canon could have done so much more around the great sensor they put in this camera.
Just IMHO of course 🙂
Actually the worst moiré I ever saw I got from a G9 with AA filer. AA filters don’t 100% prevent it, they just make it less likely to occur.
I won’t go for the G1X because the f 5.6 lens is just not my taste. Of course if you look at it in terms of replacing the former Canon G models, it’s a huge step forward.
I was not at all surprised that a camera with a brand new sensor manages to compete with an M9 using a six year old sensor. I would advise to stay clear of any new camera that can’t do so.
I’m still happy to use my M8.2 though 🙂
Regardless what comparisons and arguments are being made, at the heart of Leica M is the rangefinder experience. It is not a Leica thing per se, but Leica is the only digital option for rangefinder photography today.
This experience is basically the streamlined integration of constantly viewing the subject through a window, while focussing and adjusting shutterspeed and aperture at same time or beforehand by feel. As long as no other maker is going to provide this combination (and I don’t see this happen) and as long as there are people who value this experience, there will be a market for Leicas.
If Leica doesn’t screw it! Because I am not a Leica fan, or any fan for that matter, and I am not happy with what Leica got stupidly wrong on the M8 and M9. For example, making no stop at the A-position of the shutterspeed-dial spoils part of this sensual process I was talking about.
I even think that the best Leica was no Leica but the Minolta CLE (if it only had metered manual), and would sorely wish for such a baby with some nice sensor inside. But I get the impression that camera makers are making things worse, with every iteration there are some idiotic missings that spoil the innovations.
Such gear-comparisons are always fun, but even funnier are the arguments that follow them 😉
Normally I’d hate to be a nitpicker, but I have to point out that the Epson RD1 is not only an alternative to Leica for digital rangefinder photography, it was the first digital rangefinder, way before Leica came out with theirs.
While its dated, it is still considered by some to be a better alternative to the m8, and sales of the camera in the secondhand market is still going pretty strong. Now if you’re referring to full frame digital rangefinder photography, then you’d be right that the M9 is the only digital option right now.
Hey George; interesting post. I don’t think it’s “pointless” at all. For those of us who will never be able to spend $10,000 on a camera, it’s worthwhile to see what we might be missing. I have, and use, film Leicas, and while it would be fun to have the same experience in digital, it just isn’t worth the money to me at this point.
It would be helpful to see test shots with both cameras at the same focal length. Was the Leica shot here done with a 50mm?
Also, could you be more specific about how the viewfinder is “not very useful?” Is it dark? Does it zoom with the lens? Does it indicate focus at all? All of the camera stores in my neighborhood have closed, so there’s no way I can fondle new equipment before I buy.
Yes, the Leica shot with moire was with a 50mm. I did the same shot with a 35 and 90 and got no moire. It is a hit and miss effect when the lines hit the sensor a certain way but it is rare unless you have a lot of close parallel lines.
Sorry, I hit submit too soon.
The camera has a small optical viewfinder on top of the camera but it only covers a part of the frame, is partly blocked by the lens and has no information. It is only useful for a quick shot of something centered in the frame.
The articulating screen is another story. It works very well and I am a big fan of the ability to hold the camera at odd angles and be able to see the shot.
I diid like your article. Best example of moire I’ve seen. Very instructive. $10,000 +/- is a lot of money for a camera considering the alternatives.. There is a very thin line these days between “love and hate” for Leica fans, users and owners. Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, Canon and Nikon are blurring the playing field of image quality.
I agree with Mr. Steve when he says that Leica needs to do something Leicatastic…and do it soon or get left behind. Many people are using their smartphones as photographic tools these days Mr. Leica. I’m just saying that the industry, the technology and the photographic market is changing fast. The train is leaving the station. You know it is when you are comparing a Canon P&S with the legendary Leica 9 and make a point. Point…and …..shoot! Get it!
What are those square cloud arrays in the first photo?
This post was my first activity for the day, and it most certainly set the mood for an odd day.
There are some more oddities if you look carefully at the sky above the Zions Bank in the Canon images. I suspect the photos were taken through the glass window and are simply reflections of the inside of the room. I got some very similar artefacts when on a Rhein cruise and shot through the glass windows of the boat. It was very sunny outside but the lights inside were reflected of the inside of the glass. Fortunately, as in these images, the sky was completely blue, so the reflections were relatively easy to clone out.
This reminds me of an old article I read on Luminous Landscape
Basically a $500 Canon G10 and $40,000 Phase One subject to a pepsi challenge with Pro’s told to distinguish. Surprising results. I think with today’s keen focus on IQ and dynamic range from virtually every mfr, a huge leap in price does not give you a huge leap in quality.
I do not own a Leica but I imagine it can be likened to owning a Ferrari. Sure a Prius will do pretty much the same thing in terms of getting you from A to B, and much more efficiently. But the way the Ferrari makes you feel, see and be seen are on an immeasurable level. The myth and lore of very desirable objects will always clash with tech specs.
Just remember that a camera is a just a box that gathers light. The photographer is responsible for the story that explains the light.
That moire is nuts… How does one remove that from an image? It seems to me like digital cameras are converging quite quickly. The only thing that seems to separate them is user experience. Eventually it will be like splitting hairs.
“How does one remove that from an image?”
Good question! I know there are PP tools that attempt to remove the false colors, but in this shot, the camera has added a weird light and dark maze-like pattern that would be very hard to fix.
Plus, of course, it has completely obliterated the slats that are actually there. You’d just have to take the blue and orange out and hope that nobody noticed.
Are there any Leica users here who have dealt with this issue?
As you get to know the camera you become aware of the moire risk and work around it. This shot was with a 50mm lens and I shot the same scene with a 35 and a 90, neither of which produced moire. It only happens when the lines are a certain size on the sensor. Also, if I were shooting this for any reason other than a test I would know the risk and probably use a different camera with an AA filter.
I could imagine that the arrival of more non-AA sensors will force photographers to work around certain shots, but I find it surprising that such a “test” shot or if you will a pretty average picture of a city scape leads to such an unwanted and unremovable artifact. This is not intended as a specific attack of the M9, but it seems that removing an AA filter leads to a need to work around very standard types of photography i.e. those with some form of intricate background. Maybe it is much less common than I think, but such a standard shot really surprises me.
I am interested to see the success of alternative approaches such as Fuji’s X-trans and organic sensors which use novel technology in conjunction with the removal of the AA filter. Seems to me that just removing the AA filter is not the only answer in the pursuit of obtaining maximum resolution from a sensor.
There is a report at Luminous Landscape now on the Fuji XPro showing how its sensor avoids moire without an AA filter. It has a direct comparison with a Leica M9. Fuji apparently does it by spreading the different color pixels randomly instead of in a fixed sequence like most sensors.
OK people, together with me : P-O-I-N-T-L-E-S-S !!!Can somebody explain me what’s the point comparing carrots and beans? I really like the G1X but come on George, are you looking for some fame here ?!?!?!
How irrelevant is this article…
Get ready guys, next week I’ll post a comparison between my M9-P and my old Nokia 6630 with an amazing 1.3 Mpix resolution!!!
Leica definitely doesn’t worth it!!!
We all know that we buy Leicas with our heart, not with our head.
But who else can offer a bright viewfinder, straightforward focus ring, film like grain, small.a light camera nobody will notice ???
Actually I am interested in reports on IQ and utility in just about any new camera including phone cameras. I only draw the line at pink bodies. But that is just me.
Sorry you didn’t get the point but glad others did. Here is a hint. It wasn’t a comparison for its own sake. It was about IQ and utility. I think the Leica M9 is the gold standard for IQ below medium format and I was surprised at how well the G1 X compared when I did my own test out of my office window. For anyone who might be interested, this is another report that the G1 X is relatively small, and versatile and can produce decent photos in good light. That’s all. I’m sure many other cameras have good IQ and utility as well.
I have a suggestion. Try reading things that are interesting to you.
the pot calling the kettle black… and as usual, in such an immature and distasteful manner.
Could we see the G1x cmpared to some other camera that is closer to it in terms of price and crop factor? For example the NEX system or some low-end dslr s? Would be useful to many readers. The G1x is propably very good camera in many ways. I would consider to buy it myself if it had a faster lens.
For the price, the Canon is looking pretty nice to my eyes. It’s no Leica but it’s not trying to be anyway. I didn’t see a 100 percent crop of the Canon versus the M9 to see a pixel level comparison of sharpness on your post. That might make it a better comparison but the field of view is different so I’m not sure how that would play out in a crop. As far as dynamic range and color, it looks pretty close. Still though, I’m going to wait and see before rushing out to get the G1x, IQ looks great but the G2x (or whatever the next version will be called) will likely iron out the bugs.
Interesting post from March 21st on “Imaging-resource” site referencing “glow dots” at higher ISO’s on the G1X. Something apparently acknowledged by Canon.
When you shoot in close to perfect light most cameras are able to make good or at least decent output.
I agree. This only shows what this camera will do in good light. Here is what I have found shooting addition shots in low light. Generally colors and AWB are good shot without a flash and very good with a flash. High ISO is still grainy. I am disappointed in that regard. I was hoping to be able to shoot people in very low light without flash and the grain combined with the very slow lens fully extended limit that significantly.
Another complaint is a tendency for the highlights to blow out. Really noticeable. I am getting the best results shooting at about -2/3. So much for expose to the right.
Just want to add that IQ in the Leica shoot is a lot better than IQ in the G1X shoots. Very easy to see how good the Leica quality is when pixel peeping. Otherwise I think the colors and output from the little Canon is quite nice.
Btw. George you should clean your Leica sensor, there are lots of spots on it (seen easily in the sky) 🙂
IQ – Too true.
On the Leica sensor spotting … I didn’t notice that myself at first. The relatively high digital noise (grain) in big, flat areas of colour went some way to covering it up ….
Sorry, just not getting this ‘comparison’ (crazy or otherwise) …. why not just do new iPhone/iPad v M9 instead? Would be just as relevant.
The Canon is not equalling the quality of the M9 – and this from a critical, Leica owning, ‘non-apologist’. I don’t think there is any element of subjectivity – viewed at full size, the Canon simply doesn’t cut it.
My old Panny LX3 produced finer quality images (a Leica lens) and was truly pocketable.
I may be a cynic, but I detect a global Canon media hype campaign in progress. George claims it is ” … best described as a small self-contained DSLR … ”
Strange that the UK’s biggest selling photo-mag, Amateur Photographer, is currently running a G1X review with the cover tag line – ‘Can this camera replace a DSLR?’ …. odd coincidence there!
In my opinion the answer is no – the G1X not a high end compact to rival the competition (i.e. X100/Nex sreies, etc.) and it’s certainly not a DSLR replacement – much less a serious M9 competitor.
Do I detect an undercurrent of Canon ‘hurting’ here, due to to a lack of serious compact/compact system model/s from it’s line-up …. hence the media talking-up of it’s recent (dated) offerings?
You win for ‘most paragraphs.’
Thanks for the award Mark (LOL) – I like winning things!!!
OK, acceptance speech at the ready ….. I’d like to thank the following family and friends for their support ….. (you get the idea!)
I actually laughed out loud when Canon revealed this joke. You are right about strings being pulled by the Big C. Amateur Photography mag have been in Canons pockets for decades. Their constant dismissal of Olympus and 4/3 is obsessional at best and scandalous at worst. They have been gleefully “reporting” the Olympus corporate problem every week for months and try to ignore M/43 completely unless they can damn it at every opportunity.
Reg – add Pentax, Minolta and, to some extent, Nikon, to the list of ignorees (film era in particular)
Minolta nailed AF cameras from the start, Nikon and Olympus were initial leaders in modern metering technologies. Even Pentax, whilst less innovative perhaps, always made/still makes exceptional optics. Not to mention the smaller guys (Ricoh, Yashica, Konica et al.) who churned out equally innovative, or simply excellent, products over the years. I recall it’s rival Practical Photography once hailing the Konica Hexar AF as ‘probably the camera God uses’ … what a contrast to AP’s jaundiced viewpoint of the world!
Over the years all this innovation has been sidelined in favour of big AP spreads on new Canon ‘innovations’ or ‘developments’. I’ve even had a personal email dialogue with a former editor re. high UK Canon prices – at one point, the CEO of Canon UK joined in the debate to defend his company – read into that relationship whatever you like!
I like Canon products – even own some – but have never really felt they truly ‘pushed the envelope’. Like Microsoft, they are very good at ‘developing’ (… who said stealing …) other’s concepts and promoting them as their own. As with MS, their superior publicity efforts, rather than product supremacy, ensured ‘world domination’.
Brings to mind the phrase, “standing on the shoulders of giants” …
Sadly, the one thing Canon have never done very well (in recent years is) small, high quality cameras. Perhaps this is the reason for a lack of Canon high end compacts, or compact system cameras to truly rival Leica, Fuji or Sony Nex models etc. ….
Saying that Canon has no leading small high quality cameras is a big understatement at best. Ever heard about S 90, S 95 and S 100. Or the entire G-series? Class-leading.
Well done George ! Thanks for illustrating the effect with and without an AA filter.
I am considering getting a Nikon D800E ( the one without the AA filter ). Your illustration helps me visualize some of the possible consequences. In my case I think it’s worth it.
Thanks for the quick comparison George. This once again goes to prove what we have all been hearing and suspecting for a while, THE LEICA IS JUST NOT THAT WORTH IT (sorry bout the all caps there). I have to admit that I fell for the Leica lust like most people but once the novelty wears off and buyers remorse kicks in, its a worthless camera (for the price). Much like Apple products, Leica is very good at creating that “want” and “must have” but the limitations are insane. The Leica color that most people rave about is nothing that cant be done in PP. Size and compactness is not that big a deal side by side with a 5D II. The trade-offs for these two are just crippling (Manual operation, terrible high ISO performance, moire, false colors most of the time and a god awful LCD screen). To make matters worse it cost just as much as a medium format cam that will give you far better visual results (with an obvious size trade off). I can never see myself using this thing again. Might just pick up the G1X for when I dont want the heft. Thanks again for letting me vent.
I don’t think there is any doubt, that pound for pound, Leica gear is a rip-off (I speak as Leica owner). But the pleasure of a Leica, or a similar camera is not about tech specs, it’s about pleasure of use. I personally prefer using a Leica range finder instead of a digital compact a great deal, so for me it’s worth the extra pennies. It’s just the same as buying a £10 bottle of vodka, or a £50 bottle of Scotch whisky, one is not better than the other, but for many people, the enjoyment to be had from the Scotch is worth the 500% price increase.
It’s just a personal choice, some will try to tell you that Leica is a waste of money, and some will tell you it has “soul” and is worth every penny. They are both right, and they’re both wrong, you just have to think about what is right for you, and don’t worry about anyone else’s choices.
I’d be the first to agree the M9 is over-priced, but no camera is “worthless” if it does what it claims.
Most contemporary reviews highlighted that the M9 was no D3 or 1DS rival – it was different, for those that sought something more specialised, more esoteric.
It’s deficiencies – as you call them – were known quantities (as was the price) at the time.
I’d suggest remorse, rather than Leica, is the culprit here!
Man, I really feel sorry that you can’t afford a Leica.
But this no reason for so much bitterness…
It seems that you never used a M to say that…
I had a 5D mkII two years ago that I found terrible. Did I say that Canon was rubbish ?
Hell no !!! The G10 is a GREAT camera.
So, please, keep on enjoying you 5DmkII and feel free to share your amazing Canon photos…
If canon 5Dmk11 is such rubbish, what do you recomend then ?
My experience has been different both with Leica and Apple. I agree with all you say about the M9 body. By itself it is absurdly primitive and expensive. The colors and high ISO are marginal at best but the lenses in good light or with a flash put it in a class by themselves. Not just the detail but the richness of the image. I use a photo of one of the most intricate and elegant carvings I have ever seen (on a 1,000 year old temple in Cambodia) as wallpaper on my office iMac. I took the shot with an M9 and 35mm Summicron. It is cropped but still amazingly detailed across the whole frame. I find I am often closing other screens to just stare at it. To me, and it is just me, that is worth it.
And I think my Apple computers work better than the PCs I used for 20 years. Great to have choices.
I’m not able to see the pictures at full size clicking over them 🙁
They don’t open if you are simply clicking on the embedded images in the email. Click on the link at the bottom of the email to see all comments. The images will then open once you are on Steve’s site.
thank you,interesting ! but what’s the point if we cannot see full size images..!!
Thanks for posting this, George!
Even though I am not very likely to buy the G1X, it does have my interest and a chance to win me over.
I would like to see real world comparison against a Nikon P7100 to see what difference in IQ the larger sensor in the G1X is able to deliver.
As I wanted to check out the full size pictures I found that “Click for full size” does not work.
Or is it my browser?
See my comment below.
interesting……nice P&S though.
Hey George, I see you are in SLC. We should get together sometime and talk photography and gear. Contact me via Twitter at Clancycoop. I’m most other places under that name. I also have a throwaway address that I don’t worry much about spammers getting a hold of which is the previously mentioned name @me.com. Email me there and I will give you my normal email.