A just for fun CRAZY comparison! Leica M vs Nikon V1 vs RX1R crop mode!

A just for fun CRAZY comparison! Leica M vs Nikon V1 vs RX1R crop mode!Β 

As many of you know the Nikon 1 system has been more popular now than ever thanks to two things that have happened recently. 1st, the price of the Nikon V1 plummeted to crazy deal levels allowing so many more to give this system a try. 2nd, Nikon released a trio of fantastic lenses that are superb in quality and a couple with fast aperture speeds to combat the fact that shallow depth of field was hard to get with the kit zooms. So now that we have some killer lenses to go along with the super V1 or V2 or J bodies, the system is much more appealing. I have said it from the 1st launch of the V1 and J1…the Nikon 1 system is unique in the fact that they have very well made bodies and a very unique image quality which is best described as “hard” but with superb out of camera color, super fast AF, great spot on metering and very nice video as well. We lose out on shallow deoth of field when compared to a full frame sensor, but so does APS-C and Micro 4/3 when compared to full frame.

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To me and for me, the best full frame digital experience there is comes from a Leica M or M9. It has been said that the Nikon 32 1.2 lens will give you the equivalent depth of field of an 85 f/3.6 on full frame. That is due to the fact that the Nikon is a 32mm lens, not an 85. You are only getting the magnification of an 85 because of the small sensor size and 2.7 crop. You still get the depth of field of a 32mm lens, which is always going Β to give you MORE DOF than any 85mm lens.

Since the Nikon 32 1.2 is marketed as a fast portrait prime due to this fact that it gives us 85mm equivalent, I decided to test it against a Leica M with a Nikkor 85 at f/4 to see if the DOF is the same. Turns out the M with 85 at f/4 still gives us more shallow DOF than the Nikon 1 and 32 1.2 at 1.2 but with the Nikon we gain nice OOC color, sharp results all the way around and much less cost involved πŸ™‚

For the 1st two images below I used right from camera RAW images without any modification. I was only testing for color, and DOF here. So images were resized to 1800 pixels wide. The V1 shot was sharper, just as I expected but if you look at her thumb ring you will see the M is still giving us some shallow DOF at f/4 and the Nikon is pretty sharp in this area.




Next up you can see the DOF differences more easily. Just look at the tree in the background. In the M shot, which was again taken at 85mm and f/4, there is a more shallow DOF. The Nikon was shot with the 32mm at 1.2. Is one more pleasing than the other? All depends on your preferences.



BONUS comparison!

How about using the Sony RX1R with its 35mm lens in 70mm crop mode at f/2 vs the Nikon 32 1.2 at 1.2? Using JPEGS only as the Sony can not shoot in 70mm crop in RAW. This way both cameras are using 35 mm lenses (close enough) and the Sony is being cropped to 70mm. What will the results be?

JPEG only on these tests due to the JPEG limitation of the Sony crop mode. The cameras did their own metering as well so this is basically a comparison of DOF and OOC color in Standard modes. Click for larger. You can see the Nikon has a more shallow DOF because I am at 1.2 vs the f/2 setting of the Sony. At f/2 they would have been the same in regards to DOF regardless of sensor size because they are both similar focal lengths.



One more.. you can clearly see here what should be. The Nikon giving a more shallow DOF because here we are comparing two lenses that are VERY close in focal length, 32/35mm. The Nikon at 1.2 will give a more shallow DOF than the Sony at f/2 even though the Sony is using a full frame sensor. At f/2 they would be the same in regards to DOF. SO as you can see using the same focal length lens on full frame or a 1″ sensor will give you the same DOF.Β 



NOTE: One thing to know is that the M and RX1R will easily beat the Nikon V1 for low light and high ISO, it is just how it is. Once the V1 hits ISO 1200+ it gets noisy though it is not as bad as many think or make it out to be. Below is an ISO 1600 shot with the V1 and 32 1.2, indoors last night. The Nikon V1 color, WB and metering was amazing in this low light. This is ISO 1600 with the 32 wide open at 1.2. So while the V1/V2 can not beat the big full frame guns at low light it can indeed beat them for large DOF and out of camera color and metering, and most importantly, cost. I love them ALL.

Leica M is $7000 without lens – My review is HERE

RX1R is $2800 with Zeiss 35 f.2 – My review is HERE

and Nikon V1 can be found for $249 body only. The 32 1.2 is $896 πŸ™‚ – My review is HERE



  1. Hi Steve. Read all the reviews an comments. Bit the bullet and now am the proud owner of the RX-1R, an….almost….perfect camera, for me. It is a joy. Sony gets it. I got it. Thank you, thank you. One more thing. If anyone is going to drop almost $3 grand for this puppy, they might as well go ahead and order the RRS grip/bracket. It is THE perfect accessory. You get what you pay for. Highly recommended.

  2. I’d love to see a comparison between the V1 + 32 f1.2 and a Nikon D3200/5200 with the 50mm f1.8G.
    You end up getting very similar “equivalent focal lenght” and depth of field, and while the DSLRs are more expensive than the V1 the 50 f1.8G is a lot cheaper than the 32.

    • I think the IQ will be very similar, BUT the V1 is so much faster and can do 60fps raw.

  3. I ‘m currently on vacation in Liechtenstein with the V1. I haven’t missed my dslr one second. Very snappy and light. I find the high iso shot of the dog very telling: the iq of the V1 is very good indeed. Comparing the V1 with these high end cameras says a lot!

  4. I agree with one comment further up: IQ is important but many cameras nowadays offer pretty good iq.
    The user interface is overseen very often. In my case a nice optical viewfinder and a straight forward camera ui is an important factor.

  5. I’m trying the bargain-priced V1 too and it is a delight to operate and yes the color and sharpness are impressive. I’m a fan of SDOF like most but not for everything all the time and this system simply isnt designed for ultimate depth of field control as a priority. Silent 60 frames per second? a huge, standard battery that stays charged forever? standard plugs and a set of simple design decisions? Assets that set it apart.

    I love the fact that Nikon went against the grain of the present contemporary wisdom but Im sure Canon or someone will come along with a camera with an even larger body and smaller sensor soon.

  6. ok, i just do home work recently coz this comparison and the last post, for the last post almost 100% nobody can’t tell what lens or what camera that take the picture, that is the proof of, photography is not about the gear, it’s about the photographer passion … πŸ™‚

    and for another fact is, i will make it simple
    1. first sensor size
    bigger sensor = more expensive
    small sensor = cheaper
    (and till now if there was camera with small sensor and expensive, it would be stand on the store for a looooong time)

    2. aperture
    wide aperture = expensive
    small aperture = cheap

    and now, if small sensor want a shallow DOF, of course it will need the widest aperture, and it’s mean expensive piece of glass right ?

    and for the glass, coz the small sensor, even wide lens, like this nikon 32mm f1.2, it become 85mm lens coz the crop sensor, BUT ! physically is still 32mm and still f1.2 aperture …

    and i found, Wide lens with Wide aperture IS EXPENSIVE !

    so $8xx it’s is worth it ? DAMN RIGHT IT IS !:)

    • sorry “almost 100% nobody can tell what lens or what camera that take the picture”, bad typing πŸ˜€

  7. Hi Steve,

    as my other post from today here… i do really *love* my V1, and especially with my all new 18.5/1.8 lens,
    this combi just feels right, i can take it everywhere, and the IQ is great in RAW, i’ll stay almost into the
    ISO 100-400 range, rarely at ISO 800. For me, it’s really good enough into a way decent small Package,
    this V1. πŸ˜‰


  8. Lowering the price on things that sell bad is not a good advertisement IMHO. Anyhow I think Nikon missed the boat with these camera, and now they are a bit late to overcome a major commercial canard….

    • @Ron. Are you talking about the Nikon V1? If yes, do you have reliable numbers which back up your statement? I mean, I would be interested to know if the V1 was/is selling good or bad.

      As far as I know, the V1 is on sale (which may be stupid IMO) because of the introduction of the V2.

      May be I am wrong, but i thought they sold a lot of V1 kits, despite all these bashings in the internet.

  9. Hi Steve, I echo all positive reviews for Nikon V1. Great camera, perfect for travel. I’d like to see more pictures and possibilities we have with the adapter, e.g. combined with 40mm macro or 85/1.8 Nikkors. A V-forum would be great. Keep up the good work!

  10. Thank you Steve. I love these comparisons.

    Looking forward to your take on the 6.7-13mm too.


  11. I do NOT work for Nikon. I am NOT an Nikon1 evangelist. I DO own and enjoy shooting with other cameras as well, honest!! However, it is nice to see the often misunderstood Nikon1 get some well deserved ‘props’! πŸ™‚

    So here’s another advantage of the system:

    Step 1 – place the 30-110mm (300mm eqiv) lens on the V1
    Step 2 – place the camera in a very small waist-pack
    Step 3 – take the camera (in the pack) to a venue where professional cameras are not permitted


    Now… try mounting a 300mm lens on a full frame camera and try taking that into the venue (sorry, no media passes allowed!)

  12. Just taken delivery on my second 1V1 with 10mm 1:2.8 Lens. Β£186.00 in our money.
    Thanks Steve, but you may well be hearing from my Missus!

    Cheap as chips, I love the V1. Just sold the Nikon DSLR because it never gets used.
    Dont think I can stretch to this lens.

    But…. I have a few old Taylor Hobson 16mm Cine lenses to try out when the adapter arrives.
    Thanks again Steve!

    Interesting to see the results….

    • HI Sir, could you tell me where you got the V1+10mm Bargin from, im about to be heading back soon for a while so wud love to pick one up and also to try my older Konica and M42 lenses with πŸ™‚

  13. Thank you Steve, your crazy comparisons are always fun and entertaining. Keep it up.

    Just one thing i was wondering about, is what happens to Debbies thumb ring (first photo). The thumb is not that much out of the focus plane, but it is heavily blurred. I may be wrong, but it looks much like heavy curvature of field. The Leica M picture seems also to suffer from stray light. The IQ of the V1 picture looks way better to me.

    What lens did you use? As far as i know, there is no 85mm Leica lens. Could it be that the quality of the lens used on the M is not on par with the Nikkor?

  14. Steve, nice to see this fun comparison. One query. I’m puzzled by your statement “For the 1st two images below I used right from camera RAW images without any modification.” Any RAW image needs to processed / have settings applied in camera (like Nikon Picture Control) to make it usable, right? So are you saying you applied your standard portrait processing equally to each image? Or standard settings for each camera in LR / other software? Or?

  15. Thanks for another great post, Steve!

    Been pondering whether to bring my V1 and/or my 60D to Vietnam in September. It’s now decided; the V1 it is. Got the 10 and the 18.5mm and plan to pick up a normal zoom in Bangkok on my way there. Got the impression that primes are your passion, but if you’d do something on the 10-30mm vs the 11-27.5mm, it’d be much appreciated!

  16. Interesting comparison, especially as I have both a V1 and a M9. As illustrated here and elsewhere, the 32mm delivers, even if I would not call it a bargain. I’m also curious to see how the whole system will evolve.

    Curious about which 85mm Nikkor you used on the M: an F mount 85mm with adapter (and live focusing) or an old LTM one?

    A ZM 85mm f/4 or a 90mm Summarit would probably have been more relevant in a Nikon 1 vs M comparison, but I guess you used what you had available.

  17. In the first Debbie series the V1 wins because its depth of field is correct and allows all of her face to be in focus and the background to blur out. This is how a portrait should be.
    In the Leica pic parts of her face blur, her eyes and so on and this is wrong for portrait.
    The whole face must be in focus for a good portrait or model shot and the V1 wins here because of that.
    Also the color and WB and exposure are much better on the V1 too.
    The V1 is amazing.
    What will the V3 be able to do?
    I think 4k video.

  18. Great comparison showing that even smaller sensors are very capable and that great glass makes a lot of difference. My conclusion, we should pick a system we like and stick with it and buy the best glass there is rather than constantly chasing the latest and greatest of new camera bodies. By the way, in the shot with the tree the plane of focus is closer to the M sensor than to the V1 as can easily bee seen in the tree leaves. And this is why the tree trunk is more oof in the pic taken with the M. Therefore, I would question your general conclusion that the M with a 85mm @f4 gives shallower dof than the V1 with the 32mm @f1.2.

  19. OK, this is a ‘crazy theory’ but hey, this is the home of ‘crazy comparisons’, so crazy theories should be allowed right? πŸ™‚

    Typically, when we think of DoF, we consider that the focus point should be sharp… and that objects further away from the focus point (regardless of direction) should be less sharp / less in focus, right?

    However… I’ve heard that this isn’t quite always the case with Leica lenses… that somehow Leica engineers their lenses so that a point 1cm toward the top left of the focus point could still be in good focus, while an object 1cm toward the bottom right (for example) of the focus point would be in less focus (despite being the same distance from the lens and focus point!)… if you know what I mean. It’s this engineering which give many Leica lenses a distinctive look. Told you it would sound crazy!!!! πŸ™‚

    But I’d like to draw your attention if I may to the image with the tree. The tree trunk in the Leica shot is obviously less in focus than the one in the Nikon shot. Yet… look at the green leaves in the top left of the frames… clearly in less focus on the Nikkor lens. Also, look at the two lowest hanging green twigs hanging in the centre of the frame. Both are relatively sharp in the Leica shot, but on the Nikkor the further away twig has more bokeh.

    Proof of different ‘bokeh zones?’ Or am I in fact crazy??

    P.S. more on this can be found on Bjorn Utpott’s blog BMUPIX (I recall he experienced this phenomenon quite some time back while testing various Leica lenses on his NEX-7).

    • Hi Steve – I think the different design of lenses to have a ‘fixed focal plane’ or a ‘curved focal plane’ is what I was trying to indicate… but I missed that the 85mm you were using was a Nikkor and I think that would be ‘fixed’, not ‘curved’ (as many Leica and Zeiss are??) – so you can you delete/disregard my silly comment above. πŸ™‚ Thx!

  20. Hi Steve
    Very good test and very interesting, please keep challenging this totally underestimated camera and its lenses. For I must say I am also surprised at the results I get home with my Nikon 1 V1 and 18.5 mm.f.1.8 lens (unfortunately I do not own the 32mm.f.1.2-lens) …..

  21. Hello Steve in the first picture of Debby i can see the differences but what is the one that is the winner i mean the most closest to our eyes see ( colors).
    And in the bonus comparison I think the sony rx1r is more natural and the Nikon has a more shallow DOF yes but the colors are more saturated or what do you think?

  22. Hi Steve!
    That’s a fun comparison! As for me I’m a Leica freak! I used one of the smaller Nikon PnS with the swivel lens (long time ago). I can’t be bothered to learn how these new cameras function which buttons to press or menu option, give me any Leica M camera these days. Auto Focus does get on my nerves now. Grumpily Stewart

  23. I think you’ve made your point Steve, and it’s one worth remembering … most of today’s cameras from today’s trusted brands are fantastic and if you make a bad picture, it’s only the photog that is to blame – NOT the camera. So there you go … get out there and pick your favorite gear and keep making fantastic pictures!!!

  24. Steve, with all the people going out and getting a V1 – due to your wonderful coverage and the great deals you found us. Perhaps a special discussion group or maybe an intro guide to the V1?

    While a lot of people here may be professionals or enthusiasts stepping down to the V1, there are probably a lot of people who are also stepping up to the V1 from the point and shoot domain. This camera has capabilities that are just plain different compared to either world – shoot first, movie at the same time mode – burst mode – choose your favorite – much more beyond the standard AE Priority mode or full auto mode that most people are accustomed.

    I know you said no more V1 talk until your review of the 6.7 – 13.5 – but some of us actually want more!

    – Roger

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