Leica M: Back to CCD? Well, if you want it..then who knows?

Leica M: Back to CCD? Well, if you want it..then who knows?


While I personally love what Leica did with the M 240, and its sensor, and feel it is a huge step forward for the M series in every single way, even the sensor, there are still those who swear by the Leica M CCD sensor, such as the one in the M9 and M-E. While it is a crippled sensor in anything but base ISO compared to what can be done with the new CMOS sensor in the 240, there is a different look to it, a snap, that some miss with the M 240. Kind of like slide film vs print film with the M9 being the slide film 🙂

The M 240 sensor is more like the other sensors of today from Canon, Sony, etc while the old CCD M9 sensor is unique and in a class by itself as it offers a rendering unlike other cameras of today (at base ISO) which is why many miss the snap, crackle and pop they are getting with the M 240.

Peter from Photographs By Peter (Prosophos) has been trying to get a petition signed by as many CCD sensor fans as possible, and today he has over 400 of them. I have not posted to his petition in the past as I am one who does not want Leica to go back to CCD, not at all. I am one of the many who prefer the CMOS 240 sensor over the M9 sensor for color, for DR for higher ISO and for, well, everything. I prefer the IQ from the M 240 without question and I have spent three years with the M8, three with the M9 and 2+ with the 240, but we all have different tastes.

To those hardcore CCD lovers who prefer the difference of the CCD, check out Peter’s petition and if you want Leica to go back to CCD or create a new M with CCD in addition to a CMOS version, then go sign his petition! I have not signed it and will not but hey, I am just me and if more want CCD than not, who am I to stop the movement!

You can read what HE has to say and sign for his cause HERE. 🙂 


  1. I hope they never ditch the RF, why wish it? Just hope for the version you like. Keep RF, upgrade the CCD, Kodak has a 39MP now and bigger. Oh, I’m in the M9 CCD camp.
    For all the comments on RF calibration, last year bought a used M9-P from Germany, and a new Summilux 50mm and it is deadly sharp with bite. Everyone is stunned by the magic of the photos and sharpness of the lens. Best comment was “this lens takes better shots than the human eye can see”. “Oldtimer” is a funny term. Bought an Sony RX10 the first day it released (I live in Japan) and RX1R first day. Sold the RX10, kept the RX1R. RX1R takes some beautiful shots, but the magic is with the M9-P.

    • Until your RF drifts, and it will. Believe me, it will if it hasn’t already. Send them in now for a match up calibration and you will have 25% more magic 🙂

  2. Late to the party here ….

    Just having a look at some speculation about the new M for 2016, as posted on LaVidaLeica, and it left me somewhat horrified. No optical rangefinder ? Fly-by-wire rangefinder emulation in the EVF ? No thanks.

    Got me thinking about what I would do if I was head of product development, and allowed to decide on the next generation of M cameras, and do it in a way that would keep the existing Leica faithful happy, as well as attracting new converts.

    I think its fair to say that the M concept is already refined in terms of the size and feel and controls of the camera, and the wealth of lenses available. Therefore any future evolution of the M system is likely to be in the realm of sensor technologies.

    Here is a my little wish list of specs and requirements for the Ultimate Digital M model camera, purely from an ‘anything is possible’ perspective :

    1) Cost – dont care. Just build the best tool for the job, without adding anything frivolous, and let the market work it out.

    2) Optical Rangefinder with mechanical coupling to the lens. Not negotiable.

    3) M-mount lens. Not negotiable.

    4) Wireless Connectivity. Completely wireless, no USB cables. Transfer files wirelessly, adjust camera settings wirelessly from a laptop or smartphone.

    5) Dont need an LCD. Make the camera smaller, lighter, cheaper …. get rid of the LCD and just have a single ISO dial on the back. Its a camera, not a Nintendo. Use the (wirelessly connected) smartphone as the control panel or liveview panel for the camera for those that want it. Leica can then easily upgrade the ‘control app’ to do all sorts of cool things and add new buttons in the future, without having to re-engineer the camera body at all.

    6) Make the camera body totally battleproof and weatherproof, especially the baseplate. No LCD, no USB port – should be easier to battleproof the body.

    7) Interchangable sensor module. When you take off the baseplate, this provides access to the sensor module. Encased in tough plastic (or metal), the sensor module slots into the camera from underneath, and is securely locked in place with a screw just like the baseplate. A true digital evolution of the original 35mm film camera, with interchangeable full frame sensors !!!

    Sensor modules that could be available from day 1:
    – 18MP CCD
    – 24MP CMOS
    – 18MP CCD Monochrome
    – 24MP CMOS Monochrome

    Possible future and application specific sensor modules :
    – Larger number of megapixels
    – Adjustable wavelength sensor (infrared, thermal, etc)
    – Super long exposure sensor
    – HDR / other specific effects sensor

    Regardless of the pricing of the sensor modules, I think it would be an easier sell than convincing the consumer to buy several bodies for different purposes.

    Would be lovely have an M-P equivalent camera that can be quickly converted into a CCD based Monochrom in the field. I would pay good money for the convenience of that – REALLY good money.

    Ideally, I would open source the specs for the interchangeable sensor, and encourage other manufacturers to put in their 2c worth of design and requirements, and adopt it as an industry standard.

    This should solve the whole CCD / CMOS dilemma once and for all 🙂

    • I hope they ditch the RF once and for all. I used to feel differently but am so tired of M after M going out of alignment making it useless until you send it in for calibration. I have used so many M’s that are owned by others and 9 out of 10 were off and the owner never realized it as they thought the slight softness was normal (when it was really OOF slightly) – finding an M that is spot on, giving the deadly Leica sharpness and bite is rare, and it’s a huge issue for Leica as all they do these days is repair and calibrate RF’s. They want that to stop, so if they can do a fantastic EVF it would be much preferred by myself for sure and probably a new gen of Leica users. The old timers and hardcore M shooters will hate it but I am sure Leica would still offer a RF version. Give me a fantastic huge EVF in the next M and I would be thrilled.

  3. i just love taking photos. I mainly shoot street. I shoot B&W… still using an M6. But it’s not a film-friendly world out there. I have sat on the sideline of the ‘Film versus Digital’ debate over the past 20 years and have for all those years been waiting for something that matches the magical equation: Leica + Tri-x + decisive moment = GOLD.
    I tried a Fuji x100, but its ‘focus by wire’ sick joke was not the answer. You got to feel that shit. So little is understood by the concept of ‘feeling’ the instrument you use. Just ask a Sax player.
    And this ‘live view’, ‘screen’ gobblydigook makes no sense to me. Why would you look at a photo you just took and then miss one you never saw? Surely you know when you hit the shutter what you got. Are we so unsure of ourselves in this new digital world that we don’t actually trust our own experience?
    So this CCD / CMOS furore is really interesting… Yet confusing.
    Please, could someone tell me when I can shoot proper black and white again and I will happily buy the body that my lifetime collection of Leitz glass deserves.
    My dilemma is- buy a (relatively) cheap 2nd hand Monochrom, or splurge on the new MM. Or perhaps just grab an M-E at a decent price on ebay and learn how to do post?… ah BRAIN OVERLOAD! HELP.

  4. To continue the debate, some may find this comparison interesting.


    If there is a “flaw” in this presentation, and assuming one believes it to be a flaw, it would be that the writer has attempted to make each image look as alike as possible with some judicious use of LR. What we are not seeing, then, is the OOC images with which to directly compare the native image from the CCD and CMOS sensor.

    In Part 2 of the author’s test, we are presented with single images with no pairs to directly compare.


    What is interesting regarding the results of Part 1 is that opinion is running at around 50/50, but we are not told if some observers consistently score highly, indicating that they really can discern a difference.

  5. What do you mean “go back to CCD”? Leica never left CCD… they offer two current M models… one with a CCD and on with a CMOS. Logically they will probably keep producing two M bodies with the different censors.

  6. It seems many don’t realize it isn’t the sensor, but the CFA that holds the difference.

    • The specific formulation of the detector changes spectral response, ie trace elements added to the silicon. Kodak started adding Indium Tin Oxide to their detectors to improve sensitivity in the blue region, and decrease IR sensitivity. This is independent of the dye used in the color mosaic filter.

  7. Ashwin summed up the pluses and minuses for the M9 vs M240 quite well. The High-ISO banding problems need to be corrected for the next generation of Leica M before it can compete with offerings from Nikon, Canon, and Sony. The uniformity of Leica M8 images pushed to ISO5000 using Raw mode is better than the M240 at ISO3200 from sample images posted. The M-Mount is not easy to work with because of the short flange distance, and non-retrofocus wide-angle lenses are a sensor designer’s nightmare. Hopefully the next generation of Back-Side Illuminated CMOS sensors will solve a lot of the design problems encountered with the M240.

  8. Despite what people who love the new M say about it having more DR better ISO colour etc the M9 files at low ISO just pop compared to the new M (Fact) I got a new Leica T for colour as didn’t want to spend that much on a camera that’s not any better than the rest of the crowd. For black & white I use my monochrome.

  9. I’d like to contribute from the perspective of a poor non-leica user. Several years ago I took some very satisfactory images using a Nikon D200 with its CCD sensor providing I didn’t creep above Iso 160!
    In good lighting the results were excellent for the time and I much prefer them to my current D7000 and its CMOS sensor which can be cranked up but lacks the same effect at Iso100.

    • I also have a D200 and if I stay at base ISO it still betters any of my CMOS cameras. Yes at higher ISO the CMOS outdoes CCD. But, if you’re willing to shoot at low ISO, then CCD still looks best to my eyes. So, there is a compromise. When I was using Kodachrome it was always 25 ASA, not 64. So, for me 160 with the D200 is like high ISO for most of my work. Even though CMOS allows higher ISO, it is not the best quality at the higher ISO. But an acceptable compromise, not unlike using high speed film. Remembering that high-ISO noise and film grain are not comparable. The only exception that I’ve seen in a CMOS based camera is the DP Sigma Merrill, but that camera is ISO limited. However the Merrill has other things going for it, a precision shimmed and hand fitted lens and a nearly vibrationless shutter, much like a Rolleiflex or Hexar AF; so there’s more than just the sensor.

  10. If you look at the other systems that made the CCD-CMOS transition, the first generation afterwards was always contentious, (Nikon D200->D300, anybody?) but that gave way with subsequent iterations. The difference is that Leica doesn’t iterate that often.

    There’s no denying that CCD has its appeal. The problem is two-fold. The first is that if CCD was a big enough determinant, ME sales would be stronger relative to M240 sales, but something tells me that they aren’t. In other words, the current sales by themselves don’t give enough support for a business case.

    The second problem is that it’s not a question of “if” CCD is possible, but “who” will do it. Who among the chip fabbers could produce (or is producing) a suitable competitive CCD chip? Even if you accept that a CCD sensor will not have the DR or noise characteristics of a CMOS sensor, it has to keep within reach of what the best chips (D810, A7) are doing in order to justify the cost of a Leica system.

    • I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t think picture quality is ultimately the driving force behind camera sales. Nobody cared or noticed until recently that the AA filter was blurring the images from their expensive lenses. There’s more than the sensor to consider.

      • Walter, an interesting observation.

        Since I got my first digital camera around 12 years ago, I’ve always known that digital images needed to be sharpened. I got this info from reading magazines, but I couldn’t find an explanation as to why. I assumed it was simply an inherent characteristic of sensors in general. And now it seems there could have been no real reason why we couldn’t have had sensors without the AA filter. Was it simply that back then moire really was the worst of two evils, hence the AA filter?

        I don’t know anyone who has an AA filter-less camera so I’ve not been able to compare an original with one of my sharpened images, but judging by the best of my images needing sharpening hasn’t left me feeling deprived.

  11. It’s is difficult for me to put my finger on why I like the images that come from my M8.2 and Monochrome better than the ones that comes from CMOS cameras. I simply like them best… I found them to be gorgeous and richer. That’s why I bought the Monochrom… It will be, perhaps, the last CCD camera ever made by Leica. Moreover, with the Monochrom, high ISO is not a limitation anymore on a CCD sensor, unlike it is on the M8.2 or M9… So it’s kind of a future proof camera if your thing is B&W

  12. As someone firmly committed to Leica rangefinders, I have the M9, the M-P (240) and the MP (analog). I like the handling of a rangefinder, so that’s my choice; no one else makes one either – which is why I’ve always absolutely hated debates about ‘why isn’t Leica more like my Canon 5d’,etc. It’s not a DSLR – it’s a rangefinder. Case closed. As for sensor/capture, because I use all three I can appreciate them. The 240 may have more DR, etc., but I do find I have to shoot it completely different even at the most basic levels of exposure + post (which I hate doing; I have an issue when people suggest fiddling forever and ever in LR as a necessity to making files ‘come alive’). Blown highlights too – but I’m still getting used to it so admit my shortcomings. In the end, my workflow between film and digital was more seamless with the M9…it was a ‘digital film M’ as it were. Is that an endorsement? Perhaps. My only real love of the 240 is the shutter and the faster buffer. The better screen was necessary for live view, but I’ve never understood this obsession with having the latest hi-res screen on the back of a camera.

    I’ve also had award-winning commercial work published – in some cases 4 feet tall on the long edge – with the M9 at ISO2500. So the mythology that M9 files are ‘just dead after ISO 800 or so’ is total nonsense. We can debate this one forever for all the internet trolls out there so good luck, but the ‘proof’ isn’t in looking at a monitor at 200%, it’s in published work. If I was 100% committed to black and white, I’d dump the 240 for the MM. CCD with highly useable ISO up to 10,000 – that’s fine by me. If you can’t take pictures with that range, and actually believe it’s a necessity to have huge ISO, you don’t know how to use your equipment. Leicas will always be cameras that don’t hand anything on a platter to you – that infuriates some people and rewards others. On principle, I don’t want them to ever produce an M with scene modes, smile detection mode, etc.

  13. I prefer the CMOS sensor over the CCD sensor. The colors (including skin tones) look pale and washed-out with the CCD. Colors from the CMOS sensor look richer. Orange-ish skin tones are no longer an issue with the M240 CMOS.

    In either case, I think there’s way too much emphasis on technological advances. I suppose it’s necessary to continue advancing the technology in order to keep up with the competition. But, ironically, with all the technological advances, there’s way too much bad photography out there these days. I keep going back to the old photography masters during the day of grainy black and white film. Composition was virtually everything. Give me the old masters (and a few of the modern-day ones) over cutting-edge technology.

  14. I also have used the M9 and M type 240 side by side for months. In the end overall I prefer the new M.
    One poster said the new M blows highlights faster. My finding is yes, the new M needs to be exposed a little less than the M9 but overall the DR is higher.
    Sometimes the M9 sensor shines, but sometimes in certain light it produces less convincing color. The new M seems to be a more solid performer in all kinds of light.

  15. They should do a limited edition run like the Hermes edition and such. $50,000 for one. Buy two and you get a Mandler edition 50mm Summilux for free!

  16. 24MP CCD sensor, M240 buffer, RF window, shutter sound, battery, lcd screen. Make it in a MP (film) body size and slim it by 100 grams. This is all I want from Solms. My trusty M9 goes into its sixth year and the M240 sits in the closet as I prefer the CCD files by quite a margin. It`s not about better or worse, but about preferences. And as far as Sony A sensors are concerned, they maybe as “perfect” as a Nissan GT-R but I prefer the character of a Morgan Plus 8 (to use a car analogy).

  17. Why not create a sensor that you can “flip” or “switch” modes, have a CCD mode or an CMOS mode. I am talking like a Pentax K-3 where you can switch the anti-aliasing filter to either on or off but with this new sensor, switch between CCD and CMOS mode. Not two sensors to embed but, you know, something that you can change channels or whatever in the sensor to simulate such modes.

    I think it is a great idea and oh! I could patent that! Hhmm.. 😉

  18. This issue is a legitimate one. Many photographers, independently, have reached the same conclusion as Peter. I signed the petition simply because I prefer variety than homogeneity. Who says photography has to be boring to be lucrative?

    There are, in my rough estimation, fewer camera systems widely used today than in 1960. In fact, that would be an interesting idea for a research project.

    Anyway, I appreciate that Steve is happy to host debates about things, even if he strongly disagrees with the POV opposing his. He doesn’t shoot film AFAIK, but he doesn’t dismiss those who do. He is doing a much better job than a lot of science journals are doing about some topics. So: thanks, Steve!

  19. I must say honestly I prefer the look of the CCD sensors as against their CMOS alternatives. I however am willing to concede that the CMOS sensor in the M240 is allowing Leica to be in the game with modern cameras so to speak.

    However Leica is a niche market product appealing to a very small group of enthusiasts worldwide-so it might be an idea to pursue a different approach. I would love to see a Leica for example with a Foveon sensor !
    The Sigma DP range of cameras blow away the opposition in terms of image quality -so maybe Leica need to be outside the pack to be competitive -though the PP of the DP cameras seems to be a hassle -so a lot of things need to be sorted out first before a Foveon equipped Leica could be a possibility.

    I would buy one for sure if it were possible -Leica need to be totally different than the pack -that is something they need to realize.

  20. Goodness sakes just get a camera from 10-14 years ago.
    They were all CCD and give the “unique” look of the M9

    • Kodak SLR c / SLR n CCD Full Frame 2004
      Almost Identical look to M9 perhaps even slightly more “unique” than the M9
      as its CCD is three generations older.

  21. Coming from the world of photographing weddings with the M and M9 since last year, I ended up selling the M9 for the practicality of having access to a Live View, EVF (for the R lenses that I prefer), and a better ISO.

    Besides the bugs in the firmware of random lockups (admittedly this is rare with the latest firmware), I am definitely on the M bandwagon, so much so that I bought a second body to replace the M9. Certainly the M9 renders photographs beautifully, and theres a sense of noir when coupled with the exotic lenses, but shooting fast pace with two different bodies wasn’t working.

    The DNG files that come out of the M have a very peculiar range of tones and yes I’ve had to adjust my post processing to accommodate for this, but I find that it just hits the spot with the available range VS the M9 VS the Nikon D3s I cane from.

    So keep the CMOS, and continue to research & advance the technology in the body!

  22. What I find interesting is that the first CMOS sensors had poor imaging quality and started life in cheap compact cameras. In those days, for quality, it was CCD all the way.

    The CMOS was subject to being refined over years and its inherent advantage for live view and video and lower noise, won out, eventually. Unfortunately, CCD wasn’t subject to the same degree of development over the same period and so, apart from the example quoted above for astro photograpy, all we can compare today is older generation CCD sensors versus the latest CMOS.

    In some ways, this story is similar to the valve (tube) v semiconductor (transisitor) audio story. Many consider Class A valve amplifiers superior to their tranny competitors. Fortunately, listeners are able to compare MODERN Class A designs to a modern transistor design with, usually, the Class A amp winning out on pure sound. There are compromises, obviously, such as power delivery, weight/size, compared to the comparable transistor amp, but these arguments don’t apply to camera sensors.

    So, how would a modern CCD sensor compare to the latest CMOS in terms of pure image quality? For this one may have to forget video/live view and low noise at high ISO’s, but as has been said here, lots of photographers have no need of these. Should the CCD prove superior in this area, how many would drop their CMOS based cameras for CCD? Just a thought.

    • The analogy is flawed – ask a hundred guitarists and at least 99 will tell you they prefer the tube amp over the newer/cheaper ‘solid state’ tech.

      • The “Tube” amp in this case would be CMOS…Solid State, CCD. I have a Tube Guitar amp (Two Rock Studio Pro) and i have had manny solid state amps…I prefer Tube for guitar but that is nothing like sensors. Not a good comparison. 🙂 The CMOS is more “organic” and the CCD, IMO, a bit more “HARD”…

        • Steve, for my analogy I was simply using the time line of audio development; first came the valve/tube designs followed by semiconductor designs in the 1960’s. Hence the valve being the CCD and solid state the CMOS. This analogy has nothing to do with how each type of sensor performs. And my reference was that many, as have posted here, have a preference for the earlier CCD technology, just as many audiophiles prefer pure Class A valve technology rather than the later semiconductor designs.

          The big question, and unknown, is how would a truly modern CCD fare put up against the latest CMOS designs? This is something we all don’t know. And this was the whole point of my analogy. Just as valve development virtually stopped when viable semiconductor hi-fi became available en masse, so did development of CCD design. And please don’t confuse valve development with valve amp designs. Virtually all modern valve amps still use classic valves of the past such as KT66 or KT88 and any number of great valves that came from the US. Modern valve amps take advantage of improvements in other areas of the circuit to get improved performance, but they still use old valve designs.

      • Luanero, You are right. But, TerryB wrote favorably for tubes, so I don’t think he would be disagreeing. I think he’s on your side.

  23. Which camera has been more successful in terms of cameras sold, if it’s the M240 with no sensor problems I can’t see them going back.

    We as the consumers check what the experts say about new cameras, Steve Huff, Ming Thein, Kristian Dowling, and of course Thorsten Overgaard have all given great reviews on M240 and although not without some faults have given the thumbs up over the M9.

    I liked the CCD look but really it was a one hit wonder wide open bokeh shots.

  24. I’m one who prefers the CCD look at base. The CCD pixel only has one job to do, collect light, the conversion of analog to digital happens off chip. CCD pixels actually collect more light and dynamic range then CMOS at a bass level. CMOS sensors convert to digital on chip. CCD advantages, better low light at the pixel level!! that will surprise many, CCD do loose some data integrity when transferring to off chip, it uses more power also and there is a slight time lag and its takes up more space. CMOS losses less data during transfer, uses less power and allows almost live view. But at the base level the pixels collect less light data. Fewer larger pixels negate that to some extent. The real CMOS power comes from the signal boost development. Phone companies want power efficiency and size over quality, the signal power boosting development has really pushed ISO levels. In the medical industry where size and power (mains) mean less CCD still rules for its supirior dynamic range. Very recently some of the boosting tech from CMOS is being allied to CCD. Theoretically it should mean superior images to CMOS, however 4,5K video is now where the developments at. Leica is the company who might over both, some of the body can be the same, but the interior space would be used differently, CMOS takes less space then seperate processors. One problem though is Leica have stated they want to produce all of the camera in Europe, the money is in CMOS for phones I don’t think any European companies develop CCD, they do in the US but thats not Europe.

  25. if you like that modern undistinguishable look you can buy a sony or any other camera with that cmos sensor. costs much less and is the even better sensor (in this category).

  26. it cracks me up when people are so convinced a CCD is better, given the number of comments you can find from the time the M9 was introduced about its poor colour and WB (exactly the complaints about the M of course)… Nothing like a bit of history repeating 😉

    Personally, I’m still very happy with my M Typ 240 and I remain of the view it’s an upgrade in every way from my old M9.

    I don’t begrudge Peter his petition, but I think it would be a retrograde step for Leica to move back to CCD. For the next M, personally, I would love to see a lower megapixel body with a CMOS sensor similar to that in the Nikon Df and a high MP sensor of 24mp+ as options. Alternatively a Foveon M would be very interesting.

    • Peter is not suggesting that Leica should “move back” to the CCD. He is suggesting, effectively, that the next M-E, if we will call it that, should have an improved CCD in it (and of course the shutter and LCD from the M240).

      • Yes I am aware of this…which is why I said my opinion is that I feel if they did, it would be a special edition not a full production camera.

  27. My Olympus E-1, circa 2004, had a Kodak CCD. I was looking through a lot of images from that camera recently and was struck by the differences I saw compared to my current µ4/3 Olympus E-P5. I must agree that the rendering is different and that believe I prefer the CCD look.

    I completely understand those who prefer the CCD look. CMOS and CCD are different. No winner, no loser, just different. We all have our own tastes.

  28. Leica is a company serving a niche customer base .
    If there is enough demand for a next generation CCD sensor M that would deliver significant improvement over the M-E , they will produce it .
    At the very least , they will offer the M-E as long as their are buyers .

  29. I’m with Peter. I like many of the technological improvements of the M240 – faster processor, smoother shutter release, better high ISO performance, accurate LCD, etc. Unfortunately after 2 years shooting with the M240 I still have issues with the files. I finally addressed the wonky skin tones by creating a custom camera profile using the X-Rite Passport, but IMHO the files lack the “wow” that the M9 files have.

    I think you comparison to “slide film vs. print film” sums it up nicely. I also liked Peter’s comments about “simplicity and quality.” It will be interesting to see what others think. Thanks for writing about it.

    • Back in the day when it was slide vs negative, most people wanted slide for the colours – especially Velvia. I use film Leica’s but am looking at a digital between the M9 and M240. I prefer the look of the M9 images, the M240 looks like my Canon 5D3 without the incredible high ISO (I shoot a lot of night street work, so like the high ISO ability). I keep coming back to an M9 as I just prefer the final images, even though it is very limited in the ISO department.

  30. Fundamentally speaking, there is no difference between CCD and CMOS technology, because the only difference here is that CMOS allows for the integration of more electronic elements on the semiconductor, which aid in signal collection and reducing noise, whereas CCD is simpler. CCD color fidelity might be slightly better, but that isn’t what I’m seeing in a Leica M9 image, which has far stronger contrast compared the flatter images I get with CMOS cameras.

    What does that tell you? The CCD sensor used in the Leica M9 wasn’t designed for absolute dynamic range. Either Leica opted for a very thick color filter that meant that the CCD gets less light than it should have, which is unlikely because a thick color filter would affect the overall MTF, or the sensor is just old inferior tech because Leica couldn’t afford the best.

    So I don’t get why people insist on the “CCD look”. What you are asking for is for old inferior technology. Is that what you want?

  31. …but then on the other hand, the Monochrome was a wild & crazy thing no one anticipated from Leica.

  32. I like both! M240 and M-E are all good. However I would like Leica to produce a digital-film camera using CCD. What do I mean is to produce a Leica IIIf like camera using CCD without light meter, everything manually controlled together with a collapsible lens with small form factor as IIIf. The NOT so good ISO like M-E allow me to push it to its limit to produce film like photos. That is what I am looking for.

  33. Anyone knows of someone who made side by side comparison of the two?
    Same lighting conditions, same scene, same lens, etc…

  34. I definitely don’t think Leica should go back to using only CCD sensors in their M cameras. With the M240, they have a camera that will sell to people, that potentially wouldn’t otherwise consider a Leica rangefinder.

    By the same token though, I wouldn’t want Leica to stop producing an M with a CCD sensor. I owned an M240 for a few months, before going back to a two M9 setup. I personally don’t use my Leica’s in a way that I would benefit from a slight improvement in ISO capabilities and I do prefer the crisper rendering of the M9 files at base ISO. I also prefer the colour tonesof the M9, particularly for rendering skin.

    Of course this is just a personal preference, but it is also why I think Leica need to keep both CMOS and CCD offerings alive if they can.

  35. Dear Steve, thank you for your candid and objective reportage. As a fan of the blind taste test it would be interesting were a couple of visual examples able to be consumer tested. I’m intrigued to understand if color, DR, and IQ are all superior in the 240 CMOS then what else is there for the M9 CCD to better? From my own vastly inferior POV, I have to agree with Peter in that currently I have a Panasonic m43 CMOS sensor failing to match the IQ of its significantly tinier and older 1/1.8 CCD sibling. Thanks again, as ever, for your great offerings.

    • Further to my last, a big fat apology to you, your viewers, and Panasonic – please disregard… the m43 CMOS stomps all over the 1/1.8 CCD…. V sorry :-$

  36. Great post Steve. It seems that the CCD/CMOS debate is the modern version of the film/digital debate.

    I think there’s room and advantages for both. For example, Fuji’s new CMOS sensor X-cameras are great — but I prefer the look of the older CCD based S2, S3, and S5 Pro. Admittantly, the CCD’s of these cameras are not the typical CCD sensor (the only sensor ever made to my knowledge specifically designed to duplicate not only the ‘look’, but the light gathering characteristics of their real film). As a result, the S5 Pro’s color rendition AND dynamic range are superior to any current CMOS censor based Canon, Nikon, Sony — or Fuji (!). And I prefer the natural grain-like (and easily removable) noise pattern of CCD’s at higher ISO’s (i.e. 1600-3200) to the watercolor look of some of the modern sensors.

    On the other hand, the CMOS sensor in cameras like the A7S are literally the 8th wonder of the camera world. While I would describe the CCD look as more soulful, CMOS sensors create a more elegant image (this is obviously subjective on my part).

    By the way, Check out Thorsten Overgaard’s photos from his CCD based Leica Digilux 2. There’s a portrait of his wife that he states that the viewer would think was from a medium format camera if you didn’t already know it was from a 5 megapixel CCD based Leica (ironically, this is the same sensor found in Sony’s equally amazing 707/717 cameras.

    CCD. CMOS. So many great choices — it’s great to be a photographer in 2015.

  37. The M9 is fantastic but a brand new CCD would be wonderful. The advancement of CCD tech might have advanced much slower than CCD but it has advanced especially from a CCD that is 9 years old now. Surely we could get a camera with a stop or two better iso, dynamic range, and increased megapixels even if it’s CCD.

  38. What can I say about individual tastes?
    But believe me. If you take DNG for DNG the M (Typ 240) is better. If you profile the camera then it is, colourwise, nearly the same with the M9.
    Apart from that, the LV of the M gives you a huge comparative advantage, on the field and in the studio. The only CCD that makes the real difference for the lovers of the melancholic muted colours like myself is the M8.
    The M8, despite its drawbacks and its 1.33 crop factor, is the queen of the muted colours and an exceptional camera for b&w conversion.
    If you are deeply in post processing then the M (Typ 240) and its CMOS sensor is unbeatable.
    I do believe that every Leica photographer should be in the post-processing, otherwise why should pay this kind of money for a Leica M and the pertinent lenses?
    Quite so many, still say that the M8 is the filmiest digital camera ever. If somebody whishes to make use of the excellent options offered to the Leica Photographer by means of a top RAW converter and film simulation PS plug-ins like the Exposure 7, DXO Film Pack and Nik, I think that little remains to be desired from either M8 / M9 and M (Typ 240).
    Digital Leica Ms, Monochrom included, are long term tools with a vast capacity, especially for the street and art photographer. Therefore somebody should get the maximum out of them and this takes a serious post-processing workflow.
    Best regards,
    Dimitris V. Georgopoulos
    Photographer at Large
    Athens, Greece

    • I disagree. Sensor differences can usually be made up in post, while lens differences usually cannot.

      The Monochrom is also something entirely different, and while it would be a waste to use its files OOC, post processing is extremely easy once you know what look you are after. Strong B&W image results from the MM take far less work in post than with any other digital camera I’ve ever used, including the M8 (which is also exceptional).

  39. I’ve never used a Leica, but I prefer the “old” sensor on the original Fuji X100 to the new X-Trans sensor on the new ones, so I can relate.

    • I agree , it’s much nicer ! Shame the x100 is not as capable handling wise of its new models . If fuji released at x100T , Fuji XT1 or XPro ii with a CMOS sensor I’d buy one in a heart beat !

  40. I’ve shot the M240 and M-E side by side at the same time, with the same lens (Summicron 35 Asph) at the same subject. I’m with Peter, Ashwin etc. I much prefer the CCD sensor and it was an eye opener for me. I was expecting the M240 to be better. The most striking difference was the CCD’s ability to recover highlights, which is much better than the M240’s CMOS sensor. I guess that I’m influenced by my preference to shoot film and not loose highlight detail. A slight tangent here, but CMOS and CCD to a lesser extent cannot capture extreme highlights but blows to white unlike negative film. Your recent Sony zoom lens review shows that, many images with the sun in it just show a flat white blob.
    The M240 is better at high ISOs, but, that is not how I shoot and it is still much worse than the top end Japanese cameras. If I wanted high ISOs and loss-less compression then I would pick a D4/D750 etc, not an M240.
    I prefer the M240’s shutter sound, and rear screen but that’s it. Funny thing, the 920K rear screen still does not come close to the current leaders. And the sound of the shutter and the screen does not matter with regards to the final output.

    Each to their own.

    • I will say that if you think there is more DR in the M9 sensor you are not using or processing the M 240 files correctly. The M 240 has greater DR and color fidelity over the M9 sensor. This is without question or doubt. I have posted a few side by sides, one blind and it was a 50/50 split on which file was which… no one knew. The fact is, the M 240 CAN look like the M9 files if you want them to, but the M 240 files are so much richer and easier to work with. Better color as well. Id say 90% of those who went to the M prefer the M. Those who never did try the M, well, they prefer the M9 as they never really tried the M 240. It takes WEEKS of shooting and processing the M 240 before you can get the hang of it, much different workflow than the M9 and that was most people mistakes when processing the M 240 files. With all of that said, Sony sensors beat them all today anyway. The A7 series can outdo the Leica M or M9 for IQ.

      • Interesting. But the proof, for me, is the result of my test. I have no vested interest in the outcome of the result. I shot both side by side and the CCD sensor clearly has more highlight recovery than the M240 CMOS.
        I posted the results on rangefinderforum and I think everyone there preferred the CCD results.
        Sony sensors beating the CCD? For high ISO yes, but the CCD and CMOS in the M240 do not show sensor reflections that the A7 series do. You can see that in your recent Sony zoom lens test and pretty much anywhere on the internet by searching for Sony sensor reflections. I much prefer having less DR and a clean image, then a greater DR and blue orbs when highlights or the sun are in the scene.

        We pays our money, we makes our choices

        • The debate of CCD vs. CMOS has been going on for the last few years. Even after the release of M240, there is a reason why this debate has not died. I’ve shot with a number of top end CMOS cameras, D800E, Sony A7R, Fuji, and M240. They are all great image making machines, but I have to agree here with Huss as I’ve never been able to reproduce the color of M9 ‘consistently’ (operative word here) in any other cameras. M9 definitely has less DR than the current CMOS offerings, but my discovery (what Huss is implying) is the way highlights roll off into the mid-tones. It’s much less harsher than M240 or similar sony sensor cameras. I am one of the few who hated Fuji color for the same reason. And people put down M9 in regards to high ISO, but M9 does quite well in this regard too. M9 is isoless to 640, then relies on processing engine for high ISO amplification. The camera does a terrible job doing that beyond 640, but if you keep your ISO under 640 and push it in LR, one can easily achieve high ISO quality of M240. I’ve shot up to ISO 5000 this way (3 stop push of 640) with very pleasing grain. But, I don’t shoot high ISO, even with Nikon, Sony.

          The only area where M240 beats M9 for me would be shutter noise and LV for landscape shooting (precise framing, filter use). I hate video feature and all the bloat in the menu that Leica decide to add. It really is a departure from Leica’s philosophy of simplicity.

          And not to sound arrogant, but if you show me a series of unedited DNG of M9 and M240, I can assure you I will be able to pick out all of the M9 files given that they were taken with the same lens. When you view the files at pixel level, the microcontrast of CCD files are unmistakable.

          I think it’s silly to talk about accurate color. The reason why we love good photographs is because they present a different reality from what human eyes perceive. All images can be made pleasing with decent amount of post-processing, but having a good starting point makes a world of difference.

          • Yes, “the way the highlights roll off into the mid-tones”. Because they don’t roll off the same with CMOS I think there is an illusion of added sharpness with CMOS.

    • I agree with steve, if you think there’s more DR in M9 files as compared to M240 files you simply aren’t exposing the files correctly.

      The one point I would disagree with Steve on is the colour tonality of the sensor in the M at base ISO up to about ISO 400 beats the Sony sensors in the A7/R/II/D750/D810 etc. It’s harder to call in the 36mp cameras and might depend not only on the sensors but things like the CFA and thickness of the sensor glass. That said, the Sony sensors give you amazing amounts of exposure latitude. It still amazes me to see a D810 RAW underexposed 5 stops and pushed.

  41. Personally, I prefer the CCD “look” vs. the CMOS “look” (I’ve shot the same scene with my M9, M240 and S006 and there is a difference). The CCD produces a more “chrome-like” look. Regardless, all modern camera manufacturers have adopted the CMOS because of various benefits (DR, Live View, Video, etc.). So in the “camera world” at least, CMOS seems to be it (for now).

    But CCD still seems to live, and live well. I subscribe to Sky and Telescope Magazine and in every issue there are several vendors of cameras specifically made for deep sky astro-photograhpy and ALL of these cameras are CCD-based. The newest are now 50MP+.

    Some people in the “real world” are still using and seemingly very happily using CCD for critical imaging.

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