Leica M9 JPEG Dynamic Range

Dynamic Range – Leica M9 vs Nikon D800

For anyone who has seen my recent work you will know that I have been using my new Leica M9 for both my model photography and wedding photography. You may have also seen that I have a thing for black and white and that I also normally use the in camera black & white JPEGs from both my Leica and Nikon D800.

I love the look of the Leica M9 photos but other than the rendering I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that was. If I compare my Nikon D800 vs. Leica M9 on paper the dynamic range of the Nikon D800 is an impressive 14.4EV vs 11.7EV for the M9 . This means the D800 it retains more details in the shadow and highlight areas of photos.

As I shoot JPEG format for B&W (+DNG for colour) I reviewed the dynamic range for the Leica M9 JPEGs. Leica M9 JPEGs have a dynamic range of 7.84EV so half that of Nikon D800 RAW files.

This may sound a poor performance by the Leica but for me it is what makes the B&W photos it produces. I like high contrast shots as above and I love the fall off of light for the blacks.

The D800 shots can often have grey-black shadow areas showing all the detail. I like the more old fashioned look black blacks myself.

Here are a few more examples using the Leica M9:

Leica M9 Model Photography
Leica M9 Portrait
Leica M9 - Coffee Break

Leica M9 Wedding Photography
UK Leica M9 Wedding Photography
Leica M9 Wedding Photographer

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – UK Leica M9 Photography


Author: matthewosbornephotography

Coventry, UK studio based Model and Wedding Photographer offering both Medium Format Film and Digital Images. 1-2-1 Photography and Lighting Tuition also available.

16 thoughts on “Leica M9 JPEG Dynamic Range”

  1. Hi,
    Have you tried shooting the same scene with both cameras, and then playing with the settings of the Nikon file, to get the same exact look that you like in the M9? I’d be interested in knowing those settings. šŸ˜€
    Take care,

    P.S. I really like that 1st example under wedding, the landscape photo of the group clapping (and round window).

    1. Thanks Huy, both The Leica M9 & Nikon D800 have their JPEG settings set the same so i’d have to try pushing the black in PP on the D800 file. I can probably get a similar contrast / blacks but not the same rendering. Will try when get chance šŸ˜‰

      1. Thanks, Mr. Osborne. I look forward to the PP setting adjustments. It’d be interesting to see what this “rendering” difference is, that you stated.
        By the way, did your D800 have the left outer AF focusing problem?

      2. Just take any B&W shot and push the contrast/ blacks and you should be able to get similar. I try to get my shots as near as I can straight from camera. Thanks why I like my M9 (for the black blacks). Rendering is the photo look, ignore the contrast it is more the grain/ finish. To me Leica looks more like film photography. The D800 photos look digital. I rarely used the D800 AF but can’t remember having any problems. Hope that helps.

      3. Ah, I see.
        Oh, okay, regarding the rendering. Thanks.
        Just talking here: I’m thinking a photoshop action could be built to run a grain addition to the photos, and also the contrast and black bump to the entire set of the D800’s images. Of course, this negates you trying “to get my shots as near as I can straight from camera”. šŸ˜€
        Thank you for your replies.

  2. I have the same impression myself, but always thought of it in different terms. I currently shoot mostly with a D800E and a Leica DLux6. While I love the Nikon and it gives me superb photos I find them somehow lifeless, with the Leica the life and emotion are there. I can’t really define it any better than DSLR produce technically accurate “illustrative” photos while the Leica (and my LX3) produce “artistic” photos.

    Even if I take two shots of the same scene as, the compact tends to win out. I don’t know if its a quantifiable difference (I’m not sure I agree with your conclusion on the range being the factor). It may be the DSLR is just more demanding to handle so I’m paying extra attention to the camera rather than the moment I’m trying to capture. I also find the compact Leica more pleasing to hold. So maybe the perception is more about the personal feeling at the time you take the photograph contributes to how you enjoy the shot later.

    It could also be there are more opportunities for a nice photo when you always have a compact camera with you, my DSLR doesn’t travel much with me while my Leica is with me every day. Maybe it just happens my Leica is closer out of the camera to my own personal style so I can use the JPGs for most of my needs and spend less time in Photoshop.

    I know a lot of people will claim my DLux6 isn’t a true Leica (I’ve also had an LX3 from its release date and love it to death too) but it doesn’t change how I feel about the shots I get with it.

    1. Thanks Steve, Yes I agree. The D800 is very good techincally but I prefer as you say the more arty Leica shots. It’s interesting you can get a similar look from the LX3 and DLux6 as that rules out the effect/ look from Leica M mount lenses into the equation.

      You are also correct in saying the smaller te camera the more likely you are to carry it with you. I love my 6×7 medium format Mamiya RZ67 Pro II but it doesn;t really fit in my pocket or even hand luggage for that matter! The Leica M9 now lets me carry additional lenses, 2nd body (say Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder for film photography but using the same Leica M mount lenses) or more speedlights within the same backpack.

  3. Nicely done, wonderfully rich B&W in depth, emotion, et al. Yes I agree with your observation about the M9 looking more like film, My Nikon is too clean-looking to the point of feeling a bit sterile [aka digital].

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