DxO Leica M scores


I'm no fan of DxO. Their measurements and scores, however they are achieved, often bear no relationship to image quality and they fail to take into account the specialist nature of some sensors. I dread to think what their score would be for a Sigma DP Merrill for example, probably going into a minus number!

They have just published the results for the new Leica M, and whatever you (I) think of their methodology and the usefulness of the results, this is bound to stir up some debate. They have recently done the Leica M9 and M-E (basically the same sensor) and unsurprisingly, both didn't get great scores. Neither have great high ISO performance or dynamic range, but as I and others have been saying for years under the right circumstances there are few cameras that can better them. Low ISO being essential for this.

The Leica M however is somewhat different. Leica themselves have made a great play of its high ISO performance and the fact that its a C-MOS sensor. Therefore they are very much pushing it as a camera that can operate in the same territory as DSLR's. They have decided that this is the way to go with their top of the range camera, leaving the wonders and disappointments of the 18MP CCD sensor to the M-E. 

As you can see from the graphic above the M doesn't do very well in DxO terms. It falls short of the RX1 and the D800E, which I believe has achieved the highest ever DxO score, for what thats worth. This is bound to create a stir, not least from Leica owners who will be rubbishing DxO in the forums. 

I can't really do much to come to any decision on this. I'm not going to be buying a Leica M, so I wont be doing any comparisons. My only comment is that I've looked at raw samples from the M and its obvious that its a different camera from the M9. The files look different. More 'conventional' is not the right word but its headed in the right direction. Certainly what I got from the raw files was closer to my Nikons than to my M9, and as far as I'm concerned thats not neccesarily a good thing. But then there may well be other Leica users or those who are contemplating being Leica users who think that is indeed a good thing.

The problem I guess is that you can buy 3 D800E's for the price of a Leica M and (just about) 2 RX1's. With the Nikon and the Sony you get AF (and with the D800E a lot more than that) and with the Nikon you have a lens choice that means you won't end up spending as much as you spent on the camera on 2 (or three if you're lucky) lenses. The M is also a slightly bigger, bulkier camera than the M9, plus it now has an EVF option and the capacity to shoot video. So this isn't a specialist camera anymore, this is an attempt to spread the appeal of the brand and make it more 'mainstream'. Whether this is a mistake or a brilliant marketing decision is only something that will be revealed in time. 

It is of course almost impossible to read anything about Leica without mention of how much they cost, and this piece is no exception. When the M9 was their premium camera, there was an argument to be made that its output was unique, and under those optimum conditions I mentioned earlier there was nothing to rival it. However if that is no longer the case and there is indeed nothing 'special' about the output from the M then does that leave Leica more open to the often repeated criticism that these are 'playthings of the rich"? I'm not really planning to go down that road and I'm hoping Chris Handley will give us an idea of what its really like when his arrives, which means more to me than anything from DxO.

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.  

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