Field testing is one thing, but the real proof of the pudding is in our test results in the Pop Photo Lab. And there the M9 fully outstripped its 2006 predecessor, the M8. Resolution, color accuracy, overall image quality-all Excellent.
Testing for noise levels proved tricky because Leica doesn't have a proprietary RAW format. Instead, it uses Adobe's DNG format and ships a copy of Lightroom with each M9, so you can use Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) to convert your images if you shoot RAW instead of, or in addition to, JPEGs.
That means there's no default level of noise reduction-as with the Pentax K-7, you choose your own. In our lab test, the M9 reached Unacceptable noise levels at its top sensitivity of ISO 2500 because we left ACR's noise reduction at its default of 0 luminance and 25 chrominance reduction. But when we set it to 50 for luminance and 75 for chrominance, noise dropped to 2.3 at ISO 2500, a Moderate rating on our scale.
With that noise reduction applied, the M9's resolution score dropped to 2560 lines per picture height from 2590 lines with ACR's default settings. Even measured against the M9's best resolution score of 2675 at ISO 80 with ACR's default settings, that's not a whole lot of resolution lost, though Leica owners are just the people to notice even the slightest decline in sharpness.