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Canon vs Leica

Philip Wilson , Feb 16, 2012; 01:20 p.m.

I just wanted to post these images that compare three camera options. my "new" Leica M8, my 5DII and an old FD lens on a Panasonic G1. All were taken on a tripod and in the same conditions. The Leica used my 35 F1.4 Lux from 1984(47mm equivalent), the Canon my 50 F1.4 and the Panasonic an FD 24 F2 (48mm equivalent). The lenses were all shot at F8 and the ISO was 160 and the shutter speeds 1/200 (except the Leica at 1/180 as M8 ISO is probably higher than is stated). All camera were in manual and the Canon was in MLU.
I was not surprised to see that the Canon delivers the sharpest image - what did surprise me was that the Leica (10MP) was clearly more detailed than the G1 (12MP). So for Pixel peeping the Canon wins. I should note that all images were shot RAW, processed in CS5 and have the same colour temp settings applied to them (5600, +10)
Here are the crops

Canon first

Crop from 5DII 676x676 Pixels


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Philip Wilson , Feb 16, 2012; 01:23 p.m.

Here is the Leica - given the smaller resolution an image that is 471 by 471 pixels equates to the Canon 676 x 676. The images are not identical due to lens angle of view and wy ability to crop at exactly the same place.

Leica M8

Philip Wilson , Feb 16, 2012; 01:24 p.m.

Panasonic G1 - this is 480 x 480 (technically it should be 481 pixels but my crop is close enough)

G1 with FD 24 F2

Philip Wilson , Feb 16, 2012; 01:40 p.m.

So for Pixel peeping the 5DII is clearly the best. So a big enlargement favours the Canon but I do like the M8 image. The G1 image is clearly inferior to the other two - despite the use of a very high quality lens (the FD 24 F2 is actually a better lens than the 24 F1.4 and is much better than the 14-45 kit zoom that came with the G1). I should also mention that all images are sharpened in photoshop by exactly the same amount. If I did not do this then the Canon and Leica images are much closer as the Leica images are sharper than the others when the come out of the camera. I should also say that my old 35 F1.4 Lux is not 6 bit coded so the camera does not apply any corrections to it.
Here is the full Leica image

Leica M8

Philip Wilson , Feb 16, 2012; 01:41 p.m.

Canon 5DII


Philip Wilson , Feb 16, 2012; 01:41 p.m.

Panasonic G1


Philip Wilson , Feb 16, 2012; 01:54 p.m.

In case anyone wonders I am not trying to prove a point with this thread. I did the test for my own benefit as I wondered how well my used 10MP Leica M8 would perform compared to a top quality DSLR. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it did as I expected the difference to be bigger. The Canon is clearly better for larger prints and above ISO 640 shows a lot less noise. However, I like the pictorial qualities of the Leica slightly better than the Canon. The shadow detail is great, the colour rendition and contrast of the 25 year old lens is great. For a small print (17x11 for example) I would prefer the Leica, between 13x19 and 20x30 I still think I would take the Leica although it is close. Above 20x30 the extra resolution of the Canon would make me use the Canon. As I said earlier this is not a competition as I own all of these bodies and lenses and will not give them up. I just received my first digital Leica (I shoot film bodies but did not immediately go digital with Leica as I did not need to).
This is not meant to be a comparison test and I am sure that there will be complaints about my unscientific approach and the fact I did not shoot test charts.

. Kaa , Feb 16, 2012; 02:13 p.m.

The crops are not really a good comparison because the superior resolution of Canon makes pine needles distinct while for Leica/Panasonic they dissolve into a blurry mess and that dominates the perception of the crops. On the full picture Leica seems to have higher microcontrast and slightly cooler rendition of colors.I don't know whether it would keep its advantage if the Canon image had its local contrast pushed up slightly (what PS calls Clarity) and colors adjusted to suit... The Panasonic, yeah, doesn't look too good.

Bob Atkins , Feb 16, 2012; 02:53 p.m.

Your results are consistent with sensor size. Bigger is generally better, even if one has a few fewer pixels. Assuming all else is equal of course, which it may not be using three different lenses.

The Leica sensor is a lot bigger than the G1 sensor. I think it has about 2.5x the area.

Philip Wilson , Feb 16, 2012; 02:58 p.m.

The crops are just to show how much additional resolution the 5DII has over the other two. The 5DII has a massive advantage in resolution but at normal print sizes it is not that apparent. On a 30x20 print the 5DII is sharper but the difference is not that great. At 13x19 there is no noticeable advantage to the 5DII (unless you use a Loupe). The Canon is the best for IQ and with adjustments you can make it look very similar to the Leica. Obviously you can alter the colour rendition of the three cameras - I just used use the Canon with an Expodisk to set the temperature and then adjusted the others to match - the Leica in AWB gave almost the same readings. That said when you do all of this I still slightly prefer the Leica image - resolution not withstanding. I am not trying to say the Leica is a better camera - it is probably closer to the 5D in IQ just that it does a very good job. In terms of contrast you can obviously play with Photoshop but I have been unable to replicate the results of the Leica. Clearly you can improve the Canon image but I am surprised that the Leica lens quality really does show when you examine the images carefully. In terms of posting on the Web - I have never really found a good way to do this where images can be compared. I find the best way is to print the images (which I did as 13x19) to see how they compare. Unfortunately I have not found a good way to compare online. All three of these camera can produce "good" images at 13x19. On close inspection you can see the resolution advantage of the Canon and the Leica look.

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