SD card issue with Leica M9: Closing thoughts

This is a follow-up post to my previous one – SD cards on the M9. This post wont concern many M9 users – unless of course, you’ve had an image corruption. If you’ve never had a corruption, feel free to skip this post.

Soon after I wrote my previous post, I sent Leica customer support (Germany) an email to summarise my image corruption issue and sent a link to a problem image (similar to this one). So far, I’ve not heard the final analysis or conclusion from Leica, but one month after I sent my original email, I chased up Leica, and the reply was short but profound: “our quality control department is still working on this issue. In the meantime use slower SD card”. Actually folks, there’s the solution right there: use a slower card. Lately I’ve noticed the list of compatible cards (which included the previously ‘approved’ Lexar Professional Class 6 4Gb) has vanished from the Leica web site, and has been replaced by a statement which makes no specific recommendation other than they test SanDisk, and “the maximum achievable read and write speeds are around 12 MB/s”. This equates to a Class 4 card. In other words, don’t buy or use anything higher than a Class 4 card (if you can find one). There’s actually no point to buying a higher speed one: the M9 can’t utilise faster cards at the intended speeds. Therefore it’s a wasted expenditure to buy a Class 6 or higher card like a Extreme. In the worst case scenario, it seems using some faster SD cards can give rise to a rare case of image corruption (as I reported previously).

In the last firmware revision (v1.176), there was a fair amount of attention given to fix issues surrounding the SanDisk Ultra series (which was then a Class 4 card), in particular the Ultra 16Gb card (which has 15Mb/s speed rating written on the card). I’ve been using that card with no issues to date, and retired the (previously Leica recommended) Lexar.

I do wonder, with so many problem reports of the Sandisk Extreme Pro 8Gb card, why Leica did not agressively deal with it as they did when the Ultra card issue arose. It’s been around 6 months now since the last firmware update, and nothing. I guess Leica took the easiest option to revert to talking about the Class 4-level spec of the M9.

In early May, there was an interesting podcast which started to shine some light on potential corruption issues. It would be great if Leica could hire this guy to try to get to the bottom of the matter, since I would like to believe that an esoteric software bug still exists under some rare circumstances. In this way, thre could be a final software release prior to the next M and then M9 owners could have some peace.

Anyway, the M9 is still a great camera, but this situation (plus the poor LCD screen) shows me that Leica is first and foremost an exceptional optics and mechanical company, but the company lags a bit in the electronics department. I hope the M10 remedies this situation.

Update (12 June): Leica put out a call for M9 firmware beta testers. Perhaps this is about the same issue reported here.

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