Leica M9 Sensor Problem: Free replacements, irrespective of age

Posted on by Mike Evans

After weeks of indecision and half measures, Leica AG has finally bitten the bullet and done what should have been done in the first place. All CCD sensors in M9-series cameras which exhibit signs of corrosion will be replaced without charge. This "goodwill arrangement" is also extended to cover replacement sensors which subsequently develop problems. Furthermore, anyone who has been charged for the repair will have their money refunded.

  Photo: Leica AG

Photo: Leica AG

Over the past couple of months there have been growing rumours of corrosion problems. Camera owners had been faced with a charge of up to 1,200 euros, plus shipping, to have the faulty devices replaced.

The seriousness of the situation was brought home to me on November 12 when my old friend Don Morley took one of his M9s to Leica Mayfair for sensor cleaning. He was shocked to be told that the sensor had degraded and would have to be replaced at a cost of 1,200 euros. Don, who has bought two bodies of every Leica model since the IIIf in 1953, felt tremendously let down. He was not alone.

Subsequently, Leica conceded that faulty sensors in cameras outside warranty but up to four years old would qualify for a half-price replacement, while owners of cameras older than four years would have to pay full price. There has been uproar in the Leica world, in particular on the various forums, and it was clear that Leica had a major public relations disaster on its hands. Already there has been a softening in secondhand prices and some dealers were finding it difficult to sell used models.

Today, in a remarkable nod to consumer power, the Germany company has conceded that faulty sensors on any M9-series cameras (including M9, M9-P, M-E, Monochrom and special editions) will be replaced without charge. When I last heard, however, there was still a lengthy waiting list of up to three months for replacement.

This announcement is welcomed by everyone involved in the Leica world, not just by owners but by dealers whose life has just been made a lot easier. It will do a great deal to patch up the wounds which, unfortunately, have been left to fester for well over a month. As a former PR professional, my advice would have been to tackle the problem effectively right at the beginning, without the half-measures which seldom work.

Now, at last, owners of M9-series cameras can rest easy and the second-hand market will recover gradually. Many users believe that the CCD sensor as fitted to the M9 and Monochrom is in some ways superior to the later CMOS sensor of the current M and, until this problem arose, there was a healthy used market for the older cameras. Leica's announcement puts reliability back into the equation.

You can find the full announcement here and it is also reproduced below

Leica's announcement in full

In some cases, particularly when using the camera models Leica M9, M9-P, M Monochrom or M-E with smaller apertures (5.6-22), effects caused by corrosion of the sensor glass may be encountered. Leica offers a free replacement service for the CCD sensors of cameras affected by this problem as a goodwill arrangement. This goodwill arrangement applies regardless of the age of the camera and also covers sensors that have already been replaced in the past. Customers who have already been charged for the replacement of a sensor affected by this problem will receive a refund.

We have now identified the problem and are currently concentrating our efforts on finding a permanent technical solution. The marks on images mentioned earlier are related to the properties of the CCD sensor. The sensors are equipped with a specially coated IR filter cover glass to ensure optimum imaging performance. Should this coating layer be damaged, corrosion effects that alter the filter surface may begin to appear after several years.

The effect described does not affect the CMOS sensor of the Leica M (Typ 240). Should you be considering an upgrade from your camera to a Leica M or M-P (Typ 240), Customer Care would be pleased to make you an attractive offer following a check of your camera and under consideration of the model and its age.

If the imaging quality of your camera gives cause for complaint in this respect, we recommend that you send it directly to Leica Customer Care or the authorized Customer Care department of your country’s Leica distributor. As longer waiting times may otherwise occur, the camera should only be sent to Customer Care after prior arrangement.

Contact: Web site: E-mail: Telephone: +49-6441-2080-189.

For us, it is important that we offer only technically faultless products. We are therefore particularly sorry if the imaging quality of your camera should be adversely affected in any way. We hope that the goodwill arrangement we have decided upon will allow us to remedy the problem as soon as possible and rebuild and maintain the trust you have always placed in our brand.