Yes, they are VERY different cameras, and no one is suggesting any sports photographer will consider buying a Leica M-E Type 220 (although we bet a fair few photojournalists own a D4 or 1Dx), but occupying the same price bracket comparisons do become relevant.
We’ve seen the Leica’s CCD can’t compete with the DxOMark Overall Scores from the latest evolution of CMOS Sensors, but drill down further and differences become starker as the M-E Type 220 continues to struggle at high ISOs.
Color Depth of 24.7 bits (D4) vs. 23.8 bits (EOS 1Dx) vs. 22.7 bits (M-E Type 220) equates to a 1 1/3rd of a Stop improvement for the D4 over the M9, and 2/3rds of a Stop for the 1Dx. As the best Portrait Score is usually achieved at the lowest ISO, value Canon and Nikon are at an immediate advantage with Measured ISO values of 80 and 75, respectively compared to 145 ISO on the M-E Type 220. Results on the Leica drop off steeply, however and while great Color is achievable at the Manufacturer ISO 640 on the M9, the 1Dx keeps going up to ISO 1600 and the D4 up to ISO 3200.
A more exaggerated result occurs with Dynamic Range, too. The M-E Type 220 starts at a respectable 11.7Evs at ISO 145, the same as the1Dx at ISO 80, but then quickly falls away and by Manufacturer ISO 640 the Leica has dipped below the 10Evs threshold for good Dynamic Range. The D4 and 1Dx don’t drop to that level until manufacturer ISO 6400, however and boasting greater sensitivity latitude these models produce comparable Dynamic Range at ISO 25600 compared to ISO 2560 on the M-E Type 220.
Compared to the EOS 5D MKIII, like we saw with the 1Dx, Dynamic Range results at the base ISO are the same at 11.7Evs. But with a Portrait Score of 24 bits against 22.7 bits on the M-E Type 220, the Leica is almost 1 Stop worse. Again, it’s the low-light capabilities of the Leica which are more relevant, however and with a Sports Score of just 787 ISO on the M-E Type 220 the Canon offers an extra 1½ Stops with a score of 2293 ISO.
The Nikon D800 is just in a different league altogether though. A DxOMark Overall Score of 95 compared to 69 equates to nearly 2 Stops better image quality overall, a result which is replicated in each of the three individual categories.