Leica M9 SanDisk Failure

A couple of weeks ago I got a new Leica M9. All excited, I put in the best SD card on the market, the SanDisk Extreme Pro 8GB. It took only a few hours of taking pictures before the card crashed and the camera become unresponsive until I removed the card. I wasn’t worried at the beginning. I was in love.

A few days after, I had a high profile portrait photo shoot for an important client. Of course I took the M9 and my beloved Leica 90mm with me, together with a new SanDisk SD card, not before installing the newest firmware update. It was a very long photo shoot with heavy production, a tight schedule and sweaty assistants. It was just before that end of the photo shoot that the other new SanDisk SD card Extreme crashed inside the M9, making the camera dead and the card unreadable in any device. With all the embarrassment, I had to reshoot everything all over again with my backup equipment.

SanDisk were kind enough to replace the card immediately. “Bad batch” is was I was told. I got new SanDisk extreme pro cards from another batch. The same problem came back after one day. Both cards died again, erasing all of the images I created for my clients while shooting, causing me an enormous loss.

This time, I decided to replace not only the kind of cards but the camera itself and to get another M9.


I opened the new M9 Box, took the camera out, charged the battery, put a SanDisk Ultra card this time and went out to check the new one. The first issue I noticed was how slow the camera was writing to the card, but I was ready to live with that for the reliability. And by slow, I mean ridiculously slow. Much slower then the M8.


Today, 5 days later, the camera started to behave very strangely with. I could see the pictures that I had just shot on the screen but then after few moments it disappeared from the card. Occasionally the camera got stuck stating “writing” indefinitely. I waited up to 20-30 minutes after shooting just one frame before removing the battery to fix it. Other times it said “no sd card”. The card was formatted in the camera minutes before used.


When I got back and downloaded the files, most of them were “written” but as 0 KByte files. Tried both DNG and Jpeg.


I Googled to see what other people have to say about the M9 and SanDisk SD memory cards. I found many users with the exact same problems, all suffering from it with the newer versions of SanDisk cards.


I just decided to get rid of all my SanDisk cards at the moment.  95% of the complaints are from people with SanDisk Ultra/Extreme, but some reporting similar issues with Lexar as well. I don’t know if there are more SanDisk users and they are driving the higher number of reports about SanDisk or this is uniquely a SanDisk problem.


Following is an image of the print screen of the Leica M9 saving 0 KBytes files:



I highly recommend avoiding the Leica M9 until this problem is acknowledged and solved by SanDisk, Lexar and Leica.




Update: Leica reaponds to the problem on Augost 2nd 2011
“Dear Mr. Lavi,As you might have noticed, we have recognized your concerns that you have been posting.
[cid:C82D1B3C-6740-4A01-BFA0-B0C796F63CB4]While I totally understand your frustration and pain to lose valuable and non replaceable pictures, I hope that with our action we can regain your trust.Initial problems were due to the use of low end cards which in your case is not the case! Low end cards often do not conform with the standards of hight end SD cards, which can lead to problems.
Therefore the problem that you are describing was initially an isolated issue that was resolved by formatting any new card to the FAT standard after San Disk issued cards with a new card format.
In the meantime we have learned of your problem and others with the same issue, which made us look into into it.

I am sorry that our efforts come to late for you. I regret that this problem has lead to all the inconveniences and anger on your end.

Personally I would like to ensure you that we will work on finding a solution and invite you to test drive the Leica S2, which has not shown the problem due to a different architecture. You may contact me directly to arrange a free test drive in the US.

In the meantime I wish we could have shared our point of view with your readers of your comments on your Facebook site and other places as it is our believe as Leica Camera to take everyone’s concerns serious.

Please feel free to contact me in the meantime while Leica’s team in Germany is working on a solution.

Best regards
Christian Erhardt”


Click here to read the updates about Leica M9 and Leica M9P malfunction

  1. Fred Facker says: August 1, 20111:32 pm

    That must have been horrible. I saw a thread on the Leica user forum complaining of this issue as well. Have you tried Patriot? That’s the brand I’ve been using.

    • Ethanael says: December 29, 20111:18 pm

      Could you write about Physics so I can pass Scniece class?

    • Kiana says: December 30, 20119:18 pm

      Alakazaam-information found, problem soelvd, thanks!

  2. nel says: August 1, 20118:07 pm

    I have a Leica M9 and have used a 16gb San disk Ultra SD card since day 1 and all has worked perfectly no errors and writes and reads fast

  3. Fred Facker says: August 2, 201110:32 am

    Hmmm, so the $7,000 camera screwed you, but to fix the problem, Leica will sell you a $30,000 camera? (Not that I wouldn’t carry an S2 around for a couple days given the opportunity … lol)

  4. Lisa says: August 2, 20111:25 pm

    Hey, I had a problem with the pop up flash on my X1, wish they’d let me play with an S2 by way of saying sorry. I don’t think the object of the test drive is to sell the S2, just a way of saying sorry.

    I’ve yet to get any kind of compensation of any sort for a product defect and I tend to complain pretty vociferously.

  5. Prosophos says: August 2, 20111:56 pm

    I guess I wasn’t imagining the M9 Sandisk card failure problem.

    Contacting Leica months ago was of no help.

    After spending $250 on brand new Sandisk cards that were unusable in the M9, and now another $100 on Lexar cards that are (finally) agreeing with the M9, the question is, when will Leica officially take full responsibility for this problem?


  6. George C says: August 2, 20115:08 pm

    Can’t say I blame you for being unhappy about this– but I must say, I’ve had my M9 for over a year, and only used Sandisk Extreme 16s and 8s, and never had a problem.

    I wonder if this is an artifact of the heavy demand for this great camera– i.e. problems induced by trying to build too many at a time?

    At the very least a great personal customer service experience, I’d say– I hope it all works out for the best for you.

    • Janais says: December 29, 20112:18 pm

      Ppl like you get all the barnis. I just get to say thanks for he answer.

    • Missy says: December 30, 20119:17 pm

      That’s more than sseibnle! That’s a great post!

      • Hendry says: July 6, 20129:07 am

        I received this card as a gift after akinsg a friend to obtain one for me. I had seen the reviews for the SanDisk 8GB Extreme SDHC Class 10 High Performance Memory Card (SDSDX3-008G-P31) and wanted to be able to shoot at glorious speeds without having to worry about my card slowing down. My previous card is a Transcend 16G GB Class 6. This card is indeed incredibly fast. I’m using it on a Nikon D90. When shooting in .jpeg, the ISO setting affects how fast I can shoot before the buffer fills. I’ve listed a couple testing shots below. All these shots were using Active D-Lighting. Slow down means that the card reduces its frame rate since the buffer cannot take anymore photos until it writes it to the card. *At ISO 200 jpeg fine, The buffer NEVER fills up. It starts at 13, goes down to 10, then NEVER goes down below 10. Once I hit the 100 shot limit, I can immediately press the shutter again and start shooting another set of 100 without the buffer STILL never going below 10. *At ISO 400 jpeg fine, I can shoot 45 photos at the full 4.5 fps before the buffer fills up and starts to slow down. *At ISO 800 jpeg fine, roughly 25 shots before the buffer fills and slows down. *At ISO 1600 jpeg fine, roughly 6 shots before the buffer fills and slows down. *At ISO 200 Raw, I get roughly 10 shots before the buffer fills and slows down. *At ISO 400 Raw, same as above, roughly 10 shots before buffer fills. *At ISO 800 and 1600 Raw, 5 shots and the buffer fills. For those who like numbers and file sizes: *Jpeg files at 200 and 400 come out anywhere from 3.5 to 6 MB. *At 800 and 1600 they start anywhere from 5-7 MB. *Raws come out anywhere from 8.5-12 at all ISO settings. Assuming file sizes, the card most likely writes a minimum of at least 20 MB. No matter what file type I shoot, after I shoot continuous, there is about 1 second lag before it completes all the photos in the buffer once I stop firing it. Using my laptop’s reader and CrystalDiskMark, I get an odd 21 MB Read and 21 MB write. I’m assuming I hit the limit of read/write on my laptop SD card reader, and since I don’t have an external reader I can’t really upload significant enough data for those who prefer benchmarks. It should be noted that ISO will affect how fast the camera writes to the file. Since I’m assuming the camera has to process the extra data from the higher ISO to compensate along with the high ISO noise reduction ON, I have no doubt that this card is faster than the camera’s processing. The card probably sits there wondering where the data from the buffer is since it’s that fast. All in all, I recommend this card highly. This card operates at least at the same speed if not faster than the SanDisk 8GB Extreme SDHC Class 10 High Performance Memory Card (SDSDX3-008G-P31), is 6 dollars cheaper (41 vs 47) and definitely shows a very good improvement. Sandisk has definitely shown me that a faster card makes a difference.

  7. […] Zitat von jaapv +1!!! You guys need to read: Leica M9 SanDisk Failure […]

  8. Yannis Mathioudakis says: August 3, 201112:48 pm

    Same problem exactly. I send my M9 twice in Solms and they hide the problem telling me that the camera is ok and I had defeated memory cards. Of course I lost valuable photos which nobody can replace… shame on them

  9. irakly shanidze says: August 3, 20115:17 pm

    Thanks for the heads-up Gil. I’ve been using the M9 for exactly a year now, and except sending it for remapping twice, no hardware issues so far 🙂
    Probably this is the deal with newer cards, as my newest one is a year-old 16GB Sandisk Ultra.

    I had another weird problem a few days ago. In the middle of a 460-picture shoot (eleven shirt styles, four poses each), the camera said “SD Card Full”. The card wasn’t full, which INFO button confirmed. Upon finishing a power cycle, the camera gave me a new message “Reset Counter”, which would be no big deal, provided the reset junction had worked. Numerous attempts to reset the counter by selecting main menu>file management>reset counter did not work. Formatting the card didn’t work either. The only thing that saved me from shooting fashion with a backup M8 and no UV/IR filter was creating a new folder via OS X file manager.
    Go figure…

  10. Araakii says: August 4, 201112:19 am

    Yes, I had issues with the latest batch of SanDisk cards as well. But there are so many cards out there so you are not obliged to use SanDisk only. I tried Lexar and everything works so smoothly.

    And regarding the loss of files, I actually was able to recover all my images using some free recovery software I found online. Even though the files show a size of 0 byte, the images are actually there.

  11. CK Dexter Haven says: August 4, 201110:45 am

    Leave it to Leica to take a mess and try to turn it into an upsell opportunity.

    • Jaylan says: December 30, 201110:17 pm

      Hey, that’s pworeful. Thanks for the news.

  12. Mike Strong says: August 4, 201110:15 pm

    I’ve found the cards have inconsistent architectures in the firmware. Same with card readers, which is what really tipped me off to it a while back. This is separate from FAT32 or the newer extended format version. After getting a pair of new 32gb CF cards suddenly all my readers were taking forever to download. A newer reader (4 in 1, 8 in 1, etcetera, this was a 40 in 1) took me back to jet speed downloads. That means the camera firmware, the reader firmware and the card architecture (hardware busses and firmware) have to match to a degree I had not previously realized and there are just no real standards. I’m not surprised at the problem. So now I always try out the cards with all compatible equipment I have – and I keep enough spare cards, plus I try to put my “eggs” in several baskets, just in case. There really should be standards for these cards. We users pay the price of no real standards. And don’t get me started on RAW (another topic) when talking about a lack of standards.

  13. Arent van Wassenaer says: August 5, 201111:06 am

    Just found out all my really beautiful vacation picturs (Leica M9 on a 16Gb SanDisk Extreme Pro seem to be unreadable. You can see the thumbnails, but when asked to download into iPhoto or Apertute, or even copy into Finder I get the message: unreadable format. All pictures are there, file size looks good, but they are all gone: horribly frustrating! Am very sad for these pictures meant a lot to me for personal reasons and now they are all gone. How come?

  14. Gopiballava says: August 5, 20118:09 pm

    Arent: Before you do anything else, use a utility to make a block by block copy of the SD card. That should be a full backup that will ensure that things at least don’t get worse.

    Then, I would look around for recovery software. I don’t have any specific apps in mind, and it might not work anyway, but I have managed to recover data from written but erased flash cards before, and maybe you’ll get something from this card. Good luck.

  15. Chanlone says: August 5, 201111:39 pm

    I’ve got the second SanDisk Extreme (30MB/s) dead in the M9 this morning. The first one was 32G and the second one 8G. Local Leica shop told me to try Sandisk Ultra, but from what I’ve read here, better change the brand!

    • gillavi says: August 6, 20117:01 am

      Unfortunately the problem found to be not SabDisk isolated, but M9 isolated. If you can still return your Leica this is my recommendation.


  16. Joe Elario says: August 6, 20116:32 am

    As a recent purchaser of Leica M9 , incidents like this are very troublesome to read & it’s not the first time .
    I thought about the money involved 10K – then thought what the value of my M9 will be – should an M10 premiere .
    So , it’s gone & I’m happy – I did purchase a Fuji X100 & love it .
    this was my personal piece , as I’m a full time Nikon shooter.
    Must say however the M9 is a beautifully hand made piece.

  17. Andrew says: August 6, 20117:08 am

    If you want reliability get a real (film) Leica M.

    • dag says: August 8, 20116:35 pm

      Your comments is out of place, film cameras are not the same as digital based cameras, they complement each other, just try film for news delivery being one thousand kilometer from nearest international airport (instead of publishing in a newspaper they will be printed in an oldpaper). It is easier to get wifi than sending roll of films. Of course I can`t deny the advantages of film over digital, but in very specific areas.
      We are not talking about film vs digital cameras, we are talking about Leica failures in new digital cameras. And after reading the Leica answer you can conclude that M9 doesn`t work with low end cards, and after reading users comments we can conclude that M9 doesn`t work with premiun cards too. And we wonder if it works at all.

  18. khaw says: August 6, 201111:15 am

    I have had similar problems and am using now Panasonic Gold cards.

    According to their specification, these cards have a certain functionality to protect against some type of malfunction by the camera.

    So far, so good.

  19. Sam says: August 6, 20116:54 pm

    Hi Gil,

    You lost a couple day’s work. And all Leica has offered you is a free test drive of an S2?

    What about looking into your M9? What about sending you a card that’s Leica approved?

    A camera that takes pictures, but does not save it once in a while. For almost $10k.

    I just scratched Leica off my list. And I hope you get things worked out.

  20. irakly shanidze says: August 7, 201110:46 am

    Gill and others who had this failure AND use the camera professionally, or at least on a regular basis for a year (no offense to everybody else),

    After reading all posts, I see three things:
    a) Gill is clearly not the only person affected;
    b) some people are getting very emotional;
    c) some other people are using the situation to bash M9 and Leica as a whole (which has happened a number of times before).

    To relieve the anxiety, at least a little bit, I want to bring to your attention an official Leica statement on the issue. Aside usual corporate apologies and reassurances, there is a useful list of recommendations on how to minimize the issue while they are working on a solution.

    I am utterly puzzled because in thirteen month of almost daily failure-free use of M9 with four SD cards that all happen to be 16GB and 4GB Sandisk Ultra category 4, just like the one on the picture in the original post. The only problem that I have had is described in my first post, however, as annoying as it is, it does not cause loss of images that are being written, or already on the card.

    So, now here is my batch of 64-billion-dollar questions:

    1. Did this happen to a camera that you had been using for a long time, or a recently made one?
    2. Did it ever happen to an SD card (Sandisk, or any other) that you had used previously with no similar issues, or only to recently purchased ones? (there are a couple of reports about Lexar cards on LUF, but they are both in German)
    3. Did it ever happen to SD cards from other major brands (Lexar, SONY, Panasonic, Kodak), or just Sandisk?
    4. What needs to be done to cause the problem? (aside of what is described in the official Leica statement)

    At this point, just after reading everything that Google could find and based on my own hands-on experience, I would refrain from blaming Leica exclusively. Granted, M9 could be a bit more future-proof, but it seems to me that it is either a sample variation issue with the latest batches of Sandisk Extreme/Ultra cards, or some change to SDHC specifications that other cameras can withstand, and M9 apparently can not.

    As to reports about SD cards from some obscure brands that are not on the compatibility list… Would you blame BMW for LADA rims not fitting on their latest 760i model? Even if the rims are not defective…

    Once again, I want to point out that I am trying to figure out what’s happening here, obviously, for my own benefit, and maybe it will benefit others as well. So, please give me everything you can about the issue without getting emotional. It will help me pinpoint the problem and then act accordingly.

    I’ve grown to rely upon M9/M8 exclusively in my daily work, which happens to be advertising/commercial photography. As you can imagine, pretty often one image taken with the camera literally costs more than the camera itself. That’s why I am concerned, especially before a month-long transatlantic business trip. All the information at hand tells me not to worry, but I am trying to exercise professional prudence (better safe then sorry). I hate to think about switching to another system, especially if there is no reason to. For now, if this is indeed cameras’ fault, I’ll just pack my medium format rig, which hasn’t failed me since 2002.


  21. Heimann says: August 8, 20115:58 am

    With any sandisk inclusing extreme pro no problems with 3 M9s,
    S2 or Canon 1d4 and 5D 2.
    Sizes are from 4 to 32, all of them,

  22. nestor says: August 8, 20119:57 am

    When M9 was introduced I was tempted for this mechanically superb camera, but pay attention I said “mechanically superb camera”, I was aware about its shortcomings and it high price.
    Personally I believe that if you found the capabilities of a M9 under the Nikon brand, oh my god, I can only imagine the critics, 7K price, CCD instead of CMOS, SD card instead of CF, writing failures, no this, nor that, but we must take into account that a Leica lemon is not a Nikon or Canon lemon, a Leica lemon is a high quality lemon to be proud at.

    I had bought 2 products of Leica, a brand new slide projector which never worked fine (AF and feeding problems) and even Leica auhorized service was unable to repair (it just worked fine for awhile and same failure again), and a Televid 77 (non APO) which presented oil eyedrops after awhile in the zoom eyepiece.

    As most people I like to own the best, but after many years I realized that the best is the rig you can use and trust, and Leica doesn`t fit for the last.

    Leica product fit the niche for products that show what you have, not what you know.

  23. Trey says: August 8, 20112:15 pm

    You are not alone. I was fortunate to return mine immediately and get my money back. Long gone are the days of the M6 and reliability. Mine was a refurbed model which acted up on one of my Sandisk cards. In this day and age, I do not posess the patience and time to act as quality control for Leica. Sending me another one was not going to ease my level of stress on any shoot. Purchased a Fuji x100 instead.

  24. schaetz says: August 14, 201111:46 am

    wish i would never had to read those lines , i was using M9 and sandisk for one year and a half and did not had any problem, today i have to say that i joined the club with a sandisk 32gb , exactly same problem than Gil described above, ad i am not very optimistic about solutions if there’s any!!!!

  25. Robert Callway says: August 23, 20112:59 am

    Thought I was going nuts with sandisk sd card/m9 problem…and now realised that there are others outhere with same problems. I had an 8gb extreme which would crash at half capacity…thankfully I bbacked up my pictures. Bought a 16gb card and all working fine until last night. The card/camera seems to hate the 82nd picture and stops working everytime I review it. I can’t even delete it. I am on holiday and left my computer at home. So am going to rest the 16gb card and download when back home. The cheapest solution is to buy another sd card but not a sandisk one and wait til M9 architecture update is available. I know christian erhart via facebook and leica articles I have written for them..and will raise issues. It shpuldn’t happen with this camera and brand and esespecially on pro shoots. Thankfully I think I have been lucky to save pictures as they are from a personal holiday and these are the most precious photos one can take.

    • Marnie says: November 20, 20113:29 am

      Ah, i see. Well that’s not too trckiy at all!”

  26. sudharma yoonaidharma says: September 12, 201112:49 pm

    That happened to me when I was in Budapest and it ruined my trip. I usually tag along my 5D MkII but this time I need to travel light. That stop recording and “hang” with red light blinking and no response from M9. I noticed also there are many “black” photos recorded as well in spite the fact that I did not take any photos.

    • Sandra says: March 6, 20124:55 pm

      is very confusing. On the front side it mlcias a maximum speed of 15MB/sec. At the same time, it is marketed as Class-4 (which means a minimum read/write speed of just 4MB/s). To move up to a class-6 card from the same manufacturer, you have to buy the which costs 2-3 times more.I decided to take a chance with this Ultra II card, even though my new explicitly requires a Class-6 card for video capture. I’m happy to report that the card is fast enough to keep up with my camera, even in burst mode and in 1080 HD video mode.My own benchmark (see Customer Images’) revealed that the read speed of this card is consistently fast at 18-19MB/s. But its write speed is strongly dependent on the data file size: – For small files of 1MB each, the card is only able to write at about 6MB/s. That means it qualifies as a borderline class-6 . – For typical photo files (4-6MB each), the write speed is much faster at around 10MB/s. – When writing a huge file of 1GB, the card can actually achieve the claimed maximum speed of 15MB/s.The SanDisk Ultra II may not be a good choice if you want to use it as a ReadyBoost device (frequent writing of smaller file). But when used in digital cameras, this class-4 card is just as fast or even faster than other brands of class-6 cards (such as the , which levels off at 11MB/s for large files). This makes the Ultra II a great value especially for those people who prefer to stay with a trusted name brand.[Update on Nov 18, 2011] At the time of my original review, this Sandisk Ultra card was marketed as a class-4 , while the Extreme card was called a class-6 . But now the Ultra is called class-6 while the Extreme is class-10 . I strongly suspect it is just marketing people playing tricks with definitions of class-4/6/10 .

  27. Dave B says: December 5, 201112:09 pm

    I find it interesting than many people seem to be blaming the Sandisk cards for these issues, when to me it’s clearly a Leica issue and one that’s dragged on far too long without resolution. Out shooting today I had a Sandisk card which was around half full and my M9 suddenly decided it didn’t want to write files to it anymore. No error, the file would even review, but the first zoom produced a black screen with just the file name on it, then the next zoom would show the file zoomed in again. Zoom out and go to the last saved file, then try and go back to the captured file, and it simply wasn’t there anymore! Try to capture more shots and the same problem. This card had been working fine for months. The blame, for me, lands squarely at the feet of Leica. How they can call their cameras professional when they are so unbelievably unreliable is a mystery. As someone else wrote, shame on them indeed. Given the camera’s high price point and the sheer volume of users who have experienced card issues it really is unforgivable, and to come out with statements that ask users not to format their cards is just laughable. And don’t even get me started on the appalling write speeds! You’re expected to stand there for about 10 secs twiddling your thumbs before you can review a histogram or the image file, because if you don’t you run the risk of failing a card. Pitiful.

    • Dotty says: December 29, 20115:33 pm

      More posts of this quality. Not the usual c***, plesae

Submit comment