The new Leica M10 represents the first overhaul of the company’s M-series cameras since 2009, when the M9 hit the hands of consumers. While there have been a series of updates in the line that are based on the M9 platform, the camera has remained largely untouched.
The M10 introduces a new, old form factor—it’s the same width and depth as the Leica M-series of film cameras—an updated sensor and shooting up to 5 fps, thanks to a new processor. This update also gives the camera the ability to capture 30 RAW or 100 JPEG images before the buffer fills.
I’ve had a chance to use the M10 for a few weeks, and my impressions of the system are largely favorable.
Our complete Leica M10 Hands-On Review is available on our YouTube channel.
While the Leica M-series of cameras certainly has a specific audience, and the $6,600 price tag puts it out of the range of most enthusiasts and even many pros, the cameras are important because of their historical significance, and because they set the bar for rangefinder systems from any other manufacturer. When we test something like the Fuji X-Pro2, or even the Fuji X100F, we look at those cameras with the top-end Leica system in mind in the same way that when reviewing something like the Nikon D500 we compare it to a Nikon D5.
If you’re a fan of rangefinder cameras, the Leica M10 is certainly the best camera on the market. The 24 MP sensor is more advanced than the one on the M9 and it produces excellent images. That said, it’s not the highest-resolution sensor on the market or the most sensitive one—ISO goes from 100-50,000—but it is the most advanced sensor in a M-class camera.
The quality of Leica’s lenses is legendary, and the M-series camera benefits from decades of precision optical design work. There’s a certain “look” to many images shot with a Leica M-series. The Leica M Monochrom was the best at revealing the detail possible with the combination of sensor and lens, as the lack of color filters on the lens allowed the sensor to use every pixel for resolution. I’m hoping that an M10-based Monochrom is coming down the line.
That said, there are tools on the market to achieve a “look” at a lower price, and these systems will offer modern niceties like autofocus. For example, the Nikon D810 ($2,400) provides a high-res 36.6 MP sensor, and combined with a lens like the Sigma 35mm “Art” lens ($900) or the Sony a7R II ($2,500) and an 85mm G-Master lens ($1,800), you’ll have a system with higher resolution, image stabilization (in the case of the Sony), USB transfer ability, etc., and have thousands of dollars left over.
Of course, for Leica users, the features of another system are beside the point. Many Leica users pride themselves on their measured, contemplative images, and a shooting style that’s back to the basics. Autofocus, image stabilization and other modern photographic features aren’t a compelling part of a competing package, because shooting with a rangefinder is all about precise composition and elimination of distractions. In many ways, the allure of a Leica is similar to the recent resurgence in the use of film—photographers are looking to distill the essence out of photography by taking back many of the automatic tools from a camera and performing those functions manually. You want image stabilization? Use a tripod. You want focus? Do it yourself.
In typically understated fashion (this is the company that released a digital camera with no LCD screen after all), the camera is notable for what it does not have, and the biggest example of this is video. There is no video-recording mode with the Leica M10. The company said that their customers are dedicated to photography, and so they’re concentrating on those features, but to some degree, that’s like saying that Porsche should leave out the car stereo because their customers are focused on driving. (I know, it’s not a great analogy.)
The camera also has no USB port, no image stabilization and no dust-removal capabilities—but for many die-hard Leica shooters, none of that is an issue. The company has included WiFi in this camera, and a companion app allows for image transfer to mobile devices.
If you’re in the market for a Leica camera, and you know who you are, the new M10 is a great addition to the company’s M-series. For the average photographer, a Leica will continue to be outside the realm of consideration, but will continue to represent the ultimate in precision camera manufacturing and remains the best rangefinder on the market.