Leica M10 higher ISO tests vs Sony A7RII, Leica SL…Interesting!

Leica M10 higher ISO tests vs Sony A7RII, Leica SL…Interesting!

So I decided to run a quick higher ISO test today with the new M10. Mine came in and along with the Leica brown leather half case it is a stunner for sure. I posted this pic in the post earlier today from Ashwin, but this case from Leica is the 1st one they have ever made for an M that actually fits correctly!

In any case, a few have asked me to compare ISO performace, from 1600-6400 between the new M10 and Leica SL. I also threw in a camera that I always felt had fantastic high ISO performance, the Sony A7RII.

I was surprised to say the least. Not only at the ISO performance of the M10 but the color and metering of the camera. It 100% has more pop and contrast than the SL and Sony. These are all straight from RAW with no sharpening, editing or ANYTHING. Zero noise reduction on all.

I am finding the M10 puts out punchy color (which I like) but also a nice snap to the images. So much different than the M 240’s output which was more bland (and most complained about it). Seems to me, with the M10 we get some of the fine points of the beloved M9 (for IQ snap) and the M240 (for live view and modern electronics) and now amazing high ISO capability as well.

Take a look the extreme difference in rendering between all three of these cameras.

*AS ALWAYS WITH THESE ISO TESTS, I TEST IN A REAL WORLD WAY. IN OTHER WORDS, I TEST THESE AS THEY WOULD BE USED BY 95% OF THOSE WHO USE THEM. I LET THE CAMERAS EXPOSE THE SCENE WITH THEIR BUILT IN METERS, AWB,  AND ALL I DID WAS SET THE ISO. LENSES WERE ALL WIDE OPEN, SO THIS IS A REAL WORLD ISO TEST AND HOW I HAVE DONE THEM FOR EIGHT YEARS. AGAIN, WE DO NOT USE OUR CAMERAS IN A SCIENTIFIC STUDIO SCENE MATCHING EACH CAMERA TO THE OTHER, WE USE IT AS IT IS SO WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET*

ISO 1600 – WOW, LOOK AT THE POP AND SNAP FROM THE M10! Using the 50 Summilux for the M10 and SL at f1.4. The Sony had the Zeiss 55 1.8

CLICK THEM FOR LARGER AND TO SEE FULL CROPS

BTW, the POTATOES ARE A DOLDEN YELLOW IN REAL LIFE. NOT BROWN. 

OK, now ISO 3200

and 6400

and I added in 12,500 for the M and SL and 12,800 for the Sony

For me, the M10 sensor wins as does the metering. The color, ISO performance and overall vibe is what I like to see. The Sony fell flat here for me in color, rendering, etc.

More tests on the way 😉

BTW, the potatoes used here are GOLDEN, not brown…here is a photo on the web that resembles the potatoes I have here, though mine are not glowing quite this much. Also my stool is a blue/teal not a blue/brown. 

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97 Comments

  1. Comparing f1.4 to f1.8 in a high ISO test? – that’s like comparing potatoes with condensed milk…

    • No, it’s comparing ISO and aperture has NOTHING TO DO with ISO when you manually set ISO to the same ISO on each camera. Are you feeling OK? Maybe not.

  2. I would have liked to see the histogram for the pictures – to check whether the exposure is similar across all 3 cameras.

  3. Steve, what did you eat in order to get your stool to be blue/teal?

    Hehehehe. Just kidding. Nice job 🙂

  4. Hi Steve, Leica SL and Sony A7rii seem to have a very similar color palette, as the M10 seems to go more towards the yellow spectrum. You say that the M10 gets it right. Then, both Leica SL and A7 get it wrong? I am no traying to say that it’s one is better or more accurate than the other but, could it be a WB issue? Or jpg converter? From the side of the M10, or from the side of the SL and A7 jointly? Thanks for your good work.

    • Well, since many say this is flawed best to wait for my follow up. But what i am seeing in real use is that the M10 has one hell of a sensor. The color is amazing, and the M9 pop is here. Add to that the low light abilities and you have a really terrific performing M. It beats my A7RII without question for color, AWB and that signature look. WIth M glass it beats the SL as well. When using SL lenses with the SL though, that is also an amazing performer. But M glass on this M10 is how it should be.

      • Dear Steve,

        I tested sharpness of M10 vs M240 with the Apo-Summicron 2/50 and the M240 is much sharper. I can send you test shots. Is the M10 I have ested a lemon? Where can I send you my jpgs?

        Rudolf Klein

        • Maybe your RF or lens is off with the M10. The 50 APO is the only lens I have found that gives you a close to MF look on the M 240. But my Lux I have is much sharper with much more pop and better color on the M10 than it ever was on the M 240. I spoke about this years ago when the 240 was new, that some lenses lost their special character with that sensor, the 50 Lux being one of them. It’s back on the 10. Also, a friends Noctilux on this M10 is GORGEOUS!!!Back to the Leica look and feel for sure with stunning colors. The sensor on the 10 is the best sensor they have put in any digital 35mm camera, IMO of course. The M240 sensor is very good but much different in look and output/color. But the M240 for me, is is no way sharper than the M10, neither was the SL when using M lenses (compared to the 10). The 50 APO though, who knows..I have not tried it on the 10 but that lens is a beauty for sure on the 240. One of my faves.

  5. I would love an M10…. very pleasing results and ISO noise is handled very well. Nice comparison as always steve!

  6. Sony always underexposes, and that’s really bad because you throw out most of the sensor’s capacity to waste. I almost always have the EV dial at +2/3.
    M10 seems to meter close to Canon which I always prefer.

  7. I don’t like the over-exposure and the colours still don’t “pop” to me. So the M240, when it came out, everybody was raving about it, but I felt it had lost the Leica character. There is a bit of that character back here, but to me this still does not reach the M9 pop character. We’ll have to live with it I guess, the better ISO, the more modern camera, slimmer body. Just like the viewfinder of the M3 remains the best, colour of the M9 remains the best, as long as you shoot in bright light. Too much hype for the new in my view.

  8. But it seems that with sony / zeiss combo you can read what written on the can from all iso setting you display here. Color and rendering are of course question of personal taste.

    • I agree. Or is the writing out of focus at f1.4, but in focus at f1.8? And we can correct colours.

  9. Very interesting comparison and great you a using raw – but I wonder how much of the difference we see is due to the metering and the lenses?

    If a camera tends to over or under expose a scene, we all just use the dial to adjust, shoot in bracket mode or adjust in post. So to compare the ISO performance of the cameras, I think it would be more fair to use similar exposed images, in order to judge colors, pop, contrast and noise. Of course, it is important how well a camera meters. And it is interesting you find the M10 got a more accurate metering.

    But more importantly, for a high ISO test, I think you should have used the Summilux on all three cameras (I’m sure you have an adapter?). Comparing 1.4 with 1.8 is about 2/3 stop of a difference, meaning the Leicas gets a lot more light to work with. And there are also difference in the transmission of the lenses as well, so they don’t let same amount of light through even for the same f-stop number. And then of course there is how the lenses pops and renders colors etc.

    So, any chance you will redo the test with the same lens on all three -and comparing similar exposed images (without the tv on)?

    Cheers
    Morten

  10. Thank you for the test. I had the M8, was disappointed, and now have only my trusty M6. Am very excited about the M10!
    Two questions, somewhat OT. 1). I’ve noted in a couple of reviews that the M10 only has available the ‘sRGB’ space, and not ‘RGB’. Is this true and, if so, why would that be good? 2). Does the M10 use/have an AA filter?
    Thank you.
    Bill

  11. Hi Steve.

    I’ll get mine Monday. But, on Friday the 20th of January (yesterday) I took Glazers’ sample out for about an hour and have a quick impression review here: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1468596/11#13887792

    I just wanted to agree with you that one of the things I posted in my review was how impressed with the color fidelity at higher ISO. The grain structure is also really nice.

    A lot of folks are going to love this camera, I did.

    Rick

  12. This looks great Steve! One question, what’s the maximum bulb exposure time…is it limited to 2 mins, or is there a true manual bulb setting so I can keep the shutter open as long as I like? Thanks, Sanj

  13. Your white balance is different between them. The potatoes look the correct colour in the M10 photos but not the others. This influences the image.

    • Please read the text. I let the camera do all the work as this is how we use these cameras. Well, 95% of us do. So what you see is what you get. If I am out with my Sony I am not going to pull out my M10 and then try to match my Sony to the WB of the Leica. I am going to use AWB on both, so what you see is the results you would get in real use. That’s the point. Those who match everything are not showing you what you get when you buy and use the camera if they match it to other cameras manually. That’s odd and not what I have ever done, and never will. Go to DP review for that ; )

  14. Hi Steve,
    Can you please fix a comparison test and involving Fuji GFX? That would be very interesting indeed.

    • That is medium format and a totally different kind of camera system. The opposite of an M. Truth be told, I am not that big on that new Fuji. FOR ME, I see it as a studio/landscape only camera. For $6500, I’d take an M as I would use it 1000X more. What would be a good compare is the new Fuji X100.

      • Yes, please do that comparison! I’m curious about the new x100f, never owned an x100 or a Leica M, but am curious about rangefinder style cameras. I do understand the Fuji is very different, and much easier to afford, but they do have some similar ideas I think.

        • The X100 series has always, to me, been the best Fuji’s. Just my style I guess. The RF design, old school look but with a hybrid EVF over a RF or just EVF. I am looking forward to testing the new X100.

          • With Hasselblad in so much trouble right now I would not order one or buy one even used for half price right now. I was just offered one that someone was selling…couldn’t do it. I LOVED the look and style of it so much more than the new Fuji but Hasselblad does not even have the cash to make these and fill orders from what I have been reading. True? Not sure but it seems like it. DJI just basically bought them out with a majority share so who knows what direction they will go.

      • Comparing a camera that costs $6500 without lens to a camera that costs $1300 WITH lens, are you serious….if the Fuji is even close (RAW) then why would anyone buy the Leica…..you can adjust the colors and wb in post easily.

  15. You can see from the background everythin is WB
    But that’s such checks being made at the moment, non-precise but give only examples.
    Leica has finally come to a good place, with its sensors can now play in the big leagues not only lenses. Price opposite result – the price is not reasonable, but such is always pleasing in our hands ……

  16. Well the in camera profile is changed, that’s for sure. M9 all the way 🙂

    What we can see is the M10 is doing pretty good. Maybe even better than we think as the EV comp seems to be brighter. But maybe that’s just the profile?

    It’s a very good question: how does M10 ISO (and SL) compare to A7r2.

    From these shots they seem to be in the same ballpark, but honestly I can’t tell as the variables of EV comp, F/stop and in camera NR are too big.

    I do love your return to Leica 🙂

    • PS the Sony file will clean way up as it’s downsized. They always look noisy full size. I’m guessing real world, Sony wins. But I’d rather own M10. 🙂

  17. Quite a different and more pleasing color pallete!
    I had the opportunity to handle an M10 the other day. Really reminds me of the M6 in-hand; very dense, solid but without the bloat of the M240/262. Beautiful RF; easier on the eyes and an improvement over the M9 & 240. Definitely on my buy list but I’ll wait a bit after the fan-boys and dilletentes get theirs and the price comes down.

  18. Hi Steve, I am impressed! The M10 looks like a winner. Could you comment on the AWB? I never liked the AWB from the M240 and neither its rendering of green en red tones. However, I did love the color rendering from my Leica X2.

    • The AWB is fantastic, MUCH better than the M 240 AWB. Not sure how they fixed it but they did! Ill be posting some new shots soon, and not of potatoes.

  19. Nice to see the A7RII holding it’s own even at 12500. But the pop coming off of the new Leica sensor is ridiculous. For me though, these comparisons are all about David & Goliath … well done Sony!

  20. Yep Leica wins, but on my monitor it’s the SL. The SL images have a creamy rich texture with both the shadows and the highlights controlled to perfection and the SL colours are so natural. A real world test needs to be viewed in the real world (my monitor) just as my own images are viewed.

  21. Well colleagues, don’t judge camera only by those pics. I suppose that Steven wanted to show you is what would be image without any adjustment, the initial result.
    Ant that has a little to do what each of those machines can do in capable hands, with your chosen light metering, post processing.
    All those cameras are more than capable, they are just different…

  22. Is the stool/table teal as portrayed by the M10, brown as by the SL, or bluish brown as by the A7? That is a pretty substantial color variation.

  23. I really hope Leica steps in and fixes the colour and overexposure issue that is clearly visible on the m10. SL and AR2 looks correct.

    • Actually they better not or else there will be some upset people out there. This is what gives the M10 its snap and bite and M9 style. The other two seem slightly underexposed and dull and color, while the potatoes are a tad too golden in the M10, the stool color is spot on with the Leica, and off with the other two. Also, even in Multi field a Leica M will always meter differently than a SLR or something like a Sony. When one uses an M for the 1st time their biggest challenge is learning how it meters as it is so different.

  24. These are out of camera raws and thus not too relevant as far as color, contrast, sharpness are concerned. The Sony file require a little more PP but offer tons of latitude to work with. The iso performance of the M10 though is impressive. Coupled with the fast and already fully open sharp lenses Leica has a new low light monster.

  25. Aahhh… I can finally see why the M10 is such a special camera… It can turn a Russet Potato to Yukon Gold just like that! And it can bring light to where it is dark! Hallelujah. Just take my CC, Leica. NOT.

  26. My thoughts:

    -The M10 wins on noise comparison. Very impressive!

    -The SL has the most accurate color, hands down. (Sony 2nd, M10 3rd).

    -The M10 overexposes(not saying this is a negative, it just does). I actually like its exposure the best.

    -The M10 colors are… A little concerning.
    Bright yellow potatoes? And the color seems to shift through the iso range.
    I like punchy colors, but this seems to be a little extreme. I foresee skin tones being a real issue.

  27. Great test Steve. The M10 nailed the exposure. It read the scene keeping the can’s label white instead of gray like the SL and Sony. The M10 potatoes color also looks correct and a little vibrant. Being a produce manager I would have to throw out the potatoes from the SL and Sony because the colors are showing some rot with old age. There is banding at 6400 and up with the Leicas but it’s minor.

    The M10 raw files seem hold up nicely from pushing and pulling. And when converted to black and white have the best gradients from light to dark I have ever seen. I guess it’s time to selling some equipment to help pay for one.

  28. Thanks for the review Steve. The red (on the can) and yellow (potatoes) from the M10 look sort of artificial to me.

    Do you recall if the red on the actual label blood red (SL & Sony) or orange red (M10)?
    Thanks

    • The potatoes are golden yellow, not brown. The Leica is pumping color up a bit, which in real life photos is amazing. Skin tones are the best I have seen from any recent camera (when out of camera). But this seems to follow the Q..strong deep reds, and some punch with contrast as well. MUCH MUCH nicer than the 240 sensor and better than the M9 sensor IMO as the color from the M9 had issues with AWB at times.

  29. Hiiiii Steve,
    Thanks so much.
    You are the first one all over the world to offer a wide test of this new M, which seems to win at nearly 7000 US dollars average price, now, … without lense … this is Leica.
    You are a photographer, and you make more photos than tests, reason why you tests are precious, because they are driven by your photographic view.
    Everythings depends of our style and type of photography.
    I stop to use Nikon and Canon : too heavy !

    Now, I do street photography, landscapes, architecture, sport (a little), animals, macro, concerts.
    I want the lightest and smallest bag, sometimes I only take one lense.
    My favorite lenses, I mostly use are :
    Voigtlander M 15 II
    ZEISS Biogon C 21 4,5
    Nikkor Ai_s 28/2’8
    Leica Summicron 40
    Voigtlander Nokton 40/1’4
    Nikkor Ai_s Micro 55/2’8
    Leica Tele Elmarit 90/2’8
    Nikkor Ai_s Micro 105/2’8
    Sonny G 70_400

    With this kit of lenses I can have good things.

    So, I would need, maybe in a few weeks your opinion about M10 and Sony A7 R2, in my situation. In term of global definition, use, color rendition, considering we can fix on the computer, … but …
    For only street photo, I guess M10 is a great winner. For multi photographic use, I am not sure.

    Thank so much for your wonderful web site.

    Eric, France

    Like your photographies.

  30. Hi Steve

    Good test. There isn’t much in it between them. I wonder what the A7ii would produce in this test only because it’s sensor has the same pixel count and a fifth the price?
    No doubt the M 10 is great.
    Would love to own one but really dislike the Leica asking price always being north of USD 5K.

    I am afraid the micro four thirds makers have won me over. that OM image stabiliser is a beautiful thing. 4k video as well in such a small package.

    I doubt the OM would be as good at 6400 but then I could use a f1.2 lens on it or the Voightlander 0.95 lens apply focus peaking and not have to take out finance to buy the lenses. Just personal preference.

    Thanks Steve

  31. Don’t know about you, but the M10 potatoes look a bit jaundiced, compared to the SL. I have no idea how natural the colours are in either case.

    I would also take this test more seriously if the cameras were set to the same exposure rather than relying on different metering systems in the presence of a television in the background (although the SL and A7RII should be comparable). The M10 metering system is no improvement over earlier models and so is cruder. Being able to preview exposure through the viewfinder is a significant
    benefit of mirrorless cameras.

    That said, I often find the SL DNGs slightly underexposed looking, but am very pleased when I process them that I retain my highlights and the shadows are usable.

    • That would be kind of apples-to-oranges, with Fuji being an aps-c sensor. Not to mention, it’s well documented that Fuji cooks it’s ISO ratings. (Not saying it’s a negative thing, just makes it harder to compare against other cameras).

    • People forget that quality and direction of light will play a huge roll in how well any sensor performs at lower light levels. The X-T2 and X-Pro2 are both absolutely usable at ISO12,800 … if the light isn’t total sh*t. And both shoot comfortably at 6400. Haven’t tried 25,000 yet because, frankly, I don’t find any camera looks very appealing at that setting; acceptable, perhaps, for certain types of shots restricted to modest web resolution, but never what I’d label as “good”. Aside from noise, color accuracy just starts to go to crap past a certain point.

      Everyone has different needs and tolerances, of course.

  32. Looks impressive. I’d love to see a comparison between the M10 and the 24mp Fujifilm-X cameras at higher ISOs.

  33. Cool stuff! The new Leica looks great!

    I went to the a7rii from the m9 and had to add some preset bump to my lightroom import settings to get the color and contrast I felt like the m9 delivered stock. That didn’t really seem like much of a problem — since the Sony files definitely can dish out the color, it’s just that the default file is a little low key. In any event, leaving aside a little color and contrast that can easily be fixed, the new m10 seems to really hold its own on iso — and that’s great news!

    • Maybe, but so did the M9 and M8…not sure if it is overexposing but whatever it is the m8, m9 and now M10 have that pop and glow Leica has been known for. Maybe the others are underexposing?

      • You have 3 different cameras, two give similar exposure, one looks over exposed. How do you conclude that the others are underexposing?

        Just by looking at all 3, SL and A7R is exposing correctly and m10 is overexposed by at least a stop. Not to mention the colours dont look accurate.

        • Not so, I have now shot the M10 all over and it does not overexpose at all. The other two are a tad underexposed here. That is clearly evident. Also, all were using evaluative metering and the color is more correct with the M10 though the yellows are a tad punchy. But in normal photos it’s a gorgeous sensor and color. Also, one could easily adjust the raws of ANY of these to taste.

          • If you are using evaluative metering? Then the light coming from the tv will play a role in the exposure….?

      • Do all cameras use the same meetering setup? Would be nice to see a comparison at an aperture between 4-8 – slightly different focus point on M10 hence tin doesn’t look as crisp. Otherwise M10 wins hands down fro me without post processing – but to be fair, who doesn’t in a real world ;-). Seems the sensor is a real winner.

          • Interesting, the other Christian seem to have similar thoughts about the meetering ;-). Thanks for the quick response. I always enjoy reading your articles

  34. Sorry Steve,

    but the ambient light of the TV in the background ruins the test regarding the color rendition. I would love to see the results with the TV switched off.

    Best regards
    Erik Neu

      • Since the Leica uses centre weighted metering through the rangefinder, and more than likely you were using matrix (average) metering on the Sony, this would indeed influence the overall exposure, and thus white balance of the photos? The sony would be averaging the whole scene, taking into considerations the bright tv screen and thus bringing the overall exposure a touch lower than the M10 – which is centre weighted.

  35. Unfuortunatly (for me!) I can’t justify paying that much for a camera for now, but it seems like Leica definitely has a winner here – not only the ergonomics seem greatly improved but so is the image quality!

  36. It’s not about ISO. It’s like comparing potatoes with pomegranates: first ones are extremely more luminous… it must be the sensor

    • These tests should have all be shot using the same exposure. It is clear that the M10 shoot are over exposed, hence brighter, compared to the SL and A7RII. In addition, the Sony looks sharper than either the M10 or SL.

      • I take it you did not read the bold text…

        *AS ALWAYS WITH THESE ISO TESTS, I TEST IN A REAL WORLD WAY. IN OTHER WORDS, I TEST THESE AS THEY WOULD BE USED BY 95% OF THOSE WHO USE THEM. I LET THE CAMERAS EXPOSE THE SCENE WITH THEIR BUILT IN METERS AND ALL I DID WAS SET THE ISO. LENSES WERE ALL WIDE OPEN, SO THIS IS A REAL WORLD ISO TEST AND HOW I HAVE DONE THEM FOR EIGHT YEARS*

        I do these tests in a real world way. In the real world, no one is going to match the M10 exposure to a Sony before taking a shot. They are going to use the meter in the camera, so I show you what you REALLY get when using the camera instead of like those sites who match exposures with other cameras and then show you what you WILL NOT get when using it.

        • I also would prefer the cameras to be set to the same exposure (with the same lens). However, there are other sites which can provide that data. I think that as a casual look, this is fine.

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