Why I bought the Leica M10..Twice. Less can be More! By Steve Huff

Why I bought the Leica M10..Twice. Less can be More!

By Steve Huff

Hello EVERYONE! It has been about 2 weeks since I have posted here but that is because I was on a 2 week vacation of sorts. Debby and I hopped in the car and drove 5000 miles over two weeks, visited family and to be honest, it was nice to get away from my normal daily routine that I have had for over 10 years now and also do some new things. But we are back now, as will be the articles and reviews ; ) I will have a new video this week as well but today is Easter Sunday, so Happy Easter to all. I woke up early and decided to head to my office and write about my experience with the Leica M10, the 2nd time around.

For anyone here who has read my reviews, articles and posts over the last several years, well you know what I feel about Leica. I have always loved the concept of Leica. A Pure, photographers camera. No bloated menus, no gimmiky modes, no autofocus, and small beautiful jewel like lenses that always seem to deliver in one way or another. Wether it is with a modern-day rendering or a classic unique draw, there are so many M mount lenses to choose from these days, old or new. Me, I also enjoy the concept of shooting the M with only one lens. For me, getting to know one lens by keeping it on your camera long-term, and never-changing it, is a refreshing way to shoot. So I have always loved shooting with Leica cameras. The only problem I have always had is the cost of these cameras, which as you very well know is up there. I have always had an M from the M6 to MP to M7 to M8, M9, M240, M Monochrome, and the M10. See most of Leica reviews HERE.

Inside a Club at ISO 10k. Click it for larger…10K with a Leica looking pretty nice! 

After the M10 was released over a year ago I stepped away from Leica as my eyesight was giving me problems. Getting older, and the eyes are not what they used to be, some of you know the drill. I found I was missing focus using the rangefinder, way more than I ever have. Since I had my Sony A9 and loved using the EVF with the crazy fast AF I decided to let go of the Leica and just shoot Sony for my personal use. I would put cash in my pocket, and have an amazing camera in the A9 that can do it all. Shooting a camera like the Sony A9 is such a different experience than shooting an M. Hell, shooting any camera is different from an M but with the Sony, I had response, speed, accuracy, and great low light abilities. With the Leica I get none of that. Instead I have manual aperture control on the lens, manual focus, and I have to use an old school rangefinder to focus. Convenience goes to the Sony, or does it? I would actually say the M is more convenient in reality. Smaller, thinner, lighter, take anywhere size… and the simplicity, again, is such a joy. Pull it out, aim, focus and shoot, quietly and most of the time un-noticed.

I found while I enjoyed shooting the Sony for my photos, I really loved it for video, and have been using it for other videos and documentaries that I shoot.  In fact, for me, Sony is it for video work, and I have invested in a full-out Sony video rig. I have been shooting the A7RIII with the GORGEOUS Zeiss 18mm Batis for video and LOVING it. But for photos, I found myself missing that emotional connection to my camera. I was missing the small fast aperture lenses and the character that comes with some of them. I was missing the satisfaction I would get from nailing a shot, manually. I missed the feel, and simplicity of the M.

So you know what happens next…I eventually caved and ordered a 2nd M10 from Ken Hansen after selling the 1st one shortly after getting it over a year ago. Was I making a mistake? I asked myself this a few times but after the M10 arrived, and I attached the simple Voigtlander 40 f/1.2. to it, I was back t o remembering WHY I always had a Leica M and why I was always able to justify the cost, even when I am not even close to being wealthy or rich as many think you need to be to own a Leica.

Click this for larger. It was almost 11PM, was very dark out and the. two lightbulbs on this building were not making it look bright or light here via the naked eye. The Voigtlander 40 1.2 lens along with the M10’s fantastic low light ability made the scene appear like it had some kind of lighting! Amazing as I saw darkness with the eye. I have always loved the way some lenses and cameras can lighten up the scene when wide open. This one was shot at f/1.2

Nope, I have never been the traditional “Leica Man” who bought a Leica for the Red Dot or name. I am not that guy who has a loaded bank account and could just buy an M and some lenses because I wanted the bling (Believe it or not, SOME do but most buy Leica because they enjoy the experience as I do). Nope, I have to scrimp and save, but when you do that it makes it that much more worth it when you do get it in your hands. But I state again, I have no regrets as I have always said, we are on this earth to live a good life, to enjoy the experience and be happy. At least that is my goal. TO BE HAPPY, and so far so good ; )

If a camera truly makes my heart beat faster, or makes me motivated to use it more, or gets me out of the house to shoot more all while I love the experience then I can not put a price tag on that.

That is what a Leica M has always done for me, always. So when I sold my 1st M10 over a year ago, deep inside my inner voice was saying “You know you will want one again, so why are you selling this”? Yep, I did sell for eyesight issues, but then remembered I could just add a diopter to the VF and be good. Also, this time I went with Chrome, which now that I have had both, would stick with Black next time. Chrome is very nice but these days I prefer to be more muted, and not have a camera stick out like an expensive item. The chrome M looks, feels and gives off the LUXURY vibe, and most who see it ask me what it is.

 

You would be surprised how many out there never even heard of Leica. The younger crowd is always fascinated by the Leica’s when they see them.

The Bluesman playing the blues out on a Saturday night on s street corner. 40 f/1.2 at f/1.2, ISO 5000, M10

So at the end of the day I bought this Leica M 10 again as I remembered my own history with photography and what made me love photography so much. It is not about specs, not about speed, not about features and not about having new model every year to upgrade to. FOR ME, it is simply about the beauty and art of getting the shot, making memories, enjoying life and truly loving the gear that you use, which in turn makes using it a joy, something to look forward to.

I get this with very few cameras these days, very very few.

A Recent Video I Made about the Leica M and why it will always have a place in my heart. If you missed it, check it out…

So for the foreseeable future my video needs will be taken care of by Sony, and my photo needs by Leica and my one lonely lens, the Voigtlander 40 f/1.2 which I ADORE. It is good enough to start to be compared to some of Leica’s own glass, yet imperfect enough to add some fun and character. The color when using this lens is very nice, rich and bold and it has none of that dull off color we sometimes see in cheaper lenses. The f/1.2 aperture, and the odd 40mm focal length is actually quite nice to use. While I will probably buy the new Voigtlander 50 1.2 as soon as it is released, this 40 has been a constant companion on this M10 and on was also on my Sony when I was shooting with it. I highly recommend the 40 f/1.2 on either Sony E mount or Leica M mount. Well worth the price tag.

I love shooting in low light, and with the M10 it is really the 1st Leica M that can go into very high ISO territory. Combined with a fast prime, it is fantastic. Iso 12,800 for the shot of the house below. Again, with the naked eye it appeared DARK! Thank goodness for f/1.2!

To those who never owned a Leica, it is a different kind of camera that anything you may have ever used. Some will love it some will hate it and many will misunderstand it.

We are paying more for less, but sometimes less is more. In my case, less is beautiful and now that I have the M10 back in my hands again, I truly am not letting it go. Just as I said in my original two part review (here and here), it is without question the best Leica M Digital to date.

BTW, I use mine for memories. Nothing fancy, nothing crazy, and nothing “professional”. I use it to document my life and today I can go back years and years and look at memories I have created with all of the Leica’s I have owned and I treasure them all. While I have no long telephoto options, no real try macro options, no fancy tilt shift options and no video options, IMO, that is part of what makes the M so special, and why I bought it a 2nd time. As I said, sometimes LESS CAN BE MORE!

Happy Easter my friends!

Steve

Recommended Leica Dealers: Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, B&H Photo. 

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46 Comments

  1. It’s my view that you’re not a photographer unless you’ve used a Leica RF at least once in your life. 😉 Once photographer said that the Leica M was the only camera that had a soul, and I totally get what he meant. But, soul or no soul, I was silly enough to sell all of mine.

    BTW there’s nothing ‘odd’ about 40mm or any focal length. 🙂 A lot of shots with 24-70mm zooms are probably taken around the 40mm mark, without the photographer even thinking about it.

  2. Steve, it’s heartening to hear that you’ve returned to the Leica M10 fold. I bought mine last summer partly on the strength of your review of it. In fact, your reviews have informed all of my camera buying decisions for at least the last 7 or 8 years. So I felt a little sad when you gave up your own M10 because of your middle-aged eyes (I can sympathize on that one). The M10 is my second Leica, and I love it. It is by far the most satisfying camera I’ve ever shot with. Not that it doesn’t have its little quirks. It wouldn’t be a Leica if it didn’t. But it’s far less quirky than my M9 Monochrom and I even prefer it for shooting B&W to my MM. Welcome back to the tribe!

  3. Nice article Steve. Connection with a camera is a difficult thing to describe, but it’s an important part of the deal. Me, I tried to like the Sony A7rii (twice!), but failed to gel with it so I’m now a 100% Olympus shooter. I sometimes use my Pen-F like you did with the M10 – just one lens and work within its limitations and characteristics.

    I’m not sure whether I’d get on with a Leica or not, but you make a good case for it!

  4. Since I met Dan some days ago and saw his amazing photos, taken with his M, I’m constantly thinking of an M for my street work. And now this 🙂 Thanks for this inspiring write up!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Oh Steve! We seem to have something in common, an araction for Leica that can’t be extinguished. You are on your second M 10. I’m on my second Leica digital, an M 10 that arrived on Friday, almost 6 years after I sold my M 8, which was a lemon. And so, here it is with a 50mm f2.4 summarit and a Visoflex, which set me back over 9 grand. And now I sit wondering whether or not I should be feeling buyers remorse. I look at it. And there it is, that beautiful and pristine embodiment of a 100 year old tradition. Then I pick it up and realize, that as an M7 flashback, I can’t hold it and shoot without my aging fingers and arms transmitting a wobble, which requires 1/250th second speed to overcome. So I rush off to buy a thumb grip, which really helps and allows me to shoot at 125th of a second. Then I realize I can’t use the Visoflex without removing the Thumb grip. And I am back to my original problem. And so now I’m looking at a $375 hand grip to see if that will resolve my problem.

    Then there’s the shutter release, which is hard for me to release smoothly in its native state because my index finger needs to push it hard into its concavity. So I rushed out and bought a red Leica soft release button ($75): problem solved.Then there’s the bottom plate, which needs to be removed in order to access the battery and SD card. Why oh Why?, particularly when the Leica hand grip may now require 2 removals. Then I say to my self, “Well, that’s Leica history and a need to historically conform.

    Then I go out and take a few pictures with the thumb grip. The results are beautiful and the split image rangefinder works well, although live view magnified focussing with the visoflex, no thumb grip and focus peaking causes the images to jump around so much in my hands with the 50mm lens that I decided to go back to regular split image range finding.

    Then I look at my Sony A7RIII with 40mm F1.2 Voightlander lens and the wonderful almost instant imaged stabilized magnified focussing and beautiful results. And I say to my self: ‘What have I done?” Looking, then, at that elegant hand crafted Leica on my desk, the love kicks back in. And I decide I’ll keep it a few more days.

  6. Hi Steve
    how is your experience regarding focus shift of the M version of the Voigtländer 1.2/40? And – did the diopter solution cured your focusing problem you had before?
    Thanks
    Ivo

  7. I thought I remember you saying you would be review the Panasonic G9 soon. Is that still happening or are you not reviewing it because you didn’t like it? (As you have said you only really review stuff you take a liking to)

    • I just purchased the G9 after spending a couple of sessions at the camera store comparing the G9 to EM!.2. In the end the EVF and controls of the G9 won out over the EM!.2. Have been very happy shooting it, but boy…coming from my 48 years with NIKON this is one steep learning curve.

  8. Hi Steve,

    As always a very enjoyable article!

    I just wonder, what happened to your Hasselblad X1D, and what are your feelings for that camera today, compared to the M10?

    Best regards // Walther

    • The X1D is still here, and still untouched in quality – build and IQ and it also has that simple Leica vibe. In the same company but it’s my go to for lowest of light and certain projects.

  9. Great camera, but not for professional use? I only mention this because I see in your assessment, as in so many other posts around the Internet, that lovers of the Leica M enjoy using these cameras for other than professional work. I understand that the Leica M is not a great fit for things like sports or astro photography, but there seems to be a general feeling that this is not the camera you buy if you want to make a living as a photographer. It is as if the “the camera doesn’t matter” crowd is actually saying that yes, indeed, “the camera does matter.” Why the need to draw this “use” wedge between professional use and casual use? I have been shooting my Leica M’s for over 9 years now, and it doesn’t matter whether I was using my D750 or whatever, the photos where what defined my work, not the particular camera I was using. The Leica M’s are very well suited for professional work in many fields, so perhaps it is high time the “not for professional work” comments to give way to a more expansive use. After all, in a world where the iPhones are being used professionally, perhaps we ought to get over these distinctions. Your photos, and not your gear, should be what defines anyone’s work as professional or not. Time to do away with these cliches.

    • I have used the M for pro work, but it is not suited for anything action, or when you need telephoto, wildlife, macro, etc. Sure, you can use it for pro work depending on what you are doing (weddings, portrait, concert) but most pros will never use only Leica. Some do, and this is what make them unique ; ) More should go this route.

  10. Hi Steve. I am truely happy to see you with a Leica M again.
    I sympathize with everthing you wrote and know exactly how you feel .
    The Voigts are great lenses but i am used to Leica.Lately i bought the 28 Elmarit,i bought this lovely tiny lens for it’s weight. I have big fingers so luckily enough there is a TAB there, that makes it much easier to focus.
    The lens is very sharp and light which is a benefit for a sore neck like mine.
    My eyesight isn’t too good as well, but no problems with glasses.
    Happy for you

  11. Hi Steve, thank you for the great article again. It was nice to hear that you returned to your beloved Leica M10 which makes you glad. You said you had stepped away from Leica because of eyesight issues, your eyesight was giving you problems. What I don’t understand: didn’t you think that time adding a diopter to the VF, because you had to be familiar with that option, as a Leica Guru? (I know you don’t like putting an EVF to your M10 because with that the camera won’t be small, light and un-noticed anymore.) I have been hesitating to purchase a Leica but couldn’t decide yet whether the M or SL (maybe wait for the SL-2) to choose. As I am 65 I have eyesight issues too, but the the size, the IQ, the joy of using the M10 and – needless to say, your articles – amaized me. (I’ve got an M10 for a weekend and about 70% of my shots were in focus). Or the SL with M lenses would be the other option, but the feeling is not the same. What do you think?

  12. I sold my Sony A9 and came back to Leica, not M but SL and CL. To be honest, the A9 is of course the best camera out on the market but I did not have fun using it. When I went out, to make some pics for fun, the A9 was mostly of the time left at home and I took my old M8.2. This made me thought, so I sold the A9 + all lenses again to finance the reentering to Leica.
    Got the new Summicron 75 APO SL lens now and this was in fact one of the main reasons to go back to Leica SL, smaller AF glass for the SL.
    Looking forward now to the 35mm Summicron SL!

  13. I get it Steve. never had a film Leica. My first was an M9. Sold it to get a 240. Not using it as my “main camera”, I then sold that and regretted selling both.

    The files. THE FILES!!!!!! They’re GORGEOUS. Well, I did get a Q and love it and will not get rid of it. Nope.

    But, I want a 10…or the next version. I don’t have deep pockets, but maybe, just maybe…

  14. While Leica IS expensive, it isn’t bad if you don’t keep buying every new model and lens that comes out. While in college I bought an M4 in 1968, and within a year had 35 & 50 Summicrons and a 90 TeleElmarit. While I also had a few SLRs over the years, the M4 with those 3 lenses were my main camera system for the next 16 years, when I bought an M6, body only, and used it with the same 3 lenses until 2009.
    After the M9 had been out awhile and was in stock I bought one with my retirement bonus – and used the same 3 lenses – but eventually tries a few others like the CV 35 1.4 and a ZM Planar, but settled into a v5 Summicron for the M9.
    So after 8 years I bought an M10 body, and agree it is the best digital M yet.
    I enjoy the process of using it as much as the result, as 50 years of M use have trained my actions. I’m not seduced by today’s fast lenses, but with the M10 resolution now use the 35, 50, and 90 2.5 Summarits as my favorite lenses. I expect to stick with this setup for another 10 years – if I last that long…

  15. Hi Steve
    Wonderful video,so honest, i own a Wotancraft bag, Voightlander 0.95 manual focus M4/3, and the Petzval 58mm thanks to your honest reviews, keep up the good work
    john d

  16. For me, these three parameters had been always important before buying a camera: size > image quality > prize.

    But I‘ ve learned from you, Steve, that I’ve missed here something in the equation: joy of use!

    I don‘t get this from my super-douper uber-RX1 R II (the name alone…). Best in class sensor, best in class bla bla bla, popable viewfinder, tiltable screen, (but no IBIS, no weather sealing, just 1/2000 till ISO 3200 etc.)

    It‘s a pity that just this little German manufacturer with its ridicoulosly overprized outdated cameras understand this.

    A Leica M is like a real lady: it shines because it doesn‘t want to. It puts the photograph in the first row not the little computer that „rendered“ it.

  17. Hello Steve,

    Good to read a post from you again. Hope you enjoyed your vacation. 5000 miles in two weeks! Did you manage to leave your car?

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the M10. Very inspirational. Unfortunately I do not have Leica budget myself. Love shooting fixed lens camera’s (GR & X100F). Very curious to see what Ricoh will come up with to replace the GR II.

    Regards, Robert

  18. „We are paying more for less, but sometimes less is more.“

    —> love that Steve! Greetz from Vienna/Austria

  19. Wonderful article Steve. I read everything you put here, but especially about Leicas. I don’t own one (that’s one item on my bucket list) I’m fascinated with the simplicity of the Leica M10 and like you imply, it’s something that appeals to the heart. I sure hope one day I can purchase one. In the meantime, you carry on chugging out those great articles.

  20. Happy Easter Steve. When should we expect to see your review of the a7III? Hope you’re waiting for Lightroom to support the RAW files.

  21. Happy Easter to you and your family, Steve! In Russia, we’ll celebrate it next Sunday (by the way, a day Sunday is called “resurrection” in russian but not just a day to praise the sun).
    As for your “new” camera, I like your words about the emotional connection and the satisfaction like one would get from nailing a shot, manually. I had a similar experience when I moved from Pentax to Nikon. Nikon had an extra-ordinary AF but after a while, I almost lost all my wish to photograph. It was just too simple, Nikon lenses had no emotional influence on me. When a K-1 was released I moved back to Pentax and I take it with almost everywhere I go.
    As for your Voigtlander 40/1.2 lens, to be honest, I’m not impressed by it at all. Almost all your photos that you shot with it look pale and washed out. I remember your review of the Loxia 35/2. The shots of this lens were incredible in my opinion. There was such a great 3D effect!

  22. Love the images and narrative Steve, you are frequently quoted on the “Leica look” and I also sense there is a very different feel and engaged feel in using one ( I had a an X2 but always wanted an M” The A7 ii was more in my affordable range but as technically accomplished as it is , it does feel quite cold to use. I guess I need to start saving.

  23. Very cool! I have an M10 and an M240. In my opinion, the M10 is an order of magnitude better than the M240. However, I find I like taking the M240 along as well since it can shoot a little video if the situation warrants. Not the best video, but some video is better than none. The M10 with the Zeiss 35 f1.4 and the M240 with the 28-35-50 Tri-Elmar. Lots of fun. Life is good.

  24. Happy Easter, Steve! I’m like you, no deep pockets here, but after changing cameras at least once a year for the past three years (and most recently after just four months), I’ve finally found a keeper in the Leica Q. I can’t remember having this much fun with a camera! For me, it’s about the simplicity, a full frame sensor, and the fact that if the results are crap, it’s me and not the camera. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever be able to afford my next Leica (a Monochrom or M10), but you just can’t put a price tag on pure joy.

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