The Leica M10-D Review. NO LCD! Less is more…Again.
By Steve Huff
Back in August of 2016 I reviewed the Leica MD (Typ 262), the first digital rangefinder camera ever made without a rear LCD screen. It took those who owned one and shot with it way “back to the basics” and gave the experience of an analog Leica M6 or M7. Almost. At least the digital equivalent and as close as you could get to that experience, which if I can say, is MUCH different from just shooting a digital camera like a Sony A7III. I owned that M-D for a while, thanks to Ken Hansen.
Ken is a Leica dealer and long time site sponsor here who helped me get this site off the ground 11 years ago! Great guy and Leica dealer. (Thank you Ken)
A video look at the M10-D, watch it below!
“Many think it is insane to buy or use a camera without any way to check your shots, but I have found it liberating and even many months after my review I still use this M, and I love it. In fact, I have not bonded with an M so tightly, ever. Not the M9, not the M 240. Somehow, when I take this camera out I truly feel as if I am shooting with my old M7 from back in the day. Lift up, look through the eyepiece/RF, focus, and shoot. No muss, no fuss. It only shoots RAW, so each shot has to be processed but I enjoy this process, much like I used to love developing my film in my Laundry room.”
CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND MUCH NICER VERSIONS! All images here shot with the Voigtlander 50 f/1.2 on the new M10-D
Shooting film is where I started with Leica. The M6 and M7 were with me all the time many years ago. Those two cameras, and a Leica 50 Summicron were all I needed to create memories, or even work on projects like THIS ONE that were near and dear to my heart. When the M8, then M9 came out I switched and went all in with digital M cameras. I even took the M9 on tour and shot it professionally with confidence and as horrible as that camera was in low light it never stopped me from getting remarkable results. As photographers, we tend to get to know the gear we love the most, and always find ways to make it work for what we need. The M9 and a Noctilux delivered night after night for me and even landed me an album cover. This was actually a goal I had since I was 16 and I envisioned it for years. Finally back in 2011, Leica helped me accomplish it by allowing me to own a camera that ignited the passion within me. To see a photo diary of those times, on video with narration take a look at this video I made a while back.
That video is more than just a photo diary as I speak about Leica in detail in that video and what that M9 did for me during those times.
When the Leica M 240 came out I was thrilled to death with it while many trashed it. I still love the M240 but when Leica released the MD version of the M240 and called it the MD 262, I knew I had to get one, and so I did. That MD with a 28 Summilux went with me here and there, and again I captured many memories with it, mostly personal memories with that one. Even shooting it with this small, tiny, strange but incredible lens.
It brought back those old memories of shooting the M7 and those were some great memories as I was never able to recreate that feeling of shooting an M7, until the MD. Yes, shooting without an LCD screen is strange indeed, but once you get used to it, well, it feels natural. It feel right.
Shot on the M10-D with the Voigtlander 50 1.2 at f1.2
This new M10-D is the latest M from Leica and I was excited to test it and shoot with it, to see if I still had that love of this minimalist camera. Sure, it is the same camera internally as the standard M10 that I have owned before but it’s also different. The M10 is $700 less as well, and has an LCD. Same sensor, same IQ, same body style. So why on earth would Leica release a body that has LESS and charge MORE and WHO WOULD BUY ONE?!?!
To many reading this, I bet you can not imagine anyone buying a $8000 camera without an LCD.
Click for Larger
Well, many have asked for it and Leica did have some success with the original MD. Those who bought one LOVED it and understood what it was and bought it because it was a super minimalistic camera. It’s not a camera one buys if you want features, 4k video, image stabilization or even two card slots. It has no video, is manual focus only, and is about as old school as you can get. This puts it in a category that makes it pretty rare as not many will buy this kind of camera.
That just seems to make it even more special for those who own one and enjoy it for what it is.
Voigtlander 50 f/1.2 wide open. What a lens when used on the M10. It was a bit lackluster on the Sony A7RIII in comparison but on the M10 series of cameras, it has some mojo and magic. Not as good as a Leica 50 Summilux but if you are on a budget after spending $8k for an M body, this can be a great way to start your M journey.
The NEW M10-D Arrives
Leica sent me this camera to review without me even knowing about it. I hopped on a Skype call with them one day about 2 weeks ago and they said “A package is arriving today for you to check out for 2 weeks”. They then went on to tell me what it was, and discuss with me all of the details of this new Leica M10-D, of course, after signing my life away in an NDA ; )
Click image for larger and better. EXIF info is embedded if you want it!
I was thrilled by the news and even suggested to them that they release a Monochom version of this camera, which they replied (and they are 100% correct) that the M as is, is a Niche camera. The M10-D is a Niche within a Niche and a Monochrom version would be a Niche within a Niche within a Niche! Meaning, not a broad audience for that at all! Sure, some hardcore Leica fans would eat it up but is that enough? Probably not. Maybe a limited edition of 25 will make it out in 2019..a Monochrome M-D. Hmmm.
Another wide open at f/1.2. Click it for larger.
WHY I LOVE THE M-D
In a world that is constantly pushing the tech envelope with cameras and companies giving us more than ever before, what Leica is doing here is pedaling backwards it seems. Every day I see people on the internet moan and groan about cameras missing IBIS or Dual Card Slots so here comes Leica to tell them, YOU DO NOT NEED THOSE THINGS to take beautiful photos. Again, you do NOT need them. You may want them, but you do not need them.
I believe that most of these new features are put in cameras to make people feel that the camera will do it all for you. Have shaky hands? Camera will fix that with IBIS! Cant focus right when taking portraits? We will give you EYE AF to be foolproof. Want to be sloppy with your metering skills? That’s ok, we will give you 13 stops of dynamic range so if you screw up, you can fix it! I love tech as much as the next person but sometimes it is just too much, and takes away from the experience of taking an image.
The Leica M10-D changes all of that, in a huge way and that is why it was made.
I have been reviewing cameras for 11 years now and have had the opportunity to shoot with EVERYTHING under the sun. I started with Leica years ago and then I let other more feature rich cameras sway me away from them. For years I then shot Olympus, Sony and now own a couple of Canon cameras including the new EOS-R (which I enjoy for video and stills as well, though it is no Leica). After a while though, shooting some of these other cameras sucked the inspiration and life from my photographic mind, body and soul. I became bored with having 100 features in the camera and having the camera do ALL OF THE WORK for me. When I recollect back over the last 15-20 years of my life, my favorite images of all time and most important work that I am proud of has all been shot with, you guessed it, a Leica. It’s not even close either.
I think I know the reason behind this.
A Leica has always inspired me to use it. To get up and go even when I did not feel like getting up and going. When I got to where I was going, I was happy I did get up and go, every time.
A Leica, and as silly as this sounds to some, has made me a better photographer but really only WHEN I USE A LEICA. When I use a Canon or an Olympus or other camera with 1001 features I tend to get lazy, and let the camera do it all. Then, the resulting images are, well, boring. There is indeed a sparkle, life and depth to a Leica file no matter what anyone will tell you. While this does not make them worth $8000 for a body only, it is the entire package that can make it worth it to some. Leica gets a lot of hate due to the pricing structure and elitist vibe of their cameras. I agree that the prices are ridiculous but even so, when you own a Leica you own something special. Even those who still shoot an M8 feel it is a special camera, many years after its release, and it is as there is nothing like it.
For me the Leica M10-D inspires. It has a unique quality to images. It uses tiny fast prime lenses. It now does amazing in low light. But buyer beware! It has no tools that will aid you in getting a shot, as that will be all up to YOU. The color from the M10 is fantastic. Using the M10-D keeps all distractions away, and that is not some talk to justify buying one, it is fact. It is built and designed like NO OTHER camera and it is thin, light and built like a tank at the same time. There is something to German engineering!
Today we have three choices in the M10 series of camera. The M10, the M10-P and M10-D. They are all sharp and they also allow for some serious micro contrast with the right lenses. Beautiful depth and color as well and as good as my results are here with the Voigtlander lens, imagine the 50 APO on this camera. Something I have yet to try actually but a dream setup would be one of the M10 cameras and a 50 APO. Expensive but what a combo.
So the M10-D is here, and available to order now for $7,995. Yes, that is expensive but Leica has always been expensive. They have never been “cheap” so to those who complain about their pricing today, not sure why as you should know by now that a real German made Leica will never ever be a cheap purchase. With that said, their previous M-D was $6000, which is $2k less than this one. Not sure why this is but $2k is quite the price increase over a 2 year period. $1000 per year increase in price. Doesn’t seem right.
Many think Leica cameras are only for rich dentists, doctors and lawyers or maybe rich people who like to just own a Leica for the name. I am sure this is true in some cases, as I have seen it, but there are also many passionate shooters who own a Leica because for them it gives them what they want, need and desire in a camera. It inspires and delivers results they like. It can be used in an intimate setting or in any setting you desire as it is discreet and quiet and it doesn’t look like the same camera everyone else uses. It is unique and brings a fresh motivation when you use it.
I know of many who shoot Leica who are far from rich, hell, I am one of them. I have no right buying a Leica as it’s out of my price range but then again, I live in a small modest house, have one car, and do not buy boats, watches or crazy things. I do work every day, morning until night and love photography and also love the gear. Always have, always will.
Life is short, in fact, I can not believe I am now 49 years old (will be in November). Time has flown by so fast and before I know it I will be on my death bed. I want to live life with happiness, positivity, love and also enjoy things I love while I can. If it is within my means or I can make it work, I do so any chance I get. So for me, owning Leica is out of pure love of photography and while I rarely can afford it, I usually find a way to own at least one Leica camera, even if I have to settle for the cheaper lenses ; )
The D is really a P which is really the 10
The Leica M10-D is an M10-P without an LCD, which is an M10 with a softer shutter sound and a few cosmetic changes. Same 24 MP sensor, same performance. Exactly. What you gain in the D is less, and to me, less is always more. Always. I guess Leica feels the same as less = more $$ as well.
Seeing that it is an M10, this means the camera will have a tendency to blow highlights a tad if you are not careful, and you need to learn you way around this which come with practice and metering. It will also give an image rendering closer to the M9 than M240, and many have applauded this as the M9 was a benchmark for Leica IQ for many, even me. But IMO, the M10 surpasses the M9 for IQ, without question. The color is better. The Low Light and high ISO is better and overall the files are just better.
But yes indeed I truly feel that when it comes to cameras, sometimes less is more. The M10-D is a camera that really has nothing to hold you back (if you truly know how to shoot you do not need all the fancy tricks in a camera), but at the same time, nothing to help you get the shot. For that, it requires your skill, your patience and you getting to know the camera. For me, that is a beautiful thing as when I nail a shot, I know I made the image, not the camera. Sadly, these days the people looking to buy a new camera always feel like they must have MORE MORE MORE. I am here to say what you may need is LESS LESS LESS.
The Leica M10-D is the perfect antidote to boring feature rich cameras that offer flatter images, duller color and a robotic “camera does it all” experience. It really is a unique experience shooting this M10-D, even more so than shooting a normal M. It’s also light and small, and has an amazing thumb grip in the very retro and vintage film cocking lever. Once you use this grip you will not want to be without it.
Leica, please put this in all future versions of the M ; )
When you shoot a camera like the M10-D it also gets you excited to get home to see your shots. Since you can not see them on the camera while out shooting, it just adds to the fun of it all. The anticipation, the fun of it and every time I went to look at images from the old MD or this new one, I was always happy with what I saw on the screen.
But one thing that is cool is that with the M10-D we can now see our shots, in the field if we want to.
The Leica Fotos App.
Something BRAND NEW that launched the same day as the M10-D (today) is the Leica Fotos App. This is a must download if you buy an M10-D because it gives you a choice to review your images on the spot if you so desire. Since you have no LCD on the back of the camera you can now just turn on the app and then turn on the WiFi on the camera and see all of your images, within an instant, on your phone. It will show you the images, automatically as you fire the shutter. It can also show you a live view and allow you to change settings within the M10-D itself. Something you can not do with just the camera alone.
It’s also a quite elegant app and interface. I find this to be a great new part of the MD experience as it allowed to me to check my exposure when shooting the band I am showing here in these images (Ghetto Cowgirl). After checking the first few images on site, I knew I was exposing correctly and then turned off the app and my son and I shot with the M10-P without worry, taking turns with it and the EOS-R which also did well but was a much different shooting experience.
The Fotos app can be used with all Leica cameras, or nearly all of them. The SL, the CL, the TL, the M10 series, etc. I find this a welcome addition to the Leica stable of tools and it is just as easy to get going as the camera is to use.
There it is again, the basics. The “Less is More” philosophy.
I am not sure what the Future holds for Leica but I do know what the future may hold for cameras in general, and IMO, it’s more of the same. More tech, more features, more of the cameras doing all of the work for you and in essence, sort of replacing the skills of the photographer over time.
The M10 series does not have auto focus. It does not have Eye Detect AF, it does not have in body IBIS, it does not have dual card slots, it does not offer 10-20 FPS, it does not have video modes, 1080 or 4K. It does not have an EVF though one can be aded externally with the Visoflex EVF from Leica if you really want to shoot in Live View mode. It does not have a battery that will last for days (though it does seem to last longer with the M10-D over the M10 as there is no LCD to power). It does not offer pano modes, selfie modes, a swivel out LCD or in the case of the M10-D no LCD at all. With all of this, it is the most expensive full frame digital camera one can get coming in at $7995 without a lens. For this reason and all of the reasons I listed, this is not a camera for the masses or even 95% of you reading this.
Even so, with all of these things missing from the M, I feel this is what makes the cameras so special. Less is More. I am getting tired of new cameras trying to give us everything that IMO, makes me lazy as a photographer. Good photos do not come from the features in a camera, they come from the person behind the camera.
I have been away from the M for a while and feel these new feature packed cameras have made ME lazy, and therefor my results have suffered. My motivation has suffered. I wasn’t sure what it was before and yes, I have cameras I love like the Leica SL and even X1D but this M kicked me in the behind and reminded me what is so special about it, or the M series in general.
It’s funny as I was sure I was done with the M as my eyesight is getting worse every year and using the RF was getting tougher, or so I thought.
Interestingly enough with the M10-D I nailed focus, even at f/1.2 with this M10-D every time. Hmmm. That wasn’t happening for me my last go round with an M10.
Two more images both shot at ISO 12,500, without any noise reduction. Shot at f/1.2. Pretty impressive. Sharp, has depth and the subject is separated from the background nicely even at a far distance from where I was sitting.
I have already said it all but if you want to go back to your Analog M6 or M7 glory days, this is as close as you are going to get to it in digital form. No film required, just an SD card and a passion to shoot. You can use this camera with the Leica Fotos app or skip it for the full “wait util you get home to see your photos” experience.
I do not know exactly WHY I love this camera but something about the M-D just keeps pulling me back in. No matter how crazy it may sound, I really love this version of the M10 the most just as I did the previous generation M-D.
It’s pricey at nearly eight grand, but for those who can swing it and truly want this experience, I doubt you will be disappointed.
My TRIBUTE to the Leica M: Forever Memories. A must see if you enjoy Leica and want to hear how Leica and the Musician Seal literally saved my life years ago.
You can buy the M10-d from my list of recommended A+++ dealers below. I have been shopping with these three dealers for over 11 years and they are top notch.
Ken Hansen – Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
A brand new Beautiful Leica M Bag that will hold one M camera and two lenses. See it HERE.
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