Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica M10-D: My camera of the year

Leica M10-D: My camera of the year

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  Life is all about simple pleasures — such as piloting the Leica M10-D and munching on a block of Kendal Mint Cake…..
Life is all about simple pleasures — such as piloting the Leica M10-D and munching on a block of Kendal Mint Cake…..

We have just ended a watershed year for the photographic industry. The tipping point for mirrorless cameras was reached with the introduction of new Canons and Nikons to challenge the rising dominance of the market by Sony. Mirrorless is now mainstream and the era of the single-lens reflex is drawing rapidly to a close. 

When it comes to choosing the best new camera of the year, I admit I live in a little Leica bubble. I’ve paid due attention to the Sony a7III and to the new full-framers from Nikon and Canon. Call me a contrarian, but nothing has enthused me more than one oddball Leica, the M10-D.

It is my camera of the year because it brings photography back to basics. It is a supreme example of the principle of less being more. Rangefinder fans should love the simplicity and sheer focus of this camera. It is a menu-free delight, with just three basic adjustments — shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

What company other than Leica would have the guts to produce such a device in today’s increasingly high-tech, box-ticking world? The fact is, we don’t need the vast majority of functions that manufacturers now feel obliged to include, simply to keep up with the Jones’s.. And we can be thankful that the M10-D is here as an antidote to feature bloat.

  The M10-D harks back to the classic Messsucher, the rangefinder that provides a unique photographic experience. The basics are there — focus, aperture, speed and sensitivity — and not a jot more. Even the old film advance lever has been pressed into service as a very useful and ergonomically excellent thumb rest. With its screenless back, the M10-D feels just like a film camera, in particular just like the Leica M7 with which it shares dimensions. With the M10-D you can concentrate on photography, with absolutely no electronic distractions (both images Leica Camera AG)
The M10-D harks back to the classic Messsucher, the rangefinder that provides a unique photographic experience. The basics are there — focus, aperture, speed and sensitivity — and not a jot more. Even the old film advance lever has been pressed into service as a very useful and ergonomically excellent thumb rest. With its screenless back, the M10-D feels just like a film camera, in particular just like the Leica M7 with which it shares dimensions. With the M10-D you can concentrate on photography, with absolutely no electronic distractions (both images Leica Camera AG)

I did think, though, that I am possibly the only person on the planet who would go so far as to put the M10-D on the winner’s pedestal. The choice is quite perverse simple because the M10-D is such a niche product from from a niche manufacturer.

Imagine my surprise then, when I read this morning that Steve Huff has designated the M10-D as his camera of the year. Steve has tried every new full-frame mirrorless camera produced in 2018, including the stellar Sony and the brave newcomers from C and N. Yet he sees the M10-D as something special, something outstanding. You can read his reasoning here.

Who am I to disagree? My M10-D is sitting in front of me now, ready to fulfil my rangefinder lust in 2019. I chose it over the more fully featured M10-P, even though the price is exactly the same. I chose it because it inspires me, and that is perhaps the most important reason to buy a camera.

Happy New Year to all Macfilos readers and our faithful band of contributors

24 COMMENTS

  1. I will spend the next few year -possibly many many years, aspiring to own an M rangefinder. My limited time with the M10 early last year, ignited a unique feeling in me. One that I aim to fulfil in the coming years. Just might be a few more than i would like, but suspect the M12, or whatever exists when I have saved enough will do what I need it to. I see the M10-D as the ultimate test of the photographer, more or less stripped of the tech that many rely on in other systems, only then would you know how good you really are.

    Happy New Year. Dave S

  2. Dear Michael, and readers: Happy New Year!

    “..The fact is, we don’t need the vast majority of functions that manufacturers now feel obliged to include, simply to keep up with the Jones’s..”

    Of course, we don’t NEED power steering, or power-assisted brakes. My old Morris Commercial lorry had just a crash gearbox, and you had to double-declutch (remember that?) as you changed from one gear to another.

    Of course, we don’t NEED an iris aperture; we could use slot-in Waterhouse stops. We didn’t NEED flexible 35mm film ..we could have stuck with 4”x5” glass plates.

    Surely, PROPER photography means coating our own plates with wet collodion emulsion ..who needs instant ‘snapshots’ taken on already-coated flexible cinema film? And who needs a built-in light meter anyway? Surely the proper method is to use an extinction meter, isn’t it?

    You know, I just don’t get this. Let’s say I’m taking a picture of a building ..the Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona, perhaps, or the Shard in London, or just the local St Mathias church around the corner. How do I get it all in, without converging verticals, and the building looking as if it’s falling over backwards?

    In film days I used a shift lens on my old Olympus OM-2, and I can, too, on a current Canon or Nikon (or and old Leica SLR) ..but I’d need to have the lens with me, though.

    Or, also back in film days, I could have tilted the enlarger head – or the paper easel beneath it – to correct converging verticals when I printed the photo ..after the fact. (And I can do the equivalent of that now in, say, Photo Ninja – also after the fact – when I import my photos onto a computer disc.)

    But if I turn on ‘Keystone Correction’ in my (not so new) Olympus E-M1 (..or newer PEN-F..) I can deal with the correction in real time while I take the picture! So much simpler!

    And the camera will focus for me, too, on the exact spot I’ve chosen, and the camera has a built-in stabiliser, so that when I’m shooting at dusk I can still use a slow shutter-speed – handheld – to capture the mix I want of fading daylight and emerging floodlight, and I can still use a small aperture for plenty of depth-of-field.

    The M10-D can’t do any of that: no ‘keystone correction’, no helpful autofocus (..unlike, say, the SL and other Leicas). And it has no stabilisation, not in the body nor in the lenses.

    These things are useful, like being able to see the focus in the viewfinder, instead of having a metal-frame external finder and just guessing the distance ..that’s OK at f8, but not so handy at f1.4.

    It seems to me that the whole usefulness of a digital camera is that you can immediately see what you’ve shot ..so that if it wasn’t exactly how you envisaged (“envisioned”) it, you can discover that, and try again.

    If you want “..just three basic adjustments — shutter speed, aperture and ISO..” (*choice of ISO!* ..in camera? – you young upstart!) why not go the whole nostalgic hog, and simply use an M7 instead?

    It has got automatic shutter speeds (if that’s what a photographer wants) but it has proper manual speeds too, and you can’t see the pictures from the M7 till the film’s been developed. Oh, and you’re (nostalgically) restricted to 36 shots, so as to “make each one count”!

    But I simply don’t get this “back to basics”, when the “basics” are arbitrarily or whimsically chosen: no screen so you can’t see what you’ve shot – however, but with (optional) auto shutter speeds and (heresy!) variable ISO! Why not restrict yourself to – only – ASA 100? ..Or ASA 25?

    In any case, what’s “essential” or “authentic” about 35mm film?

    Surely, one-off Daguerrotypes are more basic and “authentic” if one wants to go back to an earlier version of photography. Sure, each picture took several minutes to shoot ..but isn’t that “proper” photography?

    I do like the version of the M10-D which does have a screen on the back ..the M10-P. I like it so much (..quiet shutter; great quality small M lenses; decent battery life..) that, as you know, I bought one.

    But that’s because it offers better low-light capability, and a quieter shutter (that’s to say better performance, or what you might call “..functions that manufacturers now feel obliged to include, simply to keep up with the Jones’s..) than the previous M9, M8, Digilux 3, Digilux 2, Digilux 1 ..and the rest of its predecessors.

    I just don’t get this ‘selective retro’ hankering: no screen – but high and variable ISO please; no menus – but comprehensive setup via an iPhone app; cumbersome manual focusing, but large-capacity memory cards, please!

    I’m your age, Mike; but I chose a hip replacement instead of “authentic” ‘hobbling with pain’; I chose a lens-replacement instead of “authentically” going blind with glaucoma, and I’ve a car (nowadays) with electric start instead of having to swing a Z-shaped handle stuck in the front (as with my first few cars).

    I’m all for progress ..and I just can’t understand this need to not be able to see the pictures you’ve just shot. D’you cover your TV screen so that you can’t see the pictures, and only hear the sound? D’you go to the cinema and stop up your ears so that you’re watching “authentic” 1900s-era silent movies?

    Please do tell me what I’m missing, or not understanding..

    • Hi David,

      You make some worthy points, but I am younger and see things marginally differently – there is a challenge in mastering your art via a device that presents with a unique set of options, in a world where everything is on demand, and in the here and now – in fact that breeds laziness, or those who think they are brilliant, when they don’t really understand what they are doing. Look at Wedding photography as an example, I have heard countless stories of people taking it up as a professional, because of the kit they own. But the last wedding I shot two years back was on an old D300s, I did it for free, and overcame the challenges of my ageing kit, by just being better at my craft. Or understanding the basics of photography, and exposure. The couple in question asked why I didn’t do it for a living, and my response was unequivocal at the time – "too many people think they can do this, but few actually can."

      I have held, and tried the A7R3 by Sony, it makes wonderful images, tack sharp, with amazing low light capability – but boy it is an anaemic uninvolved experience, almost surgically sterile. My first stab of the shutter button produced 26 images without a blink in the EVF. No noise, no feedback, nothing. For me that finished any chance of me joining the queue of happy users.

      I am better known I suppose for my love the Leica X, and more recently the Nikon Df, both need caressing, they need a little tender love, and they produce amazing results in the right operating window. Oddly you feel them pull you in to the wider elements of the art. The Df is still used by Pro’s around the globe despite Nikons attempts to do nothing with its creation. The X is well loved by a certainly person living in Australia. 😉

      For me perhaps, I like to feel the soul of a camera, not just its features. And some have so many features that you have no idea how you produced what was there. But you did, well the CPU in the system did it.

      As for cars and other gadgets – oddly I like not double declutching (yes us youngun’s have done it), it makes your leg ache until it gets used to the technique. And I love things that make life easier, like washing machines, and other weird stuff – but cameras, are an art form.

      And finally, the quality in the lenses of film cameras, are why a whole host of Hollywood producers are finding ways to get the old lenses to run on digital systems, or shooting entire films on film. wow.. how advanced. They then convert the image to digital, because film provides better clarity, wider formats and just a unique look.

      Maybe the future is a balance between film and digital – both can live in the same ecosystem.

      • Dear Dave, thanks for replying, and trying to explain..

        You say “..there is a challenge in mastering your art via a device that presents with a unique set of options, in a world where everything is on demand, and in the here and now – in fact that breeds laziness, or those who think they are brilliant, when they don’t really understand what they are doing..” ..yes, I do agree.

        But then you say that “..some [cameras] have so many features that you have no idea how you produced what was there. But you did, well the CPU in the system did it”.

        And in that case, I quote you again, “..there is a challenge in mastering your art via a device that presents with a unique set of options”.

        It is – as you say – a matter of simply “..mastering your art” ..that is, of getting to understand and handle “..so many features..” that you do know how to use the camera to deliver what you want it to do for you.

        Look at all the hundreds of options within the menus of your (rightly) beloved Df! I’ve just counted eighty – without all of those items’ sub-menus – (I hope I’m not putting you off the Df!) ..*including* ‘Perspective Control’ ..the same thing as Olympus’ ‘Keystone Correction’.

        Of course, you don’t need to know what ALL of those menu items mean – or do – to take terrific pictures. You might only concern yourself with – as Mike says – “..just three basic adjustments — shutter speed, aperture and ISO”.

        But your Df offers you ‘Distortion Control’, ‘D-Lighting’ (to give you de-light!) providing a greater range of dark and light tones than the camera gives without that, and ‘Interval timer shooting’ and ‘HDR (high dynamic range)’ and on ..and on ..and on.

        So, in liking (loving?) the Df, you are indeed liking (loving?) a camera which has a huge array of adjustments, menus, possibly “un-needed” capabilities, maybe a score of adjustments of which you really don’t, as yet, have any idea of what they can actually do ..but with which you can take marvellous pictures just the same without understanding what they’re all for.

        But you condemn people who do that, as “..those who think they are brilliant, when they don’t really understand what they are doing..”

        Why condemn people who use cameras which have many features inside them as people who “..don’t really understand what they are doing..”?

        I drive a car, but I don’t know how the slow-running or idling jet in my carburettor was bored out (..or was it cast?) ..or even whether I have a carburettor or an injection system!

        All I know is, I press my foot down on the accelerator ..and it goes! Should I be condemned for that?

        Yours,

        • David B
        • Dear David,

          As usual, a lot of good points. I’m planning a follow up and I will add a quote or two. The M10-D is a very personal choice and, as you know, I am not short of other cameras that provide screens, full (over-full?) menus and lots of options. There’s a place for everything and the point I make is that Leica has the courage to do things that larger manufacturers wouldn’t contemplate.

          The strange thing is that the original M-D was a success, far more successful that the manufacturer anticipated, I am sure. If this had not been the case I feel sure we would never have seen an M10-D. But for most Leica buyers with that cash in their pockets, the M10-P probably makes the sensible choice, offering a rangefinder with a few of the modern conveniences we have come to love or hate.

          Mike

          • Monk 1 ‘The porridge is too hot’. Monk 2 7 years later ‘The Porridge is too cold’. Monk 3 7 more years later ‘I’m leaving, there is too much fighting over the porridge’. Each to his own, I say. Mike is entitled to choose whatever camera he wishes as his camera of the year. Personally, I would not trade my M10 for an M10-D. I have a very large number of film Leicas (and other makes) in my collection to use if I want the ‘no rear screen’ experience. Film photography is an entirely experience to digital photography and an M10-D could never replicate that experience for me. For me the M10-D sits in an uncomfortable ‘half way house’, not helped by the FOTOS app which has never worked with my M10.

            Finally, to get into some aspects of the porridge ‘too hot/too cold’ argument nobody is required to use all the features of any electronic device (cameras, phones or whatever). I usually find the two or three buttons or apps that I need and I set them up and leave the rest alone. I know that the other stuff is there in the unlikely event that I need it. Lightroom has many of the features mentioned already such as distortion control and is much simpler to use and produces much better results than any in-camera stuff. The Leica M series is not a do-all camera anyway and any photographer doing work that requires specialised equipment such as perspective control lenses or super long telephotos is better advised to look elsewhere for solutions. I’ll leave it at that, otherwise we might still be arguing about ‘the porridge’ 7 years from now.

            My own ‘camera of the year’ was a 1932 Leica II Model D engraved with the name of a dealer in Grafton Street, Dublin. When the weather improves, I am going to use it to take a photo of the premises from which it was sold 87 years ago. The Leica dealer is long since gone and the current occupant is a firm selling cosmetics, called, appropriately enough, Urban Decay.

            William

          • ".. the FOTOS app which has never worked with my M10.."

            Have you tried updating the camera’s firmware? ..That fixed it for me!

            • David B.
          • My firmware is up to date. While FOTOS does not work, the Leica M app (which seems to do the same things) works, but, in truth, whether the app works is neither here nor there for me, as I won’t be using it. I was just commenting on why I find the M10-D to be a ‘halfway house’. Preventing users from seeing certain features on a camera and then allowing them to see those features on a smartphone seems to border on the perverse, but if that is what certain customers want, who am I to object, particularly when I won’t be purchasing the camera? I am quite happy with the fact that my M3s etc, don’t need a phone app!

            William

        • Hi David,

          Sorry for the delay in responding, I’ve been out at the theatre with my good wife, as a treat after being married to me for 27 years.

          For clarity my personal preference is to have a camera I can feel my way in to, and I tend not to mess around too much in the menus – I hadn’t even realised there was so much in the Df, I only use the format memory card option, and the auto ISO set up area – there rest I manage off the dials. Sorry that’s the way I do – Mike and Co can vouch for how painful it was to get me to set up my Leica X to improve the autofocus. I’d never really looked. And the Leica has very few options.

          I accept other people love their kit, my son in law takes his A7R3 everywhere with him, and it produces some amazing stuff. I can pick it up, use it, and then put it down. I have no feeling with the camera. So its not for me. And hence why I didn’t buy one.

          There is one piece of advice I give anyone who has asked me about taking images – and that is that they read Bryan Petersons "Understanding Exposure". This removes a layer of photography mystery.

          Anyway I am just in, so off to find a decent vino as I need to return to work tomorrow.

          As always happy to debate the pro’s, cons and anything else photography, camera or other kit related.

          Dave S

      • Dave,

        I agree it’s good to have the choice. Not everyone wants a clone camera, especially if it is perceived as soulless. The vast majority of M buyers will opt for the M10 or the M10-P and only a small proportion will be interested in the M10-D. But, at least, it is there as a choice. For my part, I’ve owned practically every digital M since the M8, including variations such as the two Monochroms (other oddballs which received a lot of criticism for daring to cut down features). I I want a digital mirrorless camera I can think of several (starting with the Leica SL) that provided a superior user experience, even with manual lenses. The rangefinder has its niche but cannot compete on equal terms no matter how many digital features and accessory viewfinders are added. The M10-D, to my mind, is the perfect distillation of the digital rangefinder. If I could have just one camera I probably wouldn’t choose either an M-D or M; I would go for a more versatile beast such as the SL. But for when I have the rangefinder lust, the M10-D puts a grin on my face.

  3. A very happy new year to all macfilos authors and readers… It’s a pleasure reading this site.
    I agree with David’s thoughts below, but I’m more keen on having an evf in an M more than anything else. I’m waiting to buy such a Leica 🙂 SL is huge. Sony is great but agree about being soul less. I had a7ii and then A7RIII which I sold in a month. I found xt3 great in terms of ‘soul’ and it’s IQ.

  4. Happy New Year Mike and to all. I wish all an awesome year and much pleasure capturing images with whatever camera they enjoy. I used to own a Leica M which I loved but I had issues with waiting 6 months for rangefinder adjustment – but they did do it for free and out of warranty. Then there was the gorgeous Leica SL and amazing 24-90 that captured images that were truly lovely and the best natural sky colours I have experienced but I found it too heavy to carry for hours with my whiplash. So I am listing it on ebay today.
    For me, my camera of the year is the Leica Q-P. I find it to be the most beautiful camera I have ever owned and the most natural and simplistic to use with great autofocus and easy manual focus with the great EVF. I am starting to get used to the 28/1.7 field of view and getting closer to subject. Initially I was not sure I would like 28mm for my only lens but it is fast becoming comfortable. I do not see replacing this camera as it more than meets all aspects of my needs for a carry all the time camera.

  5. The M10-D. A very interesting choice Michael.
    To be quite honest, I’m with David Babsky (below) on this one.

    I do wonder whether they should have designated it the M10-E where E=eccentric.
    Or M10-Z where Z=zany (but I guess Nikon nicked the Z identifier this year).
    Or maybe M10-Q where Q=quirky (But that could confuse it with the wonderful Leica Q).
    …….I love my Thesaurus 😉

  6. Steve Huff has also picked the Leica M10D as his camera of the year! So you are not as eccentric as some people may think. And he says that he is going to trim his camera system for stills down to only the Leica 10D and two lenses. He also makes great points about it inspiring him and enjoying the simplicity. I would consider it but I have the Leica Q-P and Hasselblad X1D and they both inspire me. We certainly have lots of choice these days from all manufacturers and one should use whatever inspires.

    • Brian, I mentioned Steve Huff in the article. It was his story that prompted me to write the article. But, even so, I don‘t think it could be just the two of us. Leica sold a lot of M-Ds and I suspect the M10-D will do even better. Let‘s hope it is recognised for what it is.

  7. With all due respect to Steve Huff as I do enjoy his website, he changes from Leica to other systems every 6 months and back. I think it comes to this as Steve says- every camera these days can take great pictures. So I would say it just depends on your budget and what you enjoy or think as necessary, e.g. range finder /evf focus, image stabilization or not, etc. etc. But then justifying the high cost Vs less or no features wouldn’t make sense to some like myself.

    • Yes, Steve does seem to have lots of favourites and I sometimes wonder how he finds time to use all of them. But he has had a consistent affection for Leica and it is good to find Leica valued on such a popular web site,

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