2017 Roundup: Semi-Pro Interchangeable Lens Cameras $2000+
24MP full-frame CMOS sensor | Rangefinder / Live View focus | 5 fps bursts
What we like:
- Smallest digital M-series
- Excellent build quality
- Logical, clean control layout and menu
What we don't:
- Very expensive
- Relatively poor battery life
- Fussy memory card / battery access
The Leica M10 is something of an anachronism in the digital age: an expensive manual focus rangefinder that can't shoot video, with ergonomics based on a 60 year-old camera. But despite its obvious limitations compared to similarly priced DSLRs, the M10 is highly capable and a lot of fun to use.
The M10 is built around Leica's M-mount, introduced in the 1950s. As such, it works with (almost) no limitations with (almost) every lens ever manufactured for this mount.
One limitation inherent in the M10 (and all true rangefinders) is manual focus, but fans of the M-series won't mind a bit. Some people even prefer it. It's certainly true that the M10 takes us back to a simpler, more traditional kind of photography. Rangefinder focusing takes some getting used to, but once mastered, it's a lot of fun. Compared to a DSLR, the M10 is small and discreet, with a quiet shutter (and a pretty impressive maximum shooting rate of 5fps) that lets you take it into situations where a larger camera might be inappropriate.
Less 'traditional' and more just plain annoying is the method by which the M10's battery and memory card slots are accessed. In an unnecessary throwback to the 1920s, the entire base of the camera must be removed to gain access to these compartments. The M10's battery rating of 210 shots is modest compared to its DSLR and some mirrorless peers, but it should last through a typical day's shooting. If it doesn't, or if you find yourself swapping media several times during a shoot, taking the bottom of the camera off to get to those slots will get tiresome.
As far as image quality is concerned, the M10 uses a full-frame 24MP sensor. This turns out excellent images at low to medium ISO sensitivity settings, with good (albeit not class-leading) dynamic range in RAW mode. With a modern '6-bit coded' Leica lens attached, the M10 corrects for vignetting automatically in-camera, but the sensor's custom microlens design means that vignetting is rarely a serious problem, even with older lenses.
The M10 can't shoot video, but it does offer a useful live view function, which is extremely handy for critical focusing and exposure.
Overall, the M10 is a capable camera in the right hands. A lot of photographers will complain about its price, but it's a Leica. They've always been expensive. If you don't need it, or can't afford it, there are plenty of other options on the market. But if you love the rangefinder way of shooting, the M10 is the best digital M-series camera yet.
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