Review: Leica M10-D (Almost the Leica That I’ve Been Waiting For)

The Leica M10-D is the ultimate evolution to the Leica M10 series of cameras and brings with it ergonomic changes that I don’t expect most people to understand.

When I walked into a meeting with Leica and saw the Leica M10-D, it reminded me of the very few times that I gasped with utter and pure excitement in the industry; when Sony announced their radio flashes/transmitter, when Capture One finally started to work closer with Fujifilm, and when Kodak announced that Ektachrome was coming back. And for the most part, I’m writing my review of the Leica M10-D from the point of view of a fanboy simply because I don’t expect most people to understand the camera. One side will call me a spoiled, hipster millennial and the other side may label me as an elitist snob with full conviction that Leica paid me a ton of money to write this. This post is being written with pure joy and admiration at what Leica has done with the Leica M10-D, but I am also fully acknowledging where it’s gone wrong.

The Leica M10-D is more or less the Leica M10-P, which is the Leica M10 with a notably more quiet shutter. The Leica M10-D on the other hand takes away the LCD screen and gives controls to photographers where they demand it. There is WiFi built in to work with the Leica Fotos app, and there is also an ergonomic film advance. Unfortunately, the film advance is just for ergonomic reasons and isn’t hardwired to being a mechanical shutter. When I say “unfortunately” I mean that that’s very unfortunate.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Quiet shutter
  • A bit of an improvement in battery life
  • Leica Fotos integration is very nice
  • Same great image quality as the Leica M10
  • Looks and feels like a film camera
  • Very low profile

Cons

  • Pricey
  • I really, really wish that this were a true mechanical shutter.

Gear Used

We tested the Leica M10-D with the 35mm f1.4 Simmulux and a few 7 Artisan lenses.

Tech Specs

You’re best off checking out our Leica M10P review for most of the core specs.

Ergonomics

With the Leica M10-D, you’re getting a camera designed to have a very low profile aesthetic that only comes in black (for now!). As such, the front of the camera has no real markings on it at all.

Look at the top of the Leica M10-D and what you’ll spot are the main controls. Like the Leica M10 before it there is the ISO dial, the shutter speed dial, hot shoe, function button, and this time around there is a film advance meant for ergonomic uses.

Turn to the back and you’ll see more of the main controls. Taking inspiration from the company’s film cameras, this area has the exposure compensation dial and the on/off/wifi switch.

Build Quality

The Leica M10-D has weather sealing according to Leica, but those standards haven’t been CIPA tested to my knowledge. I tested it out in a light rainshower and it continued to shoot with no trouble. However, I’m not quite sure of the extent to which I’d do this. I also think the Leica M10-D feels great in the hands with the film advance brought out. However, it still isn’t as ergonomically pleasing as the one on the Leica M4-P. Leica couldn’t bend it a whole lot (like a real film advance) because of the placement of the hot shoe.

Otherwise, the Leica M10-D is made of metal and without the LCD screen, one could argue that it is the most rugged Leica on the market.

Ease of Use

You more or less operate the Leica M10-D like a fusion between a digital and film camera. Turn the back dial from off to on, and the camera is activated. Turn it again to activate WiFi. Then there is the exposure compensation dial–a first for a Leica in some ways. The ISO is operated on the top dial switch as is shutter speed, and the button near the shutter tells you how many images you have left on the card and the battery life. It’s simple–no major menus to go through, instead you just get right to shooting.

Operations like DNG/JPEG and a few other things are controlled via the Leica Fotos app. I’m stoked actually that I can lock my white balance to daylight or tungsten in this way.

Focusing

The Leica M10-D is a rangefinder and uses rangefinder focusing. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the viewfinder in the Leica M10, but it still works just fine. To that end, it’s a manual focus camera and lens. The user has the option of affixing an EVF to the hot shoe to get a simulated view of what they’ll shoot.

Image Quality

The image quality from the Leica M10-D is from the same full frame 24MP CMOS sensor that it shares with its predecessors. To that end, the shadows can be pushed for forever and the highlight rendition is decent yet not up to what a few other manufacturers are capable of producing. Part of what gives you the Leica image quality though are the lenses. When Leica lenses are attached to this camera, the image quality sings with sharpness and contrast that isn’t quite as possible with other cameras due to the way light hits those camera’s sensors.

RAW File Versatility

The Leica M10-D shoots DNG files and so you can port those to your phone and even edit there if you wish, without the need of a computer. What you’ll get are lots of great editing capabilities with your favorite app. Of course, you can go to your computer when you wish. The best thing to do with files from this sensor is to underexpose the scene and then push it in post. However, the highlight rendition and the RAW file’s ability to get those details back are standard for 2018. Have I seen better? Oh yeah. But this isn’t at all terrible if you use good metering methods.

High ISO Output

I edited these images in Capture One with the RNI Films styles. Of course, the high ISO output from the Leica M10-D isn’t at all shabby. I’ve made 17×22 inch prints from ISO 6400 files before and I’m very confident in how they’ve looked.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Battery life isn’t bad, but I wish it were still greater.
  • Wifi
  • Leica Fotos app is pretty nice
  • Low profile look
  • Film advance lever
  • Same good image quality

Dislikes

  • Price

The Leica M10-D is a great camera for the photographer–not really for the video shooter or for the photographer who sometimes needs to shoot video. However, for those of us who shoot stills, the Leica M10-D will make itself out to be not only a quiet camera, but one that can be a great documentary tool in the right hands.

I almost want to buy one, but I can’t truly justify it to myself. However, the Leica M10-D earns four out of five stars. It’s a novelty item and not really a true workhorse. For that reason, a part of me believes that it should actually be more affordable than the other variants.