Are Leica cameras good

Leica M10: A camera for over 10,000 euros can do that

By Thomas Porwol | August 03, 2017, 1:06 p.m.

The price is staggering, but is the Leica M10 worth the money? TECHBOOK tested the extraordinary camera.

If you see the Leica M10 with the Summilux 35mm f1.4 lens lying in front of you on the table, you would hardly guess what the price for this camera-lens combination is being offered by the traditional camera manufacturer Leica from Wetzlar, Hesse: You have to pay a whopping 11,850 euros for this duo - you get a small car for that.

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Wolf in sheep's clothing

The Leica M10 looks so inconspicuous - more like an old film camera that you would find rummaging around in the attic and not like a high-priced digital camera that can compete with the flagships from Nikon and Canon in terms of image quality. But it is precisely this bridge between analog and digital that Leica has committed itself to with the M cameras: The first M camera appeared in the 1950s and was called the Leica M3. There have been several iterations since then, but if you were to put an M3 right next to an M10 today - you wouldn't notice the difference until you turn both cameras and see the screen on the back of the M10 that reveals its digital nature.

And the range of functions has also remained in the spirit of old film cameras: while cameras from other manufacturers are equipped with practical convenience functions right up to the edge, Leica has deliberately kept it as reduced as possible in the M series - and drives this minimalism to a point many photographers find it difficult to understand why one would still want to use such a rudimentary camera nowadays.

The M stands for rangefinder

But what do you get with a camera that places value on tradition and reduction on the one hand, but on the other hand you only care for the body - without a lens! - Has to put 6850 euros on the table and thus ranks in the same price segment as a Nikon D5 or Canon 1Dx Mark II, the most expensive full-frame professional cameras of the two top dogs on the SLR market?

The easiest thing to do is to list what the M10 cannot, because despite the high price, buyers of the M10 have to forego a few things: There is no autofocus - all focusing is done by hand with the M10. There is no video mode - the camera is purely a camera. There is no auto exposure mode - although you can use automatic time and ISO settings on the camera, the aperture is always set manually on the lens.

What you get, on the other hand, is a rangefinder - probably the most striking feature of the M series: Instead of looking through the lens, as with a SLR camera, with this optical viewfinder you look past the lens through a window in the housing and get through it LEDs overlaid box in the viewfinder, which image section can be seen in the end of the photo. Depending on the lens used, this box is sometimes smaller and sometimes larger. The advantage of such a viewfinder: Since with a rangefinder you can see more than just the image section that the sensor will record when you press the shutter release button, but also everything around it, you can better anticipate when a subject will run into the subject and so the Better plan image composition. However, with a rangefinder you can only see roughly what the photo will look like in the end - the viewfinder of a DSLR is much more precise.

Taking pictures without training wheels

With the M10 you should take photos, no more and no less - in the same way as photos have been taken for decades: by manually balancing aperture, shutter speed and light sensitivity and manually focusing by hand. That sounds archaic and terribly slow at first, but with enough experience and practice it doesn't have to be. And it is precisely this technical aspect, the clicking setting wheels, turning the velvety focus ring and the high-quality workmanship of the Leica instrument that inspires many photographers.

And despite or precisely because of this minimalism, the M10 exerts a fascination that can best be compared with the enthusiasm of car enthusiasts for a sports car and thus justifies the high price for individuals: Because here too, the omission of Assistance systems and foregoing comfort make driving really exciting for many - and the same applies to fans of the Leica M series. Because taking photos with the M10 is like taking photos without all of the digital training wheels that make photography easier these days.

But just as car fans have different opinions about different bodies, Leica is also polarizing with its camera philosophy: Whether it is a feature to remove all these little helpers from a camera is quite arguable - while purists and Leica themselves believe Speaking of a “balance between long tradition and innovative technology”, one can just as easily argue that by foregoing convenience functions, one only puts obstacles in one's way and, thanks to the technological support, one can concentrate much better on the subject instead fiddling with the camera.

Modern concessions

But now the Leica M10 also has a digital side and makes a number of concessions to the present day: For example, in addition to the rangefinder, the M10 also offers the option of taking photos via the live view and supports the photographer with practical focus peaking . In addition, the M10 can set up a WLAN and be remotely controlled via the corresponding Leica app on the smartphone or transfer photos from the camera to the mobile phone without the need for a computer.

While these additions are welcome, there are unfortunately still a few issues with the implementation. The menus are just a long list, the functions are hidden in sub-items, and the ways to the individual items are long. In addition, the menu is not always clearly labeled and because the M10 is very sparsely equipped with buttons, some actions are also cumbersome. It seems a bit as if the user interface was only conceived in the last step and implemented with little time to fine-tune it.

But is the camera worth the price?

But with all the fascination and controversy that a Leica can arouse, in the end the question arises: is this camera worth the price? After all, depending on the lens, you can quickly break the 10,000 euro mark and the selection of three lenses that Leica provided for this test, together with the camera, reached a dizzying price of 15,600 euros.

What you can say about the Leica M19 and its lenses: The image quality is fantastic and the lens ecosystem that you buy into with an M camera offers an impressive selection of excellent lenses. I don't have to hide the Leica from the competition with the built-in 24 megapixel sensor and if you can operate the Leica with a little practice, it's not only a lot of fun, but also offers a satisfactory amount of control over the photo.

However, the Leica M10 is an absolute luxury product with a luxury price: If you are only interested in image quality, you should look for the money at Canon, Nikon or Sony. Instead, Leica is also about the tradition in which this camera stands, the unusual concept of the rangefinder and the name Leica itself, which is also paid for. The Leica is therefore a camera that you don't buy if you weigh the advantages and disadvantages very rationally, compare the price-performance ratio and are looking for the most reasonable camera - because the M10 is far from that.

And that is why the Leica M10 is out of the question for the overwhelming majority of buyers - it is too expensive, too special and too reduced for that. But if you have the change, you know what you are getting into with the rangefinder and manual focus, and are prepared to pay the full Leica surcharge for this package, you will also get an extraordinary and impressive camera for the money.

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