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Leica M10 Street Photography Review

It is evident that the new Leica M10 is the best digital rangefinder for street photography. The camera is fantastic. Let me share more of my experiences shooting with the Leica M10 and the Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit lens in ‘real life’:


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What’s different?

Brief history:

Leica M8 -> Leica M8.2 -> Leica M9 -> Leica M240 -> Leica M10

The Leica M10 is the best digital rangefinder ever made.

Differences/improvements over the prior Leica M240:

  1. Leica M10 is lighter, thinner, and has a very nice ISO dial on top of the camera.
  2. Leica M10 has simplified menus, fewer buttons, and slightly better image quality
  3. Leica M10 has improved high-ISO picture quality (for example, ISO 1600 on the Leica M10 looks like ISO 800 on the Leica M240)

Learn more about Leica M rangefinders camera in LEICA MANUAL >


Things which I like about the Leica M10

  1. Thinner top plate (the same thickness as film Leica MP). The Leica M9 was a bit chunky (but okay), then the Leica M240 got EVEN MORE chunky! The Leica M10 is a HUGE HUGE HUGE improvement over the prior Leica M240.
  2. Simplified menu and button-system compared to the prior Leica M240. For example, only 3 buttons on the LCD screen, simplified menu system, and fewer superfluous buttons on top (the Leica M240 had a video button — which would obviously never be ‘seriously’ used).
  3. The camera startup time is now almost instantaneous, which means no missed shots on the streets.
  4. The camera shutter sound on the new Leica M10 is very nice! MUCH MUCH MUCH improved compared to the Leica M9 (which sounded like a dying kitten).
  5. Better high ISO performance, especially when shooting in color. For example, the Leica M9 wasn’t good in color above ISO 400, and the Leica M240 wasn’t too great above ISO 800-1600. The Leica M10 looked good for me in the ISO 1600-3200 range in color.

Things I would change

  1. The ISO dial on the top plate is a very very good idea– but it is too hard to pull out to change the ISO. Perhaps loosening the release mechanism will be an improvement.
  2. The on-off little red dot on the power switch is a bit superfluous. Just getting rid of it would actually be less confusing.

Shooting on the streets with the Leica M10

I shot with my friend Dav’s Leica M10, and the Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit lens (the new phone), with an external 28mm finder on top. It was a ton of fun! I just shot everything at f/8, and zone-focused at around 1.2 meters-2 meters for all the photos. ISO was set at 1600, so no blurry photos. It was great– like a glorified ‘point and shoot’ camera!

What I liked about shooting the streets of Singapore with the Leica M10 was:

  1. Battery life much improved: I shot the entire day on just one battery, and didn’t run out!
  2. No on-off lag that I could perceive: I usually turn off the Leica M10 when I’m not taking photos (a nervous tic); and still — I didn’t miss any photo opportunities!
  3. The Leica M10 feels lighter than the prior digital Leica-M cameras. Which is good; which means less fatigue when shooting the streets!
  4. The Leica 28mm f/2.8 lens is very very good. Great ergonomics, good ergonomics for the focusing tab, nice metal hood, solid construction, and all the photos look good (of course).

Should I buy one?

I would recommend honoring the ‘two camera rule‘:

If you can afford to buy two Leica M10’s (in cash)– then go for it!

The sucker mistake a lot of us make is that we go into debt, or deplete our savings to buy an expensive $7,000 USD camera. Granted, this is cheaper than a car, or a home mortgage– but still a huge chunk of cash. Oh yeah, and the lens will probably cost you at least $2,500 USD+ as well!

I don’t believe it is a moral sin or ‘bad’ to buy expensive cameras. It is only bad if you cannot afford to buy two of them (with no financial downsides).

Some alternatives:

  1. Buy a RICOH GR II (only around $600 USD).
  2. Buy a used Leica M9 if you want the ‘rangefinder’ experience. Make sure to buy one where the sensor was fixed by Leica (it used to have a ‘sensor rotting’ issue).
  3. If you like black and white photography, buy a used Leica M8 or Leica M8.2, and shoot RAW and the black and whites look epic!

One of my portfolio photos shot on Leica M8.2, in RAW, processed:

0-eric kim street photography sweat downtown la leica m8.jpg

0-la sweat contact.jpg


Pictures on Leica M10:

Shot on RAW, ISO 1600-3200, then processed with VSCO Kodak Portra 800HC Lightroom preset:

eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-1eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-21eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-20eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-19eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-18eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-17eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-16eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-15eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-14eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-13eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-12eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-11eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-10eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-9eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-8eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-7eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-6eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-5eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-4eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-3eric kim - singapore street photography - color - 28mm - leica m10-2


Conclusion

Don’t get suckered by Leica lust (as I was in the past). To be frank at this point, I don’t really care that much what camera I shoot with. I’ll shoot 35mm film on my film Leica MP, I’ll shoot on a phone (and process the photos with VSCO), or any digital cameras I have lying around (I started to shoot with the Lumix LX100 after my RICOH GR II died — haha, also given to me and Cindy by my friend Dav!!!)

Even now, I’m focusing more on shooting video– I bought a Lumix G9 and 12mm f/1.4 lens, and have been uploading tons of 4k videos to my YouTube Channel >

Ultimately, don’t overthink photography. Just shoot with whatever camera you have, however ‘shitty‘ it may be.

And let us not forget our STREET CLUB motto:

JUST SHOOT IT!

ERIC


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By ERIC KIM

Artist-Philosopher