• November 29, 2021

Leica M10-R Digital Rangefinder Review: Dreamy but Decadent

I ran headfirst into my refrigerator when Leica’s new camera, the M10-R, arrived at my doorstep. Or, more specifically, I slipped on a cat toy, fell onto a dining chair, and pulled that chair down on top of me as I slid forward into the fridge. I got back up, ignoring the pain so I could answer the door before UPS decided I wasn’t home.

I limped back inside, the prize clutched close to my breast, and collapsed on my couch. By then, my roommates had run into the living room after hearing my crash and yelp. “Oh, I fell,” I told them, unboxing the Leica M10-R, while bruises blossomed across my knees and elbows. “You look busted, Jess,” one of them said. They kindly parted me from the box and insisted I put some ice on my sprained ankle and swollen knees.

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Once that tedious business was done, I finally got to hold the M10-R. You have to understand, this camera is exciting. It’s every bit as well made as any other Leica rangefinder, it comes with an all-new 40-megapixel full-frame sensor, and it starts at $8,300. You’d be rushing to answer the door, too!

Bare Necessities

My first batch of test shots were taken from the comfort of my couch, while my legs were immobilized by ice packs and bandages. Despite the mundane content, the photos were incredible. Tack-sharp. No, razor-sharp. With the focus falling off just past the subject, gracefully melting the background into an absolutely dreamy bokeh.

Photograph: Leica

The 40-megapixel sensor is massive for a camera this size. It’s smaller than my Fujifilm X-Pro 2, and that’s a very small professional camera. The M10-R is small enough to fit in a purse or to carry around your neck and kind of forget it’s there.

Thankfully, it doesn’t feel cramped. The exterior shell of the Leica is stark. Nothing but the essentials here—three buttons beside a touch-sensitive LCD, a pair of knobs on the top, a directional pad on the back, and a shutter button. Leica dialed down everything that might get in your way, delivering just the bare necessities so there’s as little as possible between you and your subject.

But there are a couple of features that are absent here, and they’re pretty glaring considering the price tag—it seems like the paring knife cut a little too deep. The M10-R has only one SD card slot—usually you get two on higher-end cameras like the Sony Alpha 7 and Fujifilm X Pro—and it’s a little awkward to reach. To replace the battery or SD card, you have to unscrew the bottom plate of the camera.

The lack of autofocus is also noticeable, but that’s par for the course with the M-series. Leica’s top-tier rangefinders purposefully don’t have autofocus; it’s a philosophical choice to make you slow down and carefully compose your photos.

Speaking of photos, it’s hard to describe the “Leica look.” Somewhere between the moment when photons hit the sensor and when the onboard processor converts them into a picture, the M10-R works its magic. There’s a hyper-realness in Leica images, a product of the way the company manufactures its lenses and how the sensors process light.

Photos look as if they’ve frozen a moment in liquid glass. I’m not just waxing poetic here, either. There is an undeniable look to photos taken with a Leica camera, and the M10-R’s top-notch, high-resolution sensor elevates it with crisp details and vivid colors on print-ready RAW files. It’s hard to take a truly bad photo with the M10-R, especially without autofocus, because you’re forced to take it slow.

Consider your composition and subject—then focus, breathe, and snap. It’s a contemplative experience, one all photographers should have the chance to experience. But there’s a catch.

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