Could you and would you shoot with a digital camera without an LCD screen that costs and arm and a leg? I spent two days in Singapore wandering the streets with the Leica M10-D and here are my thoughts.
$8,000 dollars for a camera with no LCD screen, no lenses included, and exactly zero bells and zero whistles. Okay, correction: it does have one feature, you can connect wirelessly through the Leica photo app, so it has that going for it.
I’m not a gearhead. I never read articles comparing tech specs on cameras and if that’s your thing, this review isn’t for you. I don’t watch reviews by photographers whose work I don’t enjoy, and I’m especially not interested in reviews by people who don’t work full-time as a photographer, meaning they get paid to shoot not review.
That might sound cocky or a knock on those guys, but it’s truly not — it’s simply not for me. I am a working photographer and I like to hear from people who will use gear in similar situations as I would.
My assistant always tries to argue with me for spending so much money on a Hasselblad X1D, saying I should’ve bought the Fuji GFX 50S because it has the same sensor and more lenses and blah blah blah. My camera is an extension of me, it’s in my hands for hours at a time while I work and I use my gear extensively. If you pick up the X1D and the Fuji you will understand instantly why I chose to go with that setup and if you don’t understand, you and I will never see eye to eye.
Wait, I thought this was a Leica review, it is, it is, I’m getting to that now but I just wanted to establish I’m a snob for design and ergonomics so there you go, snobbery established. When I picked up the Leica M10-D it brought me back to my M6 days over a decade ago. The camera feels perfect in your hands and around your neck. The build and style are iconic. I don’t need to get into that — it just is. Go to a store and pick it up or visit Jason Momoa’s (aka Aquaman) Instagram feed and see how cool he looks with all his Leicas. Disclaimer, you won’t look as cool as him nor should you buy a camera to look or feel cool.
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Excited to start a new project and film. Shooting movies on the @reddigitalcinema @leitzcine and photos on @leicacamerausa #LeicaSummicronM. #M10. living on set I have learned from so many wonderful artists I want to thank Zack Synder @cruelfilms and @wfmft for starting my Leica obsession than @nicholasdominictalvola for always informing me and inspiring and @dennydenn @candytman for setting the bar. @lennykravitz always killing it. @johnson167 best gear. @kiran.karnani for making my dreams come true. Can’t wait to show everyone It’s gonna be a great couple years filled with art #theduneadventures. #pastandpresent #theroots #leicalover. Aloha j
Okay, so $8,000 because it feels good and looks nice? Nope, it goes deeper than that. When you’re a professional it’s easy to forget about your personal work, it’s easy to not take a camera with you all the time or leave it in your bag and to associate your camera with work.
This camera feels unique, the M10-D is the kind of camera that you will want to have on you at all time. You don’t need a bag, just wear it on your neck or shoulder and you’ll barely notice its there. This camera makes you want to go for a walk and just look for pictures and chase moments and light. Please don’t have a “camera phone is all you need” argument with me here — it’s not the same, in my opinion, and I won’t engage.
What’s with the no LCD screen. Seems a bit crazy, doesn’t it? I thought so too, but to be honest I instantly loved not looking down constantly at my screen and trusting my skills and being totally present. I enjoyed remembering my exposures and thinking about my shots, overall just being thoughtful in my photography. It felt pure.
Many people will go for the Fuji X-Pro2 if they want this class of camera and your wallet will thank you, I get that. I’ve used the Fuji X-Pro2 and it’s nice, but it’s not the same. I didn’t love having that camera with me. I didn’t love shooting with it like I did with the Leica.
So, what exactly would I use this camera for? I won’t use the camera for my commercial work, as I have the X1D for that. I will use it for my personal work, as my everyday camera, and I feel confident I could even use it on editorial assignments as well. I recently had a travel assignment for The New York Times just a few days after testing the Leica. It was a full day of lugging around my DSLR and a bag full of lenses in the heat of Vietnam, and I hated it — I was really bummed out. I missed having that simple rangefinder body and one lens (I’ll purchase the 35mm f/1.4) and I felt I could’ve executed the assignment just as well if not better with the Leica.
This camera has everything you need and exactly nothing you don’t. It’s a niche camera — it knows it and it doesn’t mind. In fact, if you can’t shoot without a screen, this camera doesn’t want you anyways.
Who is this camera for? By now you must realize it’s for me, but is it for you? Of course, you must be able to afford it, but I’ll leave that up to you to sort your own finances. I feel this camera is for professionals and amateurs alike, really anyone who misses wanting to have a camera with them always, anyone who cares about what a camera feels like around their neck and in their hands. It’s for a photographer who wants to actively slow down and have a different experience with their photography.
When I first started in my photography over a decade ago I never left home without a camera around my neck. Unfortunately, I haven’t done that in years, but with the Leica M10-D, I’m confident I’ll be getting back to those days again soon and I love that.
Here is a gallery of some of my favorite shots from the day in Singapore (All images copyright Justin Mott 2019 and shot with the Leica M10-D with the Leica 28mm f/2):
Here’s my full video review (published to my YouTube channel:
Full disclosure: Leica Singapore loaned me this camera for the weekend but I was not paid or asked to do this review.
About the author: Justin Mott is an award-winning editorial, travel, and commercial photographer and director based in Vietnam for over a decade. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Mott has shot over 100 assignments throughout Vietnam and Southeast Asia for the New York Times covering tragedy, travel, features, business, and historical moments. You can find more of his work on his website, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.