Leica recently created a new mount, in association with Panasonic and Sigma. We already wrote a summary article on the best L-mount cameras. However, the brand originally had another mount for their full frame cameras: the M mount.
The M mount was created in 1954 with the Leica M3 and has been retained for many successive references, including the brand’s mythical M6 rangefinder camera (so mythical, in fact, they decided to recently restart production, 20 years after being discontinued). It had also been used by other brands for film photography such as Cosina or Minolta, but, as of now, only Leica still uses it with digital cameras. By the way, we also keep an updated list of all the M-mount lenses produced by Leica as well as by third-party brands, on our blog.
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M-mount cameras have some characteristics that make them surprising for digital use: they have neither autofocus nor video mode (except the Leica M 240). But Leica does not produce these cameras for this purpose. To do this, they have the Leica SL cameras presented in the introductory article. These have the advantages of a digital sensor, but offer a similar experience to their popular film cameras. The prices of these cameras are obviously brand-loyal, and therefore extremely high!
Heir to the M9 cameras, the Leica M10s share many common features with them.
The classic M10 offers a 24MP sensor without low pass filter nor stabilization. The native ISO range goes from ISO 100 to ISO 50,000, as is the case with all other Leica M10s. Its burst rate is 5 frames per second, which clearly doesn’t make it a sporty camera (for a camera without autofocus, you would expect that. Lol).
The M10-P offers the same performance as the classic M10 but for the slightly modified design. It comes in matte black and loses some buttons compared to the classic one but offers a touch screen and a quieter shutter. It has the same 5 fps burst rate as the classic M10.
The M10-R has a 40MP sensor also lacking a low pass filter. Surprisingly, despite its more pixelated sensor, it offers a higher burst rate than previous models with 10fps.
The M10 monochrome is, as its name suggests, a version of the M10-R offering only black and white images with the 5 frames per second burst rate of the M10 and M10-P. Its sensor is, however, the same 40MP as found in the M10-R but without the Bayer matrix (matrix “coloring” the pixels as for a monochrome camera, it is unnecessary)
Leica Ms are photography-only rangefinder cameras, which implies 2 constraints: no AF, you will have to focus with the rangefinder’s central magnifying glass or the magnifying glass, and use focus peaking with the rear screen. There is no video mode, be it 4K, Full HD or any other definition. They also have a fairly limited 210-frames’ battery life, inadequate for long sessions, unless you only use the rangefinder.
For the “measly” price of 7000€, let’s be clear, these are cameras for the wealthy and passionate who are only interested in photography and who will know how to use a rangefinder in an era where people are more used to DSLR or electronic viewfinders.
In early 2022, Leica decided to release the M11. The brand may have gotten tired of releasing so many different versions ! They decided to release a 60MP sensor camera which, thanks to pixel-binning, can also be set to output full sensor 36 or 18MP images. Sensitivity still reaches ISO 50,000, but Leica gets you a lower native ISO value with this M11, an ISO 64 versus ISO 100 on the M10s, which should allow for more fine detail and increased dynamic range (in conditions where this value can be used).
The M11 shares a lot of common features with the M10, such as no video mode, a burst rate of 5 frames per second, a rangefinder, and an almost identical design. Should you see 2 different weights in the specification chart, it is because the black version is much lighter (100g) than the silver version. Autonomy increases to 350 frames, and 700 in rangefinder.
The Leica M11 also offers a 64GB internal memory, allowing you to do without an SD card provided you have the ability to download via USB cable or Wi-Fi, for example. The sensor still comes without stabilization, which may seem surprising with a 60MP sensor, especially since the SL2 have that.
With an even more expensive price tag than the M10, it is still a piece of equipment for wealthy photo enthusiasts since it will cost you more than 8,000 €, not counting the lenses.
The type 240 Leica M is a more modern camera (so to speak, since it was released well before the M10) as it offers a video mode, even if limited to 25p FullHD. We find again the classic M10’s 24MP sensor, amongst other things, but the sensitivity range is reduced from 200 to 6400 ISO. With a burst rate of 3-4 frames per second -limited to 2 seconds before the buffer runs out of memory and limits burst rates to 1 frame per second-, we are faced with an even less sporty camera.
The type 240 M-E, released 5 years later, is supposed to be a more “affordable” version (still close to 4 000€ !) with a speed gain, since the buffer memory lasts twice as long, and the video remains Full-HD while reaching 30p. The rest of the camera, except for the finish which changes from “Leica” black to charcoal grey, is identical to the type 240 M camera.
Here are the main characteristics of the different bodies mentioned above.
|Characteristics||Leica M10||Leica M10 P||Leica M10 R||Leica M10 Monochrome||Leica M11||Leica M-E (Typ 240)|
|Release date||July 2017||August 2018||July 2020||August 2021||January 2022||June 2019|
|Check prices||B&H / Amazon||B&H / Amazon||B&H / Amazon||B&H / Amazon||B&H / Amazon||B&H / Amazon|
|Image Processor||Maestro II||Maestro II||Maestro II||Maestro II||Maestro III||Maestro|
|ISO||100 - 50 000||100 - 50 000||100 - 50 000||160 - 100 000||64 - 50 000||200 - 6400|
|LCD||Fully articulated||Fixed||Fully articulated||Fully articulated||Fully articulated||Fixed|
|LCD Resolution||1,0M pts||1,0M pts||1,0M pts||1,0M pts||2,3M pts||0,9M pts|
|Memory card||1 x SD/SDHC/SDX||1 x SD/SDHC/SDXC||1 x SD/SDHC/SDX||1 x SD/SDHC/SDX||1 x UHS II type SD||1 x SD/SDHC/SDXC|
|Dimensions (W×H×D)||139 x 39 x 80 mm||139 x 39 x 80 mm||139 x 39 x 80 mm||139 x 39 x 80 mm||139 x 39 x 80 mm||139 × 42 x 80 mm|
|Burst rate||5 fps||5 fps||10 fps||5 fps||5 fps||3 fps|
|Video||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||Full HD 1080p |
HD 720p (25 fps)
VGA 480p (30 fps)
Given the prices of both the bodies AND the lenses -which you can find in the above list-, they are clearly not for everyone. Generally speaking, those who choose Leica Ms are Leica enthusiasts who obviously have no intention of doing any kind of video.
Except for the M10-R with its 10 frames per second, these cameras cannot be called sporty. In fact, even the M10-R will have you do without autofocus under any circumstance. So, these cameras are not made for shooting comfort but for style and the feeling of going back to “basics” with film photography.
If you decide to go for a Leica M camera, you can then choose classic definition with an M10 and its 24MP, high definition with an M11 and its 60MP yet offering great versatility with its lower-definition RAWs, or black and white with the monochrome M10.
Here are currently available, cameras using the M mount, they are not very different from each other but they do carry on the Leica lineage.