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Choosing between the Nikon D850 + 28mm f/1.4E or the Leica M10 + 28mm f/1.4 Summilux... or any other system

Choosing between the Nikon D850 + 28mm f/1.4E or the Leica M10 + 28mm f/1.4 Summilux... or any other system

Originally, this post was going to be a comparison between the Nikon D850 + AF-S 28mm f/1.4E vs Leica M10 + 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH. But over the last couple of days, I've been mulling whether I should do a technical comparison. After three days, I decided to pitch what I had already written into the trash heap, and go out on a limb. Upon reviewing the sample images, it only made sense that I take a different approach.

Ironically, I don't really like to do comparisons. Mainly, it's because it invariably ends up as a discussion on which system is better or worse. When I first started to blog, I may have fallen into that discussion. But with well over a year under my belt, and close to 100 blog posts, I have found greater restraint (or at least I hope so). In the world of photography, I don't believe that there is necessarily something better or worse. In the end, it's really all about what camera system makes the most sense to any one individual's specific needs.

But, I understand the temptation to fall into that discussion. Canon is better, because so-and-so blogger said it has more customizable settings. Nikon is better, because their lenses are rated higher on DXO. Mirrorless is better, because its EVF makes possible better visualization. Cropped sensor is better, because it makes the camera more compact. Medium format is better, because it captures more details. And film is better, because... well... just because it is.

Digital is the devil's work, so sayeth the disciples of analog photography.

When people invest considerable sums of money into any one system, they want to believe their investment didn't go to waste. So, the last thing anyone wants to hear is conflicting opinions arguing a different system is better - or worst yet - that their chosen system is inferior. With a vested interested involved, it's no wonder how polarizing the online community can be - fueled with angst from opposing fans at odds with each other.

Nikon D850 - ISO 1600

Leica M10 - ISO 1600

Nikon D850 - ISO 1600

Leica M10 - ISO 1600

Nikon D850 - ISO 1600

Leica M10 - ISO 1600

Still, it's no secret I prefer the Leica M system. But that doesn't mean the Leica M system is the best. It just means its the right system for someone like me for whatever objective I intend to reach. With that said, using a Leica M-mount rangefinder isn't a necessity to reach my goals or any goals. To a large extent, a camera is a camera is a camera. And it's not as if Leica has some proprietary technology that makes it indispensable for my needs. In practice, I could just as easily use a different system to achieve my intended goal.

I believe I can make this claim without bias, because I still use a multiple number of systems - albeit unnecessarily. It's not like I still have a professional need to do this anymore. But, I suppose I continue to use different systems because of old habits, and because I blog. As a result, I have not forsaken the Canon EF system, nor have I forsaken the Nikon F mount system. In fact, I've even broadened my horizon by adding the Sony FE system and the Leica SL system into the mix.

For the most part, using multiple systems has given me the benefit of first hand exposure to each system. From it, I have come to the conclusion that most camera systems are really quite similar. This opinion may appear surprising. But then again, why should anyone expect any differently? Each system strive to capture reality as true to real life as possible. This is a logical observation, since how many different versions of reality could there be? If all systems strive to capture reality as close to real life as possible, then it's only natural they all share similarities to reach that end.

Where the difference lies is in the means to achieve that end.

Nikon D850 - ISO 1600

Leica M10 - ISO 1600

Nikon D850 - ISO 1600

Leica M10 - ISO 1600

Nikon D850 - ISO 800

Leica M10 - ISO 800

Predictably, such an opinion will not go down well with any outspoken fan of any particular system. It would be looked upon as heretic as any unsanctioned view. To say that one's chosen system is more similar than different to an opposing system is just as unacceptable as saying it's worse. That is because such an opinion trivializes the ongoing debate of which system produces the best images. Logically, one's chosen system cannot be the best if others aren't worse. 

Still, if I truly believe that all systems are similar, why do I continue to favor my Leica M-mount system over any other camera system? If the end results are more or less the same between camera system, it shouldn't make a difference which system I use. Logically, that assertion is true, if one only takes into consideration the end results. However, this isn't the case when you consider the means to reach that end. From that perspective, the user experience is just as meaningful as the final image capture.

When I did my original comparison between the Nikon D850 + AF-S 28mm f/1.4E vs the Leica M10 + 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH, it was clear that image capture wasn't the factor determining which system I preferred. In inspecting the many images I captured, they all looked pretty much the same. Why wouldn't it be? Both were shot at the same settings, with both system's most updated iteration of sensor and lenses. It's no wonder I wasn't able to identify which image was captured by which camera. In fact, I doubt that many of you would be able to tell the difference, if I didn't disclose that detail in the image caption.

Nikon D850 - ISO 100

Leica M10 - ISO 100

Nikon D850 - ISO 100

Leica M10 - ISO 100

Nikon D850 - ISO 100

Leica M10 - ISO 100

Admittedly, there are instances of observable differences, since I did not match the color balance in post. Images from the D850 can be warmer than the images from the M10, under certain light conditions. And if you were able to inspect the original raw files, images from the D850 had the advantage of more resolution to better demonstrate the sharpness of Nikon's current E-series lenses. Plus, there is also the observable difference between minimum focusing distance between the Nikon lens and Leica lens. That is a dead giveaway.

But overall, these observable differences in the captured images will not significantly impact my appreciation for either of them. From my perspective, both the image capture from the Nikon D850 + AF-S 28mm f/1.4E and the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH were similarly competent within acceptable standard, in visual and technical terms. In other words, I am more than happy to end up with image capture from either of these systems. So, from that perspective, image capture isn't the determining factor for me.

However, the same cannot be said about the user experience. Different camera systems vary in approach with user interface to optimizing image capture. Still, this is not to say that one system's approach is better than another system. But, there are differences in features, functions, and ergonomics which I find more impactful than the incremental difference in the final image capture between camera systems.

There is much to like about the Nikon D850. With everything being equal, it has an updated autofocus system that is faster, more responsive, and more accurate. It has a tilting rear LCD screen, with easy to use live view. It also has a very fast buffer, and a significantly improved frame rate for a high resolution DSLR. Plus, it has noticeably more pleasant out-of-camera tones during the "blue hour" at dusk. As for the 28mm f/1.4E, it can shoot much closer than the 28 Lux, which is a benefit that is often overlooked. Overall, this pairing is an immensely satisfying combination to use.

Nikon D850 - ISO 400 at minimum focusing distance 

Leica M10 - ISO 400 at minimum focusing distance 

Nikon D850 - ISO 100 at minimum focusing distance

Leica M10 - ISO 100 at minimum focusing distance

Nikon D850 - ISO 100

Leica M10 - ISO 100 - cropped for composition

In truth, I love the Nikon D850 + AF-S 28mm f/1.4E. Personally, I believe that this pairing is as close to perfection as possible. But, the only reason why I don't carry this pairing with me is because of the size. Instead, I choose the Leica M10 + 28mm Summilux-M ASPH. It's significantly more compact than the Nikon, which makes it less encumbering to carry with me. But that means I give up the convenience of autofocus, increased frame rates, a tilting rear LCD, and the option of higher resolution. 

Having said that, the Leica M10 is not exactly a pariah. Being compact has its advantages. Unlike the D850, I enjoy carrying around my M10. Plus, I truly love the M10's manual layout of shutter, aperture, and ISO setting. It offers me greater control for when I need to change exposure on the fly. So, unlike a DSLR, I don't need to click multiple buttons or rely on any menu. Whatever setting I change is immediate with a turn of a knob or the aperture ring. To me, that is an extremely satisfying experience.

Because of these reasons, I choose the Leica M-mount system over the Nikon F-mount system.

Of course, one person's medicine is another person's poison. Just because I prefer the Leica M-mount system doesn't necessarily mean that it's for everyone. Some people just hate the rangefinder photography experience. Some people cannot do without autofocus. And some people need the option of using a telephoto zoom lens from time to time. So for these hapless few (or perhaps more than few), the Leica M10 will never be the right fit for them. But that's okay. There are alternatives to choose from that won't noticeably impact image quality, since it really isn't that different between systems all striving to capture reality as true to life as possible.

So, if you prefer Nikon instead, or Canon, or mirrorless, or cropped sensor, or even medium format, it's all good. As long as you're taking pictures, and you feel good doing it, then you're doing something right. 

Nikon D850 - ISO 1200

Leica M10 - ISO 1200

Nikon D850 - ISO 1600

Leica M10 - ISO 1600

Nikon D850 - ISO 3200. Color temperature and tint has been edited.

Leica M10 - ISO 3200. Color temperature and tint has been edited.

By the way, if you're wondering why I didn't do a technical comparison of the Nikon D850 to the Leica M10, it's because Adobe's latest update of Lightroom did not include camera raw support. Apparently, that won't happen until October 26th. To undergo any meaningful comparison, optimization of presentation is necessary for each system included in the review. 

Last, if I had an assistant carrying my camera for me, I would pick the Nikon in a heartbeat. #I❤️CloseMinimumFocusingDistance

All images shot on the Nikon D850 + AF-S 28mm f/1.4E and Leica M10 + 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH. All NEF files have been converted to DNG. All images have only had tone optimized in Lightroom. Color values have not been changed unless mentioned on image caption. Images only cropped for composition, if mentioned on image caption. All images shot wide open.

Note that the color values of the title image has not been edited. That was taken at the optimal time, during the blue hour.

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