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Contax N Digital vs Leica M10

The Contax N Digital and the Leica M10 (Typ 3656) are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2002 and January 2017. The N Digital is a DSLR, while the M10 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Leica provides 23.8 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Contax N Digital versus Leica M10
Contax N Digital Leica M10
Digital single lens reflex Rangefinder camera
Contax N mount lenses Leica M mount lenses
6.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 23.8 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 100-50,000
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0 LCD, 200k dots 3.0 LCD, 1037k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
4 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
100 shots per battery charge210 shots per battery charge
152 x 138 x 80 mm, 990 g 139 x 80 x 39 mm, 660 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Leica M10 (Typ 3656)? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Contax N Digital and the Leica M10 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M10 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the N Digital is only available in black.

Size Contax N Digital vs Leica M10
Compare N Digital versus M10 top
Comparison N Digital or M10 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica M10 is considerably smaller (47 percent) than the Contax N Digital. Moreover, the M10 is markedly lighter (33 percent) than the N Digital. It is noteworthy in this context that the M10 is splash and dust-proof, while the N Digital does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

As can be seen in the images above, the N Digital has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Contax N Digital 6.0 in 5.4 in 3.1 in 34.9 oz 100 n Feb 2002 7,399i
 
Leica M10 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
 
Canon 10D 5.9 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 500 n Feb 2003 1,999i
 
Canon Rebel 5.6 in 3.9 in 2.8 in 22.9 oz 400 n Aug 2003 899i
 
Canon 1Ds 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 44.6 oz 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999i
 
Canon D60 5.9 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 30.2 oz 620 n Feb 2002 2,999i
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Jun 2019 3,999 i
 
Leica M10-P 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
 
Leica M Typ 262 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Nov 2015 5,195i
 
Leica Q Typ 116 5.1 in 3.1 in 3.7 in 22.6 oz 300 n Jun 2015 4,249i
 
Leica SL 5.8 in 4.1 in 1.5 in 29.9 oz 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450i
 
Leica M Typ 240 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Sep 2012 6,950i
 
Leica M9 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.6 oz .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
 
Nikon D100 5.7 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 27.5 oz 370 n Feb 2002 1,999i
 
Nikon D1X 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The M10 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 11 percent) than the N Digital, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the M10 is 1 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Contax N Digital and Leica M10 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the M10 offers a higher resolution of 23.8 megapixels, compared with 6.1 MP of the N Digital. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 11.90μm for the N Digital). However, it should be noted that the M10 is much more recent (by 14 years and 10 months) than the N Digital, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the M10 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Leica M10 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the M10 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 29.8 x 20 inches or 75.6 x 50.7 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 23.8 x 16 inches or 60.5 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 19.8 x 13.3 inches or 50.4 x 33.8 cm. The corresponding values for the Contax N Digital are 15.2 x 10 inches or 38.6 x 25.5 cm for good quality, 12.2 x 8 inches or 30.9 x 20.4 cm for very good quality, and 10.1 x 6.7 inches or 25.7 x 17 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Contax N Digital has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica M10 (Typ 3656) are ISO 100 to ISO 50000 (no boost).

N Digital versus M10 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Contax N Digital Full Frame 6.1 3040 2008none........
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157
 
Canon Rebel APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
 
Canon 1Ds Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704none21.811.095463
 
Canon D60 APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none........
 
Leica M-E Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p........
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none........
 
Leica M Typ 262 Full Frame 23.7 5952 3976none........
 
Leica Q Typ 116 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185
 
Leica SL Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
The M10 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The N Digital lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The N Digital and the M10 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same magnification (0.73x), but the one in the M10 has a wider field of view (100%) than the finder in the N Digital (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Contax N Digital, the Leica M10, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
 
Contax N Digitaloptical Y 2.0 200 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 n n
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
 
Canon 10Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Canon Rebeloptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Canon 1Dsoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n n
 
Canon D60optical Y 1.8 114 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Leica M-E Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Leica M10-Poptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
 
Leica M Typ 262optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Leica Q Typ 1163680 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 10.0 n Y
 
Leica SL4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n
 
Nikon D100optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0 n n

One feature that is present on the N Digital, but is missing on the M10 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The Leica M10 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

The N Digital writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the M10 uses SDXC cards.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Contax N Digital and Leica M10 (Typ 3656) and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Contax N DigitalY-----FW---
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
 
Canon 10DY-----1.1---
 
Canon RebelY-----1.1---
 
Canon 1DsY-----FW---
 
Canon D60Y-----1.1---
 
Leica M-E Typ 240Ymono----2.0---
 
Leica M10-PY------Y--
 
Leica M Typ 262Y-----2.0---
 
Leica Q Typ 116Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Leica SLYstereomonoYYfull3.0Y--
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereomono---2.0---
 
Leica M9Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D100Y-----1.1---
 
Nikon D1XY-----FW---

It is notable that the M10 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the N Digital does not provide wifi capability.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Contax N Digital (unlike the M10) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

The M10 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Leica. In contrast, the N Digital has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). There has not been a direct replacement model for the N Digital from Contax. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Contax and Leica websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Contax N Digital or the Leica M10 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Arguments in favor of the Contax N Digital:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).

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Reasons to prefer the Leica M10 (Typ 3656):

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (23.8 vs 6.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 97%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 200k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 152x138mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 330g or 33 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (210 versus 100) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (11 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 14 years and 10 months of technical progress since the N Digital launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the M10 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 6 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

N Digital 06:16 M10

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the N Digital or the M10 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Contax N Digital.......... Feb 2002 7,399i
 
Leica M10....4/5..4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
 
Canon 10D..+ +..o.. Feb 2003 1,999i
 
Canon Rebel..+ +..o.. Aug 2003 899i
 
Canon 1Ds..+ +...... Sep 2002 8,999i
 
Canon D60..+ +o.... Feb 2002 2,999i
 
Leica M-E Typ 240.......... Jun 2019 3,999 i
 
Leica M10-P........4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
 
Leica M Typ 262.......... Nov 2015 5,195i
 
Leica Q Typ 116..80/1004.5/5..4.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249i
 
Leica SL..84/1004.5/54/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450i
 
Leica M Typ 240....4/5.... Sep 2012 6,950i
 
Leica M9....4.5/54.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
 
Nikon D100..+ +oo.. Feb 2002 1,999i
 
Nikon D1X..+ +..o.. Feb 2001 5,999i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Contax N Digital:
Check Ebay offers
Leica M10:
Check Amazon price

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Contax N Digital vs Leica M10

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Contax N Digital Leica M10
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Rangefinder camera
    Camera Lens Contax N mount lenses Leica M mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2002 January 2017
    Launch Price USD 7,399 USD 6,595
    Sensor Specs Contax N Digital Leica M10
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 35.8 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 855.62 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 43 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 6.1 Megapixels 23.8 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3040 x 2008 pixels 5952 x 3992 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.90 μm 6.00 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 2.78 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 50,000 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 86
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 24.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 13.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 2133
    Screen Specs Contax N Digital Leica M10
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.73x 0.73x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 200k dots 1037k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Contax N Digital Leica M10
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Manual Focus
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/8000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Contax N Digital Leica M10
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector Firewire no USB
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Body Specs Contax N Digital Leica M10
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type 4xAA BP-SCL5
    Battery Life (CIPA)100 shots per charge210 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 152 x 138 x 80 mm
    (6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
    139 x 80 x 39 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 990 g (34.9 oz) 660 g (23.3 oz)

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