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Leica M8 vs Nikon D3100

The Leica M8 and the Nikon D3100 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2006 and August 2010. The M8 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, while the D3100 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-H (M8) and an APS-C (D3100) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 10.4 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 14.2 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Leica M8   Nikon D3100
Leica M8 Nikon D3100
Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
10.4 MP, APS-H Sensor 14.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 1080/24p Video
ISO 160-2500 ISO 100-3200 (100-12800)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5" LCD, 230k dots 3.0" LCD, 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 591 g 124 x 96 x 75 mm, 505 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M8 and the Nikon D3100? 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

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Leica M8 and the Nikon D3100. 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M8 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the D3100 is also available in two color-versions, but different ones (black, red).

Size Leica M8 vs Nikon D3100
Compare M8 versus D3100 top
Comparison M8 or D3100 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3100 is notably larger (7 percent) than the Leica M8. However, the D3100 is markedly lighter (15 percent) than the M8. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M8 nor the D3100 are weather-sealed.

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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (M8) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3100).

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8» 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.8 oz .. n Sep 2006 5,499- i Leica M8
 
Nikon D3100« 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 550 n Aug 2010 599- i Nikon D3100
 
Canon T3« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 17.5 oz 700 n Feb 2011 449- i Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« » 5.0 in 3.3 in 2.6 in 19.6 oz 370 n Aug 2006 799- i Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Nov 2015 5,195- i Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.6 oz .. n Sep 2009 7,999- i Leica M9
 
Nikon D3200« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 540 n Apr 2012 599- i Nikon D3200
 
Nikon D5100« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.8 oz 660 n Apr 2011 749- i Nikon D5100
 
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D3000« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 18.9 oz 500 n Jul 2009 599- i Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« » 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749- i Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 n Mar 2007 729- i Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D80« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
 
Panasonic L10« » 5.3 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 450 n Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D3100 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 89 percent) than the M8, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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 generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica M8 features an APS-H sensor and the Nikon D3100 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D3100 is 27 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica M8 and Nikon D3100 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the D3100 offers a higher resolution of 14.2 megapixels, compared with 10.4 MP of the M8. 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 5.01μm versus 6.84μm for the M8). However, it should be noted that the D3100 is much more recent (by 3 years and 11 months) than the M8, 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 M8 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 15.4 inch or 58.5 x 39 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 12.3 inch or 46.8 x 31.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 10.2 inch or 39 x 26 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica M8 are 19.7 x 13.2 inch or 50 x 33.4 cm for good quality, 15.7 x 10.5 inch or 40 x 26.7 cm for very good quality, and 13.1 x 8.8 inch or 33.3 x 22.3 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica M8 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 160 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3100 are ISO 100 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-12800.

M8 versus D3100 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3100 has a markedly higher DXO score than the M8 (overall score 8 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1.4 bits higher color depth, and 0.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8» APS-H 10.4 3936 2630-21.111.366359Leica M8
 
Nikon D3100« APS-C 14.2 4608 30721080/24p22.511.391967Nikon D3100
 
Canon T3« » APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.066462Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-24.413.2213386Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« » Full Frame 23.7 5952 3976-----Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« » Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472-22.511.788469Leica M9
 
Nikon D3200« » APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/30p24.113.2113181Nikon D3200
 
Nikon D5100« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.6118380Nikon D5100
 
Nikon D7000« » APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D3000« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.156362Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.411.451663Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D80« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.111.252461Nikon D80
 
Panasonic L10« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.310.842955Panasonic L10

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D3100 indeed provides for movie recording, while the M8 does not. The highest resolution format that the D3100 can use is 1080/24p.

 

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The M8 and the D3100 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica M8 and Nikon D3100 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8»optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n Leica M8
 
Nikon D3100«optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D3100
 
Canon T3« »optical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n Leica M9
 
Nikon D3200« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Nikon D3200
 
Nikon D5100« »optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Nikon D5100
 
Nikon D7000« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D3000« »optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« »optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D80« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D80
 
Panasonic L10« »optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Panasonic L10

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D3100 has one, while the M8 does not. While the built-in flash of the D3100 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the M8 and the D3100 write their files to 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 Leica M8 and Nikon D3100 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8»Y-----2.0---Leica M8
 
Nikon D3100«Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D3100
 
Canon T3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« »Y-----2.0---Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« »Y------Y--Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« »Y-----2.0---Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« »Y-----2.0---Leica M9
 
Nikon D3200« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D3200
 
Nikon D5100« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D5100
 
Nikon D7000« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D3000« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« »Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D80« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D80
 
Panasonic L10« »Y-----2.0---Panasonic L10

Both the M8 and the D3100 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M8 was replaced by the Leica M9, while the D3100 was followed by the Nikon D3200. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Nikon websites.


Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M8 or the Nikon D3100 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Arguments in favor of the Leica M8:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2006).

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Advantages of the Nikon D3100:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (14.2 vs 10.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 17%.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.4 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/24p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 86g or 15 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (89 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 11 months of technical progress since the M8 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3100 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 4 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.

M8 04:12 D3100

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M8 or the D3100. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera 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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8»-+ +--- Sep 2006 5,499- i Leica M8
 
Nikon D3100«+ +72/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599- i Nikon D3100
 
Canon T3« »80/10069/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449- i Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« »+ ++ +o4.5/54/5 Aug 2006 799- i Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« »--4/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« »----- Nov 2015 5,195- i Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« »--4.5/54.5/5- Sep 2009 7,999- i Leica M9
 
Nikon D3200« »+ +73/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 599- i Nikon D3200
 
Nikon D5100« »+ +76/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749- i Nikon D5100
 
Nikon D7000« »-80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D3000« »+72/1004/53.5/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599- i Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« »+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749- i Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« »79/100+ +4/5o4/5 Mar 2007 729- i Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D80« »++ +o4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
 
Panasonic L10« »85/100+3.5/5o4/5 Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Leica M8:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D3100:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica M8 vs Nikon D3100

    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 Leica M8 Nikon D3100
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2006 August 2010
    Launch Price USD 5499 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3100
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-H Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 27.0 x 18.0 mm 23.1 x 15.4 mm
    Sensor Area 486 mm2 355.74 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 32.4 mm 27.8 mm
    Crop Factor 1.3x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 10.4 Megapixels 14.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3936 x 2630 pixels 4608 x 3072 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.84 μm 5.01 μm
    Pixel Density 2.13 MP/cm2 3.98 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/24p Video
    ISO Setting 160-2500 ISO 100-3200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100-12800 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 59 67
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.1 22.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.3 11.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 663 919
    Screen Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3100
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification ..x 0.53x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3100
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3100
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica M8 Nikon D3100
    Battery Type BLI-312 EN-EL14
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    124 x 96 x 75 mm
    (4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 591 g (20.8 oz) 505 g (17.8 oz)

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