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Leica M10 Hands On | Age & Guile VS. Youth & Savvy In Leica’s New Signature Dish

By Kishore Sawh on January 18th 2017

People like Leicas. Old people, young ones, your corner camera shop owner, your local bartender, celebrities, people with beards, heroes, villains, and from all corners of the globe. It’s how it is, and Leica’s earned that. People also tend to have formed opinions about those who shoot Leicas, associating them either with class and/or good taste, or a sense of entitlement and exuberant excess; that a Leica owner knows gallery curator’s wives by their given names, and perhaps has an obedient beagle; that they know what cheese to pair with figs, and when they’re in season. And above all else, that they appreciate and know quality photography. Leica’s earned that too.

There’s no doubt Leica digital M variants are today enjoyed by those who find a DSLR a bit garish, bit trite; a bit…common – Surely, they’d never be caught dead with a Pentax K-anything. Neither would I. The thing is though, here on the eve of the release of the M10 there’s that niggling issue everyone reading this considers that begs to be addressed: Where does this camera sit in 2017?

Leica has advanced and released innovative cameras over the past few years, like the Q, or the Sofort which is an Instax competitor with a better feature-set than Fuji‘s, and of course the rather brilliant SL (try it and tell me it doesn’t handle thrice as good as a Sony A7), but for the digital Ms the M9 was really the first real (full frame) offering and last big move – and oooh it was good. With its CCD sensor it brought the M-line and rangefinders out of a world of celluloid and into one of pixels. But that was 2009 and Moore’s law suggests tech has evolved at a much faster rate than Leica has. Since then there have been a slew of new M models, but each time you used one you sort of got the feeling that behind each new and gorgeous M-face and impeccable build beat a somewhat normal heart.

Of course it’s understandable too because Leica was never in the same game as everyone else, by choice, nor did they likely have the funding to innovate at the same rate as the Canons of the world.

But while we understand that, we don’t want Leica to be stagnant, we want them to compete in some areas whilst still retaining what we already love and wouldn’t ever change about a Leica rangefinder. We want heritage with modern convenience – the Victorian house with a Nest thermostat and Sonos speakers. The M10 then, following in nomenclature from the M9, had to do more than shift a dot or remove a feature.

And it does.

It’s thinner, faster to operate and faster to capture; it’s got a buffer and processor that dispel the old M notion of speed (that was glacial at best), for a significant increase up to 5 frames per second. The viewfinder is bigger and brighter*; there’s now a manual ISO dial that goes up to 6400 (50,000 can be had from the menu), and an integrated thumb support machined into the top plate. And while those features are oh-so-necessary and wanted, in terms of handling, they’re simply an amuse bouche for the next feature.

The rear LCD is bigger, better, cleaner, and less cluttered. How? Because it’s framed not with a plethora of buttons but by only three. And those three dots are indicative of one of the best things about the camera: The menu system.

It’s essentially borrowed from the SL, which was essentially borrowed from the S, and it’s lovely. It’s the kind of system you want to send to the boffins at Sony’s secret lab in whatever jungle clearing they are kept and tell them to stop faffing around and just get rid of their maddening menus and copy this. Sony’s menu designers seem to think a good system is measured by the number of buttons and options; that, like good food, friends, and pleasurable company, more is better – which it may be, if you’re 12. But I’m not. I’m wise enough to buy into the notion that perfection is more reductive than additive, and that a good menu system is one that simply doesn’t get in the way.

Along with this software enhancement comes another feature not to be overlooked, and that’s WiFi capability built in. At long last. For a line of cameras with a major claim to fame being journalism, this was a must have, and perhaps it should’ve been there already. As for new features that sort of is the lion’s share, and as for image quality and so forth, we’ll be bringing you more in the coming weeks, but for now it’s safe to say the signature Leica color profile is certainly there. The images look lovely in Capture One, if a bit oversaturated in Lightroom, and high ISO value at 6400 is certainly better than expected. They’ve done away with video, which is puzzling if not disappointing, and there’s no touchscreen which is….we’ll address that later.

For now I’ll leave you with this. The Leica M10 is certainly familiar. Those coming from previous M model –when greeted with this more technologically savvy model– will not feel alienated, but rather feel like greeting an old friend; albeit one with a renewed verve for life, and one more capable at making the most of it.

Where the older M models are sexy and old-school but dated, like a cute librarian in wool, think of the M10 as a bit like the same librarian, but with a neon green thong under the tweed.

You can order your Leica M10 here. $6,595

See a few sample images below and full spec sheet further down:

iPhone M App

1/80 ISO1600

iPhone 7+ vs Leica M10? 1/90 ISO 3200

1/15 ISO 3200

Tough Scenario: 1/1000 ISO 3200

Same image as above, pushed up 2.5 stops in LR.

 

TECHNICAL DATA

Camera type: Leica M10, compact digital view and range finder system camera

Lens attachment: Leica M bayonet with additional sensor for 6-bit coding

Lens system: Leica M lenses, Leica R lenses can be used with an adapter (available as an accessory)

Shot format/picture sensor: CMOS chip, active surface approx. 24 x 36mm

Resolution: DNG™: 5976 x 3992 pixels (24MP), JPEG: 5952 x 3968 pixels (24MP),

4256 x 2832 pixels (12MP), 2976 x 1984 pixels (6MP)

Data formats: DNG™ (raw data, compressed loss-free), JPEG

File size: DNG™: 20-30 MB, JPEG: Depending on resolution and picture content

Buffer memory: 2GB / 16 pictures in series

White balance: Automatic, manual, 8 presets, color temperature input

Storage medium: SD cards up to 2GB/SDHC cards up to 32GB/SDXC cards up to 2TB

Menu languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Korean

Exposure metering: Exposure metering through the lens (TTL), with working aperture;

Metering principle/method: For metering the light reflected by light blades of the 1st shutter curtain onto a measuring cell: Strong center-weighted; for metering on the sensor: Spot, center-weighted, multi-field metering

Metering range: At room temperature and normal humidity for ISO 100, at aperture 1.0 EV-1 to EV20 at aperture 32. Flashing of the left triangular LED in the viewfinder indicates values below the metering range

Sensitivity range: ISO 100 to ISO 50000, adjustable in 1/3 ISO increments from ISO 200, choice of automatic control or manual setting

Exposure modes: Choice of automatic shutter speed control with manual aperture preselection – aperture priority A, or manual shutter speed and aperture setting

 

Flash exposure control:

Flash unit attachment: Via accessory shoe with central and control contacts

Synchronization: Optionally triggered at the 1st or 2nd Shutter curtain

Flash sync time:  = 1/180s; slower shutter speeds can be used, if working below sync speed: Automatic changeover to TTL linear flash mode with HSS-compatible Leica system flash units

Flash exposure metering: Using center-weighted TTL pre-flash metering with Leica flash units (SF40, SF64, SF26), or flash units compatible with the system with SCA3502 M5 adapter

Flash measurement cell: 2 silicon photo diodes with collection lens on the camera base

Flash exposure compensation: ±3EV in1⁄3EV increments

Displays in flash mode (in viewfinder only): Using flash symbol LED

 

Viewfinder:

Construction principle: Large, bright line frame viewfinder with automatic parallax compensation

Eyepiece: Calibrated to -0.5 dpt.; corrective lenses from -3 to +3 diopter available

Image field limiter: By activating two bright lines each: For 35 and 135mm, or for 28 and 90mm, or for 50 and 75mm; automatic switching when lens is attached.

Parallax compensation: The horizontal and vertical difference between the viewfinder and the lens is automatically compensated according to the relevant distance setting, i.e. the viewfinder bright-line automatically aligns with the subject detail recorded by the lens.

Matching viewfinder and actual image: At a range setting of 2m, the bright-line frame size corresponds exactly to the sensor size of approx. 23.9 x 35.8mm; at infinity setting, depending on the focal length, approx. 7.3% (28mm) to 18% (135mm) more is recorded by the sensor than indicated by the corresponding bright line frame and slightly less for shorter distance settings than 2m

Magnification (For all lenses): 0.73 x

Large-base range finder: Split or superimposed image range finder shown as a bright field in the center of the viewfinder image

Effective metering basis: 50.6mm (mechanical measurement basis 69.31mm x viewfinder magnification 0.73x)

 

Displays:

In the viewfinder: Four-digit digital display with dots above and below

On back: 3” color -TFT LCD monitor with 16 million colors and 1,036,800 pixels, approx. 100% image field, glass cover of extremely hard, scratch-resistant Corning® Gorilla® glass, color space: sRGB, for Live-View and review mode, displays

 

Shutter and shutter release:

Shutter: Metal blade focal plane shutter with vertical movement

Shutter speeds: For aperture priority: (A) continuous from 125s to 1⁄4000s,

for manual adjustment: 8s to 1⁄4000s in half steps, from 8s to 125s in whole steps, B: For long exposures up to maximum 125s (in conjunction with self-timer T function, i.e. 1st release = shutter opens, 2nd release = shutter closes),

(1⁄180s): Fastest shutter speed for flash synchronization, HSS linear flash mode possible with all shutter speeds faster than 1⁄180s (with HSS-compatible Leica system flash units)

Picture series: approx. 5 pictures/s, 30-40 pictures in series

Shutter release button: Two-stage, 1st step: Activation of the camera electronics including exposure metering and exposure lock (in aperture priority mode), 2nd step: Shutter release; standard thread for cable release integrated.

Self-Timer: Delay optionally 2s (aperture priority and manual exposure setting) or 12s, set in menu, indicated by flashing LED on front of camera and corresponding display in monitor.

Turning the camera on/off: Using main switch on top of camera; optional automatic shutdown of camera electronics after approx. 2/5/10 minutes; reactivated by tapping the shutter release

Power supply: 1 lithium ion rechargeable battery, nominal voltage 7.4V, capacity 1300mAh; maximum charging current/voltage: DC 1000mA, 7.4V; Model No.: BP-SCL5; Manufacturer: PT. VARTA Microbattery, Made in Indonesia, Operating conditions (in camera): 0°C – + 40°C

Charger: Inputs: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz, 300mA, automatic switching, or 12V DC, 1.3A; Output: DC 7.4V, 1000mA/max. 8.25V, 1100mA; Model No.: BC-SCL5; Manufacturer: Guangdong PISEN Electronics Co., Ltd., Made in China, Operating conditions: 0°C – + 35°C

GPS (only with Leica Visoflex viewfinder attached, available as an accessory):

Optional (not available everywhere due to country-specific legislation, i.e. enforced automatic shutdown in those countries), data are written to EXIF header in picture files.

Wi-Fi: Complies with IEEE 802.11b/g/n standard (standard Wi-Fi protocol), channel 1-11, encryption method: Wi-Fi-compatible WPA™/WPA2™ encryption, access method: Infrastructure mode

 

Camera body:

Material: All-metal die cast magnesium body, synthetic leather covering. Brass top panel and base, black or silver chrome plated finish

Image field selector: Allows the bright-line pairs to be manually activated at any time (e.g. to compare detail)

Tripod thread: A ¼ (¼“) DIN stainless steel in bottom

Operating conditions: 0-40°C

Interfaces: ISO accessory shoe with additional contacts for Leica Visoflex viewfinder (available as an accessory)

Dimensions (width x depth x height): approx. 139x38.5x80mm

Weight: approx. 660g (with battery)

Scope of Delivery: Charger 100-240V with 2 mains cables (Euro, USA, varies in some export markets) and 1 car charging cable, lithium ion battery, carrying strap, body bayonet cover, cover for accessory shoe

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

11 Comments

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  1. Ralph Hightower

    I didn’t know that Leica existed when I was researching for a film camera in 1980; not that I also couldn’t afford one at the time (still can’t). I chose the Canon A-1 since it was “state of the art” with shutter priority, aperture priority, and offered [P]rogram mode/ But SLR offer more advantages with lens choices. I like using telephoto lenses: 80-200, 400.
    There is the rangefinder view, but I’ve encountered situations where I’ve seen opportunities from my left eye and moved to the target.

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  2. Josh Leavitt

    I’d take one at 1/5 of it’s listed price. With the GFX 50S priced identically, I just don’t see the point. I’ll buy a X100F or a PEN-F if I want to look good taking pictures.

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    • Jay Cassario

      The GFX 50S is a completely new system, not tested, and the lenses available for it aren’t all the impressive. The sensor is also not much bigger than the full-frame sensor of the M. I wouldn’t pay half price for that GFX 50S until they actual released some f2 glass that allowed you to take full advantage of that slightly larger sensor. If you would rather shoot a crop sensor camera over a Leica full-frame camera with the some of the best glass on the market, I’m going to assume you have never shot with a Leica M extensively, but ok.
      Shooting a Leica isn’t about looking good. It’s actually about the experience of shooting with a real rangefinder, while getting amazing images, especially with this sensor. The M is expensive, but so are the best sports cars. Just because they are expensive doesn’t mean that a BMW M3 is only for those who want to look cool. But hey, if you prefer a crop sensor X100F, to each their own.

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    • Josh Leavitt

      @ Jay Cassario: The 44×33 MF sensors are the same stop advantage over full frame as full frame is over Fuji’s APS-C. So the 63mm F2.8 that gets released with the GFX will be comparable to a full frame 50mm F2. And I wouldn’t expect to wait too long before an F2 lens gets released for the 44×33 sensors, although it will likely be released by Hasselblad for the X1D before Fuji.

      You’re assumption about my inexperience with the Leica M is correct, but I have shot with the Sony RX1R Mark II. It may not have an optical viewfinder, but I’d consider to be a very effective and high quality rangefinder digital camera. It may not have Leica glass, but the Carl Zeiss 35mm F2 is no slouch in terms of quality either.

      I don’t doubt that Leica makes high quality products, I simply doubt the premium they charge for their products makes them that much better than their competition. Granted, there really isn’t a lot of competition in the full frame rangefinder market, and that does have a significant impact on retail prices for these cameras. My main consideration for rangefinders is portability, followed by camera features – that’s why I favor Fuji’s. But if I had to use a full frame rangefinder, I’d still go with the RX1R II because of its superior autofocus, IQ, and dynamic range in RAW. It’s also 1/2 the price of the Leica M.

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  3. Griffin Conway

    “The Victorian house with the Nest thermostat and Sonos speakers…” well said! Enjoyed the read Kishore.

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  4. adam sanford

    Leica deserves a great deal of credit for sticking to its guns, but their time has past and they will be consumed by their considerably higher value-offering competitors. Leica’s value proposition is becoming harder and harder to swallow each year as you can get so so so much more for that money from other manufacturers.

    They brand like juggernauts and they make fine products, but buying their products at those prices is the act of an oil oligarch or spoiled trust funder. I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford one of these rigs, but the thought of wasting that level of money simply turns my stomach.

    Fine products, but such comical margins. Sort it out, Leica.

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    • Jay Cassario

      I am of the opposite opinion, there is a lot to be said about the Leica M that makes it worth every penny to me. Sure, it is expensive, but so are a lot of things in life that are worth their money. They don’t just make fine products. Leica glass is still some of the best in the world, their sensors such as the one in the SL, the Leica Q, and now the M10 have tested above some of the Sony A7 full-frame sensors. The M is the only true full-frame digital rangefinder on the market, which offers a unique shooting experience unlike any other camera. The bottom line is, spending money on a camera system that is more enjoyable to shoot than any other camera for me personally, has a very impressive sensor that is a version of the SL sensor that tests very high among current camera sensors, and can be paired with some of the best glass on the market is worth the money to me. I’m also a working photographer who feeds his family with his photography business. Yet a portrait or wedding photographer spending $7k on a flagship Nikon D5 which is built for speed and sports gets no push back, that is what baffles me.
      The Leica M isn’t made to be in the same market as the Fuji cameras, nor the Sony mirrorless cameras. They really have no desire to compete with them, and they can charge the prices they do because photographers are willing to pay for the quality that you get from Leica products. I do get it though, for a camera that doesn’t have AF, it baffles some people. But I have owned the Sony A7 series cameras, and shot every Fuji out there. The Leica M is different, and I wanted them to impress me enough to save me some money. The crop sensor of the Fuji cameras failed to impress me, and the Sony cameras are like little computers, nothing that I would enjoy shooting with. Both of those are personal opinions, but like I said, I had high hopes for both and was left wanting more. I was left only loving my Leica M even more.

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  5. George Malczynski

    Wow It looks pretty awesome. Makes me want to get a graphite X Pro 2

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