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Leica M10: Inertial Design

See my Leica M wishlist.

After 3+ years waiting for my Leica M240 to gain meaningful firmware improvements (that is, besides fixes for bugs and original kindergarten design mistakes) and most importantly an improved EVF, my patience with Leica is now reaching the breaking point.

We are now rewarded with an about $6600 design rehash that offers no leap forward anywhere, even if it does add some niceties.

  • Same resolution sensor 24MP. Does it have improved noise behavior? Based on the Leica SL sensor issues, I deem it potentially a downgrade over the M240 sensor (for noise). It’s not even clear that the sensor is optimized for rangefinder lenses properly (micro lenses), as with the M9 and M240, though one sure hopes so.
  • No built-in EVF and no EVF included (huh?). It’s not even clear that a higher-res EVF is possible; it looks like the same toy grade and grossly overpriced Leica Visoflex EVF2.
  • Dedicated ISO dial (I hardly ever change ISO, so this is a nuisance at best).
  • Rangefinder to bulk-out what could have been a smaller and cheaper EVF-only camera.
  • Slimmer camera body with water sealing (huh? the lenses are not weather sealed).
  • Mediocre-resolution rear LCD far below what many recent cameras have.
  • Built-in WiFi, the antithesis of “embracing filmic heritage”.
  • Fewer buttons for more operating hassles. But hey look larger, which might help.
  • A My Menu feature, which I should have had 3 years ago on the M240 and still don’t.
  • No mention of EFC shutter (does it or not?).
  • No raw-only mode that eliminates JPEG cruft and clutter.
  • Incompatible battery vs M240.
  • No camel-scrotum leather option.

All this 2013 technology for only about $6600, when a Hasselblad X1D medium format camera will cost modestly more (and maybe less once standard lenses are figured in) with far higher image quality. Try the $14K IQ test on this page.

Still, it’s possibly tht I might prefer the M10 to the M240 (size and weight and maybe the buttons really do work better), but I don’t know yet. It’s not an upgrade over the M240, and at about $6600, I’d much rather have a Hasselblad X1D or Fujifilm GFX for a little more money. Or less, since the Leica M lenses run $4K to $7K for the ones I like. OTOH, the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is the best M lens of all, so I suppose we can call an M10 + 35/1.4 a $9000 camera I suppose.

Where is the 36MP sensor with 4MP EVF and without the anachronistic rangefinder, for a smaller/lighter/cheaper camera. Ditto for the 2MP rear LCD (it's 1MP).

Leica M10

Embracing their filmic heritage without losing sight of contemporary needs, the Leica M10 blends a pared-down physical design with enhanced imaging capabilities to produce an elegant and intuitive tool for still photography.

Utilizing a redeveloped 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor and Maestro II image processor, the M10 yields high-resolution imagery with an extended dynamic range, high sensitivity to ISO 50000, and a continuous shooting rate of 5 fps.

Separating itself from previous digital M rangefinders, the M10 features a slim body profile reminiscent of M film cameras, and the optical viewfinder's magnification has been increased to 0.73x for greater composition and focusing accuracy. The body design also incorporates a dedicated ISO dial for quick adjustment, even when the camera is turned off, and the rear 3.0" 1.04m-dot LCD features a Gorilla Glass cover to guard against scratching and light impacts. Also contributing to durability, the top and bottom plates are constructed from brass and the chassis is built from magnesium alloy to realize a robust physical construction for long-lasting use. Additionally, unique among M cameras, the M10 also sports an integrated Wi-Fi module for wireless sharing and remote camera control from a linked mobile device.

Leica M10

Refocusing their attention on the basics, the M10 pares down its feature-set to reveal a more simplified and direct method for working. Taking cues from Leica's film camera legacy, the M10 has the slimmest body of any digital M camera, and also distinguishes itself with a physical ISO dial, higher magnification optical viewfinder than previous digital Ms, and the omission of video recording in order to focus purely on still photography.

24MP CMOS Sensor and Maestro II Processor

A redeveloped full-frame 24MP CMOS sensor pairs with the Maestro II image processor to deliver a wide dynamic range with notable color rendering, as well as enhanced sensitivity from ISO 100-50000 to suit working in a variety of lighting conditions. The image processor also incorporates a 2GB buffer to afford fast continuous shooting at 5 fps for up to 40 consecutive frames in a burst.

Optical Viewfinder and Rangefinder

The optical viewfinder is a large, bright-line 0.73x-magnification rangefinder with automatic parallax compensation and bright-line frame lines, which are set to match the image sensor size at a focusing distance of 6.6'. On the front of the camera, a viewfinder frame selector can also be used to manually change the apparent image field to help visualize the scene with varying focal lengths; options are available in 35mm/135mm, 28mm/90mm, and 50mm/75mm focal length pairs.

The rangefinder mechanism displays split or superimposed bright field images within the center of the viewfinder to benefit accurate manual focusing control. The effective rangefinder metering basis is 50.6mm (mechanical metering basis 69.31 mm x viewfinder magnification of 0.73x).

Body Design and Built-In Wi-Fi

  • Slim body profile is reminiscent of Leica's film cameras for easier handling and manipulation.
  • Integrated ISO dial is featured on the top plate to permit simple and direct adjustment of sensitivity values, even when the camera is turned off.
  • The rear of the camera features just three buttons—live view, playback, and menu—for more simplified and intuitive navigation of the camera's control-set.
  • A programmable Favorites menu can be used, which allows you to define your most oft-used settings and select them for easy, one-touch access.
  • 3.0" 1.04m-dot LCD monitor provides a high-resolution means for image playback as well as live view shooting.
  • Rear LCD monitor has a Corning Gorilla Glass cover to protect it against scratching and impacts.
  • Top and bottom plates are machined from solid blocks of brass and the chassis is built from magnesium alloy for a truly durable, hard-wearing physical construction.
  • Rubber seals are used to prevent the entrance of light rain and dust to enable working in inclement conditions.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi permits sharing imagery directly to a linked smartphone and also enables remote control over the M10 to adjust select shooting parameters or to release the shutter via the Leica M app.

Other Camera Features

  • When working in live view, focus peaking is available to highlight edges of contrast for easier, more precise manual focus adjustment.
  • Designed to accept all M-mount lenses, Leica R-mount lenses are also compatible through the use of an optional R to M adapter.
  • Compatible with the optional Visoflex accessory electronic viewfinder for manually focusing adapted lenses.
  • Images can be recorded in either the DNG or JPEG file format.
  • A top hot shoe permits working with an external flash and the top sync speed is 1/180 sec.

David S writes:

I am a very loyal blog reader and though parts of me would have loved the sony 42 MP sensor on the A7R II, I cannot help but thing Leica is trying to remember their roots as a street camera.

If that is the case for someone like me it is a much improved camera, better viewfinder better high iso, slimmer body and wife were all top of my lists for what I wanted donor a new model.

Leica was never a landscape guys camera. It is a street camera and the improved buffer and faster shooter times are also much desired.

I can make a great 22 by 33 or so from the files of a M240 and from what I read this is improved from the SL and made from a different maker. We will see but please understand this was never a Landscape camera as a film camera and where the S should have 50mp or so this camera does not need it.

One other thing that Leica should be doing is having a high mega pixel camera as well not just a faster camera. I picked up a used Sony A7 II to compliment the A7R II for times I needed two bodies and the extra speed in bursts is so welcome for my concert work and all around journalism so what a visible guy like you should be calling on is a three body system the M 10 the black and white camera and the high megapixel camera.

Have a great day and I used my M for street shooting a stubborn old Leica shooter. But I will tell you becuase of the wieght and ergonomics I never was tempted to get a second M and I had two M9s.

DIGLLOYD: fair points, not lost on me before I wrote my post, or now. Leica has just dropped the ball for a huge potential fan base (like me)—the “street shooter” mentality prevails. Deliver to that mission, but don’t think in terms of one and only one mission.

But the simple fact is that Leica has left me hung out to dry with my M240, as discussed. If Leica wants to go back to its roots, I applaud the M10. But with $30K of M gear sitting in a drawer, they should have made that clear when they started on the digital path: my investment is a dead end. The M240 was never a street shooter’s camera, so take the damn thing forward.

And I’m not going to bit on the megapixels bait: see Heresy: Canon 5DS R as a Black and White Camera Better Than Leica M Monochrom Type 246? for starters.

I always liked my M240 for landscape , and I wanted 50 or at least 36 megapixels in that form factor. As it stands, Leica had dead-ended me.

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