I hope to review the about $8000 Leica M10-R and the about $8000 Leica M10 monochrom this autumn, ideally simultaneously. But I’ll need special dispensation from B&H Photo to have that much gear out at once (loaner budget). After I am done with the new Canon EOS R5 and a bunch of its lenses, and all the lenses on on the Nikon Z7 that I have not yet yet covered then I’ll turn my attention to Leica M10-R/m.
Roy P writes:
I have now done several aperture series with my borrowed Leica M10 monochrom, using several M mount lenses on both cameras, and comparing what’s supposed to be the best M lenses with some very good Sony lenses.
Here’s my most recent comparative shoot out, indoors with a small carpet hanging on the wall, from about 3.5 feet. So a flat subject at just a little beyond the minimum focusing distance. This is my sixth aperture series, and I left nothing to chance – every precaution taken, including my best tripod setup, precise alignments, remote commander for the Sony A7R IV, shutter release cable for the M10-Mono, etc.
Here are the key takeaways:
- Even with the most basic black-and-white conversion and downscaling (just the defaults in Capture One), the Sony files converted to black and white look every bit as good as the M10-Mono files, and the IQ (image quality) mostly looks better from the Sony.
- When shooting wide open, the M lenses perform better on the A7RM4 than on the M10-Mono in the center of the frame, and probably even up to the vertical edges. If you did a square crop around the center, the M lenses on the Sony A7RM4 will probably win every time over the M10-Mono.
- The M lenses fare better on the M10-Mono at the corners and the left / right edges.
- The Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar just clobbers the Leica 50mm f/2 APO Summicron-M on the M10-Mono. The pecking order is, the CV 50 + Sony A7RM4, then the Leica 50 APO + Sony A7RM4, and then the Leica 50 APO on the Leica M-10 Mono.
- The Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM, which I already demonstrated to deliver a much more pleasing bokeh at f/1.4 than the Leica 75mm f/1.25 Noctilux-M ASPH at f/1.25, also delivers an overall performance on the Sony that’s as good as anything the Leica M10-Mono + 75 Noctilux can deliver. There are situations when the Noctilux delivers a sharper image than the 85 GM, but it’s on the Sony A7RM4, not the Leica M-10 Mono!
Bottom line, for all the hype and the price of the M10 Mono, I don’t see the Leica M10 matching the image quality that the Sony A7RM4 so effortlessly spits out.
Here are some crops and JPEGs outputs at the M10-Mono’s resolution for this aperture series (about 750 MB)...
A few more thoughts and speculations, considering the center performance of the M lenses is better on the A7RM4 than the M10-Mono:
I would say the M lenses are sensor-limited. Meaning, the sensor in the M10-Mono. I don’t know if there’s some room to improve the IQ in firmware. But the M10-M has been out for a while, so presumably, that well has run dry. The last firmware upgrade was six months ago, and it only addresses some exposure problems at ISO 25K.
It must have been a huge struggle to build the micro lens array for a 40 MP sensor. A 30 or 32 MP sensor + MLA might have produced better looking images, even at lower res. But you can’t blame Leica for reaching higher.
On its own, the center crop of the Leica 50/2 APO on the M10-M would look sharp to most people, especially if they had not seen the original subject matter closely. For most Leicaphiles, the 50 APO on the M10m, and presumably, the M10-R, will be good enough to feel ecstatic.
But it clearly looks inferior when you put it up against the center crop from the 50 APO on the A7RM4, which looks even more inferior when you compare it to the center crop from the Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO on the Sony A7R IV.
The most interesting revelation for me was that the performance of the M lenses on the M10-M at the corners is not overwhelmingly superior to the M lens images from the Sony. Better, yes. But not compellingly better and not excellent in absolute terms. So perhaps the micro lens (ML) array in the M10-M is not as effective as the array they had in the 24 MP cameras – meaning, the ML array could have hit a brick wall, and we’re looking at the end of the road for the M line, at least as far as resolution goes. Not that M cameras needed more resolution for reportage, anyway.
All these ultra-high performance M lenses are a waste for the M system! It would have made far more sense to design these lenses for the L mount. They had the sense to retire the R mount and replace it with the L, but where was the sense to not build all these manual focus lenses for the L mount natively?! Unbelievable.
I did one last aperture series today with the 50mm lenses before the battery died on the M10-Mono. My friend, who lives in Redwood City, forgot to include the charger in the camera bag he handed me!
Same conclusions with this also: the Voigtlander 50 APO Lanthar on the Sony A7RM4 is in a class by itself. Really amazing lens. I would have bought the Voigtlander 50/2 APO in a heartbeat for $7500, which is what I bought my Leica 50/2 APO for. Next, the Leica 50 APO on the Sony, at the center, but away from the center, the Leica 50 APO + M10-Mono is the better combo.
DIGLLOYD: about what I’d expect—Leica lenses are roughly 5X more expensive for lower performance than many Sony FE mount lenses. The M lenses (I still have 5 of them) show their weaknesses even at 24MP.
Bottom line is that Leica claimed MTF goes way beyond fantasy MTF in being borderline fraudulent with respect to making images—Leica MTF charts have NEVER properly reflected what an be captured on a digital sensor (ray angle losses, regardless of the camera used).
As far as monochrome, you’re better off with the Nikon D850 monochrome—far broader lens selection, superior lenses available, far superior ease of use, higher resolution with no ray angle issues, much higher quality rear LCD with more than twice the resolution.