The Leica M10 refocuses on what really matters to stills photographers. Michael Topham tests the latest model in Leica's famous M-system to find out if it performs as well as its price suggests
Leica M10 review: Features
Stripped of movie recording and the Typ model identity that’s associated with Leica models in the past, the M10 is designed as close as possible to Leica’s analog M-system cameras in an attempt to create the best balance between heritage and technical innovation. At the heart of the camera lies a 24-million-pixel, full-frame, CMOS sensor, which excludes a low-pass filter and outputs 68.1MB files that measure 5976×3984 pixels. Specially optimised for Leica M-lenses and compatible with Leica R-mount lenses from the company’s film SLR days with an adapter, it’s a different sensor to the one used within the Leica Q (Typ 116) and Leica SL (Typ 601).
By pairing the sensor up with the company’s latest generation Mestro-II image processor, the M10 is able to offer a wider ISO range of 100-50,000 and is capable of shooting a continuous burst 2fps faster than the Leica M (Typ 240) – making it the fastest M-series camera Leica has ever made. Although 5fps continuous shooting might not seem that fast by today’s standards, this speed should be sufficient for those it’s out to target. These include travel, street and documentary photographers, not forgetting photojournalists, all of whom love to work under the radar of those around them.
Traditionalists are more likely to find themselves raising the optical viewfinder to their eye and manually focus via the rangefinder than compose and focus via the rear screen or attach the optional EVF. Those who haven’t used a rangefinder before will find it takes time and skill to align what the rangefinder displays (shown as a small central rectangular section in the viewfinder) with what your eye sees to create a pin-sharp image. The welcome news is that the viewfinder has been extensively reworked to improve the view of subjects captured within the frame. The field of view has received a 30% enlargement and the widest focal length it covers is 28mm. If you wish to use a lens wider than this focal length you will need to use the screen or EVF to get an accurate view of what falls inside and outside of the frame. Other improvements to the viewfinder include a higher magnification (0.73x) and there’s a 50% increase of the eye-relief to make it more convenient for those who wear glasses.
To get around the issue of parallax errors, whereby the view offered by the optical viewfinder is not the same as that captured through the camera’s lens, there’s the option to compose via the M10’s fixed 3in, 1.04 million-pixel screen. Alternatively, you can attach Leica’s Visoflex (Typ 020) electronic viewfinder via the hotshoe. The good news here is that both the screen and EVF now allow you to inspect a detailed magnified view right across the entire frame – something that was missing from the Leica M9 and Leica M (Typ 240), but is crucial for everyday shooting. Though some purists may not wish to use it, having the option to inspect an off-centre magnified view with focus peaking is a boon and helps to overcome some of the limitations of the rangefinder. With regard to the EVF, it’s the same electronic finder that’s used with Leica T-system cameras. It’s a vast improvement on the rebranded Olympus VF-2 that was made available for the Leica M (Typ 240). It hinges through 90 degrees, translates menu information, and adds an integrated GPS module for geotagging.
We’ll touch on the M10’s controls in greater detail shortly, but a glance at the top plate reveals the shutter speed range runs from 8secs-1/4000sec. There is the option to set it to bulb to create longer exposures and a threaded shutter button sanctions the use of old screw-in-style cable releases. Those with observant eyes may notice the red flash icon on the shutter speed dial, which indicates the maximum flash sync speed (1/180sec). Although there isn’t a dedicated exposure compensation dial on the body, there’s the option to assign the rear thumb dial to this task and take +/-3EV control.
With a body depth of just 33.75mm (equivalent to four millimetres less than its closest relative, the Leica M (Typ 240), Leica has been forced to equip the camera with a new, smaller battery. It’s claimed to provide enough stamina for approximately 600 shots and is accessed via a removable metal base plate – a nice reminder of the days when film was loaded this way.
In an effort to make the M10 as pure and simplified as a rangefinder camera gets, we thought Wi-fi connectivity may be left out. Although Leica openly admits Wi-fi isn’t to the taste of all purists, the company sees it as an essential feature, particularly for those who share work through popular social channels such as Instagram. The M10 marks the first M-system camera to feature integrated WLAN connectivity and as things stand it’s only compatible with iOS devices. Users wishing to control the M10 remotely or transfer images wirelessly to an iPhone or iPad are required to download the Leica M app that’s available for free from the app store.