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: Build & Handling
For the price you pay for a camera like the M10 it has to feel special from the moment you lay hands on it and Leica has achieved this by cutting no corners when it comes to build quality. Unlike some manufacturers who look to shed weight to make their models as light as possible, Leica throws caution to the wind in this respect. The result is a camera that’s heavy for its size. With a magnesium chassis and top and bottom plates that are milled from solid brass blocks, you get the sense it’s built to last a lifetime and could even be passed down through future generations.
The robust build quality extends all the way around the body, from the milled metal top plate dials to the classic frame-line selection lever – a mechanism that allows photographers to assess the field of view of lenses with different focal lengths without having to physically mount them. It’s something that was reintroduced to the Leica M-P (Typ240) after the Leica M (Typ240) and is another nice throwback to Leica’s analog M-system models. If I had to make any criticisms about the build quality it would be that the on/off switch feels rather plasticky compared to the other buttons and dials and the optional EVF doesn’t match the same metal finish as the body.
By omitting video functionality and shrinking the electronics into a more confined space, Leica has successfully achieved its goal of creating the slimmest digital M-series of all time. Compared to the Leica M9 and Leica M (Typ 240), both of which had an M on steroids feel about them, this new model fits much better in the hand. Those who’ve been patiently waiting for a digital M-series model to have an identical footprint and the same feel as Leica’s analogue M cameras will be delighted their wish has finally come true.
Leica’s idea of streamlining the controls means the on/off switch that encircles the shutter button is no longer used to access continuous shooting or self-timer shooting modes. Instead these are accessed from the main menu or via the favourites menu – the latter being a freely configurable area of the menu where it’s possible to list your most-used functions for quick and easy access. The simplified arrangement of three large buttons that align below the viewfinder are used to activate live view, playback and the main menu. With no obvious delete or info button, you’re required to use the menu button in playback mode to load the M10’s delete/rate options and the button in the centre of the four-way direction buttons presents an overview of the cameras key settings out of live view. Things you can expect to see on this info screen include exposure information, battery life (shown as a percentage), as well as the remaining storage capacity on the SD card. At the front of the camera you’ll also find a button between the lens release and focusing window. This falls to hand where your middle finder lays to rest and is used to pull up a magnified view to aid manual focusing.
The decision to add an ISO dial to the corner of the body means you no longer get the unmistakable sweeping curves at either end of the top plate, but what you gain in having the option to manually adjust the sensitivity on the fly outweighs what you lose in terms of style. Not only does it make it a more satisfying camera to use, it allows you to adjust your exposure considerably faster. How to best raise the dial from its locked position isn’t immediately obvious, but I found pinching the dial with your thumb and index finger before pulling it up is most effective. A red ring beneath the dial offers a visual indication that it’s in its unlocked position. Like the shutter speed dial, it also notches positively into place at each setting with a reassuring click.
To provide users with reassurance that the camera can be used in any weather, the M10 features water and dust-resistant seals. The only reason Leica don’t give it official weatherproof status comes down to the lack of a rubberised seal between the lens mount and their M-system lenses. During testing, the body was used on several occasions in rain showers but didn’t show any side affects from getting thoroughly drenched. This will provide M10 users with the confidence they need to get the shot no matter what the demanding conditions or environment they find themselves in.
Overall, the build quality and finish of the Leica M10 is exemplary. It shouts first class German engineering and leaves you with the lasting impression that Leica’s design team spent a great deal of time getting it just right.