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: Performance
Usually, we comment on the autofocus performance in this area of our reviews, but with the focusing on the M10 being an all-manual affair, we’ll start by commenting on its manual focusing aids instead. When you’re not using the rangefinder and wish to focus via the screen or EVF you’re given the option to turn focus peaking on and select from four different colours (red, blue, green, white). This can be used with or without the camera’s focus aid, which magnifies the central area of the frame. Inspecting the focus before you shoot using this magnified view is simple – just twist the manual focus ring on the lens to pull it up on screen, or use the magnify view button from the front of the body. The rear command dial is used to toggle between 5x and 10x magnifications and users can now shift the magnified view anywhere in the frame using the four-way controller. In principle this is a great, but in practice it’s slow to use, taking around six seconds to shift from the centre to the far corners of the frame. The 10x-magnified view helps tremendously with manual focusing, but found there were also times where an even closer magnification would have been useful for inspecting finely detailed subjects.
In terms of operation, it doesn’t feel sluggish like some previous M-series models. The start-up speed isn’t as rapid as some mirrorless cameras, still it responds to button pushes quickly, switches in and out of live view without hesitation and acknowledges all adjustment changes as you make them. Having an eye sensor built-in to the EVF transforms the user experience, though it must be mentioned mounting it via the hot shoe does partially obscure the shutter speed dial.
With more and more of today’s cameras featuring dual-card slots, we thought the M10 might follow in the same direction. Regrettably it doesn’t and therefore won’t satisfy those who like to back up to two cards at the same time. Loaded with a Lexar Professional 633x SDHC card, the M10 recorded 28 frames in the DNG format at 5fps before its buffer kicked and put a halt to proceedings. The M10 managed a maximum of 30 frames at 5fps when it recorded JPEG (24MP) files.
The centre weighted TTL metering system calculates its exposure by bouncing the light that passes through the lens off a mid-grey strip painted on the shutter curtain onto a sensor. In the optical viewfinder you’ll see illuminated left or right arrows that tell you which way to turn the aperture ring, with a constant circle indicating correct exposure. In aperture priority mode, these arrows are replaced by the shutter speed value the camera calculates. Generally speaking, the M10’s TTL exposure metering is reliable, but for those who’d prefer to use spot or evaluative metering these modes are also present. It should also be noted there’s a small histogram to refer to onscreen and shadow and highlight clipping warnings can also be viewed.
Anyone coming from a Leica M9 or Leica M (Typ240) will notice the menu has been refreshed to look like that of the Leica Q’s. If you’d prefer the screen to appear brighter you’ll need to adjust the display brightness from the default Auto setting to high. To preserve battery life we’d recommend setting the auto power saving to its minimum 2 minute option. On the subject of battery life, the camera gets close to shooting 600 frames using the rangefinder alone, however those who opt to use the screen or optional EVF will find they’ll struggle to shoot half this number. If you’re planning to shoot for long periods and be away from main power, spare batteries are absolutely essential.