Leica M10-R review
July 16, 2020
- + The best colour images yet from an M-series rangefinder
- + Exceptional build quality
- + Straightforward operation with traditional photographic controls
- + Large, clear viewfinder and superb rangefinder for focusing
- - Touchscreen could be better integrated into the camera’s controls
- - 28mm framelines are difficult to see
- - Poor battery life
- - Extremely expensive
Price as Reviewed:£7,100.00 (Body Only)
Andy Westlake takes a detailed look at Leica’s latest high-resolution rangefinder, which sports a tailor-made 40.9MP sensor
Leica M10-R: at a glance
- £7100 body only
- 40.9MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-50,000
- Optical viewfinder with rangefinder focusing
- Leica M mount
- 3-in 1.04m-dot touchscreen LCD
Back in January, Leica introduced the M10 Monochrom, a rangefinder camera that shoots only in black and white. At the time, the big surprise lay in its sensor, which unlike the firm’s previous mono models, clearly wasn’t based on an existing colour design. Now the M10-R (for ‘Resolution’) explains why. It sports what is in effect a colour version of the same 40.9MP full-frame sensor, which has been custom-built for use with M mount lenses.
As a result, the M10-R offers the highest resolution yet from a conventional M-series camera, surpassing the M10-P with its 24MP chip. This finally puts the M system on a similar footing to full-frame mirrorless models such as the 45.7MP Nikon Z 7, or Leica’s own SL2, which employs the same 47.3MP sensor as the Panasonic Lumix S1R. The only full-frame camera with a clear resolution advantage is the 61MP Sony Alpha 7R IV.
This matters, because one of the biggest selling points of Leica’s rangefinders is the uncompromising quality offered by its M-mount lens range, and the M10-R should be able to exploit this better than ever before. It is, of course, very expensive, because Leicas always are. So is this camera an overpriced anachronism, or the best Leica M yet?
Leica M10-R: Features
First of all let’s look at why Leica has used a new sensor, rather than the one it employed in the SL2 and Q2. The firm explains that this is essentially down to size: with the smaller dimensions of the M10 body, it had to develop a specific, ‘super compact’ sensor for its latest generation of rangefinders. This in turn has allowed it to optimize the pixel and microlens architecture for use with M-mount lenses, many of which were made for use with film and project light into the corners of the frame at highly oblique angles, which conventional sensors can’t handle.
The sensor also forgoes an optical low-pass filter to maximise sharpness, while the cover glass doubles-up as an infrared-cut filter. This results in a thin, optically simple filter layer over the sensor, which should minimise corner blurring with wideangle lenses.
It’s not just high resolution that the new sensor promises, though, but improved image quality all round, with a claimed dynamic range of over 13 stops. It also provides the same ISO 100-50,000 sensitivity range as the M10-P, so you don’t have to give anything up in that regard.
In most other respects, the M10-R is very much a traditional rangefinder, and therefore looks decidedly basic by modern standards. In terms of design and operation, Leica has decided that there’s no point in doing the same work twice, which means that it’s practically identical to the M10 Monochrom (and the M10-P before that). I concur with Leica’s judgement, which means that much of my following review is also borrowed from what I wrote about the Monochrom.
Being a rangefinder camera, focusing is manual only, with composition via a direct-vision optical viewfinder at the corner of the camera body. You can shoot in either aperture-priority or manual exposure modes, with traditional analogue controls for shutter speed, ISO, aperture and focusing. A simple TTL metering system measures light reflected off the focal-plane shutter, with blades painted in different shades of grey producing a centre-weighted bias.
Leica’s venerable M mount dates back to 1954, and as a result is entirely mechanical, with no electronic communication between the camera and lens. But the camera can still identify the lens in use, using an optical sensor to read a set of black or white spots painted onto its mount – a system known as 6-bit coding. This allows the lens ID to be included in the EXIF data, while the focal length can be used to determine the minimum shutter speed when using Auto ISO, if you desire. The camera will still work absolutely fine with non-coded lenses, of course, and with older Leica optics you can specify which one you’re using from a list in the camera’s menu.
Timed shutter speeds are available from 8 sec to 1/4000sec in half-stop increments, set using the top-plate dial; with the dial in the B or A positions, this can extend as long as 16 minutes. Continuous shooting is available at 4.5 frames per second, and I was able to rattle off 8 or 9 raw frames in a burst before the camera slowed down (although Leica promises a 10-shot buffer).
Leica’s design philosophy is to strip the camera back to the essentials, which means it includes only what you really need for stills photography. So you get an exposure bracketing control, a built-in intervalometer, and a 2- or 12-second self-timer, but that’s about it. Notably, like the rest of the M10 series, this is one of the few current models that don’t record video.
However the firm isn’t really stuck in the past, and is quite happy to include up-to-date features when they’re genuinely useful. Pressing the LV button on the back enters live view, which enables more accurate focusing and composition than the optical viewfinder, particularly with wide-angle and large-aperture lenses. It also brings an expanded range of metering options, including multi-pattern and spot. The LCD is touch-sensitive for changing settings and browsing images, and Wi-Fi is built-in for transferring images to your phone using the Leica Fotos app, although Bluetooth is absent.
Leica M10-R: Focal points
The M10-R mixes some modern technology with an old-fashioned rangefinder design.
- Leica’s Visoflex (Typ 020) electronic viewfinder can be mounted on the hot shoe. It’s particularly useful when shooting with wideangle, telephoto or macro lenses, and for accurately focusing super-fast lenses
- In a nod to Leica’s 35mm film M cameras, the SD card and battery are accessed by removing the baseplate. The Li-ion BP-SCL5 is charged externally, and rated for just 210 shots per charge.
- A mechanical cable release can be screwed into the shutter button. But there are no electronic connectors, such as USB or HDMI ports.
- The M10-R is based on the M10-P, which means it inherits the same super-quiet, stealthy shutter
- In a system known as 6-bit coding, a series of optical sensors on the lens mount identifies the lens, as long as it has matched markings. The lens name is then included in the EXIF data
- Smartphone connectivity is provided by built-in Wi-Fi, allowing you to copy your favourite images from the camera for sharing
- Sensor: 40.9MP CMOS, 36 x 24mm
- Output size : 7864 x 5200
- Focal length mag : 1x
- Lens mount : Leica M with 6-bit coding
- Shutter speeds : 16min - 1/4000sec
- Sensitivity : ISO 100-50,000
- Exposure modes : A, M
- Metering : TTL; Spot, centre, multi (in live view)
- Exposure comp: +/- 3EV in 0.3 EV steps
- Continuous shooting : 4.5 fps
- Screen : 3in, 1.04m-dot fixed touchscreen LCD
- Viewfinder : Direct vision, 0.73x magnification
- AF points : n/a
- Video : n/a
- External mic: No
- Memory card : SD, SDXC, SDHC
- Power : BP-SCL5 rechargeable Li-ion
- Battery life : 210 shots
- Dimensions : 139 x 38.5 x 80mm
- Weight : 660g with battery