A Leica M10 Review by Momofuku Ando

A Leica M10 Review

by Momofuku Ando – See his website HERE – His Instagram is HERE

Through a recommendation, I was offered to have a crack at the leica m10 for several days before its official announcement. i probably spent more time ogling at the camera than making images with it. this is my personal account of the initial impressions of the camera. i am not sponsored by or obligated to leica to write this post. whiskey and insomnia were responsible.

the naming of the camera finally eliminated years of numerology confusion for me. i had the m7, m8, m9 and suddenly came the m240. i had to apply the logarithmic curve to predict how the germans might name the next camera, and the answer was m73494. thankfully, it is named m10.

Mesmerizing

Remember your first Leica? She was captivating and a sight to behold. She was like your first love. Then she got pregnant (m240) – still very lovely but chunky (with the video function). The Leica M10 is akin to the post-natal m240 – more elegant, simpler and slimmer. Yet she still retained that familiar charm and has matured beautifully.

The Leica M10 sheds 20 grams off her previous form, that is like 1 stone in human terms. She is thinner by around half a cm, that is akin to losing 3 sizes off the jeans. That said, all these enhancements might be superfluous for the leica collectors/connoisseurs vis-a-vis their heavy cognac leather bag loaded with chrome lenses.

What is important to me is that I felt the Leica M10 handled better than her digital ancestors.

Minimalistic

The Leica M10 is the zen garden of the camera world. The number of operation buttons halved from 6 to 3. The menu screens were simplified. The underused video function has been retired. The M inscription vanished. Even the file sizes remained small.

I almost had the urge to break out in meditative yoga poses when I am near this camera. It was that tranquil.

It is so simple to navigate and use that I don’t need to refer to the manual. It was also because I wasn’t given one.

Massive

The viewfinder is amazing. period. I felt like a flightless superman with good vision. I am cancelling my lasik appointment.
like my waistline, my choice of lenses are getting wider. so this higher magnification viewfinder might not work towards my favour in the long run.

Monochrome-able

I mainly make black and white images and I have the leica monochrom (mm). so i am curious how the new leica m10 might be used for that purpose. i cranked the machine to use dng+jpg and use the monochrome filter and voila, i have the mm’s spirit in this new body. The Leica M10 is capable of seeing and producing monochrome photos but I will be still keeping my mm for a while.

Magical (almost)

My mate once quipped about a camera he had “the iso is so good i don’t need to change light bulbs anymore”. The leica M10 can operate up to iso 50,000. Fifty freaking thousand. I have this theory that Leica should price their m’s relative to the iso ability. The m240 is around usd 6,400. Fortunately, the new leica m10 will be priced with sanity.

I reckon I can use iso 20,000 comfortably with this camera, that is a massive 3 stop gain over the iso 3200 I currently use with my m240. Now I can make creepy photos at night.
There are some ongoing debates on what is usable iso. 20,000 isn’t going to smooth (for that you have the freaky meitu app). I can live with the noise and color shift at iso 20,000. your mileage will differ.

The following image is one example of high iso. I have not converted it to black and white but I would imagine it being decent.

 

Misses

A couple of quirks I experienced with the pre-production unit – several of my dng files were corrupted and cannot be imported into Lightroom. On two occasions, I could not switch between live-view and non live-view (powering off solved the issue, just like conversations with some of my apparent bosses).

The dials are a little stiff too. I wished I wouldn’t need to pull up the iso dial to change the settings.

and in case you are wondering, in true m legacy, the camera hung.

I would love the new camera to have in-built gps too.

M-app

I was excited when I first got the loaner Leica M10, mainly because the marketing people I picked the camera from are generally cute and this – wifi connectivity between the camera and my iphone. Finally, stealth shooting with the leica m series using the iphone and transfer of images. i commented during my leica q review I did some time back:

Now not only I look creepy, I have the technology to match.

Here’s the bummer.

The connection between the camera and the ios app is painfully slow – 25 seconds for the camera to become wifi-able, another 10-15 seconds for my iphone to connect with the camera wirelessly, 5 seconds to go through a 3-tap sequence to get the app to start interacting with the camera. that is a 45 second cycle to set this up. I remember the leica q wireless setup to be a lot speedier and less clunky.

If the camera goes into sleep mode, it is the same cycle all over again. occasionally, the camera asked for the same password again. i wonder if it because my password was “wifi2slow”.

I need this for street (or voyeurism, they are the same), i’m not shooting flowers or gross collection of rare antique lenses/cameras (i am sure no leica users buy equipment for that purpose, right?).

45 seconds is the download speed for a movie these days. I hope this might be improved significantly with firmware upgrade.

The layout of the app is simple and well-laid out. this is my 2nd most favorite app this week- the first is using the meitu app to make freaky androgynic photos of people.

More images

The following images were edited from dng for exposure and down-sized for internet use. i chose leave the colors “as-is” for this post. a quick processing with vsco yields rather remarkable results.

For those who asked and were stuck in the eternal vortex of discussing m9 ccd versus m240 cmos, click here.

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46 thoughts on “A Leica M10 Review by Momofuku Ando

  1. I have a Fuji X-Pro 2, a poor man’s Leica. What attracts me to the M-10 is simple – useable high ISO. I want to be able to take shots at night on the street and get something worth keeping. Fuji always feels like it runs out of light too soon, especially if I am trying to capture color. High ISO and fast, small 35mm glass seems pretty appealing.

    And then I think… do I want to be carrying $9,000 worth of engineering around on dark city streets?

    1. No, not true at all. X100S is not a rangefinder, 100% different experience. The Fuji is APS-C and you are stuck with 35mm at f/2. No way to recreate the full frame look. No way to use a 50mm. Fuji build is toy like when comparing to an M10. Yes, that is true WHEN COMPARING to an M10, it is toy like. I can go on and on, but there is no Fuji (or any digital camera made today) that will recreate the M10 user experience, or any M for that matter. The M10 can exceed the X100 in many areas..color, low light and versatility.

      1. Sure but that degrades quality. Nothing like using a HQ lens. Using a teleconverter would degrade (and does) the IQ a bit and that is not what one would want if they are considering a Leica vs Fuji.

  2. Seriously, after Leica went *D*, they should be reviewed with the same basis as any other digital camera.

    There is so much myth, nostalgia and ‘touchy-feely’ with this cameras that is is impossible to get an honest review anywhere.

    It’s a €6500 digital camera that cannot shoot video, a lot of the same hardware as the former camera, all jammed into a lovely designed box, created to resemble the ‘real’ ikons from the former glory days.

    I had to smile fo myself when I saw Kai’s visit to the Leica center for the unveiling of this camera, it was like looking at Apple, when they revealed the iPhone 4s (which looked the same as the 4) and the 5 (which looked the same as the 4 and the 4s)…..lots of fuff, with a big price-tag.

    And Leica had proudly put up exhibitions, the sad thing is that most of the photos shown, were taken on M3’s – M6’s and WITH FILM!

    That is also why I shoot M3’s and M6’s (with the lenses of that era) -with film-

    These digital jewelries should be put trough their paces and compared to their contemporary counterparts, the true shortcomings will show pretty quickly, but a lot of the reviewers are blinded by the red dot and the romantic notion of the past.

    1. Absolutely not true. As an armchair critic, very easy for you to say. As a reviewer, and owner of the camera, this is the best M Leica has ever made, period. It’s inner hardware is 100% changed from the M240. Also video? The majority complained that the last M had video. No one wants an M for video. Yet another who just speaks without the knowledge of truly knowing what they say.

    2. I have to agree with Baggeloo. I own a M240, M7, Contax G2 and Rolleiflezx .I print
      film and digital quite big and there is sadly still no comparison.

    3. I have to disagree with Baggaloo.

      1 The moaning about the price doesn’t serve any discernible purpose. Leica prices are what they are, period.

      2 I only handled the camera briefly last week, but it does give a very good impression. Very solid, very likeable. It was funny though that the shop guy who steered me towards the M10 (I hadn’t even seen it) a first said No you don’t have to use a fingernail to raise the ISO dial and then subsequently couldn’t do it either without using his fingernail. A minor quibble.

      3 While image quality may and will not differ materially from that delivered by other 24Mp full frame sensors, the shooting experience is of course wholly different from say a D750, plus you get access to Leica glass.

      I would say this M iteration is a big improvement in many ways, and will offer shooting pleasure for many years.

    4. The fact that it doesn’t shoot video is a plus, as far as I’m concerned. Leica has made a decision to concentrate on the essentials of photography by paring away everything that is not necessary to produce a photograph just like it did with the M-A film camera a couple of years ago. The M-D digital camera was a big move toward simplification when it took away live view (although personally, I think that if you’re going to shoot a digital camera, you might as well be able to see the results in real time). The M10 is a minimalist digital camera for photographers, and I love the concept and will be buying one.

      Besides, recording video on any rangefinder seems like a a less-than-ideal pairing to me.

  3. Very readable, fun and to the point review! As most here know I’m almost the exact opposite of a Leica fanboy (though I once briefly owned an M5 with a Nokton 50; we didn’t get on well).

    As it happens when I was in my local shop (a very very good one; friendly and professional) I was pointed in the direction of their M10, just in, new 50 Summicron fitted.

    I handled it for a while and I must say, I was instantly attracted. If I wasn’t in a relationship already (810 with four Nikkor 1.4G primes; not exactly cheap) this would be something to really think about. Briefly, and then do
    It.

    Having said that, as mentioned before adjusting the ISO dial is a pain. The viewfinder is great but maybe not suited to a large variety in focal lengths?

    Minor points imo because that camera feels and handles beautifully, much better than its predecessors. Image quality by what I’ve seen on the net nothing to write home about, not substantially better or worse than other 24Mp sensors. Good enough to make great images with M-mount fitting glass.

    So there you are…

  4. To my eyes the colour palette seems to have changed to worse, no longer distinguishable as Leica look… only my personal opinion… sticking with M-P for now

  5. Brilliantly written article – I even got to enjoy hearing a bit of Rick Astley, something I haven’t done for a while! 😉 Ha, Nice one

  6. Your pictures are beautiful, but the same frames would come out better if shooted with an M9. The keyword for this new cmos sensor is: ‘Peach’.

  7. Quite an enthusiastic review. I happened to handle a bit this camera in Leica shop and I would agree with most of your observations. About the finder however there`s one thing I didn`t like to much. The frames. For the first, they are too prominent (beefy) thus distracting. You can play a bit with M6 frame lever and at certain moment you can reduce them to half thickness. Still they are o.k. because, here come the second objection. While on M6 the intensity of frame illumination is determinated by ambient light which means the weaker light, less intense frames, here it seems to be the opposite. The frame illumination seems to adjust to ambient light thus in the shops interiour the close to knocked my eye. I would rather have in menus (maybe it is possible) manual adjustment of illumination intensity to my likes. The last thing, you have to turn the thing on to see the frames, unlike M6, where they are always on but that´s the price of “progress”. In practical terms M10 frameles viewfinder would be most practical with 28mm lens on to walk about without turning the thing on.

  8. This is the first time I have commented on an article, and I felt compelled to do so because of how much I enjoyed your writing style. Your sense of humor is wonderful, and you had me laughing out loud a couple of times. Thank you for a really fun read.

  9. Great writing, Momfuku !! I love the line, “(powering off solved the issue, just like conversations with some of my apparent bosses)”.

    Sure wish I could trade my M9 in for the M10, but not sure if Leica will have a deal like that or not. The M10 looks sublime!!

  10. I like that kind of photography. Great way to test the new camera. Hard to appreciate the images without knowing what lens you were using. The same one shown on the photo of the camera at the beginning?

  11. The selective focus in the images is very very nice. They are very pleasant to ponder. Can you comment on the lenses or apertures used.

    Given your comment on the VF, I’m assuming you used the OVF and mechanical focus on these images.

    At what angle of coverage do you think the OVF will start to be a detractor?

    Thanks,
    Roger

  12. Thanks for the review. You write the m10 has the MM spirit. When it comes to b&w, would you rate the m10 closer to the m240 or the Monochrome?

  13. With the risk of sounding controversial, I do not frankly see any Leica magic in these pictures-maybe apart from the girl in bikini (not the effect of bikini). I understand the principle behind leica is simplicity but my best of the breed Samsung phone can take these pictures too without having to carry 600+ grams camera. I remain unconvinced…

  14. I came for a camera review, but I got a lot of really good photos! Good job!

    I can’t personally afford an M10, but I’m sure it’s fantastic. Enjoy!

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