Leica M10 Review

March 30, 2017 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Leica M10 is a 24 megapixel digital M-system rangefinder camera with a 35mm full-frame (24 x 36mm) CMOS sensor with no optical low pass filter. Other key features of the Leica M10 include an improved viewfinder with a magnification factor of 0.73 and a 50% higher eye-point, an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 100-50,000, the latest-generation Maestro II image processor, a new top-mounted ISO setting dial, a sequential shooting speed of 5fps, integrated wi-fi connectivity and a customisable Favourites Menu. The recommended retail price of the Leica M10 is £5,600 / €6,500 / $6,595 and it's available in silver or black.

Ease of Use

The new Leica M10 has a stealthy all-black colour-way, with the front half of it and part of the rear featuring a diamond leatherette pattern to aid grip, along with a raised thumb-shaped rest on the rear. There is nothing resembling a traditional handgrip provided with the camera at all, but having said that, the solidity and weight of the M10's build - 660g with the battery fitted - means that it didn't feel like the camera would suddenly slip from our grasp at any point.

The top and base plates of the M10 are milled from solid blocks of brass, ground and polished by hand in a painstaking 40-minute process, and combined with a full-metal, magnesium alloy chassis, resulting in a very solid feeling camera that goes along way to justifying the price-tag. Special rubber seals provide some protection against light showers and dust, although Leica stop short of saying that the M10 is fully weatherproof. The dimensions of the M10 are now identical to those of analogue M-cameras, measuring 33.7mm in width, making it the slimmest digital M camera of all time.

The Leica M10 has a brand new 24 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor developed especially for the camera. In conjunction with the Maestro II image processor, this allows the M10 to provide an extensive IOS range of 100-50,000 and for it to be able to shoot at 5fps, making it the fastest ever Leica M camera.

Leica M10
Front of the Leica M10

The front of the Leica M10 is adorned with the famous red Leica badge and logo directly above the lens. Top-left of the lens, if viewing the camera front-on, is a rectangular porthole containing the traditional AF assist/self timer lamp, underneath which is a black button that a display a magnified view on the screen or EVF to aid with precise focusing adjustment. A silver lens release button is on the left-hand side of the lens mount, and over on the right is the very traditional frame-line selection lever, which allows you to see the field of view of various lenses without actually having to mount them on the camera (in the dual combinations of28+90mm, 35+135mm, 50+75mm).

The M10 has a dedicated top-plate dial via which manual adjustments can be made to the shutter speed, ranging from 8 seconds to 1/4000th of a sec, with Bulb and Auto options too. Naturally there is a vacant hotshoe for an accessory flash on top of the camera, which also accepts the optional Leica Visoflex 2.4 MP electronic accessory viewfinder if you prefer to compose with an EVF. The shutter release button is threaded for a traditional screw-in quick release cable, and is encircled by the On/Off switch, with the camera taking a couple of seconds to ready itself for shooting.

Squeeze the shutter release button in single shot mode to take a maximum resolution image and the screen instantly displays the resultant image. Take a top quality JPEG and Leica's 'DNG' file version of Raw and the camera isn't any noticeably slower however, plus the advantage of the DNG format is that it can be opened directly by Photoshop without any specialist conversion software required. Even better, thanks to a generous 2GB buffer memory, the M10 is capable of sequential shooting at up to five frames per second at full resolution for up to 30 Raw files and 100 JPEGs.

Leica M10
Rear of the Leica M10

New to the M-series is the top-mounted ISO setting dial over on the left of the camera, which is the same place that you'd find the film rewind lever on cameras like the Leica M7. You have to lift it up to unlock it, which is a little awkward given its diminutive size, but does prevent it from being accidentally moved. While this interrupts the classic rounded styling of the Leica M10's design, it does mean that for the first time, all of the core shooting parameters can be set via external controls, with no need to actually turn the camera on and use its menu system, which makes for a very pleasant shooting experience. Due to the small size of the ISO dial, you can't access all of the ISO settings from it - instead you can choose directly from 100-6400, or select the M option which can be configured to any one of the ISO settings. There's also an A option for Auto ISO.

The size of the back plate LCD screen is 3-inches and the resolution is a respectable 1,036,800 pixels pixels, bringing the M10 right up to date with the latest digital cameras. With the 3-inch LCD screen taking up about two thirds of the back plate, this has left room for a column of 3 function buttons ranged down the left hand side of the screen, whilst over at the right hand side sits a familiar cross key/command pad style arrangement. The buttons at the left of the LCD are both clearly marked and instantly comprehended. From the top we have an LV button for accessing the Live View mode, a Play button for reviewing previously captured images, and a Menu button for opening the customisable Favorites menu and and the Main Menu system.

Above the LCD screen is the new improved viewfinder. The field of view has been enlarged by 30%, it now has a magnification factor of 0.73x, and there's a 50% higher eye-point for easier use by glasses-wearers. The widest focal length that it covers is 28mm, so you'll have to use the LCD screen or EVF for wider-angle lenses.

Leica M10
Top of the Leica M10

The Leica M10 features a thumb-operated command dial over at the top right which sets the exposure compensation, with adjustable settings ranging from a standard -3EV to + 3EV.

Three different focusing aids are provided on the Leica M10 - auto magnification (x3 or x6), focus peaking and auto magnification plus focus peaking. With the bigger screen scale and higher resolution we found it easier to accurately determine pin sharpness than on previous Leica digital cameras. The set of un-marked cross keys on the right of the LCD screen moves the magnification loupe freely around the frame for even better assessment of sharpness, either on the LCD or the Visoflex electronic viewfinder.

The Leica M10 features built-in IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity for wirelessly connecting to other devices such as a smartphone, tablet or computer. You can easily transfer your images and also control the camera remotely via the free Leica M app (iOS only), which, amongst other functions, allows remote setting of the shutter speed and aperture. The app also allows you to send your images to social networks or email them.

Leica M10
The Leica M10 In-hand

In the centre of these three buttons we find an un-marked button which acts like a standard 'display' button. A press of this in capture mode removes icons for the shooting mode in play, number of shots remaining, battery life, focus and metering mode from the screen to provide a clear view of the subject.

The left and right hand flanks of the M10 are devoid of any features save for metal lugs for attaching the strap. The base of the Leica M10 has a screw thread that's perfectly inline with the centre of the lens mount, with the catch protected base plate housing both the supplied 1300mAh lithium-ion battery, good for around 600 shots, and the SD card slot alongside it.

The Leica M10 comes with a two-year warranty as opposed to the usual one, a year's accidental damage cover, and a download option for Adobe Lightroom, with the code provided once the product has been registered.