Leica M10-D Review

January 10, 2019 | Amy Davies |

Introduction

The Leica M10-D is the latest variant of Leica’s top-of-the-line digital rangefinder camera.

Using the M10-P as a basis, it features the same full-frame 24 megapixel sensor and Maestro II processor, as well as the “quiet” shutter of the M10-P camera.

The biggest difference between the two is that the Leica M10-D, while being digital, has the look and appearance of an analogue or film camera, lacking a rear screen. In its place is a large exposure compensation dial, in the same place that an ISO dial was found on older M series models.

At the time of writing, the Leica M10-D retails for around £6500 / $7995 body only.

Ease of Use

In terms of shape and size, the Leica M10-D is the same as the M10-P, or the standard M10. It is closer to the M10-P because it is missing the iconic “red dot” on the front of the camera, and instead has “Leica” written in large letters on the top of the body instead. For the M10-P this was designed to make the camera more “discreet”, and thus more suited to street photography.

Of course the biggest difference between the models is that the M10-D is lacking a screen. Instead, on the back of the camera you’ll find a large dial which can be used to adjust exposure compensation, giving you the chance to choose between -3 and +3, with 1/3rd stops in between each. It’s a flat sort of dial that is a little stiff to adjust, but at least should prevent accidental changes – something which is even more important when you can’t preview your image.

Also on the back of the Leica M10-D is where you can turn it on or off. Again, it’s a dial which has three separate positions – there’s off, indicated by a very small red dot, on, indicated by a white dot, and on, with Wi-Fi connected, as indicated by a standard Wi-Fi symbol.

Leica M10-D
Front of the Leica M10-D

The rest of the dials contribute to the M10-D’s minimalist appearance. On the top left is an ISO dial, which you need to pop out of its housing slightly in order to turn it – or you can leave it on the Auto setting. Note that the ISO dial only goes up to ISO 6400 – if you want to shoot at faster speeds than that, you can change the speed via the app.

To the right of the top is a shutter speed dial, which gives you speeds between 8 seconds and 1/4000 of a second, or again you can leave it in Auto. You can also activate a Bulb mode. If you need to shoot for speeds longer than 8 seconds, you’ll only be able to do that via the app. Aperture is controlled via the lens itself.

Leica M10-D
Front of the Leica M10-D

Just to the right of the shutter speed dial is the shutter release button. Attached to this is a faux film winding on lever, which doesn’t have any function other than to act as a thumb rest, as well as to add a little bit of nostalgia. There is a small button on the top of the camera, as well as a small dial on the rear of it – there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable function attached to these, and perhaps are just there as they have been brought over from the body of other M10 cameras.

Another element of nostalgia comes in the form of the bottom plate which hides the battery and the memory card. The whole thing detaches, in the same way that an analogue M10 bottom plate would detach to allow you to insert the 35mm film. The downside is that there is a risk of losing the plate if you don’t immediately reattach it, plus it’s impossible to change the battery or memory card if the camera is mounted to a tripod – but it seems relatively unlikely that a camera like this will be used all too often on a tripod anyway.

Leica M10-D
Rear of the Leica M10-D

In order to change more complicated settings – such as drive mode, metering, white balance, file format and so on – you will need to connect the Leica M10-D to a smartphone app called Leica Fotos, which is available for iOS and Android.

The first time you attempt to connect the M10-D to your phone, you’ll get a message that you need to scan a QR code. This is found on the bottom of the camera, underneath the removable battery / memory card plate. If the QR code isn’t recognized, you’ll also see that there’s a password which you can enter manually to connect the phone to the camera instead.

Leica M10-D
Front of the Leica M10-D

Thereafter, in theory, it should be relatively easy to connect to the camera. The reality is much less successful though – oftentimes the phone (or at least the one I was using as part of this review – the Huawei Mate 20 Pro) refused to connect to the camera, often throwing up the message “could not connect”. On one occasion, after 30 minutes of trying and failing to get the camera and phone to connect to each other, I simply gave up. Most other times it would eventually connect after several attempts – but it’s a very frustrating process which suggests that the app needs some honing.

If you can eventually get the Leica M10-D to connect, you can also use the app as a remote control for the camera – which is a way to get around the issue of not having a screen. With this, you’ll be able to fire off the shutter remotely, and change a few settings, but not aperture or focus – since this is determined by the lens.

Leica M10-D
Top of the Leica M10-D

Unless there’s a setting that you need to change via the app, it’s almost better to ignore the Wi-Fi altogether, and treat the camera like an analogue one. Unfortunately, as some of the settings have to be changed via the app, avoiding its use altogether is difficult.

It’s very important that once you’ve finished with your connection to the app that you switch the Leica M10-D off, otherwise the battery will drain very quickly. There is a setting (accessed via the app) to automatically switch off the camera – but even though this is set to 10 minutes by default – it seems not to work if you leave the camera in the “Wi-Fi” position. After leaving the camera in this position for a couple of hours in a bag, I came to find that the camera was completely dead and unusable.

Leica M10-D
Bottom of the Leica M10-D

The Leica M10-D is a rangefinder, and therefore is a manual focus only camera with a slightly odd way of working. If you’ve never used one before, it’s quite an unusual experience that is not for everyone. In essence – looking through the viewfinder, you need to match up the scene you can see in a small box in the middle of the finder with the image behind it . When the images match up in the box, then the lens is in focus and you can take the picture .

It makes focusing on anything which is not in the centre of the frame very difficult, and is also quite slow when you’re just getting used to how it works. Lenses are marked with focus distances, so over time, you come to learn how to set the lens so it will be roughly focused on the subject when you lift it to your eye to take the shot.