Leica M10-R Review

August 10, 2020 | Gavin Stoker |

First Impressions

Leica puts an ‘M’ in the month with the unveiling of its newest high-end 40 megapixel camera, the M10-R, available in black or silver.

Leica has launched the new pro photographer targeted M10-R in a choice of two body colours: black chrome or silver chrome. As the model name suggests, its compatible with Leica M lenses, plus, if using an adapter, Leica R lenses too – though the manufacturer tells us the ‘R’ actually stands for ‘resolution’. Capable of delivering both JPEGs and Leica DNG (Raw) files up to 40.89 megapixels, unsurprisingly the camera apes the rangefinder type styling and operation of previous models for a more considered approach to image taking and creation.

Leica M10-R

The newly developed high-resolution sensor shoehorned into such a comparatively compact camera “opens up the M system to new customers,” believes Leica UK Head of Marketing Lydia Beagleman.

Its UK MD Jason Heyward adds: “The ‘M’ is at the heart of Leica, so is a significant product for us, with a surprisingly large share of the £5,000+ camera market. In light of the effects of Covid-19, which has resulted in probably two-thirds the sales of where we would have been last year, the Leica M 10-R is going to help turbo charge recovery for the company.”

Leica M10-R

With Leica Akademie tutor Robin Sinha reminding us that the original Leica M was launched 60+ years ago, with the first digital ‘M’ in the Leica M8 following in 2006, the new 40.89 megapixel sensor is very much the beating heart of the new M10-R. He adds that: “this is a unique sensor built specifically for this camera,” going on to explain that “light hits it very precisely.”

Furthermore, he believes: “This is a Leica camera reduced down to the essentials, with three simple to use buttons at the back. At the same time we’ve increased the ISO performance – which here runs ISO100 up to ISO50,000 – with less colour noise at higher settings.” The dynamic range is claimed to have likewise been improved, up to the equivalent of 13.5 stops, and we were told: “Leica has come up with a unique pixel ‘architecture’ to achieve these results.” Meanwhile an ISO dial at the top left hand side of the camera ensures that such settings are literally always at the user’s fingertips.

Leica M10-R

Existing Leica owners may be pleased to learn that the new Leica M10-R includes the silent shutter and touch screen operation of the earlier M10-P camera, ensuring that it’s ideal for candid street photography. It also retains the thin body design. Should photographers want to try out long exposures, then on this model they’ll be able to do so for up to 16 minutes.

Needless to say, the new camera also offers compatibility with the Leica Fotos smartphone app, originally described as like having ‘a gallery in your pocket’.

Leica M10-R

Headline features of the M10-R then, are that this is a camera hand made in Germany and offering a state of the art low light performance. It has the ability to exploit the full potential of Leica M lenses because of the high resolution of the sensor provided. The manufacturer notes that there are over 50 lenses in its current ‘M’ range, but in fact it has been making compatible lenses since 1954, as the M lens mount hasn’t changed in all that time. It also advises that using aspherical lenses with the camera will open up even more resolution.

“The new high resolution sensor opens up cropping potential for photographers,” notes Robin, underlining once again that, new sensor aside, “this is the most basic camera that Leica makes – but that is the point of the range. It’s one of the most compact full frame system cameras on the market.”

Leica M10-R

Again, the fact that it is both compact and features a near silent mechanical shutter (there’s no electronic shutter) should ensure that “street photographers flock to this camera”. Added bonuses include the fact that there is no shutter black out with this full frame model, it offers precise focusing in low light conditions, there are possibilities for pre-focusing, and visibility outside frame lines when composing a shot is a distinct advantage. The M10-R further features the same processor as the M10-P, Leica confirmed.

“We’ve managed to maintain the quality of the M10 but boost the resolution,” Robin Sinha concludes. “Lots of pros now need that higher resolution – whether for bigger prints, or cropping so that the image is still usable for lots of different purposes. The higher pixel count has now become the norm.”

Leica M10-R

A case in point – we were treated to a virtual Q&A session with Cornwall-based Leica photographer ambassador Lucy Laucht who told us she considered the 40MP Leica M10-R’s huge sensor to be “a game changer for me. The camera is so light; it has a super sharp and clear LCD display and the dynamic range keeps details in the highlights.

“You can shoot commercial and fine at projects on this camera; so I’ve moved away from traditional SLRs. Largely shooting Raw, I always get the colours exactly as I want them out of a Leica. Battery life seems good and I don’t feel constrained by the fact that there’s only one SD card slot.

Leica M10-R

“But what I most love about the camera is the size of it. I love how small the camera is and I now don’t have to pack two Peli cases full of kit when I travel.”

Availability for the Leica M10-R is from Monday July 20th at 2pm. Once again, potential owners will need deep pockets as the camera costs a manufacturer suggested £7,100. Should you want to check it out for yourself and are in London, we’ve been told that Leica UK Mayfair and Harrods stores are now open again, albeit with reduced hours, while its City Of London showroom presently remains closed.

Leica Press Release

Leica Camera introduces a new high-resolution version of the company’s legendary rangefinder camera, expanding vivid creative possibilities from the most human moments in street photography to the most epic landscapes. With its unique 40 megapixel color sensor, the new Leica M10-R delivers enhanced rendition of details to fully explore the optical excellence of the legendary Leica M lenses. This new flagship expands the M10 family, which includes the M10, M10-P, M10-D and M10 Monochrom, and achieves maximum image output without compromising the tenets of M photography.

The M10-R’s newly developed 40 megapixel sensor represents a considerable increase from the 24 megapixels of the M10, and yet the M10-R offers significantly reduced image noise as well as a wider dynamic range. The sensitivity range of this new sensor, from ISO 100 to 50000, ensures it can be used in any situation a photographer may need. That base ISO of 100 helps allow bright light photos where the aperture can be kept wide-open for better background blur and bokeh, while on the other side of the spectrum the maximum exposure time has been increased to 16 minutes for more creative freedom with long exposures in the darkest light. Complementing the Leica M10-R’s imaging prowess and handling is its super quiet mechanical shutter, inherited from the M10-P. Its whisper-quiet operation helps the user be stealthy, when capturing that decisive moment requires the utmost discretion, and its minimal vibrations reduce the risk of camera shake to help yield sharper pictures.

As with all of Leica’s rangefinder cameras, the construction of the M10-R involves a large amount of hand assembly utilizing the best quality materials by highly trained specialists, carried out at the company’s production plant in Wetzlar, Germany. This ensures that the large number of components – such as the complex rangefinder mechanism – not only perform with the utmost precision but are also particularly robust and long-lasting. A Leica M is synonymous with reliability and durability, making it a valuable long-term investment.

The Leica M10-R reaches its full potential when paired with its native Leica M lenses. The camera has the capacity to fully utilize the outstanding imaging performance of this legendary, longstanding lens range. The M10-R truly sings when paired with the newest generation of Leica’s technical marvels of optics, such as the APO-Summicron-M 50 f/2 ASPH., capturing photographs of a truly exceptional quality. Concurrently, the M10-R’s newfound heights of image quality and resolution also emphasizes the distinct characteristics of older M lenses, many of which are still cherished by vintage photography enthusiasts to this day.

The Leica M10-R will be available end of July at Leica Stores, Boutiques and Dealers for $8,295.00 in black chrome and silver chrome finishes.

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