Hands-on with the Leica M10

M10

I wasn’t really planned to test out the camera so soon, but I was happened to be somewhere around the Leica Store while getting some of my things done. So I walked in and there it was, the Leica M10, displaying itself proudly to the world. Here are some of my thoughts after a brief hands-on with the camera:

  • The optical viewfinder is vastly improved. I wear spectacles, and I was able to see even the 28mm frame line easily, which is something impossible with the M Typ 240.
  • The ISO dial is a little stiff, but once you get used to it, it’s quite easy to get the ISO changed. For those who prefer to change ISO frequently, you can leave the dial in the “pull up” position, but it will be “less elegant” as it will not sit flush with the top plate.
  • The simplified camera back and menu are quite easy to navigate through, not that I have any issue with the previous menu system. The new added “favourite menu” certainly speed things up a little.
  • I don’t feel much difference on the size and weight of M10 versus the M Typ 240.Very similar, certainly not something as exaggerated as what the internet suggests.
  • Tried the new Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Shutter lag is significantly reduced, but there are still some lag. Otherwise, the overall performance of it is incrementally better than the electronic viewfinder of the M Typ 240.
  • Tried to play with some RAW files. High ISO performance was indeed pretty good, even at ISO 6400.
  • Focus peaking is slightly better on the M10, but still not very reliable as compared to other brands.

M10 vs M Typ 240
M10 vs M Typ 240
There are still a couple of unanswered questions that I have on this camera, in which I might be able to find out the answers in the near future. Some will require some good use of the camera (such as improvement in operational speed of the camera, sensor performance for long exposure shots, dynamic range improvement, auto white balance improvement, rangefinder accuracy improvement), so I’ll see if I can get one to try out for longer period next time.

After this brief hands-on experience, I have to agree that Leica is heading in the right direction for their rangefinder lineup with the M10. Perhaps Leica was a bit too adventurous with the M Typ 240, hence a lot of die-hard rangefinder purist dislike that camera. But with this M10, I believe a lot of hearts will be won. It’s not just about the camera being as slim as the film counterpart, it’s the roots and philosophies behind the simplicity of this camera that catches the attention for most.

M10

So, here comes the million dollar question: “To buy or not to buy?” Well, if you are just starting and looking for a digital rangefinder, this is probably the camera to get… provided you have enough money to spare of course. Otherwise, go for the M Typ 262 for simplicity, or the M Typ 240 for more versatility. If you are on a budget, the M9 is still a pretty good choice to consider, but that will greatly depends on whether you can live with it’s limitation. If you are existing users coming from M9, this is a no brainer upgrading option, and again, provided you have the money to spare. If coming from M Typ 240 / Typ 262, it will greatly depends on your shooting style and requirement.

For myself:

  • I don’t shoot with 28mm lens, hence I can live with the smaller viewfinder on the M Typ 240. 
  • Whenever I use the electronic viewfinder, I will mostly be shooting landscape and hence the shutter lag is not a major issue to warrant an upgrade. 
  • I feel no difference in size and weight for the M10 as compared to my M Typ 240. 
  • I don’t need a dedicated ISO dial and I can live with the current method of changing ISO. 
  • I would love to have the high ISO performance, but for what I shoot now, I was unable to justify to spend the money to upgrade just for this as I don’t shoot high ISO that often. 
  • For landscaping work, the new ISO 100 baseline is tempting, and the increased 125 seconds shooting limit in bulb mode will certainly gives me more rooms to play with. However, at this moment this is not the most important aspect that makes me feel like I need to upgrade. Unless I will be using and needing this feature more in the future, otherwise the M Type 240 is already covering my needs.

This is my thinking process in weighing the M10 and my M Typ 240. After much consideration, I will not be getting the M10 for now. If any of these improvements are important to you, go ahead and make your purchase. At the end of the day, it’s important for you to go out and shoot with a camera that you truly love and enjoy using. That’s all for now, I’ll share more when I have additional thoughts about this camera. Till then.

Here comes the Leica M10

Picture from official Leica website.
Picture from official Leica website.
Long story short, Leica announced their new flagship of rangefinder camera which effectively replacing the 4+ years old Leica M Typ 240 on 18 January 2017. There were already all sorts of hands-on and review all over the internet so I will not bother to talk about it. I’ll just share a couple of initial thoughts based on the available information, from my point of view as a current Leica M Typ 240 user:

What I like and looking forward from the M10:

  • 0.73x magnification optical viewfinder, this was something I complained about all the time on the old M. Hopefully it’s brighter and more comfortable for people wearing spectacles. I’m spoilt by my Zeiss Ikon’s finder.
  • 125s of maximum exposure time in Bulb mode, this is a deal breaker for me as when shooting with my old M I can’t go over 60s as the shutter is capped there (and that’s only limited to ISO 200!)
  • New baseline of ISO 100, looking forward to this as this will be good and useful for both landscape shoot and also to fully utilize the widest aperture of the lens.
  • One position on/off switch, yes this is big deal for me, I don’t use timer or continuous shooting for 99.99% of the time, so I’ll no longer need to worry that I’m stuck in a wrong shooting mode.
  • Leather strap, finally, no more cheapo plastic strap out of the box.
  • Return of the frameline selector, not sure about others, but I do use this occasionally.

Good to have but not a deal breaker from the M10:

  • ISO dial. I usually shoot with auto ISO unless under tricky lighting condition, hence the ISO dial is not a necessity for me.
  • Slimmer body, well I do felt that the old M was a tiny bit on the bulky side, but I can still live with it and totally fine with it.
  • Simplified controls and dials on the back, a welcomed change, but I do not have any issue with the existing model, other than the rather unintuitive way to change the ISO where you need to press and hold the ISO button while scrolling the thumb wheel.
  • 5fps continuous shooting, I only burst once in my whole life with my M while chasing over some flying birds. I swear I’ll never do it again.
  • Improved weather sealing, well, no big deal to me.
  • Favourite menu, a short cut page to your favourite settings, but I rarely dive into the menu so not a big deal for me.
  • Wifi built-in, good to have, but I can live my life without it.

Picture from official Leica website.
Picture from official Leica website.
What remains unknown for the M10:

  • High ISO performance, downloaded some sample raw files and will try to play around when I’m free. Generally I am “just” looking for usable ISO 6400 files, as I tend to find myself ended up there when shooting streets at night while stopping the lens down.
  • Any improvement in terms of focus peaking accuracy.
  • Any improvement on the shutter lag when using live view or electronic viewfinder.
  • How good is the Visoflex electronic viewfinder compared to the current one on the M.
  • Any improvement on the accuracy and ease of use of rangefinder patch.
  • The actual impact and improvement in operational speed of the camera. Not that the old M is anywhere slow, but it just hang by itself from time to time, which is pretty annoying.
  • New sensor with better dynamic range, but just how much better for my usage.
  • How well is the new spot metering system works.
  • Any improvement with the auto white balance setting of the camera.
  • Do I still require to send it back to Germany and wait for 3 months to get it serviced?

I guess that’s about it. I’m totally okay with 24 megapixel, I’m okay with the removal of video function, I’m okay with the new battery which seems to be rated lower than usual, and I’m totally okay with the “M10” naming. One last thing, Leica still forces you to take a black frame whenever it shoots a long exposure shot, hence doubling your exposure time for each shot (e.g. if you shoot a 60s exposure, it will follow by another 60s black frame for noise reduction purpose). Why can’t they just allow user to choose to disable this function? This will perhaps be the achilles heel of this camera for landscape photography… >.<

Well, I’m looking forward to get my hands on one to try it out myself. Then I’ll probably be able to answer the questions and doubts that I have. Will I buy one? At this moment, it’s a no. Will share more once I get a better hands on experience with it. Till then 🙂