hands-on: le­ica M10

The new Le­ica M10 is now the same size as the old film cam­era, and that’s not the only ad­vance

Professional Photography - - The Business - Rod Law­ton

Rangefinder / £5,600 / $6,495 / le­ica-cam­era.com

PEO­PLE BUY the Le­ica M be­cause of what it is, and they don’t want it changed – so every new fea­ture in the M10 is de­signed to make it bet­ter at what it al­ready is, not to turn it into a dif­fer­ent kind of cam­era. It’s still a full-frame rangefinder cam­era with in­ter­change­able lenses and a 24-megapixel sen­sor. But there are big dif­fer­ences. First, size. Dig­i­tal Le­ica Ms have al­ways had a slightly fat­ter body than their older film coun­ter­parts. Not any more. The M10 now has ex­actly the same di­men­sions as the film ver­sion, and even though the dif­fer­ence is just a few mil­lime­tres, you can feel it in the hand. Sec­ond, the viewfinder now of­fers a field of view 30 per cent larger, and the eye re­lief is in­creased by 50 per cent. So you don’t just get a big­ger viewfinder im­age, you don’t have to hold the cam­era so close to your eye ei­ther, and that’s es­pe­cially good news if you wear glasses. From the top, there’s a new ISO dial at the left end of the top plate. This means you can now ad­just the fo­cus and all the ex­po­sure pa­ram­e­ters – shut­ter speed, aper­ture, ISO and fo­cus – with­out open­ing a menu and, in­deed, with­out even switch­ing on the cam­era. In­side, the sen­sor has been re­de­vel­oped and is matched with Le­ica’s Mae­stro II pro­ces­sor. This de­liv­ers an in­creased sen­si­tiv­ity range of ISO 100-50,000 and a con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing speed of 5fps. There’s no low pass fil­ter over the sen­sor, so that’s good news for fine de­tail ren­di­tion. There’s no im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion, though, ei­ther in the body or the Le­ica M lenses, and no in-built dust re­duc­tion sys­tem. Le­ica does say, how­ever, that it’s in­creased the dis­tance be­tween the sen­sor sur­face and its glass cover. This will put any dust spots fur­ther from the sen­sor plane and should re­duce their ef­fect. The M10 also comes with Wi-Fi. This works along­side an iOS Le­ica-M app for iPhone and iPad users (no men­tion of An­droid yet), which of­fers wire­less im­age trans­fer and re­mote cam­era con­trol. And if you’re shoot­ing a sub­ject that needs pin­point fo­cus and com­po­si­tional ac­cu­racy, there’s an op­tional clip-on Visoflex elec­tronic viewfinder, with a 2,400k dot res­o­lu­tion and GPS built in.

Build qual­ity and han­dling

You can feel the slim­mer body when you han­dle the M10 and it’s a small but wel­come im­prove­ment. The in­creased viewfinder size is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent, too, and the in­creased eye­point does make the M10 more com­fort­able to use. The rangefinder fo­cus­ing method hasn’t changed, but the im­proved viewfinder makes it just that lit­tle bit eas­ier to use. There’s a knack to this. To start with you do tend to fo­cus to and fro a lit­tle, to con­vince your­self you’ve found the right fo­cus point. This is a cam­era you have to learn, and to trust your hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion to go straight to the right fo­cus dis­tance with­out con­stantly check­ing.

Per­for­mance

The Le­ica M viewfinder doesn’t show the view through the lens, and its angle of view doesn’t change when you change lenses. In­stead, you use bright­line frames in the viewfinder cor­re­spond­ing to the lens in use. In our short time with the cam­era, how­ever, this proved pretty ac­cu­rate, and there were no un­pleas­ant sur­prises or cut-off sub­jects when the im­ages were checked af­ter­wards. The fo­cus­ing is sur­pris­ingly ac­cu­rate; the only fo­cus er­rors were ours. Where there was time to fo­cus care­fully, the re­sults were spot on. Some Le­ica ex­perts, we’re told, use a kind of man­ual fo­cus brack­et­ing, just to be sure, tak­ing a series of shots with tiny ad­just­ments. That sounds like a drag, but there’s al­ways the op­tion Visoflex EVF for pre­cise work. The pic­ture qual­ity looks im­pres­sive. We were restricted to a sin­gle shoot­ing sce­nario, a spe­cial scene set up at the Le­ica press event, but even at ISO 3200, the M10’s de­tail ren­di­tion, con­trast and colour look ex­cel­lent. The M10 shoots JPEGs and DNG files si­mul­ta­ne­ously, so it was in­ter­est­ing to com­pare the re­sults. The JPEGs have a lit­tle more con­trast and clar­ity, but the DNG files, opened in Adobe Cam­era Raw, had a smoother tex­ture and sub­tler, finer de­tail. The tone and colour dif­fer­ences be­tween the two were min­i­mal, though, which is nice to see. Over­all, the M10 is a very well-judged up­grade. A higher res­o­lu­tion sen­sor might have been nice but, that aside, the thin­ner body, big­ger viewfinder and higher ISO range are all re­ally worth­while.

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