The latest Leica manual focus rangefinder camera offers 24-megapixel resolution in a compact body with simple controls, a manual ISO dial and a larger viewfinder.
Even Leica admits the M10 is ‘not a camera for everyone’. If you’re accustomed to an autofocus camera and lens, stepping back to manual operations takes a lot of getting used to.
The image quality the review camera produced is up to Leica’s high standards. We found it easiest to use zone focusing for most shooting, particularly for street photography.
Photographers who hanker after a film camera while admitting a need to participate in the digital age should find the M10 meets most requirements.
When the Leica M10 was announced on 18 January 2017 it represented the latest step in a line of manual-focus rangefinder cameras that dates back to the company’s film cameras in the early 1950s. Defined as the world’s most compact full-frame camera system the M10’s minimalist design is close to the original M models so the new model accepts almost all of the lenses made for the M mount. Instead of using film, it boasts a new 24-megapixel sensor and Maestro II processor.
Angled front view of the Leica M10, silver version. (Source: Leica Camera.)
The M10 comes in two colours: all black or black and silver. For our review we received a black camera with a matching Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH. lens.
Who’s it For?
The high prices of Leica cameras put them out of the reach of many keen photographers and into the hands of investors and collectors, which means many will never fire a shot. While the M10’s price is lower than that of the Leica SL we reviewed in February 2017, the functional differences between them are substantial. The SL is unashamedly digital, while the M10 clings to its analogue heritage and has an almost silent shutter.
Photographers who hanker after a film camera while admitting a need to participate in the digital age, should find the M10 meets most requirements. But committed digital shooters should note the following omissions:
1. Autofocusing is not available
2. Video recording is not supported.
3. There’s no dust reduction system.
4. There’s no in-body image stabilisation.
5. The camera doesn’t record important EXIF metadata in image files.
If you don’t shoot video and prefer fully manual controls, the Leica M10 will be attractive. The inclusion of Wi-Fi connectivity and a dedicated ISO dial along with an improved viewfinder and faster continuous shooting make it worthy of consideration over previous models.
Build and Ergonomics
While not as large as the Leica SL, the M10 is relatively large and heavy (660 grams without lens) for a minimalist digital camera. True to Leica’s traditions it boasts an all-metal die cast magnesium body with brass top panel and removable base plate, which contribute to its overall weight. Extensive rubber sealing provides some protection against light showers and dust, although Leica stops short of claiming the M10 is totally weatherproof.
Front view of the black version of the Leica M10 without a lens. (Source: Leica Camera.)
The front panel is totally flat with no grip moulding. It is covered with textured synthetic leather, which provides a reasonably secure grip, but doesn’t compensate for a shallow protrusion with finger mouldings. The lens mount covers roughly a quarter of the front panel, with a release button on the right hand side.
The bayonet mount carries six contact points to identify the type of lens attached when Lens Detection is switched on in the camera’s menu. The camera uses this identification to apply corrections for vignetting, adjust flash exposures and embed lens data in the EXIF metadata in image frames.
Most interchangeable-lens cameras have between nine and 11 contacts. This could explain why the lens aperture setting and ISO values above ISO 6400 were not recorded in the image metadata by the review camera.
Above the lens release button, on the junction between the front of the top panel and the textured section of the front panel lies the focus button, which is used to call up the various Capture Assistants that aid manual focusing when shooting in live view mode. They include focus peaking (red, blue, green or white options), a brightness histogram, grid overlays (3 x 3 or 6 x 4 fields) and exposure simulation.
Opposite the lens release button on the left hand side of the lens mount is the frame selection lever. The viewfinder is coupled to frames which select the area covered by the lens fitted to the camera. Three options are provided: 35mm + 135mm, 50mm + 75mm and 28mm + 90mm. The longer focal length in each pair is covered by the smaller frame in the field of view.
In each case, the viewfinder shows more of the subject than is recorded by the sensor. According to Leica, this ‘lets you observe how a scene develops, compose your shot and interact directly with your subject‘.
Visible from the front of the camera but actually part of the top panel are the two ‘windows’ that make up the rangefinder. It has a metering base of 50.6 mm, based upon the mechanical measurement base of 69.31mm multiplied by the viewfinder magnification factor of 0.73x.
Compared with the earlier Leica M (Typ 240), the rangefinder’s field of view is 30% larger and its eye relief distance has been increased by roughly 50% (although Leica doesn’t quote a precise figure).
The rangefinder is coupled to the lens in order to compensate for the offset between the lens and the viewfinder axis. However, as noted in the user manual, at distances less than two metres the sensor detects slightly less than the inner edges of the frame shows so some parallax compensation is required. To avoid these problems, we found it easier to frame (and focus) close-ups in Live View mode.
Top view of the Leica M10 with the APO-Summicron 50mm f/2 ASPH lens. (Source: Leica Camera.)
The top of the top panel steps down on the right hand side, where the prominent shutter speed dial is located. Marked with shutter speeds from 8 to 1/4000 seconds plus B (bulb) and A (auto) settings, it can be turned in either direction from any position. The Aperture priority mode is selected by setting the A opposite the white line on the stepped-up section to the left.
The shutter button is located to the right of the shutter speed dial in the centre of the circular power on/off lever switch. In its centre is a standard thread for a cable release. Half-pressing the shutter button activates the camera electronics and viewfinder display and saves the metered exposure value in aperture priority mode. It can also be used to re-start a self-timer delay.
To the left of the shutter speed dial and at the rear of the top panel is an inset accessory shoe with a slide-out cover. Its primary use is for accessory flashguns but it also accepts the optional Leica Visoflex electronic viewfinder, which has a resolution of 1.4 megapixels and can swivel through 90 degrees. The Visoflex includes a GPS receiver, which can be used for geocoding images shot with the M10 camera.
Partially embedded in the far left hand side of the top panel is a new ISO dial, which covers settings between ISO 100 and ISO 50,000 plus the expected A (auto) position and an interesting M position for setting values between the one-stop increments as well as values above ISO 6400. (The M values must be pre-selected in the camera’s menu.)The dial is pulled up to adjust sensitivity values and pushed down again once the value is selected.
The menu also allows users to pre-set maximum sensitivity values and exposure times for the auto ISO range. The latter can be handy for minimising camera shake since it includes three focal length-specific settings 1/f, 1/[2f], 1/[4f], which make use of the lens coding to specify the slowest shutter speed and the camera will only switch to a higher sensitivity if the shutter speed falls below the reciprocal of the focal length.
Rear view of the Leica M10, silver version. (Source: Leica Camera.)
The 3-inch LCD monitor that covers roughly half of the rear panel has a resolution of 1,036,800 pixels and can display 16 million colours in the sRGB colour space. It sits behind scratch-resistant Gorilla glass and its brightness is adjustable. Sadly, it lacks touch controls. In Live View mode, you can see the entire image field and parallax error is irrelevant. The screen will display exposure simulation and you can access the Capture Assistants. Camera settings are shown in a ‘header’ along the top of the panel, while the shooting data are in a ‘footer’ along the lower edge of the panel.
Ranged along the left hand side of the screen are three buttons that access (top to bottom) the Live View (LV), Play and Menu functions. A tiny Wi-Fi antenna is embedded in the rear panel just above the LV button with a brightness sensor just above it. The data recording LED, which glows while image data is being recorded, is located just below the Menu button.
The menu has been ‘tidied up’ to make it easier to use. The first press of the Menu button calls up the customisable Favourites page where you can find frequently-used settings. A second press displays the full menu, which has four pages. In playback mode, pressing the Menu button displays an overlay that allows you to delete or rate the displayed image, eliminating the need for a dedicated Delete button.
Above the button array is the viewfinder eyepiece, which lacks an eyecup to keep out stray light. It’s not particularly glasses-friendly and doesn’t include dioptric adjustment, although it’s nice and bright.
To the right of the screen is a conventional arrow pad with four direction buttons and a central OK/Set button, which operate in a fairly conventional fashion. There’s a thumb rest above the arrow pad, located within the top panel. A control wheel half-embedded in it is used in conjunction with the arrow pad for navigating menus, selecting items, scrolling through pictures and displaying settings.
The base plate is completely removable and held in place with a combination of a post-and-hole clip and a rotating lock. This isn’t an ideal situation because the battery and memory card share a compartment that can only be accessed by removing this plate, which is time-consuming and inconvenient. We think a camera of this calibre deserves a separate card slot.
A metal-lined 1/4-inch tripod socket is located in the base of the camera, in line with the optical axis of the lens. Interestingly, the socket is part of the camera body and protrudes through a hole in the base plate.
Sensor and Image Processing
While resolution is the same as in a number of previous Leica ‘full frame’ cameras, the 24-megapixel 36 x 24mm CMOS chip in the M10 has been developed specifically for this camera and includes (unspecified) new technologies to improve imaging performance. It also lacks an optical low-pass filter to optimise image sharpness.
A glass cover plate over the sensor acts as an infrared cut-off filter, reducing undesirable refraction that could occur when incoming light passes through multiple layers of glass. But if dust gets onto this plate, it must be removed manually, aided by a Dust Detection function in the camera.
Leica says specially designed photosite and microlens architecture enables rays of light arriving from oblique angles to be captured by the photodiodes, optimising exposures. However, this doesn’t mean the camera is free from vignetting, which is a lens-related problem for which no internal corrections are provided.
The sensor is paired with the latest-generation Maestro II image processor, which supports the camera’s extended sensitivity range and enables continuous shooting at up to five frames/second at full resolution. Users can choose between three JPEG resolutions (5976 x 3992 [24MP], 4256 x 2832 [12MP], 2976 x 1984 [6MP]) and losslessly-compressed DNG.RAW.
The 2GB buffer memory can store up to 100 JPEGs or about 30 DNG.RAW files. Only the 3:2 aspect ratio is supported for both file types, with the average size for the highest resolution JPEGs being between 9MB and 12 MB and DNG.RAW files between 25MB and 31MB, depending upon subject detail. With the DNG+JPG setting, the pre-set resolution setting for the JPEGs is retained; raw files are always saved at 24-megapixels.
Video recording is not supported.
The M10 provides only two exposure modes: aperture priority AE and manual exposure. Parameters like focusing, aperture, shutter speed and ISO value can be adjusted manually without using the menu or even switching on the camera via the three dials that cover shutter speeds, ISO and adjustments, the arrow pad and the three buttons for Play, Live View and Menu.
Settings on the shutter speed dial range from 8 seconds to 1/4000 second in one EV steps, with additional positions for Bulb and Auto exposures. If you want to use shutter speeds slower than 8 seconds you must set the dial to B (Bulb) and use a cable release to start and stop the exposure.
Alternatively, you can set the self timer to start the exposure and then press the shutter button a second time to end it. (This tactic works but it’s a rather clumsy way of obtaining long exposures because there’s no way to time them accurately.)
We found the ISO dial quite difficult to pull up much of the time as there’s not much to grip onto and it’s solidly positioned. Its top setting is 6400 so, if you want to use higher settings, you must open the menu. Higher exposures aren’t recorded in the EXIF metadata, which tops out at ISO 6400.
Other frequently-used settings that must be set via the camera’s menu include the drive modes and exposure compensation. Fortunately, the camera provides a configurable Favorites sub-menu where these settings can be stored on a single page to make them readily accessible. Up to seven items can be assigned to this sub-menu.
We had some issues with the rangefinder/viewfinder, which boasts a field of view that is 30% larger than previous M-series cameras. As a consequence, the Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH lens supplied with the camera for our review blocked off a sizeable part of the viewfinder’s frame.
A ‘window’ has been cut out of the upper corner of the lens hood to let you see through, but we don’t see this as the best solution because you still can’t see the whole subject. For a number of reasons (listed below), we feel the M10 is a camera that really needs an electronic viewfinder, along with autofocusing.
We had the following problems with the focusing system:
1. The split image ‘window’ in the viewfinder is too small. It’s difficult to find focus when shooting close-ups of complex subjects like flowers because it doesn’t cover enough of the subject to allow easy differentiation of the desired zone of maximum sharpness. This is particularly problematic at f/1.4 where depth of field is very narrow at the closest focus.
2. The viewfinder eyepiece has no eyecup to keep out stray light so glare can cause problems when a bright light source is to the side of the photographer.
3. Using the monitor to focus in Live View mode introduces the usual screen visibility problems when shooting in bright daylight. Sure, the Capture Assistants (magnification and peaking) are available; but you need to see them to use them.
4. The Capture Assistants depend on a cam in the lens mount that switches them on when the focusing ring on the lens is moved so they’re only engaged when the focus is being adjusted. You can’t use them to simply check if a shot will be sharp in the right places without shifting the focus.
One advantage of the Live View mode is the ability to access the spot and multi-field metering modes, which provide greater metering precision and flexibility than the centre-weighted metering which is the only option available when the rangefinder is used. Because it shows what the sensor ‘sees’, it’s also easier to frame shots precisely.
The Capture Assistants are really useful, although the times the aids are displayed are somewhat brief. We found they often vanished while we were fine-tuning focus with the focusing ring, although they worked quite well most of the time.
The Leica M10 is the first M-Camera with integrated Wi-Fi connectivity, although it’s pretty basic. It relies upon the Leica M-App, which is available for both iOS and Android devices and is offered through the respective app stores.
You are required to turn Wi-Fi on from the camera menu and use an SSID and password to establish a connection with a smart device (which takes a while). Once connected, you can see a live view from the camera on the device’s screen, set up a few camera parameters (but not focusing, although you can display a magnified view when the focusing ring on the lens is turned). You can also play shots from the card and download JPEG or DNG.RAW files.
Playback and Software
The camera is preset to display the last picture automatically for a second or two and users can playback shots by pressing the Play button. The arrow pad buttons allow users to toggle between shots, while the control dial enlarges and reduces the view on the screen.
Shots can be marked with a star to make them easier to find when scrolling through a sequence or apply a rating/unrating to the image. Individual and rated shots can be selected and deleted.
No software is supplied with the camera but registered users can download a copy of Adobe Lightroom, enabling them to organise and edit files. DNG.RAW files can be converted into editable TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw, which is part of this software.
Going on past experience ““ and Leica’s reputation for image quality ““ we expected a lot of the review camera and when it performed to expectations, we weren’t disappointed. Unfortunately, the Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH lens was not the ideal partner for the camera for some of our tests; a 50mm lens with closer focusing would have been preferable.
Even so, Imatest showed the partnership to be capable of meeting expectations (just) with JPEGs and comfortably exceeding expectations with raw files. Resolution remained relatively high through most of the camera’s sensitivity range, with raw files retaining their advantage throughout. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Long exposures at night showed little noise right up to ISO 6400, with noise becoming just visible at ISO 12800 and increasing gradually thereafter. Colours were retained at normal levels right up to ISO 12800 but saturation declined in the two highest settings.
Imatest showed colour accuracy in JPEGs to be similar to that of other raw-capable cameras we’ve tested, with the expected saturation boost in warmer hues. Some colour shifts were noted, the most significant being in reds and oranges (which became more yellow and purplish blues (which shifted towards cyan). We were aware of a slight magenta bias in shots taken under full sunlight. This was confirmed when images were opened in Photoshop but slight enough to be easily corrected.
Raw files showed the usual loss of saturation that accompanies conversion into TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw but they contained a very wide dynamic range, which provided plenty of scope for adjustments when files were edited. Colour shifts were less common in raw conversions. Note: saturation is easy to boost when editing converted files and most software provides both saturation and vibrance adjustments for this purpose.
While the Leica SL, which we reviewed in February 2017, provides 12 white balance settings, including two pre-sets for fluorescent lighting and one for halogen lamps, the M10 omits the halogen setting and like the SL, lacks a preset for LED lighting. Not unexpectedly, the auto white balance performance in the M10 was similar to the SL we tested, with the camera failing to fully correct the warm bias of incandescent lights.
Corrections for fluorescent and LED lighting were less effective, with a slight yellow shift remaining in shots. The tungsten and fluorescent pre-sets applied the usual over-correction but manual measurement delivered neutral colours under all three types of lighting.
Without autofocusing, we’re limited in the range of functions we can time and only able to report on file processing times and continuous shooting performance. The review camera took just over a second to power up ready for shooting and roughly half a second to power down when switched off.
We used a 16GB Panasonic SDHC U3 Class 10 memory card with a read speed of 90MB/s and write speed of 45MB/s for our timing tests. JPEG files took approximately four seconds to process, while DNG.RAW files were processed in a little under five seconds and RAW+JPEG pairs took roughly 5.5 seconds to process and store.
In the continuous shooting mode the camera was able to record 59 high-resolution JPEGs in 11.9 seconds before pausing, which is very close to the 5 fps speed claimed for the camera. It took 7.7 seconds to process this burst. This frame rate was maintained when recording DNG.RAW files, with capture slowing after 26 frames, which were recorded in 5.7 seconds. It took 15.3 seconds to process this burst.
With RAW+JPEG pairs, the buffer filled after 23 frames, which were recorded in 4.7 seconds. It took 17.8 seconds to clear the buffer memory.
Even Leica admits the M10 is ‘not a camera for everyone’. Given its price tag and the ‘exceptionally lean handling concept’ it provides, we feel only those who are fans of Leica’s M-series will lust after this camera. If you’re accustomed to an autofocus camera and lens, stepping back to manual operations takes a lot of getting used to.
We have no issues with the image quality the review camera produced, which is up to Leica’s high standards. But we found using the camera to be hard work, when compared with the Leica Q, which was a joy to use. Getting the camera to deliver optimal quality shouldn’t be quite so difficult these days. And, although relatively inconspicuous, it’s a heavy camera in the modern day and age.
We’ve outlined a few of the problems we had with the manual focusing system in our main review above. In practice, we found it easiest to use zone focusing for most shooting, but particularly for street photography (supposedly a strength of this camera).
The practice involves setting the focus to an estimated distance and then stopping the lens down to ensure the zone of acceptable sharpness provides enough latitude both in front of and behind the subject to produce a shot with ‘acceptable’ sharpness. Provided the estimates are correct, shots should be nice and sharp.
We’re also dissatisfied that you can’t check the lens aperture setting after a shot has been taken. Newer Leica lenses are coded to pass data to the camera so there’s no excuse for this omission. Similarly, metadata recording stops at ISO 6400 but the camera can shoot at ISO 50,000. Again, there’s no excuse for failing to record what could be an important part of the sensitivity range for some photographers, given the camera’s excellent low light performance.
Frankly, we think most street photographers would be better off with the Leica Q, which also boasts a 24-megapixel 36 x 24mm sensor and Maestro II processor. At AU$5900/US$4250 when reviewed in June 2015, it’s well under half the price of the M10 plus the Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH lens. It comes with fast and accurate autofocusing, a wonderfully sharp and bright EVF (with eye-sensor switching and dioptre adjustment) and a touch-screen monitor.
The Q’s 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens is only slightly slower at maximum aperture and it’s an integral part of the camera. And, although the Q also lacks the M10’s shutter speed range, topping out at 1/2000 second, it’s half the weight of the M10 plus lens and, therefore, easier to carry around. And its lens focuses much closer.
Leica is unlikely to be troubled by any of these points, since M10 cameras will probably sell well, if not to active photographers, at least to collectors. And you won’t see much (if any) discounting in the foreseeable future.
At current exchange rates, you can save about AU$1000 on the selling price by shopping off-shore. But by the time you’ve added in shipping and insurance costs plus the GST, which is sure to be applied, most (if not all) of those savings will vanish. If you plan to purchase the M10, it will be smarter to shop locally.
Image sensor: 24 x 36 mm CMOS sensor with 24-megapixel effective resolution
Image processor: Maestro II
A/D processing: Not specified
Lens mount: Leica M bayonet with additional sensor for 6-bit coding
Focal length crop factor: 1x
Image formats: Stills: JPEG, DNG.RAW (lossless compression), RAW+JPEG; Movies: Not supported
Image Sizes: 5976 x 3992, 4256 x 2832, 2976 x 1984
Image Stabilisation: No
Dust removal: Dust Detection function
Shutter (speed range): Metal blade focal plane shutter with vertical movement (8 to 1/4000 seconds plus Bulb (to 125 sec.) and Time; flash synch at 1/180 sec.
Exposure Compensation: +/- 3EV in 1/3EV steps
Exposure bracketing: 3 or 5 frames across +/3EV in 1/3EV, 2/3EV, 1EV or 2EV steps
Self-timer: 2 or 12 seconds delay
Focus system: Manual focus
Exposure metering: TTL metering with working aperture using light reflected by the blades of the 1st shutter curtain onto measuring cell; Multi-zone, Centre-weighted and Spot metering patterns
Shooting modes: Choice of automatic shutter speed control with manual aperture pre-selection – aperture priority A, or manual shutter speed and aperture setting
In-camera adjustments: Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation plus Monochrome (JPEGs only)
Colour space options: sRGB
ISO range: ISO 100 to ISO 50000, adjustable in 1/3 ISO increments from ISO 200, Auto ISO available
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shadow, Tungsten, Fluorescent (x2), Flash, custom (grey card), Colour Temperature (Kelvin)
Flash: External flashguns supported
Flash modes: Centre-weighted TTL pre-flash metering with compatible units, 1st or 2nd shutter curtain sych available
Flash exposure adjustment: +/-3EV in 1/3EV increments
Sequence shooting: Max. 5 frames/sec.
Buffer capacity: 40 JPEGs
Storage Media: SD cards up to 2GB, SDHC cards up to 32GB, SDXC cards up to 2TB
Viewfinder: Bright line frame viewfinder with automatic parallax compensation, image field limiter for 35/135mm, 28/90mm and 50/75mm lenses (auto switching when lens is attached); 0.73x magnification, -3 to +3 dpt adjustment, split or superimposed image range finder shown as a bright field in the centre of the viewfinder image
LCD monitor: 3-inch colour TFT LCD monitor with 16 million colours and 1,036,800 pixels, approx. 100 % image field, glass cover of scratch-resistant Gorilla glass, colour space: sRGB
Live View modes: Supports exposure simulation, Capture Assistants and Focus Aid (peaking)
Playback functions: Single image, index (12 or 20 thumbnails), enlargement (up to 1:1 pixel size), histogram, exposure clipping, grid, rating (single/multi), deleting (single/multi),
Wi-Fi function: Built-in IEEE 802.11b/g/n, compati8ble with WPA/WPA2 encryption, Infrastructure access mode
Power supply: BP-SCL5 rechargeable Li-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 210 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx.139 x 80 x 38.5 mm
Weight: Approx. 660 grams (with battery)
Distributor: Leica Camera Australia, (03) 9248 4444, http://en.leica-camera.com/
Based upon JPEG files.
Based upon DNG.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.
(Lens aperture settings have been estimated since the camera doesn’t record this data in the image metadata.)
ISO 100, 20 second exposure at f/1.4
ISO 800, 8 second exposure at f/1.7.
ISO 1600, 8 second exposure at f/2.4.
ISO 3200, 4 second exposure at f/2.4.
ISO 6400, 4 second exposure at f/4.
ISO 12800,4 second exposure at f/5.6.
ISO 25000,1.5 second exposure at f/5.6
ISO 50000,1.5 second exposure at f/6.7.
ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
Crop from the above image showing edge sharpness. (This image has been edited to boost brightness.)
ISO 400, 1/500 second at f/2.
ISO 100, 1/45 second at f/6.7.
Backlit subject, ISO 100, 1/30 second at f/8.
ISO 100, 1/360 second at f/5.6.
ISO 200, 1/45 second at f/8.
ISO 100, 1/45 second at f/6.7.
ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/4.8.
ISO 200, 1/30 second at f/1.7.
ISO 400, 1/30 second at f/4.
ISO 2000, 1/30 second at f/8.
ISO 320, 1/30 second at f/4.8.
ISO 100, 1/30 second at f/8.
From a DNG.RAW file with Levels adjustment; ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/11.
Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH lens.
RRP: AU$9950; US$6595
- Build: 9.3
- Ease of use: 8.3
- Still image quality JPEG: 9.0
- Still image quality RAW: 9.0