#567. Leica M10 review: A first Opportunity to Get a Second Impression
This is a new hands-on guest post about the new Leica M10 and 4 interesting lenses by reader PaulB. Here’s is his bio and introduction :
“My name is Paul Barclay and I have been practicing photography for the past 33 years. I began pursuing photography seriously after graduating from Engineering school, and early in my career I had the good fortune of being able to mix industrial photography with engineering for about 12 years. Today I am involved with the business side of my industry rather than engineering, so my photography is personal.
I began my photographic journey using film with an Argus medium format camera, though I quickly upgraded to a Nikon SLR system. In the mid-2000’s I switched from Nikon to Leica, made a serious effort into large format landscape photography, and was a contributing photographer to an online magazine during the internet’s infancy. Today, I still have my large format equipment, though I mostly use Leica and Olympus cameras, with a Sony A7II on the side.
My favorite forms of photography are street, travel, and landscapes.”
Thanks Paul !
I know the title of this article seems a bit strange, but my first impression of the Leica M10 came a few days after it’s announcement when I visited my favorite Leica dealer. When I walked in the door I was surprised to find one of the store’s regular Leica users holding a new M10 in the leather half case. This was the proud new owner of what was most likely the first M10 in Seattle. Needless to say, my first impressions from talking with this new owner and handling my dealer’s demonstration sample gave me the desire to try the M10 for longer than just a few minutes in the store.
My first opportunity to really use the camera, with my lenses, came a couple of weeks later when my dealer let me borrow their camera. Since I was only able to use the camera for about 2 hours this is my second impression. I would need a much longer period of time to write a review. In addition, since several good reviews have already been written, I needed to have a different point of view in order to provide what I hope is valuable information to anyone reading this. So I decided I would use four legacy lenses with the camera set to ISO 800; there will be more about this setting later. The lenses selected were the 135 mm APO-Telyt M, a first generation 50 mm Summilux M, a 21mm Elmarit M-ASPH, and a mystery lens.
After picking up the camera from my dealer, I walked a few short blocks to South Lake Union and one of Seattle’s jewels for photography, The Center for Wooden Boats. As the first image above shows, the camera was equipped with the optional grip base, a hot shoe cover, and no camera strap. It also shows how much larger the rangefinder window is and the location of the ISO dial.
When I arrived at my destination, I took a little time to check the camera menus, the button and switch layout, and their function. During this time I noticed how different the power switch configuration is. It’s just a two-position switch, off and on, rather than a four-position switch as on my M9. I started using the camera set to single frame advance and later changed to sequential frame advance. The button function on the camera and the menu choices are simple and the way I thought they should be. When I started my photography session I thought I might miss the versatility of the four-position switch on the M9. But if you have ever found yourself in the situation where you have missed images because the switch gets bumped to self-timer, or between settings, you will quickly appreciate the new switch. It is very simple and it works.
The second thing I noticed is the shape and size of the grip, and the size and position of the thumb rest molded into the rear face of the camera. My first thought of the grip was I might like it to be slightly wider, left to right, and possibly shaped slightly farther around the side of the camera body. In using the camera for almost 2 hours I never gave the grip or the thumb rest a second thought. Their size and placement provided for a secure and comfortable hold on the camera. Considering that about half of the time I was using the grip exclusively with a firm hold, says that it is well done and makes the grip a worthy addition to the camera. This is a bit ironic, considering the attention being paid to the new thinner body.
I started using the camera with the 135mm APO-Telyt M lens, which is probably the most difficult focal length to focus on a Leica. Since 135mm is the limit for the base length between the rangefinder windows, and generally speaking the distance to our subject makes details small in the viewfinder. As the image of the clock below shows, when our subject is fairly close and has large easy to see features, the new viewfinder size and magnification helps with the focusing process. Though when the subject gets farther away, such as with the image of the canoe below, focusing a 135 mm lens can still be a challenge. As the image of the Oar House sign shows, when your subject gets harder to see, it becomes easier to miss-focus. So for photographers with eyes that are under 40 years old, using a 135mm lens with the finder alone may be sufficient for good focus. For my 58 year-old eyes the optional EVF will be a requirement for this lens.
For the rest of my time with the M10, I switched between the other lenses and as you can see all of the images we were challenged by bright sunlight. Which meant using f4+ to f5.6+ in order to keep shutter speeds below the 1/4000 th of a second limit.
Even with the exposure challenges presented with this location, all of the above images show the dynamic range potential available with the new sensor. In each of the original files the white boats are very close to being washed out and the shadows are very dark with almost no visible detail. In the case of the 135mm image of the canoe above, the woman under the roofline was the only person visible in the unprocessed image. For the girl on the left, only the shine on her face was visible, and the other girl was not visible at all. In Capture One 9, I was able to bring down the highlights and bring up the shadow details, and the default noise reduction was more than enough to counter the noise in each of the images. I did reduce the noise correction to zero to check a couple of images, and while visible the noise was not offensive.
One experience that is not visible in most of the images above is the effect of the new viewfinder size and magnification on the focusing and framing process. In short, the new viewfinder is a big improvement for focusing and framing the 21mm through 50mm lenses I used. For the 21mm, since the camera had a hot shoe cover installed and I did not want to lose it, I used the hard frame edges of the viewfinder instead of my external finder. For this location and subject I think the hard frame edge is reasonably close to the 21 mm field of view, see below. Though I would want to compare this to my finder before I made the choice to leave it behind.
Another thing to point out is I wear glasses, and the new finder size and magnification made seeing the frame lines and focusing much easier than I experience using my M9. Though be aware that since the field of view is much bigger, you may need to alter your technique if you grip your lenses from the top when making vertical images, as your hand may block the viewfinder.
Over all I enjoyed using the M10 and I am pleased with the images presented. Which means I will want to use the camera again for a longer trial. Though, there were acouple of disappointments in this experience. First, I was disappointed I did not take a bit more time to go over the camera to get the feel for all of the features. As old habits die hard when you are busy, and when I realized I needed to reduce the ISO setting I went into the menu instead of adjusting the ISO speed dial. The second disappointment came while choosing images to include in this article. My normal method of making images is to set the camera to record DNG and JPEG files, with the JPEGs set to monochrome. I am used to the wonderful B&W images the M9 produces and the B&W JPEGs from the M10 are not up to that standard. The M10 B&W JPEGs appear to be a simple de-saturation of the color image with a very slight tone adjustment. Hopefully this can be corrected in the future with a firmware update.
For those interested, none of the lenses used are 6-bit coded, so no in camera lens correction was applied. And all the images were processed to taste for exposure, sharpening, noise, alignment, and aspect ratio using Capture One 9. White balance was set for the best gray point in the scene, otherwise no color or lens corrections were applied in post.
Finally, I would like to thank my Leica dealer, Glazer’s Camera, for loaning me the camera, and Pascal Jappy for the opportunity to make a contribution to Dear Susan and it’s readers.