Home Cameras/Lenses Leica All about the Leica M10-D

All about the Leica M10-D

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In my household the M10-D has caused more controversy than any other camera that I’ve tested for Leica, and on the internet forums the leaked images and descriptions of the camera seem to have caused almost as much disagreement.

What is it? And what it was.

The M10-D is a digital rangefinder camera without an LCD screen and with what looks like a wind-on lever. To be fair, it’s this ‘wind-on lever’ which seems to have caused most of the controversy (certainly around here). I’ll leave that to later.

The original Leica M-D came out as a special limited edition, but there was so much interest that Leica brought out a series version; the M-D type 262 in April 2016. Personally I wasn’t very sure that I needed chimping relief, and the idea of having full time auto WB was a real discouragement, so I never even played with one.

Others on the other hand quickly fell in love with it, and for many photographers it was a real hit. Limiting their options left them free to concentrate on taking pictures, and having to wait until you got home before you could look at the images was a throwback to the excitement of film days.

Superficially the new M10-D is the same thing, updated with the new M10 sensor, an exposure compensation dial and the lovely quiet shutter from the M10-P.

But the M10-D is also much more than that: If you are nervous about shooting with the rangefinder, then you can plug in an Electronic Viewfinder. If you feel then need to look at the images when you’re out and about then you can just switch on the WiFi and connect with your phone or tablet (iOS or Android). More than that, you can edit some of the settings in the new Leica Fotos app (currently metering mode, file format, white balance, but there will be more). And then there is the wind on lever (more about that later).

Technicalities

The M10-D has the four principal digital exposure components on analog displays on the camera body:

  • Aperture

  • Shutter Speed

  • ISO

  • Exposure Compensation

Some other basic criteria of a digital camera can be changed in the Fotos App:

  • White Balance

  • Manual ISO (when the ISO dial is set to M)

  • File type (DNG or JPG)

  • Metering Mode (when using the EVF in Live View Mode)

If you use the EVF, then the zoom/focus mode is set to ON, so that if you turn the focus ring on an M lens it will zoom in at the centre of the frame. It would be nice if there was a way to switch this off (and on)  – hopefully there will be later on.

Leica are serious about the limitations, and so you cannot review images in the EVF, or turn on the menus.

The M10-D has the same sensor as the M-10 and is fundamentally identical with respect to the image processing and firmware (a slight rider is that it is not yet fully supported in Lightroom or Capture One – Lightroom does a good job with the embedded profile, Capture One rather less so). Hopefully this will soon be remedied.

The body itself, from the front, is just like the M10-P with the Leica logo on the top and the screw replacing the red dot.. The back has two rotating dials, the inner one is for exposure compensation and the outer one is Off / On / Wifi, you can still shoot when the Wifi is selected

There is a bar code under the baseplate for connecting to the Fotos app for the first time, after that it should link up automatically. It takes about 30 seconds for the camera to be ready. In addition to the settings options above, you can review your images, save them to a personal gallery on your phone / tablet and also shoot the camera via remote control.

This all works pretty well. It’s early days, but I think Fotos has a bright future, both for controlling and setting the camera, and also for a streamlined workflow between the camera to the phone and on to Lightroom on your computer.  Of course it will work with all the current Leica cameras.

Shooting with the M10-D.

I didn’t get a prototype of the M10-D, but I was involved in the Leica User Forum beta test which started towards the end of August this year. This is always a rewarding experience; there are many excellent photographers and there is good camaraderie and lots of intelligent suggestions.

Whereas the M10-P had been pretty much universally welcomed, feelings about the M10-D camera were fairly polarised, especially with respect to the wind on lever.

I hadn’t come to any firm conclusions during the testing so I resolved to use the camera on our walking trip in Crete in September. We went for 18 days, just with cabin luggage, I took the M10, the M10-D and 4 lenses (28 Summaron, 50 summicron APO, 75 Summicron APO and the WATE).

On the first day I just took the M10-D, and I was quickly infuriated – I don’t actually review images all that often, but if I find something good, then I want to see if I’ve got the focus right before moving on, and I couldn’t. The next day I left it in the hotel room and took my M10.

After a day or so I felt that I really should give the camera more of a chance, so I used it every day, and after 4 or 5 days I found that it actually did make a difference to the way I was shooting, and that I was rather enjoying it.

It seemed that I was thinking more about the aperture to use (rather than shooting either wide open or at f8). What’s more, there was a little frisson of excitement downloading the images to my computer when I got back to the hotel in the evening. Slowly I fell in love (and it is such a lovable object . . . I’ll talk about the wind on lever later).

Then we were invited to a Cretan christening. I wasn’t the official photographer, but I was asked to take some snaps, so I brought both cameras with me and a couple of lenses

I started off shooting with the M10-D, but I was very quickly irritated again – it was all very well walking through the mountains, but I needed to know whether the picture of the priest painting the baby with olive oil was actually in focus (or not). I shot the rest of the evening with the M10.

The next day, back on the coastal path, the M10-D was my friend again, keeping out of the way and allowing me to take the pictures I wanted.

Since returning from holiday I’ve been using the camera quite a lot, both for walks in the countryside and visits to the local pubs. My only real complaint is that it’s a bit of a pain to go into Fotos to change the WB from daylight to Auto, but that’s probably largely my problem as most of the people I speak to prefer to use Auto White Balance.

The Wind on Lever

It has to be talked about!

Lots of people use variants on thumb grips, these usually plug into the hot shoe and then push against the back of the camera (some simply stick on). I’ve never liked them much, partly because the hot shoe is blocked, but also because I’ve always found that in the end they mark the back of the camera (usually when dust gets in and scratches it). Also, they tend to snag on your bag when putting the camera away, and they’re expensive

When I first saw it earlier in the year I thought the wind on lever was rather kitsch, but it was explained to me that it had started with a discussion on how to make a better thumb grip.  After some thought, they came round to the idea that the wind on lever was perfect: It doesn’t take up the hot shoe, it’s entirely optional and it doesn’t damage the camera or snag in a bag. Also it’s an affectionately humorous nod to the history of the M camera.

I was still sceptical, but I have to admit that whilst carrying the camera for hours around Crete (especially with heavier lenses) it was a real benefit.

This is what has caused such heated discussion here; my son is adamant that “a thing should be a thing, it should not look like a thing and not be it”. He really isn’t interested whether it’s useful as a thumb grip or not; it’s pretending to be a wind on lever, but it isn’t one.

Someone on the beta forum referred to it as ersatz, and that’s hard to argue with.

In the last few days there have been leaked images of the M10-D going the rounds of the internet sites and there has been a lot of speculation on what the wind on lever actually does: Does it cock the shutter? Does it switch on the camera?

Well, it doesn’t do either, and quite right too, if it cocked the shutter how could one shoot continuously? If it functioned as an on/off switch then you would need to have it out all the time one was shooting. Either would impose restrictions without really conferring any benefit.

Conclusion

Whilst we were I Crete I showed the camera to a few friends (even one Leica shooter), and having told them it was digital I asked them whether they thought there was anything odd about it, nobody did, they didn’t even seem to notice that it didn’t have a screen on the back.

I imagine that, justas in our household and on the beta forum, this camera will really polarise opinion. Personally, (although I wouldn’t have it as my only M camera) I very much like shooting with it, I’m even considering buying one (not least to irritate my son!). Whatever the arguments about its functionality, the camera is a beautiful object, a pleasure to hold and a pleasure to shoot with.

Some people may feel that, in including the EVF and Wifi with the connection to Fotos Leica has compromised the ‘purity’ of the original M-D. My feeling is that it’s good to have the options available, but I didn’t find myself using them in real shooting conditions (either the Wifi or the EVF).

Eve Arnold, who was the first women to join the Magnum group, once said “It is the photographer, not the camera, which is the instrument”. If you find the restrictions imposed by this camera liberating, then perhaps it frees you to become a better instrument.

Leica should be congratulated on designing new cameras which really do ‘get out of the way’ and allow you to concentrate on taking photos. This is a perfect example of that kind of thinking, and I really hope that it will be the success that it deserves to be.

More images here

And more from Jonathan Slack here

14 COMMENTS

  1. Great article, Jonathan. I am one of those odd people who use my rangefinders in basic mode. I stick to DNG and seldom need access to my photos until I get home and have done a bit of post processing (but only on the shots I want). I don’t fiddle with white balance and I don’t chimp. In fact, I use the digital rangefinder exactly as I would a film camera. I see the M10-D as a refreshing antidote to the excesses of modern mirrorless cameras (even those from Leica, which are mercifully the least complex of the lot).

    But I’m no Luddite and I enjoy the CL, the SL and other cutting edge cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix G9. Yet I don’t miss the bells and whistles on the M rangefinder. The old M-D was a joy to pick up and shoot photographs without worrying pressing the wrong button and altering some setting that I didn’t want anyway.

    As you say, the M10-D isn’t for everyone. And it has raised the hackles of those forum members whose sole mission in life is to impose their preferences on everyone else. I congratulate Leica on giving us a choice. Those who don’t like it can buy something else and I will not try to dissuade them.

    • Excellent Mike – I couldn’t agree more.
      Actually, even the WB remarks. I use daylight in all circumstances except artificial light . . in which case I use Auto, so I needed to be able to change between, but that’s fine.
      As I said in the article, after some initial irritation I’ve found shooting with the camera really good fun, and I’m just off to Cornwall tomorrow to shoot some more with it (I’ve got it until Mid November).
      It certainly has caused a furore on social media (I’ve been loving it). It seems the EVERYBODY holds a strong opinion about the wind on lever, and that they principally fall into 3 camps:

      1. It’s an abomination and Oskar Barnack is turning in his grave
      2. It’s a useful occasional thumb grip and is amusingly nostalgic (that’s me)
      3. It should be used for cocking the shutter as well

      Anyway – thanks for making the article look so nice
      all the best
      Jonathan

      • I’m with you on the second choice, Jonathan. Although I haven’t handled the M10-D, I went out yesterday with my M7 and realised that I do in fact use the advance lever as a sort of thumb grip. It’s something I hadn’t thought about much — but I am willing to give the -D’s lever the benefit of the doubt until I’ve actually tried it. Thanks again for such a well-illustrated and informative article.

        Mike

  2. Thank you for a thoughtful and beautifully illustrated article Jono. I have to say the oversized EV comp dial seems superflous.
    Curious about the rational for this change. Change for change sake?I wonder if it was just too much trouble to stick it where the iso dial is now and let the back have an expanded iso dial.

    Best regards,

    Kwesi

  3. I wish my "serious" pictures were as good as your shots that illustrate the M10-D article. At first I thought you would never cover the wind lever. When you did, it was a great relief, the suspense was killing me! I would agree, I always used the wind lever on my film Leicas as a thumb grip and none of the add-on solutions seem to work as well.

      • Thank you Dave. I truly didn’t think it was that good, but I’m running out of material to post to Flickr due to torn ligaments in my shoulder that make carrying a camera, even the X-Pro, quite painful. Getting old is not for the faint of heart! (to misquote Bette Davis)

        And yes, auto correct is a curse, I know what I want to type better than any machine.

  4. I loved this, a really enjoyable read Jono.

    It’s always nice to hear about niche camera’s, and their nuances. I love the idea of the M10-D and it’s predecessor, but I am unsure of the compromises made with the app.

    I reckon the best use of the rear dial would have been as your white balance setting. And then a single command wheel would cover the exposure compensation bit. Just an opinion naturally.

    Oddly I am less polarised by the winder, as a thumb rest I am sure it is an interesting solution to using the hotshoe for a thumbie thing.

    Dave S

  5. What a terrific read, think you should have a class for lawyers and politicians explain to them to write legislation as you write your articles! What are the odds M10 will be next MONO?

  6. It would be hard to debate that there is anything wrong with that camera based on your very well crafted photos. Or, with eighteen September days on Crete.

    A little functional whimsy is fine. The Internet of Hate (AKA, "the Internet" — see James Mickens’ techie but entertaining USENET keynote) will… hate.

    I’m inspired to break out the old 500C/M after reading this. Twelve shots and I usually get 2 – 3 strong keepers. You have to be very deliberate and that helps with quality.

  7. I must say I have not been able to grasp all the ire over the "phoney" film advance lever. Seems to me if you can use a historical design cue for another purpose when the original use is no longer needed that is just brilliant – especially when it frees the hotshoe and makes it easier to get the camera in and out of its bag.

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