Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica M10-D: A pain in the eye or what?

Leica M10-D: A pain in the eye or what?

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Doctor, doctor, I get a pain in my eye every time I drink a cup of tea.

Well, try taking the spoon out of the cup first…

At the age of six, I thought this was hugely amusing. And so did my fellow tots at the primary school. It doesn’t age well. I was, however, reminded of the old chestnut when I contemplated the new Leica M10-D.

A reader, who is a left-eye shooter, raised the reasonable fear that using the M10-D with its new-fangled “advance lever” grip could damage his right eye. “What if that lever pokes into my eye as I’m taking a picture,” he moaned.

I hadn’t thought about this. But I am also a left-eye shooter, and could well be in line for a dose of optical damage if our reader is right in his fears. That would be a pity since I wouldn’t wish to emulate Wackford Squeers, headmaster of Dotheboys Hall, who “had but one eye, and the popular prejudice runs in favour of two”.

This week I finally laid hands on the M10-D — at Red Dot Cameras where it had arrived as a demonstrator. Production models, expected on the day of launch are delayed in Germany, and we don’t know when they will reach our shores. 

I was at Red Dot to join Ivor cooper in our video overview of the new camera. More on that later.

My first impressions, though, were entirely positive. That lever was my main focus. How does it work? Is it effective? Does it prod my eye? Is it a faux frippery that detracts from the ethos of the iconic M?

First, it doesn’t hit my eye, even when fully extended. I put my thumb against the lever, as I would a regular thumb rest, and the camera was a delight to hold in the shooting position. It feels solid and natural. I should, however, make the caveat that I wear glasses, so I’m protected in any case.

Betrayal

I know many people have complained that the functionless lever is a betrayal of all that Leica stands for. It is an affront, I’ve heard some people say, because it pretends to be something it isn’t. But I like it. It does a better job of stabilising the camera than a standard hot-shoe-mounted rest. It is more secure and feels more natural. If advance levers had never existed, this idea would have been hailed as the perfect thumb grip.

Above all, when you don’t need it, you fold it away. Regular thumb grips (especially, it has to be said, the monster grip of the Leica SL) tend to dig into your chest when the camera is slung around the neck.

Apart from doing its job well, the new-fangled advance-lever grip has the big advantage (over other thumb rests) of leaving the hot-shoe vacant for possession — in particular by the Visoflex EVF. Having to remove the Leica thumb rest on the M10 every time I wanted to use the viewfinder was a pain. This was a positive disincentive to using the Visoflex. And, when mounting the Visoflex, there was always the danger that the expensive thumb grip would go AWOL.

Overall, I am enthusiastic about the thumb grip lever. My only observation is that it is slightly too easy to move. A tad more resistance would be a good thing, I believe. The other changes to the M10-D over the M-D are also welcome.

Compensation

The back exposure compensation dial works well. It is solid and perfectly weighted, and it is slightly easier to move than the ISO dial on the back of the original M-D. It is great to have a physical compensation dial for the first time on an M, and I applaud Leica for the concept. The rear control is probably slightly less convenient to use than a physical dial on the top plate but, on the positive side, it is less liable to be moved in error. And how often do you change compensation anyway?

The on/off/wifi switch on the back of the camera is similarly well engineered and works smoothly. I appreciate having a clear on/off position. I was never thrilled with the red-dot graphic on the switch of the M10 and CL. Even now, after nearly two years, I can never remember whether the visible red dot means the camera is on or off. (Red dot showing means the camera is off, on checking, but I constantly forget.)

I like the M10 ISO dial. I’ve heard one or two owners of the original M-D criticising the decision to use the same control as the M10 when they prefer to have a manual (without auto) ISO dial on the back of the camera. I cannot agree with this view. For starters, it would have been too expensive to come up with a top plate design without the ISO dial and, second, the use of the backplate for a physical compensation dial is genius. I like it.

While most buyers of the M-D were content to have no menu, no auto ISO and were happy to work with the basic settings of a film camera, the M10-D does bring some extras if you want them. The Fotos app allows access to basic menu features, including exposure method, white balance, jpeg parameters (yes, the M10-D does do jpegs) and ISO setup — minimum speed, maximum ISO (for auto) and the ability to choose specific ISO settings between the 6400 maximum on the physical dial up to 50000. You can even format the SD card in the camera from the Fotos app.

Quite apart from the ergonomics, this camera is gorgeous, the distillation of the M rangefinder concept. Many people, I know, think it is madness to even want a digital camera without a screen, without menus and without loads of options. They feel it is ridiculous for Leica even to consider making it. Instead, though, Leica should be given full credit for having the confidence to produce such a niche product. Buying it isn’t compulsory, and there are plenty of alternatives, even from Leica. You can buy a lovely M10-P for the same money, for instance. The M10-D will sell well, as did the M-D, and I think we will be surprised how many buyers choose it over the -P model.

If you, like me, delight in the physical perfection of a film camera but want the convenience of digital photography, then the M10-D is as good as it gets. 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Nice piece but I have to voice my disapproval of the elver. It’s a travesty.

    The fact it stays out like that too looks like a broken film lever in fully cocked position. It’s like the door has been left open, something has been left behind, a child has been left at the pub, or some kind of broken, limb…

    No. It’s terrible absolutely terrible!

  2. If you do want to "cheat" – that is, to check your picture(s) before shooting ..say you’re using a wide-angle, like the 16-18-21mm ‘Tri-Elmar’.. or you want to look at your shots after shooting – you can, of course, just add the £390 ‘Visoflex 020’ electronic finder.

    That slots into the M10-D’s flash/accessory shoe (..though it overlaps and renders invisible the left part of the shutter-speed dial! ..what were they thinking?!..) and it then shows what you would see if there were a ‘Live View’ screen on the back of the camera, and also allows you up to 5 seconds – only! – of review after taking a shot.

    Of course, it makes the camera look really odd ..but no more so than a Leica exposure meter stuck on the top of a film M3 ..although that made the shutter speed dial even easier to use, as it had its own extension which clipped onto and duplicated the M3’s shutter dial!

    • David B
  3. I use a Leica thumbrest on my M10, and while I’m happy enough with it, it does have its downsides – specifically, it adds to the depth of the camera and makes it more cumbersome to get it in and out of certain bags. Plus of course it blocks the hotshoe – but then, I’m not likely to use a flash (or the EVF) on the M10 often, if at all, so that’s not that big a deal (it would be a major pain on my D750 workhorse).

    As for the dial, in spite of the gorgeous execution, I would have preferred one that I could use with my thumb without taking the camera off my eye. It’s what I can now do in a pinch with the back control dial.

    All in all, as much as I like the M10-D (and find the M10-P an equally well-defined evolution), I’ll stick with the M10 – it’s a great camera already, and the advancements don’t warrant the upgrade for me. But I keep being intrigued by the M10-D – so maybe one day …

    Matt

  4. I’m one of those who prefers the ISO dial of the original M-D, which I owned for a year, traded towards an M10, and after a year downgraded back. One of the reasons for the downgrade was that I just loved working with the M-D’s huge ISO dial.

    Retaining that lovely dial wouldn’t have needed much redesign of the M10 dial as that could easily have been repurposed for the top-deck compensation dial you mention as potentially more convenient.

    Otherwise this is an impressive release and I’m all in favor of the lever. I use a conventional thumb grip on my M-D (and another on my M9 Monochrom) and love the feel, but had them digging into my side and chest when walking with the camera on a strap.

    I won’t be upgrading. Not because of the dial or anything else other than the fact that I’m still immensely satisfied with my original M-D, and expect that it will be more than good enough for many years to come.

  5. Just speaking as a slightly bemused and amused on-looker, I can only say: that lever seems a brilliant touch – both practically and as a little nod to history. And if it means no need to use one of those awful bulky handgrips which Leica produce for many of their cameras, what more is there to say? Every M should have one!

  6. I won’t take credit for the faux wind lever/thumb rest on the M10-D. However, in early design/concept discussions with Leica over two years ago on a still born special edition camera, I suggested just such a solution to Leica. Needless to say, they said that this was not possible for that camera being discussed. I too use a Thumb’s Up and the Leica solution thumb rest on my M10 and Monochrom CCD, and I don’t like not having the shoe free for other accessories. The built-in thumb rest along the lines of the old advance lever seemed like a natural development. It seems that Leica now agrees!

  7. It’s a thumbs up then for the wind lever that isn’t a wind lever but is actually a thumb rest. I could live with it but…
    I absolutely dislike the idea of using the camera with a phone though. Why does everything these days have to be connected to a phone? When I’m taking pictures I do not want to be fiddling with an app on a phone on a screen that I can barely see in sunlight anyway.Also the connection time ( check the video and count) is time you are not engaged with your subject ).
    Interesting that they took AWAY the digital screen from the back of the camera and then have you looking at ANOTHER digital screen on a phone. Am I the only one laughing at this? I still use my M6TTL and rejoice in the fact that I don’t have to deal with this kind of nonsense.Yes, I know you don’t have to use the app, but really…
    Digital cameras require a different approach to analogue ones and I think the M series has been developed as far as it needs to. Maybe time to leave it where it is and concentrate on SL and CL development, both nice cameras.M10 is good for another 10 years.

  8. It is what the Nikon Df and the Nikon Z should have been.

    Fujifilm already proved that film camera control is not only adequate for controlling digital cameras but also highly popular among buyers and users. Taking out the LCD is one step further in bringing back that true nostalgic look and feel. Leica should have done what Epson did and make the thumb rest a real lever to "cock the shutter". Not having an LCD in the back is logical, economical, and environmentally friendly. Why keep making camera back LCD larger and higher resolution when our own phone is already twice larger and higher resolution than any camera back LCDs? Why must chimp continuously each photo taken simply because we having the technology to do so? Without the camera back LCD makes the camera body thinner and much more like their film days counterparts even saves weight and camera bag room, AND, it ought to be much less expensive (@Leica).

    Had Nikon made a digital mirrorless F3 like Leica did with their M10-D, and take it even further by putting the EVF/LCD where the F3’s focusing screen was, and make the finder removable and produce all the different optional finder type the F3 use to have, plus a proper "motordrive" like vertical handgrip and shutter button, keeping the F mount as well, they would have sold them like hot cakes; as afterall, the F3 was design by Giorgetto Giugiaro, it looks much better than the Z.

  9. I like this a lot, even though I have sort of gone off digital cameras, possibly BECAUSE I have gone off digital photography.

    As a tool. it is employed almost like a film M. I even like the poker, although Leica could have made it really like an M by employing it to re-cock the shutter, as Epson did with their RD1.

    For me, it is all the things that the MD wasn’t, and one day, I might go for one.

    One thing that you can never level at Leica though is a penchant for low prices.

    BTW: I am the real (nuisance) StephenJ back to haunt Mike… Don’t know who the Stephen above is?

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