Home Features Leica M10-D: Handling and Fotos

Leica M10-D: Handling and Fotos

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Image: Leica Camera AG
Image: Leica Camera AG
Image: Leica Camera AG

The Leica M10-D is a camera you either love or hate. The successor to the original screenless M-D (if we exclude the earlier M60 Edition), adds more complexity in the form of the (optional) use of Leica’s Fotos application. This app works with other cameras in the range, including the M10, D-Lux 7 and CL.

I have taken a look at the M10-D in terms of overall handling and stand-alone, using the camera with and without the Leica Fotos app.

Leica promotes the app as the modern (digital) interface between the smartphone and the camera. With the WiFi enabled on both the camera and the smartphone (an iPhone 5S in my case), the screen of the phone is a substitute for the monitor display of the regular M10 and M10-P. It is an impractical solution.

Image: Mike Evans
Image: Mike Evans

Holding the camera in one hand and the phone in the hand (that is all normal humans have), you cannot focus rapidly. The only practical solution is the fixed distance setting while changing the distance with your arm advancing more or less. This is, by the way, the classic solution for street photographers who fix the distance setting to exactly 1.75 or 2 meters and change the physical distance between camera and object to focus sharply.

Image: Leica Camera AG
Image: Leica Camera AG

The other option is to lay down the phone and hold the camera with both hands. The problem now is that the small screen requires you to position the phone close to your eye. Perhaps with the large screen of more recent smartphones, there is more to see.

Tripod

The best option is to use the camera on a tripod and then to activate the app. For photography on the run with dynamic scenery, the app is not suitable. Then the classical choice of the view/rangefinder is the best way to operate the camera.

Image: Leica Camera AG
Image: Leica Camera AG

When the app is activated there are a few selections to make in Live Mode: The File Format and Resolution (when using JPG) can be selected as can the metering options (spot, centre-weighted and multi-field) and the White Balance (hardly ever necessary to select one option since the DNG option lets you select the colour balance on the computer).

The camera settings can be found under (obviously) the Settings tab. Here you find most of the menu options that are available to the user of the M10(-P).

The most natural option is to use the camera without the app and rely on the viewfinder. There are a few, but useful indications in the finder area, such as the number of remaining pictures, the battery capacity and the shutter speed (in A-mode). Also, flash symbols are visible.

Finder

The finder is very clear and the bright (white) lines of the frames are well lit. The illumination is by LED but the frame lines are projected by physical masks. An electronic option would be possible.

Knowing that the camera is digital, one gets an initial impulse to look at the monitor after taking a picture. This impulse is soon repressed.

The camera’s simplicity and the lack of the monitor have seduced many commentators to apply the designation ‘analogue’ to the handling. This impression is intensified by the little lever that works as thumb support.

Image: Leica Camera AG
Image: Leica Camera AG

As a support for the thumb, however, there may be improvements possible, because ergonomically the support does not function as well as it could. You need all fingers of one hand for a firm grip of the camera and, after some time, walking around with the thumb behind the lever, the camera starts to slip because of fatigue. Perhaps with more exercise?

The very low shutter noise makes it hard to know when exactly the shutter has been fired. The counter that indicates the number of remaining pictures helps! The classical portrait session when the sitter relaxes after hearing the shutter firing and the photographer quickly shoots another picture to capture the relaxed pose has vanished. It should not be difficult to include an option in future updates to increase the shutter noise.

Analogue feeling

The general operational features and the performance of the M10-D are similar to those of the standard M10 and need not be discussed. The main topic of the M10-D is its analogue feeling.

If (and this is a big IF) we assume that the delay between taking and viewing the picture is the defining characteristic of the chemical/physical process then there is some logic in treating the M10-D as the analogue version of the digital camera. But this delay is an illusion.

As soon as the smartphone is activated we can see the results. When there is no smartphone, direct access to the laptop will do the job. The Polaroid effect we do not have: there is always a time lag between taking the picture and looking at the finished picture. The essence of the chemical/physical process is not the immediacy of controlling the result, but the risk factor and the lack of flexibility.

Image: Leica Camera AG
Image: Leica Camera AG

First the risk factor: There is always the chance that the picture goes wrong: exposure setting is wrong, a chance element is not controlled, an unsuitable developer has been selected and so on. The inspection of the film strip after development always produces surprises. The most important negatives are unusable. The digital process, on the other hand, gives fool-proof results: there is always the software to come to the rescue.

The lack of flexibility is the second characteristic of the chemical/physical process. Before we start taking pictures, we have to select the film (negative or slide, colour or b&w, low speed or high speed). When the selected film is the wrong one, we are lost. In the digital world, even with the M10-D, we can select Auto ISO and we gain lots of flexibility.

When taking pictures (handheld) with ISO 100 b&w film, we may be confronted with low shutter speeds: the choice then is underexposure or blurred images. A change of ISO settings as on the M10-D is impossible when using the M-A, for instance. There is a limited option to underexpose and use a suitable developer to increase the density, but this procedure has other problems.

Image: Leica Camera AG
Image: Leica Camera AG

The basic fact is that the M10-D produces numerical virtual files and the M-A produces (after a lengthy process) fixed physical negatives. The results are different and the processes are different.

Illusion

Claiming that the M10-D invites the user to the analogue world is an illusion. The simple fact that there is no darkroom involved when processing M10-D images say it all. The analogue mentality is absent when using the M10-D. To understand the difference, compare the handling and workflow of the M10-D with the M-A or, even, the M3 from picture taking to the printing stage.

The emphasis on the analogue feeling has obscured the real merits of the M10-D. The operational environment is different from the M10 and previous digital models. The inability to check the result immediately is a fine reminder of the fact that risk and chance are elements to confront in the photographic workflow. Yet the fake transport lever as a thumb rest is evidently a suggestive feature that is unmasked after the first release of the shutter and the immediate motorised tensioning of the springs.

Related Articles by Erwin Puts:

M10-D Sound Level

M10-D Review Introduction

Related Articles on Macfilos

All about the Leica M10-D

Leica M-D: Long-term review of Wetzlar’s Spartan warrior

Leica M-D: Long-term review of the screenless digital

Leica M10-D meets M3, Minox, Yashica Y35 and Epson R-D1

Whatever happened to the Leica M10-D?

5 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Erwin, Thank you for this, I won’t wax lyrical here about my views on the M10-D, other than to say it does intrigue me and I would like to use one, or test one to see how it feels to me in real life use.

    Dave

  2. Hi Erwin,
    I would agree that this is not the analogue experience, having said that never has a camera got me more motivated to go out a shoot since my Nikon FM2 when I was a teenager in the 1980s.

    The one clear result of my previous digital cameras were the low percent of satisfying shots were resulting. Suddenly with the same lenses and a different camera body, the number of good shots has improved. Coukd this be the analogue experience, no I doubt that. I do believe that now I am more immersed in the photographic endeavour, I never check the images until I am at a cafe or home, call that the ‘analogue experience delight’. Therefore the difference is that I am not thinking about looking at the photo whilst I am preparing to take it, excuse the pun, but I am fully focused on taking the image. I have felt the same enjoyment as taking a photo with the analogue camera and in today’s quest for instant gratification a short wait is uncommon and really quite exciting.

    • How odd, Kris!

      My experience is exactly the opposite ..looking at photos immediately after I’ve taken them has improved my photography immeasurably. (We-ell, I think so, anyway ..it’s a matter of opinion, of course!)

      Perhaps more about that next week, I think..

  3. I am surprised that Erwin is using the term ‘analogue’ for ‘film photography’ as his experience goes way back into the ‘film era’. If I want the film experience I use one of my many film Leicas. The use of an app with the M-10D is a contradictory move ie first the camera is crippled as compared to an M10 and then the features are brought back via a phone app. There is definitely an element of mixed thinking here. Finally, I have not been able to get the Fotos app to work with my M10. The older Leica M app, which seems to do the same thing, works, but I have not yet found a use for it.

    I see that Erwin has also used the dreaded word ‘files’ for ‘images’ or ‘photos’. What is the world coming to?

    William

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