Hands-on Preview: Leica M10 is updated, but still retro-cool


There’s just no mistaking that iconic red dot, is there? If you know anything about cameras, you’ll know Leica.

Photography fanatics have been flocking to the perfection-obsessed brand for decades, because of an uncompromising focus on quality – in terms of the cameras themselves, as well as the pictures they take.

The most recognisable, most well-loved model in the line-up? That’ll be the M series rangefinder – and it’s just been updated for 2017.

Enter the M10, a compact camera built to meld traditional design with decidedly more modern digital internals.

After getting the chance to play with one at Leica’s London launch, it looks like Leica has something of a modern classic on its hands.

DETOX DIET

You’ll instantly recognise the familiar rangefinder shape, but the M10 isn’t just a slightly upgraded version of the outgoing model. It’s significantly thinner – so much so, in fact, that it matches the original M-series film cameras from the 1950s.

That’s pretty impressive, seeing how there’s a 24MP full-frame sensor inside such a compact package. Leica reckons it’s the smallest full-frame camera out there with interchangeable lenses.

There’s room inside for Wi-FI, too, a first for an M-series camera. There’s a dedicated smartphone app for sharing your snaps on the go, or uploading to social media. You’ll still need to invest in the Visoflex electronic viewfinder to get GPS tagging, though.

Another thing that’s missing? Any kind of video modes. Leica told me that customers just want to shoot stills, and were actively asking for video to be removed from the M240 – well, you’ve got your wish here. There’s no recording of any kind here – it’s photos only.

The whole thing is machined from brass, giving it a real reassuring heft when you pick it up, and it’s weather-sealed, too. A bit of rain won’t be enough to end your shooting session.

DIAL IT UP

At the back, you’ll still find that all-important rangefinder in the top left corner, but now it’s got an even wider field of view, and more padding around it for comfortable shooting when you’re wearing glasses.

The LCD screen below it is a lot bigger this time around at 3 inches, and the buttons have been simplified down to just three: LV (for turning on live view), Play (for reviewing your snaps) and Menu. It’s a lot simpler than on previous models, and looks a lot cleaner too.

One tap of the Menu button jumps straight to your Favourites, and a second enters the menu proper. There’s room for two pages of favourites now, but c’mon – they can’t truly be your favourite settings if they’re languishing on page two, can they?

Up top, that lift-up ISO dial sits in pride of place – no more diving into the menus to make changes now. It’s stiff, and needs a two-finger push to get it moving, but sits exactly where the film winder wheel is on Leica’s analogue rangefinder.

You can leave things in auto if you like, or set ISO to between 100 and 12,800. You can also put it in M mode, which lets you pick ISO in 1/3 increments through the menus – if you want fine grain control, or if you’re a Leica die-hard that just can’t get used to the new way of doing things.

It’s also here you can hit the M10’s new high ISO limit of 50,000. I didn’t get the chance to do any low-light shooting with one, so I’ve no idea how well this kind of high-ISO shooting holds up, but I’m betting you won’t want to use it for anything other than those can’t-miss photos.

IN THE FRAME

Inside, there’s a brand new 24MP full-frame sensor, a welcome improvement over the 18MP chip seen in the M9.

It’s paired with the Maestro II image processor that first showed up in the Leica Q and SL, complete with the same 2GB image buffer for rapid shooting. At 5fps, the M10 will should 30 DNG RAW frames or 100 JPEGs before slowing down – and that’s only if you’ve got a slow SD card.

With only a few short minutes spent actually shooting with the M10, it’s impossible to make a call on image quality just yet, but a few sample photos below give you a rough idea what to expect straight out of the camera.

When I get one in for a full review I’ll make sure to go into more detail, but even at this early stage, things are looking pretty darn good – as you’d expect from Leica.

Depending on how you use it, you could squeeze up to 600 shots out of a single battery – easily enough for a full day behind the lens. Turn on live view and that figure will drop, though, so use it sparingly if you haven’t got an extra battery with you.

LEICA M10 INITIAL VERDICT

The M10 is clearly what happens when a company listens to its customers – even going as far to remove features, rather than add them, because that’s what the people wanted.

A higher resolution sensor, refined controls, and a slimmer body should make this the best M-series yet. That won’t change its niche position, but it’ll keep the people with enough cash to actually buy one very happy indeed.

$9700 for the camera alone might sound ludicrous to those of us stuck on sub-$1500 SLRs and CSCs, but I’m betting anyone after a camera rocking that Red Dot will be happy to pay for it.

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