Anna in New York with the M10 + 28mm f/1.4 Summilux
To be honest, it never occurred to me to ask Anna to meet up with me in New York, until Chris Gampat of the Phoblographer invited her to attend his birthday gathering as my plus-one. I was already going to be in New York at the time, and was not exactly thrilled to be away from Hong Kong for yet another week. If you recall, both Anna and I have been away from each other for most of the last seven weeks, because of other commitments. So to be away for yet another week would put further strain on our ability to provide new content on this blog.
The more I thought of Chris's invitation, the more it made sense. So I asked Anna if she would like to visit me in New York? She said yes and cleared her schedule for the week.
Now, I know I said my next review was going to be the Leica M10 versus the Leica SL. However, given that Anna had just arrived and is battling jet lag, our regularly scheduled review will have to be pushed back a couple of days more. Besides, it was her first day in New York. It wouldn't be fair not to let Anna be a tourist. The weather was favorable and the crowds were smaller on Saturday. There's no telling what the weather will be like for the rest of the week.
The review can wait.
Still, it should be noted that the sample images posted here would be from the Leica M10 in various situations. There will be images photographed in different light situations, shot both stopped down or wide open. So in a manner of speaking, this post can still be regarded as a mini review of sorts.
Or alternatively, an excuse to post more sample images.
Now I've already written about the high ISO and I've already written about the dynamic range? Plus I've touched upon the ergonomics of the M10. What I haven't done so far is write about the M10 in actual use beyond the needs of a review - which in this case is documenting Anna's first time in New York. So there is a little more than just taking sample images at stake. There is also an expectation that the images captured will be a photo record of Anna's first trip to the Big Apple.
Unexpectedly, New York was blanketed by eight inches of snow the day before Anna arrived. Though by the morning after, the city's Department of Sanitation had already cleared most of the streets. What remained were the telltale signs of blackened slush and fresh laid powder atop parked cars that reflected the early morning glow, blowing highlights if not carefully metered.
It is true that the dynamic range of the M10 appeared to be weighted towards the shadows rather than the highlights. So with the snow, I tend to be more cautious with the metering, and underexpose slightly. I don't necessarily have an issue with some blown highlights in the snow. A bit of pure white can be nice. But too much of it may flatten the image in areas where the snow is predominantly white.
Having underexposed deliberately, the shadows would have been at risk of being crushed. Like most early morning light, with the sun still slung low over the sky, the rays of light did not awash the foreground and background equally. But it was easy to lift out details in post after the fact, given the subtlety of gradation in the dynamic range.
It didn't take long for Anna to realize she hadn't packed warmly enough for the wintry conditions. She was freezing. So after breakfast, we proceeded to SoHo where she had hoped to find something more appropriate to wear in this cold. The shops had not opened by the time we arrived, so we found shelter at a nearby coffee shop, around the corner from the Leica Store on West Broadway.
The color capture of the M10 is remarkably pleasant indoors. Normally I need to tweak the color balance significantly in post. With its predecessor, I had the most unpleasant experience of having an M240 and an MP240 with completely different image sensors. The M240 was exceedingly cold, while the MP240 was exceedingly warm. Although still not perfect, the auto color balance of the M10 appears to be reasonable, and any tweaking on my behalf is purely for the sake of my preference. If I were to shoot JPGs - which I don't - I think I would be satisfied with the color rendering, judging from the results of the raw files.
After finding her bounty - scoring a shearling jacket at Rag and Bone - Anna had succumb to the effects of a 13 hour time difference. She needed some rest before going off to East Williamsburg as my plus-one. So after an afternoon siesta stretched well into the evening, Anna had reluctantly dragged herself back to life, just to make her way across the river to a nondescript location with no markings other than the street address on the door. In the darkness, we weren't so sure that we had found the right place. But then, the aromatic scent of hickory smoke permeated the air. We had arrived.
The magic of the M10 really begins the moment the light is gone. It is then that the colors become beautifully saturated and more so susceptible to increased saturation in post. From my perspective, the colors are rich without having that artificial look of being unduly edited with uncontrolled enthusiasm. In fact, the rendering almost reminds me of color film - from a layman's perspective - given I'm no longer accustomed to color emulsion.
ISO 6400 feels like the new ISO 800 on the M10. The pixelation renders noticeably tighter, so much so, at ISO 6400 I no longer want to shoot with the Leica M246 Monochrom in low light situations. Why would you want to, with the color image files rendered this fine? The M10 offers so much more latitude that simplifying to a gray scale for the sake of salvaging a low light photo opportunity is no longer necessary.
With the M10, it's not so much that the high ISO and dynamic range makes night become day. It doesn't do that. Rather night is still night, but night becomes visible. The darkness remains, but the details emerge.
But alas, poor Anna had fallen once more to the effects of jet lag, in not having sufficiently rested earlier in the afternoon. It is a horrible numbing feeling, when night no longer feels like night or day. We then made our leave, and crossed back into the city. But by then, Anna had gained a second wave of consciousness, with the cold nighttime air filling her lungs. Having consumed more mass quantity than she had intended, a walk to burn off unwanted calories was in order.
It never amazes me how lively the city is during the night. The buildings appear to glow awash with reflected light in the darkness. The M10 captured the moment with great proficiency at ISO 6400 wide open. We walked from St. Patrick's Cathedral, passed Saks Fifth Avenue, then across the street to Rockefeller Center, and then a hop over to Radio City Hall. With the nighttime air breathing new life into Anna, we decided to make our way to Time Square, where the neon did in fact make night become day.
With the competition of stray light bouncing off all the surfaces, including Anna's face, color balance would likely be adversely affected. However, the auto white balance of the M10 seemed to deal with the issue without significant problem. No, I wouldn't say that the color balance was perfect. But the combination of color capture didn't appear to weight significantly towards any particular color range that tweaking the color in post (for the sake of preference) wasn't a particular hardship.
So how did the M10 do? Ask Anna. In her own words describing the image captures, "they're lovely!" Anna, I'm glad to have documented your first full day in New York. I only wished it wasn't so cold. But at least in pictures, you look like you're having a jolly good time. Thank you for visiting.
All images in this writeup were shot on the 28mm f/1.4 Summilux. All images have been optimize in Lightroom. Images were not cropped.