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Leica M10 Review - Part 1 - First Impressions

Leica M10 Review - Part 1 - First Impressions

Had I known how much I was going to like the Leica M10, I would have cut short my trip abroad the minute I received the UPS notification. Yes, I like it that much. The Leica M10 is the rangefinder that Leica should have offered us years and years ago. I've waited eight years for a Leica rangefinder like the M10, and it is glorious.

A little over the top?

I am already two weeks behind the curve, with regards to posting my first impressions on the Leica M10. So I will try not to be overly redundant and repeat what has already been said, given that every reviewer and their mother have already reviewed it.

The Leica M10 is the right size. In other word, it isn't as gargantuan as its predecessors. The minute I picked it up, I noticed a difference right away. It felt as if the weight of wrong decisions had been lifted from its streamlined body. It feels good in hand, or rather, it feels the way it should - not so much because its lighter, but because its not heavy. And if you're a lifelong Leica photographer, you will probably feel that sense of familiarity, like reacquainting one self with a long lost friend. 

More like rejoicing.

I never want to pick up another Leica M9 or M240 ever again. It was clear that Leica drew a line in the sand. From that moment, the M10 became the spiritual successor of the M3 and the M6. All the other digital iterations will forever and henceforth be regarded as its less attractive step sisters, for the M10 is Cinderella - at the ball - with the clock never striking midnight - forever and ever and ever.

Oh what a joy it is to shoot with the M10. It's completely "a photographer's" camera. It doesn't have a single function more than what is required to capture a proper image - especially with fast Leica glass. It gives you all the manual control within reach, including the new ISO dial, situated smartly where the film rewind knob is positioned on an analog Leica rangefinder. The only thing missing in my opinion is an easy to reach manual exposure compensation button. However, Leica thought of that too, and gave us the option of configuring the scroll wheel to set exposure compensation instead of live view magnification.

If I wanted live view magnification, I would shoot with my Leica SL. Besides, the finder of the M10 is glorious. It is big and it is bright. My vision isn't exactly 20/20 anymore, so the improvement definitely makes a noticeable difference to me. Now, it is so much easier to get adequate focus wide open.

Needless to say, on my first day with the M10, I decided to shoot mostly wide open - just to see if I could get focus consistently. In addition, I didn't try especially hard in getting the correct exposure too. I had to test out the dynamic range. But just in case I didn't goof up enough, my first couple of shots were deliberately goofed at 3 stops over or under exposed.

So first impressions? The metering must be more accurate, because most of my shots were within a +/- 0.5 stop variance. However, more impressive is the improved dynamic range. From what I have observed, details in shadows were easily lifted up to 2 stops under exposed as were details in highlights up to 2 stops over. 

As for low light high ISO shot stopped down - unfortunately, I forgot to test that out. However, from what I can see at ISO 1600 under low light, the image files look remarkably clean. With that said, the high ISO looks horrible at ISO 6400, pushed 3 stops - but to be fair, can any image file look good under those circumstances!

And now, the image samples:


PART I - Deliberate wrong exposure at ISO 6400, 28mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Overexposed. Shot at ISO 6400, pulled 3 stops.

Overexposed. Shot at ISO 6400, pulled 3 stops. Unfortunately, the highlights on Anna's nose was blown beyond recovery.

Underexposed. Shot at ISO 6400, pushed 3 stops. Unfortunately, the shadows around Anna's eyes were too crushed to recover.


Part II - Normal use at ISO 1600, 28mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Inside a dark elevator. f/1.4

The back entrance to a carpark. Accidentally over exposed by 2 stops. f/1.4

Now closer up. f/1.4

At an outdoor clothing bazaar. Unfortunately, I don't recall the aperture setting. Explanation below on my disclaimer paragraph.


Part III A - Optimal use at ISO 100, 28mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

Emerging from an alley. f/1.4

On the main street. f/1.4

Up on a pedestrian flyover. f/1.4

Anna sticking her head out to take a photo of me. f/1.4

Accidentally underexposed by 2 stops. Aperture unknown, unfortunately. It might actually be at f/1.4, given that I shot Anna from considerable distance.


Part III B - Additional sample images shot at ISO 100 (or rather an excuse to post the rest of my sample images)

On our way to the pier. f/1.4

At the boat landing. f/1.4

Seated on a mooring bollard. f/1.4

Looking out into the harbor. f/1.4

Looking at me. f/1.4

Shot on live view and zone focused at f/1.4 with the camera two feet about my head.

And finally, two shots stopped down at ISO 100

Shot from a distance at f/5.6

Shot closer up at f/5.6

In conclusion, I love the Leica M10. I love how it feels. And I love the improved flexibility of the image files. It just makes the image quality that much better. I just wished I had more time to do a more extensive review. But then, both Anna and I are in a rush again. We will be traveling soon within the next few days. Needless to say, I will devote a review exclusively on low light - next week. It might even be from a different city altogether.

By the way, the 28mm f/1.4 Summilux is the perfect lens on the M10. I couldn't believe how easy it was to get focus wide open. It made shooting at ISO 100 a breeze. Even this I couldn't say of the the Leica M240.

The only thing I wish Leica did or rather didn't do was stuff the continuous shooting mode into the menus. I mean I could set it always at continuous, but then it will shoot everything in duplicates.

All images in this writeup were shot on the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH. All images have been optimize in Lightroom. Images were not cropped. For some reason, the EXIF data did not include the aperture setting, even though the lens information was recorded?


Leica M10 Review - Part 2 - Low Light + M240 and M9 Comparison

Leica M10 Review - Part 2 - Low Light + M240 and M9 Comparison

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH vs Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH II

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH vs Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH II