Photography

Leica M10-D

Yes, the Leica M10-D ($ 7,995, body only) has a film advance lever. No, it’s not a film camerait’s digital. But you wouldn’t know by looking at it. To the casual viewer, the retro look, cemented by the omission of an LCD screen, camouflages the full-frame digital sensor perfectly. It’s not the first screen-free digital from Leica—a production model, the M-D (Typ 262), and the limited edition M Edition 60 preceded it.

The idea behind the series is simple—with fewer distractions you’ll pay attention to making photos rather than reviewing them right after you’ve taken a shot. Leica rangefinders are also a bit more discrete than a big SLR, looking more antique than cutting edge, which appeals to street photographers who yearn to blend into their surroundings. As for that advance lever? It moves, but it doesn’t do anything. Call it a thumb rest, call it camouflage, or just call it a Leica affectation. It’s sure to be the first thing many point to, but there’s more to the M10-D than a vestigial film advance.

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Who Needs the LCD?

From a technical perspective, the M10-D is the same camera as the M10-P, which sells for the same price. It has the same sensor, quiet shutter mechanism, and basic design. If you want to take a deep dive into the image quality it delivers, check out our M10-P review.

The M10-P measures 3.1 by 5.5 by 1.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.5 pounds without a lens. The inner shell is magnesium alloy, but Leica still uses brass for the top plate. It’s only offered in black chrome—there’s no silver version with this model—although with Leica you never know when a special, limited run edition will appear.

Even more than the M10-P, the D version is a modern clone of its iconic M film series. It looks a lot like an M4, a camera that documented the turbulent Vietnam war era and was the one of the first Leica offered in black chrome, though the ISO dial and film advance lever are styled after the M3, a camera that was mostly sold in silver, with very limited numbers available with a black paint finish.

Leica M10-D

And yes, I’m going to keep calling it a film advance lever, even though it doesn’t serve that, or any function. Some may look to it as a rear thumb rest, an ergonomic improvement, but I don’t see it. The M10 series already has a thumb rest, built into the rear control wheel, which is positioned at a more natural resting spot, at least for my hands. Your mileage may vary.

The three legs of the exposure triangle—aperture, shutter speed, and ISO—are all controlled via physical dials. Leica M lenses have the aperture control built in, while the shutter speed dial is on the top plate, next to the shutter release, and the ISO control dial is all the way at the left.

Leica M10-D : Sample Image

The M-D (Typ 262) had its ISO control on the rear, where the LCD would normally go. But since the M10 design already had an ISO dial on the top plate, that space was available for Leica’s engineers to utilize. It also includes an automatic ISO setting, something that was missing from the Typ 262.

A circular dial, similar to the ISO reminder on a film M, supports exposure adjustments, with three stops of EV available in either direction, adjustable in third-stop increments. The power dial surrounds it, with positions for Off (Red), On (White), and On with Wi-Fi enabled. It’s not the most comfortable dial to turn. I typically leave the camera on when out making images, but let its power-saving features put it to sleep between shots.

Leica M10-D : Sample Image

There are some other buttons—you get the rear control dial, although it doesn’t adjust EV as it does on other M10 models, the rear dial supersedes it. The top button, next to the shutter, is almost invisible, it’s just a slight bump. But pressing it in will show the number of shots your memory card can hold, though if you put a big card in it’ll tell you it’s good for 999 shots, when in fact a 64GB card can hold a few thousand.

There’s also a button on the front. It only has a function if you add the Visoflex EVF. Pressing the front button adjusts the level of punch-in magnification applied as a manual focus aid. When the frame is magnified, the rear wheel changes which portion of the frame is enlarged. If you don’t add the EVF, the front button and rear control dial don’t do anything. You’ll frame and focus shots as you would with a film M, using the optical viewfinder.

Leica M10-D : Sample Image

A bright patch at the center of the optical finder is used for focus. It shows a secondary ghost image, which lines up perfectly with the rest of the image when you’ve nailed focus. Frame lines, illuminated by white LEDs, show the view of a 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 90mm, or 135mm lens—you’ll need to use the Visoflex or an add-on optical finder for wider and tighter angles.

I do miss the option to show frame lines in red, which was included in the last generation of M cameras (starting with the M (Typ 240)). The LED lights, and the indicator that shows the current shutter speed or exposure status, do change brightness to match your environment. If you’re shooting in low light they dim, as to not hurt your eyes, and in bright light they get brighter.

Fotos App

The M10 series is the first form Leica with built-in Wi-Fi. When we reviewed the M10 early last year, we noted the companion app was only available for iOS, and that hadn’t changed by the time the M10-P was released in late August.

Leica FotosThat changes today, with the release of the Fotos app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. I’ve been working with a beta version of the app, on the iOS platform, during my time with the M10-D.

If you’re wondering how to change things in the M10-D that would normally be done via an on-screen menu, Fotos is the answer. It mimics the menu interface of the M10, allowing you to change things like file format. The M10-D is set to record images in Raw DNG format out of the box, but you can turn on JPG capture if you want. It’s also where you can go to turn on the self-timer or switch from single drive to the M10’s 5fps continuous shooting mode.

Other settings of note adjustable in the app include the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed used by the Auto ISO setting, as well as the sensitivity used by the M setting on the dial. Some settings will stick after you turn the camera off—like continuous drive—but others, like self-timer, will turn off after you disconnect the Wi-Fi and power down the camera. That makes sense to me, as you don’t want to miss a shot because you forgot to turn the timer off.

Leica FotosIn addition to control, Fotos is the only way you’ll be able to see the images you’ve shot, save for removing the baseplate and putting the SD card in your laptop. Even with the EVF attached, the M10-D doesn’t have any sort of playback capability. When you start the app a gallery of thumbnails—every shot on your memory card—loads, and loads quickly. New images will show up as you make more. You can tap on any of them to load up a larger view, and transfer full-resolution images to your phone, either in Raw DNG or JPG format.

Fotos also works as a remote control, complete with a live feed from the lens. The experience is much like using the EVF. The frame enlarges when you adjust the focus of the lens, although there is no peaking aid when using the app like you get with the EVF. The interface allows for ISO, shutter speed, and EV adjustment, complete with haptic feedback when you change settings.

Cross-platform compatibility is something the M10 series has been missing to this point. Fotos works with all versions of the M10, as well as other Leica cameras with Wi-Fi, including the full-frame, fixed-lens Q and the APS-C mirrorless TL2. To this point, you had to download different apps for each camera. Now, if you own multiple Leica models, you can use one app for all of them.

Working Without a Net

With many more modern designs out there—many of which include lightning-fast autofocus, subject tracking, and yes, even video—it’s clear the M10-D appeals to a very specific user. And while it’s great that Wi-Fi is included—it certainly makes it easier to set the date and time, for example—the photographer who lusts after a screen-free digital camera probably doesn’t want the distractions that modern amenities such as autofocus and Wi-Fi provide.

Leica M10-D : Sample Image

Like the most daring of tightrope walkers, or photographers working before the advent of digital imaging, the M10-D takes away the safety net. You either get the shot or you don’t, and you won’t know until you get home or sit down at a cafe to review photos on your phone. The M10-D forces you to look at the world around you instead of navel-gazing at the beautiful photo you just made on your camera’s LCD.

The M10-D falls into a niche, but it’s one that Leica has played in before. The M Edition 60 proved popular enough to have a follow-up in the form of the M-D (Typ 262), after all. If you counted either of those as your favorite camera, rest assured the M10-D will make you just as happy, with some added benefits including better images in low light, a quieter shutter, and an improved optical viewfinder. On the other hand, if you didn’t get the point of previous screen-free Leicas, or even rangefinders in general, the M10-D won’t do a thing to change your opinion.

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