Leica M10-D Journal
Updated: Aug 26, 2021
In Leica's short description - the Leica M10-D is
As of April 2019 the Leica M10-D is the latest member of the longest living camera line still in production - the legendary Leica M ("Meßsucher") - M bayonet lens mount and combined the rangefinder and viewfinder into one large, bright viewfinder with a brighter double image in the center - started with M3 in 1954. The Leica M camera has not changed much physically some three-quarter-century later.
The original Leica M3 measures 138 X 33.5 X 77mm weights 580g compares to the latest M10-D measures 139 X 38 X 80mm weights 660g ( includes BP-SCL5 lithium-ion battery 63.8g) - a rather candid comparison tells how close the two cameras are in size and weight. It is not an easy engineering achievement and enormous determination and know-how to make the company's commitment possible - a commitment to precision and excellence and stay true to its original root, mechanical character, looks and feels. As a result, the M10-D is so different from M3 yet behaves so similarly.
My first M camera is M6 which I bought back in 1991, and I have not to stop shooting with M cameras since. And since then I have shot with all the M models released including those models prior M3 except the M5 which I acquired later, played with it, but never take any pictures with it. Leica M system was not the only camera system I use in silver halide era, I owned and shot with many different systems which include Leica R, Contax RTS (ME & MM) systems and later added the Contax N System, Nikon F cameras and Canon EOS for 135 films. For medium and large format I use Hasselblad 500 Series and 200 Series systems, Contax 645 AF, Rolleiflex 6008, Alpa 12 system, Mamiya 7, Linhof 612 PCII and 617, Linhof Master Technika 4X5 and so on... I am an industrial designer, and I am fascinated with fine mechanism and instruments, and I am a photographer!
Into digital is rather smooth for me because it allows more efficient image management, especially in travel and controls from shoot to print. The flexibility to shoot raw images and switching ISO setting to handle varies lighting situation and does not need to reload film every 4-36 exposure ( 4 exposures on 120 film on Linhof 617, 8 on 120 film on Super-Rolex Rollfilm Back for my Alpa 12 SWA, 12 for A12 Magazine for Hasselblad and 36 exposures for 135 film cameras ) that is a great relief for portraitures and landscapes that requires bracketing. And of course, the flexibility to stack exposures and focuses completely opens up a new genre of photography not possible with silver halide.
Leica's implementation to digital M camera was much later than the main steam competitors with the 1.33 crop factor M8 released in 2006. I bought the Leica M8 immediately after its availability when I was already fully converted to digital by adapting my Nikon system with D1 since 1999. In 2002 I also received my long-awaited full-frame Contax N Digital, which turned out to be my most disappointing camera. The battery life on N Digital is terrible, although you can get away from it with multiple extra sets of cells. The biggest disappointment was the RAW converter for N Digital was awful and not supported by Adobe until years later which makes shooting with N Digital torture, particularly sad as I am a considerable Contax user and lover and N system was promising until that point of time. Contax engineered the 645 AF line brilliantly with the electronic mount the most modern of its time and digital-ready! All the 645 lenses work in full performance on N1 and N Digital through NAM-1 - the pioneer of smart-adapter and exploit the full potential of the all-electronic lens mount.
In late 2002 also came the mighty Canon 1Ds which I bought and the Canon 1Ds line of cameras would become my primary digital camera system until the introduction of Nikon D8XX series cameras a decade later.
In 2004 I also bought the Phase One P25 for my Contax 645AF and Alpa 12 (with mounting plate) which later upgraded to P45, then P45+, then P65+ to switch from Contax 645 system to Hasselblad H system, then IQ180, and ultimately add the Phase One XF100 system.
So when I got my M8 in late 2006, I knew that the M8 would not surpass the quality of the cameras I was already using which includes Canon 1Ds II and Phase One P45 on Contax 645 AF. But I missed shooting with M cameras, and I was wondering what could be coming in the future of Leica M camera. The highly anticipated M8 to many was not a success, but to me, I have not expected it to deliver a superior image to what I was already using. Instead, I see the Leica M8 as an old friend, and I did enjoy using it. Not that the best image quality is not essential, but I got what I was expected from M8, knowing it is not the best in term of measurable quality. And that is the mentality on how I am looking at and shooting with M cameras until these days.
As my M8 upgraded to M8.2 and finally to the full-frame M9 in 2009 - it was the Leica M digital camera capable getting as close as possible in term of image resolution and quality against its competitor of its release, beautifully crafted without a doubt yet still lag behind most Japanese camera in speed, efficiency, and consistency.
With the M Typ 240 in 2012 Leica finally implemented CMOS sensor to its M digital which allows Leica to get close to the competition in term of noise control in poor light situation shooting as well as more efficient power consumption and ability to read high refreshing rate of live-view directly off the sensor. The move to CMOS opened three additional features to Leica M camera: 1. Live-view; 2. Electronic viewfinder; 3. video capture. The video capability did not find much approval from contemporary Leica users, and Leica eventually remove it from the successive models, and the Typ 240 family (except Edition 60 but including the MM246) are the only digital Leica M digital with video capability to this day.
After M Typ 240 Leica introduced a new line of camera, T Typ 701, and later SL Typ 601 - a concept pioneered by SONY E-mount cameras which inspired a new generation of the mirrorless cameras to come, but that is a different topic. With the new T/SL/TL and CM line of L-mount cameras which will be the technology-feature-driven vehicle for Leica.
Leica went on release the Leica M10 aiming to connect to its nostalgic heritage in 2017 with mostly refinements over its predecessor and with size and features remind of its past. I bought the M10, and it became one of the more used M cameras in recent years. M10 is finally a modern M camera that is more responsive, efficient with competitive image quality except it is still purely mechanical focusing and lack of sensor-based image stabilizer - which in later part of this journal I will cover more by sharing my thought base on a photographer's perspective as well as an industrial designer.
Between Leica M8 to M10, the company made many adjustments through learning from one model to next while the photography industrial also experienced volatile and power shift, most notably the booming of smartphones. The reflex camera once pushed Leica's rangefinder (mirror-less) camera system out of mainstream has peaked and been phased aside with the electronic-viewfinder-based with short flange distant becoming the new dominant power. Photographically also see the change not only from silver halide to solid-state capture but also most of the mechanical parts replaced by modular electronic components. Computational photography is the topic today with machine learning and AI built into the processing chips.
Leica's lack of reflex camera presence, as it turned out, makes their company appears more relevant today!
Enough for background history, now on the topic Leica M10-D. I finally got my long-awaited M10-D in January 2019 ( refer to The way backward ) and started to shoot it alongside my M10. This screenless M10-D is a special camera and became my favorite digital Leica M camera, so I decided to run this image and gear talk journal dedicated to Leica M10-D.
From my first shoot of M10-D, with the beautiful Brazilian girl Malu Carvalho at my favorite location - the Bangkok Railway Station.
M10-D has the quietest shutter of all Leica digital M cameras so far, same as Leica M10-P, it is not the kind of inaudible of the electronic shutter from for example SONY A7RIII or A9 which I also use, but it is soft and has the type of soft mechanical and rhythmic sound that signals a lot of quality! It gives the minimum amount of sound that is not distracting and the person in front of the camera aware of what is going on to react accordingly.
I was right at home with my first shoot with M10-D because of my previous experience with film Leica, but also I use my M Edition 60 frequently. M Edition 60 was one of my most favorite Leica M cameras but missed the fast exposure compensation dial, and it is now on M10-D to allow me to shoot Malu with the only highlight on her face with -1.3 stop on multi-pattern metering on M10-D which I configured the M10-D for the shoot.
Leica M10-D by way of Leica FOTOS App allows user for some camera setting such as Drive Mode (I was using Single-Advance for this shot), Metering Pattern, Auto-ISO range, Maximum Exposure Time, Self-timer and format memory card. The FOTOS App was clumsy since its launch last year, and still is as of this writing.
During my first two days in Moscow, Russia, I was shooting with Leica M10 and M10-D side by side to avoid having to change lens often. But more often than not that I found myself using M10-D far more often than using M10. Here I have M10 mounted with Summilux-M 35/1.4 ASPH FLE ( from my Edition 60 set) and M10-D mounted with Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH, the lenses I was using for the day.
This shot I was using the Leica Visoflex Typ 020 to make sure my framing is precise and set my camera's drive mode to Continous Slow which till this day I leave the setting as is to make sure I have a small set of exposures to allow myself to have enough variations covered.
The Visoflex Typ 020 is essential when the exact composition or precise focus is critical, but the resolution and screen quality is very primitive compares to what is available in the market currently. The biggest problem is that the Visoflex Typ 020 automatically show the image just captured, which delays the live-view and compromise the sequential shooting - even the auto review is turned off on the camera.
As I am getting used to shooting with mirrorless cameras with the electronic viewfinder which allows me to see the capture in real time (exact composition and exposure) so I turned off the automatic review on my camera or most often I simply disabled the rear screen and relied on just the EVF for quick setting adjustments and playback.
M10-D does not allow the image playback, which is a design decision by Leica that I disagree. It is an on-going trend that people shoot by using the rear screen as the viewfinder similar to one uses a smartphone, but I rarely do that. As an industrial designer, I prefer the camera without a rear screen, and as a photographer, I can live without it.
Reference: The Q2 Factor
Taking out my M10-D to do my first shoot with Leica Q2 side by side is an intriguing idea. Leica M camera is, regarded as the Crown Jewel of Leica, and the Q2 an entry camera for FF digital Leica while having the latest sensor, best electronic viewfinder and a set of features and capabilities atop of every camera in Leica portfolio as of March 2019.
The uniqueness of rangefinder shooting experience is hardly challenged, but the quality of the image from Q2 is nothing less than sensation and nothing less than what M10/M10-P/M10-D capable of producing.
One can argue that the fun of photography is not only measured from the final print; he got his case right here. And I am in total agreement.
I do not see Leica Q2 a competitor to M camera; instead, the Q2 works as a 28mm fixed lens 2nd camera to my M system mounted with other focal lengths.
The swimsuit shoot of the lovely Thai lady, Yaowalak Rhitsomchit, at Hua Hin beach is a harsh test on M10-D. It was 37-38 degree Celsius during the shoot in mid-afternoon. My M10-D was set to continues L, and I shot a couple of hundred images in several sessions without any failure. The M10-D heated up considerably from the sequential shooting, in additional the scorching ambient heat, but not to the point that I feel the camera may need a break. The M10-D is one of the most robust digital M cameras to date! A true workhorse! A beautiful stallion!
Leica M10-D is, IMHO, the current digital camera from Leica that best represent the company. It is the latest Leica M camera as of May 2019 and nothing different from M10-P as far as image quality is concerned. The camera itself is somewhat limited in operation not that it cannot do all things a Leica M10-P capable of doing, but it relies on the Leica FOTOS App for specific camera settings that some may find it inconvenient. Once the camera is set to go, it goes smoothly and works wonderfully. However, to connect the Leica FOTOS App to the M10-D is still in a very primitive stage, it takes time, and multiple tries before the device can finally communicate with each other and some rather basic features start to work while many still left to be desired.
In comparison, the Leica FOTOS works a little more smoothly with Leica Q2, which allows establishing the connection faster and focusing point selectable by tapping directly on the remote viewer in the app.
The Leica FOTOS App, IMHO, is the right direction to go, albeit Leica is not quite there yet!
The power management - I have between my Leica M10 and M10-D total 4 BP-SCL5 (7.4V, 1,300mAh) battery packs which I label each one with a serial number 1-2-3-4 as I did with all my battery for different cameras, to avoid overusing any particular ones. I can usually get 600-700 shots from a single fully-charged BP-SCL5 if I did not forget to switch off from connecting to Fotos, which I did have a few occasions that the battery completely drained and have to replace with another one. I wish Leica would incorporate a firmware update to automatically switch off the camera when it sensed the app connection of off after a preset time.
Leica M camera adhere to the original bottom plate making the change of battery or SD card a hassle that I am not a big fan even as a user of Leica M cameras for over 20 years! The Q2 adapted the SL601 to use a much efficient way for its BP-SCL4 (8.4V, 1,860mAh) battery pack with built-in weather seal gasket is a better solution to me. I wish sometime in the future Leica would consolidate their use of battery (M, Q, and SL) so it is easier to manage the battery, especially when traveling.
Nowadays I no longer travel with the original BC-SCL5 battery Charger that comes with the camera not because it is not good, but the optional Nitecore ULM10 Pro can charge dual cells at the same time, and able to charge through USB ports by a power bank makes traveling a lot easier. Nitecore charger appears well made with an industrial look and finish that is not precisely Leica quality, but acceptable, by its price.
The latest Panasonic Lumix S1R use a charger system that accepts an AC Adapter and provides USB-C cable that can be used in conjunction with 9V USB power packs mobile charging is a much better solution.
About to make a road trip to south Thailand to focus on using the three wide angle Summilux lens - the Summilux-M 21/1.4 ASPH (mounted on Leica M10-D), Summilux-M 24/1.4 ASPH FLE and Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH.
On board Train #32 from Hatyai on my way back to Bangkok with my Q2 and M10-D mounted with Carl Zeiss C-Sonnar 50/1.5 ZM and three wide Summilux-M lenses : Summilux-M 21/1.4 ASPH, Summilux-M 24/1.4 ASPH FLE and Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH.
Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan - restoration in progress.
Leica M10-D is a friend, so I don't usually leave it when I am taking a field trip for photography, even though the primary camera of the shoot may not be a Leica. , for example, the shooting of restoration in progress at Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan. I was testing my new Fujifilm GFX100, a camera fitted with a 102MP sensor with IBIS mechanism with two Canon TS-E lenses, the TS-E 17/4L, and TS-E 24/3.5L II, both are stellar lenses.
M10-D in comparison has a relatively modest sensor resolution slightly less than 1/4 of the one on Fujifilm GFX100 - 24MP vs. 102MP so obviously the DNG from Leica is no match to the RAF file from GFX100, and it is the case. I don't compare camera on the resolution alone, and I pick the camera to use to meet a requirement for the commercial assignment or the need for large size fine art print. I love my Leica, it is a friend, and that does not change when I have the GFX100.
In reality, the file that Leica M10-D can produce an amazingly detailed and vibrant file that is very impressive and good enough for most applications. The two Summilux lenses I took with me, the Summilux-M 21/1.4 ASPH and Summilux-M 24/1.4 ASPH FLE are both fantastic and joyful to use. The experience of pressing the shutter and a rhymic reaction from the Leica M camera is forever emotionally connected to the photographer, that cannot be taken away by a more advanced photography tool such as the Fujifilm GFX100 even it is capable of delivering richness and higher resolution files.
Wat Borom Niwat - my small project to documenting some unusual mural painting in Thai temples continues. The mastermind behind the mural painting in Wat Borom Niwat, Khrua In Khong carried out a masterpiece in this temple, under King Rama IV's (Mongkut) desire, to modernize Thailand to survive the Western colonialist aspiration. The result presented is not entirely Buddhism but also a historical record of political events and social conditions during the reign of King Tama III.
The interior shot exhibits the usefulness of a perfective lens can do, such as the primary camera I was using to do the documentation work for the mural paintings project - the new Fujifilm GFX100 and two Canon TS-E 17 & 24 lenses. The M10-D paired with Summilux-M 24/1.4 ASPH FLE can still produce quality file enough for large print probably up to 40" with careful interpolation, but it is still not a match to the 102MP sensor can create in the Fujifilm GFX100. The most significant limitation, IMHO, is the ability to fully adapt technical lenses with movements, for example, the Canon TS-E lenses. It is technically possible to mount the technical lenses on a digital Leica M camera with live-view, but it is not an optimized solution. Reference of the shot made with Fujifilm GFX100 with Canon Tilt-shift lenses - Fujifilm GFX100.
However, the Leica M system exhibits here why the camera has been a universal love of documentation photographers and journalists - the ability to work in tight spaces without intimidating the subject.
Making sense out of nonsense?
The electronic adaptation enables the Leica M cameras to continue to thrive into the digital edge while carrying its original mirrorless camera heritage! The Leica R system has long conceded to competition; first failed to adapt to autofocus, albeit Leica was among the very first camera manufacturer to present the AF reflex camera concept. Leica pushed as hard as to release the R9 with a digital back option, which I use briefly, and eventually moved on using other systems. However, those beautiful R lenses are first class then, and decades later, most R lenses are still highly competitive, optically., for example, my Apo-Telyt-R 400mm F2.8 which I bought back in last millennium.
With Leica M system moved on using CMOS sensor and enables live view and the use of electronic EVF, my R lenses resurrected.
But the M system has its issue! As sensor resolution continue to move up and the reliability and practicability of an optical/mechanical rangefinder system raises some doubt going into the future. The emotional connection between a Leica rangefinder camera and the photographer is not under threat, it may even grow stronger, but a camera is still first and foremost a photography instrument!
The M mount has proved its resiliency into the digital age and on the same sensor resolution, Leica M10 or M10-D which I use, as an example, produce a very high-quality result nothing less than any camera with the sensor of the same size and resolution - 24MP. M10-D is at the moment my go-to M camera, which produces the best images of all Leica M digital cameras, past and current, except the Monochrom models that are the discussion of another day. However, the SL is more versatile and can handle more shooting situations than M cameras and most importantly - not struggled with blurred image thanks to its image stabilizer, and always tack-sharp thanks to its autofocus. The experience of using classic rangefinder is one thing, but it is not more important than getting the shot, as a photographer!
Not the same case against Leica Q2 which I have been shooting since March 2019, refer to my blog - The Q2 Factor. Leica Q2 is at the moment, IMHO, capable of producing the best image quality of any Leica 24x36mm digital cameras! Quite simply by implementing the latest AF engine and the most recent sensor. The only limitation is that Leica Q2 is a fixed-lens camera - however, it is also a strength at the same time to use it intelligently.
Leica Q2 is in similar size as Leica M10-D mounted with Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH., which suggests that, if Leica decided, to give M mount a new series of autofocus lenses with an opening aperture of f/1.7-f/2.0 with M mount added with electronic contacts. The classical M lenses can achieve focus using EFV, at higher accuracy! Leica does not need to discontinue the manual focus M lenses as they will work the same with M mount fitted with electronic contact. The live view is more potent than the classic rangefinder viewfinder because the photographer can see actions happen much beyond the picture area. The additional AF lenses and EVF-based M camera are not to replace the existing M system but a complementing part of it and further bridged with the growing L mount system.
As the 47MP Q2 is running strong and 47MP SL due to release Q4 2019, it is just a matter of time the same sensor goes into M system - just changing the sensor may not be enough for M system to continue to claim crown jewel of Leica. After all, we are entering into the age of AI and computational photography.
The landscape of photography has been continuously reshaped over time and won't stop changing. I love my M10-D and enjoy shooting with it, and the M10-D is on the one hand against much common sense while on the other hand, to be as modern as possible. It is certainly not a perfect camera, but it is, IMHO, the best digital Leica M camera, ever. Perhaps a Monochrom model base on M10-D can be even better! And I would undoubtedly embrace a new M camera with autofocus and electronics to better integrate with the L system - never say never.
July 14, 2019 On filming set at Lhong 1919 Bangkok, Thailand
July 17, 2019 Bangkok Railway Station
The quiet shutter of M10-P/M10-D is very much useful here which allowed me to fire away a few shots without disturbing the passenger.
July 20 Bangkok Railway Station
The train station is to me a microscope peeping into the culture and social behaviors of a country, notably so at the Bangkok Railway Station. It is charming with little change since open in 1916.
The train schedule is running erratically, the wait is unpredictable for the people on the train and those wait for it, however, it is in a rhythmic order out of chaos, just like Bangkok, or Thailand as a whole.
July 24 - The Okura Prestige Bangkok
This shot of Central Embassy & Park Hyatt Building situated at the intersection of Wireless Road and Ploenchit using Leica M10-D and Summilux-M 21/1.4 ASPH exemplified the usefulness of Visoflex electronic viewfinder.
The development of the original Leica rangefinder system was not by accident! Instead, it was out of necessity for properly framing and more precise focusing, although limited by the mechanical capability of the time of introduction. Leica later introduced the Visoflex - a reflex housing to add ground-glass focusing to rangefinder cameras (M System), an update of the original PLOOT reflex housing back in the 1930s. The Visoflex was not a replacement of the rangefinder-coupled focusing mechanism but to mitigate its limitations. Generations later, many M cameras users take that the mechanical rangefinder is the only way they can accept as of a Leica M camera! Some even declared that it cannot be improved, and cannot be removed. Really?
Most of the digital cameras by 2019 have adapted to use CMOS sensor, which provides fast reading of signals, live-view and videography, and efficient in power management. We have also seen the mainstream development of reflex cameras moves towards eliminating the reflex mirror for total reliance on high-quality EVF. There is the simple logic - the electronics are more efficient, accurate, near maintenance-free and cost less than most mechanical components that perform less.
Some could argue that Leica could keep the digital M camera as is, for the love of traditional mechanical rangefinder, because it accepts EVF already since Leica switched to use CMOS sensor (M Typ 240). Well, it is not wrong! But Leica has not been successful in implementing any external EVF to its system camera while Leica has proven success with built-in EVF with their SL and Q/QP/Q2 cameras, as of July 2019.
So what's next? A new Leica M with EVF? Never say never. Leica's future is base on future users, not the users of past decades, myself included.
August 9 - Wat Tri Thotsathep Worawihan - restoration in progress
August 13 A side my side comparison of cameras
Two of my often-use camera - same 24MP resolution but as different as two modern cameras can be.
August 17 Return to the Bangkok Railway Station with Anastasia Maslova