An Old Guy’s Perspective on the Leica M10

Oct 3, 2017  By Ed Schwartzreich
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Perhaps I will be able to provide a slightly different perspective on this new camera because my experience and needs likely differ from those of the many other excellent reviewers with articles already in Viewfinder and elsewhere, who are professional photographers and camera testers. I have been shooting since the late 1940’s. I come to this review never having used an M9 or an M240, but I had a large amount of digital experience with the earlier Epson R-D1 and the Leica M8, and now, for several years have used a Sony A7r with my Leica lenses. Prior to the R-D1, I had film Leica M’s from the M3 to the M6, and had used several SM Leicas as well; for SLRs I had a series of Nikons, used for their particular attributes.

35/2 first version; image converted to monochrome. I had about 3 seconds or less to see this happening with the animals, focus on the dog’s collar and shoot. While this is only a gentle domestic scene, I doubt whether I could have got it with any other camera than a Leica.

Of all the cameras I have owned or used, Leica Ms best suited my personal style and preferences. Simple, quiet, sturdy, second nature to use after some familiarity, yet they were definitely a thinking man’s (or woman’s) camera. One almost instinctively pre-thought distance, depth of field, exposure and then stepped up to make that image, unobtrusively and with steel-trap-like certainty. Little else out there was like a rangefinder Leica. And my desired subject matter was usually people – on the street or informally – taken with natural light, reasonably close in, or specialized wideopen, low light portraits. I also, like everybody else, take grab shots – scenics when the light is special, nature shots when on a walk often at the M’s closest focus with the lens wide open, whatever, when the spirit moves me. The Leica earlier may have called itself the “Universal Camera” (and I often used it as such), but clearly certain tasks: close-ups, sports-action, architectural, formal portraits, situations where exact framing was needed and so on, were better handled with other equipment.

The R-D1 and the M8 had their virtues; the former especially was beautifully thought out, looked and handled much like a RF Leica, and made quite spectacular images cfor a 6MP camera. The articulated monitor screen – that could even be folded back as to disappear – was a nice touch, almost a Leica M-D (Typ 262) before its time. It is dismaying that Epson let the R-D platform peter out, as it was potentially a wonderful camera. It had the shortcoming of a reduced field, due to its small sensor of course, but if it had been kept alive, that might have been remedied.

The Leica M8 had more pixels than the R-D1, but despite that and it being really the only game in town for quite awhile, it never appealed to me. I used it a lot, but it was noisy, had poor color balance, had the notorious infra-red sensor issue (makes great IR pictures, though, with a red #25 filter), a field cut, and in general felt to me like a computer had been grafted onto RF body – i.e. not well integrated. But it was Leica’s digital start and likely saved the company financially, so I won’t complain that much.

Grab shot, the kind of image with which Leica M’s excel.

When the later digital Leicas started appearing they also did not appeal to me, except perhaps the Monochrom for its uniqueness. I am not sure why that was, but somehow they seemed overly expensive for what they offered, too bulky like the M8, more complex than I wished, and focusing on having all the “bells and whistles” despite the Leica motto “Das Wesentliche”. So I opted for a Sony A7r, with its 36MP, SLRlike versatility, and ability inexpensively to use almost all the lenses I owned, and use them to focus close up. The A7r is a menu-driven camera but can be set up for quite simple operation. Imaging is excellent, and having a plethora of pixels, one can crop away and still get one’s desired image. I have only small complaints about my Sony, namely shutter shake with long lenses, noisy shutter, and lack of rangefinder focus.

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