The Leica M10 Monochrom is a black-and-white-only version of the Leica M10-. That means it’s rangefinder camera, with manual focusing, and its full-frame sensor lacks the usual colour filter array so it can only record brightness and produces monochrome images. With a 40Mp sensor, it’s also the highest-resolution Leica M-series camera currently available.
As decadent as it may seem to have a camera that only produces black and white images, there’s some good science behind it. It’s early days with the Leica M10 Monochrom, but I’ve shot extensively with earlier Leica Monochroms and I can attest to the wonderful quality of the images that they can produce.
I’ve only been able to shoot with it briefly so far, but the Leica M10 Monochrom’s build quality is everything I would expect from a Leica M camera, solid and beautifully crafted. The image quality also looks very nice indeed, but I need to shoot more before I can pass final judgement.
- Fabulous build quality
- Compatible with legendary optics
- Designed to create the best possible black and white images
- Rangefinder focusing seems very outdated
- High price
- Only suitable for recording black and white images
What is the Leica M10 Monochrom?
Leica M10 Monochrom Price and Availability
- Camera type: Digital rangefinder
- Announced: 17th January 2020
- Sensor: Full-frame (24 x 36mm) 40.89Mp CMOS
- Processor: Maestro II
- Lens mount: Leica M
- Viewfinder: Optical rangefinder type
- Screen: Fixed 3-inch LCD with 1,036,800 dots and Corning Gorilla Glass
- Sensitivity range: ISO 160-100,000
- Focusing: Manual (rangefinder)
- Maximum shooting rate: 5fps for 10 DNG raw files
- Video: N/A
- Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 139×38.5x80mm
- Weight: 660g with battery
As a Leica M camera, the M10 Monochrom (Type 6376) is a rangefinder camera. It’s not a rangefinder-style camera like the Fujifilm X-Pro3, it’s the genuine article. That means when you look in the optical viewfinder when the subject is out of focus, you see two ghostly versions of it. Rotating the focus ring on the lens pulls these two images of the subject together until they overlie one another perfectly and focus is achieved. It’s a manual focus only situation.
Inside the M10 Monochrom Leica has used a 40.89Mp sensor and, as I mentioned earlier, this has no colour filter array. That means that the camera is unable to distinguish colour and instead it doesn’t carryout any interpolation of colour, it just produces monochrome images.
This means that rather than working in working in groups of four to generate a colour signal, each of the M10 Monochrom’s photo sites (aka pixels) produces a signal. Also, as there are no filters over the pixels, the gather more light. That’s means they each produce a stronger signal and noise levels are kept down.
In addition, Leica claims the dynamic range is close to 15Ev. That especially significant to a black and white camera as tone and gradation is what makes the images.
Leica has paired the new 40Mp sensor with its Maestro II processing engine. This and the new sensor design enables a base sensitivity setting of ISO 160 – it’s ISO 320 in the previous Monochrom. The maximum setting is now ISO 100,000.
There’s also a maximum continuous shooting rate of 5fps. However, the larger image size in comparisons with the M10-P means that the burst depth is just 10 raw files (DNG).
Unlike the last Leica Monochrom camera, the M10 Monochrom doesn’t have video functionality. Apparently, the camera’s fan base almost universally disliked that feature, so it has been omitted from the new camera.
Like the Leica M10-P that it’s based upon, the M10 Monochrom has a dampened shutter mechanism that makes it very quiet.
Despite the lack of video capability, the M10 Monochrom’s 3-inch 1,036,800-dot screen on the back of the camera is still Live View enabled. It’s also a touchscreen and you can tap on it to select the area to enlarge when you turn the lens ring to focus.
Alternatively, the M10 Monochrom is compatible with Leica’s 2.4Mp Leica Visoflex electronic viewfinder (EVF).
Build and Handling
Leica slimmed down the M10 by 4mm in comparison with the M Typ 240 to make it the same thickness as the M-series film cameras. And it makes a huge difference to the way the camera feels.
The same slimmed-down profile was used for the M10-P and it has been continued on to the M10 Monochrom. It makes the camera feel much more manageable in your hands than earlier incarnations of the Leica Monochrom.
As with the M10-P, Leica has given the M10 Monochrom a die-cast magnesium chassis with a brass top and bottom cover. It makes for a hefty camera that’s more likely to damage a wooden floor than the other way around if it were dropped.
Like the M10 and M10-P, there’s a sensitivity dial on the far left end of M10 Monochrom’s top plate. This has markings for ISO 160, 400, 800, 3200, 6400,12.5K M and A, but there are settings in-between. As you’d expect, A stands for automatic and there’s an option in the menu that allows you to set the maximum setting that you want to use along with the longest exposure via the menu.
Meanwhile, the M setting is set via the menu to give a quick route to your favourite ISO setting.
This dial has to be lifted before it can be rotated, which prevents it from being moved away from the selected setting. However, it can be left in the up position if you prefer.
On the opposite of the M10 Monochrom’s top-plate there’s a shutter speed dial to set the exposure time. This is marked in whole stops 8-1/4000 sec. There are also markings for Bulb and Automatic.
As usual with a Leica M camera, the aperture is set using a ring on the lens.
Just like the M10 and M10-P, the M10 Monochrome’s viewfinder has a magnification of .73x and its standard dioptre setting is -0.5 diopter. However, -3 to +3 diopter lenses are available to suit different photographers requirements.
There are two sets of bright lines visible in the viewfinder. These indicate the focal length of the mounted lens and an alternative optic. However, you can see other bright lines by flicking the switch on the front of the camera. This means you can visualise the framing offered by different focal lengths.
The bright lines are all shown in pairs as follows, 35mm and 135mm, 28 and 90mm or 50mm and 75mm lenses.
The correct lines are shown automatically when a lens is mounted.
Most photographers investing in a Leica camera are likely to be comfortable with setting exposure and using the traditional controls. The rangefinder focusing, however, takes a bit longer to get used to.
As I mentioned earlier, the focusing is manual and you see two versions of the scene in a rectangle in the centre of the viewfinder. As the focus ring is rotated, these two images merge or diverge. The aim is to get the images overlaying each other perfectly and it’s not always easy to see that point. It’s tricky in dark conditions, for example, and when there’s no convenient point of contrast with an edge or shape that’s easy to spot.
Of course, you get better with practice, and a quick glance at the lens focus scale can help you get close to the mark before you even put the camera to your eye. With wide-angle lenses you can afford to be a bit more fast and loose and use the depth of field scale as a guide. That’s useful if you need to be quick.
Alternatively, there’s the Live View image on the screen on the back of the camera and you can use that, complete with focus peaking and a magnified view ,to help get your subject sharp.
The only problem is that the screen is fixed and although it shows a good level of detail, it’s not easy to see when its above or below head-height.
The alternative is to invest in the Leica Visoflex electronic viewfinder (EVF). If I was going to buy an M10 Monochrom, this would be at the top of my shopping list. I haven’t actually used it with the M10 Monochrom yet, but I used it with the previous Monochrom and it transforms the camera.
Helpfully, this viewfinder can be tilted through 90 degrees for easier viewing from above and it shows the Live View image. If you want, it can show the magnified view and focus peaking.
Follow the link to browse and download the images we shot on the Leica M10 Monochrom
Leica M10 Monochrom Image Gallery
Follow the link to browse and download Leica’s full-resolution sample images
Leica M10 Monochrom Sample Images (Supplied by Leica)
So far I’ve only been able to shoot a few images with the Leica M10 Monochrom, and while the DNG raw files can be opened in Adobe Camera Raw, the correct profiles won’t be available until the end of the month.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that the M10 Monochrome is cable of producing very nice images. So far the highest sensitivity setting that I’ve used with it is ISO 12,500 and the noise is controlled very well. It looks rather like film grain at 100% on screen.
I’m looking forward to spending a bit more time with the M10 Monochrom in the not too distant future. I’ll update this review as soon as I can.