The M10-R is perhaps the most Leica of the M10 series cameras. It has the robust build and high-quality finish that we expect along with the manual exposure and focusing controls, but the high-resolution sensor means that it gets the most detail possible from the company’s superb lenses.
In an era of growing menus and increasing numbers of clever features, it’s refreshing to pick up a camera that is designed to let you concentrate on the essentials of photography – focus, exposure and composition. I prefer to use an electronic viewfinder for composing and focusing the image, but there are plenty of Leica-faithful photographers who swear by the rangefinder viewfinder and focusing system. Thankfully, the Leica M10-R gives both options, but as it costs over £7,000 body-only, that’s a moot point for me.
Fabulous build quality
Compatible with legendary optics
Rangefinder focusing doesn't suit everyone
Menu items not touch-selectable
What is the Leica M10-R?
The Leica M10-R is a much anticipated high-resolution full-frame digital rangefinder camera. Given its pixel count of 40.89Mp, it seems highly likely that it has the same sensor as the Leica M10 Monochrom, but unlike its black-and-white-only companion, it has a Bayer type colour filter arrange over the sensor which means it records colour images.
As a Leica M-series camera, the M10-R has the Leica M mount. Its high pixel count also means that it draws the best from Leica’s legendary optics.
Leica M10-R Price and Availability
The Leica M10-R’s price is £7,100 (body only) and it will go on sale on 20th July 2020.
Screen: Fixed 3-inch touchscreen LCD with 1,036,800 dots and Corning Gorilla Glass
Sensitivity range: ISO 100-50,000
Shutter speed: 16min-1/4000sec
Focusing: Manual (rangefinder)
Dimensions (WxDxH): 139 x 38.5 x 80mm
As a Leica M camera, the M10-R (Type 6376) is a manual-focus rangefinder camera. Consequently, there’s a rectangle in the centre of the optical viewfinder that shows two faint versions of the subject when it’s out of focus. When the two images perfectly overlie each other, the subject is in focus.
Leica has given the M10-R a 40.89Mp sensor. That’s the same resolution as the Leica M10 Monochrom which captures black and white images.
However, as I’ve already mentioned, the Leica M10-R’s sensor has a colour filter array which means that it captures colour images.
Although the M10-R has the highest resolution of any Leica M-series colour digital camera, according to the manufacturer, it also has the best low-light performance to date.
In addition, at around 13.5 EV, the dynamic range is said to be the best of any Leica M-series digital camera that shoots colour.
Like the Leica M10, M10-P and M10 Monochrom, the Leica M10R has the Maestro II processing engine. Combined with the sensor, this enables a base sensitivity setting of ISO 100 – 50,000.
According to Leica, its M-series photographers have been very clear about their dislike of video. Consequently, the M10R can only shoot still images, not movies.
However, there is a live view mode so it is possible to compose images on the 3-inch 1,036,800-dot touchscreen on the back of the camera. Helpfully, the camera can also automatically magnify the focus point (which can be set with a tap on the screen) and show focus peaking to help with focusing.
The Leica M10R can also be used with the optional 2.4Mp Leica Visoflex electronic viewfinder that connects to the camera via the hotshoe. This also shows the live view complete with magnification and focus peaking if it’s activated via the menu.
Another modern nicety that has made it into the M10-R is Wi-Fi connectivity, and the camera is compatible with Leica’s FOTOS smartphone app for fast image sharing.
Build and Handling
When it was designing the M10, Leica put a lot of effort into reducing the camera’s size in comparison with the M Typ 240. Leica’s engineers and designers managed to slice 4mm off the depth, which makes a significant difference to the feel of the camera.
This slimmer profile has been used for all the M10 variants including the M10-R.
Naturally for Leica, the M10R has a die-cast magnesium chassis and brass top and bottom covers, so it feels every bit the Leica M camera. It’s solid and politely whispers quality.
And it is a whisper as the M10-R has the same dampened shutter mechanism that Leica introduced with the M10-P.
Following the same design layout as the M10 and its friends, the Leica M10R has a three-button layout to the left of the screen on its back and sensitivity and shutter speed dials on its top-plate. The sensitivity (ISO) dial is at the far left end of the plate while the shutter speed dial is next to shutter button the right.
There are markings to set the M10R to ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 and 6400 or A for automatic and M for Menu. The dial needs to be pulled up before it can be rotated, but you can leave it up if you want to change settings quickly.
While the dial only allows settings to be adjusted in wholes stops, setting it to ‘M’ allows the value to be adjusted in 1/3EV steps via the menu. Or it can be set automatically within the parameters specified in the menu.
Meanwhile, the shutter speed dial is marked in whole stops from 8-1/4000 sec and there are markings for Bulb and Automatic. The dial rotates in 1/2-stops so you can set values between the marked shutter speeds.
The maximum exposure time in Bulb mode is 16 minutes.
As you’d expect with a Leica M camera, the aperture is set using a ring on the lens.
Like the previous M10-series cameras, the M10-R’s viewfinder has a magnification of .73x and a standard dioptre setting of -0.5 diopter. However, -3 to +3 diopter lenses are available if required.
Two sets of bright lines in the viewfinder indicate the framing offered by a pair of lenses as follows: 35mm and 135mm, 28 and 90mm or 50mm and 75mm lenses.
The camera automatically selects the pairing that has a setting closest to the mounted lens. Helpfully, you can see other bright lines by flicking the switch on the front of the camera so it’s possible to assess which lens you want before you detach the mounted optic.
With lenses longer than 35mm you can see the scene around the area that will be captured. That’s especially handy for street and reportage photography as you can spot that something is about to enter the frame before it does. The downside is that as focal length increases you have a smaller frame to work with and it’s harder to assess the composition.
There are many photographers who love rangefinder focusing. It’s a manual process that helps you get in tune with your photography. It’s also something you can do in advance of your subject appearing or the lighting doing what you want, so you’re ready to shoot as soon as the composition comes right.
However, it’s not great in low light or low contrast situations. It can be hard to distinguish the two ghostly versions of the image that you need to get in register. It takes some practice, but the lens focus scale can help you get close to the mark before you even put the camera to your eye. And if you’re using a wide lens with a mid-to-small aperture, you can be a bit more free and easy with your focusing as the depth of field lends a hand.
There’s the also live view image on the rear screen which gives a nice clear view. Backed by the magnification of the spot selected by a tap and the focus peaking, you can get the subject sharp quickly.
However, the screen is fixed. It shows plenty of detail, but it’s not ideal when you want to shoot from above or below head height.
Leica offers an alternative in the guise of the Leica Visoflex electronic viewfinder (EVF). It shows the live view image and can show the magnified view and/or focus peaking.
I haven’t actually used the Visoflex with the M10R, but I’ve used it with earlier M10 variants and makes using them a very different experience. I prefer it as it takes away any concern about the rangefinder focusing yet retains the enjoyment of focusing manually.
Further good news is that the Visoflex EVF can be tilted through 90 degrees for easier viewing from above.
Although the Leica M10-R can shoot raw and Jpeg files, and both simultaneously, I suspect that majority of owners will rely upon the raw files. The Jpeg files are handy for sharing quickly, but the best results are obtained when you shoot in raw format.
Shooting in raw format makes getting the white balance and colour correct in-camera less critical, but the M10R produces natural colours in its default settings. Images hot in shade or cloudy conditions can look a bit cool, but it’s not a major issue.
Leica M10-R Image Quality
Leica is claiming that the M10-R has the best noise control of any of its colour-shooting M-series digital cameras, and my images seem to bear that out. Ideally, I’d keep to SIo 12,500 or lower as these files have a good compromise between noise and detail. Going above that value results in more noise, but the banding that I’ve seen in high-ISO files from some earlier Leica M-series cameras appears to be less of an issue.
The M10R’s dynamic range is also very good and the low-ISO raw can withstand substantial brightening. This is especially useful with landscape photography. For instance, reducing the exposure in a woodland to preserve the highlights of the sunlight on the uppermost leaves results in the lower tree trunks being close to solid black, but they can be brightened to reveal some excellent detail.
The Leica M10-R is probably the camera that many Leica M-series photographers have been waiting for. It combines all the features that they love about the brand and the line, such as robust build, quiet operation and high-quality results, with a high-resolution sensor.
There’s also the ability to use live view and connect an electronic viewfinder, which although possible not high on the average M-user’s wishlist, could be of interest to younger converts to the brand.
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