Last week, we began our discussion of the Leica M-10R, the latest in the series of very famous and illustrious Leica cameras. Today, we share with you additional thoughts and some of the photographs I took with the camera and two lenses.
Many thanks to Leica Singapore for the loan of the Leica M-10R and Summilux-M 35mm, 50mm and Elpro 52 lenses for this test. Just as a reminder, as with all our camera evaluations, this is my opinion, and my opinion only.
Leica M-10R with Summilux-M 35, Summilux-M50 and Elpro52
The sensor – 40Mp full frame sensor
The Leica M10-R features a full frame sensor with 40Mp resolution, higher than the other M10 cameras except for the M10 Monochrome which is also equipped with a 40Mp sensor, though it is monochrome only, lacking the Bayer filter over the sensor. I understand the sensor is cut from the same wafer as the one used to supply the 64Mp Leica S3 medium format DSLR (successor to the Leica S Type 007 I reviewed earlier). The S3 sensor measures 45mm x 30mm, in what Leica calls its Professional Format, and is proportionally larger than the 36mm x 24mm full frame sensor in the M10-R, yielding 40Mp. The sensor is known for its low light ability, and ISO sensitivity of the M10-R is from the base ISO of 100 to ISO 50000, adjustable in 1/3 ISO increments. At ISO 50000, the camera is almost able to see in the dark.
One of the issues of the M10R, like all the M cameras is that it does not report the full EXIF. This is because the lenses are not electronic, and does not communicate with the body. The M10-R guesses the aperture, though the shutter speed is probably correct. In many of the photographs you see here, I shot at f/1.4, but the camera records f/1.7.
Watch photography and macro
I used the Leica M10-R for macro photography. Now this is a statement in itself. The early Leica M cameras, in particular film and even the CCD equipped digital sensors are not particularly suited for macro. Why? Because the nature of the rangefinder is such that parallax error is very large at close up distances. So what has changed that makes the M10 suitable? Liveview. Now with this CMOS sensor attribute, you can see exactly what the sensor sees – WYSIWYG. But does the lenses get close enough? Not natively. None of the Leica M lenses are able to do close focus. But Leica provides two tools to enable any of their lenses to be macro capable. The first is the Macro Adapter M which we did not try and the second which I used is the Elpro 52 Close-up lens. The Macro Adapter M is an extension tube, but variable extension. The adapter is particularly suited for the Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4 can also be used in its collapsed position for focusing all the way to infinity. The adapters variable extension, allows the lens to set any distance from 41 cm (reproduction ratio 1:2) to infinity without having to dismount the adapter.
The Elpro 52 which I used is a clever piece of optics. It is a magnifying glass of exceptional quality which can be attached to the front of the lens, like a filter. The lens is known as the Elpro 52 because it has a diameter of 52m, and is supplied with two step down rings to allow it to be attached to lenses with a front element of 46mm diameter or 49mm. Both the Summilux-M lenses I had has a front element of 46mm and that is the configuration I used. The maximum magnification with the 35mm is 1.17X and with the 50mm is 1.11.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 7234G is photographed with the Leica M10-R with the Summilux 50mm and the Elpro52.
As is the photograph of the Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer shown below.
Based on my usage, the M10-R is a bit more difficult to use, and slower than a standard DSLR/DSLM. Compared to the say the Leica SL2, it is more cumbersome as well. And it is not only due to the lack of the convenience of autofocus, which is missed but not critical for macro work as most of the time, images are focused manually. The Liveview on the M10 is excellent, with the ability to zoom in for critical focus. Focus tools like peaking is helpful. But a DSLR/DSLM is still faster. Advanced tools for extending depth of field are also lacking. Tools like focus stacking tools, tilt shift lenses/adapters.
My analysis of the M10-R with the 50mm and Elpro, the images are excellent, and definitely usable for publishing. On web images, and small prints, the sensor and optics are able to provide great photographs. As the sensor is 40Mp, the images can easily be printed as large as A1 (nominally 600mm x 840mm).
Architecture and interiors
The optical properties of both Summilux-M lenses are superb. The lenses are rectilinear, and feature aspherical elements, which allow it to render straight lines as straight, even if the lines are at the edges of the frame, and even if the sensor plane is not parallel to the lines. This is particularly noteworthy in architecture.
With the Summilux-M 35mm, the sense of space is conveyed rather impressively. Here are some photographs I took of the interiors of the Marina Bay Sands Shoppes area to demonstrate.
The Leica M10-R is an excellent tool for portrait. But I am not experienced enough to nail critical focus with the lenses wide open. This is a reflection to my lack of experience rather than the gear itself. I use the rangefinder, and find it only easy to be able to align the overlapping images for the edges of the face. At f/1.4 of the Summilux-M lenses, the depth of field is so shallow that the eyes are not fully in focus. Case in point is this image I took of my friend Ray.
The lens is very sharp, with superb rendition of the bokeh and colour. I managed to get his eyes in focus, but it takes practice. I could have used the Liveview with Focus Peaking enabled to get a better result. But a more experienced hand at focusing the M gets better results. As proven immediately with the photograph of me taken by Ray, where he nailed focus on my eyes perfectly.
Reportage and street photography
I have just begun doing a series of photographs made with large format cameras. As a first trial, I started to get used to the camera, lenses, and movements by using a Hasselblad CFV-50c medium format back. I will be sharing the session on another TGIFridays article, hopefully soon. The cameras which I had tried were the Silvestri Bicam, the Linhof Technica 45 and the Rollei X-ACT2, and a plethora of large format lenses from Schneider Kreuznach and Rodenstock. After familiarization, the goal is to attempt to shoot on 4×5 sheetfilm. A separate exercise has also started to explore using my Hasselblad H3D with the HM16-32 back using rollfilm to photograph watch macros. The aim there is to expose readers to film photography, and the series will include developing the film and printing.
I used the Leica M10-R for reportage, behind the scnes photographs on the first of these sessions.
I am no street photographer, but the Leica M is supremely suited for this genre. The camera is small, discreet, and very silent in operations. It is often stealthy enough to quietly take a photograph at a scene, without the subject being aware, or if they become aware just as their photograph is being taken, there is that look of surprise which is often so delightful.
The M’s rangefinder system is also useful in street photography. The entire frame plus surroundings can be seen through the viewfinder, and presumably one can wait for the decisive moment when the subject is in frame and has the desired expression to capture the shot. I say presumably, because I am not practiced in the art, and this is my first few attempt at street photography. I find it challenging. Perhaps with more practice.
The experts advice zone focussing. The M lenses have a tab on the super smooth (very satisfying) focus ring. At the 6 o’clock position, the focus is about 1.2m away, or about 2 arms length. Turn it to the left by about 45degrees, and the focus is about 0.7m away – 1 arms length, quite daringly close for a 35mm lens. And 45degrees right, the focus is about 3m away. At f.8, this should yield sufficient depth of field, once the practice of judging how far the subject is away is perfected.
Concluding my week (well, actually about 10 days) with the Leica M10-R and Summilux lenses, it was perhaps a tinge of sadness when it came the time to return it. For what it is and what it does, the M10-R does very well indeed. For the street shooter, it is the ultimate camera. It is stealthy. It is quiet, provides the opportunity for the photographer to observe his environment, and shoot at the precise decisive moment. Any M camera is. If you are a diehard Leica M fan, the M10-R is able to provide more than its forebears ever will. It now sports a superlative 40Mpix sensor, capable of excellent low light performance at high ISOs.
Would I recommend it for shooting watch macros? No. But if you are a street photographer, do documentary work, and occasionally want to shoot your watches, the M10-R is up to the task with the addition of the Elpro52.