June 21, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Leica M10-R – Review 2020

8 min read

Leica has moved well beyond the 24MP sensor format with the M10-R ($8,295, body only), its second high-resolution model, and first with a color image sensor. Like the M10 Monochrom, it captures photos at 40MP, and does so using a body style that’s largely unchanged by time. It’s only $300 more than the standard edition M10, and includes improvements to the body as well as the updated image sensor, making it a compelling alternative.

The High-Resolution M

Rangefinder camera fans have several M10 models to choose from. Most are built around the same 24MP full-frame sensor. It’s used in the base model M10, the premium M10-P, and the screen-free M10-D.

Leica M10-R

The M10-R has a new imager, a color version of the 40MP sensor used in the M10 Monochrom. Full-frame cameras fall largely into two buckets: models with sensors in the 24MP range, and high-resolution cameras that go as high as 60MP. The extra pixels are beneficial—you get more room to crop, and a sensor that’s a few years newer in design also nets better dynamic range and its high ISO grain doesn’t show banding effects.

Sample ImageLeica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH., 1/125-second, ISO 400

They’re not the only reasons to spend $300 more than the baseline M10. The two models look alike, but the M10-R includes the upgraded quiet shutter, a touch LCD, and an on-screen level gauge.

Red Dot Included

The body design is just like other M10 models. It measures 3.2 by 5.5 by 1.2 inches (HWD) and is a bit heavy for its size, 1.5 pounds. The body is magnesium, wrapped in a leatherette, but the brass materials used to fashion the top and bottom plates are dense.

Leica M10-RLeica M10-R and M3

The M10-R is available in black or silver chrome, each adorned with Leica’s instantly recognizable Red Dot logo. The top plate is free of adornment—Leica typically charges more for models with an engraved logo.

The M series body hasn’t changed over the years, and omits a handgrip. The camera is typically used with smaller lenses, and balances well without one, but there are add-on options if you prefer a grip. Leica also sells the full-frame, 47MP SL2, an SLR-style mirrorless model with an integrated grip, something to consider if you’re committed to using a rangefinder.

Sample ImageLeica Elmar 90mm f/4, 1/150-second, ISO 100

Optical Viewfinder and Manual Controls

And it’s the rangefinder—the bright focusing patch at the center of the M10’s optical viewfinder—that keeps folks buying M cameras, even when more modern alternatives are available. Its angle of view is fixed, with a 0.73x magnification, wide enough to see the view of a 28mm lens.

Frame lines are projected in pairs, and change based on which lens you attach—the 28mm and 90mm pair show together, as do the 35mm and 135mm, and 50mm and 75mm. If you use a lens with a 35mm or tighter angle, you’ll see what’s outside the frame in addition to what the lens will capture.

Sample ImageLeica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH., 1/125-second, ISO 200

Everything is manual. Focus and aperture control are set directly on an attached lens. The bright patch at the center of the viewfinder shows a double image when your photo isn’t in focus; line them up as one and focus is set properly.

Shutter speed and ISO are set by dials on the top plate. Automatic adjustment of either is available too, and you can set limits and minimum shutter speed requirements via the menu. There’s a directional pad and buttons on the rear to navigate through menus and playback settings.

Leica M10-R

There’s a rear control dial too, something you get with a digital M but not a film body. It dials in EV compensation, either directly or in combination with the front function button, and can also be used to zoom in when reviewing images or framing shots using the rear display or EVF.

Display and EVF

The M10-R’s rear display is a 3-inch LCD with a crisp 1.04-million-dot design. It supports touch, but it doesn’t tilt up or down. The fixed design makes low-angle shooting a little tricky—you’ll need to get down low along with the camera.

Leica M10-R

If you like those kind of shots, and also want an M, the add-on Visoflex EVF is an option. It slides into the hot shoe and offers a tilt action so you can peer into it from above. It’s sharp, and frame magnification and focus peaking are available as focus aids. You’ll want to think about adding it if you use ultra-wide lenses, or for shots where spot-on focus is critical.

Power and Connectivity

The M10-R includes Wi-Fi. It pairs with your phone and the Leica Fotos app, available for Android and iOS. The app supports image transfers and remote control, the latter with a live view from the lens.

Leica M10-R

You can copy Raw or JPG shots, though we found that DNG files can take a little while to transfer—up to 30 seconds per image. Full-resolution JPGs go much faster, in about 10 seconds.

It’s powered by the BP-SCL5 battery, the same as other M10 models. It’s good for about 600 shots, though you can expect the figure to be a bit less if you frequently use Wi-Fi, spend a lot of time reviewing images, or lean heavily on live view.

Sample ImageLeica Elmar 90mm f/4, 1/180-second, ISO 250

The battery loads in the bottom, in the same compartment as the UHS-I SDXC memory card slot. You’ll need to remove the baseplate to get to them, a nod to the bottom-loading film models of yesteryear. Third-party replacements with traditional hinged battery doors are available if you prefer.

40MP Full-Frame Sensor

The M10-R’s 40MP sensor was developed alongside the M10 Monochrom. In a change of pace, the black-and-white edition was released first. M series product manager Jesko von Oeynhausen tells us that extra time and care was spent to fine-tune the color output of the new sensor.

Sample ImageLeica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH., 1/750-second, ISO 100

There are specialized needs to make a full-frame imager that plays well with M lenses. Some will show detail and color smearing at corners when paired with cameras from other systems—it’s easy to use an M lens with a Canon, Nikon, or Sony camera with an adapter.

The M10-R sensor has a single layer of cover glass made just for this camera and lens system. The cover glass filters UV and IR light using one thin element, just 0.9mm. It’s made just for this camera and lens system, and does a fine job preserving both clarity and color fidelity with lenses that struggle with other cameras. I shot a few images with a lens that will absolutely induce color shift on many digital cameras, the LTM version of the Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm; with the M10-R, corners show accurate colors, with no evidence of false color cast.

Sample ImageVoigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm f/4.5, 1/250-second, ISO 100

The covered ISO range is actually the same as the 24MP M10 sensor. The M10-R starts at ISO 100 and can be set as high as ISO 50000. Despite packing more pixels into the same space, the M10-R performs quite well at higher sensitivities.

Its Raw DNG output shows excellent detail and color through ISO 3200, and only takes a slight step back at ISO 6400. Noise is heavier at ISO 12500 and 25000, but otherwise images hold up quite well. Noise is heavy enough at ISO 50000 to kill fine detail, but we did note a slight green cast in neutral tones at this highest sensitivity.

Sample ImageLeica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH., 1/350-second, ISO 100

There’s no evidence of banding when opening shadows or otherwise pushing shadows or lifting black levels—we processed images in Adobe Lightroom Classic. There’s plenty of dynamic range too, so you’ve got ample room to tone images to taste. The M10-R also offers supports for longer exposures, up to 16 minutes, than the M10 (4 minutes), a plus for astrophotographers and others who employ extra-long exposure times.

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JPG capture is an option too. The in-camera processing does a good job getting rid of splotchy color noise, but doesn’t try and curb the rougher texture it leaves behind. You’ll note a very film-like grain structure at ISO 12500 and above. It starts out fairly fine, but gets rougher as you set the sensitivity higher and higher.

Sample ImageCanon 50mm f/1.2 (LTM), 1/1,000-second, ISO 100

As with other M10 models, there’s no video support or image stabilization. If you want those features from a Leica, the SL2 is a better fit. It sports a five-axis stabilized 47MP sensor and strong 4K features. Its sensor is also optimized for M lenses, though not to the extent of the M10-R.

The Next-Generation M

The Leica M10-R is more than just a specialized version of the M10. An all-new image sensor sets it apart from earlier limited-run editions and variations. It also has some practical upgrades—a quieter shutter and touch screen—first seen in the premium M10-P. And, aside from larger files, there’s no real drawback to reaching for the M10-R over other editions.

Sample ImageCanon 50mm f/1.2 (LTM), 1/1,000-second, ISO 100

Leica has opted to market this one under the M10 banner, but the new sensor really makes it a new camera. If you’re devoted to rangefinder photography, and are in the market for a model that captures images in living color, the M10-R represents the most capable entry in the line.

Its color sensor makes it a bit more versatile than the M10 Monochrom, though you should still get the black-and-white version of the camera if you don’t care about color. But if you’re in the market for a new M10, and see the world in more than just shades of gray, the M10-R is well worth your attention.

Leica M10-R Specs

Dimensions 3.2 by 5.5 by 1.5 inches
Weight 1.5 lb
Type Mirrorless
Sensor Resolution 40 MP
Sensor Type CMOS
Sensor Size Full-Frame (24 x 36mm)
Lens Mount Leica M
Memory Card Slots 1
Memory Card Format SDXC (UHS-I)
Battery Type Leica BP-SCL5
Minimum ISO 100
Maximum ISO 50000
Stabilization None
Display Size 3 inches
Display Resolution 1.04 million dots
Touch Screen Yes
Viewfinder Type Optical
Viewfinder Magnification 0.73x
Connectivity Wi-Fi
Maximum Waterproof Depth 0 feet
Video Resolution Not supported
HDMI Output None
Flat Profile No

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