Leica have been creating incremental updates of their digital M cameras since the M8.2 added a sapphire crystal rear display, different framelines and a quieter shutter in 2009. Of course, there have also been many limited-edition cameras, but they haven’t normally had any technical changes.

The M9 existed in 4 basic models:

  • M9 in 2009
  • M9-P in 2011 – this established the ‘P’ version with a sapphire glass LCD, a screw as a replacement for the red dot and with the Classic Leica logo on the top plate.
  • M Monochrom in 2012 which was similar to the M9-P but with a revolutionary monochrome sensor
  • M-E was a reduced cost model which was missing the frameline selector and the USB port and a dark grey body.

The M(240) added another variant

  • M type (240) announced at Photokina in September 2012 (at the same time as the M-E) but not delivered until 2013.
  • M-P type (240) announced in 2014 had a larger screw to replace the red dot and a larger buffer. No sapphire glass screen as the gorilla glass of the basic model was sufficient. Once again it had the classic Leica logo on the top plate.
  • The M type (262) arrived in December 2015 and was the reduced cost model  (the equivalent of the M-E). It had a smaller buffer and an aluminium top plate to reduce the weight.
  • M-D type(262) was inspired by the success of a limited edition camera (the M edition 60 from 2014) without a rear LCD the camera had no rear screen (replaced by an ISO dial).
  • M Monochrom type(246) was released in April 2015 with a black and white sensor without the Bayer filter array.

The M10 was released in January 2017 and has proved to be a real success: In a sense it was ‘back to basics’. The camera has a body the same thickness as an M7 and has abandoned video (nobody seemed to notice) and much more controversially the level gauge of the M240. 18 months on (as has now become traditional) it’s time for the first variant, and here is the M10-P.

In the past I haven’t written about the ‘P’ cameras as they have only amounted to cosmetic changes (and I don’t usually get sent a camera to test). The M10-P is rather a different thing, there are some serious changes from the M10, some of which are going to make a lot of people very happy!

Generally speaking I have a camera for several months, often (by coincidence) coinciding with one of our trips abroad. In this case I’ve only had a camera for a week or two, and we have been firmly embedded on the Norfolk and Suffolk border. So I decided to take pictures of the world around me.

My role with Leica is to test the cameras, not to write reviews of them, and it’s important to understand that this article is not intended to be a critical review. If I find something wrong with a camera, then I tell Leica. Having said that, this article is my work, nobody has suggested what I should write, and I certainly wouldn’t say anything that I don’t believe to be the case or omit anything that seemed to be an issue.

Overview

Although the M10-P has identical firmware to the M10, and has the same sensor (without any tweaks or changes), there are 3 radical technical changes to the camera:

  • The Touch Screen
  • The Return of the Level Gauge
  • A Much (MUCH) quieter shutter.

I’ll deal with each of these different features in the rest of this article.

Body and Design

I’ve only handled the chrome camera, but the design changes are consistent with the M9 and M(240) ‘P’ models with the classic Leica logo on the top plate and an enlarged screw in place of the red dot on the front of the camera. No need for a sapphire glass LCD cover as the existing M10 screen is scratch resistant to a high degree (mine is unscratched after two years without protection). As I understand it Leica have diverted from tradition a little in that the black camera is black chrome rather than black paint; I imagine this will disappoint a few purists who like their cameras brassy!

The Touch Screen

This is a first for the M cameras and it’s been implemented conservatively but really nicely.

Playback

This works just as you would expect, Swiping moves between pictures, pinching zooms in and out and the zoomed in point can be moved around as you would expect. Just like the M10 it has the useful ability to move between images when zoomed in (by holding down the play button and turning the thumbwheel.

Menu and Status Screen

When you press the centre button of the rocker switch you get the standard status screen, which looks just the same as in the M10. Touching some of the controls brings up the relevant menu item directly:

  • Exposure compensation – this brings up the normal exposure compensation dial which is also touch enabled
  • ISO – logically and correctly this only works when M is chosen on the ISO dial on the top-plate. This changes the M setting for ISO in the menu. less consistently the ISO dial is not touch enabled.
  • White Balance – tapping on the white balance symbol brings up the WB menu (again, this is not touch enabled)
  • File Format (DNG / jpg / both)- I’m not sure that one would often want to change that from here, but this is also touch enabled

Generally speaking the Menu itself is not touch enabled.

When shooting in Live View

When in Live View, you can touch the screen at any point, and then when turning the focus ring of any M lenses the camera will zoom in at this point. If you have spot metering enabled then the point is represented by a circle, with other metering types it is represented by a cross. Obviously to make this work you must have Focus Aid set to Automatic in the Capture Assistants section of the camera menu.

If you don’t want the focus aid set to Manual (as I prefer) then it’s still great to be able to move the zoom/spot metering mark around with your finger before zooming in by touching the button on the front of the camera (or the thumb dial).

I think this option will be particularly popular with tripod and landscape photographers, it’s well thought out and works beautifully (I wish that Leica would implement the manual version of this functionality with the SL and CL operation when using M lenses).

The Return of the Level Gauge

I never did see the point of a level gauge, it seems to me that if there is a horizon you don’t need it, and if there isn’t then what ‘feels right’ is what you want. However, it seems that I’m in the minority here and lots of people really missed it in the M10. There was much talk about it being implemented in firmware, but in fact that isn’t possible as the hardware is not present.

Leica have listened to the complaints and the hardware has been added to the M10-P and the level gauge is back. I’m sure that many people will be very happy (and I can turn it off!).

The Quieter Shutter

The shutter on the M10 is very quiet – and some might have thought that no improvement was needed. The shutter on the M10-P however is a real revelation, although the basic sound is the same, it’s been damped to make it sound much quieter. When I first heard it I felt as if I had ear plugs in! The fact that the sequence of sound is the same suggests that this really is a damping exercise rather than a new shutter, but however they have managed it this will be a game changer for some Leica users.

I’ve attached a recording with the M10 and M10-P at 1/15th 1/60th 1/250th and 1/1000th second. The cameras were placed next to each other, equidistant from the microphone. I think it speaks for itself!

Conclusion

As you can see, the M10-P is not just a pretty face; in addition to the expected M10-P cosmetic changes it represents some real advantages over the M10.

At the time of writing I’m not sure how big the price differential between the two cameras will be, but I imagine that for those photographers who have been waiting for the ‘P’ version before replacing their M(240) cameras it will be worth every penny.

For the rest of us who have already bought their M10 the question of whether or not to upgrade is not so simple. I’ve really enjoyed using the touch screen and the quieter shutter makes one feel a great deal less obtrusive when shooting in quiet environments (not that I ever felt the M10 shutter noise was disturbing subjects!).

Many people thought that the M10 was the ultimate M camera, and that Leica would find it hard to improve on it without compromising its core values. I think they should be congratulated on improving the camera significantly on 3 different levels without compromising it in any sense.

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12 Comments

  1. […] M10-P Review – auf Qimago M10-P Review von Jono (Englisch) M10-P Forum […]

  2. Hmm I thought the shutter would be basically silent like the Q, but it sounds louder than that – just a muffled M10. Personally I don’t feel compelled to upgrade from my M10 although it would be nice to have a quieter shutter. The touch screen and level gauge don’t make a huge difference for the way I shoot, and frankly I really prefer how the M10 looks over the M10-P. If I were buying new I would probably go for the M10-P (mainly for the quieter shutter), but I don’t think it’s worth selling my M10 at a loss and then paying full price for the M10-P.

    • Hi there Peter
      The Q has a leaf shutter (quite a different thing).
      But you are in exactly the position I am – don’t need the improvements and don’t need the looks.
      Which (for me at least) is great, as it means that I’m not tempted to take the hit in upgrading!
      I think that lots of people will find the improvements compelling though.
      Best
      Jonathan Slack

  3. I appreciate your insights, and my comment(s) do not mean to reflect negatively on what you have written, rather, more on the “seriousness” of the improvements … nor on Leica for how they go about practicing their M business …

    I owned an M240, and I didn’t even remember that it had a level finder capability, so … so much for not having it on my M10. I could see it being useful in some instances, especially archetorture shooting … so that’s a nice improvement, but really, for a $10,000 camera, how could they not have included it in the original M10 build, especially since it was in the M240? … that is short-sighted arrogance, at it’s finest. If this doesn’t ring true, then ask a simple question, why include it now, and not in the original M10?!?

    I was stunned by how quiet my M10 shutter is, especially compared to my beloved M9 … so this hype of the M10P being quieter than the original M10, is sort of akin to realizing I have been playing my Marshall 100 watt amp volume at 9, instead of 10, not really earth shattering, in difference. (although that Marshall has shattered a few “earths” in it’s day …) From your recording, the M10P shutter is more muffled, for sure, but really, it seems sort of “moot” to point out, compared to the live sound of the original M10’s shutter volume. It seems rather unimportant … I am all for progress, but I don’t see it as an important enough update to warrant a whole new body variant.

    The touch-screen is a nice addition. If Leica had also tweaked the sensor performance, say for dynamic range, or upped the pixel count, or improved ISO noise performance, (all of which I am totally happy with on my M10 as is …) those variants seem more suitable to justify releasing a new model M10 … the M10P is great, but the improvements are under-whelming, even to the Eternal Optimist, who resides in every Leica owner, to some degree … but, please Leica, do carry on. My Leica’s have been the most loved, least used, and most expensive cameras, I have ever earned a buck with … and I don’t see that changing much in the near future!

    • Hi There Bruce
      First of all the level finder. When developing the thinner M10 there was a real problem with space and everything which could be was dropped (including video and the level gauge). Of course, some people did use the level gauge in the M(240) but clearly Leica’s market research suggested not very much (like you, I certainly never used it). It wasn’t ‘short sighted arrogance’ but an attempt to save a tiny bit of space and simplify something which appeared to be largely unused.

      On release of the M10 quite a lot of people complained about it . . . so they decided to put it back in again with the M10-p.

      Me? it seems to me that if there is a horizon then I don’t need a level gauge and if there isn’t then it’s my job to decide what is ‘straight’! But I think people who shoot interiors and architecture find it useful.

      As for the shutter sound – the shutter in the M10-P is now the quietest shutter in any M camera. Personally I agree that the M10 is quiet enough so why do we need more. Having used the M10-P for some time it seems to me that it’s biggest benefit is for the photographer, one certainly does feel ‘less intrusive’ – but I’ve never known the M10 to disturb any of my victims!. . . . but it doesn’t alter the fact that many people are going to really like this, and it’s sort of a milestone to have achieved.

      The touchscreen is nicely implemented and will certainly be helpful to some people (probably especially those using a tripod).

      Me? I don’t use a tripod, I don’t shoot in board rooms and I don’t shoot interiors. So I’m keeping to my M10!

      However, previous P models have only offered cosmetic changes, and still cost more. So perhaps Leica should be congratulated for actually putting in some technical advances (even if you and I don’t need them).

      All the best
      Jonathan Slack

  4. I have an M-P 240 and I agree – most loved, least used and most expensive.

  5. Thanks Jonathan, I really appreciate you taking the time, and making the effort to respond to all of us. You gave me a lot of insight into the whys and hows of Leica’s updates to create the M10P … I was wrong in suggesting that they were arrogant in their decision to remove, and then add back in, the level mechanism … probably motivated by a little frustration in realizing that they likely could have included it in the M10. Even if I don’t use it, it devalues my version over the “new and improved” M10P … but as you state, at least now, these updates are more than just cosmetic … they finally got the screen right!
    Be well,
    Bruce

  6. Thanks for the insite Jono. Very useful.

    I tried the new camera at Red Dot Cameras the other day. The shutter is really quite impressive. Interestingly it sounded much louder with no lens mounted. Almost as though the mounted lens created a vacuum. The M10’s shutter is still great but this new shutter just takes it a step further. So quiet yet with still enough feedback so you know when you’ve taken a shot.

    I found the touch screen great too. Simple to use yet very responsive. To be able to double tap into a specific part of the screen will be very useful for the times you need to double check focus. Much more intuitive than the M8/M9/M10 button system.

    The cosmetic changes are cool but for me the M10 is one of the best looking digital Leica cameras. Very subtle changes over the previous models created an extra clean, simple design.

    I’ve never upgraded to the P models but this year I will. The M10 is easily the best digital M I’ve ever had. It handles great, has wonderful ISO performance and 24mp is plenty for the work I do. The M10-P is a camera I will use for quite a few years to come.

    Jei

  7. Just my humble opinions, the changes are not worth the upgrade. The absence of the red dot is like a Mercedes Benz without the tri-star. The muffled shutter sounds terrible. Either it is as quiet as the Q or don’t do it. I have the Q but sometimes I miss the joy of the shutter sound. The click means a job well done and is satisfying. The level gauge dampens creativity. Just do what it feels right. Touch screen may be helpful to some but again it destroys confidence. I would prefer upgrades to under the hood such as more pixels etc.

  8. Still waiting for Leica to produce an FX camera with higher resolution than 24MP. They really need to produce a >42MP camera to compete for landscape use with Sony and Nikon. I won’t by another Leica until this happens.

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