Leica has a new camera in its inimitable M-Series line-up. You'd be hard-pressed to tell it from the M before it, or the M before that, but that's exactly the point. The $10,000 Leica M10 makes some big improvements and major modernisations, but they're all hidden away inside a body that could well be built fifty years ago.
The M10 is the first complete upgrade to Leica's camera system to be announced in four years; the previous M9 had many iterations and special editions, notably including the black and white M Monochrom, but was first launched way back in 2009. The Leica M (Typ 240) that succeed it was launched in 2012.
The Leica M10 is the slimmest digital M camera ever built, a full four millimetres thinner (at 33.75mm) than the Leica M (Typ 240) it succeeds. Leica's older film Ms are thinner than their digital equivalents, and the company says this was a serious consideration in the M10's design. The signature rangefinder, too, is 30 per cent larger and features a higher magnification of 0.73.
But it's the sensor that makes a digital camera as much as its ergonomics, and the Leica M10 is built around a 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor -- the same resolution as the Typ 240, but with improvements across the board in high ISO handling, dynamic range and sharpness. There's no low-pass filter that sacrifices microdetail in order to eliminate moire in objects (that's dealt with in software), and the camera now supports a native ISO range of 100 to 50,000 with "considerably improved" noise levels at the higher end of that spectrum. ISO is controlled -- for the first time in a digital M -- with a dial on the top plate.
The M10 is the fastest M camera ever built, too, with a new Leica-developed processor and 2GB of buffer supporting sequential shooting of 5 frames per second at the full 24-megapixel resolution. Interestingly, the M10 supports Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder, which seems redundant on a rangefinder camera but also adds GPS geotagging support. The camera itself has Wi-Fi too -- as long as you're sending your photos to an Apple device.
Leica's announcement of the M10, too, is stoically Germanic in its language. Leica wants you to realise that the M10 is about taking photos first, not about editing them or sharing them to Facebook or Instagram directly from your camera: "Since the beginning, Leica M-Cameras have stood for concentration on only the essential functions." And here's the chairman of Leica Camera AG, Dr Andreas Kaufmann: "Not a camera for everyone – but increasingly a camera for people who love a system that is built for the future while maintaining consistent compatibility with its past."
The Leica M10 will cost $9,700 from approved Leica stockists, and should be available from today. [Leica]