A camera so cool even Christophe Waltz wants one
This camera will sharpen your eye to make up your mind before you actually take the picture,” says Daniel.
A camera so cool even Christophe Waltz wants one
THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2020 - 12:00am

I was able to see the new Leica M10-R unveiled over a laptop screen, in more or less sharp detail, but not able to hold it. Ergonomics and elegant design have been main features of Leica cameras since Ernst Leitz founded the German company in 1925. So you’d like to be able to pick it up.

But the good news is, the latest M10 — featuring a full-frame digital sensor allowing 40-megapixel resolution, less image noise, and an ISO range from 100 to 50,000 — will soon be available at the Greenbelt 5 Leica store. So camera fanatics can handle the newest digital model themselves.

Leica’s M10-R — in black APO Summicron 50 or silver Summilux M-35 — will soon be available for order at the Leica store, Greenbelt 5

With its pebbled magnesium surface, silver and black lines and iconic red Leica logo, the M10-R is a throwback to the original Rangefinder series look that made it a favorite of photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nick Utt, Robert Frank and Bruce Davidson. Those lensmen preferred light, agile cameras that were responsive to touch and incredibly intuitive.

Launched worldwide via YouTube streaming last week from Leica headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany, by Leica Camera AG Supervisory Board chairman Dr. Andreas Kaufmann and Leica AG global director of Product Division Stefan Daniel, the unveiling focused on how “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

“I’m a fan”: Christophe Waltz joins Dr. Andreas Kaufmann and Stefan Daniel for the unveiling of Leica’s new M10-R.

Since Leica launched the first M10 in 2017, they’ve sought to return to basics: analogue outer functions (manual-focus viewfinder, manual settings) with increasingly sophisticated sensors inside. The M10-R does away with the video (which other Leicas handle better) and focuses the camera experience on still photography. Says Daniel: “It’s a 40-megapixel color sensor in an M10 body, so a completely newly developed sensor architecture, pixel design, that increases resolution, while not making a compromise in low-light sensitivity or dynamic range.”

The 40-megapixel capacity is a big leap over previous M10-P and M10-D models, which Daniel likens to driving a 100-horsepower car all your life, then switching to a 250-HP MG: “You will have a hard time going back to your old car.” While Dr. Kaufmann admits there are tradeoffs in the “pixel race,” the M10-R promises to enhance the Leica’s previous dynamic range. “So if you can manage the slightly bigger file sizes,” says Daniel, “you have no compromise to make.” And, being digital, you can easily share those photos with your phone or upload them.

They pointed out a 40-megapixel blown-up photo of a boardwalk at dusk in the background, then “enhanced” it, Blade Runner-style, to focus on the detailed streetlamps running off into infinity.

After the unveiling, a surprise came with the appearance of Oscar winner Christophe Waltz, a Leica fan who happened to be wandering through the Wetzlar factory that day. Waltz sat down to deep-dive into topics like lenses, apertures, and his favorite cameras growing up.

Turns out he’s a lens geek, especially since he’s turned to directing movies, preferring a 28mm prime lens over a zoom. He’d previously never owned a Leica before the visit, declaring himself a “clumsy ignoramus” when it comes to handling such precise cameras, but Dr. Kaufmann promised to hook him up with one.

Dr. Kaufmann notes that nowadays, “on Instagram, everybody shoots, nobody looks. With a picture on IG, you look one second, move on.” Leica has a different approach. While taking pictures has become something everybody does all the time, Daniel says the Leica experience is very different, more like a merger of man and machine: “Because this camera will sharpen your eye to make up your mind before you actually take the picture.”

That’s enhanced by the new M10-R sensor, which “opens up a host of possibilities that are unprecedented within M photography.” Along with higher megapixel rate, the sensor provides lots more cropping and format capabilities. The contrast-rich rendition of subtle structures means less risk of moiré patterns in your photos. Whether you’re shooting landscapes, architecture, or night scenes that require lower ISOs and richer detail, the M10-R should be in your wheelhouse.

For seasoned pros, the M-series is much prized because you can attach any lens going as far back as 1954. “That’s one of our pillars, everything is backwards-compatible,” says Daniel. Particularly in combination with the newest generation, such as the APO-Summicron-M 50 f/2 ASPH, the M10-R delivers “exceptional quality” photographs (though, of course, they recommend you use Leica lenses).

Other enhancements: The maximum exposure time has been increased to 16 minutes, enabling extraordinary nighttime shots with the use of a tripod. It’s equipped with the same shutter as the Leica M10-P, and is not only “exceptionally quiet (allowing for an unobtrusive way of working), but also operates with minimal vibration” and risk of camera shake.

As we saw in the opening video, Leicas are still largely manually constructed by highly trained specialists at the Wetzlar plant. This is important for a camera built around Ernst Leitz’s original analogue “Rangefinder” design, allowing precise settings and the sharpest detail.

With the M10-R, Dr. Kaufmann says the Leica M10 family — which also includes the M10, M10-P, M10-D and M10 Monochrom — is now “complete.”

So what’s next? Daniel mentions the trend of computational imaging that drives smartphone camera technology may play a part in future Leica technology; and elsewhere Dr. Kaufmann coyly mentioned Leica may be looking into developing watches. But that’s an unveiling for another — hopefully less virtual — time.

* * *

The Leica M10-R is available for pre-order at the Leica Store, Lower Ground Floor, Greenbelt 5. Visit leicastorephilippines@lucerne.com and www.leica-camera.com.

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