FINE ART LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY WITH THE LEICA M10 REVIEW

TWO DAYS WITH THE LEICA M10 IN ICELAND

Note: this is a Fine Art Landscape Photography with the Leica M10 user review, not one of my usual in-depth reviews. I started using Leica M cameras more than a decade ago. Film Ms have always been my tool of choice for Street photography, and for Portrait / Concert photography as well at the beginning of my career: my 50mm f/1 Noctilux has always been “the only lens I’ll never sell”.

When I started working with Fine Art Landscape Photography almost exclusively, digital Leica M cameras were in their infancy, and by their nature weren’t much suited for this kind of work. The rangefinder, while a wonderful compositional and focusing tool for street and people photography, is not really conducive to the kind of accurate framing I need for my Landscape work. Getting objects precisely where I needed them to be in the corner of my frames with a M8 or a M9 was a trial and error affair, and ended up in being frustrating at best, futile at worst.

So, while I always had a digital Leica M for candid, travel, portrait and street work, and to use as a sketchbook in the field, during these last years I never considered using one for my professional Landscape work.

Yet, Leica makes the most wonderful and unique lenses, and M lenses are definitely among them. Yet, the size and weight of a Leica M kit with 4 lenses (i.e., for me, 15mm Voigtlander, 21mm Super-Elmar f/3.4, 28mm Elmarit f/2.8 and a 50mm or 75mm) would make for a dream bag compared to the 10-15kg I am usually carrying around with me. So, I always waited for the next iteration of digital Leica M in expectation: would the next one finally be the right one for my work?

Master Series Workshop in Iceland Spring 2019

When the Leica M (Typ 240) came, and with it Live View and the possibility of using an external EVF, I had my hopes up: the camera was much more suited for Landscape than any previous digital M, but still not there where I wanted it. Maximum long exposure limited to one minute was a serious drag for my Fine Art work, and file quality at that shutter speed was not as good as I needed it to be. Lower ISO of 200 was not great. The camera was not weather sealed and had only one SD card slot. I tried one for some time and while I created some Portfolio images with it such as the one of Mesa Arch at Sunrise below, I decided that the time hadn’t come yet for me to move to a digital-Leica-M based kit only for my professional Fine Art Landscape work.

Mesa Arch (USA, 2016)

Mesa Arch (USA, 2016)

Enter the Leica M10.

The last iteration of digital Leica M, the Leica M10, is undoubtedly the best digital M yet. Thinner than its predecessor, no video but still offering the fundamental Live View and the Visoflex. Weather sealed. Long exposures is now two minutes, lower ISO is now 100 and it sports a great 24 Mp sensor outputting beautiful files. Still a single SD card slot, and a bit shorter battery life than the M (Typ 240). With these characteristics, the Leica M10 for me was definitely worth a try in the field.

So, I got one and brought it with me to Iceland during a Workshop One-on-One I led there last December: freezing cold temperatures, long exposures before sunrise and after sunset, what better than that to try a new camera alongside my unbeatable workhorses Leica SLs?

During these two days of Workshop in Iceland, I used the Leica M10 with my Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M f/3.4, and with the Voigtlander 10mm and 15mm which I love on the SL. Let’s see how it did, and what I thought of the M10.

BODY / CONTROLS

The Leica M10 is definitely the best digital Leica M yet. The new and thinner body feels great in the hand; adding a Leica M10 Thumb Support for better handling, and a Really Right Stuff L-Plate set to use it on my tripod, I was good to go. I love the simplicity of the interface; the new button solution on the camera’s back is much better than the previous one, and I personally like the new ISO implementation very much. I set M-ISO to 12500, so that I have one more stop after the ISO 6400 on the ISO wheel; Auto ISO is set to 1600, since I never need more when I am in Auto mode. I also love the new implementation of the On-Off button cleared by the shutter options, even if (as many others) I would probably have preferred the red dot to show up when the camera is ON rather than when it is off.

ICELANDIC WEATHER: BODY AND BATTERY

During our two days in Iceland, the camera and lenses were submitted to below-zero degrees Celsius temperatures, cold winds, waterfall spray and sea spray. The Leica M10 never skipped a beat, and neither did my Leica SLs (no surprise there!). Battery life was Ok, and I never had to change batteries in the field during a day of work – keep in mind, though, that I was using multiple cameras aside the Leica M10, thus sharing the burden.

My Workshop’s participant uses a Leica M10 exclusively for his work, and he has been doing so for quite some time now with great results: his Leica M10 as well worked just perfectly and without any problem whatsoever during our time together in Iceland.

MENUS / CAMERA SETUP

The new UI of the Leica M10 goes even more in the direction of simplicity and essentiality, following Leica’s philosophy: not only it features much less buttons than its predecessors, but that didn’t result in any increasing complexity in the menus. Not that I need menus much: once the camera is setup, you have everything you need on the camera body. Working in the field, all I need to access is shutter speed, aperture and ISO; everything else for me is just a one-time setup thing, and the Leica M10 has 4 custom User Profiles to save your settings for different shooting situations if you need them. I love the new implementation of the Favourites menu, which pops up pressing the “Menu” button: you then can access the full menu with a second press of the same button. As an improvement, I wish you could tell the camera in which order you wanted your favourites to appear.

FRAMING / FOCUSSING

Coming from decades using optical viewfinders, I prefer to use the Visoflex rather than Live View. Visoflex allows me to frame perfectly and accurately, and to focus with extreme precision. Its built-in dioptre correction is a major plus for me, and the built-in GPS is a wonderful tool to remember where you have been taking a particular photograph when you are in the middle of nowhere. The actual iteration of the Visoflex, though, is not up to the exceptional EVF on the Leica SL: when the light is getting very low, working with the Leica SL beats working with the Leica M10 by a good margin. Still, it is possible to frame and focus, which – when the light is nearly gone – is more than I can say for many traditional DSLR with mirror and pentaprism.

WORKFLOW AND SPEED IN THE FIELD

The Leica M10 is a very good camera for a fast Landscape Photography workflow. The camera is ready to shoot nearly instantly when you turn it on, framing and focussing is ultra-fast when there is enough light. Admittingly, I am spoiled by the fantastic EVF of the Leica SL and its implementation, which is nearly perfect for Landscape Photography. That said, having the Leica M10 with Visoflex implementing the same “Exposure preview” mode of the Leica SL would be a major step towards usability in very low light or when you have your filters on. As well, I wish Leica implemented the information bar in the Visoflex as they did on the Leica SL: in the M10, the information bar hides a portion of your actual frame, which doesn’t make much sense, while in the Leica SL it does not. Other than that, you have all the controls you need right there on the camera body, easy to reach and to change, making for a very fast and easy workflow.

IMAGE QUALITY

This will be a very short section: the Leica M10 outputs wonderful DNG files, rich both in colours and in detail. The files are a pleasure to work with, and the results are a joy to look at. Below some samples from wonderful Iceland for you to look at (click on the images to open the gallery):

LEICA M10 OR LEICA SL FOR THE PERFECT LANDSCAPE KIT

I have been using Leica SL for nearly two years now as my main camera for Landscape Photography and I love it. To me, the Leica SL is the perfect tool for landscape photography: it offers unique features that make my work on the filed extremely easier, I love the workflow and the resulting files are amazing. Bar a new Leica SL with more resolution, as per today I find it the best solution on the market for my work (see A LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER IN-DEPTH LEICA SL REVIEW and ONE YEAR OF LANDSCAPES WITH THE LEICA SL for my detailed thoughts about the Leica SL for landscape photography). When tested against the Leica SL the Leica M10 had a very difficult task and a very strong competitor. So, how did it do?

Master Series Workshop on Dorset's Jurassic Coast

In a word, great: Leica M10 for Fine Art Landscape Photography does 90% of what the Leica SL does, in a much smaller and lighter package.

Would it completely replace the Leica SL for my particular, and quite demanding, requirements on the field? As it is, for me and my work I’d say not yet. The Leica M10 still lacks some of the features that I really need for my work.

– exposures longer than two minutes: this is fundamental to me, and it’s what makes it a no-go for me to consider the Leica M10 as my only camera;
– a better, Leica SL-like, implementation of the Visoflex: this is very important, because the current implementation makes working with the M10 slightly frustrating, especially in very low light;
– a second SD card slot for backup in the field: not fundamental, but appreciated and useful for a professional tool in general.

However, I fully understand that my requirements are a bit particular and way more demanding than most photographer’s: if two minutes of long exposure are enough for you and if you are OK with the implementation of Visoflex and Live View (or if you prefer to use the rangefinder for framing and focussing altogether), then a Leica M10 with a few Leica M lenses are the perfect Landscape kit for you. More, this is a kit that would double perfectly to cover your trips’ less “formal” shooting, such as street, portrait, trip’s documentation and so on. Let’s not forget that the most fundamental of the changes I would need to make the M10 my sole camera are either completely software-based or would at most require a new Visoflex: so, there is hope for me as well to be able to use the M10 as the only camera I’d bring on a photography trip or Workshop.

If, like me, you still need a Leica SL for the unique features it offers to us landscape guys, the features that make it my to-go camera of choice for my professional work, then the Leica M10 would make for a wonderful second camera and backup solution for your travels, and even more so if you are already using M or R lenses on your Leica SL. Dedicating the Leica SL to more “formal” tripod shooting, you could use your Leica M10 for documenting, street, candid and portrait shooting during your trips, with the added bonus that it can be used on your tripod as well in a pinch either when you are waiting for the Leica SL’s long exposure reduction, or when you need to work with two different lenses in hostile environments where changing lenses is not an option, or to take a different shot, and so on.

Master Series Workshop in Tuscany and Cinque Terre
RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

In conclusion, would I recommend the Leica M10 for Landscape Photography? Yes, definitely.

The Leica M10 and a few Leica M lenses (for me, that would be a 21mm, 28 or 35mm, 50 or 75mm and perhaps a 135mm), maybe with the addition of a couple of Leica R lenses (i.e. the amazing 100mm Macro) and a couple of Voigtlander Ultra-Wide lenses (i.e. the wonderful 15mm and 10mm), would make for the perfect landscape kit: light, small, easy to use in the field and with amazing image quality. As with Leica SL, adding some more lenses such as Leica’s spectacular ultra-fast wide-angles or a 50mm or 75mm Noctilux would allow you to create unique images, impossible to create with any other system outside of Leica.

Thanks for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed this Fine Art Landscape Photography with the Leica M10 review! Why don’t you share it with your friends, or drop me a comment to let me know how you feel about this?

Have a great day, and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEWSLETTER!

Master Series Workshop in Asturias and the Atlantic

Technical details: all photographs in this article have been shot with the Leica M10 equipped with the Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M f/3.4, the Voigtlander 15mm Super-Wide Heliar f/4.5 and Voigtlander 10mm Hyper-Wide Heliar f/5.6. Mesa Arch photo has been taken with a Leica M (Typ 240) and Leica Tri-Elmar-M 16-18-21mm. As always, I used my fundamental kit of Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultra filters, including Grad NDs (0.6, 0.9, 1.2 and 1.5 stops) and Solid NDs (3, 6, 10 and 13 stops). For camera support, I used a Gitzo tripod equipped with an Arca-Swiss P0 Classic ballhead. All photographs have been developed and finished in Adobe Photoshop CC.

19 replies
  1. stevie911
    stevie911 says:

    An excellent review Vieri. I completely agree that the SL is the king for landscape and M10 as a perfect partner. i like you started with a M (240) and produces some fabulous images, albeit rather challenging at times, especially the inadequate Visioflex.

    Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hello Stevie,

      thank you very much for reading and commenting, glad you found it interesting. I agree with the Visoflex being in need of an update – let’s see if Leica is going to hear us on this one :)

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  2. stureenevoldsen
    stureenevoldsen says:

    Excellent review Vieri. I think the mobility of the M10 is better than the SL. I like to walk long distances and seldom use a tripod, so for me the M10 would have been a great camera,

    Kindly regard
    Sture Enevoldsen

    Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hello Sture,

      thank you for reading and commenting, glad you enjoyed it. Yes, the mobility of the M10 is (slightly) better than the SL, which is not that much heavier at 847 gr versus 660 gr of the M10, but the feature set of the SL makes it more suitable for landscape. Perhaps a SL with M lenses would be the best of both words for you :)

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  3. Daryl Ovadia
    Daryl Ovadia says:

    Vieri, I couldn’t agree with you more about the SL use for landscape. A big advantage of the SL over the M10 is the viewfinder is built in, in rough or difficult conditions the M10 visoflex could be damaged or shift out of the shoe and be lost. I keep my M240 for vacation travel when relaxing or site seeing, it then is the perfect camera for it size and IQ.

    Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hello Daryl,

      thank you for your comment, glad you enjoyed the article. Yes, the SL in my opinion is THE best camera for landscape; my point when I set out to test the M10 in the field was to see if it could be used as a Landscape camera in a pinch as either a backup to the SL or as a lighter / smaller alternative to the SL for when one wants to travel lighter. I was very happy to see that it can definitely be used for that, no problem – that said, I would definitely recommend the SL as a Landscape photographer’s main camera over the M10, no question about it.

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  4. Vladimir.
    Vladimir. says:

    There is another possible combination, that of using SL with M lenses. As a relatively latecomer to SL (6 month or so) I started using my SL with M lenses. This makes for relatively light setup. (After owning two M9 and M 240 I did not want M10). A month ago I purchased a SL 24-90 a what a lens! This setup is for landscape and nature photography only. For travel and touristy stuff I use my X-Pro2 35 and an 18-55 lenses.

    Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hello Vladimir,

      thank you for your comment. Yes indeed, using M lenses with the Leica SL is a great option too. For travel and touristy stuff, I suggest you to try the Leica CL, with the 35mm 1.4 and 18-56mm makes for a great system, better IQ than the one you have now and, most importantly, full compatibility with all your SL lenses for backup / second camera / etc.

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  5. Alex
    Alex says:

    Hi Vieri-

    Awesome, informative review! You mentioned you have some super-wide Voigtlander lenses. Do you have color shift problems with images from those lenses? And if so, can I ask how you deal with them? I have the Voigtlander 21mm and get fantastic images except for the leftmost and rightmost sides.

    Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hi Alex,

      thank you for your comment, I am glad you enjoyed the article. About the super-wide Voigtlander, the “Italian flag” colour shift problem has been solved with the following lenses:

      – 10mm Hyper-Wide Heliar
      – 12mm Ultra-Wide Heliar VERSION III
      – 15mm Super-Wide Heliar VERSION III

      These behave extremely well, with no colour shift. Older versions of the 12mm and 15mm ALL show colour cast.

      Hope this helps, best regards

      Vieri

      Reply
      • SU
        SU says:

        Hi Vieri,
        I have read your review on 12mm Laowa too. I assume that the Laowa lens does not have any colour shift and vignetting issues (after applying the relevant lens profile in LR).
        Do you find the colours muted when you use Formatt Hitech ND filters for long exposure? I am using a fairly new entrant, H&Y filters, with SL and 24-90. I find that these filters work well with Sony A72 and Laowa 15mm f2, but with SL, the colours are muted and requires aggressive use of dehaze and HSL sliders to extract the colours. But there is still some uneven exposure issues across the frame. However, I like their magnetic system.
        Thanks.

        Reply
        • Vieri
          Vieri says:

          Hello again SU,

          thank you for your comment. No, I find the Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultra to be extremely neutral and definitely they don’t cause any uneven exposure or the like. When you are ready to upgrade to what I believe to be the best filters on the market, you can get anything from Formatt-Hitech’s website at a 10% off using code VIERIB10 on http://www.formatt-hitech.com – hope this helps.

          Best regards,

          Vieri

          Reply
  6. Carlos Aoun
    Carlos Aoun says:

    Interesting and practical article supported by beautiful images. Thank you for sharing your comparative camera experience as well as your poetic images

    Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hello Carlos,

      thank you for your comment, much appreciated, I am glad you enjoyed the article and the images!

      Have a great weekend, best regards

      Vieri

      Reply
  7. Willem Jan
    Willem Jan says:

    Your reviews are always a delight to read, Vieri, and this one is no exception. You mention that you’re using formatt-hi tech nd filters. For the M-lenses, which system do you use? With filter diameters down to 46mm isn’t the 100×100 System too big and cumbersome?

    Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hello Willem,

      thank you for your message and comment about my reviews, much appreciated, I am glad you enjoy them :)

      About your question, while you could make an M work with an 85mm filter system with most lenses, there are many reasons for me to use 100mm square filters only:

      – 100mm works on all my camera systems (buy one filter system rather than many);
      – 100mm works with all wide-angles on a M, while 85mm doesn’t work with all of them;
      – 100mm is just a little larger than 85mm, not worth the saving in size for me (YMMV on this one);
      – 100mm has a much larger choice of filters;
      – 100mm has the Ultra, which are simply the best filters out there, of any brand, IMHO;
      – 100mm has the better holder, while 85 has only the old system;

      and so on. For me, it’s a no-brainer, but as always people have very different requirements and very rarely one-size fits all. I.e., if you have only an M system, don’t plan on getting any other system, don’t use wider lenses than 28mm, don’t need the Ultra, don’t need reverse grads, don’t need the fancy filter holder and truly value the saving in size / weight, then the 85mm might be your best choice :)

      Whichever system you’ll choose, using code VIERIB10 at checkout on http://www.formatt-hitech.com, you’ll get a 10% off all your purchases – hope this helps! :)

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.