Leica M10-D: Comparison to an Old Friend

Leica M10-D: Comparison to an Old Friend

Bottom-Line-Up-Front

The Leica M10-D is a remarkable camera. Its minimalist controls provide an uncluttered, refreshingly simple user experience that compliments your creative process. It is my first foray into Leica’s digital M ecosystem and I’m happy I waited until this camera came along to take the plunge. If you’re jonesing for an M10-D, I recommend you move immediately on your impulse.

New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve – Tinsel & Lights – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

My Frame of Reference

I’m a child of the film age. My first professional 35mm camera was the venerable Nikon F3HP, which I still use today. I repeatedly read Ansel Adam’s books The Camera, The Negative, and The Print, until I had internalized the wisdom contained within those sacred texts and applied it to my own work.

As a U.S. Navy submarine Electronics Technician in the early ‘80s, one of my collateral duties was Ships Photographer. The primary duty of a ship’s photographer was to ensure images made through the boat’s periscopes were of sufficient quality to extract maximum intelligence. On deployments we took along a portable, automatic film processing unit, which was cumbersome to use and provided mediocre results at best, so I preferred to develop negatives by hand. After one exercise which required taking, processing, and submitting periscope images for review, I was happy to learn the Intel guys had never seen such well-developed negatives.

Rick Miller - Early Navy Days

Standing Lookout Watch – 1984, Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.8 – Taken by OOD

Ahh, the memories…, uh, where was I, oh yeah, the Nikon F3HP, anyway, what I like about this camera, among many other things, is its 80% center-weighted metering, Auto exposure mode, exposure memory lock, and the ergonomics of its controls. You can, of course, set the exposure manually, but sometimes I like to be spontaneous, and the combination of auto exposure mode, center-weighted metering, and exposure lock allow me to quickly assess a scene’s luminosity and make bracketed exposures without bothering to drop into manual mode. And oh-by-the-way, there’s no chimping on a film camera.

Savannah Riverfront

The Beef Jerky Shop, Savannah, GA – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

Another critically important feature of the Nikon F3HP is, of course, that it’s a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, and I recall clearly my struggle to decide between it and the Leica M4-P, which is a range finder. To me, peering directly through the lens seemed like a more natural way to view a scene and more accurately judge image composition, a view I still hold today. So, with limited funds of a young navy squid, and being inclined towards an SLR, I chose the Nikon over the Leica, and I’ve been happy with my decision ever since. I use Nikon’s Flagship DSLRs to this day and all my old Nikon lenses work just fine on them.

Blackberry Bush

Blackberry Bush – Leica M10-D w/Summicron-M 90mm

Que the Leica M10-D

It’s the marriage of intuitive, ergonomic controls and a return to a familiar way of image-making that defines the allure of the Leica M10-D for me personally. It compares favorably in size with the Nikon F3HP sans its MD-4 motor winder. Its metering, by default, is center-weighted, and the exposure lock (called Metering Memory Lock) is activated by a slight pressure on the shutter release button. In this regard, the M10-D outshines the F3HP. It’s a bit of a Kabuki dance to activate the exposure lock with the MD-4 motor winder attached, which is my F3HP’s normal battle configuration.

Backyard Buddha

Buddha & Zen Plant – Leica M10-D w/Summicron-M 90mm

A slew of additional features such as focus peaking and two additional metering modes are available with the use of the separate Visoflex 020 accessory. More about the Visoflex later.

The camera’s operation can be customized via the Leica Fotos app, which connects to the camera via the Leica M10-D’s WIFI (WLAN) connection. The Fotos app also allows you to control the camera remotely, a feature I haven’t tried yet, but seems like it would come in handy to reduce touch-induced camera shake or to just let you take a picture with you in it that doesn’t look like a selfie.

I’m still not as fast at acquiring images as quickly with a range finder vs. an SLR, but I’m getting better with practice.

Grave Site Savannah, GA

Grave Site, Savannah, GA – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

The Visoflex (Type 020) Electronic Viewfinder

This is one cool accessory. Attaching the Visoflex to the M10-D gives you a DSLR experience without the mirror flap. It connects to the M10-D via the hot shoe mount and provides a full-color, heads-up display with information you’d normally find in a DSLR or mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder, including a histogram in the upper left corner of the display. It also provides focus peaking and the ability, with a tap of the shutter release button, to zoom in on a subject to focus on a particular detail. This is all fine and dandy, but I find the battery drains about 10 times faster when using the Visoflex, something to be aware of if you decide to add that accessory to your kit. So, I’ve set the M10-D to my favorite settings and with practice I’m getting better at focusing with the optical range finder.

Leica Visoflex

Leica M10-D with Visoflex and Spare Batteries

Actually, in my experience, I can focus more accurately with the optical range finder, especially in situations where extremely accurate focusing is critical, say, when focusing on an eye at wide-open apertures. The Visoflex favors good, solid edges.

Leica Visoflex Rear View

Leica M10-D w/Visoflex Rear View

So, although I shelled out some hard-earned cash for the Visoflex, I find myself using it less often now as I grow more proficient at range finder focusing. Note: My M10-D is always smartly dressed in its Luigi half case with built-in grip, and UPstrap Medium X Crossover Pad camera strap + Quick Release available at UPStrap-pro.com.

Visoflex Up

Leica M10-D w/Visoflex in Up Position

 

The Fotos App

The Leica M10-D has a minimal set of external controls, and since there’s no screen on the back, to make changes to default settings, or access other advanced features not accessible when the Visoflex is attached, you must connect the camera to the Fotos app to access these settings. Connecting my M10-D to Fotos seems like a hit-or-miss operation at times and requires several retries, but it eventually connects.  Maybe I need to update my camera’s firmware. Once in, however, it works great, and you can change settings and operate the camera remotely, as I mentioned earlier.

The following screenshots step through the process of connecting the camera to Fotos.

Connecting Fotos App

Connecting to Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Remote Operation

Remote Operation

 

Fotos also lets you view and download images from the camera to your iPhone or iPad. One point of caution is in order here – downloading an image from the camera to your device removes the image from the camera. I found this a bit annoying when later I went to import the images into Lightroom and found the ones I had downloaded were missing. I had to import them from my iPhone into Apple’s Photos, then export the original files from Photos then import them into Lightroom. This delete-from-camera-on-download might just be a setting in Fotos. If it is, I haven’t found it yet. Just something to keep in mind.

Something else to keep in mind…using the camera’s WLAN sucks down the battery at about 10 times the normal rate. That’s why you need to buy one or two spare batteries. This leads me to my Tips for All Day Shooting with the Leica M10-D on One Battery:

  • Don’t use the Visoflex
  • Resist the urge to chimp until you get home. (Chimping on your phone is still chimping. Real photographers don’t need to chimp. )

Side-By-Side Comparisons

Leica M10-D vs. Nikon F3HP

Leica M10-D vs. Nikon F3HP

Leica M10-D vs. Leica M3

Leica M10-D vs. Leica M3

New Year’s Resolution: Shoot More Film In 2019 (2 January 2020 Update!)

New Year’s Resolution: Shoot More Film In 2019 (2 January 2020 Update!)

Happy New Year!

 

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of film, but I’m ashamed to admit I slacked off in 2017 & 2018 and shot only a handful of rolls and developed not one. I’m now faced with a stockpile of aging film and chemicals nearing expiration and I need to get busy. I need to shoot more film. 

My ambitious plan for 2019 is to select two cameras from my collection as daily shooters and carry them wherever I go, either one or the other, or, if I’m feeling froggy, both, but that might be too ambitious. In case you haven’t already guessed from looking at the header image, I’ve selected the venerable Nikon F3HP and the Mamiya C330.

Nikon F3HP


Nikon F3HP

The Nikon F3HP was an easy choice as it’s easily my favorate camera of all time. I’m upping the ante by using only two prime lenses: 1) a Nikkor 50mm f1.2 (shown attached to the camera), and 2) a Nikkor 35mm f1.4. The use of primes will force me out of my comfort zone and encourage me to get close and intimate with my subjects. I also need to build an image bank using these lenses and this will give me the opportunity.

Mamiya C330 Pro


Mamiya C330 Pro

I’ve owned the Mamiya C330 for some time, but haven’t had a chance to use it.  Its 80mm f2.8 Mamiya-Sekor lens is superb for portrait work.

Both of these cameras are hefty. In my very unscientific left-hand-right-hand scale test, the Mamiya feels more than a bit heavier than the Nikon with the MD-4 motordrive attached. My strap of choice in situations like this is the UPstrap Large Mountain ‘Hybrid’ Pad Camera Step/Sling. These are, hands down, the best camera straps on the planet. And no, I am not affiliated with UPstrap. I just like to plug companies that make great products here in the good-ol’ USA.

Kodak 400 TX



Kodak 400 TX

For film I’ll be using Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak Porta 400, Kodak Ektar 100, and ADOX 25. I’ll schlep the film and other doodads around in my goto camera bag: a US Army Communications Peg Bag.

US Army Bag



US Army Bag

The one shown above is a reprodution. I waterproofed the fabric with 3M waterproofing spray and I carry a handful of waterproof pouches for when the weather is particularly nasty and I can’t escape the elements.

I’ll post updates and sample images throughout the year.

Update
2 January 2020

I fell way short of achieving this goal, I’m saddened to admit. I didn’t even touch the Mamiya C330 Pro, but I did manage to take the Nikon F3HP out for several spins over the course of the year and came away with a handful of images, several of which are posted below.

Bentleys Still Life

Bentleys Still Life – Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.2

Tri Nguyen

Tri Nguyen – Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.2

The Nikon F3HP is perhaps my favorite camera. I’ve used it since the early 1980’s and its controls are as familiar, intuitive, and responsive to me as a lover’s body.

Kathleen

Kathleen – Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.2

But it seems I have found a new lover…

Leica M10-D

Leica M10-D w/Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0

…a digital camera that shoots like a film camera, the Leica M10-D. You can read my complete review of this amazing camera here: [ Link coming soon! ]

Nikon F3HP

Nikon F3HP

Ever faithful, virtually indestructible, I affectionately refer to this camera as “The Tank”. I purchased my first F3HP in the early 1980s and it served as my constant companion during deployments aboard the USS Norfolk (SSN-714), the USS America (CV-66), and the USS LaSalle (AGF-3). Every photograph I made from 1982 through 1994 I did so with a Nikon F3HP. Many of the following images were made using the venerable Zoom-Nikkor 35-105mm, a lens many consider to be rather dodgy, but I like it just fine.

Nikon F3HP w/Zoom-Nikkor 35-105

Nikon F3HP w/Zoom-Nikkor 35-105mm

 

Fiery Sunset, Norfolk, VA, 1984 – Nikon F3HP w/Zoom-Nikkor 35-105

The Nikon F3, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, seduces your eye and instinctively, as if driven by a primordial force, you want to pick it up and hold it in your hands. The F3, more than any other camera I am personally aware of, is so ergonomically well built it gives one a feeling of pure power.

McFarland Regatta

OCC McFarland Regatta, 4 July 1987 – Nikon F3HP w/Zoom-Nikkor 35-105

I never remove the camera from the motor winder. Together they form a synergistic one. If two mechanical components were ever meant to forever bond it is the F3 and the MD-4. Even when I don’t need automated film advance the MD-4 still serves as the camera’s power source. And the added heft aids in camera stabilization as well as fending off an attack.

Still Life

Still Life – Nikon F3HP w/Zoom-Nikkor 35-105

What I like best about the F3HP is its big, bright viewfinder. I like to wear sunglasses when I’m out and about. I can, with the HP viewfinder, see the complete image from nearly an inch away.

Flight Deck

Flight Deck USS America CV-66, Persian Gulf, Operation Desert Storm – Nikon F3HP w/Zoom-Nikkor 35-105

I prefer to use an architectural focusing screen with the F3HP. (Focusing screen E) These have grids and no center prism.

K-Street Blur

K-Street Blur – Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 35mm f1.4