Leica M10 interview: why no video, where is the “Typ” label, compressed DNG files and more


A very intersting interview on the new Leica M10 camera with Stefan Daniel (Director of Product Management) dan Jesko von Oeyenhausen (Product Manager of Leica M) courtesy of Enche Tjin:

Most of us are curious to know why the video function is removed from M10?

Stefan : The point is that we have intensive customer survey. It also because somehow we’re the customer too, because we use the camera quite often. What came across, many people said that is not really necessary. I hardly or rarely used. Some even say I don’t get M 240 because it has video on it. So we say okay, let’s remove it, because it is not that popular. Many even requested us also a firmware update to disable the video button in M 240.

Jesko : That’s another reason we figured out the video function in M 240. It is very popular with professional video user, but as we target to develop function for professional needs. We learned that they have additional need like HDMI connection, microphone in and out.

If we have to continue to make pro video camera, we would have to add these plugs. And we decided to make a pure product for rangefinder photography.

Now, we have Leica SL, which has a very good video function. We’re in a more comfortable position to focus on customer for M rangefinder and SL for the video. We will also continue selling Leica M 240 and MP 240 if M user want to have video function.

I can’t see the Typ number designation. Is Leica back to original numbering system?

Stefan: The point is that when we decided to skip the number, the basic idea was to say an M like Dr Kauffman said last night is The M is the M is the M. The next Porsche 911 is not the 912, or 913 but it is always 911.

What’s in the reality took place, is that people need to differentiate and then the Typ number comes into the play. It was what a bit undesired. It became the product name, which is not our intention. The Typ number was just meant to be the way of differentiation.

It became part of the product name, and we don’t like that. So that’s why we said let’s back to the number, because it is more bold, it is more clear and by the way that will happen with other product lines when the new product comes along.

Is the sensor in M10 is a brand new sensor?

Jesko: It’s true that it is a really brand new sensor. Of course the experience from SL and Q take action also in developing the sensor for the M system. It is not the same, even though it is same spec 24 MP and the performance is also quite similar. but it is a unique sensor, and M lenses need a special certain design especially the micro lens shift, special glass package.

What is the difference when we mount M lens to other camera compare to M10?

Jesko: The most visible difference would be the performance in the outer edges. The SL is also very good for M lenses compare to other camera manufacturer, but not as good as the M.

Stefan: Best camera for M lens is M camera, second best is an SL and then all the rest come.

How long have been in development?

Stefan: The sensor and the camera when we started the project is a little bit over two years. The real start of the physical development is about two years ago.

Who makes the sensor?

Stefan: It’s possible but you won’t get the answer. Hahhaa.. no.. kidding. It became more difficult. it’s not one vendor, because we are dealing with several companies, and it would be a bit confusing, because the pixel is made here, the packaging is made somewhere else, the glass is made in third country. I would say at least a dozen countries are get involved. That’s global sourcing.

What is the innovation required to slim down the latest M?

Jesko: The principle of Leica M Typ 240 was the M sensor of course we call it sensor board and there is mainboard which had the size like the whole camera, so there are three layers. with the m10, our engineers succeeded in taking this large mainboard divided in two parts. so we can adjust them in one layer with the sensor board. that’s how it gets thinner. It is now possible because components get smaller from the time being, and memory and all this component has higher capacity. By now it is possible to shrink the size. Electronic is getting smaller.

How many parts that M10 has, compare to analogue camera like MP?

Stefan: An analogue camera has about 1200 parts, a digital one has a little bit over 700. Because shutter in analogue camera has more similarity to the watches.

How many are done manually and robotically?

Stefan: Of course the electronic is made by robots because the precision is much higher than somebody is sitting there and soldering. But the main parts, it’s always a combination higher precision tools, higher precision machinery. In the end, final touch by human being. I think that is essential point. As you can see later down in the assembly. that the product is really going from step by step and crafted by hand. If you visit other manufacturer factory, you will see human being the first time after 45 minutes, that is not the case here. There is more manpower and hand crafting more.

Is the battery entirely new?

Jesko: It is the entirely new, it have to be smaller than battery in M 240, larger won’t fit in. It is smaller capacity, but still in a very good level for everyday shooter. If you are rangefinder shooter you’ll get 500-600 shots. It is better than M9.

Why keeping M 240 in the range?

Stefan: Typ 240 have the video function, the M10 doesn’t. that is reason for some to go to that camera. As you have seen when we launched the M 240 we also continue selling M9 and the M-E. And this time we decide to keep the previous model in the range.

Isn’t the M 240 overlap with SL?

Stefan: I think the we position the SL as daily workhorse with very versatile function such as 4k video, and the plugs, the fast autofocus etc. So I think it is more replacement for a DSLR, and the M is so special from the product point of view, that you might want to use both according to the situation because on the M you can’t really have zoom lens, if you need really fast autofocus the M is not a good choice.

So the M is for a certain style of photography if you are in a certain mood. I will not use M to photograph sports because that is not the tool, that’s why we have SL for that application. Of course there will be some overlap, you can have a landscape picture wth that with an Q as well.

Will it be a successor of the M8 the film/analog camera?

They will stay in the range at least a while. We have to see how this product come along, how the price is being accepted, but the final decision is not taken yet.

ISO dial – How did that come about?

Jesko: We figured out that the analog M camera is kind of the iconic camera, it is also for the workflow. If you have everything under control manually. You adjust all photographic parameter maybe before you take the shot. The ISO speed is the only thing that you really need to change a lot today. The ISO is the only thing you need to change in the screen then. So we decided to put in ISO dial.

Stefan: I have set the camera and taking your shot now, and I know it will be a good picture, I can guess the lighting and estimate the distance. My guess was almost right. You can be a very fast photographer by having all the control on your hand. If i would need to go to menu to check what is the ISO, that is a different game.

Jesko: The Leica M-D was the camera that show us this workflow earlier. prove to be very effective because of the ISO dial.

Why in ISO Dial only have single/full stop not 1/3 stop? Why is it quite hard to push up to iso dial to change the ISO?

Jesko: It was a very conscious decision. deliberate.. It is because the dial should be very small and it will not be enough space. The solution is there is M position, you can have even 1/3 stops. You can change the ISO from the menu. If you really want to have it, there is solution for it.

And for the 2nd question. The most important is to make it safe against the accidental knocks. The found the solution is only possible to push it up using two fingers. Because with 1 finger, it won’t doesn’t work with only 1 finger. It really intended to be a bit difficult.

Stefan: The worst thing that could be happen is someone is shooting in difficult environment and the camera. After the shot.. sh*t., we don’t want that to be happen. That’s the idea. Because it is quite exposed position.

The raw file (DNG file) is smaller than the M 240, and do we have choice of the uncompressed RAW file?

Jesko: It is not available anymore. we decided to only to offer compressed file. Because we do know it is lossless. The performance of the camera is much better because the files are smaller. We figure out that most customers use uncompressed because they don't trust the compressed, and as a result, they don’t use the full possibility of the camera. The quality of compressed and uncompressed is the same.

I wonder if 5 fps is important for M user. Is it overbuilt?

Stefan: I wouldn’t say 5 fps is overbuilt. It is more than fast enough. That is the technical possibilities because we have the Maestro II processor.

So in the future two card slots instead of one?
We need space for the extra card slot, so if the electronic is more streamlined in the future, it will be possible to do so.

What would be in biggest draw of the Leica M10, especially for those who are not immerse in Leica system yet?

Stefan: Mmm the M as I would say is a archetype of a camera, because it represent a certain type of camera. With the M10, you’ll get the feeling of shooting the M at its best like in the analogue time. Because the camera is unobtrusive, and is silent, and people don’t take you as a serious photographer.

That will take a while for non-experience people, but it is not for everybody, but many of them will then accommodate to that and will discover that special secret.

Picture credit: Enche Tjin/infofotografi.com (republished with permission)

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  • Ric Ricard

    When the M240 came out, I couldn’t understand why everyone called it the “M240” when I thought Leica wanted it to be called the “M”. This is the first time I’ve seen confirmation from Leica that my assumption was correct.

    • yes, that was confusing

    • Fiatlux

      See, you called it yourself “M240” 😉
      Apple tried the same with the iPad which brought some confusion (new iPad, then iPad Air, Air 2 and Pro), but never dared to apply the same (lack of) logic to the iPhone.
      On the other hand, nobody complained about all the MacBook Pros generations being called just “MacBook Pro”,and people got used to add the year model.
      So, we could have had M (late 2006), M (late 2009), M (late 2012) and M (early 2017) instead.

      • Ric Ricard

        If you wanna talk about names, the WORST is Apple with all the “Seirra” and “Mountain Lion” and “El Capitan” naming nonsense. Why not just release one operating system per year and call it OS2018 or OS2017 or whatever. How am I supposed to know what is the current operating system if the name keeps randomly changing?

        • Fiatlux

          Well, you can just use 10.7, 10.8, 10.9… they did not get rid of numbering… yet 😉

          • Ric Ricard

            Wouldn’t really help because you’d still need to know what number they were up to now in order for that information to be useful. If you told me right now that my Mac is on 10.9, I honestly could not tell you if that was the latest version. The only way that makes sense is one update per year and the name being the name of the year. That’s the only way you could say, buy an old Mac and know from the name of the OS if it was up to date. Or, instantly know how old the OS is. It’s all irrelevant though, because we both know Apple is never going to do it anyway 😉

        • eric

          they do that on purpose. the new names give it marketing appeal. if they just called it 2017, 2018, 2019 version etc. it wouldnt draw people in the same way. hype is a part of business side of selling something new, even if its most likely not very different from the last os.

  • tjholowaychuk

    Cool interview, good choices all around from my perspective.

    • I agree, I think Leica did a good job on the M10.

  • David V. Kutaliya

    Very interesting, detailed and candid interview. I think that we can now ask Leica about ISO 80, 64, 50 and 25.

    Peter, thanks again!

    • DouglasGottlieb

      Internal ND filters?

      • David V. Kutaliya

        I mean only to improve the transfer function of the entire system, including matrix, preamplifier and ADC algorithms.

  • eric

    ive decided to get the m10. nice seeing how much user input and time was put into the project. in a way they seem to have made the M special again by making it about photography, and not all these extra features.

  • Ric Ricard

    I’m glad they are keeping the M240 around, although I don’t see any use for it in my life…even if the price were to drop to around 3k. I like the fact that it does video (and when I owned the M240 I did indeed use it for a lot of video) but aside from that, I don’t think it does any particular thing better than the M10.

    It might have been cool if the M240 was substantially better at base ISO than the M10, and then the M240 could have been my tethered studio camera, while my M10 was my run and gun camera. But I suspect that the M10 will actually be better at base ISO than the M240 IN ADDITION to being better at high ISO. The real question for me, is do I keep my M9 Monochrom. I have an M10 on order. Not sure if I’ll enjoy using the slow M9 Monochrom once I have the faster M10, and while the Monochrom was going to be my “low light” Leica, I’m pretty sure the M10 will actually produce a better B&W image in low light than the Monochrom. So I’m not sure if I even need the Monochrom anymore.

    • tomnewtn

      That’s a great problem to have. Good points too about the M10 and that dynamic range is appealing to me as well as the tactile controls.

  • tomnewtn

    My Safari is an MP 240. The obvious difference from the M240 besides color? The buffer is 2 GB like the M10. The rear display is Crystal Sapphire glass….not gorilla glass. The script on the top plate (love this). No red dot. (I love the red dot and wouldn’t hide it either). I’m wondering if a trade in for an M10 is something I’d be happy with. I love the ISO dial, ISO 100, do not care about video, new sensor. Just not thrilled with gorilla glass vs sapphire I now have, and no uncompressed DNG. Not sure the it’s enough of an upgrade. Best to wait and investigate further.

    • Kev

      Hoping and waiting for the M-P10 too!

    • maralatho

      The compressed DNGs are lossless and make the camera faster. Why is this a problem?

    • alvareo

      Losslessly compressed DNG doesn’t actually compress the image itself, just the file—there is no reduction in image quality whatsoever. With uncompressed DNG, you have a larger file (and slower burst, if you care about that), with no gain whatsoever.

  • I’d be curious to know why the SL is considered inferior to the M in using M lenses.

    • Les

      “it is a unique sensor, and M lenses need a special certain design especially the micro lens shift, special glass package”

      In other words, the sensor’s micro lenses are better adapted to M lenses, many of which sit closer than other interchangeable lenses. This means that the Ms have better corner performance using M lenses than other cameras do.

    • Charles

      Many short, compact M lenses, especially those built for film rather than digital, are not telecentric in design.
      Without special sensor design, non-telecentric lenses are prone to edge smearing and colour shifts that can ruin a photo.
      The sensor in the M is the only digital sensor designed to be less susceptible to the effects of non-telecentric lenses, so M lenses perform better on the M than any other camera.
      The significance of the effect varies from lens to lens. The wide angle lenses are often the least telecentric, so misbehave the most when mounted on a non-M camera, but many of the longer lenses are fine.
      As for performance on the SL, I suspect that is merely a matter of good software correction, which Leica obviously has an interest in supporting.

      • Very interesting, so that also shows why Leica lenses are smaller and lighter than many others.

        Why couldn’t they extend this technology to, say, the SL’s 24-90 lens?

        • Frank Bernhard Übler

          Same in reverse: special sensor design for M lenses would be suboptimal for modern SL glass.

        • the main reason is a huge motor for the autofocus to move the glass.
          strong motor-> fast af-> bigger lens…

      • alvareo

        What’s telecentric? When looking it up I can’t find any information about ‘normal’ photography lenses, only specialised ones.

  • super good interview and good choices they made!
    and you always have to consider… they have to do compromises in so many ways. it´s a big team behind that. and lots of hard work. really appreciate that!
    it will be more than great in the future to become more interview/informations about the process in such an amazing camera to understand whats happening with it and why. so we have to discus less and can shoot more 🙂

    so my M (240) is the outlier in numbering dam it^^
    im traveling the world for month in one year, and its good to have the video function, even though i use it rarely. and if it won´t be there, i will not miss it… thats the same with a parking system in a new car… i don’t use it, but it´s ok to have it in case of emergency. so i´m glad that they skip that now.

    do you guys think there will be a new monochrome version with this new technique??

    • David V. Kutaliya

      I hope that there will be M10-P, New Monochrom and Leica à la carte.

      • Kev

        Me too! Any word on this Peter?

        • way to early to talk about that, maybe next year – Leica has to first fulfill all existing pre-orders

  • DouglasGottlieb

    Great interview. Smart people at the helm of M10.

  • ZMWT

    They surveyed ‘users’? They listened to baby boomers who already own Ms and are happily retired or close to it, users who got rich through the socialism in the post-WW2 West and now buy real-estate and fantasise about ‘great old times’ at beer parties; all users who now financially exploit future of younger generation through the rent, but photographically and creatively are stuck in the Jurassic period. The M photography world and creative results has never been more boring than nowadays!
    Instead, they should ask photographers who financially now live nowhere, but photographically live in the future and have a million better ideas than the tyrannosauruses.

  • alvareo

    Jesus, is this machine translated?

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