Thoughts on what Leica needs to do to improve the M rangefinder camera

Thoughts on what Leica needs to do to improve the M rangefinder camera

By John Ricard, a NYC based portrait photographer (websiteInstagram)

I filmed a video detailing the changes Leica should make in order for the M10 to be a better event camera. My video was inspired by one posted by Nathan Wright here on the Leica Rumors forum a few days ago.

Number 1 on my list would be for Leica users to be able to adjust the rangefinder more quickly than is currently possible. In January, 2020 I sent my M10 in to Leica Service in Allendale, NJ for rangefinder calibration. It took a full month for the camera to be returned to me. This is unacceptable for any who uses the camera professionally. I suggest Leica equip their Stores to do the calibration in a day or two, or release information on how a Leica user can adjust his/her own rangefinder.

Leica makes it clear that the rangefinder is a precision instrument and I’m certain that the idea of a random person mucking around the system with a hammer and chisel is sacrilegious to them. But we are in an age of information. Photographers are doing all sorts of things today that they never expected to -processing their own images, creating their own websites, compositing scenes in Photoshop, shooting video…. I wonder if it’s possible that, given the proper instruction, photographers could also calibrate their own rangefinders as well? There are anecdotal accounts posted on the Leica User Forum and in the Leica M10 User Group that some users have indeed forged the necessary tools to adjust the rangefinder mechanism themselves, but there is shockingly little information about the process to be found on the internet. Not one YouTube video on the topic. But dozens and dozens of repetitive videos droning on about the joy of using a Leica Camera. Yawn.

Another change that would be beneficial would be for Leica is to stop taking one step forward and one step back. Consider the following. On April 30, 2013, Leica released the M240. -a marvelous camera, hampered by an inadequate 1 Gig buffer. The camera could shoot about 10 frames before pausing to write the images to the SD card. On August 21, 2014, they released the M-P variant of the M240. It was virtually identical, but it had a near-perfect, 2 Gig buffer. Great move by Leica. This was followed by the M262, a stripped-down version of the M240 that did not shoot video and could not use the EVF. This was understandable since these features were not considered mandatory or necessary on a Leica rangefinder. And, the lower cost of the M262 justified the removal of these features. However, Leica inexplicably put the older, 1 Gig buffer in the M262. This was a huge step backward and would have affected a shooter like me every single time I used the camera, had I chosen to purchase it.

There have been other backward steps. The battery life of the current flagship, the M10, is inferior to the battery life of the previous. model. The cheap (relatively speaking), Leica T has USB charging and internal memory, but the M10 doesn’t. The M10 camera has a fantastic buffer, but the just-released M10 Monochrom variant does not. To truly be a great event camera, and one that is respected by professionals, Leica needs to stop taking backward steps like this. Once the company figures out to move forward in design or features, those improvements need to keep for all future models. Consider the iPhone. Every new model gains the features of all the previous models and adds new features.

Finally, if Leica wants the M cameras to be truly considered a professional event camera, the camera needs to operate more quickly. Currently, it takes more than a second to turn on. That sounds insignificant, but in practice, it isn’t. Playback of images isn’t as snappy as a 10-year-old Nikon. The camera has a terrible habit of going to sleep and needs to be awoken before it can shoot. Oddly, there is a fierce debate among Leica uses who employ varying methods of dealing with this problem: some have their cameras set to never go to sleep, some turn the camera off when not actually shooting and turn it back on when ready to shoot, while others set the camera to never go to sleep. The debate is comical since because after 20 minutes or so, you always have to wait more than a second before you can take a photograph. The camera behaves exactly the same no matter how it is set.

There is no question the M10 is a great event camera and it is suited for a wider variety of shots than many users realize. However, it is the (often minor) imperfections that can be frustrating at times. It is my hope that the eventual M11 fixes all of these issues.

John Ricard is a NYC based portrait photographer

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