Back in December I received an interesting invitation from Leica. My presence was requested at Leica’s corporate headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany to attend a Celebration of Photography, honoring legendary photographer Joel Meyerowitz. Ok. Meyerowitz is a great photographer, but did his Leica Hall of Fame induction ceremony really warrant heading to Germany? There were plenty of rumors that this event was a cover for the launch of the M10. After all, if you were planning a surprise announcement, how do you get hundreds of people to attend without telling them something? So, a Celebration of Photography it was. Over the past few years, these events have all been held under the moniker of Das Wesentliche, German for The Essentials. Perhaps that would have been too obvious?
Regardless, once the news broke of the upcoming event, the rumor mill reached a fever pitch and everyone jumped to the conclusion that a new camera was about to be announced. After all, the M (Typ 240) was launched more than four years ago, back at Photokina 2012. The time was ripe for a new M. And in this case, the rumors were mostly true, especially those predicting the announcement date of Jan 18.
I arrived in Germany a day early. It’s always nice to have a head start getting over the inevitable jetlag, as well as being able to hold some meetings without the crowds and craziness of the main event. So, I drove over to Leitz Park, popped into the Leitz Café for an espresso and met up with some familiar faces from Leica AG. After a dinner with colleagues from Leica USA, I headed back to the hotel to turn in early.
The event wasn’t starting until 6pm, meaning I also had most of the day to catch up on sleep, emails and take a stroll through the snow-dusted cobblestone streets of Wetzlar’s Altstadt. Of all my trips here, I’ve actually never come in the winter. With the winding streets and centuries-old crooked and half-timbered houses, you might think you’ve stepped into a fairy tale winter village. Definitely a change from Miami.
When I walked through the front doors at Leica, the party was already in full swing. All the usual suspects were in attendance: The product managers and engineers who make these amazing products a reality. Media outlets and Leica bloggers. Friends of Leica. I heard that over 600 people were at the event
As the band geared up with some serious pomp and circumstance, all eyes turned to the stage. I wrapped up my conversation and hustled to get a good spot, working my way through the dense crowd.
British photographer and all around nice guy Matt Stuart took the stage as emcee for the evening’s festivities. I got to know Matt last year when he had a gallery show and workshop at Leica Store Miami. You can see a video of his gallery talk here.
He was one of the first photographers to use the M10, and many of his images from the camera were hanging in a gallery at the event.
After a brief welcome, Matt brought up Oliver Kaltner, CEO of Leica Camera, to give his own welcome message and talk about the Celebration of Photography.
Then, it was Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, who heads up Leica Galleries worldwide, to take the stage and present the Leica Hall of Fame Award for 2016 to Joel Meyerowitz.
Meyerowitz joined her and they discussed his work, which spans decades. A few selected images were shown on the large display.
After the Hall of Fame Award was presented, Matt Stuart once again resumed his emcee duties and brought up Dr. Kaufmann for “one more thing”
Dr. Kaufmann talked about Das Wesentlichte and Leica heritage. By this time, a large group of photographers had rushed the stage in anticipation of the big announcement.
The band starting playing on cue and white-gloved, Leica Bauhaus T-shirt wearing ushers came up the aisle first with the priceless Ur-Leica original prototype from 1914, then with the new M10.
Kaltner rejoined Kaufmann and the two of them presented the new M10.
After the break for photo ops, Kaltner jumped right in with highlights about the new camera.
The M10 is the slimmest digital M – same thickness as an M7 film camera.
All new 24MP CMOS sensor, specifically designed for M. Contrary to rumors, this is not the same sensor used in the SL or Q.
The M10 gets Maestro II, like the SL and S007 for extremely quick and responsive performance.
All new optical viewfinder and rangefinder mechanism. 30% larger field of view. 50% greater eye relief. And, 0.73x magnification, almost the same as analog M cameras.
With new ISO dial on top plate, all essential camera functions are physically accessible for intuitive operation.
Built-in Wi-Fi allows remote camera control and transferring of files, even DNGs, on iPhone and Android devices.
With the event over, the din of conversations and speculation filled the air. Congratulations were shared on stage and Meyerowitz showed off his new, personalized M10.
As the atmosphere morphed from launch event to party, servers passed beer and wine, while the band pumped out the cocktail hour music.
I made my way to the demo area, where M10s were on full display, along with M7 bodies for comparison.
I spent a good amount of time taking a thorough look at the M10 and got some great info from the guys there. As always, Leica doesn't hire trade show staff for these events. Rather, they utilize their engineers who are intimately familiar with the products from the inside out. In my case, I was shown the camera by a digital hardware engineer who worked on the electronics in the M10.
On the table were plenty of M7s so that attendees could see first-hand how similar the digital and analog bodies really feel. It's uncanny. If you put a film advance lever on the M10 you would never guess you're holding a digital M. The camera feels incredible in the hand with the small reduction in thickness translating to a dramatic difference in volume.
The handgrip is far improved over previous generations. It attaches securely and feels like one solid piece when paired with the M10. Also, if you get a silver camera, the grip with match.
The M10, due to its slimness, does use a completely new battery. The M240 batteries will not fit. The drawback is that with smaller batteries, we'll probably see a reduction in battery life.
The ISO dial is big news. It takes a thumb and forefinger to press the dial up into the unlocked position, which is a little awkward at first. But with a bit of practice, it's not too inconvenient. And, this guarantees that you wont accidentally move the dial and shoot an entire set of pictures at an unexpected ISO. A red band at the base of dial warns that it is unlocked.
On the back of the camera, the LCD gets a nice upgrade. The screen is clearer and has better color. It is flanked by just three buttons: LV, Play and Menu. No more separate SET and MENU menus this time around.
All in all, a great event. And it seems like a fantastic camera – most of the things that most users wanted. Leica, has once again launched a soon-to-be successful product with the simple act of listening to its customers and giving them what they want.
As always, I love catching up with other Leica aficionados at these events. Jonathan Slack, better known to most as Jono, joined me at the demo table and later on for some beers in the main hall. Always a bad influence on each other, we vowed not to stay until 4am like we did for the SL launch. But of course, we ended up at the afterparty in the Leitz Cafe, throwing our plan for responsibility out the window. It was a late night, but always worth it.
From Germany, I am flying to New Orleans, LA to do camera testing with the M10. Stay tuned for a full Leica M10 review in the coming weeks.
Update: The review is now online: Leica M10 Review: The Quintessential Digital M
wonderful event and superbly reported… as usual!