The Leica M10-P was announced a month ago, just ahead of Photokina. Like other ‘P’ models before it, the camera is a refresh/upgrade to the stock M10. With the same 24 megapixel CMOS sensor and Maestro II image processor, image quality and performance will be identical, but unlike previous ‘P’ models, this one has some real hardware changes under the hood. The headlining feature has to be the ultra-quiet mechanical shutter, which is incredibly discreet. In a causal social setting or out on the street, you’d be hard pressed to actually hear anything from three feet (1m) away. And, I’m not talking about in a loud bar or club. I mean sitting in someone’s living room with a few friends, having some wine and conversation.
We’ve also got a touchscreen, a first for a Leica M, bringing it in line with other Leica camera offerings like the SL, Q, CL and TL2. Also included is a virtual horizon, which the M10 lacked. Cosmetically, classic script engraving graces the top plate and there’s no red Leica dot on the front. You can read our full comparison of the cameras here: Leica M10-P: Nearly Silent Shutter, Touchscreen
To hear about some of the decisions that went into the changes, how the quiet shutter came to be and maybe get some hints about the future of the M System, I sat down with M-System product manager Jesko von Oeynhausen at the show.
DF: A lot of people have asked me about if we’ll see an M10 Monochrom. Any hints?
JO: We don’t talk about launch dates of future products, but I’ll just say that if it’s coming, it’s still a ways off. The current Monochrom 246 is still very popular and produces extraordinary image quality. The M246 has the same resolution sensor as the M10, but because of the lack of interpolation, the 246 is still the best quality for B&W photography.
Fair enough. Still doesn’t mean we can dream, right? Alright, let’s talk about the M10-P. What was behind the decision to do the ultra-quiet shutter?
Based on customer feedback, we checked out the possibility to make the shutter really quiet. The M10 is already very close to perfect, in our opinion. The design was inspired by customer requests. After we addressed major requests like the thinner body, improved ease of use, ISO dial, larger viewfinder, there wasn’t much be improved on. We wanted to come out with a meaningful upgrade for our P version. So, we started looking again to the customers to see what else we could update. Requests for a quieter shutter came up frequently, so we looked into the possibility to change the mechanical design of the shutter and body. The shutter is already very discreet on the M10, but we found that it would be possible to improve it.
How were you able to achieve such a quiet shutter in the same body compact size?
First, we started with a new shutter mechanism which was already quieter. But this wasn’t enough. We needed to re-engineer how the shutter is mounted in the camera to isolate vibration. Here, we were able to use rubberized mounting techniques. This prevents sound and vibration from transferring to the body.
So, the mechanism and the mounting were all that were necessary?
Almost. See, it’s not just the sound and vibration. We also managed to reduce the higher frequencies which makes the sound softer overall. This was like a kind of tuning. And it makes the sound much more subtle and discreet.
Why did you choose to add a touchscreen into the M10-P?
The technology was there and we thought it could make picture taking more efficient, especially for checking focus in live view and playback. It also adds consistency across the product portfolio. Now, the M10-P, SL, TL2, CL, and Q all have the same playback experience.
Did you worry that some users might view a touchscreen as being not M-like?
It was important to us that the touchscreen doesn’t take away from the M experience, as every function with buttons still remains. The touchscreen just adds another option. And so far, we haven’t heard any negative feedback.
Why not black paint?
Wow, you are maybe the fourth person to ask me this today! We have chosen black chrome again from the M10 because it has been well received. The matte finish and robustness pair well with the camera. Now you have work extra hard to get the same patina like you would with paint.
Is it possible to upgrade an M10 to an M10-P?
We are evaluating if there can be an attractive upgrade program, as we offered from M9 to M9-P. But, as I mentioned, it’s not just the shutter. An upgrade would also require modification of the main body which makes the process very expensive. So, if the cost to the end customer is too great, an upgrade program might not be the most economical approach. Ultimately, we want what is best for our M photographers. We will see.
Will Leica offer the M10 in an a la carte program?
We don’t have plans for this at the moment.
Let’s move on to M lenses. The 75mm Noctilux is an incredible lens, but it is still so heavily backordered and hard to get. Any chance this will improve?
The 75mm Noctilux has been very well received in market. We know that people are still waiting to receive them. But the lens is extremely challenging to produce. Because of the design criteria you need a very high level of precision, and we have such tight tolerances and specifications that it’s a real challenge to get all the components in the quantities we need from our suppliers. Of course, we’re working on this and will try to improve the situation. But we will not sacrifice final quality just to make more.
It seems like the M lens line up is so complete. Is there any room for improvement or additional lenses?
The success of modern lenses that perform outstandingly well versus the competition, as well as classic Leica designs, makes us believe that new lenses which open a new level of performance are worth exploring. Higher resolution sensors in the future might require even better lenses than what’s available now. Full frame lenses want to be used with full open aperture to show their technical advantage with shallow depth of field and extreme sharpness. This is one of Leica’s strengths in optical design.
Any specific lenses you have mind? More additions to the Noctilux line, perhaps?
Like I said, we don’t like to talk about future or possible products.
Well, it was worth a shot. Thanks so much for talking with me, Jesko.