Its 40-megapixel sensor ups the street photography game.
Over the past week since the launch of Leica’s M10-R, there’s been a lot of talk about the new addition to the M-series—and understandably so. At 40 megapixels, it’s the brand’s highest-resolution rangefinder to date, nearly double the M10-P’s 24 megapixels. And while that makes it the king of Leica’s rangefinder hill today, a little history is in order.
In 1914, engineer Oskar Barnack from Leitz—the company we now know as Leica—developed the first 35 mm camera in the world. At the time, it was a relatively small format that wouldn’t see much use until a decade later. By 1924, Ernst Leitz II sanctioned the production of the 35mm Leitz Camera. Not everybody on the team was sure about the move, though it was one that would later prove popular to the public. The 35 mm camera made photography more accessible to regular people, and in the years that followed, it would become the basis of camera technology around the world.
Since then, Leica has become associated with some of the most iconic photos in history. Che Guevara’s famous portrait, Muhammad Ali with his fist extended, and the photo where a sailor kisses a nurse on the day of Japan’s surrender during the Second World War: all of these were taken with a Leica. And even Henry Cartier-Bresson—the pioneer of street photography and an early adopter of the 35 mm film format—famously used a Leica. It’s from hIm that we get the idea of street photography as capturing a “decisive moment”: a concept that still informs the newer photographers of today.
And now, we have the M10-R, the latest in a line of historic cameras. It’s small and silent, letting you take photos on the fly for both landscape and street photography. Leica also did away with most of the complexity of using modern cameras, leaving only the essentials. With simplified controls, it’s a blend of physical manipulation and new technology. And at this size, it’s packing a punch with the newly developed 40-megapixel sensor. Even with the more powerful sensor, Leica has managed to reduce image noise and give it a wider dynamic range.
But don’t look for autofocus here. The M10-R did away with that as well. Instead, it encourages you to take more deliberate photos, with an eye toward composition and finding the right moment to click on the shutter. Think of it as the difference between a paintbrush and an airbrush and it starts to make better sense. An airbrush is easier to use and is going to cover more ground quickly, but a paintbrush lets you pick out the details you want to highlight. The paintbrush, of course, is what the Leica M10-R feels like. You might take fewer photos on the average, though the ones you do will be better thought out.
So does that mean you have to be a professional to use it? Well, not exactly. In a recent online presentation for the M10-R, Leica brought a couple of guests to show us that both seasoned photographers and casual enthusiasts can get the hang of it.
The first is Mathias Heng, a photojournalist known for his emotionally charged work. Mathias took the M10-R for a spin and, even with low light, managed to capture a good amount of detail.
And then we have Yuey Tan, a more casual photographer who’s better known for his exploits on the racetrack as a sports driver. Yuey likewise tried out the M10-R as he went around Singapore, snapping a few shots in the process.
It’s difficult to describe what exactly makes Leica photos seem so “Leica.” There’s a sense of heightened realism that makes them distinctive. Still, with the M10-R’s more powerful sensor (and all the bells and whistles that go into the sleek body) I guess we’ll be seeing more of these decisive moments.