Testing the Powerful New Leica M10 Monochrom

Brilliant technology brings new life to black and white photography

We had a chance to shoot with Leica’s latest addition to the M10 family of rangefinders—the M10 Monochrom, which was announced last Friday. Their second black-and-white-only digital camera is a massive update over the previous generation, bringing their latest imaging innovations to a product decidedly for an analog-loving purist. This new model retains the slimmer body design of its predecessors and remains understated on the outside, courtesy of a brass and magnesium-alloy body with a black chrome finish and contrasting gray touches. Inside, there’s improved, quick-moving mechanics. A quiet shutter supports its stealthiness, and top-notch lowlight performance lets photographers experiment on even the darkest of evenings.

Image courtesy of Leica

The M10 Monochrom is based on its cousin, the M10-P, and minimalist details include a black screw where the Leica red dot would usually sit and the removal of the Leica text logo from the top of the camera. Red accents throughout the body are removed and replaced with muted gray or white. Rather than mere stylistic choices—sleek and subtle ones at that—these alterations are meant to amplify the differences between the Monochrom 10 and its counterparts through a nod to its black and white capabilities.

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Purposefully incapable of recording video or capturing color, the Monochrom 10 hones in on making pure and balanced black and white photographs, and does so with unparalleled quality. The 40MP Monochrom sensor—which was specifically developed to capture in higher resolution and with better overall image quality—produces images using more than 40 million pixels, allowing finer details to be explored and emphasized without sacrificing sharpness. This isn’t a standard camera sensor that captures color images and then desaturates them before delivery; it’s a true black and white sensor. The difference is a greater range of gray tones available to make more luscious, soulful images.

For those using an M10, M10-P or M10-D, the M10 Monochrom might not seem necessary at first. But when comparing black and white images taken on this model with photos taken in color on others and then desaturated, the differences are obvious. The M10 Monochrom’s sensor delivers brilliant sharpness and pulls finer details and differences in light and texture with ease, courtesy of its innate ability to see in grayscale and adjust accordingly (without interference from color-balancing). Its base and max ISO of 160 and 100,000 respectively offer diversity to the shots you can take, but consistency leaves shooters confident in their stills. Plus, images can be seen quickly, using the body’s touchscreen interface or Leica’s accompanying FOTOS App, which the camera can connect to using its built-in WiFi (a first for Leica’s monochrome cameras).

Hero image courtesy of Leica