100 Years in One Day - Leica M10-P Review (1) First Seeing
Recently Leica has some event that lets people try M10 for a day, I booked and when I arrived at the shop, the staff told me the person who borrowed M10 the day before had not returned it yet, instead I was offered an M10-P, which was a newer model that Leica just released.
It was the first time for me to use a Leica M, also the first time using a range finder. The brand name Leica isn’t unfamilier to me at all, however, having used mostly M43 mirrorless with small primes, when I first held M10-P in hand I was immediately “impressed” by its weight - it’s heavier than it looks. After holding it for a while and checking all parts of it (actually not much to check due to its simplistic design), the feeling of weight was quickly shadowed by its build quality - a quality that I haven’t seen for ages.
When I was a kid, many of the items in my home were of high quality based on their lifespan: grandmother’s sewing machine that had been used for ten years, grandfathers radio receiver which lasted for ages, father had a bicycle since he started his job which still works…some of them requires regular maintenance like oiling, but they generally last. After I grown up, things changed rapidly, materials are abundant and people’s expectation for quality became lower than before, most things are mass produced and cheap enough that getting a new one isn’t much more expensive than fixing and maintain old ones - why fixing it if you can get brand new one at similar cost?
Then there’s a company who has more than 100 years’ history, still values top quality and craftsmanship, refuses to be a mass product manufacturer and does not try to catch up with anyone but stays with its own tradition, who is often criticised for over-charging and considered as a luxury attachment rather than a photography equipment, whose signature is a red dot.
I’m fully aware that a digital camera will become outdated when internal electronic wears out and technology gets old, I also think it could be cheaper to get more people in the Leica world. What I enjoyed though, is the quality and craftsmanship that remained for more than 100 years, in this regard, once you hold an M in hand, you’ll realised how camera should be built and how things should work. Some people say that each Leica M has a soul, I kind of agree if it means each camera has to go through a series of manual procedures before it can be shipped, however, regarding soul, I have some different theory learned from Chinese classics.
In Chinese classics, it is believed that any item can gain a soul after being used for enough timespan with a specific purpose. For example, mirrors are mainly used to adjust things related to one’s appearance before one leaves home; Rulers are used to make sure sizes and dimensions are measured correctly. Both of them have the function of “correcting things”, and over a long period of usage, they accumulate the character of “correction”, which then become their soul. That’s why in many Asian countries people believe old mirrors and rulers can be used as a hierograph to get rid of evil (negative energy in the household), because they have been used for the purpose of correcting mistakes over a long time period. I heard in some western countries it is also said that breaking a mirror would bring bad luck, could it be a symbolic meaning that if the mirror is used to correct things and if it’s broken then things would go wrong? Similarly, people say Cartier Bresson’s Leica has soul, it doesn’t mean his lens is the sharpest, or his film has highest ISO performance, instead, he gave a soul to his camera through his photography experience, a soul that can capture decisive moment.
The lens mounted on M10-P is the 50mm f/2.5 Summarit, without auto focusing motor, it is even smaller than many M43 primes, actually the Summilux f/1.4 isn’t big either. M lenses have aperture ring and distance scale marked, the lens shell is mostly more flush compared to AF lenses from other systems which makes the whole system looking slim.
People say that digital Leica doesn’t hold value over time compared to film ones, this is probably true, but keep in mind, there are still film Leica M produced and sold, so I see it as a compromise, or balance, between classic and modern: not everyone wants to spend effort shooting and developing films, but at the same time people do not want to lose the connection with photography tradition, they still prefer the build quality and the way camera works that they enjoyed when they were young, or when their parents were young, that nostalgic feelinig which cannot be described by specs and technology, thus the existance of digital Ms, just like the A mode on a manual control camera, which is the same red as the brand dot.
Next: 100 Years in One Day - Leica M10-P Review (2) The Street