Thoughts on Cameras

Initial experiments with a Leica M10-P and a Nikon 35mm 2.8 PC Shift Lens

The digital level is a feature that really intrigued me on the relatively short list of stuff the Leica M10-P offers. I enjoy the odd bit of shift lens architectural photography, and so with this camera also allowing me to mount my Nikon shift lens with an adapter, I figured it might make a good candidate for this type of shooting.

The Leica M10-P is not the only camera I have access to that has this feature – my work cameras the Sony A7iii and A7riii both have digital levels too. I even have adapters to mount Nikon lenses to those cameras – I just get very little pleasure out of the process of shooting them. The M10-P, on the other hand, feels like a camera that was designed perfectly for fussy idiots like me.

In actual fact, a digital level isn’t really a feature I would’ve ever expected to find on such a machine as the M10-P. As a camera, it’s very far from having all the bells and whistles the likes of the Sonys have. Though somehow, within the features it does offer, Leica seem to have found a bit of a sweet spot for shooting third-party shift lenses.

Of course, being a true rangefinder camera with an offset optical viewfinder, none of this would be possible without live view. The digital level is initially switched on via a menu item called “capture assistants”. Once switched on it is activated by pressing the middle button of the control pad that sits under the thumb of the right hand.

I suspect, for some, not having an optical viewfinder for shooting with a shift lens will probably be the end of the conversation. But for me, I’m more than comfortable embracing the added advantages the digital screens bring.

For a start, being able to see the level when you’re looking through the viewfinder feels very intuitive to me. But, the level isn’t the only thing the M10-P brings to the party for this type of shooting. It also has focus peaking to help find focus, it allows you to zoom in to inspect focus more closely, and it also has grid lines that can be superimposed into view if the level is found to be distracting.

Pressing the middle button shows and hides everything that can be seen on the screen apart from the grid which is set permanently on or off in the main menu.

As I’ve alluded to though, what’s perhaps slightly more key to my enjoyment when shooting the M10-P is the features it doesn’t have, rather than the ones it does. As I’ve said more times than I care to imagine on this website, I like simple cameras that do a job in a simple way. I find over-specification of function and features to be quite distracting to the process.

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I think one of the key factors that makes the Leica M10-P feel so successful as a camera when working with it this way, is that its inherently designed to work with lenses that don’t give the camera information about the chosen aperture. These old shift lenses are fully manual; even when mounted on Nikon cameras that usually mechanically interact back and forth with the mounted lens, these lenses don’t – they are dumb, manual stop down lenses. As such, they work exactly as intended when mounted on the Leica M10-P, and the M10-P reacts to them in exactly the same way it does any other lens – at least in terms of exposure.

To be fair, it is true that shooting third party lenses like this means the rangefinder part of the camera is out of action – which I suppose could be seen as quite a big deal since it’s a rangefinder camera. But, with shift lenses, where the whole process relies on using the digital screens anyway, there’s no evidence of this shortfall on the shooting experience.

In short, provided it’s used in live view, the camera behaves exactly as it would with a rangefinder coupled lens. It meters properly, there’s no missing or incorrect information in the viewfinder, and all the controls work exactly as they should. And – as I will come to in an inevitable review of the M10-P – the control layout is absolutely spot on too. There’s nothing that feels superfluous or in anyway distracting; almost everything I need is right at where it should be and works as I expect it should. In fact, if anything, it made shooting with my shift lens feel almost too easy…

The lens

The shift lens in question here is the first version of Nikon 35mm f/2.8. I’ve actually upgraded to the last version now as I wanted the higher contrast optics that also flare a little less and are slightly stronger into the corners when used at close to maximum shift. I find the later version to have slightly better handling too. That being said, it wasn’t that I found myself to be unimpressed with the results from the first version. In fact, the images taken with the Leica go to show just how good an optic it really is.

Some photos

These 6 shots were taken one afternoon in Digbeth in Birmingham. An area that is going through a process of “regeneration” (everything is being knocked down and replaced with expensive flats)

Digbeth

Digbeth

Digbeth

Digbeth

Digbeth

Digbeth

A few people have recently asked me if I will be doing a full Leica M10-P review. The answer that question is a definite yes! I won’t go into too much more detail now, but for saying that unlike the M240 and M262 that I’ve otherwise used since the M9, the Leica M10-P really feels like it has something more to offer me. It almost feels like the cameras between it and the M9 were Leica feeling their way a little. The M10-P feels like a complete camera to me… But anyway, as I say, I will come back to this stuff more in a proper review at some point in the future…

In the meanwhile, you can find more shots I have taken with it here

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19 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    David Gibson
    May 20, 2019 at 10:35 am

    One possible further advantage (it may be theoretical only) is whether the offset micro lenses on the M10 sensor may make it more accepting of the oblique angle of the light from a heavily-shifted lens compared with a more traditional sensor like the Sony’s have. Might be worth a test.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      May 20, 2019 at 11:08 pm

      You might well be right!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    D Evan Bedford
    May 20, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    Hopefully, your M10 doesn’t chew through batteries too quickly. I also have some analogue shift lenses (2 olympi and 1 nikon) that I used to adapt to a Sony A7s that I had. Viewing the level through the eyepiece was nice, but the battery range put me off, and so I sold it for a Nikon Df. The Df also has a digital level hidden away somewhere, but I prefer to simply point the camera at something that I think might be at the same elevation as I’m at, and then do the shift. I can adjust a bit if the verticals don’t look quite parallel, and then if the resulting capture is still off a bit, I can fix it in photoshop.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Neil
    May 20, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    This is interesting but I sort of feel like you’re writing about the M10-P as the main subject 😀 and why not? Have you bought it?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      May 20, 2019 at 11:07 pm

      I was, yes … and yes I have 🙂

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Neil
        May 21, 2019 at 11:30 am

        Oh my god….can’t wait for the review. Good on you.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          May 24, 2019 at 3:37 pm

          Cheers! Yeah, it was a big deal buying it – most expensive camera I have ever bought… I’ve never even spent as much on a car!

          • Avatar
            Kirito
            May 25, 2019 at 12:04 pm

            Do you feel it was worth the upgrade from the m10..? And if you don’t mind me asking, how much did you get it for and where(scouring a deal for one myself, still debating vanilla or -p)?

            Thank you

          • Avatar
            Hamish Gill
            May 26, 2019 at 4:11 pm

            The shop I bought it from wouldn’t thank me for publishing that info – I did get a little regular-customer discount though. I’m enjoying the touch screen, level and like the de-badged look, I can’t say for certain if that’s enough for most people though…

          • Avatar
            Kirito
            May 27, 2019 at 11:22 am

            🤔 maybe then.. You can help me gauge if this is a good deal or not.. 5300£ for a used m10-p, excellent condition. Internal struggles as I want to have something to bring with me for my next stage of life with family but, at the same time knowing I could use that money for trips. 😉 balancing is difficult in life, isn’t it.

          • Avatar
            Hamish Gill
            May 29, 2019 at 9:13 pm

            That’s a pretty good buy, I’d say! The life camera balance is definitely a tricky one!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Henry
    May 20, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    Hi, thanks for the lovely article, can you let me know the converter you used to mount your Nikon shift lens to the Leica body? Thanks

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      May 20, 2019 at 11:07 pm

      A crap one off ebay – if you want a good one, I’d get one from Simon Forster Photographic

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Edwin
    May 21, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Now then.. When will the M10-D(review?) come? 😉 eagerly waiting to hear your thoughts on it.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      May 24, 2019 at 3:36 pm

      Maybe one day … I’m not convinced by the “thumb rest”

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Edwin
        May 28, 2019 at 5:20 pm

        Apparently the grip and feel of the body is much different because of the omission of screen and buttons. Do you feel the buttons and or screen get in your way sometimes when holding the camera for long?

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          May 29, 2019 at 9:28 pm

          not really

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Brian
    May 24, 2019 at 2:59 pm

    I have this version lens, bought “new old stock” some 30 years ago. I used it mostly with an F2AS. Now, I use it with my Nikon Df, and is the only lens that I’ve used with “Liveview” for the electronic level. I’ve never seen a light fall-off with the Df, the 35/2.8 PC-Nikkor is a large-format retro-focus wide-angle lens.

    Now I’ll have to put my Nikon Bubble Level (for the Nikon RF) on the M Monochrom and try it out…

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      May 24, 2019 at 3:33 pm

      Do!
      Mine definitely has fall off when shifted to the extremes – maybe there is copy variance – you can see it in the second image

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