The Leica M10 At The Women’s March On Washington

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All images Leica M10 and 35mm Summilux Asph FLE

The Trump inauguration was yesterday, drawing crowds estimated as less than 1/4 of what Barack Obama drew in his first inaugural.  (We were there eight years ago, and have seen pictures of the crowd yesterday — like the new president’s hands, his crowds are small.)

Trump’s swearing in also featured the single worst inaugural address of my lifetime — signaling a possibly tragic detour from the path we thought our nation was taking.  We were already looking forward to the Women’s March on Washington, but Trump’s crude debut as President of the United States made us even happier to get out on the streets of our home city this morning.

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And today was a very different event.  As fierce and defiant in its own way as Trump was yesterday, but the Women’s March on Washington was filled with hope as well as fear — and Hope seemed to be having more fun than Fears.

womens-march-6Today’s march was celebratory and joyous, a communal dance, even as it was completely serious and signaled a prolonged period of struggle.

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The sky was dull and white, maybe in honor of our new president.  The quality of the light matters because we went down to the Mall with a secondary purpose.  We had the new Leica M10 with us, trying it out in earnest for the first time.  Maybe in this awful light, with women wearing artificially bright pinks and garish purples, the new camera could really be tested.  We would have hoped for a better day — and not just to try out the camera. But we were really pleased with how it performed.

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Like all digital Leica Ms before it, and the film version going back to the late 1930s, the M10 is an ideal street camera.  When we saw John Kerry, a new civilian, it was easy to capture his presence even though the M, a rangefinder, takes only manual-focus lenses.

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It continues the Leica tradition as the essential street camera — small, fast, non-threatening.  In fact, this version of the M is as small as their film cameras used to be.  And with the ISO dial on the camera itself, not just a menu item you have to press a button to access, the camera is faster to operate on the street than ever.

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womens-march-33Did we mention the light was truly awful? A few images were shot at ISO 800, but the majority here were shot at either ISO 1600 or 3200, and in post-processing, only the slightest amount of noise reduction was necessary.

I’d worried before coming down to the March that I had only a single battery, but having taken over 200 photos, when I left, the battery was down to 75% — which is incredible.

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We came in solidarity with the marchers, in alignment with the cause, with a genuine sense of alarm about the era that is being ushered in.  But we also came on a mission to test this camera and see how it did in the wild.  There were a few hiccups — not the Leica freezes of old, and nothing that interfered with the shooting.

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Despite the bad light and garish colors of the pussy ears and costumes, I found the M10’s color rendering to be incredibly accurate.  In Lightroom, I tried seeing if I could get a more pleasing white balance, but Auto seemed closest to what I remembered from having been there.  Leica has come a long way since the M8 in getting Auto White Balance right.

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We have used every Leica digital M since the M8 a decade ago.  We were not one who complained about the size of the M240, because by adding Live View, it enabled us to use, on occasion, an EVF and, with an adaptor, long Leica R lenses.  The M240 also had video capabilities.  This new M has scrapped the video, but gotten smaller in the hand as a reward, and the EVF — which I did not use today — is pretty great.  I find the optical viewfinder in the M10 the best I have ever used, and found it very easy today to focus even in the jostling of the crowd.

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So the ultimate street camera is even better.  Which is a good thing.  We think we’re going to be out on the streets quite a bit in the months and years ahead.

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