Review: The Match Technical Thumbs Up EP-MX for Leica M10
Welcome to another edition of “Let’s Get Excited – The M10 is here”. The past few weeks have allowed me to recognize further what a wonderful camera Leica has created. The handling and feel of the M10 is very much like that of the Leica M7. The cameras have nearly identical dimensions, though the M10 is a tad heavier. Like all digital M bodies, and unlike any film bodies, the M10 lacks a film advance lever.
We could easily go back and forth about the pros and cons of such an accessory, but Leica has settled on a body design without the advance lever, though this decision has left a gap in the ergonomic handling ease of the M system. Leica finally acknowledged this by releasing their “M10 Thumb Support.” However, many of you know that Match Technical has been devising just such a device for nearly a decade, and they are at it again, releasing the EP-MX (“Ergonomic Profile – M10”) Thumbs Up Grip for the Leica M10.
Many of you may be wondering: Should I get a thumb grip? Let me try to answer by offering an analogy. For many years, I used the film advance lever as an effective thumb grip for my film M’s. Using the cocked lever to rest the thumb, prior to pressing the trigger, is ergonomically very “M” feeling. That feel is obviously lacking in digital M cameras, and Leica M bodies forgo the thumb rest in favor of a clean and uncluttered design. For some of you, there is no issue, and you will be entirely pleased with operating your M’s without such an accessory. For others, regularly holding the M without a thumb rest causes hand fatigue and makes the M experience ever so slightly deficient.
Using a thumb grip permits the thumb to once again rest comfortably against the body, effectively bracing it. Some claim that this provides easier hand holding, a firmer grip, more security, and the ability to shoot at slower shutter speeds (due to less hand shake). Others will claim that using such a grip makes the digital M camera less appealing in appearance. Many designs will use the camera’s hot shoe, which then is no longer accessible, obviating the opportunity for using flash units. The only way to really know for yourself is to simply try out the thumb grip and see if it fits for you.
Okay, so you’ve decided to buy a Thumb grip. Next question: Which one? The “Thumb Grip” market has become increasingly crowded over the years. Leica’s jumped into the fray as the new kid on the block in this market space, manufacturing a nicely designed Thumb Grip. The Leica “Thumb Support” sits flush in the hot shoe and blends with the top of the M body, an aesthetically pleasant choice, as the grip blends into the camera’s lines. However, Leica’ thumb grip profile is not ergonomically curved to optimize the position of the thumb when the camera is gripped, favoring a more vertical design. This is where Match Technical’s EP-MX design excels!
I spoke with Tim Isaac, founder and lead designer for Match Technical, about his latest grip. I have known Tim for a decade, and I know him to be meticulous in considering his designs. He does not tolerate design choices that reduce the functionality of his grips, and over the past decade, he’s made subtle refinements to his design. For example, the “ergonomic profile”, essentially a slightly angled thumb rest, came about a couple of years into the manufacture of thumbs up grips to permit more comfortable thumb rest and grip in keeping with the natural contours of the hand. Later, a rubber backing was introduced to prevent damage to the camera body when the grip is mounted. Some designs have included a cold shoe (to permit use of accessory viewfinders), while more recent designs have done away with this option.
The Match Technical EP-MX is machined from a single block of solid brass. A rubber bumper on the back of the grip protects the camera’s body from scratches, dents, or scuffs. The latest addition is a locking hex screw on top of a slight hump that causes the grip to stick up slightly over the flat profile of the body.
On first receiving the grip, I wondered about the elegancy and necessity of the grip, so I asked Tim Isaac. Tim reported prior Thumbs Up designs demanded hot shoe holsters to be smaller than the slot on the accessory shoe into which it is placed, and the slight variance in fit between holster and grip can cause a wiggle, that has “bugged me for years” (Tim’s a noted perfectionist). He notes, “To guarantee a fit on any Leica with any Thumbs Up, the tolerance (of fit between camera and grip) must never exceed specific limits. This in turn guarantees a wiggle”.
Tim hates the wiggle, and he notes, “the EP-MX hump and its locking feature allow the dimensional difference between the camera and the Thumbs Up to be effectively eliminated.” Hence, “the wiggle is gone.” Essentially, the price for a perfect fit between grip and body is the hump that you see on the EP-MX. It’s the price that we pay for perfect function.
To take it one step further, Tim notes, “The surround of the zoom thumb wheel (on the M10) reduces to a zero dimension as it wraps around the end of the camera.
On the Thumbs Up EP-MX, there is a corresponding fillet that reduces to a zero dimension as the horizontal cantilever joins the mounting base. I really like these kinds of details and hope that they subtly convey to the photographer that this accessory that attaches to his or her camera, looks and feels to be a natural extension of the beautiful Leica.” As you can tell, Mr. Isaac puts an incredible amount of thought into the design of the grip to make it perfect for the M user. In my experience, the EP-MX grip does in fact feel more comfortable (with less wiggle) than Leica’s own design. The care and thought that goes into the craftsmanship of the EP-MX grip is evident each time I pick up the grip, and the ergonomic deficits of the M10 melt away.
As you can see from the photos, Match Technical takes great care in packaging their Thumbs Up grips, lending them the same “fondling value” as one gets when opening their M10 camera box for the first time. Included is a hex screw driver that is used to tighten the grip once it’s mounted in the hot shoe. There’s a clear attention to detail in the packaging and a nice personal touch, with Tim thanking you for buying his grip.
Holding my M10 with the Thumbs Up Grip feels like meeting an old friend again. It’s my M7 all over again. Now, instead of the film advance lever, I use the EP-MX to rest my thumb and secure a more confident grip.
To summarize, here are a few pros and cons of the Thumbs Up EP-MX designs
- Ergonomically profiled thumb rest provides the most comfortable and secure grip on the M10
- Locking mechanism guarantees no wiggle once grip is mounted
- Colors and lines match well with the camera
- Design more from 10 years of experience
- Price: Approx $50 USD cheaper than the Leica offering
- The Hump. I’m not a huge fan of the hump design. It’s not as aesthetically pleasing as the Leica grip, but is more secure and functional
- Brassing. I have seen reports that the black grip brasses somewhat easily with heavy use. I have not seen this for the chrome version
- Loss of hotshoe (and flash is not permitted with grip mounted)
I give the Match Technical EP-MX grip and ENTHUSIASTIC Thumbs Up. It’ll improve the handling of the M10 for the majority of its users, and it will do so more confidently that Leica’s own design. If you want the ultimate grip in terms of function and are comfortable with forgoing flash photography using your M, go for the EP-MX. Some of you will note that I have not spoken of the “Thumbie” grip, which binds by adhesive to the body and permits use of the hot shoe. I have not used this grip (and am not sure if an M10-optimized version is available), and thus I cannot yet comment. I just happen to think that the EP-MX is the best option. I think you will too.
All photographs © Ashwin Rao
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