Leica M8 Digital SLRs

M8

Breaking completely new ground, the LEICA M8 doesn't only look like an M - it utilizes all the benefits of the analog Leica M system for sophisticated and creative digital photography. The low-noise CCD image sensor with a resolution of 10.3 megapixels has been specifically matched to the compact lens design to guarantee superlative photographic quality.

User Reviews (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7  
Spartysam   Intermediate [Mar 28, 2011]
Strength:

Great build quality
Can use most Leica lenses
Forces you to think about the picture being taken.
Pleasure to use in the field
Great control placement
Simple but effect menu structure

Weakness:

Cost
1.3 form factor
Snapshot mode that is virtually useless in practice
No recent firmware updates since 2.005 (this needs a firmware update)

I have Leica M cameras (M5, M6ttl, and M7) that were sitting in my closet unused since I had decided to make the switch to digital. Recently, I was debating which camera to upgrade to. Was it to be the new Nikon D7000 (but I have the D300) or the Canon 5dMarkII. In reviewing this decision, I looked back on my recent experiences with digital photography and found myself feeling that I was no longer a photographer but a point-and-shoot picture taker (many of the critical decisions had been taken out of my hands). Consequently, I decided to buy a warranted used Mint chrome Leica M8.2 from Tamarkin. In the past two weeks, I have taken a number of shots ranging from a butterfly exhibit in Grand Rapids to snow scenery in Flint. I have noticed that the camera has forced me to think differently about photography and the results show in the pictures. I find that I take fewer but there are a higher percentage of good shows.

The M8.2 forces the photographer to become more aware of what they want from he picture. It is the essence of focus -- it only does digital pictures. It does not do video; it does not do in camera effects; it has no settings for scenery or night time photography. It forces the photographer to think.

Overall, the camer is very well-built. It is solid. It is also beautiful. It uses nearly lens that Leica has made for the m mount. Being a rangefinder, it requires a different approach to photography. It is not as fast (the bottleneck is no longer the camera but the photographer). It is one of the purest expressions of minimalism that I have ever seen in a camera. There is very little excess in this camera in terms of features and menus. Nearly every menu is only two levels deep.

In the field, it is silent (but not as silent as the M7). My camera has a slight tendency to overexpose (which required me to change the settings). It is also small and light weight. It is also a pleasure to use. This is a hard trait to quantitatively assess but it just feels right in the hands. Controls are where they should be and everything makes senses.

There are some problems with the camera (aside from the need to use IR filters). The camera offers a snapshot mode that, while theoretically attractive, has been very poorly implemented. For example, once you pick S, you are given a fixed set of options -- one of which is that the camera will only store JPG images. The jpg images are okay -- nothing great. The real power of the camera lies in its RAW files which are phenomenal. Yet, I cannot change the settings for S so that I can store both jpg and raw -- this does not make sense.

The 1.3 factor also does not help. For the price, it would have been nice if this sensor was a full frame.

Finally, it would be nice if Leica offered a firmware update whereby:

1. you could see the battery life on the LCD screen.
2. you could set the lenses manually rather than relying on the six bit coding system used.

Overall, a great camera -- but at a price.

Customer Service

No experience to date.

Similar Products Used: Given that this is a digital rangefinder, there are really no other products like it. Yet, current cameras owned:

Nikon D700
Nikon D300
Nikon D5000
Nikon D90

Canon 7D
Canon 5D

Leica M5
Leica M6ttl
Leica M7
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
rossawilson1   Intermediate [May 01, 2009]
Strength:

M camera
Sensor
Fun to use
Flexible
Did I say it's an M camera!?
Upgradeable
It's a Leica

Weakness:

IR filter issue - solvable
Coding issue - solvable
Change in feel from film M
Price

You're all probably are aware of this cameras week points and the controversies surrounding it. A digital Leica M camera in itself is a controversy!

As an avid M6 user who prints and develops his own B&W and C41 film, choosing to try the M8 seemed counter intuitive in some ways. However finding time in my life to do things the old fashion way has become a problem. I convinced myself early on that there was no point in thinking about digital unless it was the M8. Leica M series cameras changed me as a photographer, I wasn't about to throw that away.

The camera has a few things that underwhelmed me minutes out of the box. The mode switch is of poor quality and makes the camera seem cheap and poorly built. How Leica thought this was not worth a redesign I don't know. The camera, slightly bigger than a film M seems strangely hollow feeling. This camera is not as solid as a film M, but over all it is as well built. I guess it's just not as dense with metal.

The IR filter issue isn't an issue anymore, do yourself a favor and decide it won't be an issue before you buy. Get the filters and get over it. Lens coding of old Leica lenses and third party lenses is a must in my book. I don't want weird colour shifts in the corner of my pics when using IR filters. Price in the Coder kit before you buy, another issue solved.

So was that worth all the effort? Oh, yes, it, certainly, was. It's weird the feeling of using an M camera but having the flexibility of digital. For a start you don't keep looking at the LCD, because your brain is telling you it's an M. You take shots you wouldn't normally, but all the time it feels like your film M.. only you can see the pictures when you get home! The cameras features, Aperture priority etc, auto WB, Auto ISO.. these things take the M experience to a whole new level. This camera is a hell of a lot of fun! The shutter sounds different, a little hollow, but after a day or two I actually really like it. It's the sound of me having a good time and it's not intrusive.

So after all this fun what are the pictures like? Sharp, film like, beautiful, I really thought my fun first outing was going to end in mediocrity because after all this is digital right.. wrong.. well, it is digital but it's the most film like digital I've seen! The images are so sharp, so rich, so flexible, it really has its own quality. In short this thing delivers the goods and is a joy to use to boot, dare I say it even more so than a film M, just because of the flexibility.

I'm over the moon with this camera, it feels pro, I know pro's use it, and what it delivers is so pro!! Forget the megapixel count, it's more than enough.

Buy this M. Stop wasting smaller amounts of money on lesser cameras. This camera is an M for life... do I sound in love... I am.. that's not happened since I got my M6 and I've had cameras of every format since then.. always kept the M6. Now I can go out, come back and be satisfied and get on with other things.

It's weird but some how all this cameras little qwerks make it even more lovable, even more personal somehow.. it has bags of character and it will make you happy. Though at first you may find some conflict.. but in my book, that's how all the best friendships begin.

Customer Service

Superb. You get a little area on Leica's website all to yourself with news, updates and info about things to do with your little M!

Similar Products Used: M6
DSLR
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
mkamber   Professional [Jun 09, 2008]
Strength:

Small, and quiet

Weakness:

Low light capabilities, poorly laid out controls, expensive, no fast wide angle lenses, short buffer

I've spent most of the past year photographing in Iraq with an M8. I'm a long-time Leica user but I'm not a fan of the M8. It has locked up on me repeatedly and has terrible low-light capability. If you've got money to burn and are shooting in daylight, and don't mind RAW processing, this camera could be for you. If you're a working photojournalist, stay away from it.

I have an extensive review here:

http://web.mac.com/kamberm/Leica_M8_Field_Test,_Iraq/Page_1.html

Similar Products Used: Canon 1Ds, Canon 5D
OVERALL
RATING
1
VALUE
RATING
1
rumperton   Expert [May 25, 2008]

When asked why I use a Leica it is very easy to answer. I only shoot at f2.0 and only B&W and no other camera can match.


OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
cancan   Expert [Mar 30, 2008]
Strength:

qulity
weight

Weakness:

it accepts only 2 G memory cards
digital wallets like Epson cant read the leica's raw
buttery life
price

i was a canon man for about 5 years and before that i used a nikon. a few months ago i decided to buy the leica M8 fo 2 reasons: 1) i was tierd of carrying all this weight 2) i loved the results of the leica.
the leica M8 is certainley not a camera for those who want easy life ,everything is manuel including the focus and the wB setting but once you see the results there is no way back to canon/nikon. the quality and sharpness of the pictures is really amazing
i found that adding the uv/iR filter has'nt affected the quality and the great colours. The shutter is a bit noisy and the buttery does not last as long as it does on a canon, but what are these all in cmparison to the fantastic quality.
what can i say i fell in love with this camera and at list for me it is bye bye canon

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Irakly Shanidze   Professional [Jan 16, 2007]
Strength:

impressive image quality
well built
in general, good ergonomics
combination of fully-manual operation and instant feedback dramatically increases reliability of shooting.
quieter and less obtrusive than most SLRs

Weakness:

unusable exposure compensation
drains battery if not turned off
dim frame lines
louder than other M-series bodies
requires an accessory IR-Cut filter for color work

Leica M8 is a unique product and should be treated as such. Like any other M series camera, it is not for everyone. I have been asked on may occasions whether it was the best digital camera in the world. Of course it is not. M8 merely is a camera body that provides digital access to Leiz and M-compatible Zeiss lenses. It is a rangefinder, and it carries all strong qualities as well as limitations of the breed.
There are quite a few good things that cam be said about M8, but not everything is as imacculately wonderful as Leica claimed.
I have a chrome version, and it is one of the first 1500. Leica issued a recall on these cameras because they all have the same issues that are completely fixed in later runs. Therefore I am not going to discuss them here.
M8 is a bit thicker and heavier than M6. It handles similarly, but is much more loud (thanks to a new vertically travelling metal shutter). Also, there is no winder, and the shutter is cocked automatically. I really do not like this, because at least half of the noise associated with releasing the shutter is due to its motorized transport. Besides, manual cock-up would save some battery life.
Rangefinder frame lines seem to be noticeably dimmer than on M6. Combined with a lower viewfinder magnification, it makes focusing more difficult, especially in low light. The lines are not precise, but it depends on a lens used. I found that only an original M3 2/35 summicron with goggles aligns with the framelines perfectly (goggles make the viewfinder even wider, and 50mm frame lines become 35mm) All other lenses seem to provide at least 5% larger field of view than frame lines suggest.
Compared with Epson RD-1, M8 delivers much higher image quality. It is not just resolution, which is almost twice as high. Digital noise of M8 sensor is much more film like, and tonal gradations with the same lenses seems to be better.
I do not shoot JPEGs partly because RAW mode is a part of my workflow since 2001, partly because M8 has a real problem with WB in low light. DNG format is an industry standard, and it was smart to implement it in this camera. The only problem, Adobe Camera RAW 3.5 and lower and a current beta version of Adobe Lightroom do not fully understand an embedded M8 color profile and render all images with a heavy magenta cast, if the profile is not manually ignored during conversion. So, one really needs ACR 3.6 or higher (Photoshot CS3 beta has ACR 4.0) to get rid of this annoying problem.
M8 is rather quick. It has instant response and zero wake-up time. I found, however, that pressing a shutter when the camera is in sleep mode gives a corrupted image with series of strange vertical lines streaming down from the middle of the top of the picture. However, it may be one of the issues that will be resolved with a promised free recall.
A real design blooper, in my opinion, is a compensation feature accessible only vie a menu. In fact, it is so inconvenient that I prefer shooting in a fully manual mode. Aperture priority is of limited utility to me because exposure compensation cannot be done without taking your eye from the viewfinder. Also, I am not sure if this is a characteristic of my camera only, but compensation must be set to at least -1EV in all instances to avoid overexposure. In manual mode, the light meter seems to be working just fine, though.
LCD screen is large and of a good quality. Preview images first appear pixelized, and it takes about a second to render a high-quality preview and apply a color profile. I find it strange. This is a minor issua, but something definitely below current standards.
Navigation through images is a breeze. Menus and settings are easy and intuitive. Rotating wheel as a zoom tool is a brilliant idea.
Battery life is adequate, although I have never managed to squeeze more than 200 shots from it. Moreover, the camera seems to drain power if it is left switched on. On a few occasions I forgot switching it off and put in a bag. Next morning it was dead until the battery was recharged.
The battery is small and compact, but the charger is bulky and heavy. In fact, it is roughly the same size as the camera body. Considering what M8 is built for (street photography, journalism), they could do better.
M8 has a limited number of ISO presets: 160. 320. 640. 1250. 2500. While it is OK in most cases, I wish the ISO range starded from 50 and had 500 and 800.
Interestingly, color rendition heavily depends upon a lens used. In my experience, the best colors come out of 1.4/35 Summicron (last non-aspheric version) and a 2.8/28 Zeiss Biogon ZM. Vintage 1.4/50 Summilux and 2/90 Summicron give somewhat colder and less saturated colors.
In an attempt to make the best use of lens quality and resolving power, Leica fitted M8 with a very thin IR-cut filter. Well, perhaps a bit too thin. As a result, some black-colored synthetic fabrics and occasionally black hair turn out magenta tinted. This tint is not software correctable (not in-camera, anyway) Leica came up with quite a high-tech solution and stunned everybody with its generousity by promising all M8 owners two screw-on IR-cut filters of their choice. If you shoot Leica, you know that most lenses are of different barrel diameters, so two filters will not cover all possible camera-lens combinations. Moreover, for some lenses (at least two of mine) Leica does not offer free filters.
To sum up, M8 is a very capable camera. It is quick and easy to use, but a new owner certainly should expect a steep learning curve that is quite slippery at times. Nevertheless, the camera is reliable enough to be used professionally.

Customer Service

Leica has always been famous with its level of customer service. They handle the recall with courtesy. All M8 owners affected by the recall received a letter of apology from Leica CEO and a voucher for a 30% discount on Leica M lenses. Unfortunately, with a current USD/Euro exchange rate this discount does not seem to be very attractive for US photographers.

Similar Products Used: Leica M3, M6
Leica Digital Modul R
Contax G2
Contax N Digital
Canon 1D/Ds Mark II
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
Kivivuori   Professional [Dec 25, 2006]
Strength:

- Superb lenses
- The quality of DNG files
- Workmanship
- Traditional M-Leica feel and most of the controls.
- Clear and easy menus - no instructions needed.
- Fast shutter for "M-kind-of-a-Leica"

Weakness:

- Expensive
- I´d like too see ultra smooth ISO 50 instead of ISO 160 as lowest value
- JPG-files are not as good as they could be.
- IR-issue (also annoying with green fabrics and flower leaves in tungsten lightning)
- LC -display should really be constructed so that it could be tilted - even for cheking out the results. Now it is as useless in bright daylight as displays in other DSLR-cameras.

This is certainly camera for Leica-M users. Not only because of the outstanding lenses but mainly because how it makes you feel when using it. It brings the same joy into photography as M-series Leica does. But anyone not familiar M-series Leicas and who is considering buying one should try first with 2nd hand M6, M6TTL or M7 in oder to proof him/herself that M-Leica is the right kind of a camera to work with. For most people with long experience of modern SLR-multiautomat models, M8 can be quite a shock.

Menus are very easy to use. No instructions needed here. LC-dispaly shows a bit too light results so trust only histograms and adjust the monitor brightness to medium low or low (some problems in brigth sunlight will still occur). Play-mode could be faster. Info-button is fast to use and very useful but RGB-histogramdisplay is far too small.

The 1.33 crop makes it very easy to figure out the true usable angle of view of the lenses: 28 mm corresponds to previous 35 mm, 35 mm doest the job of 50 lens etc. It is very easy to remember and I believe that the new Elmarit-M 28 mm / 2.8 ASPH. will be very popular among the M8 users.

There is one thing, though. I´d like to see viefinder with 0.8x magnification instead of or as an alternative for current 0.68x. One has to use extra viewfinder anyway when using true wide angle lenses and larger magnification would help very much photographers who mostly like to use 50 mm / 1.4 ASPH. or 75 mm / 2.0 ASPH. lenses.

IR-issue is (was) a real problem. Hope that the next firmware and UV/IR-filters will solve the problem. (I have firmware 1.09 - no UV/IR-filters yet)

Shutter is relatively quiet, It hasn`t the same luxury sound that mechanical models, but on the other hand it is very fast when needed. Camera works well with studio flash units and at least few years old Metz flash units. 2 sec. self-timer is very useful when using table-top or heavier tripods.

After all, it`s hard to imagine professional digital camera with interchangeable lenses which is easier to use.

Customer Service

-

Similar Products Used: Leica M4, M4-P M6TTL, Nikon D70, D2X, D200
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Showing 1-7 of 7  

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