Customer Review

43 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Interchangeable Lens Digital Rangefinder Camera Carries On the Great Leica M Tradition....., October 15, 2006
This review is from: Leica M8 10.3MP Digital Rangefinder Camera with .68x Viewfinder (Black Body Only) (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
Earlier today I had the opportunity to handle and use a chrome Leica M8, using the camera to take some outdoor color digital pictures in both ambient, and less than ambient, lighting conditions. I'm not usually one to succumb to hype about a new camera, but this time it was unquestionably almost love at first sight. Leica's new M8 digital rangefinder camera carries on the great tradition of Leica M rangefinders which started back in 1954 with the venerable Leica M3, but also offers many features that will be useful to the discerning digital photographer. For those familiar with Leica M rangefinder cameras (or either the Zeiss Ikon and the late Konica Hexar rangefinder cameras), the controls remain almost exactly the same as those for recently produced Leica M film rangefinder cameras such as the M6, M6 TTL, M7 and MP. Ergonomically it most closely resembles the Leica M7, having a similar shutter speed dial, but with speeds up to 1/8000 second and flash synchronization at 1/250 second; the highest speeds I have seen for any M-mount rangefinder camera. The M8 contains a low noise Kodak-designed CCD digital imaging sensor with a maximum resolution of 10.3 MP; the 1.33 X crop factor of the digital imaging sensor means that a 50mm lens will more closely resemble a 70mm lens, or a 28mm lens will resemble a 32mm lens; in either instance, this will not be a serious issue for those familiar with digital SLRs like those from Nikon that have a 1.5 X crop factor. The camera has a somewhat generous range of ISO speeds from 160 to 2500, with ISO 160 as the default setting.

The Leica M8's technical specifications will surely please both traditional users of Leica M rangefinder cameras as well as those new to them. It offers both aperture priority automation and manual exposure modes reminiscent of the Leica M7's. In aperture priority mode, shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to 1/8000 second; in manual mode, shutter speeds range from 4 seconds to 1/8000 second plus B for exposures of any duration longer than 4 seconds. In flash mode, flash synchronization speeds range from B to 1/250 second, and there is the option of first or second shutter curtain synchronization for creative flash photography effects. Digital images are storeable in SD cards up to 4 GB; these images can be stored under ADOBE's DNG (Camera manufacturer-independent digital negative format, which is better known as RAW format) or two different versions of JPEG compressed files. The camera back has a 2.5 inch large bright LC-Display with a resolution of 230 pixels (In actual usage, I was quite impressed with the quality of the images I had taken after viewing them on this display panel.).

I used a current 50 Summicron-M lens with the chrome Leica M8; both borrowed from Leica Camera USA's marketing director, Christian Erhardt; I was especially impressed with the excellent contrast and resolution of the digital images I had obtained (Traditional Leica M users may find amusing that the memory card is loaded, like 35mm film, by opening the base plate and inserting the card into a slot directly beneath the rangefinder window.). Speaking of the rangefinder window itself, it now has a magnification of .68 to accomodate frame lines for 24mm to 90mm lenses; I had no problem seeing through it, or reading the displayed shutter speed information, even though I wear glasses.). The only potentially major problem I see with the M8 is its relatively loud, though muted, metal shutter (It is based on the shutter currently used in the Leica R9 SLR camera); which makes a muted "thud" sound every time the shutter is pressed (Incidentally, I believe that it is noisier than the built-in motor winder which in continuous mode, offers 2 frames per second.); in stark contrast, the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder camera is noticeably quieter, though not nearly as quiet as the Leica MP, and especially, the Leica M7 rangefinder cameras.

Will the Leica M8 prove to be a resounding success? I believe it should sell well to those who can afford buying an expensive, interchangeable lens digital rangefinder camera, and want the best image quality possible from a digital camera. Professional photographers, especially those working under low-light conditions in which camera shutter noise should be kept at a minimum (e. g. a theatrical performance or chamber music recital), may not find the Leica M8 a suitable professional-grade digital camera. However, I strongly suspect that the Leica M8 will have a loyal following amongst both long-time Leica aficionados and those interested in using an interchangeable M-mount lens digital rangefinder camera.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 8, 2006 2:26:58 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 8, 2006 2:29:30 AM PST
James H. says:
Two minor corrections. The 1.33 crop factor of the digitial imaging sensor means that a 50mm lens will resemble a 66mm lens and a 28mm lens will resemble a 37mm lens. Thanks for a thoughtful review.

Posted on Jun 23, 2007 5:56:56 AM PDT
A. Gould says:
Yes, the reviewer has put time and effort into the review of this very expensive Leica equipment. But as it is clear he did not actually buy the camera, but only "handled" it, I am not convinced he qualifies as a "customer." It is one thing to review a $15 compact disk or a movie other Amazon customers can see for $8, but to give five stars to a $5000 item you don't own doesn't help us Amazon shoppers.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2007 10:06:21 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Oct 23, 2008 4:37:14 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2007 11:34:41 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 23, 2007 12:19:16 PM PDT]

Posted on Nov 10, 2008 3:35:48 PM PST
Jean Louchet says:
I do generally agree with this accurate review. A couple of small additions though.
-crop factor: the 1.33 factor is really much, much better than the ca. 1.5 crop factor to be found in most DSLRs. Morevoer, the fact it is possible to check the picture right away means one needs much less margin of safety than on a film leica. In theory, a 28mm becomes equivalent to a 37mm but in practice it "feels" wider than a 35mm.
-picture proportions: I like to keep the 2:3 proportions (same as on 24x36) rather than the 3:4 which comes wich most DSLRs - this is a matter of personal taste
-I do often use my CV 1.9/28 as a general purpose lens for interior shoots, groups etc. To get the same field of view I should use (in theory) a 21mm but getting a similar aperture with a 21 costs quite a lot (needs Zeiss for the 2.8/21 or the even more pricey Leica 1.4/21!). On the other hand, the new firmware upgrade features a very useful ISO auto which compensates for part of this issue, giving the exact sensitivity needed and thus permitting to be glad with slightly smaller apertures.
-noise can be a real issue on the M8 - I have to use my M6 e.g. on concerts, but the new M8-2 is said to be much quieter.
Otherwise, after 9 months of use, this is a wonderful camera, no gadgets or gimmicks, no pop-up menus in the dark, just concentrate on the essential and make pictures. The results are well worth the price. Of course I would not recommend it to a newcomer to RF shooting.
Jean (Paris)

Posted on Aug 7, 2009 11:34:03 AM PDT
Ira Nemeroff says:
What in the world is " less than ambient" lighting - sounds very Zen to me.
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John Kwok

Location: New York, NY USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,267