What is unique and good about
It would seem that everyone on the
planet is now aware of Leica’s
new M8 Digital Rangefinder Camera what all the press, forum topics,
and such. Or perhaps I should say that everyone knows of the problems, faults,
and Leica’s responses to them. I won’t waste valuable space here
since it is so well covered by now but suffice it to say that issues with Infrared
response, magenta colorations where it is supposed to be black, Automatic White
Balance (AWB) defects and banding and streaking in the presence of high intensity
point source lights dominate the defect conversations.
It is sad though
that the desire for a “perfect” successor to the
great M lineage has angered many to the degree that the “good” points
of the M8 seem to be almost totally overlooked. I would like to try here
to present my personal observations of using the M8 since November 6th 2006,
first shipments to US dealers.
I had a very short period of time
with the camera before journeying to Page Az. to attend the Digital
But I knew enough that I intended
it for Fine Arts Landscape images while in Page and at Horseshoe Bend and
Lake Powell as the major photo opportunities.
What made me so certain that this camera was worth this commitment?
The first thing I noticed was the remarkable raw files it produced straight
from the Raw Converter using the default settings of “Raw Developer” without
further processing of exposure or additional sharpening. The only processing
I found necessary was White Balance corrections to get the color I remembered
from the scene. Metering was exceptionally good as was both micro and macro
contrast. Some of this is without question due to the marvelous M lenses,
those with the latest aspheric and apochromatic corrections, but the M8
captured the essence of those lenses very well indeed.
The second thing
I noticed was the remarkable, to me, three dimensionality
of the images. One image that I believe captured this effect well is
the one I call “Clinging
to Life,” which is a scene of pure rock outcropping with a small
yellow bush the only sign of life. This scene from Horseshoe Bend provoked
at the Summit. It certainly is not the iconic view of the Island around
which the Colorado River flows.
The third thing is how well the images can be upsized to product
large prints. I have the Epson 7800 so I am limited to about a
22 inch wide by 37 inch long print. The image above was printed
at that size and there was virtually nothing lost in the process.
I have since mounted and framed this image and have gotten rave
reviews from all who have seen it.
What makes the M8 so “unique.” Well of
course it is a digital rangefinder, one of only two such products
for the 35mm
market. The other is the Epson RD1, an older 6 megapixel design that
show its age. The M8 includes firmware that allows for Leica coded
lenses to be “corrected” for vignetting, color shifts
from use of Infrared (IR) filters and perhaps more to come. Plus
the design team from Solms knows the M lenses better than anyone
in the world and developed the M8 to take full advantage of their
strengths. In fact some of the design considerations led to the use
of an ultra thin IR absorption filter in front of the sensor to preserve
the detail of the lenses and this tradeoff mandated the use of external
IR cut filters to prevent black objects from turning magenta. The
operative phrase here is “tradeoff”, not design failure.
of the attributes of the film M bodies have been translated to
the Digital M. The most obvious deletions are the advance lever
and rewind crank of the Film M’s and the addition of the
large LCD screen on the back of the Digital M. Apart from that
thing that distinguishes the two is the whirring sound from the
Digital M following exposure as the shutter is recocked. I don’t
find it at all difficult to switch between my M6TTL’s and
the M8 which is very helpful in scenarios where you may want to
with both media types.
So am I “sold” on Leica’s
Digital M, the M8. Yes indeed I am and I am still using the camera
the way it originally
came from the factory with version 1.06 firmware. I point this
out because Leica has been continuously addressing the issues
surfaced and now have a hardware solution to the banding and
streaking problems and new firmware to address that hardware. There
be a significant firmware upgrade announced for February 2007
called version 1.1. Here a number of the issues that can be remedied
firmware will be done. These should include the issues with AWB
well as others. So folks who want the ultimate in the 21st century
rangefinder will be able to purchase it with virtually all of
the issues addressed following the 1.1 release.
Personally I also
want the perfect solution from Leica. But in
my 69 years I have yet to find a perfect solution to almost
anything technological and I made my living producing automatic test
for the semiconductor industry so I have seen a lot in all
of those years. But like the semiconductor industry the primary
you respond to the issues created at the birth of a product.
Leica has responded very well in my opinion although their
could use a lesson or two about humility. But technologically
they have come far in only a month since official release.
this process to continue until all of the issues are addressed.
it was unwise, looking retrospectively, to have insisted on
having the product launch at Photokina. Perhaps the birthing process
was a little behind schedule. But it was all of us who made
demands for the product that caused the premature birth. And
I, for one, am so delighted in what the camera will do, right
I am glad to have been one of the demanders. My advice is to
get the eyes off the computer monitor and onto the optical
the M8 and be delighted.
By the way, I have no affiliation
with Leica, Leica U.S. and have never worked for Leica. All I have
done, like many others,
have donated a large percentage of my discretionary income
to them for the pleasure of owning the M system and the DMR/R9
I have been using the M since the late 1950’s starting
with a double clutched M3 and have a number of M bodies through