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Leica M8 Test | by .drew (Andrew Kelly)
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Leica M8 Test

At the weekend I purchased a camera that I have always wanted to get my hands on, a Leica M8, well i wanted an M9 but thats not in the bank balances reach at the moment. I got it with a new Zeiss 28mm f2.8 ( a great relatively inexpensive lens).


I love the feel of the camera, I love how it functions and I love how small it is. The high ISO range is fairly crap really but I was expecting this. The one problem I found though was that there is a vertical line on all high ISO images which is pretty unacceptable considering I wanted to use this as part of my professional kit as a small accompaniment to my 5d mark 2. There is also a red and a green pixel which appears in all images regardless of ISO which is a pain. Needless to say I will be returning the camera as I can't use it and I'm not sure whether to get it fixed and returned to me or to just get some nice lenses for my 5d (a 35 f1.4 or 24 f1.4 and 135 f2).


It's a shame about the ISO performance of this camera but it is 6 years old digital technology and I can't afford an m9 which should have at least a stop better performance i would think. The files have much less room for play than any digital SLR camera I have owned but isn't too big a deal as if you get the exposure correct its fine. When you get the exposure correct on an ISO of 640 or below it produces some of the best RAW files I have seen, very very sharp (no need for any extra sharpening which all my canon files need). The above shot is a nice example, it's not a good photo on my part but this is pretty much a straight Raw file that all i did was convert to black and white, my canon would need a good bit of normal processing to get this.


All in all I really liked the M8 but i believe it is certainly showing its age when it comes to technology. It is pretty slow which is no problem for me as i don't shoot that quick anyway, the ISO performance leaves a lot to be desired but it is 6 years old and when used correctly can produce amazing files.


This was my first rangefinder experience, I have always wanted to get into this style of shooting as i knew I would love it, and love it i did. Using a rangefinder for focusing was amazing, much better than any autofocus or manual focus in an SLR for my style of shooting. I also loved that is is small and very discreet, nobody cared about me photographing them on the street for the day I had to test out the camera and i got so much shots that i just wouldn't have with my 5D. It was great to see outside the framelines and waiting for the scene to happen rather than looking through an SLR finder and not knowing whats going on outside of that little rectangle. Using the rangefinder also made lowlight focusing a pleasure, if you can see you can focus (shame the m8 can't do that great in lowlight grain performance, it's not as bad as some people say though, in black and white that is, colour is horrible). I think the M9 would do much better (well I would hope so at that price). If the M9 could give me a nice 1600 file in colour I would be a very happy camper (when I can afford one).


All in all I hate to part with the M8 but with so many little niggles after having it for a few days (it is old and is used so this is always a possibility) and ISO performance that really isn't great for the environments i shoot in (and I can't afford a noctilux) I think I will have to return it and get something else no matter how much I want to keep it, I can't justify the price tag for a camera that i can't really get what I wanted out of it (really wish i could get my hands on an m9). I may either get a fuji x100 and a canon lens or two canon lenses, I'll decide over the next day or two.


There really is nothing like using a leica (even though the M8 is apparently not the best leica camera according to regular leica users) and I will buy a leica again in the future but what model i'm not sure. Maybe a nice M6 or MP and shoot some good old film.


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Taken on July 18, 2011