Discreet, Quiet, Fast and Accurate
The Leica M8 Interchangeable Lens
Rangefinder Digital Camera not only looks like an M model, it faithfully embodies all the advantages of the analog Leica M system to provide sophisticated and creative
digital photography. It is the only professional digital camera to use the beneficial rangefinder system, which is discreet, quiet, fast and accurate, and the uncompromising quality criteria of the M system have been applied.
The Leica M8 provides full compatibility with almost all M lenses, and the low-noise
CCD image sensor with a resolution of 10.3 million
pixels has been specially integrated into the compact lens design, ensuring optimum picture quality. The operation and functionality of the digital M concentrate on what is essential, while useful additional functions provided by digital technology complement the proven M concept. The Leica M8 is a timeless
digital camera that is excitingly new and yet comfortingly familiar.
As of October 2010, there are thirteen (MILC) cameras available from four manufacturers (Olympus,
and Sony), (three from Olympus, four from Panasonic, two from Samsung, and four from Sony), and some similar cameras from other manufacturers (Leica,
A handful of rangefinder cameras support interchangeable lenses. Three digital rangefinders exist, they are the Epson R-D1 (APS-C-sized sensor), the Leica M8 (APS-H-sized
sensor), both smaller than 35 mm film
rangefinder cameras, and the Leica M9,
which is a full-frame camera.
Uses all Leica M Lenses
The Leica M lenses are recognized as the best in the world and demonstrate their full capabilities on the Leica M8. The extremely high resolution of all M system lenses since 1954 make them perfect for
digital photography. The M8 quite deliberately has no resolution reducing moire filter in front of the sensor to maintain the full performance of the lens.
Supports M Lenses with 6 Bit-coding
The Leica M8 uses an optical scanner on the camera's bayonet to identify the 6 bit-coding of the current Leica M lenses. This allows the slight
vignetting caused by the system to be compensated, further improving the familiar high image quality. The lens type identified is saved in the
EXIF data for the image file and the reflector position on modern flash units is adjusted to the image angle depending on the
focal length. Existing M lenses can be retroactively 6 bit-coded by the Leica Customer Service department.
Modified High Quality Image Sensor
The Kodak CCD technology used in the Leica M8 provides a high basic speed of
ISO 160 extending to a maximum speed setting of ISO 2500, and produces pictures that rival the image quality of film-based Leica M cameras. A moire filter, which optically filters out fine image details, was deliberately omitted to utilize the full resolution of the Leica M lenses. Instead, any moire patterns are eliminated by the camera's signal processor. Because the light towards the edges impinges on the sensor obliquely with Leica M lenses, the thickness of the cover glass has been reduced to just 0.5 mm to prevent unwanted refraction. As a result, the image has uniform brightness right to the edge. To increase the light sensitivity of the
CCD sensor, micro lenses are positioned in front of the pixels, and uses a special micro lens structure that is perfectly tailored to the characteristics of the Leica M lenses.
10.3 Megapixel Resolution
The low-noise CCD image sensor has been optimized for the special features of the M lens system and provides an excellent resolution of 10.3 million
Full Light Efficiency
The highest film speed settings of up to ISO 2500 allow much more detailed pictures to be taken than was ever possible with analog films. As a result, the M8 opens up a new chapter in the history of available light photography.
The Leica M8 is designed to deliver professional results over many years. The enclosed all-metal body is made of a high-strength magnesium alloy while the top and base plates are cut from solid brass blocks and then given a black or silver chrome finish. The battery and the
SD card slot are located under the base plate and provides effective protection from dust and moisture.
Supports Creative Photography
The electronically controlled metal blade focal-plane
shutter speeds of up to 1/8000 second to be achieved. Even in very bright surroundings, the
photographer still has total creative freedom thanks to the selective focus feature with open
aperture. The high flash synchronization speed of 1/250 second now allows daylight
flash photographs to be taken with selective focus.
Quiet and Discreet
To make cocking the shutter as close to silent as possible, a rubberized silent friction wheel has been placed in the first winding gear stage. A cam disk is used to transfer the force at a constant torque over the entire path of the cocking arm. As a result, the electric motor cocks the shutter almost soundlessly.
Optimum RAW Data Conversion
The professional Capture One LE RAW data converter ensures that the raw data supplied by the CCD sensor and saved in the future-proof Adobe digital negative format (DNG) is processed to yield optimum quality. Leica worked in conjunction with the Danish manufacturer Phase One to create the sophisticated camera profiling and the necessary software modifications. The results of this are quality-optimized algorithms for digital color processing, allowing exceptionally low-noise photography with incredible resolution. The development of even ultra fine tonal value nuances from the 16 bit-image supplied by the CCD sensor is comparable with the image quality provided by film professionally developed in a photographic laboratory. The logical functions for adjusting the quality and the well-structured user interface mean that Capture One LE can be used to achieve outstanding results with consummate ease and speed.
Simple, Intuitive Operation
Operation of the digital functions centers on the combined direction pad and dial, which can be used for fast navigation. Pressing the Set key opens the exposure parameter menu on the 2.5" monitor. Here, you can quickly check and adjust the crucial settings (Sensitivity, Exposure compensation, White balance, Data compression and Resolution). There are three blank slots in the memory for profiles, allowing you to retrieve frequently used combinations for specific applications. Pressing the Menu key takes you to the clearly structured system menu, where you can change some of the basic settings that are permanently applied, for example the ECI RGB, Adobe RGB and sRGB color space options. You can also specify whether you want your pictures to appear on the large display immediately to review them, how long they will be displayed for and whether a tonal value histogram appears. A display on the left-hand side of the top plate constantly shows the remaining capacity of the SD card and the lithium-ion battery. This elementary photographic information is thus available at a glance at all times.
Innovative M-TTL Flash Technology
The unique feature of the Leica M-TTL flash technology is that a pre-flash for flash metering is fired immediately before the actual exposure. TTL measurement of the light reflected by the surfaces of the subject determines the exact power required from the main flash. The seamless addition of the flash intensity to the available light results in flash photographs that retain the natural lighting mood. The auto slow sync function allows you to use aperture priority mode in conjunction with the flash technology. It ensures that the image background is balanced even if the intensity of the ambient light should change. An appropriate metered amount of fill-in flash is emitted to provide correct exposure. Depending on the photographer's experience or the intended effect, various maximum exposure times can be set for aperture priority. This can be done manually or - when using 6 bit-coded lenses - automatically using the rule of thumb 1/focal length in seconds.
Sensor Cleaning Function
The LEICA M8 has a special function for manually cleaning the sensor. When you select the corresponding option in the menu and press the shutter release, the shutter remains open while cleaning is in progress. The low depth of the M camera makes the sensor more easily accessible than on digital reflex cameras, for example.
Tonal Value Histogram
As a professional digital camera, the LeicaM8 provides an RGB tonal value histogram. This can be called up at any time to check the exposure of saved pictures and can also be combined with the automatic review function. Another useful feature is the additional marking of overexposed sections of an image - known as the clipping warning. The particular advantage of this is that these two control tools are constantly updated constantly updated when zooming in on the LCD display, allowing the quality of even the finest image details to be assessed. Pressing the Info function key displays all of the photographic settings from the quick menu and additional meta-information saved with the image file - this enables you to completely evaluate a picture as soon as you have taken it.
The LEICA M8 is supplied with special software that allows the camera to be controlled remotely for scientific work or in a photographic studio. With Leica Digital Capture the camera can be operated from a computer via a USB connection and the image data can be saved directly onto hard disk. The software can send all settings in the exposure parameter menu, e. g. sensitivity and resolution, to the camera. The camera also has a traditional threaded release button for the use of a cable release.
• Leica M8 Rangefinder Digital Camera Body (Black)
• Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery
• Battery Charger with Car Adapter and Plug Adapters (Euro, UK, USA)
• USB Cable
• Carrying Strap with Anti-slip Guard
• Camera Cover for M bayonet
• Capture One LE Software CD-ROM
• Leica Digital Capture Software CD-ROM
• Operating Manual
• 2-Year Limited Warranty
Other Leica 35mm Digital Cameras to Consider
Sparkling digital images for Leica M-users, with a few niggles, September 2, 2009
By Mark W. Bohrer "Technology Writer & Documenta... (Saratoga, California)
The Leica M8 gives you great digital images right out of the box. Contrary to another reviewer's comments, M8 images need little or no Photoshop / Lightroom tweaks for printing or web display.
I also use Canon dSLRs and find myself doing a lot more contrast, level and sharpness adjustments with those images. The M8 helps my images look very good to clients.
**Using Aperture-Priority A-Mode
Exposure compensation is just about required in aperture-priority A-mode with the built-in metering. If you're shooting live theater or concerts where the lighting is similar shot-to-shot, you can use A and set compensation with the camera's `Set' menu.
And that's one of the problems. You shouldn't need to go to a menu to set exposure compensation. Any of Canon's EOS cameras let you do it from control dials, not menus.
You can use shutter speeds from the A-mode as a starting point for manually-chosen speeds. The viewfinder shows you what the camera chose, and you just set that speed. Then you can shoot and tweak the speed for best exposure after you chimp your shot in the LCD.
**Auto White Balance A Bit Off
Leica also needs to work on its auto white balance algorithms. Either use a white balance target for a session in relatively constant light, or use Auto White Balance in Lightroom's Develop module to fix this. 90% of the time, that's enough. Rarely, you'll need to hand-tweak color temperatures and tint to get it right. The colors are in there - sometimes you just gotta pull `em out.
If you or your clients are less picky, daylight exposures have nice untweaked color.
**Noise At High ISO
High-ISO performance is outdated. Shoot at ISO 1250 or grit your teeth at 2500, and you'll get lots of color speckling and other noise. Does this make the M8 unusable? No. You get great-looking images at ISO 640 and below. Heck, ISO 1250 is usable if you have adequate exposure and get close to your subject. You'll be using nik DFine or Noise Ninja when you edit, though.
The latest offerings from Canon and Nikon have much better high-ISO and auto white balance performance. But they don't mount Leica lenses, and they weigh a lot more. I carry the M8, two spare batteries, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm lenses in a LowePro Orion Mini fanny pack only 9 inches wide.
**.DNG Raw File Format
Shoot raw (doesn't everyone?), and you get files in the universal .DNG format. This should be supported long after proprietary raw formats like .NEF and .CR2 are history. .DNG images also store all your Lightroom adjustments directly, without the space-sucking .XMP sidecar files required by other raw formats.
My first serious camera was a Leica M3 I found in my parents' basement in 1968, and I've been photographing with a combination of Leica M, Nikon and Canon gear ever since. Digital makes editing and delivering photography to clients very easy. The `right where it should be' controls, outstanding color rendition, sharpness, contrast, outstanding glass, and small size make this the camera system I carry most of the time.
If you have a collection of Leica M-lenses and shoot editorial feature-style, it's time to switch over from film.