A nerdy blog about photography.

My first Leica M camera - a Leica M8

My first Leica M camera - a Leica M8

There's a lot of superfluous flatulence nonsense out there regarding Leica cameras, who buys them, what and how you are "supposed" to shoot with them, etc. The reasons that Leica cameras appeal to me are multifold:

  1. Other than Sony, it's the only full frame mirrorless camera system out. Nothing wrong with Sony, but the lenses are quite large, and the Loxia lenses by Zeiss are OK, but not the best (the 35mm would be the exception).

  2. Compact full frame camera (I know the M8 isn't a full frame, but it's larger than and APS-C). Regarding camera size, it's really quite a difference! Just click this link to compare the size of a Leica M9 (the M8 wasn't on their site) with a Canon 5DS.

  3. Compact lenses - yay!

  4. Fun! It's a completely different way of shooting compared to any other camera, complete with it's own challenges and rewards.

  5. Retro / hipster cool factor. You know it's true. The camera looks neat. Plus, there's something nice about having manual controls. Also, there's no other rangefinder experience on the market today - Fuji doesn't count, not even close to the same feel, it's just not the same.

The biggest drawback of Leica is their price. They're ridiculously priced for their functionality! I would love an M10 or an M262, but they're quite expensive. Now, eventually I can see getting one of the newer models, but considering I've never shot with a Leica M or even a rangefinder before, that's a ton of money to drop on a new system. Furthermore, finances are also a major consideration.

The reason why I opted for a ten year old camera was because of the significantly reduced price. Even still, it was roughly the price of a Fuji X-Pro2! Also, the only lenses I have bought have been used and last generation.

At the time of this writing, I've only had the camera for a few days, but here are my initial thoughts from a 2017 perspective...

Pros:

  1. Inexpensive (for a Leica) way to learn and work with rangefinders.

  2. Works with lenses that are decades old, some of which are quite inexpensive, and works with the most modern of lenses.

  3. Looks cool.

  4. Fun.

  5. Still can produce great quality images.

  6. Files are easily handled by today's computers and iOS devices.

  7. Larger than APS-C sensors for a different look.

  8. Rangefinder experience.

Cons:

  1. Even though it feels solid when shooting, when you take off the bottom to get access to the battery and memory card, the inside feels like the cheapest plastic known to man. Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? No, probably not, but still it's disappointing for a premium brand like Leica.

  2. Ten year old sensor tech means lots of noise at high ISO, not as much dynamic range, and no live view.

  3. False color instead of black due to infrared sensitivity. This is a known issue and can be corrected with UV / IR blocking filters. Unfortunately, I didn't know about it when I bought it. It adds to the cost, and filters erode image quality.


Left is filtered, right is unfiltered.

  1. Not a full frame sensor like the other Leica M cameras out now.

Onto the photos:

May 29, 2017 update and final opinion...

I actually ended up returning the M8. The B+W filters were degrading the image quality. I really have an aversion to using filters at all, and without them the images suffer. Leica really messed up with that camera. All it did was whet my appetite for a newer Leica. See other Leica posts here. Bottom line, at it's current price point and for what it is, I do NOT recommend buying one.


Noah Bershatsky

Noah Bershatsky

I was a nerd before hipsters were cool.

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