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Home arrow Digital Camera Reviews arrow Leica > arrow Leica M8 Digital Camera Review
Leica M8 Digital Camera Review

leica080513.jpg Digital Camera Review by: Andrew Duncan

 

Mention the name Leica to a photographer and you are sure to get a reaction. Leica is synonymous with cameras and lenses of uncompromising quality. The Leica M8 is the latest member of Leica’s M-series range finder cameras, taking the M-series from film to digital photography. With the same classic, minimalist styling of the Leica’s M7 film camera, the M8 is not only a well thought out digital camera, but a design icon.


Even the packaging of the Leica M8 is beautifully understated. Open the box and you will find the camera manual, warranty and CD-ROMs containing the Leica digital capture and Phase One Capture One LE software. The camera body is found within a display box, protected by high-density foam rubber. You will also find the camera’s Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery, a battery charger, USB cable and a neck strap in the box.


The front of the camera gives no hint that the M8 is a digital camera. Just like the Leica M7, the front of the M8 contains the lens mount, viewfinder, rangefinder and frame selector lever.


On the top of the camera is a hot shoe that will accept most flash units, with additional contacts for Leica’s M-TTL compatible strobes. On the right is the shutter speed dial and integrated main switch and shutter release. The main switch has four positions: Off, S (single), C (series) and self-timer. Holding true to tradition, the shutter release is metal with a cable release thread in the centre. Finally, on the left hand corner of the camera is a small LCD that indicates battery level in five stages and the estimated shots remaining before the memory card is full.


The rear of the camera has a 2.5-inch, 230,000 pixel LCD display. To the left of the display are the play, delete, protect, info and set buttons. On the right are a menu button and ring and direction buttons for menu navigation and image playback. These buttons are well laid out and easy to use.


Similar to the M7 film camera, the bottom of the M8 has a removable cover. Under this cover is the SD memory card slot and battery compartment. The M8 can accept memory cards up to 4 GB. Leica has a list of compatible SD cards on their website.


The camera can be connected directly to a computer using the supplied USB cable. The cable connection can be used to download images to the computer or, in combination with the Leica digital capture software to control the camera. The USB connector on the camera is on the right-hand edge and is protected by a tight fitting plastic cap.


At 27x18mm the 10.3 mega pixel sensor is smaller than a 35mm film frame. The result is a crop factor of 1.33. Image data can be recorded as either JPEG images or RAW images saved in the Digital Negative (DNG) format. JPEG files can be saved in 10, 6, 2.5 or 1 mega pixel resolutions, using either Fine or Basic quality. The DNG files are uncompressed, and so always take up 10 megabytes on the SD card. The camera can be set to capture both JPEG and DNG images at the same time.


Available ISO sensitivities are 160, 320, 640, 1250 and 2500. As would be expected, image noise increases with increasing ISO. In the test shots taken with the review camera, there was visible noise at 1250 and 2500 ISOs.


The M8’s shutter speeds can be manually selected from 1/8000 to 4 seconds, with flash synchronisation at 1/250 second. Additionally, there is a bulb setting to allow for longer exposures. When using the bulb setting, the cameras shutter remains open until the shutter button is released. However, if the camera is set to self-timer, pressing and releasing the shutter button leaves the shutter open. A second press of the shutter release closes the shutter.

 

In aperture priority mode, the camera can set shutter speeds as long as 32 seconds. To ensure correct exposure, exposure compensation can be set from –3 to +3 EV, in 1/3 EV steps.


The M-series lenses are manual focus. Each lens contains rings focusing and aperture selection. The M8 can be used with most M-series lenses, although the user manual lists a few exceptions. The review camera was provided with the stunning Leica summarit-m 75mm f/2.5 and Leica summarit-m 35mm f/2.5 lenses. Also provided was a Leica e39 UV/IR filter to fit the 35mm lens. According to Leica’s FAQ, the M8 has a raised sensitivity to long-wave infrared light, which results in black synthetic material recording as purple or dark-red under incandescent lights. The e39 filter is used to overcome this problem.


Leica has started marking M-series lenses with a 6-bit code on the lens mount. The M8 can read this code and identify the mounted lens. When coded lenses are used, the focal length is recorded in the image EXIF data. Additionally, the camera can apply lens specific image processing. This includes correcting vignetting and the colour cast found at the corner of images when the e39 UV/IR filter is used with focal lengths of 16-35mm. Leica can add the 6-bit code to existing lenses.


The menus are well set out and easy to use. White balance can be set to automatic, one of six presets, manual (by shooting a neutral target) or a Kelvin value. On the review camera, automatic white balance did well outdoors, but didn’t cope well with fluorescent light. Setting the white balance manually provided the best results. The colour space can be set to sRGB, Adobe RGB or ECI (European Color Initiative) RGB.


In use, the quality of the camera shines. Lenses mount smoothly onto the body, and lock with a positive click. The start-up time is quick, and shutter lag appears to be non-existent. Half pressing the shutter button activates metering. If the camera is set to aperture priority, the selected shutter speed is displayed in the viewfinder, otherwise under and over exposure imedal-gold-r.jpgs indicated by red triangles in the viewfinder. If the main switch is set to C (series) the camera can take up to ten frames, at a maximum rate of two frames per second. The self-timer can be set to have either a 2 or 12 seconds duration.

During image playback, a histogram can access exposure. The histogram can either display overall brightness or the RGB channels. Also, over-exposed areas can be identified with a red mask.


The Leica M8 is a precision photographic tool that provides professional results. SLR shooters may take a little while getting accustom to shooting with a range finder. However, the Leica M-series camera is very easy to use. Experienced photographers will have no problem getting the most from the M8. In fact the only problem you are going to have is deciding if you want the silver or black model.


Appearance rating 5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality 4.5 stars
Value for money 4 stars
RRP (AUD) $7,595 (body only)
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 10.3 Mega pixels
Image Sizes 4 Sizes
Lens 1.33x. Fits almost all Leica M lenses with a focal length of 21–90 mm manufactured from 1954 can also be used without 6 bit-coding.
Resolution Settings From 1312 x 876 to 3916 x 2634 pixels
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Focus Range [cm] 10cm to infinity
Aperture Range Subject to lens
Aperture Priority Subject to lens
Macro Subject to lens
Macro Range [cm] Subject to lens
Shutter Speeds 32s to 1/8000s
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO 160 to 2500 and Auto
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 2.5 inch LCD display
Viewfinder Yes, Rangefinder
Flash Yes, 1/250s sync
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance Automatic, 6 presettings, manual white balance, color temperature input from 2,000K to 13,100K
Self Timer Yes, 12 and 2 seconds
Movie Options No
Video Out No
Storage Type SD memory cards up to 4GB
Storage Included [Mb] No
Image / Audio Formats DNG™ (Digital Negative Format not specific to any camera manufacturer),  2 different highly compressed JPEG levels. DNG™ file information 16 bit-color resolution, 10.2 Mbyte file size per picture
Connectivity USB
Power Source Charger incl. car and 3 mains plug adapters
Battery Options Lithium-ion rechargeable battery with 3.7V and 1900mAh
Dimensions 139mm x 80mm x 37mm
Weight 545g

 

 
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