Considering an M8 ... Thoughts and suggestions?

Discussion in 'Leica M Camera Forum' started by carlb, May 1, 2013.

  1. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    May 1, 2013
    Hi all, my present Leica is a Digilux 3, and while a beautiful camera I *might* be looking for a true rangefinder. I've long had a fascination for the rangefinder Leicas.

    I'm considering the M8.

    It's drawbacks as I know them are:

    - Low ISO only, really.
    - SD card limited (which will likely become harder to get when SDXC's larger capacity becomes de-facto).
    - An at-best quirky arrangement for accessing the SD card and battery.
    - "8-bit class" viewscreen (think "Pac-Man") compared to today's screens. (OK, so I exaggerate a little.)
    - Viewfinder adapters necessary for wide or telephoto lenses.
    - Cost. Ahem. Shees. That Much, Really?
    - No "kit" lens (means I'll be plunking down another $600-$1200 depending for that first lens)
    - Zoom? Why the heck would you zoom when you can buy three amazing $$$$$ primes to cover that? :p

    Any other drawbacks compared to the M9 or "modern day" offerings such as the X-Pro1 that I should be aware of? I won't consider megabits - Anything over 5Mbits for me has me looking for "quality over quantity." I also don't care a whit about video.

    The M8's "plusses" as I understand them are:

    + Cost. Well, compared to the newer "Ms".
    + True rangefinder operation. I'll ask you all for more about this.
    + Great control of shutter speed and aperture without menu-diving. ISO - probably another story. (I'll be pleasantly surprised if ISO isn't a dip-switch setting buried with the battery. Shhh - let's not give Leica any ideas!)
    + Images quality that is superb and somewhat unique, depending on lenses. If you're looking for Leica-type images, get a Leica.
    + The red-dot. This is the un-quantifiable positive that has been known to trump any and all drawbacks. :p

    Any other "plusses" I should be aware of?

    The closest to rangefinder I've used is the old mirrored SLRs with rangefinder focus assist (watch for the top and bottom of the focal object to merge to clearest), what should I know about the Leica rangefinder experience?

    I'm fully aware that not all drawbacks and plusses are created equal. In a logical approach I could weight them, sum them, and compare that to other cameras I like. But that would be in the category of "if you have to ask the price, you'll need to look elsewhere." To a certain degree, I'm choosing not to care. ;)

    Thanks for any and all comments and suggestions. I really am considering this seriously.

    - Carl
  2. BruPri

    BruPri Leica Place Regular

    Apr 26, 2013
    I seriously looked at an M8 having previously owned an X1 which had gorgeous colors and rendering. I already had a couple lenses so I thought for the price of an X2, I could get a rangefinder. Then I came across a really nice M9 for not much more (ok, $1700.00 more) but, just trying to prolong the obsolescence factor. Get the M8 and filters for your lenses, you'll be fine. It's all pretty much grappling up to the next rung of a sinking ladder anyway!
  3. NJH

    NJH Leica Place Regular

    Apr 29, 2013
    Most of the negatives are the same for the M9 except of course for the M8s need to use IR cut filters for colour work and the odd crop factor. There is some debate over the differences between the M8 and M9 sensors but dxomark testing pretty much concluded that the improvement is due to the difference in sensor size. If you look at their graphs for pixel level performance there is no real difference. Personally I just don't see the extra cost of the M9 as worthwhile at current prices here in the UK.

    Some other positives:
    + Very easy to use for anyone who has a basic understanding of photography
    + Superb build quality, feels like a tank
    + Basic features others forget to include such as RGB histogram, replay review across images whilst zoomed in and proper Auto ISO i.e. you can adjust limits for ISO and shutter speed. These three things alone are enough for me to forget Fuji after getting the M8.
    + Their rated ISO is actually lower than many and much lower than some, ISO 640 on my M8 is equivalent for example to ISO 1600 on my X100 (identical indicated exposure values against a plain cream wall as metered by the camera). In other words the real world high ISO is nothing like as bad as you may have been led to believe.
    + Very well damped shutter and minimal vibrations makes it possible to hand hold at very low shutter speeds such as half the focal length or lower.

    Other negatives I guess for all Leica RFs:
    - Framelines can become invisible in some conditions
    - Framelines have terrible parallax error if shooting portrait orientation at closer distances
    - Framelines really not very accurate on the M8
    - More bulky and heavier than many MILC cameras but of course much smaller/lighter than full frame SLR kits so a nice compromise (not really a negative as Leica M bodies and lenses are just about right for me).

    That is about it for me, I really really like this camera a lot. Unless the M9 drops in price dramatically I may well skip it and just get the M once it drops a bit.
  4. Brian

    Brian Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 3, 2013
    I bought a late production M8 over 3 years ago, was 3 months old with 400 clicks on it at $2500. Looked like new. Picked up the M9 a year later, paid for it by selling lenses- most of which I converted to Leica mount. Keep in mind that sensor manufacturers are always applying small improvements and "Revs" to a sensor while in production, but I've never had a complaint about ISO 1250 on the M8 and will use it at 2500. At ISO 160: the image is "crisper" than the M9.

    Leica M8 with Jupiter-3 5cm F1.5, wide-open, ISO 2500.

    L1008607-Edit-2 by putahexanonyou, on Flickr

    Monochrome conversion of ISO 2500 shot-

    L1008604-Edit by putahexanonyou, on Flickr

    Better than ISO 1600 film that I've used.

    So advice: look for a later run M8 SN block 319xxxx and higher. If you get a great price on an early one, go for it- be able to inspect anything that you buy.

    For a lens- a Canon 50/1.8 or Nikkor 5cm F2 will run $150 to $250 or so. A Jupiter-8 5cm F2 shimmed for Leica mount- last one I sold was for $125.
  5. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Mar 30, 2013
    I'll take a different stance here - devil's advocate, if you will.


    Save a bit longer and get an M9, or buy a film M now - an M6 perhaps - to establish whether you get on with rangefinders as a means of focussing - it isn't for everyone. You should be able to sell on in a few months for pretty much what you paid if you still want to go digital with an M9.

    The M8 is an evolutionary dead-end, in some respects parallelling the M3 - for goggles read IR cut filters... The (in)famous strip-down done by Mark Norton showed just how rushed, and rough and ready the M8 was on the inside. The rear LCD screen (corrected - see below) is now no longer a service item, so if it dies you have a very elegant paperweight.

    Above all, the M8 was a kludge. That doesn't mean that many photographers haven't produced some wonderful images with it, but it is just too flawed and compromised to be a serious choice in 2013. Leica rushed it to market after Epson proved the digital rangefinder could be done with the RD-1 and it tided them over until the M9 - the "finished product" that the M8 never was.

    Sent from another Galaxy
  6. Brian

    Brian Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 3, 2013
    Just going by prices on forums, Ebay, etc- I'm guessing with some patience an M8 is running "about" $1500, and an M9 "about" $4000. I've read people getting a heavily used -but working- M8 for $1,000 and an M9 for ~$3500. There is still a substantial price difference.
  7. usayit

    usayit Leica Place Regular Subscribing Member

    Mar 31, 2013
    Northern NJ
    I've introduced many to rangefinders.... many like it .. many don't. Its not for everyone. So I'll give my default advice of trying a cheaper route to see if shooting with a rangefinder is really for you. Borrow, rent, "steal", buy film, etc...
  8. NJH

    NJH Leica Place Regular

    Apr 29, 2013
    I don't believe that is factually correct. There was a guy over on the l camera forum who posted only a couple of weeks back about getting his sensor recently replaced. The bad batch of screens is a pain though if you're unlucky to end up with a duff screen. The trade in offer from Leica though is pretty generous in that case.
  9. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    May 1, 2013
    Thanks much for all the information, ideas and suggestions.

    Those M8 and M9 Kodak sensors do have something special about them. I have the Oly E-1 and E-500, both with sensors in that family, and I'll won't part with either. Those sensors haven't been failing that I've heard of, so even if the M8 sensor is beyond end-of-life I may just take the risk there.

    I might actually find the M8's weak (or none) IR coating useful for IR photography - I suspect an IR-only filter would do well on the M8. But having to use a post lens IR filter for normal color photog is a bit of a kluge, for sure.

    As to manual focusing, I never minded that on the old SLRs or m43 with legacy glass. As long as the rangefinder mechanism is good for indicating focus and the glass supports good manual focus, I'll likely appreciate it. I do wear glasses though, but that hasn't stopped me so far.

    As to lenses, I have an old Canon 50mm f1.4 that I love. I wonder if that can be adapted to M-mount ...

    Anyway, perhaps my next step is to see if I can rent an M8 with a 50mm for a week or such.
  10. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Mar 30, 2013
    You are absolutely right, I meant screen. The penalties of multi-tasking when one is a bloke...!


    Sent from another Galaxy
  11. NJH

    NJH Leica Place Regular

    Apr 29, 2013
    I never considered the film route but it is a solid point for those who want to shoot Ilford B&W film which still has something about it digital can't quite match (perhaps except the MM?), its that soft roll off and glow in the highlights. I was pleasantly surprised to see it on sale in my local boots the other week and of course one can still use Ilfordlab themselves for turning around the prints. Given how much more alive B&W is out of the M8 than colour if I was in same position again I would have seriously considered an M6 or M7 as there seems to be plenty around and a bit cheaper again. Definitely think about any way.
  12. Brian

    Brian Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 3, 2013
    Canon 50/1.4, now RF Coupled by putahexanonyou, on Flickr

    I've done that! The retaining ring from a Jupiter and leg of a broken tripod.

    M Monochrom with Canon 50/1.4 FL mount by putahexanonyou, on Flickr

    The FL mount lens was easier... The FD mount lens: NEVER take the mount off, you will end up with ball bearings running everywhere. The meter coupling pins got in the way of attaching the cam that I used on the FL lens. The 50/1.4 FL lens was stop-down metering, was easier to work with.
  13. TraamisVos

    TraamisVos Leica Place Regular

    Mar 30, 2013
    I have an M8.2, it has been my only carry-everywhere camera for over two years. For the first two years I've had this camera, I'd had a single lens only, a 35mm f/1.4.

    Addressing some of the points you raised:

    - ISO could be better of course, after all it's a 7 year old camera now. But on the other hand for many M8 owners the ISO isn't really a problem unless you do a lot of your photography in ultra low light conditions. I could write a lot more about this, but anyway.

    - SD card, I don't see that as a problem whatsoever.

    - quirky arrangement for accessing the battery and SD card, it never occurred to me that it was a drawback at all.

    - viewscreen, it never occurred to me that it was a problem too. It definitely does what I need my viewscreen to do.

    - the 8-bit thing .. alright who in their right mind wouldn't argue that that could be better but on the other hand the visual quality produced by the M8 has been amazing as my main camera, I have no complaints. I prefer it any day over my Canon DSLR.

    - cost, compared to the M9 and M240?

    - no kit lens, not really an issue for me. For the first two years I've had my M8.2, I've had the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4, which is the closest equivalent of a 50mm. For a f/1.4 lens, it's really quite affordable.

    I wouldn't have any other camera with me when it comes down to it. Well, actually I do, I have GAS for the new M240. But other than the M240, the M8.2 is still my everyday carry-everywhere camera.
  14. Brian

    Brian Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 3, 2013
    If you want to try out a Rangefinder, and will go for a Film camera: The vintage Canon rangefinder cameras are about 1/8th the cost of a Leica M7. You can pick up a good condition Canon 7 or Canon P body for ~$200, add a Canon 50/1.8 for ~$175.

    These days, a used M8 is running less than a used M7, and not much more than an M6.
  15. Penfan2010

    Penfan2010 Leica Place Regular

    Apr 18, 2013
    I think all specs aside, the most critical thing is whether or not RF is for you. If it's great analog shutter speed dials and aperture controls you want, there's the X-Pro1 and X-E1 for less money. I would go with Brian's suggestion, and even suggest you find a good quality fixed lens film RF on eBay. I got a great Canon QL17 with a fantastic 40mm f1.7 and an Olympus 35 SP with a really sharp 42mm F1.8, each for less than $100. Mind you, I've shot RFs before, and I do love using the rangefinder for certain situations.

    For what it's worth, I've owned an M3 for 10 years, but didn't use it much over the last 5 years or so because shooting film was becoming less and less economical. I bought a used XPro 1 last year because it came closest to my M3 in terms of manual shutter and aperture controls, and the OVF with frame lines was Leica-like enough for me. Thought it would stop there, given how expensive digital Leicas are, until I found a great condition M8 body for about the price of an XPro 1 body. I use my old M mount lenses with it, and am having a blast. The colors and sharpness are really good, and handling is way more intuitive than even on the X-Pro1 (which I tend to shoot on Aperture-priority mostly anyway). It's great to be shooting fully manual again; the meter works, but I don't even pay attention to it as I automatically shift to using the sunny 16 rule when shooting manually. Good luck on your final choice.
  16. Haans

    Haans Leica Place Rookie

    Apr 13, 2013
    Minneapolis, Mn.
    I bought an M8 from a guy that had just bought it and could not take rangefinders. He didn't like manual focus. I bought it expressly for the Kodak CCD sensor as I have 2 E1's and love the sensors. The M8 is my preferred camera digitally, if I'm shooting in the 24-90 range. I'm sure the M9 and all the rest are very fine, but I'm quite satisfied with the M8.
  17. Penfan2010

    Penfan2010 Leica Place Regular

    Apr 18, 2013
    A few more points on the M8 and RF photography in general from Luminous Landscapes; links below, but key quotes as you consider RF are:

    Rangefinder cameras are not reflex cameras. This is obvious, but many people don’t take account of it when thinking about this kind of tools. In a rangefinder camera you don’t see through the lens. That is the key. You see through an independent finder. This has some advantages. The luminosity of the finder doesn’t depend on the luminosity (or aperture) of the lens. The field of view doesn’t depend either on the field of view of the lens, and the same goes for the depth of field.

    To see the world throughout the finder of this camera is a different experience, and the rangefinder user is in fact a different photographer.

    Leica M8 Review

    Leica M8 - Another Perspective
  18. usayit

    usayit Leica Place Regular Subscribing Member

    Mar 31, 2013
    Northern NJ
    "To see the world throughout the finder of this camera is a different experience, and the rangefinder user is in fact a different photographer."

    That's the truth...

    I definitely shoot differently with a rangefinder... not better... not faster... just different. I kinda like it.
  19. BillN

    BillN Leica Place Rookie

    Mar 30, 2013
    generally I only use a 28mm lens ....... have a 50mm and 35mm ...... but always go back to the 28mm ...... for me it's a one lens camera
    only good at low ISO is probably a limiting factor but it's a RF cam and you can go down to 1/20sec hand held and still get sharp images
    LCD screen ..... only use it for menu changes .. (i.e. never for looking at images taken), so quality and "coffee stain" are never a worry
    It is heavy ...... you feel the weight if you stick it in your jacket pocket ...... unpleasant really
    never miss AF as f8 and infinity can take care of many shots
    if you wear eye glasses, (I do), it is not as handy as a DSLR or M43 etc.
    If you buy into Leica ......... stuff is expensive and if you need to have the cam repaired it may cost more than a new Fuji etc.

    If you are not uncomfortable with the cost, (new or used), it is a shooting experience that is very worthwhile.
    If you don't "do it" you will always feel that you should

    Good luck
  20. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    May 1, 2013
    I'll start keeping an eye open for a 20-something millimeter M-mount lens - vintage Zeiss or such. I can start shooting that on the X-E1, keeping in mind I'll end up with somewhat wider view on the M8.

    While what Bill says lends a cautionary voice, I think I might take a bit of risk and go for it.. It'll be a few months out, I need to start saving. :)

    Thanks All!