Don’t Forget the Leica M8 by Shan Ding

Dear Steve,

As a loyal reader of your site, I’d like to offer my thoughts on a digital vintage – The Leica M8.

We consumers/photo enthusiasts have the tough job of chasing the latest camera technology with our wallets and savings. We are always tempted to look ahead (M10, anyone?), and easily leave behind great machines that are barely 1 or 2 years old.

Case in point: Leica M8, a controversial product released by Leica way back in ’06 that was conveniently forgotten soon after M9 came out.

A month ago I had to send in my M9 to repair due to “chipped coating on the sensor” (sign of digital life span?) after just one year in possession. I needed an interim substitute that could offer me the same M-series built and handling. For the price of an X2, I purchased an M8 in pristine condition (thanks to dedicated Leica collectors in HK).

Immediately I felt connected to M8, because it was so similar to M9 in terms of look and handling.

Here are things about M8 I liked:

– 1.3 crop factor (not full frame, but still beats any mirrorless out there today)

– Interchangeable lens

– Rangefinder-style focusing (no need for EVF or LCD display)

– Leica M-series solid built and minimalistic handling

– Acceptable ISO up to 640, which in reality has ISO 800 sensitivity

– ISO 160 image quality almost as good as M9

– Same battery as M9, which means the camera could live on if M9 or Monochrom remain in production

 

And a couple of functions I wish M9 had retained from M8:

– Bigger text display on the menu pages

– dedicated battery indicator

I recently traveled to Locarno, Switzerland, and brought my M8 along with Pre-ASPH 35mm Summilux. The combo produced stunning images. I’d like to share some with you and your readers. With the imminent arrival of M10, the price of M8 will probably continue to fall. I urge anyone who’d like to get into the world of rangefinder photography to pick one up. f you are interested in viewing more of my pictures, please go to my website: www.dingyuinshan.com

Cheers,

Shan Ding

From Steve:

Don’t forget that the M8 requires the use or IR/UV filters for each lens you use on the camera! These are a MUST with the M8 if you want the correct color and IQ.

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88 thoughts on “Don’t Forget the Leica M8 by Shan Ding

  1. Been using the m8 and 28/2.8asph for about a year now and by far the best camera I have used. Previous cameras have been D700/RichohGR/D610 but I like the simplicity of the M8 and “real” controls for shutter speed/focus aperture.

  2. Hi guys,
    Late response, just to let you know that I bought my third M8 only a few days ago (second hand but with perfectly adjusted rangefinder). I now have 3 M8’s, only to make sure that I can go on using the M8 for many years to come.
    Best, Peter

  3. I agree with you Pascal I finally got my M8.2 back in November. I have a 40mm Summicron, 90mm Elmar and it has been a dream to use, The colours are so crisp and shooting in B&W is fantastic even at ISO1250. Though this week the camera has gone a bit nuts… every time I shoot all I get is a black image I am getting it looked at later this week, my first thought is the sensor. Lets hope the can fix.

  4. I have my M8.2 for 4 months now and I love it! Besides the shooting experience I like the M8 for shooting B&W without the UV/IR cut filter. it gives you great tones and deep blacks this way, which is large plus imo. In general I actually prefer the IQ (at iso 160)of the M8 over the M9 since the files look crisper and sharper to me. I tried the M9 for a week and returned it. The files looked somehow softer than those of the M8. Maybe it is because the M8, with its crop, only uses the best part of the lenses? anyone feels the same way about this? I do ordered the Leica M but I will definitely keep the M8.2 for travel and B&W work.

  5. I’m cool with the “oddball” Ms: M5 & M8. Both are excellent if you actually shoot with cameras and not just discuss and collect them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: technically the M8 is inferior to my DSLR but somehow it’s the M that fills my portfolio.

  6. Great if we could have a permanent loan type arrangement -like I have with the Bronica etrs as I mentioned in my previous post! – but this time for every camera we ever thought we needed !

    Crazy I hear ! one camera is always enough ! There is one thing I know for sure after almost a lifetime’s involvement in photography : It’s that every camera brings something new and inspiring with it and that is different for each of us.

    For me the Leica M family is the one I will always defer to as being the cameras I enjoy the most and with which I have produced my best work. It does not have to be the latest Leica or even a digital Leica -any old beat up scruffy, though fully functioning Leica M rangefinder will do!
    I use 35 and 50 summicrons on my M8 but the 28 elmarit on the M8 would be an excellent choice it’s small and razor sharp. The Zeiss 28 is nice as well and renders colour more vividly but I prefer the more neutral leica look and the Zeiss is heavier.

    The problem is that you need to buy one to find out ! -as per “Gunston’s post above.
    If I had a superb camera like a Canon 5D I would have to be sure a rangefinder would fit my style. How about hiring out a Leica M9 or a Leica M6 for a week end and see how you get along? I hired out a Canon 5d plus Canon flash gear to photograph my friend’s niece’s wedding and it was a wonderful camera and everything went great -but I was glad to get back to the quaint simplicity of my M8. However that same quaint simplicity would have been pain had I been using my M8 as the main camera for the wedding. i.e low ISO, unsophisticated flash,lack of a zoom lens etc The M8 did help me get some lovely candid pictures -so we have a balance.

    Nobody except “Gunston” will have the answer. I would never try to persuade him to my thinking and would love to know how he gets on.

    Either way keep shooting !

    1. Thanks for your reply, i have rented M8 with elma 28mm over the weekends, the rangefinger is easier to focus on what i really want to. Yet, i think that still need a lot of practicing on it, because the photos taken were not as sharp as 5DII, probably deal with my manual focus skill.
      the high iso of 1250 is really “yuck” if i bump up in low light situation, so i have to make sure it is 640 and below.
      Generally the feel of using rangefinger is great. but selling off the 5DII for a older techno of M8, is it really worth to trade off for its size, rangefinder capability … making me defer from switching too fast now. Or probably wait for M9 after the announcement of M10

  7. Thinking to sell off all my gear 5D Mark II and Lens to fund for this M8.
    Found a great deal with mint condition M8, not sure which lens would suit my taste, probably 28mm elmarit as it is equivalent of 35mm in full frame focal range.

    Not sure am i doing the right move.

  8. I have to admit, I love the M8. Sold my M9 because I wasn’t comfortable with the cash involved and downgraded to the M8. Outside of the larger files and not having to use IR/UV cut filters, the M8 is pretty much on par with the M9.

  9. Sold my m8.2 to buy a house ( yep you read that well). I will br back though. M lenses give good results on the Sony Nex 5 but it is far from the same. Comparable experience but very different rendering…

  10. This is a timely post on the merits and otherwise of the M8. I have an M8 with 35 and 50 summicrons and am an active street photographer and I must say the M8 produces beautiful black and white files which need little or no tweaking in Lightroom. I feel they are the nearest thing to the kind of results I used to get with my previous street photography camera an M6 – I used to use Ilford HP5 or XP2 if I was in a hurry.
    My advise to any photographer with an M6 is to stay with film if you really like black and white photography. Invest in more Leica glass and scan ! Digital produces clearer and cleaner looking images but most of the B&W stuff I have seen done with the pro Canons and Nikons by Photographers I respect is very uninspiring and lacks soul -it all looks so similar and bland. Some people think this is some kind of illusion maybe it is but to me it is very real.
    I still love to shoot street with my M8 but now have a permanent loan of a Bronica etrs and lenses so am trying portraiture with medium format B&W as a bit of something different -so far so good and as for the quality it’s a WOW !

  11. Hi Shan,

    I don’t know if I have anything worthwhile to add to all the comments that are already made…but I surely like your pictures. As a M8 owner it gives me a lot of joy to see such great pictures and reading the (mainly) positive comments on the M8.. Although I’d like to make the switch to a M9 somewhere in the future, I really enjoy the M8 and get a lot of positive reactions of fellow (even professionial) photographers, friends and family. I’ve submitted a daily inspiriation to Steve as well, maybe that will pop up some day ;-). The pictures in your dedicated site are great as well and I’d like to connect with you via Flickr.

    1. Hi Vincent,

      Thanks for your comments, and I believe we’ve already connected on Flickr. M8 is a great camera and as I have said elsewhere on this page, I’m not missing my M9 very much now that it’s away from me for close to a month. For me Pre-ASPH 35 Summilux + M8 is a winning combo. I’m trying to use my ASPH 28/2.8 because it uses the same IR filter as the Summilux. Happy shooting!

  12. I have a pristine M8 that just received the Leica USA CLA special here in NJ YESTERDAY… it looks like it just came out of the box brand new.

    I ordered an M9P last night from Dale Photo after reading Steve’s announcement regarding the $1000 discount. (Thanks Steve… I read your site every day…. great job as always..).

    The M8 will be finding it’s way to eBay this week but would certainly rather it find a home here if someone is interested….

  13. I’ve had a M8 for three years, and finally sold it. The M8 can deliver great image quality, especially in terms of sharpness (which I still think makes the M8 peak out of the masses). However, there was on strong reason why I sold mine: I found that the M8’s color rendition of skin tones ranges from bad to catastrophic. The M8 is unique in blending the tonality of skin tones with all kinds of overly red, magenta, and greenish-yellowish color casts (with a 6-bit coded aspherical Summicron lens, lens with Leica UV/IR filter mounted, with bit code read-out activated in the menu). Colorwise, it reliably spoiled all portraits that I took on my parents 75th birthday. The results were a mess. I should have taken my D700 instead.
    With the M8, I felt like having stepped into a trap. And that’s the reason why I did not yet purchase a M9, as I fear that I will see similar color casts with this camera. On top of this come the M9’s infamous cracks of the sensor filters… Maybe it’s better to wait for the M10 with CMOS technology. The X1 and X2 show that modern CMOS sensors are also able to deliver that characterful Leica look that we all are lusting for.

  14. I started with the M8 and was grateful to be able to afford a demo M9-P this year at a good price. Although I’ve adapted to M9-P and some of its improvements, there is some kind of sentiment when I pick up the M8 every time though. The screen gives you a better feeling than M9’s screen in my opinion but the file is smaller to justify some of the differences. I find the metering and exposure more accurate as well.

    As for IQ, the files look different as I compare the M9 to M8 as D3 to D200. For studio work curiously M8 look is better than M9 look.

    For those enjoying or looking to get an M8 I would say go with it. It is a rocking camera indeed. I do try to keep the IR filters on, but if I forget, a little hue/saturation adjustment layer with magenta selected and click the eyedropper on the black magenta area, desaturate and use a mask to paint it back as required. It only takes less than 5 minutes. I agree with Steve that for B+W without the filter is an added.

    I use both cameras with two different lenses which is easier than switching lenses constantly. The crop sensor is a special feature. I adore the 50 cron on it, almost make it a mild macro lens!

    Cheers and thanks for sharing your thoughts, Shan Ding. The title of the post is TRUE!

  15. Hai Shan,

    Those are beautifull pictures … I hope u enjoy that M8 while ur M9 being fix for a moment.
    Maybe you can call me crazy, coz i sold my M9 three times before deciding firmly to stay with M8, ha5 …

    In my opinion, M9 got more vibrant colour compare to M8, which is not good for my taste … Basicaly i came from Nikon background so it supposed to be okey with the vibrant colour, but for me M9 colours is not right, its too vivid for some colours … And d crop factor for me is a point plus coz im a potrait shooter, most of my time is capturing my family pictures so i need extra range …

    So now i stick with my M8 chrome and my one and only lens which is nocti 0.95 and very happy with this combo, many people called me crazy bcoz of d setup … Ha5

    All in all, enjoy the M8 while u got time …

  16. Hi Shan Ding,

    M9 chipped sensor coating. How did that happen, was it during sensor cleaning with a blower, or did it just crack by itself?

    I have both the M9 and a M9-P, so if one goes down, I have a backup.

    1. Hi Ken, no clue how it happened… I noticed small black spots when shooting f11/16 and thought the sensor was dirty. Rocket blower didn’t work so I brought the cam to local dealer, who told me the dust spots were caused by chipped sensor coating. No idea really the cause of this.

  17. M8 is great. Do I miss mine? No. I bought a chrome M7 and I am never looking back. I also got a black M6 TTL as well in case I need a semi-mechanical counterpart. Digital Leicas depreciate pretty quickly. Luckily I sold my M8 for more than I purchased it for… Though shooting real 35mm Leica is much more joyful than a 1.33x crop body. 35mm lens is 35mm and 50 is a 50 no crop to account for…

    Plus I have the .72 mag on m7 and .85 mag on m6. Both for less than a usual asking price of a m8.2… If I shoot digital I take my new fave Sony RX100. 20 gorgeous megapixels in my pocket plenty of power to make decent prints of family life. Leicas are for the soul 😛

    1. “Digital Leicas depreciate pretty quickly. Luckily I sold my M8 for more than I purchased it for…”

      What am I missing here?

  18. My “old” M8 is still with me. Second M8 was sold to make room for M9. These days M8 is 99% of the time paired with Voightlander 15mm and 21mm viewfinder. Winning combination every time! I still shoot stock with this camera and still sell a ton of images with it… What else a (stock) photographer could ask for?

  19. “1.3 crop factor (not full frame, but still beats any mirrorless out there today)”

    Out of curiosity, in what respect do you feel that this statement holds true?

    1. My guess is he’s saying “unfortunately it is not full-frame, but at least the crop factor is less than any other non-full-frame mirrorless camera”.

      I’ll add that, at least in the shorter lenses, 1.33x results in more generally “typical” FOVs than other crop factors, e.g.: 18->24mm, 21->28mm, 28->37mm, 35->47mm. Not a huge deal, but I like it.

  20. I’ve been resently thinking of getting an M8 as a backup camera and more day to day use camera, along with my M6 and M9. The value is decreasing and as you have stated here it delivers great quality!
    Thanks for sharing Shan! 🙂

  21. I would LOVE an M8. I would trade my entire camera set up for an M8 and CV 35 1.4 lens. An M9 is forever out of my price range. Awesome pics! Makes me want one even more =o]

    1. Oi Poormans M8 Panasonic leica G1 with ltm adapters use pentax primes-50-135 the skiys the limit FYI I got a excellent cont. 1.7 f K-mount off a Vivitar showed some shots BW colour with manual exposures to a Leica owner and guess what he compared my shots with Ansell Adams I shoot with Nature various lighting conditions Most of my gear is bought second hand or off C list off camera freaks for bare minimum. I mostly hound any second hand shops handle all equipment inspect lens for condition.
      Don’t get worried about Leica stoping you from taking clicks I prefer micro four thirds with primes also check out Arts colleges Church yard sales dont overlook LTM lens with an adapters you can save cash. Hope this helps. Most importantly Shoot film Digital just practice stop close your eye get composing before your aware everything falls into place Remember were energy do good and the powers that be well Kamera Karma…Happy Shooting.
      I paid 5 cdn for a late 50’s Japanese Leica M2 with a built light meter plus a lowpro camera bag for less then 5 cdn because i ran out of change. A church yard sale to aid youth groups.
      Smile.

        1. The GXR plus M module is APS (like the M8/8.2), it has a SILENT shutter when enabled (quieter than the M8/8.2), it doesn’t need an IR filter on each lens, it has positive-focus ‘peaking’ (more accurate than the M8/8.2 with long lenses), can be used with zoom lenses and an appropriate adaptor-for-M-fit (unlike the M8/8.2), gives rear screen/electronic viewfinder preview (unlike the M8/8.2), shows the exact view seen by each lens (unlike the M8/8.2 which – like the M9 – always shows the view seen by a 28mm lens), CAN use the ultra-sharp Leica Dual Range 50mm (unlike the M8/8.2 which – like the M9 – can’t focus to infinity with the ‘DR’ Summicron), and, of course, it’s smaller and lighter than the M8/8.2.

          Case closed.

          1. Case closed, by winning on bullet points? It doesn’t have an optical viewfinder, is not even a rangefinder, it’s not nearly as much fun to use… it has a higher crop factor.., what if I still prefer my M8? Case open again I’d say.

          2. The GXR is APS-C a 1.5 crop compared to the 1.3 of the M8. GXR is not a rangefinder and works more like a P&S/Mirrorless and the VF is no where near as good as using the RF window of the M8 (in fact, the EVF of the GXR needs to be replaced ASAP). The M8 puts out better IQ IMO over the GXR sensor. I’d take the M8 any day over the new GXR set, which would be about the same price as a used M8. Mainly due to the CCD 1.3 sensor used in the M8 over the CMOS 1.5 in the GXR, and the fact that it is not an RF. I prefer the IQ that comes out of the M8 as well as the usability and joy that comes from it. Everyone has different tastes of course but for using M glass, the M8 still excels over mirrorless choices as long as you don’t go over ISO 640.

          3. “..as long as you don’t go over ISO 640.”

            I’m using Kodak ISO 800 in my old M3 from 1954.

            But with a 2012 Leica (..oops, sorry; built in 2009..) “don’t go over ISO 640”.

            Doesn’t make sense, Steve, does it?

          4. CORRECTION: The M8/8.2 was a 2006 camera; the M9 was 2009.

            But it STILL doesn’t make sense ..to me, anyway.

            (I use the GXR+M at ISO 1250.)

  22. Really like your photo style and love the colours in the images – #2 is amazing. I also checked out your website and enjoyed your work there too.

    I am a new R-D1 user but have been thinking I would like an M8 so it might be time 🙂

      1. Unfortunately my R-D1 died after a month of buying it so it’s off in Japan getting fixed – can’t wait until it’s back!

        Was there any post-processing done on any of your shots? The family on top of the rocks has amazing colour.

  23. Compared to the RD1, im sorry to say M8/8.2 (& M9) feels somewhat cheap & clunky.

    Still the photos M8/8.2 CCD outputs are neat, comparable to CCD cams as Fuji S2, S3, Kodak SLRC & N, Canon 1D, Olympus E1.

  24. I have had my M8 for almost two years now. It has given me many great photos & memories. It is such a basic camera that as a photographer, I am on my own – This is actually a good thing!

  25. I currently have my M8 (and M2) for sale on another photo forum. I have gotten a lot of great results from the M8, but it just hasn’t gotten much use lately (I mostly shoot medium format film these days). However, this thread and comments have me second guessing myself, at least regarding the M8.

  26. Love the look the 35 summilux pre asph really gives a vintage look
    Let’s give the lens some credit here as well it’s the glass in front of
    The sensor that helps and the camera i
    And yes the m8 does a fine job nice pics thanx

    1. Yes the Summilux offers a classic look that I just adore. Got an ASPH 28 Elmarit on me but stuck with this 35mm all the time!!

      Shan

  27. I bought an M9 a few weeks ago, and honestly didn’t see that it was all that better than the M8 for what I wanted. I ended up selling the M9 and picked up an M8 this week for under $1,500. Snapped on my Zeiss 28/2.8 and I was off to the races.

    This is a rugged camera that is very capable of producing memorable images.

  28. I use M8/CLE(or Zeiss Ikon ZM) as a combo all the time. In that way I have four focus lengths with two lens (28/40, 24/35… you name it), on both digital and film.

  29. Nice post Shan.

    M8/8.2 is a classic, period. @ Clint Dunn, I have to agree with you on the CCD sensor, there is something magical about the M8 files! Color or B&W…

    Cheers!

  30. Dumb question here, am I to understand that no UV/IR filter is needed when using the M8 for only B/W photos? I would think one would still want the color correction… Thanks!
    Tom

  31. Everybody hated the M8 at the time and with all that hullabaloo about uv/ir filters it was never taken too seriously especially once the M9 was released. I love it though, a second hand M9 costs twice as much but the difference in quality in negligible.

  32. Well I bought my first Leica at the beginning of this year, it is an M8, I have bought a new 28mm f2.8 Elmarit asph, and a 90mm Elmarit from around 1998… Getting the approval of “she who must be obeyed” for the expenditure of £3,500 on a camera is difficult, £7000 on similar, but with M9 for a body… IMPOSSIBLE…

    I am thinking of acquiring an ultra wide angle. Which is why I have just looked at this article…

    Since January, I haven’t looked at any article on these sites… just flicked through (sorry Steve), but so pleased with my M8, can’t be bothered doing stuff other than snappery.

    It hasn’t told me anything about ultra wide angles, but it has given me a nice warm fuzzy feeling that I am among a good number of fellow “Leicam8” types who are more than happy with the M8, its faults and its joys, and of course it justifiability…

    Now, off to find out about Angulon’s, Skopar’s and the like…

    1. i recommend the voigtländer heliar 15mm, on my M8 it works like a 21mm on fullframe. and it is a very small lens you can carry with you all the time. and of course you’ll need an external viewfinder.
      makes great pictures

  33. I own an M9, thanks to Steve and his great site. When I look at photos on the LFI gallery site a lot of the images that have appealed to me, I notice, are taken with the M8. Very impressive camera actually.

  34. I agree, the M8 is still a very viable camera , and you can have prints made up to 16 x 24 that look very nice!

    I also like the rendering when making B+W images , I dont know how much is down to the cron 50 and how much is down to the M8s sensor, but I always craved a M9, but I think im going to just keep the M8 and buy better lenses 🙂

  35. I really wanted to keep my M8 but sold it to get a M9. Dumb move. But I had to in order to afford the M9. Sure there were/are a few problems that kept popping up, for example the buffer is way too small and the sound of the shutter is louder than some DSLRs, but that is about it. It was/is a solid and dependable camera. In other words, it is a Leica.

    My big debate now is the MM vs the M8. Yeah, the M8 is a wonderful B&W camera. Shots taken without the UVIR filter have great tonality. Add a 93 IR filter and you have a very nice IR capable body. With the MM going for $8,000 and a good used M8.2 in the $2,500 range, it is hard to justify the MM. Add to this the back-up color abilities of a M8 body and it may be time to reacquire a M8.

  36. The M8 took my photography to where it’s at now. I think only right now as the M9 is about to pass the torch is the M8 getting its due. When the M9 came out everyone was so crazy for it that it’s predecessor quickly fell by the wayside fairly quickly. Now that the M9 is about to be in the same boat I think people are starting to take an honest look and see that the M8 is a pretty awesome camera.

    1. Cant agree more, John. It takes a while to let quick judgements and marketing hype fade out, and give us room to really understand what a product has to offer.

  37. Bought one one month ago for about the same price as an olympus om-d with battery grip…
    One thing no one told me about is how bright ISO640 is compared to nikon and olympus…the lens let more of light through (something like 1 + stop)

  38. I’ve only had my M9 for about a month now. So far it far exceeds my expectations. I see by your images that the M8 worked just as well. Your images are outstanding!

  39. I agree….the M8 is an awesome camera, even today. I sold mine to fund the purchase of an XPro1 and I would be lying if I said I didn’t regret the decision on occasion…

    At base ISO the image quality of the M8 is on par or superior to many of the newer cameras out today. You also get that certain signature ‘look’ which I feel is due to the CCD sensor.

  40. Recently I spoke to a big Leica fan that he owned both M8 & M9. He mentioned one benefit of M8 is 1/8000 speed and it able to take the wide open lens which most DSLR including M9 are not offering. I am thinking about getting a M8 (more affordable to me) and I would like to get more information from all the users here.

    Thanks!

    1. I even stopped thinking abut limitations in aperture. The 1/8000th covers basically any lighting situation. Really great and no ND filters needed when shooting wide open.

  41. Oh I couldn’t agree more and I also considered writing a piece on the M8 for Steve’s site. I’ve been so happy with my M8 that I carry it on me all the time and it basically killed my gas. For the price of an xpro1 the M8 gives you such a great handling camera, perfect focusing, beautiful IQ, it really is far from obsolete. Leica USA is even offering a cheap full CLA for the M8 at the moment. Hope this’ll be available to Europeans as well soon.

  42. In reality the masters of the past would have killed for an M8 and the results would have been as outstanding and classic as ever. These are very nice pictures and shows the quality the M8 can deliver. Bravo.

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