Is the Leica M8 Still A Good Choice? By Steve Huff
(or, one hour with an old friend, the Leica M8)
Hey guys! Still working on my film stuff as I am awaiting a couple of more rolls to get back from the lab. Having a lab process and scan this time and they take 2-3 days! Anyway, I was out in Phoenix today with a dear old friend, the Leica M8! Yes, an M8.It’s been a long time since I shot with one, and a local shop in Phoenix had one in mint condition, used, at a very good price. Looked like new so it got my brain to thinking… Seeing that I have been missing my M9 so much, and really missing having an M in general, I sold my X1 to fund this M8. DOH! But I feel REALLY good about the decision. I love the X1, and as fantastic as it is at what it does, my heart is with the M.
So….there I was at the shop and I bought it, and after selling my X1 it only cost me a teeny bit more for the M8, so it was almost an even swap. It already had a fully charged battery and a 4GB memory card inside so I took a quick walk even though the temp was a pretty hot 110 degrees. On these days it feels like you are walking inside an oven. Brutal!
Anyway, I had the old 40mm Summicron attached (from the CL) and my 50 Summitar from the 40’s, without a UV/IR filter (dont have one on hand) and took a few shots around town. No premo lenses..nope, nothing fancy. No coding either. Just the basics. A used M8 and some old lenses. I was not expecting much and started to wonder if I should have kept my X1 for its lovely size, quietness, and image quality. As soon as I lifted the viewfinder to my eye I felt like I was home! THIS is me. THIS is what I have been missing. No, it’s not an M9 but the next best thing IMO, and until I can save for another M9, this will be my constant companion. This leads me in to a question I get asked quite often, at least 1-2 times every single day…
So, is the M8 still a good choice, even today?
I always get the question….”Is the M8 still a good camera”? I always say OF COURSE IT IS! The M8 and M8.2 are still my 2nd favorite digital camera ever (the M8 and M8.2 are really the same as far as operation and IQ) with the M9 being #1. It’s not all about the image quality with these cameras but more about the “usability factor” AND the quality! Using an M, any M, is just a rewarding experience and yes, with plenty of M8’s on the used market these days, it is still a GREAT alternative if you want a digital M. If you do not have the $7000 for an M9 that is. For about $2200-$2700 you can buy a perfect M8 on the used market. Add a used Leica lens and you have a wonderful digital M setup!
M8 vs M9 – Well, I am betting that ALL of you reading this have read my M9 review, so you know the differences between the M8 and M9. After an hour of shooting today with the M8, I can say that the M9 has richer files, better color out of camera, and better high ISO. Also, full frame, no need for UV/IR filters and its somewhat faster as well. The M9 IS a better camera, but the M8 is no slouch. The key to the M8? Shoot RAW and tweak during processing!
Here are a few during my one hour I spent with the Leica M8 today 🙂 Click on any image to have a lightbox open up with a nicer, larger version 🙂
ABOVE: I shot this graffiti mid day in the Phx, AZ sun. After the RAW conversion in ACR, it almost looks like a nice chrome film stock! This was using the old 40mm Summicron that came with the CL I am reviewing. A lens that usually sells for $300-$400. Click the image for a larger version!
ABOVE: Again, the 40mm summicron, no coding and no UV/IR…mid day full AZ sun…Leica look anyone?
ABOVE: Check this out! The M8 I was walking with today had a pinhole body cap adapter. I shot this out of my window while driving. It’s Abstract yes, but the possibilities seem interesting. More testing with this coming soon.
ABOVE: Crazy bokeh anyone? Colors were pumped up here but the lens used was my 1940’s 50 Summitar wide open at F2. Just seeing how this lens behaves on the M8 as I loved it on the M9.
ABOVE: At Photomark in Phx, AZ
ABOVE: I was testing focus with the 50 Summitar and focused on the right edge of the shovel (when looking at photo, right) – found out focus was spot on and that this lens still has a unique character.
ABOVE: A pretty silly subject for a photo huh? But look, an M camera with a unique lens like the $300 50 Summitar can make almost anything look interesting 🙂
ABOVE: More with the 50 Summitar – lovely at F2 in my living room.
ABOVE: Me with the M8 and the 40 Summicron at F2.
ABOVE: With the 40 Summicron at f2
ABOVE: Another with the 40, wide open.
ABOVE: Just a quick window snap…40 Summicron at f2
ABOVE: 40 Summicron at f/2
ABOVE: Crazy 50 Summitar Bokeh…
ABOVE: The M8, just like the M9 has always been a great camera for B&W conversions. This one was done with Silver Efex Pro.
ABOVE: OK, these last three were shot after the first hour, but still within a 10 minute time frame of each other 🙂 With the 40 again, which seems to be a great lens on the M8 with the crop.
ABOVE: Abandoned Shopping Carts, M8, 40 Summicron at f/2
ABOVE: M8, 40 Summicron, f/2
ABOVE: M8, 40 Summicron
ABOVE: The 40 Summicron DOES looks good on the M8!
So while I only shot for an hour today with this camera, it’s pretty amazing that no matter what I shot, no matter how silly, the results came out nice. Maybe it’s the “Leica Look” or maybe it’s just the way one shoots with a manual M camera? Not so sure, but I like it! So if you are out there and wanting an M mount digital, give the M8 more than a thought. Even with old lenses and no UV/IR filters it can pump out more unique images than most other cameras in the price range of $2000. Also, you get the enjoyment of using an M camera, which is a thing of beauty in itself. 🙂
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Been using an m8 since it came out.
I like it despite not being FF.
Dislike the slight lag, slow processor, but the files are nice esp if can use base iso with relatively high shutter speed.
The shutter is not that great, noisy and at speeds less than 125 lead to softer images.
Hello Steve, now a M8 is about 700/900 $… i have fuji gears (xt1, xpro1, xe2) for weddings, but i would like to have a new toy for my 40th birthday 😉 i’m used to the formfactor with the xpro1 / xe2. …and why not taking a M8 with me on weddings (my job)… (no lenses for the moment, except a takumar 50mm f1.4 M42… maybe i’ll take an adaptor for the first month… what do you think, i will regret it ? a M8 is it always a good camera in 2016 ? or maybe xpro2 at the end of the year (when price will have dropped a little)… ?
Well, on the M8 you can not adapt lenses. You can use only M lenses and they need to be RF coupled in order to focus. So only M mount lenses with RF coupling will work on an M8. Besides that, the M8 has loads of issues these days that would keep me from owning one. The sensors have been going bad on the M8’s for years, the lCD is unusable by todays standards and many of them have the coffee stain issue. Then the ISO…base ISO is all many are happy with on the M8. I used it up to ISO 640 but it had noise. Also, most M8’s being sold used today need an RF adjustment. Without that your lenses may not focus. The M8 was great for its time, but still had issues back then. Also, it’s a crop sensor not full frame. I would avoid a used M8 and even M9 today as if something needs repair, it will not be cheap.
I’ve given some thought to trying a Leica, but always stop short due to price. That being said, I’m considering a used Sony A7ii and a Zeiss Loxia 50, which I can pick up less than $2500. Do you think this is a better choice from an image quality standpoint. Thanks.
Well, depends on what Leica you are talking about. If you mean a Leica M and 50 vs a Sony A7II and 50, they will be about equal on the IQ front in regards to sharpness, detail, DOF, etc. The color signature from Leica is different though, and IMO, more pleasing. So I feel an M will give you better color, but an A7II will offer more versatility. Two different mindsets really. RF vs EVF. Both are wonderful cameras, and the Loxia is one of my faves due to its size and smooth manual focus.
Thank you Steve for your very thorough and quick reply. I was actually thinking of renting a M (type 262) and a 50 mm summicron just for the experience of shooting a Leica. I’ve rented the A7ii and the Loxia and loved the combo, a joy to shoot. I guess shooting a Leica is an itch I need to scratch! Many thanks for the feedback and for this awesome website. I look at it daily and it has transformed me into a bigtime mirrorless fan.
as for Me, M8 always the best choice! thanks a lot for this article!
I looked on this site as I was considering the purchase of a Leica M8, as I have not yet gone digital. I’ll be purchasing a used one. I am currently using a pair of Leica M4-P bodies with CV 25/4 & 40/2 & 90/4 Leitz lenses. I also have an MD2 that is permanently fitted with a 21mm f3.4 (the second one). I’m currently considering a used 28mm f2.8 Leitz lens to use with this outfit. So, if I went digital, I’d be best with a Leica M as I have the lenses. My main concern is reliability with a used electronic camera.
It would have to be a black one.
I have a sweet spot Leica IQ and its mechanical mastery, and now I’ve saved around 2.5k to buy one. Which one do you recommend: X2 or the M8?
I just bought my 3rd M8. The first one I bought very cheap for about 1200Euro’s but it had a hot pixel.
So Leica put in a new sensor and it was awesome!!!
Then the M9 came along so I traded the old girl for a steel grey M9. I thought I was in heaven.
After 4 months of shooting the M9 I started to miss the old girl……….don’t ask me why but I think it had something to do with the tiny display on top or was it something else….????
So my second (black) M8 was in my Think Tank bag again!!
The M came on the market but hey…that’s to expensive for me!!!
All of a sudden I had the opportunity to trade in The M8 and the M9 for a M…!!!
Last week I went with my M for a Biogon Zeiss 21 2.8 to my local dealer and guess what….there was this nice minty little 6900 shots black M8 in the window…….SOLD!!!!
Things can go weird don’t you think???
The M8 has a special place in my heart.
Thanks for the review Steve.
Summicron 35 ASP
Zeiss Biogon 21 2.8
Just got my M8.2 yesterday and so far it is a delight. I previously used an M6 (still do) and have 35 Summarit, 50 Summicron v4 and 90 Thin Tele-Elmarit. The M8 only makes me want a 28 Elmarit so that I can shoot digital with the same field of view as the 35 (love the Summarit).
So far I’ve just set ISO to 160 and used Lightroom 4 to convert my DNGs to black and white. No IR/UV filters necessary for black and white.
What really strikes me is the quality of black and white from this camera, which is extremely film-like. It also has the same quality feel as the M6 (and I would assume a more modern digital M).
I am so glad I dumped my DSLR and went small.
So this blog among others have convinced me to pick up a M8. And I did. But only after I received it (a used one, without warranty or anything) did it come to my attention the supposed rate in which the M8 shutter would fail suddenly. Whether the actuation is high or low, it is rather spontaneous. So I am curious if anyone have encounter any of these technical issues with their Leica M8, or are the individuals who raise up the problem are the unlucky ones. I am currently on the edge and line of deciding whether to simply just return the M8, or gamble and keep it. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 🙂
@Jurgen check out zeiss 50 f2.
@steve do you think m8.2 is still a good purchase compared to buying an xe-1? the new m is too expensive and m9 seems halfway house. I think leica will bring a cheaper M like they did with m-e
The M9 is much better than the 8.2..I would go for an M9 especially now as I see them for $3500. M8.2’s I see are still $3000+
Hi Steve. Do you think the M8 with upgraded shutter and screen is still a good choice in the $1800US range for my first digital rangefinder? Thanks!
Forgot to say that I have a 40mm Summicron that I would pair with it to start.
If I can get a good deal, I might be getting an M8 (although the X-E1 is my current favorite). Could you point me towards a good “beginners” lens for the M8, that is not too pricey, but still good to get going with a rangefinder?
Leica Summarit 35mm f/2.5. Comes out to 46mm on M8 and is just fantastic.
…so tempting that I got a M8.2 with a 50mm Summicron… it is so natural now that when I get my Oly E-P1 (that i really love), I try to place my eye on the non existing viewfinder and it feels like cheap in comparisson. That’s the problem of trying a Leica, it changes all the process aproach for good….
It is a background bluring machine!
another tempting post for my to move on with M8 …
what are peoples thoughts on how well the M8’s 10mp shots blow up to A3? anyone with thoughts on how well the M8 holds up (or not) another two years on now we’re in 2012?
was thinking about selling my m9 and switching back to an M8 while i save for a M9monochrom later in the year (would keep M8 as back up body then) any one with any personal experience of how well M8 shots look at that size? would my money be better spent on an X2 for the sake of six months?
The M8 is fantastic as long as you stay under ISO 640 and use IR/UV filters. The high ISO when compared to todays cameras, even the M9 is pretty bad. Other than that it still takes amazing photos that can be printed huge. I’m considering the Monochrome as well and if so, have to dump the M9 to fund it. I considered an M8 as well.
thnaks Steve, thats interesting – since my initial post i’ve gone on and bought an M7 and a neg scanner instead, i’ll use M9 with M7 backup until i can afford the M9m and then whirl the M9 into the backup slot – which will no doubt be at current M8 values by then!
Am looking forwards to losing my film virginity, i started on digital so its a whole new world 🙂
want to donate an M8 or M9 to my “charity”? 🙂
I just downgrade… 🙂 from M9(that have a vertical problem, so I return to second hand shop) and get M8 + 35mm f/1.4 Summilux(new model) and very happy with the results even in low light.
Thanks for the article Steve
It cost me 3 grand though 🙂
Steve, thanks for all the great insight and this wonderful web site.
Your sharing of your recent experience with getting the M8 pushed me over the edge this afternoon. Actually after about an hour of trying to open my wallet to take the plunge.
I just traded my X1 and a Sony NEX3 for a 9+ M8 and a 75mm Summarit-M f/2.5 ( I do a lot of street photography and need some stealth ability ). I so wanted an M9 for it’s full frame but $7K is a lot to spend on a body. I currently shoot a lot with a Nikon D3S but the size, weight and pointing a bazooka lens (even from across the street) takes away from the candid shots I am looking for.
I even had security people chase me or detain me when I had the Nikon gear strapped on me.
I always thought of Leica as just some old legacy company with highly overpriced goods. When my local camera store (Camera West in Walnut Creek, CA) started to share the Leica gear and placed it in my hands…. what you and a lot of people say about Leica comes crystal clear. There is a difference between this and my Nikon pro gear.
If it wasn’t for the fact that at times I shoot sports and wild life…. the need for very long lenses and ultra high ISO, I would have traded all the Nikon gear for the M9 and a bunch of great Leica lens.
Who knows…. if this M8 continues to dazzle me and my creative juices…. some of the Nikon gear might be up for sale. Bad news is that my camera guys are telling me some M9’s are on it’s way.
This Leica and your site has brought back something that I experienced when learning how to shoot back in high school. I thought all those sensations were lost due to technology. I was so wrong. The love of photography is back.
Thank you Steve for the great re-review. So much so I do have my own M8 now, the results are fantastic and better than what I was getting with scanned Velvia from my M6. And while my Canon 5d mark II can blow it away when it comes to pure resolution, I still prefer the look from my M8 and Leica Summicron glass to anything coming out of the Canon. My one has had the framlines, shutter and rear glass updated to M8.2 spec, so to me it really does feel and sound like a digital M6 to use. Sometimes it really is more about the experience of it all than the actual results, so thank you again for the review.
Late on this one but glad to see you’re back with an M in hand… I love my M8.2 big time!
Some of my M8 shots here ( http://blog.ikphotography.com/?page_id=663 )
Steve, I just came back from vacation and saw this article. So glad you’re “home again.” The M8 is a wonderful camera. People on photo forums tend to be only interested in the latest and greatest, and pooh-pooh last year’s model. But last year’s model still takes just as good pictures as it did last year. The improvements from M8 to M9 are incremental–real, but relatively small. The M8 still shoots like a Leica. I love mine, and the M9’s improvements aren’t enought to justify the cost for me. So welcome home! Pick up a couple of UV/IR filters and enjoy!
I’m really enjoying your site.
Perhaps I should have you purchase my Jobo-ATL 2300 based on what your writing here.
Actually, i’m not positive I want to give her up… 🙂
Steve, sorry to hear about your troubles. I really enjoy your site. The Leica X1 is cool, but I think you made a wise choice swapping it for the M8. Do you still have the Leica MP film body and EP2? If you are up for it, I would love to see more comparisons of M lenses on the M8 and Oly EP2. Since the M8 is APS-C sized (like the X1) the difference to m4/3 is not as great as the full frame M9.
I have a panasonic GF1 with 20mm 1.7, OM adaptor + zuiko 50mm 1.8, 28mm 2.8, 100mm 2.8 and an M mount adaptor and a Nokton classic 40mm 1.4 SC. I really love the GF1 and each lens has character. The nokton 40mm on the GF1 is really nice with great bokeh. The GF1 system reminds me a lot of my beloved OM2 (which I still have but don’t shoot anymore). The GF1 has got me interested in photography again and I am shooting again and really enjoying it. I skipped the whole digital SLR thing (going digital compact) since nothing was even close to the OM2 until m4/3. Maybe someday in the distant future I will pick up a used leica body (m6, mp or m8). But for now I am loving the “range-finder lite” GF1 and slowly acquiring M-mount glass (maybe a summitar or zeiss next).
I also want to comment on the subject on finances before we get into our hobbies. We need to ensure our financial emergencies and futures are taken care of. I am not sure how it is in the international world, but in the U.S., it’s good to have 3-12 months of living expenses (depending on your situation) socked away, not to mention long-term savings, retirements, and investments. If you plan on sending your kids to school, saving for them also is good advice, but they can always get a scholarship. There are no such things as retirement scholarships or emergency scholarships.
Cameras are cool hobbies, but they make for poor collateral in the event of a financial hardship. It just sucks having to sell a camera every time an emergency pops up.
Well in my situation I had no choice, not because I did not have money in the bank, but because someone cleared out my bank acct 🙂
Looking for a used m8 or m8.2 but am continually bummed by the increased cost of the 8.2 over the 8. Anyone know if Leica will still update the framelines and shutter and, if so, how much they might charge?
BTW, Steve, loved seeing the Summicron-C 40 shots. I have that lens from my CL and it is awesome, got to use it briefly on the rented m8.2 I had for a bit:
It’s just a great little lens. Old, cheap, still works like new, draws a little more classicly.
I have spent the summer shooting with an M8.2 and could not ask for more. Images are mostly as sharp as they could possible be (Elmarit 28mm ASPH + 50 Cron) on the pixel level. Any lack of quality has been result of bad exposure or camera movement, not the gear. With LR3 I have not had any issues with high-ISO noise in normal morning-to-early-evening outdoor conditions.
If I had a few thousand extra I would rather get new lens than upgrade the body to the M9.
Some of my M8 shots here:
Hi there. I have had an used M8 for about 3 months and love it but it’s really frustrating with a intermittent sensor fault. In all your use of the camera have you come across it? Have you any views on the reliability questions on the camera? Robin. Edinburgh. Scotland. U.K.
Sensor fault? What does it do? I have never had any issues with the m8 or M9 other than my M9’s focus being a bit off when I first bought it. As far as reliability, never for me but I do know others have had issues with the M8 that firmware has fixed for the most part.
Hi there, thanks for the reply. There is a line down the middle of the image. It looks like one half is a stop different in exposure. Its all up to date in software. Robin.
That sounds like it needs service. Sorry to hear that.
Thanks. The dealer will send it off to Leica for work. Love the camera and hope for a stand by one from dealer. Great site and thanks for all the reviews. Regards… Robin.
Really glad to hear that you have a digital Rangefinder back in your hands again-no doubt you must have gone through major withdrawal! As wonderful as the X1 is (my partner has one), it’s just not the same.
Love the older Leica lenses as well…I picked up an absolute mint Summitar circa 1950 on Ebay a few weeks back but I haven’t really shot with it much because just a day or two after I acquired it, I had an opportunity to purchase a like new refurbished Noctilux f/1 that I just couldn’t pass up and It’s been living on my M9 ever since…a big thanks to you for bringing Ken Hansen to my attention!
I’ve been interested in getting into leica/rangefinder cameras for some time as there is something about the approach to photography (as opposed to an slr) that seems very appealing to me. One interesting thing I have read about the M8 is the theory that the IR light it captures may give it an advantage with black and white photography in somehow capturing more tonal subtleties. What ever advantages there may or may not be, the photos I’ve seen from it (both black and white and color) are very nice. My digital camera was recently stolen (an old for digital Nikon D2H) so I’m thinking of going for an M8. I might not be able to do event photography (non-professionally) the way I did it with the Nikon but then again I’m thinking that might be a good thing. And I’m also wondering if I might be more inclined to use the leica for my more personal work whereas I never felt quite satisfied with my other digital camera, for which reason (at least one reason) I still use film quite a bit.
Would be great to see some lens review on the M8, Steve.
Welcome back !
Congratulations Steve ! It’s a great choice…
Happy you’re back in the RF numeric world.
I do not understand you Steve. The M9 is a better camera, with a much better IQ. The M8 as back up camera???? Are you afraid that your M9 breaks down? Why use an M8 if you have an M9? Or do you keep the M9 in mint condition for sale in the future!
Hi Demian, I do not have an M9, just the M8 and a couple of smaller cams, film and digital. Besides, if I do get an M9 again in the near future, the M8 would make a fantastic back up camera. The M9 does not have “much better” IQ. Basically better colors, better high ISO, and a slightly “richer” file. Along with the full frame, no need for IR filters and the more silent shutter the M9 is a better camera, as I stated. But, the M8 is still a highly capable camera, and can be had for less then 1/3 of an M9. For those that can not shell out the $7000 for the M9 (like me right now) the M8 is a great alternative for a digital M. Thanks for the comment, hope that cleared things up 🙂
BTW, Demian, you may have missed this but I had to sell my M9 weeks ago due to an emergency personal situation. Thx
Sorry, I think I’ve missed something.
Maybe you should change “My Gear” a bit.
I appreciate the balance here between having the latest and best and being satisfied applying skill to whatever you are using. no matter the real comparative differences in equipment. Steve, having just purchased an X 1, I would appreciate hearing any more or less final conclusions you have come to about it, knowing of course it is not in the same league as the M’s,
Looking for some affirmation here, if available…others?
I (once again) tried an M8 (2nd hand) with 2.8/28mm Elmarit @ Nivo Schweitzer the other day; aiming to px the E-P2, VF-2 and 1.7/20mm for that combo.
EVF vs RF (and a lot else; I know). I’m not convinced the (slight, by all counts) improvement in IQ is worth an additional lay-out of appr EUR 2200. Not at all.
And a filter to combat the magenta problem? Please….
Beautiful camera nonetheless.
I have the M8 and M9.
Really, the big difference is that the M9 has 28mm framelines.
I’ll rarely (never) need the extra pixels, I already have the filters, don’t find the ISO changing a big difference, the sensitive shutter release is oh hum, the shutter is not that much more quiet, and the per pixel quality is no better and maybe even worse in average because the M9 uses the inferior edges of the lens.
The high ISO performance viewed at pixel level is the same.
Prints up to 8×12 may have a one stop advantage in noise level.
Wanna buy an M9?
Haha – that got to send chills up Leica’s nerves. I haven’t had the chance to play with an M9 and to compare but I am perfectly happy with my M8 so far! And I have compared it to a Canon 1Ds (if one can even compare these two) and being blow away by the quality of a 8-year old digital camera makes me the more optimistic of the virtues and longevity of the M8 as a tool to capture moments and emotions.
Shame to see the X1 go, but good to see you with the M! I agree with what a few people are saying here. It really doesn’t matter what camera you use, as long as you enjoy using it and take it every where with you!
So true, it is all about the photography and what that means for each person. I have a friend who is always out snapping with his M6 and he has a lot of film that he has developed but has not got around to scanning. I asked him how this could be as I am always chomping at the bit to get it scanned! He said he gets his enjoyment from seeking out the moments and capturing them, its the journey for him. When I see his shots he has nailed them but for him, the end product is not the goal… it is the so called ‘ongoing moment’. Not for me but food for thought.
Steve, I think it’s good to be content with the M8 and not lust after the M9, they are just cameras after all, and the money can be better spent on film, road trips with your son, and enjoying life in general.
I love gear as much as the next man, but sometimes I find myself considering $30 cameras like the Black Slim Devil more than Leicas and the like. Not better cameras of course, but maybe we’ll take the cheap stuff more places than we’d risk taking the fancy gear.
Yes, indeed! I agree!
Very well-put, Garry!
Welcome “home” Steve!
Glad you could afford this M8…and as already so often mentioned before – it’s the photographer’s skill first, then the camera (model, brand…) in your hand.
Great photos Steve!
Thanks for all of the comments guys! Yes, I feel at home with the M8 again and dare I say…My desire to get an M9 soon has faded already. I think I will pick up an M9 again in a year or two when I can actually afford it 🙂
Honestly, the M8 is fantastic as it is (as long as high ISO is not your thing) and as you ALL know, I love shooting M cameras! Also, as for the buy/sell debate…I never sell these days if I have to take a loss on anything, so this M8 deal worked out for me and while the X1 is super for what it is, the M8 beats it for enjoyment of use, and as someone here said, “photography”.
Ill be out shooting today with the M8 and picking up some film as well 🙂 Ill be back later today with some updates…..
Indeed! Settling on one lens sure takes some doing but I have to say from a purely personal standpoint, a lens is like opening a present, the wrapping is pretty and nice and this is what you first see – same with the first few months with a new lens but way under all that wrapping is the real prize and I think it is the same with a lens. The more one swaps around lenses, the more wrapping paper one ends up with…but alas, no prize.
+1 Stephen. The “working” with one lens “trouble” is all in the mind. If you were to chose a 50mm (in 35mm eq) you’d get frustrated at missing all the shots possible or even just better with a 24, 35, 85, 105… (the list might go on…).
Then the frustration is replaced by the satisfaction of finding he perfect shot in a given situation with the lens you have; not with the lens you don’t have.
Imagine having a zoom lens; now that’s really frustrating. All those choices, and never the good one…
35 or 50. Or 40. Or 45… 🙂
Michiel, I totally agree with you.
BTW, the past two years, I take almost exclusively pictures with a standard lens and zoom with my feet.
I am also with you on this – since I put aside the DSLR zoom idea, I have relied exclusively on one focal length on my M8 (50 mm). And I have used it in all kind of environments and contexts in nature, portraits, website development needs, even photography, wedding photography … Only a couple of days ago did I decide to try another lense and purchased a 35 mm one (still to arrive) but this choice was mostly guided by the size-factor (I got the Voigtlander Skopar which is TINY compared to my 50 mm Nokton f 1.1)
@ Stephen B
Do you think that people ever settle on one lens? Especially the guys on this site? 😉
Anyway, I see your point, mastering something requires focussing on something.
@ Jeff R
Ken Rockwell is a big fan of super wide angles and this is not possible (or at least a lot more limited) on a crop sensor. If you don’t care about going super wide (most street shooters don’t) then the crop factor should not be relevant.
I suppose it depends on what you mean by super-wide, but there are 10-20mm zooms for crop sensors, resulting in an equivalent of 13mm – 15mm at the wide end. As far as I know, on Leica M, the widest lens available is a 12mm, and that’s on full frame. Not much difference.
I am sure you are right but to be honest as people are using from 1.4 lux through to crons and elmarits, once you decide on ‘your lens’ the benefits of hundreds of hours learning how to maximise the lens (with whatever dof it has) will more than outweigh any shortcomings brought about by the crop factor on dof (in my humble opinion;)
Sorry, but I have to ask as a Leica info newbie… What’s the diff between the M8 and M8.2? Also, Ken Rockwell, awhile back, if I remember correctly, really criticized the M8.x for its cropped sensor. Did you read his article on his website?
Ken Rockwell is considered kind of a joke in the pro photographer community. The M8 and M8.2 can be used as professional cameras, and are being used by professional photographers. There are cropped sensors in Canon and Nikon, but that hasn’t prevented pros from using them.
one of canons two top pro cameras (the 1dm4) has a 1.3 crop and my d300s is used by thousands of pros and has a 1.5.
Pros use what is good, not what necesarily costs more.
I used to read a lot of Ken Rockwell, and his enthusiasm for film was a factor in me switching to film fro digital, so I have him to thank for that. I’ve cut back a lot on his site though, as he has a attitude of something being amazing (like a compact flash card) or being the worst thing he’s ever seen. He has a sort of manic and egotistical writing style and feels he is writing facts rather than opinions. He has his place though, seems to have a large tech. knowledge, but can’t seem to translate it into coherent articles. He is probably capable of taking very good photos, but does not publish many.
Sorry, I wasn’t intending to bxxxxxxt, the point I had in mind was the following: 50mm lens on a fullframe will give you a considerably smaller DoF than any crop-sensor with an 50mm equivallent (if that’s what you are looking for). I could draw some figures to illustrate the depth of field as a function of object distance, aperture and crop factor, but maybe that’s getting too technical?
That’s actually a very good point, and one shooters should keep in mind. I ran into that phenomenon many times switching from the E-P2 1.7/20mm to the D700 with 35mm and 50mm Zeiss glass.
Keep thinking about what you’re doing… Shooting at very large apertures (particularly at full frame) is not for the fainthearted, as many images on this blog demonstrate.
Congrats Steve on getting a M-camera back! Love the Summitar pics, I never know that it can perform so well.
M8: 1.33 crop x 35mm = 46.55mm. All the other things: totally agreed!
The M8 does 1/8000s, something I really miss on my M9.
1/8000? Holy cow. My M7 does only 1/1000 (!) Of course I can pull C-41 100 to 25 and still get great results which is the same 1/4000 🙂 I actually shot one at iso 12 as an experiment (1/8000) and it came out pretty good although understandably slight over exposed 🙂
Hi Stephen, I’m new to film photography, so am a bit confused about your reply.
How does setting the ISO affect shutter speed?
Same as M8.2, only 1/4000 on it. That’s good enough for me.
Steve, great to hear you are back on M. Frankly, you are an M man through and through and anything else just would not be right. The M8… Well, I must say I shoot with an M7 and 50 lux asph and although I also own a 28mm Voigtlander Utron which gets some stunning images by the way for what it costs, I just feel that for me, I like having a one lens solution. This changing of lenses is more of a bother to me and I get better shots by learning how to really only use my 50mm focal length. Now, I know this is not for everyone and there are many very valid arguments for at least 3 M lenses but I think many of us find that we shoot predominantly with one lens. The focal length of choice for M shooters that stick with one lens is generally 35mm – 50mm. There are exceptions of course but I would venture to say that this range is correct. You might wonder where this is going? Well, it leads to the M8 funnily enough. Why? Well, if you are going to shoot with one focal length then crop sensors are not such an issue (it really is only a restriction on going wide) and as such if you have an M8 with a 35 cron (or a 28 elmarit) you have the 50mm or 35mm (give or take) focal length. Because you are using just the one lens, why do you care whether you are using full frame or not. In some respects, because you are using the ‘best part’ of the lens you could argue that the image quality will be better? What about ISO? I almost never shoot film with a higher iso than 400 anyway (ok, Delta 3200 sometimes but for goodness sake us film guys have to have one advantage!) so ISO 640 on the M8 is more than enough for most situations.
Bottom line: fancy yourself as the future HCB (man with the 50mm only) then grab an M8 with a 35mm cron and you are gold. For digital, you don’t need anything else. Personally I would grab a user M6 with a 50mm lux/cron pre/post asph and be done with it. If you have to have digital though. An M8 with a equivalent 50mm (35mm cron X crop factor) is the next best thing.
Fair assessment, Steve. I have only bought the M8 (with the M8.2 updates) fairly recently. The M9 unfortunately is not an option for me at the moment, nor have I had a chance to shoot with one. But it’s not too bad, because the M8 is fun and delivers. I also have an Epson R-D1, which is another excellent camera but lacks in ultimate image quality and resolution with its old 6-megapixel sensor. The M8 covers that. I do hate the IR cut filters because I often switch lenses between cameras. Other than that the M8 is great.
With the used prices slowly on the decline, anyone who wants to shoot with a digital rangefinder should take a serious look at the M8. It’s not a perfect camera, but it’s very very good.
THANKS, Steve, for this quick re-review of the M8, it was a joy to read.
This camera certainly IS the second best thing, right behind the M9.
Many readers of your website, including myself, haven a M8 and will be glad to read your positive thoughts about it, in combination with your pictures. Please enjoy your new camera, like I do, too.
One question about the Summicron 40 on the M8: which framelines do you see in the viewfinder,
i would guess the 35mm/24mm combination? I was considering to buy one of these little lenses but wondered how you acurately frame you picture through the viewfinder.
Kindest greetings from Germany.
The 40mm Cron brings up the 50mm Framelines in the M8. I had the flange ground down by DAG in the US to bring up the 35mm framelines though. In this case, since you’re using a 40mm with the 35mm framelines, you’ll allow 15% more space around the image when composing.
I have been following your site for the last month or two now. I really enjoy reading your articles and all the guest ‘ideas for inspiration’ articles 🙂
I am a professional photographer and like to find out how a camera performs (film and digital) in real life! not in a lab with all color charts, vignetting images for comparison and boring science tables that many, many site have…
Anyway, what originally drew me to your site is your review of the Leica M9. I currently use a 7D and love it but when I am out on my travels (which is an awful lot) a DSLR and 2-3 lenses is a painful experience 🙁
I will never stop using a DSLR for my professional jobs but would like something a little lighter for my own personal use (even though £5000 for a body and £2500 for a lens is far too much to part with ‘just for fun’)
I know you quite like the Sony NEX 5 and I am still waiting try one myself.
My question is though, and I hate to ask… What happened to your Leica M9? I have seen in your last few posts that you are using past tense…
One more thing you have inspired me to get hold of an old film camera. I’m relatively young, so while I do remember film being used exclusively and using it in my first camera (when I was 8) and very briefly a minolta SLR I did a college course with (I miss all the chemical smells), my learnings are mainly with digital. Even though my time with film was short lived due to the digital boom, one thing that remains with me is the soul of film. All my editing of my digital files result in me replicating the look of film! …another thing I have to thank you for is introducing me to NIK Software, they produce some awesome software 🙂
Steve, I am so glad to see you with a Leica digital M again. It broke my heart to hear you’d had to give up the M9, as we all knew how much you loved and enjoyed that camera (and the 8 and 8.2 before it). Quite plainly, from these few images you have put up from your first wander with the ‘new’ M8, you haven’t lost your mojo with the marque. Great stuff 🙂
Great shots, steve. Thanks for sharing. I love the 50 summitar, just recently bought this lens from sherry krauter of “the golden touch”. She always has a few of these in stock and the beauty is that she “cla”s them perfectly as well. She is a lot of fun to deal with besides…
Steve, I’m so happy for you that you got a chance to get back to M-photography so quickly. Browsing through old M8-photos they always amaze me for their look, mood and sharpness. You’ll have a lot of fun, my friend, getting away from a rather “shooting” experience to a “photography” experience with the M!
I haven’t had time to read all the comments as of yet, but YES the M8.2 is a GREAT choice. For ONE, paying $7K for a camera that has yet to meet market demand after almost a year out is a bit psychotic–meaning the M9. So once one does get the M9, and downloads the updates, he/she has a good camera…and then gets trumped by the M9.2, um yeah. For the one who cannot wait for a used M9 or the M9.2, the M8.2 is an excellent value, purchase. All the kinks have been worked out and cropped frame is not terrible…it’s been used by professionals for years. I love my M8.2…I feel like I’m using a new camera every single day–AND if I were to sell it right now, I would make a profit over what I purchased it! Talk about increasing value. An M9 owner cannot say that…especially those that paid $8-9K to be the first owners. The images are out of this world, I feel like I am missing something if I don’t bring my camera with me…never felt that way with my SLR. No one hides when I bring my M8.2 up to my face like they do with my SLR, so I capture a lot more.
I still feel like I have a new camera. To those who have the latest new camera, the M9, good on you. But if you go in a store and cannot find one right away, look for a minty M8.2 with low actuations instead to keep for a few years.
Right on, JazzyMac! I agree!
Man I miss Photomark. The second-best local photo shop I’ve ever done business with (I don’t count B&H because they’re insane). But Photomark always was helpful, whether the customer was me or my wife. And, if I’d known about your blog when I lived there I’d have been bugging you something fierce, so maybe it’s good for you I didn’t discover you until after I moved away.
With summilux 50mm/f1.4 ASPH , the difference between M8 and M9 is subtle.
I think lens is major factors affecting the quality of picture.
Dear Steve, thanks for this great report regarding the Leica M8. It was very import and for my decision to buy a Leica M8 or not. I own the famous Leica X1 and an older M6. The M9 is to expensive for me. So I thought about the M8 to use with my Voigtländer Nokton 1:1.4 35 and the Summitar 1:1.5 50. This week I bought one with just 1800 shots in really good condition. I´ll get the M8 next week. May be, I can send some pictures to your block!
PS. Please excuse my bad english!
I’m glad you got another M. I hate to quote Mick Jagger, but you can’t always get what you want, but you might get what you need.
more then enough camera for anyone, im sure your pictures will be just as awesome and no one could tell the difference.
Eric, I agree with that.
I am torn whether or not to sell my M8, might put the nex down for a second and shoot with the M8, thanks for the great article Steve
Great pics! I’m not sure what it is, but I always felt your best shots where with the M8! Can’t explain why, but you seem to shoot a certain way with the M8 camera and look at the results. Beautiful images. Not that the M8 ever really went away, but does it feel like home?
I love my GF1 and 20mm pancake, but when I see these images I get very tempted. 🙂
Nice to see you back on the M, Steve! Good timing on the story too, the shops seem to be full of used M8s and M8.2s for a “reasonable” price these days. (OT: I was at a job interview to a local camera store today and one of the questions was “how would you sell an used Leica M8?”)
One question though. In your self portrait, you have your other eye open as well. Is this something you can routinely do even with an M8? I feel a bit more magnification on the viewfinder would be easier for my brain to handle, especially when trying to focus and seeing everything basically in triple.
Thanks for revisiting the M8 Steve! I totally agree, the M8 is great. I’ve had mine for about three months. ( picked one up used at a local camera store for a good price and less than 1000 shutter actuations ) and am loving shooting with it. I’m also not afraid to carry it around all the time and not baby it because it was relatively affordable. I’m looking forward to the day when I can afford an M9 and some nice Leica glass.
I like the look of your photos with the 50 Summitar. Have you ever written anything about the best lens bargains for the M8? I’m guessing that with the crop sensor there are some lenses that might show more flaws on the M9 than the M8?
Steve, a great look back, looking forward so to speak. The M8 is outstanding, and I nearly recently got one (an m8.2) for a song, but decided against it and got something else instead, wink wink nudge nudge….
Seriously, though, If you don’t mind putting up with the UV-IR filters, and keep ISO’s at 640 or lower, this camera is OUTSTANDING. The M9 is superior, certainly, in basically every way, but the M8 is right behind it.
Until an M9 finds it way back to you, Steve, I suspect that the M8 has found a home with you again…keep in mind M8.2 prices are dropping….;)
Thanks Ashwin, the shop had a refurn M8.2 but it was quite a but more than this M8 so I passed. The M8.2 was $3700 for the refurb with 1 year warranty. Black paint, and my favorite “looking” digital M ever but just out of my reach. Thanks!