I thought it was about time to do a write up on the Leica M8. What can be said about the Leica M8 in 2015? Yes it’s a crop sensor 1.33, yes it needs and IR filter for certain conditions, yes it’s only got a 10megapixel sensor, its loud, its clunky, it’s dated.. With all that said, I truly enjoy using this camera. It takes fantastic pictures and with the correct settings it makes fantastic color and black and white jpg right out of the camera. 
  
(This shot was taken with a flash as Alex and starting to stand up.. Jpg straight from the camera)
To me, The Leica M8 was Leica’s first and only try and making a film camera digital. This camera really does feel like your using an analogue camera. The Leica M9 was Leica’s first shot at making a true digital camera and everything after the M8 is Leica trying and making digital cameras, but the Leica M8 was Leica trying to make a film camera digital. 

  
(Jpg straight from the camera – lightened up his face a little in lightroom)
Not only does the Leica M8 make you think about your shots – because you probably can’t crop them later, but you can’t really use the LCD either – it’s pretty terrible. The high iso is not really fantastic either – it starts to break down at around iso1250, on top of that my Leica M8 has the infamous high iso streak marks.. 

  
(jpg from the camera – notice the high ISO streak on the right hand side)

So what is there to love about this camera? The question for me is what is there not to love about it? I love film photography not despite it’s drawbacks but because of them. Photography nowadays is so perfect, megapixel brilliance, sharpness and clarity never before achieved.. But it’s rare that modern pictures become timeless. There is a reason for that – I think it’s because the pictures are too perfect, life is not perfect, what we see with our eyes is nowhere near as detailed as we see with the sharpness of a modern sensor. Look at the older Steve Mccurry photos – the film ones are timeless, beautiful pieces of art. They look natural and the colors reflect life. I love it. 

  
(jpeg straight from camera – no crop or edit)

The Leica M8 is nowhere near perfect, and by todays standards it’s pretty much garbage. But it takes fantastic pictures and is a joy to use, on top of that it uses top class Leica glass. The M8 is the only true digital film camera I have used. I love how the shutter goes “bajinng…” sounds like a film shutter smashing down, I love the idea of not “chimping” after every shot – Just look at the new Leica 60. The colors the sensor picks up are amazing. I personally think it takes more “realistic” pictures that my Sony A7R and Fuji X-t1 (not necessarily better, just more realistic). I can only compare the Leica M8 with film cameras, because it’s so far away from modern digital cameras that you can’t compare the two. To really enjoy this camera and to get the most out of it you have to use it the same way you would use a film camera.  

Also, if you love using a range-finder like myself, then this is definitely the best entry into the digital range-finder market. 

So to sum things up: If you are looking for a 10 year old, outdated more or less garbage digital camera than the Leica M8 is for you. Just be prepared to fall in love, because this camera really is a joy to use, it has personality and class and the picture quality is comparable if not better than most modern sensors (personal opinion). I find myself also reaching for my Leica M8 over all my other cameras – that says a lot in itself. On top of that I turned down a trade for a Nikon DF – that’s how much I love this camera. 

Food for thought: Just this week the newest A7R II has been announced – a ground breaking piece of technology… Will it make you better photographer? Will it inspire you? I know my Sony A7R was a bore to use – it literally bored me to use the camera and it took ages to get all the pics to my computer. 36megapixel means hard drive space evaporates pretty damn fast. I have never printing a picture big enough to justify a 36 megapixel sensor – let alone 42. 

Here are some of the settings I use for black and white and Color Jpegs – I think the Leica M8 produces such beautiful jpegs with these settings that I don’t really use Raw as much as I normally do. So far, I haven’t found a good setting for landscapes..

general settings:

Raw + Fine – it’s fun to compare the two

Black and white: (the poor mans monochrom) – and pretty damn good at that

max iso 1250

sharpening: Off

Color saturation: B&W

Contrast: HIGH

Auto review: off

color 1 with lots of light:

Max iso 160

Sharpening: Off

Color saturation: Standard

Contrast: Medium high

Auto review: off

color 2 with low light:

Max iso 640

Sharpening: Off

Color saturation: Low

Contrast: high

Auto review: off 

  
(Raw – crop and color editing)

Posted by Kenneth Shaw

Blogger, photographer and backpacker. If you like my writing or my site don't be afraid to follow me, like or share my posts here on the site. Thanks and enjoy!

5 Comments

  1. “Raw + Fine – it’s fun to compare the two” means DNG and finje jpeg but you should try the real camera RAW and give an extra boost to your beloved M8.
    more info: http://m8raw2dng.de/

    Kind regards,
    Bert

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  2. This is a lovely article and I couldnt agree more with everything you said….I ended up buying a Monochrom after using the M8 for a while and you know what? The M8 is not a poor man’s monochrom at all! 😉 Obviously the Monochrom has major improvement with the ISO (which is the reason why I bought it) but beside that the M8 will always give you a feeling which I found incomparable with any other Leica I tried. I thought many time to sell the M8 but for whatever reason I still keep it…and is still in use even though I hate having 2 digital M’s.

    Jonny

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  3. Anno 2017, I just bought me a second hand M8 with a new Zeiss 25mm 2.8 lens.
    The first pictures are different to the perfect shots I make with by Nikon.
    It is another way of photographing. Lots to learn but I love it already……

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. In 2017, the M8 is still my only digital body and I’m in no hurry to swap. Until I moved to Zambia in 2015, I used an M3 and Tri-X film, but then finally switched. The M8 has done weddings, portraits and travel photography – what a pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Awesome to hear, it is a fun camera to use and with the leica lenses takes incredible pictures.

      I’m really interested in hearing more about Zambia! We are planning on moving to Zambia in the next year or so, as we are planning to adopt a child from there.

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