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ken_tanaka

A Poor Record for the M8 in the Antarctic

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I've spent 27 years as a professional advertising photographer - carried some very varied gear, from 35 SLRs (mostly Nikons, sometimes Contax and Leica), medium format (Hasselblad and Pentax) and large format (Sinar).

Regardless of the gear in the camera bag, I Always took my M3 … always.

Sometimes I only took the M3 -I still do that!

Never left that out, not even for the odd field trips near home…

I find it hard to believe that somebody would travel all the way to the ends of the earth and bother carrying largely unproven electronics.... astonishing!

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Well, welcome to photo workshops! I think you'd find it somewhat difficult to match the photographic opportunities offered by a trip like this unless you had the means to charter your own vessel.

Why would a trip in a smaller group offer less photographic opportunities?

Sounds kind of scary to me to shoot in a group with so many people.

Also I would probably feel a bit like doing "Malen nach Zahlen", I dont know the english word, but it means paiting by connecting points which have numbers, and in the end there is an image.

For me more interesting to find the photographic opportunity myself (even though I might not find as many

)

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Why would a trip in a smaller group offer less photographic opportunities?

Sounds kind of scary to me to shoot in a group with so many people.

Also I would probably feel a bit like doing "Malen nach Zahlen", I dont know the english word, but it means paiting by connecting points which have numbers, and in the end there is an image.

For me more interesting to find the photographic opportunity myself (even though I might not find as many

)

Painting by numbers. I agree, expeditions on oneself with a knowlegable local guide work best.

 

Walking In North Luanga (Zambia) with Mark Harvey, I took this one with a 200 mm lens.

Not quite the Antarctic, but then, there the guide would probably not be carrying a rifle either.

 

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Guest Bernd Banken

Jaap,

 

there is no need to travel so far away to see wild animals, just visit the Kabbelaarsbank:D

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How do you do that?, -55 I mean. I have been in the Arctic with an M3 - along time ago, and I remember that at -45 the camera was very difficult to handle with the gloves I had to wear and froze to my hands when I took them off.

 

At those temps, you can't let any normal camera (even one winterized to normal degrees) get cold-soaked. Film would likely snap anyway. You have to keep them warm but with no increased humidity (which would condense and freeze). I used a combination of a large camera bag with some chemical hand warmers stuffed in all the otherwise-empty side pockets (a big Tough Traveller) and swapped cameras every few minutes. And of course, the Leica (an M6 by then) under my "top" layer, so it never really got that cold either.

 

This was only about 300 km north of Montréal, so relatively close to civilization. A lovely morning, really - no wind but just incredibly cold.

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Actually I only have to look into my garden, we have deer there in winter. And you know what - I never ever even took a photograph of them

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So let me understand...

 

Considering almost all but Leica photographers seem to have backup bodies:

 

Out of about 80 Canon cameras, 6 Eos-1DsII an 3 Eos-5D died (3 and 1 with subsequent recovery), hence 5 cameras actually died.

 

Out of about 4 Leica M8's, one died and one worked intermittently.

 

Out of about 10 Nikon cameras, mostly D200, none failed.

 

Statistically it doesn't mean much...

If you apply Canon failure ratio (6%) to Nikon's number of bodies, you'd get about half camera, hence zero failure.

Or, in other words, if Nikon had 9,9% failure ratio it could have come to the same zero failure...

 

BUT if you don't consider the backup bodies (because they didn't see much use apart from those few whose primary camera died) and you count also the hassle of letting the camera dry for a day (weather sealed ?!), Nikon clearly is the king of the "Antartica enduro".

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Guest Bernd Banken

Marco,

 

last summer in France I had a magazine "Chasseur D'Image" with a report about a guy who is doing regular animal shoots in the north, where, I forgot. It was very impressive to see him like a member of a Southpole expedition, wearing high tech fabrics to protect his body, but the D2X with a zoom looked like burried in a snow storm. For me it was very impressive how this guy managed to hold and focus this camera with such an icy and snowy surface.

Each year he changes the bodies to get the failures minimized to zero. A bunch of about ten harddiscs he is using to protect the datas.

 

But the pics had been terrific.

 

Bernd

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It's a type of dog, apparently.

 

I realize that - it may be German for what we call a Giant Schnauzer.

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I'm afraid the overall point is, you can't rely on the M8. It's wonderful to use, the photos can be astonishing, and it breaks down way too often. Despite the apologists on this forum, I think most of us realize that by now. If I were a pro, I wouldn't count on being able to finish a shoot with M8s, even with a backup; I'd want at least three bodies, and maybe four. With a Canon or a Nikon, I'd feel safe with two.

 

A number of the Canons had problems on the LL trip, but when you read what people were doing with them -- wandering around South Georgia in the rain, without protection, water streaming off their cameras, you can't be too surprised. For electronic machines with moving parts, there is a limit.

 

I'm a Nikon user, as well as an M8 owner, so I was pleased with the non-failure rate, but I also wouldn't be too suprised if most of those D200s were backup cameras, and so didn't get a front-line beating.

 

The LL article (or maybe the discussion of the article) says that there was one film shooter -- he lost his luggage, and had only three rolls of film for the entire trip.

 

I don't have a poblem with a bunch of people go on a photo trip like this. I wouldn't want to do it too often, but it sounds like it'd be fun once in a while.

 

JC

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John, I'm not an apologist. I'm just reporting that I had no breakdowns on my M8's - since early November. The only thing I had was banding - and it was rather mild compared to some others I saw in the Internet.That was fixed over the New Year.

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Jaap,

 

I don't doubt that your camera is fine, as are many others. The actual failure rate is unknown to anyone outside Leica, but my belief now is that it's very high. Not counting the initial problems with the initial batch, I would believe the failure rate is well into the double digits. I went out and shot some pictures of my neighbor's house after a big snowstorm, using the D2x. I couldn't believe how big and clunky it is; I'd much prefer using the Leica, but it's on its way to Solms for the second time, and the Nikon, though big and clunky, it thoroughly reliable.

 

JC

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John - I agree that it would be a lot better if there were a figure out there , be it bad or good. At least we would know what we are talking about. Now these discussions tend to end in anecdotal "No it ain't -Yes it is" types of argument. However I doubt that any camera maker would be willing to give out these figures. It depends on the number of cameras sold - if it is ten thousand, for arguments sake, one hundred failures would be acceptable, but one hundred posts in this forum would paint a desperate picture. Equally, an opposing argument could be made.

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And the one that worked for short periods - the cure has been publicized by Leica - leave the battery to drain overnight. I guess that was not yet known when this expedition was held.

 

That did not work when mine failed.

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I like to travel light and on numerous occasions I've gone to shoots with a single M6 body and two or three lenses. I'd probably have even taken a kit like that to the Antarctic with no concerns at all. The M8 is another matter. As much as I hate to say it, I would never consider going to a shoot with one M8 and no backup. What I had hoped would be a reliable professional tool will, instead, simply become an expensive toy for me. I'll carry it around for my own pleasure shooting and personal projects, but when it comes to going out for the money I'll take the Canons. I've used Leicas for 25 years and until now always felt I had equipment that would hold up in just about any conditions. That confidence has been shattered by back to back M8 failures and it will be up to Leica to reinstill it. I hope they can, because I have no intention of breaking off my relationship with Leica. I still feel they make the best 35mm lenses in the world and I remain enthusiastic about someday being able to use that glass on a high quality, reliable digital body.

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I like to travel light and on numerous occasions I've gone to shoots with a single M6 body and two or three lenses. I'd probably have even taken a kit like that to the Antarctic with no concerns at all. The M8 is another matter. As much as I hate to say it, I would never consider going to a shoot with one M8 and no backup. What I had hoped would be a reliable professional tool will, instead, simply become an expensive toy for me. I'll carry it around for my own pleasure shooting and personal projects, but when it comes to going out for the money I'll take the Canons. I've used Leicas for 25 years and until now always felt I had equipment that would hold up in just about any conditions. That confidence has been shattered by back to back M8 failures and it will be up to Leica to reinstill it. I hope they can, because I have no intention of breaking off my relationship with Leica. I still feel they make the best 35mm lenses in the world and I remain enthusiastic about someday being able to use that glass on a high quality, reliable digital body.

 

In your position I would probably feel the same, but I feel it is not quite fair to pin this on an unsealed camera taken into a harsh environment. It simply is not the tool for the job, and I would doubt that any professional would rely on -as this trip has shown - any digital camera solely in the Antarctic. Surely any pro, or even serious amateur would take a backup. I have been on trips through Africa that I started out with three R camera's and ended with one, with spare parts of the others cannibalized to keep it going. The Apo-Macro Elmarit with 2x extender doubling as tele etc. Canon 300 mm lenses, the wildlife photographers standard wildlife lens, tend to drop the screws of the lensgroup that provides the stabilisation when subjected to the vibrations of a Landrover in the field, The 280 Apo-Telyt has a tendency to jam the internal focussing when subjected to the fine driven dust in the desert, R camera's lose their rewind knobs in dense bush,I could go on for ages. There is no 100% reliable equipment, especially if one takes it beyond the circumstances it was specified for.

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Walking In North Luanga (Zambia) with Mark Harvey, I took this one with a 200 mm lens.

/applications/core/interface/imageproxy/imageproxy.php?img=http://i36.photobucket.com/albums/e32/jaapv/lion200.jpg&key=1afcd832c5314afbab75b2046e0c182c1000616edbf9e06f18bedda80c6e3a26">

 

It's not polite to disturb people who are eating. Sometimes they can get very angry when you do that

 

Edmund

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Hi

 

I read the article and while there was no mention of how the equipment was used, we have to bear in mind that

 

- those weathered sealed Canons need weathered sealed lenses as well (complete with UV filters) to complete the weather sealing, and u probably can't change lenses that much in the rain and still expect perfect weather sealing. Maybe not all the photographers were using weathered sealed lenses (not all L lenses are sealed!). Canon released a weather sealed flash in conjunction with the new 1D mk3 to complete the weather sealing cycle......

 

- the M8 that made it to the field did work, and according to MR, worked in ALL conditions, though it was interesting he mentioned his own personal m8 was confined mainly to shots on board the ship

 

I don't think the M8 will have problem holding up to the weather. I feel the general misgivings on the reliability of the M8 (at least for me) was its tendency to fail unexpectedly. Even those who initally reported no problems with it are posting about their issues with failures. While some mind consider it merely internet noise, I do not see the level of postings on failure in other "noisier" forums belonging to certain japanese companies - just a lot of bitching and gear talk / comparisons!

 

To be honest, I didn't read very much into the reports of failures until Sean's own M8 failed. That made me sit up and read everything carefully!

 

Clearly Leica needs to solve these issues (particularly the auto shutdown problem) before the M8 can be considered a reliable tool or realise the potential it promises. Because I live in a place where "store returns" are not allowed (it is quite unheard of, actually), and it's a loooong way to Solms, I shall wait till these issues are resolved before gettting one.

 

Can't live without a camera! that's why my trusty M6 will never be sold, digital or not

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