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marknorton

Anatomy of the Leica M8

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Marc, do you think a full-frame camera can be built just by swapping the electronics and swapping the shutter ? Is there space ?

 

Edmund

 

Edmund, that's a very interesting question.

 

One of the things that impressed me about the camera is the clean interface between the traditional camera functionality and the image capture/image processing. Just a single connector for the "camera" and the "image processor" to exchange information and I think this design is well placed to take advantage of new sensor technology.

 

The key thing is that the traditional Leica long life technology is on one side of the interface and the here-today, gone-tomorrow technology is on the other side.

 

I think Leica have designed this camera with improvements in sensor technology in mind, not so much to be able to upgrade existing cameras - which would be expensive - but to speed the development of new cameras. It might be an M9, for example, left the "camera" pretty much untouched (aside from the framelines) and provided a sensor board with an FF sensor and improved DSP/memory to match.

 

Of course, the problems of sensor vignetting would still be there so such a development would require improvements to sensor technology and I think there would also be problems with power but again, they seem to have anticipated changes in battery technology as well.

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ASTONISHING!!!

May I suggest to Admins to place this thread as a sticky? It is one of the most informative thread on the construction of this marvel, something to look at when anything might go wrong and then understand how complex it has been to develop this camera. From my viewpoint, it is very encouraging and allowing for even more confidence in Leica.

And for you, Mark, my full admiration. Chapeau!

And thanks, once again...

Best regards,

 

Horacio

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Mark, it is impressive!

 

Do you think it would have been possible to replace the motorized cocking device by a manual lever like that of the Epson R-D1? (I would have preferred that).

 

Ruben

 

It certainly would be possible to provide a manual winder attachment to clip on to the base in place of the base plate. Looking at the underside, all that would be required would be to leave the motor switched off and move the lever in the direction shown. Maybe an M8 equivalent of the Leicavit?

 

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Mark, you gotta get the vote for the biggest cojones!!!

 

That was an impressive display of virtuoso, afraid-of-nothing, engineering talent! Many thanks for the public service and for your perspectives on the M8 design and build.

 

Jeff (still shaking his head...)

 

Thank you!

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Hi,

 

looks like we get a lot for our money.

 

I always had the impression, the M8 had two differnt developments inside. Think about the different style of the standard menue and the set menu.

My guess is that somebody developed the Sensor-DSP-Intel-Memeory board and somebody else the interface around it with the Renesas MC.

That would explain why sometimes only half of the camera is not working, but the rest is still alive.

 

However, thanks for showing this.

 

Best regards

 

Karl-Heinz

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When you put it back together, are you going to try and mod it to reduce the shutter noise? If not you, SOMEBODY should make an attempt at it.

 

The force on that lever to cock the shutter is quite high and the motor-gear train is mounted at a number of points to spread the load. It would certainly be interesting to isolate the motor and gear-train from the body but such a resilient mounting would still have to be strong enough to take the force required.

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all of that costs $5000? i can't help thinking that the innards look cheap.

 

very cool project, though. that takes guts.

 

Not sure what you think in there looks cheap, my opinion is that the electronics is very well made, the rangefinder is standard Leica excellent, the brass top cover is magnificent. Sure, there's the plastic battery housing and lens throat but overall, Leica's statement that the M8 is a "real Leica" is more than justified.

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Awesome job, Mark. I've seen teardown reports for consumer cameras that cost as much as the body that you have disassembled, and don't provide any more insight. So you're already even. You've produced a $5000 engineering study which you should write off as a charitable contribution to the Leica user community. How long did it take to do this with photo documentation? A week? A day?

 

I teach a course in what's inside modern computing appliances -- this is invaluable stuff to have for that purpose. I understand you did a similar teardown on the Digilux-2. Can you post a URL for that forum thread, as the index to old posts only goes back 500 entries? Given your productivity that would probably only take us back to the 8 bit vs 16 bit discussions.

 

Some obvious questions at this point -- what sensors are in the battery circuit, and what type of monitoring do they permit? Is it just voltage or are current values available? How much EPROM space is there for the firmware to live in? I'll go back and read that part more carefully, but the ROM you pointed out seemed smaller than the load module that one puts in for a firmware update.

 

thanks for all the insights -- now are you invited for the tour of the factories, clean room, and repair facilty?

 

scott

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Mark - This must be the best thread ever anywhere. No one has commented on your macro technique, which is off the scale. Thanks!

 

Any comments on strengths and weaknesses of environmental sealing?

 

Woody, thank you.

 

I commented that the hot shoe seems to be sealed with silicone, possibly for sealing. The design of the shutter speed dial is good with that block on the outside and the odd drop of water getting under the dial is not going to get into the camera.

 

The design of the top cover and bottom plate makes the camera splash resistant - water running down the sides of the camera is not going to find its way into the camera vvery easily.

 

The biggest exposure to my mind is around the power switch...

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Mark,

the various boards are laquered after soldering, arn't they?? cant really see from the pictures...

 

No, I don't think so...

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It will be interesting see pictures taken with it, after you do the "Humpty Dumpty" act.

 

So far so good (brilliant!) Mark.

 

LOL, all the electronics is currently in static-proof handling bags and all the screws and other parts are in labelled bags in the order in which I removed them so it will go back together easily enough and unless I've missed something - like the camera losing its calibration data, it should work fine.

 

There were limits to what I was prepared to do and it was interesing I got as far as I did without disturbing the rangefinder alignment...

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Guest Olof
No, I think they've done a spectacular job keeping in mind the production volumes. If it were a mass-market Canon, you'd see more integration using custom chips but in a way, it makes the Leica more interesting, it's built from more standard parts.

 

 

And standard parts are easier to repair, even after years....

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Many thanks Mark; and congratulations on your competence and courage. By the way, how long did it take?

 

George, there was far more work taking the pictures and putting the notes together than actually taking the camera apart.

 

A Leica service engineer would be able to get at pretty much any part of the camera in 15-30 minutes.

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Mark--

I'm curious whether the rangefinder seems any different from previous units.

 

I know the length is the same and the linkages seem to be the same; and you didn't mention any obvious differences. But with the changed magnification I wonder if the assembly comes out looking noticeably different.

 

Thanks!

 

--HC

 

Oh, and if you pulled out the battery, is there room for a roll of Kodachrome?

 

HC, it looks very similar to an M7 finder to me with modified frames and magnification.

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you have my admiration, Mark

extraordinary effort, beautifully photographed & documented

I wish you well with your reassembly efforts

thanks for this remarkable thread

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Like everyone else I'm impressed and grateful. I think the hardest part is going to be re-aligning the sensor; the shims are great but I've been told by a dealer that there are very fine adjustments to the sensor plane, checked using laser positioning guides, which are performed in the cleanroom at the time of assembly. Did you see any evidence of adjustability of the sensor plane when you were taking it apart? I'll be fascinated to see how you fare doing this by hand! I presume you'll post some pictures taken with the reassembled camera?

 

I'm quite sure the sensor adjustments are critical and as I mentioned, one of the shims in each of the three bundles measures 0.01mm, 1/2500 of an inch, it feels like paper, so this is the tolerance they are working to.

 

My assumption is that Leica cannot put a camera through sensor re-alignment just to replace the shutter or the lens detection sensor or those toggle switches or any of the other parts which lie "beyond" the sensor and that the use of the shims provides reasonably consistent and reproducible results.

 

It will be interesting to see how well it does - this is an interesting learning exercise for me - and they will probably have a good laugh at my expense when they see this. "The naieve English fool"...

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Mark, thanks. I don't know a ****ing thing about electronics, but it was fascinating.

 

The missing screw/plate thing worries me. What could that possibly be about?

 

Is there any possible way to fit a hard switch to that backup battery?

 

JC

 

JC, I'm mystified by the fixing screw as well. The only thing I coud think of was to allow an element of play in the shutter mounting to avoid it being completely rigidly mounted.

 

The backup battery is soldered in place. I did take a voltmeter to it and, even now, it's still reading about 3v.

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Mark,

 

Incredible job - you have brightened up a cold grey morning in Provence. Is there any chance you could post the full size images on maybe "yousendit". With your permission, I would love to put them all together as a PS composite and print an A3+ picture of it all.

 

Wilson

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Amazing, wonderful post, Mark !

 

Does this happen to people withh too much time ? But you seem to have planned this project for some time. So the Easter holidays can´t be blamed.

 

It leaves two wishes from this side:

 

First: Hope you get it back into working order one day and you do it so cute, that your warranty is still valid.

 

Second: Not too many chinese wizards find your post, otherwise tourists in the PRC will one day be hazzled with M8-clones.

 

Again, I´am admiring this task ! I wouldn´t do this - by no means - with one of my LEICAs. But, perhaps I start with a ZORKI/ FED one of these days ...

 

 

 

Best

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