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M8 Iraq field test - ouch...

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Guest noah_addis

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Ok, this thread is getting ridiculous. The M8 is a great camera for street and documentary work, and can be used for more intense situations depending on how you shoot. But it’s clearly not for everyone, just as lots of people thought it was silly to spend more for an M6 when you could have an f5 or eos1 that would do so much more.

 

I was loaned an M8 to try out and then I bought one because I like working with it. I’m not entirely happy with Leica these days. I think the lens prices in particular are insulting and unfortunately I feel like they keep Leica gear out of reach for many real working photographers. But I like working with rangefinders, I already have the lenses and I need to shoot digital, so I figured I’d give the camera a chance.

 

Have I ever missed pictures because I hit a button on the back? Once or twice, but no more often than I missed pictures after I hit the aperture dial on the back of my 5d and got unusable frames since I knocked the exposure five stops off.

 

Is the M8 slow? Kind of. The shutter lag is very low, but the buffer will fill up and writing files does take a bit long. But if you haven’t gotten in the habit of shooting 8fps all the time, it works fine. It actually writes and clears the buffer much faster if you shoot RAW only, saving the extra jpg file takes longer.

 

The in-camera jpg processing isn’t up to the quality of nikon or canon, the camera is best when you shoot raw. The RAW files print beautifully, but the jpgs are good enough for newspaper or web work. The new firmware has made the white balance much more consistent, I think about as good as my 5d.

 

The high-iso performance isn’t as good as canon or nikon but I rarely shoot my canons above 800 so being limited to 640 with a 28/2 lens is all I need. When I shot film I rarely shot anything faster than tri-x, so 640 already gives me a bit of extra speed. At 1250, the M8 files kind of look like scanned c-41, kind of grainy, but usable if you get the exposure right. Getting the exposure right is important, especially with in-camera jpgs.

 

I can’t speak to the quality of the autoexposure since I never use it, nor do I use auto on my canons. I would say that the camera is more suited to someone who shoots on manual, as I would imagine the old-tech center-weighted meter can’t do the job with digital. Seems like an afterthought slapped on to suit hobbyists.

 

My M8 has never been in the shop, but as the techs at my paper can verify, I’ve killed off plenty of nikon and canon bodies and lenses while working. Canon gear is great, but everything breaks down. Leica had some early reliability problems with the M8, but lately the cameras seem to be more reliable. The only piece of leica gear I ever had to have repaired was when I bent the rewind knob on an M6, but that was due to impact.

 

Some poeple won’t like the M8 because it doesn’t suit the way they shoot, and that’s fine, but in the end it’s just a camera and people should care about your images, not how you make them. I appreciate and respect Michael’s review, and all of what he says is true, but I do suggest that anyone who liked film M cameras should at least give it a try for themselves.

 

Just to be clear, I’m not saying the M8 is as good in low-light as the 5d, but for me it’s good enough.

 

That’s something that’s often forgotten in these days where people expect digital perfection. Back when we shot film if we wanted fast iso, we shot tmz3200 or for color fuji 800 pushed a stop. Those films were grainy as hell, and no one thought anything of it. The images had character and texture and they weren’t perfect.

 

So while the 5d is much cleaner than the M8 above 640, but most of the film work I do is with tri-x, which is 400 iso, and I use rodinal, which is quite grainy, so my M8 files are much cleaner than my film files. So while they might be technically inferior to 5d files, they are good enough for what I want to do with them.

 

They’re more than good enough for newspaper repro, and the largest prints I generally make for exhibitions, etc., are maybe 12×18, and the files look great at that size.

 

Furthermore, as we move along, most of our work will be seen online. M8 files, even at 2500, are again more than sufficient for online publishing.

 

The race for more resolution and less noise is silly. The images are all that matters, and the M8 is more than capaple of making good images. I don’t care how the files look on my screen at 200 percent with the shadows brought up, I just care how they look in prints, which is impressive.

 

I’m not trying to justify my purchase or shill for leica. I’m more than happy with the camera and I don’t care what others think. And I’m not happy with the direction Leica is going and I do feel like it’s becoming too much of a luxury brand instead of a company catering to professionals. Mostly this is because most pros had to go digital years ago, and leica was late to the digital party. But I think their first attempt isn’t too bad, and hopefully they’ll be around long enough to make an M9…

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It's seldom these days that I get really angry reading this forum anymore - mostly I just feel an exasperated ennui at the same old crocks rolled-out time after time to justify the camera they bought

 

Interesting, I tend to find that the majority of the more tedious posts are people justifying why they haven't bought an M8.

 

I could care less why people haven't bought an M8... I've put 25,000 over frames through mine, I'm enjoying the best M digital camera there is and taking good shots while frankly - you're whining about it not being perfect. When the M9 comes along, it will be better and I'll buy it. You might buy one too perhaps, in that case it would behoove you to remember that if none of us had bought the M8 warts and all - there would be no M9 and very likely no M at all today.

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Good summary, Noah.

 

 

... I’m not happy with the direction Leica is going and I do feel like it’s becoming too much of a luxury brand instead of a company catering to professionals. Mostly this is because most pros had to go digital years ago, and leica was late to the digital party. But I think their first attempt isn’t too bad, and hopefully they’ll be around long enough to make an M9…

 

I agree on both points. The M8 is amazingly good for a company with NO previous digital experience (considering that the DMR was fully outsourced).

 

One unfortunate reason for the Leica prices, I think, is the spiral engendered by high prices: They don't sell as much product as other brands, so to stay in business they need a higher profit on each item. That leads to higher prices, which in turn lead to smaller volume, and that in turn leads to higher prices. I don't see a way out of it, but every time I look at a lens I realize I can't afford this system.

 

I understand that Disney did a lot of research on the admission prices for Disney World, using pragmatic and statistical methods to find a price level that maximized their profit.

 

If Leica is doing something similar, I hope we're close to the optimum...

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Seems to me e little like the glass is half empty or half full.

 

The problem today is that many (including myself) have the wish to get all the advantages of different cameras combined in one.

Like a full frame D3 sensor in a Leica M body, weatherproof and rugged, but with a less agressive AA filter, but then again not to have to use IR-Cut filter. The design should be classic but have all the user interface buttons of a modern SLR, it should be simple but still have all kind of functions, and all this should look exactly like a Leica M3 for half the price of the M8.

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Having looked at Kamber's work it strikes me that Leica would do well to work with him as a trusted advisor to improve the M8 and the M digital line in general. It seems to me that if they had targeted more photo journalists like Michael Kamber and adopted their feedback prior to releasing the camera then we'd have a superior work-horse of a camera. Their feedback is exactly what needs to be incorporated into the camera.

 

I really, really love my M8's and they are my travel cameras of choice. To be honest though if I were shooting in the situations where Kamber works I'd take my Nikon D3 system in a heartbeat in preference to the M8 (you wouldn't believe me how it depresses me to say that). In the past, the camera of choice would have been a film M with it's perceived mechanical reliability. It seems like it's still the case that something like an MP is the best tool of choice for extreme environmental situations like war torn Iraq or africa.

 

Remove the emotion from Kamber's arguments and there's little to dispute about his comments. Leica would do well to take this as constructive feedback to make sure that the next generation of digital M is a solid, absolutely reliable tool even at the expense of fancy wizz bang features, full frame, higher MP, etc etc. Make it solid, make it as reliable as possible and make it as far as possible completely dependable.

 

In the meantime, you'd still need to prise my M8 out of my cold dead hands ... it's a labour of love for me.

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Guest stnami

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............as the heat haze shimmers over the plain...... the last of the bones have been chewed and old rivalries settled ............ it's time for a new victim:)

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Having looked at Kamber's work it strikes me that Leica would do well to work with him as a trusted advisor to improve the M8 and the M digital line in general. It seems to me that if they had targeted more photo journalists like Michael Kamber and adopted their feedback prior to releasing the camera then we'd have a superior work-horse of a camera. Their feedback is exactly what needs to be incorporated into the camera.

 

I highly doubt that a M9 can ever become what it was 50 years ago. IMO it has a different target today since there are other system available today which suit pj work better (I think so-of course I dont know exactly because I am not a pro).

This does not only mean good high iso, but would also include the excellent zoom lenses IMO. If one has to be fast and work in dirty environment changing lenses is probably not the way to go.

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Thought I would add my thoughts though virtually everything has been said on both sides.

 

There are few areas where Michael Kamber made misleading comments, many of these have already been pointed out. Most of his problems aren't relevant to my use of the M8.

 

In my normal use the shutter switch has never accidentally moved and on my cameras you have to give it quite a 'brush' to make it move. Perhaps a knock on the body of a Humvee would do this. Also the buttons on the back have never accidentally been pushed in such a sequence to change the ISO from 160 to 2500, and judging from the number of scratches that have appeared on my M8 bodies over the past year I dont think I have been over careful - I use them without any protective cases.

 

I dont think it is reasonable to expect Leica to have foreseen the need to quickly remove the SD card and replace it with an empty one to avoid having your images taken by security. How quick could you get a film out of a camera?

 

I have great deal of respect for war photographers and could never do that job.

 

People slam the M8 for its shortcomings and we get slammed for defending it. With no M8 and no sales to us the customers, Leica would be reduced to being just a brand based on lens technology.

 

Should Leica do better, of course they should and I think they will but they are not a large global camera manufacturer and it will take them longer and they have to have a niche in the market.

 

And I do wish those who have not bought the camera would stop harking on about the price. Just dont buy the thing and let those that have bought it get on with enjoying the camera. I have two M8s and a host of lenses but an old car. I made that choice, driving is becoming more of a PITA and I'd rather have the Leica stuff. It is my personal choice and that is all.

 

Jeff

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Having looked at Kamber's work it strikes me that Leica would do well to work with him as a trusted advisor to improve the M8 and the M digital line in general. It seems to me that if they had targeted more photo journalists like Michael Kamber and adopted their feedback prior to releasing the camera then we'd have a superior work-horse of a camera. Their feedback is exactly what needs to be incorporated into the camera.

 

I really, really love my M8's and they are my travel cameras of choice. To be honest though if I were shooting in the situations where Kamber works I'd take my Nikon D3 system in a heartbeat in preference to the M8 (you wouldn't believe me how it depresses me to say that). In the past, the camera of choice would have been a film M with it's perceived mechanical reliability. It seems like it's still the case that something like an MP is the best tool of choice for extreme environmental situations like war torn Iraq or africa.

 

Remove the emotion from Kamber's arguments and there's little to dispute about his comments. Leica would do well to take this as constructive feedback to make sure that the next generation of digital M is a solid, absolutely reliable tool even at the expense of fancy wizz bang features, full frame, higher MP, etc etc. Make it solid, make it as reliable as possible and make it as far as possible completely dependable.

 

In the meantime, you'd still need to prise my M8 out of my cold dead hands ... it's a labour of love for me.

 

and "Mike Johnston has now discovered Michael Kamber's article and seems delighted with it." -- Schadenfreude!

 

I agree with the above, and with the comment that a very large fraction of the heat seems to be coming from those who have not used the M8, and haven't read Kamber's article past the executive summary (for example, he says clearly that he mostly shoots in the near dark, because that is when our troops are out in action). My impression is that Kamber is not the manual-reading type, and wants a camera to just "do it." He would certainly have been a better early adopter for Leica to work with than Seal was, but that's marketing taking precedence over engineering. His grumbles about exposed buttons and lack of fingertip ISO control were heard from Sean Reid and Walt Odets in 2006 and early 2007, but never responded to. Other problems have been steadily clearing up. The length of time it took Leica to fix the AWB routines was painful (ore than a year!), but at the same time they were completely taking over ownership of several megabytes of object code firmware which they had originally subcontracted. I'm currently having my own problems with Leica USA service, but the impression I come to is that there are people working hard, hindered by a very under-invested infrastructure and inexperienced management. They seem to be actively trying to understand through followup surveys why customers go to DAG in preference to Leica once or even before the warranties expire -- let's see if they put some money behind that knowledge.

 

As this evolves, my money is still invested in two M8s and more lenses than I can count, many of them Leica. And it's a lot cheaper than flying an airplane, which thanks to small kids and the price of gas, I haven't been able to do for a while...

 

 

scott

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Thought I would add my thoughts though virtually everything has been said on both sides.

 

There are few areas where Michael Kamber made misleading comments, many of these have already been pointed out. Most of his problems aren't relevant to my use of the M8.

 

In my normal use the shutter switch has never accidentally moved and on my cameras you have to give it quite a 'brush' to make it move. Perhaps a knock on the body of a Humvee would do this. Also the buttons on the back have never accidentally been pushed in such a sequence to change the ISO from 160 to 2500, and judging from the number of scratches that have appeared on my M8 bodies over the past year I dont think I have been over careful - I use them without any protective cases.

 

I dont think it is reasonable to expect Leica to have foreseen the need to quickly remove the SD card and replace it with an empty one to avoid having your images taken by security. How quick could you get a film out of a camera?

 

I have great deal of respect for war photographers and could never do that job.

 

People slam the M8 for its shortcomings and we get slammed for defending it. With no M8 and no sales to us the customers, Leica would be reduced to being just a brand based on lens technology.

 

Should Leica do better, of course they should and I think they will but they are not a large global camera manufacturer and it will take them longer and they have to have a niche in the market.

 

And I do wish those who have not bought the camera would stop harking on about the price. Just dont buy the thing and let those that have bought it get on with enjoying the camera. I have two M8s and a host of lenses but an old car. I made that choice, driving is becoming more of a PITA and I'd rather have the Leica stuff. It is my personal choice and that is all.

 

Jeff

 

I am quite happy with your reply.

You probably and hopefuly speak for the majority of Leica users which are quite happy with their M8, to which i reckon myself.

But reading this forum gives one every now and then the impression that everything that could be possibly wrong, is indeed wrong with the M8.

So I can only support your opnion: be happy with it or simply buy another camera.

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Guest noah_addis

When I last shot in Iraq, I took three nikon dslr's, and lots of fast big lenses. I took way too much gear, considering I shot 99 percent of my images with one body and the 20/2.8 (equal to a 30mm on dx sensor).

 

If I go back and could choose to take any gear I could, it would be three M8s. (though I only have one now.)

 

You have to carry enough stuff in a war zone, laptop, sat phones, etc. Even if it meant a sacrifice in quality, and I'm not saying it would, I'd choose the smaller kit any day. I'm perfectly capable of lugging around heavy gear, but I do better work with less stuff to deal with.

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Not sure I should admit to looking at Ken Rockwell's site but he's jumped on the Leica bashing band-wagon...

 

Ken Rockwell's Updates

 

[see News for 12 June].

Funny! I like Rockwell's comment

Just skip Leica for digital — Leica can't even make a full-frame digital camera.

A year ago he was arguing that choosing full-frame or APS-C didn't make any difference, Nikon didn't have to make full-frame, you just grabbed a different lens for the shot.

 

And what a surprise that after looking at other cameras on the market, he chose an F6. Fancy that!

 

Interesting that he quotes used prices on other gear, but not on Leica. Doing that might have revealed something to him.

 

But I've got to hand it to him (not sure what I'm handing to him, though) for pointing out that "The FE sells for $100 used, and the M7 sells for just under $4,000 new." It's an uncommon comparison to say the least.

 

 

But Mark, don't be surprised sometime in the future when someone reminds you that we remember when you were citing Ken Rockwell!

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But Mark, don't be surprised sometime in the future when someone reminds you that we remember when you were citing Ken Rockwell!

 

Oh, the shame!

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One of the reasons Leica is no longer in the position it was in in the 50's is because of the M. Leica did not change with the market. A digital M is always going to be retro oddball with a very narrow appeal. Harking back to the glory days of the M3 does not apply any longer. Leica is a tiny company making a camera that from a design point of view was doomed before it started. The M mount makes for a lousy digital camera platform. If you didn't have to worry about the installed base of M lens owners Leica would never have used it. They would have designed an optimized for digital mount that could have used existing DSLR technology for less cost and more quality and designed made for digital lenses.

 

I guess it would be possible for a Nikon or Canon to make a truly modern 21st century DRF. They have the capability but not the business case to warrant the expense and allocation of resources. Don't expect the M9 to be everything the M8 was not. It's likely to be an improvement but creating digital cameras for a narrow market will always produce products that sell at a premium and are not leading the field technology wise.

 

I think it's close to a miracle that we have a digital M at all and Leica is still in business. In a world of digital homogeneous sameness it's good to have the option of a digital M as flawed as it may be.

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...

I think it's close to a miracle that we have a digital M at all and Leica is still in business. In a world of digital homogeneous sameness it's good to have the option of a digital M as flawed as it may be.

I agree. Some years ago I had the wish for a digital m and was surprised when the rd1 appeared. The M8 is even better.

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Slightly OT but just to point out yet again that grass is not always greener in another place.

 

The Canon 1D3 focussing problems are well known but what is perhaps not quite so well know is a problem with the flagship 1Ds3. I have just read a review of this camera in a recent journal of the BIPP (Britsh Inst of Prof Photogs etc). The reviewer, a professional photographer, used the camera to copy paintings (something he does as part of his business at the request of clients) and discovered that the LCD on the back was out of alignment by 0.8 degrees. As he said doesn't sound much but it is real problem for this kind of work. This problem has been noticed previously on the net and although it apparently does not affect all cameras it is well known. So how could Canon let such cameras out onto the market? Is the camera unsuited for this kind of work?

 

Jeff

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Slightly OT but just to point out yet again that grass is not always greener in another place.

 

The Canon 1D3 focussing problems are well known

 

Jeff

 

I had one of the first 1D mkIII in the US. Yes the focusing problems were well noted and much discussed. and I don't recall any posts by individuals telling us we should be content with the product as is. Canon also made every effort to rectify the problems. They were several, some software related and one mechanical - the submirror assembly (relates to the focusing). Canon has repaired all of the defective units , to the best of my knowledge. With regard to my camera body they Initially estimating 2 weeks for repair, mine was returned to me in 3 days. Certainly Canon has much greater resources at their disposal. But a very important point to note is that when these issues surfaced, Canon halted shipping the cameras until they had a repair.

And just as a footnote to all of this I might point out that I sold a 1 year old 600mm Canon lens to help pay for my M8 & lenses. Am I sorry I did this NO !

 

Peter

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