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barjohn

Should Leica Abandon The M8?

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In a world of fast changing technology, sooner or later every company faces the dilemma of creating a product that cuts lose from its past or building a new product that is seriously hampered by trying to maintain backward compatibility.

 

The M family of lenses is a perfect example of this problem. The M8 was the manifestation of Leica's choice. However, trying to take lenses designed for film and building a digital camera with film like tolerances illustrates why most engineers would have preferred a clean slate. In addition to all of the teething problems Leica has faced trying to move the camera from film to digital, it has tarnished its reputation on lenses too. Issues that might never have shown up on a film camera such as the back focus and front focus errors in brand new lenses are all over this and other web sites.

 

It is time to stop with the M8, let it die its natural death which will come all too quickly and start with a new RF camera that is modern with lenses that will work with the new body. It should be small (smaller than the M8), far more ergonomic in controls, and far more modern in features such as a FF sensor (or larger if need be), rather than frame lines, adjust image magnification so the frame is constant and accurate for the distance or use electronic frame lines that adjust for distance. Electronically couples lenses so f-stop, focal length and distance to subject are all captured. No sloppy cam and roller constantly needing adjustment. New lighter lenses custom made for the camera. Both camera body and lens body made from carbon composite for light weight with complete weather sealing. ISO as good as the D700 or better. Fast internal processor for fast shooting with a very large buffer.

 

People will pay more for small size, light weight and high tech. You pay much more for a super light weight laptop weighing 3 lbs or less than a 5 lb or greater notebook. Why? People want small and light weight and they know it costs more to miniaturize.

 

So I say abandon the M8 and move into the 21st century and leap frog the competition. It is time to know when to quit flogging that old nag and get a thoroughbred if you want to win the race.

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The heart of the Leica system is not the bodies, but the lenses. The lenses are fine -- Zeiss now makes manual focus lenses for the latest Nikon models, and seem to do quite well with them. I agree that the body has to be updated. The M8 could have made great strides, even in the available body space -- see the Canon G9 -- but didn't, because it was too conceptually anchored in the past. To paraphrase Einstein or somebody, things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. If you put a very modern sensor in an M9, with an accurate rangefinder and electronics as modern as the G9, I'd buy it.

 

JC

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In a world of fast changing technology, sooner or later every company faces the dilemma of creating a product that cuts lose from its past or building a new product that is seriously hampered by trying to maintain backward compatibility.

 

The M8 was the manifestation of Leica's choice.

 

So I say abandon the M8 and move into the 21st century and leap frog the competition. win the race.

 

Your suggestion that Leica take up a new design premise is surely something they have considered. In fact, the new direction your propose may well be underway. But the term 'Abandon' seems misused in my opinion. One of Leica's historical strong points has been the fact that they maintained camera body designs that functioned perfectly with their full line of original lenses. They managed to do this to near perfection. If the M8 had not allowed the use of the assortment of M type lenses I had managed to collect over the years, I doubt I would have tried it, since it would have meant a much bigger investment. So their design approach for the M8 to me seems quite reasonable.

 

I believe the new design premise you propose; lighter smaller, more versatile, may serve many very well, but so does the current M8 for those of us who are automatically connected to it through the use of our lenses. The M8 brought me into digital photography the way no other compact system could. If the next digital design they offer, breaks with the tradition of backward compatibility, then more power to them. But I for one am so glad I have the M8 to carry the day until I can consider what comes next which may take considerable time.

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Guest stnami

If Leica wanted to sell a few hundred thousand units things would have changed and the company sold to a electronics manufacturer by now. While it is owned by a "Leica Freak" tradition will reign .......... to me it's not a problem I use moving pictures more often than before ........ despite that I am scanning just returned slides at the moment

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You have Olympus already trying that. New from the ground up, smaller bodies, plastic digi-spec lenses, cheaper than the competition. If that's what you want, go buy one of those.

 

Leica is Leica because of heritage. Yes, there are hurdles (which I fully expect to work themselves out at a Leica pace). But there is still a greatness to this camera system that none of the modern, computer-packed, carbon-composite bodied, vanilla-flavored camera makers have risen to. There is magic to the lenses, and in a world of digital sterility, Leica has preserved an analog soul within the M8 system.

 

Honestly, there are so many naysayers on this forum I'd almost suspect people are being paid to badmouth the camera, except Leica's so niche there would be no financial motive for anyone to do so.

 

If Leica did what you propose, there would be no appeal left for me, I'd just go back to shooting Canons.

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I know I'm not much of poster but do keep up to date with topics here on this forum. For me its been a niche camera ever since I got my first leica, an M6. If the digital M didn't take M lenses I would have just made do with film Ms and my Canon digital would be used more but enjoyed less than my simple M6. My Canon 450 xsi is a modern marvel when compared to my M8 but when I street shoot my M8 still delivers that M pleasure despite all its flaws.

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Hi,

 

It sounds like a race between a new, mint, modern, effiecient "Lexus" and a new classic "Bugatti Veyron"....

 

I rather prefeer the Bugatti !

 

Long life for M8!

 

regards,

 

Arturo

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I vote for no body change. This would be a huge mistake, IMO. Make the M9 faster, more reliable and that's it.

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My own tuppence worth. I think the existing clientele, who would form a large part of the market for an M9, are committed to the M bayonet fit lenses. These represent a very substantial investment for most of us, worth a number of times the value of the body. Therefore at the least, an M9 even if it also uses a new range of lenses, must be backwards compatible.

 

The current rangefinder is inadequate, even when it is in perfect alignment, for modern digital use and, as pixel count and quality increases, this will become even more critical. I am not convinced fiddling around with it (longer base length, lower tolerances, maybe tilting prisms à la Contax) would be enough. It would produce an incremental improvement but not the quantum leap needed. However I and I think most others, want to retain some form of manual focus. My solution would be to motorise the sensor. This would have the additional benefit of incorporating image stabilisation as well - see Erwin Puts' article on how effective this is, versus traditional low RF shake. I see the system working like this. You focus normally with the existing RF. The sensor then fine tunes that focus with a centre weighted multi axis phase change or contrast detection system by fractionally moving the sensor backwards or forwards, when the shutter button is half depressed. If you had not focussed sufficiently accurately manually, you would get an OOF warning. Perhaps I should patent this system - oops Zeiss already have - they used it, albeit with a primitive focus detector, in the AX SLR.

 

Wilson

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...It should be small (smaller than the M8), far more ergonomic in controls, and far more modern in features such as a FF sensor (or larger if need be), rather than frame lines, adjust image magnification so the frame is constant...

What's the point of using a rangefinder if you cannot view outside the framelines and/or shoot both eyes open?

What you seem to describe is a small DSLR a la Oly or Pentax plus an FF sensor but it's not tomorrow that FF bodies will be that small i guess.

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And yes another guy who knows everything about what camera can be built, how long and how much it would cost to design it, how easy it would be to market it...

 

I'm quite impressed

 

Why don't you raise a few tength of millions bucks and create a company to implement it? Sure sounds easy when we read you here.

As Michael Tyler pointed out, one manufacturer already tried this route, Olympus. Not been a huge success so far.

 

Avoid to mention it in your business plan when you meet investors

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It is time to stop with the M8, let it die its natural death which will come all too quickly and start with a new RF camera that is modern with lenses that will work with the new body...

 

So I say abandon the M8 and move into the 21st century and leap frog the competition...

Which competition would that be?

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Barjohn, frankly i second you, I would like to see a similar project (and maybe I'll be the first to buy) under the name of Leica DRF.

Anyway I don't want to see my M system sinking down to the ocean of the nostalgia (it coud be still evolved considering all the limit of the project).

A new concept of the RF in the digital era must be somehow considered, and who, if not Leica, could and should do it?

 

A sort of parallel route where you can decide between the "classic" M, or somehow a new generation of CL system?

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Although I'd also like to see a digitalCL type of project, I'd conversely like it to be M-mount compatible. For me the weaknesses of the M8 have been price and reliability.

A digiCL might bleed some potential customers from a future M9, but my feeling is that bringing people into the M-system will actually sell more of all the cameras and lenses in the long-run - new, used, film and digital.

Once you're hooked on M-Leicas it's difficult to get out, imho - so bring more people in!

 

And keep the form factor, simplicity and mechanical nature of the M as far as possible too.

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I agree that a more ergonomic design would be better. But I also remind you of the experiences Leica made in the past. They improved the M-Design -> nobody wanted it (M5), they improved the R-Design (R8) -> nobody wanted it either.

They simply have to make compromises, when they lose their traditional consumers, they're lost!

A 24x36mm-sensor will come! And I'm sure a liveview-function (which would be great for the M) will be available, too!

The lenses are pure 21st century, they're the most sophisticated 35mm-designs ever created and their non-telecentic-design-approach is one of their biggest strengths - issues with sensors will be solved (so they already did with the M8), optical design-restrictions will last centuries (the 54 years old 38mm biogon still beats EVERY SLR-wideangle)! Look at the 4/3-system, lenses optimized for the digital world... Just compare the 1,4/25 vs. the Summilux-Asph 50mm... And future systems won't need optical viewfinders anymore, so they're lens design will be closer to the rangefinder-approach!

The materials used are chosen with care (Al, brass, Mg), composite materials are great for certain applications but we're not talking about a race car, we're talking about fine mechanics which have to work for decades!

 

A Leica was never "everybody's darling", it always spoke to a certain clientel, it's one of the few alternatives to the plastic-high-speed-mass-market of "computers which can take pictures" - Leica has to communicate it's strengths, most people complaining about Leica never used it!

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How many would buy it? If you're selling cameras then that's more important than innovation. It's no use designing a 'perfect' camera if only a handful of people can afford to buy it.

 

Personally I wouldn't be able to afford a new rangefinder body that required a totally new set of lenses. Perhaps I'm not typical, but I suspect that there are a number of M8 users who were only able to buy into the system because they already had lenses.

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I've never read such a load of bull in all my time here, to suggest Leica did something wrong by using existing lenses with a digital sensor is nonsense. What did Canon, Nikon and other manufacturers do when they introduced digital bodies. Did they go out and design a complete new lens line up?. As time has evolved they have introduced lenses which are more digital compatible such as the 85L mkII comes to mind. Specific coatings for digital if memory serves me.

 

You're obviously and never have been happy with the purchase of your M8. Perhaps it's time for you to consider drawing a line in the sand and deciding is it really worth all this personal anguish you seem to be putting yourself under. I can't for the life of me see why you persist with the camera, it seems to be well below your requirements.

 

But please just because you want carbon comp bodies, variable view finders, weather sealing and a new line of lenses and want to shoot fast doesn't mean this requires a complete redesign, No you need to look at a DSLR for your requirements. Period.

 

Lets get real here, the M8 was the first attempt at a DRF, I'm sure leica are working on the next evolution and I'm sure there will be some improvements as the technology allows, In the mean time I'll use a perfectly good camera and take images that meet my needs......and I'll be happy, happy I actually have a DRF that produces quality files in such a small form factor.

 

You on the other hand seem to have been conditioned by the never ending upgrade trail and short life cycles of other manufacturers, You need to exercise patience, Rome was not built in a day.

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I'm sure Leica has very firm ideas on the subject - and I'm equally sure that the last thing they would give up is tradition.

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What if Panasonic buys Leica and then infuses cash? Is it possible to have the best of German engineering and Japanese production/quality control (plus Panasonic has money)

 

Thank you,

Arif

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