The new Leica M8 ($4,800, estimated street, body only) is finally here, and
it's a beauty. We've got all the details on this 10MP digital rangefinder.
In all, Leica expects resolution and image quality better than usually seen with 10MP. In fact, the camera's promotion material cites "a greater wealth of detail than can be achieved with analog film."
Noise, too, is well under control, according to Leica. The base ISO is 160 (DSLRs often start at 100) and settings run up to 2500, so this is a serious low-light machine. Used to shooting fast film with an M7? You'll feel right at home, Leica says.
Nearly all Leica lenses made since 1954 (except for several Super Angulons, which reach far into the body) will work on the new camera. As for vignetting with wide-angle glass, don't worry, says Leica. The firmware will handle it, especially when the lens is fitted with the new 6-bit coding ring. This digital bayonet ring (which Leica can retrofit to existing lenses) helps the camera recognize the lens, provides more EXIF data, and compensates for vignetting.
To see just how fine the photos are, turn to the 230,000-pixel 2.5-inch LCD. Simple controls give a color histogram not just for the photo, but for an area of it. Also, you can zoom in 8X to see detail at the pixel level.
The M8 stores images in two JPEG quality levels or in 16 bits per color in Adobe's Digital Negative (DNG). Capture One LE software is included as a RAW converter.
Leica claims a burst rate of 2 frames per second, up to 10 photos. Fast, too, is the shutter speed -- the new metal blades reach 1/8000 sec -- and a flash sync of 1/250 sec. The new M-TTL flash system uses a preflash to more accurately set the output on the Leica SF 24D and Metz flash units.
But amid all of the high-tech, there's no denying the tradition behind this camera. The lenses are still manual-focus. And the viewfinder's frame lines extend only from 24mm to 90mm. What if you buy the new 16-21mm f/4 lens due in December? The $3,500 (estimated street) it costs also gets you a viewfinder to mount atop the camera.
This is, after all, a real Leica M.
New & Noteworthy
• 10MP (effective), 1.33X lens factor.
• Designed for low light -- ISO 160 to 2500.
• Looks, feels, sounds like an M.
Consider This If...
You want to be a digital Sebastião Salgado -- and you have $6,300 for a camera and lens.