Right, i’ll let you get it out of your systems, go on, tell me you thought I was immune from gear acquisition syndrome.
It’s no secret I have a thing for Leicas. Always have and always will. I’ve been loving shooting my film CL of late, the 40mm f2 is beautiful on that camera (which it was designed for) and with TriX or TMax loaded I’ve got some beautiful photographs. It’s a pleasure to shoot with, makes me think and work for the images I get.
Now it’s normally about this time of year that I drop a little cash on something new. A couple of years ago a gained the 5Dmkii, a year later the EF 85L, then last year the X100.
This year I came across a used M8 for sale at a good price. I’ve wanted to get my hands on one of these since they launched and finally thought “I can have the excitement and joy of using my CL but with all the benefits and easy of digital” right?
Well after a couple of days I’m sad to say wrong. 😦
The M8 is a beautiful camera and I’ve seen some lovely images from them, however despite all it’s beauty and heritage the sensor is showing it’s age. Here is the problem with modern digital cameras. Leica M cameras were always cameras for life, this is pretty much shown by the fact the M8 I used was cheaper than a used M7 film body from the same dealer. In fact I’d say my CL will be worth more than the M8 in another 10 years (maybe less). The problem is with producing the body of a camera to last forever in the modern “throw away” world. Digital technology is still in it’s teens and as such moving and changing still. Camera bodies are no longer the investment pieces in a kit.
So the M8,
It’s lovely no doubt. You know it’s a quality camera as soon as it’s in your hands. It’s straight forward and easy to use if you’re used to cameras that require you to do the thinking. Aperture, shutter speed, focus ring and shutter release. Zen like pretty much describes the user experience.
The problems start once you get shooting, firstly it isn’t as quiet as I’m used to Leicas being. No biggie but worth noting, it sounds kind of mechanical in operation. The shutter release is actually rubbish. Now I’ve never said this about a Leica but seriously it’s all crunchy, if I can really feel the half press points on my shutter release I freak out. Leicas should be smooth like butter, silky and perfect, not jarring and stabby. Again not a deal breaker but another con for me.
These things I could get over as I was finally shooting with a digital M, I enjoyed the experience, well until I started to look through the images. I’ll not go into huge detail but here’s the main issues I had;
White balance is shocking, Forget auto WB unless you like blue tinted shots. Sure I shoot RAW but still I do like my previews to be close to actual colours.
My 40mm f2 ‘cron was appalling wide open on the thing. Crazy soft corners, like lens baby soft. This was a BIG deal to me.
Really rather poor ISO performance once you get above the base of 160. At 160 it’s really great but other than that noise starts to dance everywhere.
I’ll admit I was blown away by the sharpness of the images even when unsharpened in Lightroom but as we all know, sharpness isn’t everything.
Colours, h’eh, nothing to really write home about. Apparently the Kodak sensor in the M8 was designed to replicate Kodachrome colours. I’m no expert on Kodachrome but I’m pretty sure it was better than what I got with the M8.
Here’s a few shots from the weekend to give you an idea of my cons. These we’re edited to make them acceptable to me so you won’t see my issues with colour or white balance;
So after seeing my shots, I thought i’d be fun to compare to those I took last year with the X100 (now don’t get silly on me but I may be about to announce something)
Okay, now I know which series of shots I prefer.
Remeber last year when I let the X100 go, I said I loved it but it wasn’t worth what I paid for it. Well the same goes for the M8, I love the thing despite it’s short comings, I’m pretty sure that one day I will invest in some proper Leica lenses and a full frame digital M but for now, I just can’t part with that much money for a camera which doesn’t create what I want it too. So where does that leave me?
Well the CL is staying for all my B&W film work (no doubt on that one). It’s small, light and handy to have in the bag on assignments.
Now coming back to the “the X100 isn’t worth what I paid for it”. Well it wasn’t worth what I paid for it when first released brand new, however . . . . . . it is worth what I may have just found one for used and just serviced with a stack of extras.
I’ll be honest and say I’ve missed the little Fuji, every time I look back through my catalogue of shots from last years 365 the stand out images are normally from the X100, it’s colour reproduction is amazing, I really got to grips with converting my B&W’s with it, plus the thing is sexy as. Why didn’t I go for the new X-Pro 1? simple because HAVE YOU SEEN THE PRICE OF THOSE THINGS?!? I don’t care if it makes coffee for me and drives me to my commissions, I’m not wandering the back streets of eastern european cities casually swinging over two thousand pounds worth of metal and plastic from my wrist. Plus it’s going to get me into the whole lens system problem again.
So the M8 is going back, the Olympus E-P2 20mm combo is going to be leaving my company and all being well the X100 shall be returning. HA! its like a camera yoyo between the Oly E-P system and Fuji X100 around here eh? Stay tuned I’m sure they’ll be more on this subject to be said in a week or so.
So as they say sometimes is best not to meet your heros, I’ve admired the M8 from afar for a good while, now sadly I see it as a once was, a classic of old.