Leica M Digital at Ten: Remembering the M8

Posted on by Mike Evans

Writing, as I did earlier today, about the tenth anniversary of the iconic Apple iPhone, I was reminded that around this time of the year in 2007 there was also something stirring in the loins of the photography world, the first Leica M digital camera. I was therefore delighted to see Barney Britton's appreciation of the M8 here at DPReview.

Leica had dabbled rather unsuccessful in the digital world before, but in September 2006 it announced the M8 — the progenitor of the latest M10. The M8 wasn't my first Leica digital camera; that was the M9 which was introduced three years later in September 2009. But in 2012 I did buy a used M8 as an additional body to accompany my M9. At the time it was aviailable at an attractive price and I was intrigued by the possibilities created by the APS-H CCD sensor with its crop factor of 1.33.

Inventions, inventions, anniversaries. The Leica M digital range shares its foundation date with the Apple iPhone — one for the mass market, one for the connoisseur of fine cameras. Both are ten years old. But the iPhone is considered to be a defining product of the century. There is one every century..... Surely, then. the electric telegraph, which started life here in London's riverside Hammersmith two hundred years before, was a defining product of the 19th century. It was famously written off by the Government as "wholly unnecessary". Taken with Leica M8 and 50mm Summicron, masquerating as a medium-tele 67mm optic.

Turning my 35mm Summicron into a 47mm "standard" lens at the flick of the wrist sounded like a good idea. And my 50mm Summicron would become a 67mm, quite the dab lens at portraiture as I imagined. I have similar fantasies now with APS-C and micro four-thirds where my trusty 50mm Summicron can double as a 75mm or 100mm optic. Yet in most cases it remains A Good Idea but one which is seldom put into practice.

My love affair with the M8 was short lived. Checking Lightroom, I see I shot only 350 frames (which is pretty frugal for me with any "new" camera) and I am hard pressed to find anything publishable now. It's not the camera because it was and still is capable of producing excellent results, it was just I was using the M9 much more and the M8 couldn't get much of an airing. After a few months, my rather battered M8 went to the sale room and I haven't been tempted since.

The M8's sensor was one of the first to dispense with the anti-aliasing filter — an omission that is now all the rage — but it suffered from an over sensitivity to infra-red light.  Images from this camera were, however, considered to be really sharp (Photo, scraping the bottom of the barrel, taken with M8 and Leica 35mm Summicron-M)

If you are tempted, and can live with the possibility that the screen could suffer from the so-called "coffee stain" phenomenon (which is seldom fatal but know that the screen can no longer be replaced) then heed Barney's words:

"Partly because it was so quickly superseded, second-hand M8s can be picked up relatively cheaply these days, at least by the admittedly insane standards of previously-owned Leica digital rangefinders. But if you're really curious about trying one, my advice would be to save a little extra and grab yourself an M8.2 instead."

Perhaps your experience of the M8 was more lengthy than mine. And perhaps you produced some better shots (which wouldn't be difficult, blame the photographer, not the camera). I would be interested to see your assessment of this important milestone camera.