Welcome to TOP's official Leica M8 early-verdict post. I hope this will stem or slow the tide of e-mails I get requesting my opinion about the M8. I've never seen one, so my opinion would be pretty useless.

My friend Kent, however, was among the earliest of early adopters, plunking down cash money as soon as his dealer would accept it and subsequently taking delivery on one of the very first ones to land in his home city.

Weeks had passed with nary a word from him, so I send him the following e-mail:

It's gotten awfully quiet from down there.

Check one:

[ ] It's love--throw-caution-to-the-winds, risk-anything love
[ ] Early romance (too busy shooting to do anything else)
[ ] We're feeling each other out slowly, liking each other better as time passes
[ ] The infatuation is fading
[ ] Omigod, what have I done? It seemed like such a great idea when I was sh*tfaced
[ ] We're locked in mortal enmity. I can't stand her.

Of course I'm talking about your little metal German mistress, not anything that would upset the missus....


Here's his reply:

[X] It's love—throw-caution-to-the-winds, risk-anything love

[X] Early romance (too busy shooting to do anything else)

In my world, this cam falls into your current TOP Dream Camera syndrome. Aside from the Call-Your-Cardiologist pricing, this is the closest thing I have seen in the digital world that could possibly be viewed in old fashioned 20th century film camera terms. Everything about this camera makes an old 1970s student photographer like myself want to throw caution to the wind (along with the mortgage money and kids' college fund) and fill out the system with those over-the-top expensive, but over-the-top-fabulous, M lenses.

I have been using Leicas seriously since I bought my first M4 in 1973 in Cambridge, Mass. Since the M8 arrived I have come to the conclusion that in all that time I have never seen what these lenses can do. Ever! They are simply flat out the best I have ever used. And, mind you, I am using a rather pedestrian set of current 35 and 50 Summicrons and a 90mm Elmarit. Expensive by any standards--budget by Leica standards.

On a tripod, writing to a raw file and converted in Phase One Capture One, the files are revealing themselves to be among the best I’ve ever worked with. They require little in the way of tonality adjustments, and way less sharpening than my Canon 1Ds Mk. II files. The only work so far is all color related. Color balance out of the box is not as guaranteed bulletproof as the Canon 5D. This will change with time and updates. I can live with it easily.

The entire package, however, walking around with a little M sized camera and coming home with 1Ds Mk.II- type files (or better!) is...what’s not to like? I am a goner. I am ready to cast-off most other stuff in my arsenal. This camera begs to be used in all situations, whether rangefinder-appropriate or not. It is simply a pleasure to use, especially for one who has spent any time in the mechanical pre-auto-anything days of yore. There may be a motor and aperture preferred AE on this box, but in use, in the hand and at your eye, this could be any Leica M from the past 50 years.

This is all good.

...And there you have it, an actual view from behind the viewfinder.



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