Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Leica M8.2: My thoughts

I used the Leica M8.2 today for Ozzy's picture and I'm pleased with it. I also used my Nikon D90, but I actually preferred the M8.2 files over the D90 files. But that's just today. It isn't always the top choice. The D90 may be able to get closer to a subject via the type of lens I use, but the files on the Leica seem nicer at the lower ISO speeds, but not always. It's kind of a toss up. What renders nicer are the way the lenses interpret the subject. I think that's the deal breaker. Leica lenses are lovely.

I'm trying to embrace the Leica M8.2 after finally receiving a phone call from the dealer stating that my grey M9 has finally arrived. I decided to decline buying it. I just didn't have the funds, and couldn't justify the purchase right now. Plus, I heard from several sources (and friends) that the M9 is riddled with issues that most people aren't admitting to, which is the sensor failures and the focus problems. To me, the price is too high to take that risk. I think the M8.2 is the more stable Leica camera, even if it isn't full sensor. (It's also a collector's item now that they aren't being made anymore. The M8 isn't as nice as the M8.2 and thus will not have such a status. Too bad.)

So, being that I'm not a Leica fan or a hater, but kind of on the fence, I don't want to invest yet more money into this system. Yes, the M8.2 produces lovely files sometimes. Is it worth thousands more than the Nikon D90 I own? I don't think so. I really don't. I think it's a nice camera, but to have the cost of it be so much higher than other cameras with just as nice, (if not better), features is just obnoxious. Yeah, I know. Nikon has the D3s and such for thousands of dollars. I understand that. Even the D700 is $2600 for the body. It's just that their quality control is better. I've never had a worry about my Nikon camera. I've had one model fail me twice. Nikon fixed it both times for free even though it was out of warranty, it cost me nothing. Plus, their turn around time was less than a week. I'm sure others may complain about Nikon, but I have less issues especially considering the cost of the body VS the cost of a Leica digital rangefinder body. (My friend had nightmares about his M8s! Ugh!) So, I highly doubt Leica would fix a camera out of warranty for free. Leica left a bad taste in my mouth in regards to the stupid little annoyances like the M8 shutter problems. I've never experienced it with my M8.2, but it's bound to happen. To Leica's credit, they did have an update in firmware addressing this issue. Seems to me that if an expensive camera like this comes out with any issues, there is a problem in quality control.

Everyone raves about the M9, and I was about to get one. I wanted one so bad I could taste it. But then I talked to a few people who have owned a M9 and hated it. A friend told me not to waste my money, that I'd be disappointed in the low light shots. the files degrade past ISO 1250. His Nikon files blow the Leica M9 away! Weird! They didn't like how the sensor rendered colors either. My friend said they had a greenish cast, and after seeing some of the files, I couldn't believe it! Another didn't like that the sensors were faulty and the focus problems with lenses. One person told me it would cost a mint of money to replace the sensor in the event that it failed, which in the M9 apparently does. What if the camera is no longer under warranty? It would become a brick! A seven thousand dollar brick! I can't afford to pay thousands of dollars to fix this camera! I don't know if the cost of a fixing the Leica is that high as I've been told, but I shouldn't even be thinking about the lack of quality in any Leica camera. Yet, there are valid problems.

I want a M9, as I thought it would be the perfect camera for me. I don't know if that's still true. I waited since January for this phone call announcing that my M9 was in. As the months went by, and I talked to M8.2 and M9 owners, I started to get the feeling that the the expense of upgrading wouldn't be worth all that extra cash. I romanticized about what it would be like using a Leica. It's nothing like I thought it would be. I was really disgusted with the whole IR issue, having to buy filters! The low light shooting is another blemish! I shot a few pictures at ISO 1250 and they were very noisy. Even at ISO 640, you can see the noise compared to the Nikon which still holds together nicely. Kind of irritating considering the D90 cost a lot less money! I think the digital aspect of it is lacking compared to the film M cameras. I love the M6 camera. It felt great in the hands immediately. It was like playing a fine instrument. I used it, and fell in love with it. Unfortunately, film is expensive, so I don't know how long this romance will last.

Getting back to the M8.2, I like the camera, but it isn't that much lighter than the Nikon D90. It's quite a tank. It's the lenses that make this camera special. If I were to add a bigger lens to my D90, then the size just gets ridiculous. I can't imagine what it would be like to use that combo on a D300s or D700 camera. It definitely would be heavy and noticeable. The Leica wins hands down in that regard. It's so much easier to carry this camera around, and less noticeable. It's more of a quiet zen experience when using the camera in some regards if you can embrace the all manual properties of the camera. I was lucky in that I grew up with film cameras and don't mind the all manual functions. My eyes kind of mind it though, and that's my only gripe about using the camera. (That and the question of quality and expense. I mean, c'mon! So expensive! The guilt of spending that kind of cash on the body and lenses is a very real emotion. I'm not rich, and this is the first time I've ever spent that kind of money on equipment. I'm not a pro, so why do I need this? I'm chasing the Leica experience, I guess. But the experience is not so great. Too many quirks! Too much money for such quirks!)

Also, I don't know that the M9 is worth $4000 more than the M8.2 in quality. In fact, I know it isn't. The experience of spending that kind of cash can ruin the fun of owning a Leica too. I agree that Leica lenses are some of the best lenses in the world though. Everything I bought was used, which is fine with me. It does really bug me that i don't have the full frame. It doesn't bug me that I'm four grand deeper into debt. I don't shoot really wide angle enough so, that's where the D-Lux 4 fits the bill. Even that camera doesn't shoot as wide as theNikon 14mm lens I have, which I think is too much wide for me except on occasion. Not enough occasion though.

I bought my M8.2 camera used, but in mint condition. I paid about well over $3000 for it. (Thankfully I didn't pay the full $5999 for it!) So, is it worth almost $4000 more to buy into the M9 just to get the full frame? Seriously? Everyone raves about how much better the full frame is, but it just means I can enlarge my files past 20X30 instead of 20X30 or less. The ISO only gets better by one more setting from to 1250, as 2500 isn't quite usable, even though people swear it is. It isn't a usable file like the Nikon D700 is a usable file. So, is it worth $4000 to get an almost usable 2500 ISO setting as opposed to an almost usable 1250 setting? No. It isn't. Do I still want the M9? Yes. (But it would have to be able to shoot in low light at least up to ISO 3200 without degrading into a noisy mess!) Someday I'd like to get one, when Leica works out all of the bugs. If ever. What about those who angrily sold their cameras in disgust? Am I to ignore them? This would be so much easier a decision if Leica didn't stumble with each model in the quality control area. The M8 was riddled with problems. The M8.2 addressed them up to a point except for IR and noise starting at ISO 640. The M9 was bum rushed out the door due to its full frame status and other improvements, but I can't help thinking that Leica could have done better with the quality to reassure their customers that the product would have no issues. (Like the focus issues, sensor failures and it being sent from the factory with dust inside!) That's where I have a problem with Leica. If Leica's product was superior in quality, then I'd have one in my hands right now. I'd be confident that the system wouldn't fail me, that there wouldn't be these annoying quirks like plastic LCDs VS the nice Crystal LCD of the M8.2, the sensor , color and focus issues, the firmware upgrades, and whatever else crops up. Perhaps the M10 will be the better camera, once Leica works out all of the bugs at its customer's expense.

So, here I am with my M8.2, which is paid for, and my little old 35 and 50 crons. That's what I use right now for lenses. I'm not a pro. I'm a gadget junkie who wanted all her life to use a Leica because everyone said how wonderful they were. I waited years to be able to almost afford the Leica package. I like the Leica experience to an extent. The M6 is lovely. As for the digital rangefinder? It's an acquired taste, and I keep on plugging away. Some days I love the camera, or the idea of it. Other days it's a pain. JPEGS aren't the greatest out of camera, even though I shoot RAW mostly. Colors can be off if you're not careful about the white balance. Focusing takes a bit of finesse and better eye sight. I keep trying to connect with this camera, because I think I may regret selling it if I don't at least try to form a bond with it first. But the noise in when I shoot in low light is so annoying.

Sorry this is so long, but I'm just addressing things that I'm sure other people have thought about but weren't honest enough to express. I guess I'm the oddball who didn't fall in absolute love with the Leica Digital Rangefinder camera. But, I am trying to fall in love. So, there's that.LOL!

A few shots of Ozzy.

This was too funny.

Below was my choice for the 365 Ozzy picture of the day.


  1. Thanks for the honest comments. I'm evaluating buying an M9 and this type of insight is very helpful.


  2. You're welcome! I just wanted to give my views on both models. I think the M9 is a wonderful camera, but I don't know that it's 7K of wonderful. Now, you can get a M8.2 for a lot less, and then add a Leica lens to it. Much cheaper, and the files can be blown up to 20X30. It's not full frame, which is what everyone wants, but I've come to realize that full frame only means I can't blow the image up bigger than 20X30, won't be able to crop as much. (I don't like to crop my pictures anyway). The other factor is wide angle lenses. The Leica was meant to have a 28-35-50-90 combo, and not really wider than that. It can go wide, but Leica says their 3 famous combo is the 28-50 and 90 lenses. You can certainly go wide with the 1.3 crop factor. It all depends on what your priorities are. I would eventually like to get a M9, but adding another 4K to my kit to get larger files that will tax my hard drive, and not necessarily add quality is just too much to swallow financially. I kick myself sometimes because I could have gotten a Nikon D700, a 24-70mm f/2.8, and a 70-200 f/2.8 lenses for less than what i spent on my Leica M8.2 and 50mm and 35mm Summicron lenses. The D700 would have done more in regards to sports, action plus all the stuff that Leica can do. It's just that the size of the camera is bigger than the Leica, and the Leica lenses seem much nicer, but not that much nicer.

    I'm not trying to bash the M9, as I really would love to have this camera. I just think that Leica needs to step up their quality control so that if their customer spends 7K on a camera body, they don't have to think of anything but reliability. I don't think Leica is there yet. If there are firmware upgrades, sensor problems, color problems and focus issues, there is obviously a little more work to do in that respect. Maybe the M10 will be the holy grail of Leica.

  3. the M8 is a far better deal than the M8.2. The 'improvements' on the m8.2 are not worth the premium.

    The classic M8 in mint condition gives everything you need in a leica M format camera until they improve the M9 to the full frame camera that we all want.



  4. I wish I could agree, but the M8 doesn't hold up to the M8.2 in quality. I have friends who've had both cameras. Their M8s are falling apart and one sold his to get my M8.2 as a second body to his M8.2. I like the M8 and M8.2 though. Both are nice to me. I don't abuse equipment, so the camera would last a long time. It's just my heart was set on the M9. Go figure.

  5. Pretty much in the same position as you! Have an M8.2 and almost got the M9 but changed my mind because I don't see any advantage other than the one-stop ISO improvement. Apart from this slight improvement in sensitivity the full frame actually brings significant disadvantages for me: the focal lengths of my lenses go wrong and contrary to what everyone says I don't thing silver lenses (which I have) match well with the grey finish on the M9. So, I'm sitting it out until the M10 is here in silver-chrome with ISO 6400 capability. With a bit of luck the price will be about the same as an M9 now!


  6. Smart move. Save your money for the M10. They haven't worked out all of the annoying issues with the M9, no matter how many people rave about it.

  7. One last thing, for the cost of the camera body alone, there should be NO ISSUES! And, they should be fixed by Leica for many years at no cost. They should back up their products, and fix them in a timely manner so people aren't waiting 6 weeks or more for a repair. I had a Nikon out of warranty, and Nikon fixed my camera for free, and I got the camera back in one week.

  8. Thanks for your thoughts... going through the rational and emotional decision to trade up from my beloved Epson RD1s. I am in general agreement with the chatter excepting one point... Boutiqy, hand-made, smaller lot products and gadgets offer a lot of ¨soul,¨ in excahnge they are ALWAYS quirky, with funky quality issues. I have been a gadget guy for three quarters of my life, and lucky (or unlucky) to be an early adopter. I even have a BMW Roadster of which they only made about 600. Each and every one of my gadgets (including my car) is SO enjoyable to me but a lot of that IS because of the quirks!

  9. Another point that has me on the used purchase fence is lenses.
    A 28mm Summicron used is about $950 more than a 35mm. While I fully understand crop factors (and the myth of magnification), there is somewhat equivalent framing and usability between an M8.2/28mm Summi, and a M9/35mm Summi. this places the combo pretty close in price. One major consideration is resale on lenses is far better than cameras. Ahhh, I am no closer to my decision!!!

  10. Well, first you have to decide to spend a lot of money on the M8.2, or a crazy lot of money on the M9. LOL! Then you can decide on the lens. Choose the camera you would be happiest with first. Is full frame important to you? If you were to upgrade to FF, will the 28mm then be too wide a lens for you? I am sure used M9s are cheaper now that newer models are coming out. A 35mm lens is more versatile to me than a 28mm lens. But that's me. I think a lot of the new cameras, like Fuji, are priced right and have lovely lenses. But if your heart is set on an M9, by all means, spend the cash. I would suggest renting the gear first. See if you love it enough to spend money on it. In the end, if you don't carry it around, it just isn't worth a dime.