Saturday, June 14, 2008

Leica M8

There were two reviews of the Leica M8, a digital rangefinder camera modeled after the famous film Leicas that recently made the rounds on the web. I never saw the point of the digital version and thought it is just an expensive toy for collectors. For that price Leica should really manage to put a full-frame sensor in there, it would add almost nothing to their cost compared to what they're asking and make the camera infinitely more useful, but I digress. I saw two recent reviews posted by two different photojournalists recently that reach diametrically opposed conclusions. They're interesting reads. The first and very negative one is from Michael Kamber. He rides around with troops in Iraq and finds the M8 utterly lacking for many of the reasons one would expect. The second is from Bruno Stevens, who ascribes almost mythical qualities to the M8. While the first review is sometimes silly in its putdowns (images that have moderate noise but still good definition are completely unusable suddenly, while they are better than what you get with fast film), it is very well supported and is exactly in line with what you expect from the camera. On the other hand the second review makes conclusions that are untenable such as that the M8 has similar quality to a 6x9 scan which is just impossible for a crop sensor no matter how good the lens but he makes a good point that the unobtrusiveness of a rangefinder is great in certain situations. Of course you get the same effect with a $200 P&S. I thought that the juxtaposition of the two reviews was very interesting and really illustrates that people can have very different and often valid viewpoints of the same thing.

Update: I just read this fantastic column that is very applicable to the Leica thing.

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