M8 hands on today: pix/thoughts

Started Oct 26, 2006 | Discussions thread
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tashley
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M8 hands on today: pix/thoughts
Oct 26, 2006

I had a brief hands on with the beast today and came away 80% certain I want one, whereas before I was 90%...

First: I shoot mainly on a Canon 5D these days and use a Pannie LX-2 as a carry around but I used to have a Kodak ProSLR/n and sometimes miss the sharpness and colour it gave, whatever other problems it had so.. the thought of a Kodak sensor with no AA filter in a machine with a small and rather lovely form-factor made me think hmmm... also I was raised on rangefinders and like them.

Second: take a look at my site, link below, if you have a moment, because my impressions of any camera depend on what I'm going to use it for and if you see what I do you'll see what my needs and prejudices are. As I see it, I do mainly landscape and travel, never been in a studio, shoot almost no people at all, and tend to shoot wide at 24mm or so but like to zoom in to 300mm if the scene requires it.

Third: I've read Sean Reid's excellent review and since one of his other main cameras is a 5D I do understand the comparisons.

So, what was it like?

1) A tiny bit bigger and heavier than I thought, though it was lovely to have a small lens not pulling the centre of gravity forwards

2) Immediately easy to use in Aperture Priority mode. I had literally two minutes with it since others needed to have a go and I should add that the Leica guy stressed that the firmware was not the final version but I absolutely confirm that the files are teeming with detail, just like a Kodak ProSLR/n file, but with less CA/PF etc.

3) Focus was lovely and quick but with no autofocus and no IS, you'll have to work hard for sharpness.

4) The lens, a 35mm (not sure which one, but it wasn't coded to be recognised by the camera so it isn't recorded in EXIF nor does the aperture used get recorded) was gorgeously small but it is was very easy to pull aperture rather than focus by mistake

5) One of the shots (see below) was radically off in white balance though the DNG file does of course clean up perfectly. Put this down to late Beta firmware I guess?

6) The camera feels so utterly like a camera rather than a computer with a lens that I could smell my own desire to take pictures. This is the biggest plus. It's a sexy, visceral feeling of being a millimetre away from a great shot.

8) Unless you go off Leica piste lens wise, there's no 24mm lens other than the new tri-elmarit, which is heavy enough to compromise the point of the whole 'small and light' exercise. This results from the 1.33 FOV multiplier. And if you want to use that lens, you'll need the weird Universal Wide angle Viewfinder, which is large-ish and weighs 150 gr. So by the time you've added this gear you have the weight and bulk creeping up towards a 5D with a short zoom on it...

9) The baseplate thing is a royal pain. There are ways of dustproofing cameras without doing this. It may be traditional, retro, whatever, but it's daft. Plain daft.

Four shots follow, they're not interesting unless you pan around the 100% shots and see teh detail and sharpness at which point they are VERY interesting. But for whatever they're worth (and creatively that's precisely nothing) I show them here, with my personal conclusion below...

CONCLUSION

The files contain a lot of data, despite being small in filesize, and so you can PP away to your heart's content (I did so in Lightroom). Dynamic range is great, sharpness and detail exceptional, colour lovely if a little over vibrant by default, gradations very refined. I could learn to love the output from this camera BUT my personal consideration is whether I should replace a Canon 5d with it and I'm not sure. I can't get a wide enough FOV (for me 24mm) without strap-ons and odd, heavy-ish lenses and I can't get longer lenses at all.

What I would get for giving up on this level of focal length flexibility is a camera that might mildly outperform a 5D at lower ISO (and this mainly due to the lenses) but which would be less accomplished at higher ISO (from what I gather rather than from what I was able to test). More importantly it would, at say 35-80mm ish (35mm equiv) focal lengths, be smaller and lighter and more importantly less intrusive than a DSLR. It sounds nice and it feels like creative Viagara.

You pays your money and you takes your chances....

Tim

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