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Timings & File Sizes

It's pretty difficult to pick a performance benchmark for the M8, it's never going to fall into the hands of a sports photographer (as telephoto lenses are pretty much out of the question) there's no real requirement for high speed continuous shooting (although it does fairly well at around 1.8 fps). The lack of auto-focus and the rangefinder viewfinder mean that there's essentially no shutter lag to speak of, the shot is taken virtually at the instant you decide to press the shutter release button. Other more measurable performance metrics such as power off to on and off to shot times were respectable enough and are unlikely to interfere with the use of the camera. Record review wasn't quite as quick as I would have liked and the slowest element of camera use was actually write time, especially if you shoot RAW+JPEG, having to wait up to seven seconds before being able to switch to play mode to magnify your image.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3936 x 2624 JPEG Fine (approx. 2,800 KB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 2 GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card
  • 2 GB Lexar Pro 133x SD card
Action
Details
Time, secs
(2 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Power Off to On *1   1.0 1.0
Power Off to Shot   1.1 1.1
Sleep to On   1.0 1.0
Power On to Off   <0.1 <0.1
Record Review *2
RAW
1.3 1.3
Record Review *2
JPEG
1.3 1.3
Play *3
RAW
<0.1 <0.1
Play *3
JPEG
<0.1 <0.1
Play Image to Image *3
RAW
<0.1 <0.1
Play Image to Image *3
JPEG
<0.1 <0.1

*1 This is the amount of time the status LED on the rear of the camera is lit after powering on, it's an indication of 'busy time' at power up, the frame counter LCD displays about a second later.
*2 Time taken from the shutter release being pressed to the review image being displayed on the LCD monitor.
*3 As good as instant, although by the resolution of the displayed image it's clear that the M8 is using a low resolution thumbnail from the image header, magnifying causes the camera to re-access the SD card to load the rest of the image data.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Exposure (1/2520 sec, F5.6), ISO 320. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was always 1.8 fps (+/- 0.01 fps)
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held after burst (buffer full)
  • Next burst - How soon after the burst it is fully written to the card (indicator goes out)

Burst of JPEG Large Fine images

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme III SD
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x SD
Frame rate (average) 1.8 fps 1.8 fps
Number of frames 11 11
Buffer full rate 1 frame every 3.5 sec 1 frame every 3.6 sec
Next burst 35 sec 36 sec

Burst of RAW images

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme III SD
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x SD
Frame rate (average) 1.8 fps 1.8 fps
Number of frames 12 12
Buffer full rate 1 shot every 2.2 sec 1 shot every 2.3 sec
Next burst 19.2 sec 19.9 sec

The M8 press release and official specifications claim two frames per second, in our tests it delivered slightly less than that at 1.8 fps for both JPEG and RAW images, although did manage to buffer more than the ten frames stated. Once the buffer is full the camera will continue to shoot as quickly as it can, which for JPEG images is about one frame every 3.5 seconds and for RAW one every 2.2 seconds. What's interesting here is that RAW is faster than JPEG which points to a slow JPEG engine.

File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card. Timing was taken from the instant the shutter release was pressed to the time the storage card activity / busy LED on the rear of the camera stopped blinking. Media used were the same as above.

Image type
Time, secs
(2 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Approx.
size
3936 x 2624 RAW + JPEG Fine 7.0 8.6 13,100 KB *1
3936 x 2624 RAW 3.2 3.4 10,300 KB
3936 x 2624 JPEG Fine 4.9 5.2 2,800 KB

*1 File size reported here is the size of the RAW and JPEG files added together.
*2 The M8 begins writing around 0.7 seconds after the shutter release is pressed so you must subtract 'processing time' from the timing to get the actual write time.

The M8's write speed was fairly good although at 4.1 MB/sec for a RAW (DNG) not as fast as we are seeing from even entry level digital SLRs from the big name manufacturers. Shoot JPEG and the write process takes a little longer, just around five seconds in our test but thankfully the M8 has good buffering so the only thing affected by this delay is display of the image being saved if you quickly switch to play mode.

USB transfer speed

To test the M8's USB transfer speed we transferred approximately 128 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme III 2 GB SD card.

Method
Transfer rate
Leica M8 (PTP device) 4.1 MB/sec
Sony built-in SD card reader (Vaio TX) 6.7 MB/sec
Panasonic CardBus PCMCIA adapter 10.7 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme IV USB 2.0 card reader 10.9 MB/sec

The M8 appears only to support PTP USB connectivity which limits its usefulness but also probably impacts on performance achieving a fairly lowly 4.1 MB/sec we'd pretty much have to recommend you invest in a decent USB or Firewire card reader.

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