In 1954, at Photokina (or 'Foto Kina'), Leica introduced the first M series camera, the M3, the first Leica rangefinder body with a bayonet interchangeable lens mount, it was the beginning of a legendary series of cameras and lenses, the latest of which, the M7 is one of the only 35 mm rangefinder cameras still in production. For over half a century Leica has resisted the temptation to change the essential simple design established with the original M3 (it wasn't until 2002 that an electronically-controlled shutter was introduced allowing aperture priority automatic exposure). With an average 10 years between major upgrades and many of the original M3s still in regular use, the M platform is felt by its legion of fans to be the purest photographic tool available, and a welcome antidote to the mass of plastic feature-laden models that make up the rest of the market. Owning a Leica M camera has always been something people do with their hearts as much as their heads - and some of the 20th century's greatest photographers and most famous images were taken using them. It is no surprise then, that - despite talking about it for at least five years - Leica felt no need to rush into things when they decided it was time to bring the M into the digital age.
And so, fifty-two years after the M3, and just in time for Photokina, Leica has made another historical introduction, the first digital M series, the M8. This new rangefinder digital camera has the classic design, build and function of the M series but utilizes a completely digital imaging system. The M8 has a specially designed ten megapixel CCD sensor which being slightly smaller than a film negative introduces a 1.33x field of view crop. This ratio conveniently converts several standard M lenses to sort-of equivalent steps (so 21 mm to approx. 28 mm, 28 mm to approx. 35 mm).
The M8 is not an adapted M7, it is a totally new camera with a new body (albeit one that bears all the usual M trademarks), a new viewfinder and a new sensor. Nor is it necessarily the end of the line for M film cameras; Leica is leaving that door open, for the moment at least.
Solving the corner vignetting problem
Because a rangefinder camera doesn't have a mirror box doesn't need to use retrofocus lenses, meaning they sit much closer to the film (or in this case the sensor). The problem with this comes with wide angle lenses (which are pretty much the main staple of the rangefinder camera). Towards the corner of the frame the angle of incidence of light coming from the rear of the lens is so severely off-perpendicular that they would not pass equally through the microlenses above the sensor leading to fairly strong vignetting. Even a modest wide angle lens at this kind of distance could produce a difference of a stop or two between the center of the frame and the edges using a standard CCD sensor.
Leica, obviously keen to solve this problem, took a three pronged approach with the M8:
- Don't use a full frame sensor - at this time it would be cost prohibitive and too complex to produce a sensor which can cover the entire 36x24 mm frame and still work with rangefinder lenses. For this reason the M8's sensor measures 27x18 mm (or 1.33x crop).
- Use offset microlenses - instead of placing all microlenses directly over the photodiode they are gradually offset as you get closer to the edge of the frame (see below).
- Know which lens is being used and apply some software correction - all new M series lenses now carry a six-bit code which allows the M8 to identify which lens is used and (optionally) apply a 'final stage' software based vignetting correction (for RAW images the lens used is simply recorded, no change is made).
Below is a diagram provided by Leica which does some way to explaining how microlenses at the edge of the frame are offset from the photodiode below them, compared to a normal microlens / photodiode combination in the center of the frame.
Tri Elmar M 16-18-21 mm F4 ASPH lens
In conjunction with (and ideally suited for) the M8, Leica has also announced the Tri Elmar M 16-18-21 mm F4 Aspherical lens. Tri Elmar lenses are not zoom lenses but are instead specially designed to provide optimum performance at their selectable focal lengths. On the M8 this lens will provide an equivalent field of view of 21-24-28 mm. This is a normal M series lens and is not in any way specially optimized for the M8 (and so will work just as well on a traditional M series camera).
Also available in Silver
If you prefer your Leica with a more traditional look (I'm sure there'll be some argument over that) then you can buy the M8 in Silver.
Rangefinder advantages / disadvantages (for the uninitiated)
- Fewer moving parts (no mirror or diaphragm) means slower shutter speeds possible (-2 EV)
- More compact, discrete and quieter than an SLR
- Shorter shutter lag
- Lenses are considerably smaller than an equivalent SLR lens
- No auto-focus makes them less suitable for action shots (or at least doing so requires a lot more skill)
- Many users claim rangefinder focusing is faster than using a focusing screen
- You are not looking through the lens itself and do not have a focusing screen hence it is more difficult to get a sense of depth-of-field
- Framelines indicate the field of view of different lenses
- Because there is no mirror you have no mirror black-out
- Brighter than any SLR viewfinder, and not affected by lens maximum aperture
- Not as accurate as an SLR viewfinder, especially with longer lenses (or close subjects)
- Longer minimum focus distances compared to an SLR
- Virtually no telephoto lenses beyond 135mm
- Very wide angle or telephoto lenses require an accessory viewfinder, meaning focus and framing are separated
Leica M series History (brief)
- M3 (1954 - 1966)
- MP (1956 - 1957)
- M2 (1958 - 1967)
- M1 (1959 - 1964)
- M4 (1967 - 1975)
- M5 (1971 - 1975)
- CL (1973 - 1976)
- M4-2 (1977 - 1980)
- M4-P (1980 - 1986)
- M6 (1984 - 1998)
- M6J (1994)
- M6 TTL (1998 - 2002)
- M7 (2002 - )
- M8 (2006 - )
|Sophisticated construction by the nature by Orchideon|
|After the Rain by Flor Tempra|
from Macro - Something Pink
|Asilah by Limburg|
from Cozy Corners
With card readers disappearing from MacBooks, USB-C card readers are now a necessity. Macworld's helpful guide compares five models and decodes the current mess of card speeds and certifications.
A Sony a7S II mounted on the outside of the ISS' Japanese Experiment Module (KIBO) for the last seven months has sent back some impressive 4K video and stills.
A Federal judge has refused to throw out a copyright case against controversial artist Richard Prince, who used an image by photographer Donald Graham in an exhibition.
Sony has teased its customers with news of an upcoming announcement: it will soon take the wraps off a new CineAlta motion picture camera, one sporting a 36x24mm sensor.
QuikStories is integrated into the latest version of the GoPro app and automatically creates 'stories' using the video clips you've shot during a day.
Journalists photographing a protest in the US Capitol building claim they were told by Capitol Police to delete photos and videos of arrests.
The Meizu Pro 7 Plus secondary display can be used for music playback, date and weather-related information, or as viewfinder when taking selfies with the rear cameras.
Nikon is marking its 100th anniversary in many ways, including the creation of a new scholarship program for 'future visual creators' in the USA and Canada.
Take one Digital ELPH (or IXUS), rotate it vertically, add a fully articulating LCD and a lens with a camcorder-like focal length, and what do you get? Why, the Canon PowerShot TX1, of course. In this week's Throwback Thursday we revisit Canon's one-of-a-kind hybrid stills/video camera.
Just in case there was any doubt in your mind, here's the definitive video proof that yes, a $50,000 cinema camera beats the pants off a $50 camcorder in a side-by-side test.
Photographers who fly frequently in the US may want to finally invest in that TSA Pre-check status: in standard security lines, cameras and all other electronics larger than a smartphone will need to be placed in a separate bin for screening.
Images have appeared which claim to show Nikon's forthcoming D850 DSLR, the development of which was announced this week. If genuine, the pictures indicate that the D850 will offer illuminated controls and a tilting LCD screen, but no built-in flash.
To celebrate the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 lens' successful Kickstarter campaign, Lomography has announced a chrome-plated version of the lens in Nikon and Canon DSLR mounts.
Nikon just released four new firmware updates, adding features and fixing bugs in the D600, D610, D750 and the KeyMission 80.
It probably hasn't made your landscape photography bucket list just yet, but there's a good reason to visit Idaho. Here are 9 must-visit locations in this beautiful state.
Oops... Adobe accidentally leaked their unfinished Lightroom-powered cloud-based photo editor 'Project Nimbus' to some Creative Cloud users yesterday.
Storm chaser and award-winning photographer Mike Oblinski just released his latest time-lapse, and it is absolutely stunning.
Looking to level up your video capture capabilities without buying a whole new camera? Blackmagic's Video Assist 4K is well worth considering, despite a few flaws and its lack of 4K/60p support.
We're big fans of Fujifilm's fast-growing GFX system, and the GF 110mm F2 lens is no exception. Positioned as the system's classic portrait lens, its optics are just as impressive with non-human subjects as well.
Nikon turns 100 years old today, and the company is celebrating with a wacky music video, some tributes to its history, and a new vision presented by president Kazuo Ushida.
Phottix just released the Premio Parabolic Umbrellas series, replacing their Para-Pro line with a stronger, deeper and better made set of parabolic umbrellas.
The Moto Z2 is Motorola's first dual-camera smartphone and, compared to its predecessor, comes with a number of improvements and new camera features.
Researchers at Stanford have revealed a new '4D camera system' built for robots. The system is based on the same light field tech that allowed Lytro cameras to refocus images after they were taken.
If you want 'beautiful rendition' from your lenses, follow this simple rule: only buy classic low-element prime lenses with lead glass elements—everything else is junk.
In an interview with CNBC, Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann said he dreams of a 'true Leica phone,' and hinted at what's next for the Leica and Huawei partnership.
Wildlife and nature photographer Peter Mather tells the story behind this exceptional shot of a mama grizzly and her cub searching for salmon in Yukon, Canada.
Popular YouTube channel TastyTuts has put together this 33-video Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop—a godsend for anybody who wants to learn Photoshop from scratch.
The long anticipated replacement for the popular Rode VideoMic Pro is almost ready for shipping. The price of the upgraded VideoMic Pro+ will be £290/$300 when it goes on sale in mid-August.
A new iOS app called Explorest wants to help you find new locations to shoot. It's limited to Singapore for now, but the app is packed full of useful location scouting features.
Nikon's D850 development announcement is extremely light on details, so we assembled a wish list of upgrades and features we'd love to see.