Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Leica M8 - going, going, gone.

Yes, you have read the title of this post correctly, I have sold my Leica M8, Elmarit 28mm, and the Voigtlander 15mm and 40mm lenses.

Why have I done this? well it wasn't an easy decision, I really liked the look of the files the M8 produced and the Leica and Voigtlander lenses were really very good indeed. 

The seed was sown when I was shooting recently with a friend who was using a Canon 5D2, now I've got one of these as well but thought it might be nice to compare images from the same shoot on different cameras, and the Leica gear is much lighter to carry than the Canon. 
The Leica battery was charged ready for the shoot and but it lasted all of around 30 mins before giving up. Ok, I should have had a spare, and in fact I do, but for some reason it was not charging in the Leica or Delkin charger so it was left at home.
The cold could have contributed to its shorter life (the Canon kept on shooting though) or it might just be that the battery is nearly 8 years old and past its best. Anyway I looked at it I was going to have to replace it. As third party batteries don't last very long in the Leica (I've tried three different types) it was going to have to be a new Leica battery, which are around £90.00, and ideally I need a couple, so I was looking at £180 for batteries.

The M8 is getting on for 8yrs old, I had already had the shutter repaired by Leica which involved sending it back to Solms for a month,  as Leica UK can't do much more than clean the sensor, so had lost a bit of confidence in the camera anyway, so the thought of spending £180 on new batteries for an ageing camera seemed a bit daft. I thought it was time for it to go.

Also recently I had noticed that the value of the M8 was starting to creep down having been steady at around the £1100 mark since my purchase.

My initial thoughts were to sell the M8 and get a M9, but the M9 is essentially the same camera with warmed over Firmware and a full-frame version of the same Kodak CCD sensor, the thought of paying £2500 - £3000 for a 2-3yr old camera was not very attractive. Also the recent tales of a backlog of M9s with "sensor rot"in Wetzlar awaiting repair did nothing to add to its attraction.

I briefly considered the Leica M (240), a new model and no reliability scares have yet surfaced, but I tried one last year in Ireland and found it heavy and neither one thing or the other with its live view and crappy focus peaking so the thought of blowing £5000 on one was again not appealing.

Focussing; I liked the manual rangefinder focussing when I was using the M8 but then I'd shoot with my 5D2 and find it so much easier.

So decision made, what did I replace it with? There is really only one alternative to a Leica M out there, the Fuji X-Pro1, with Fujinon XF14mm f2.4 and Fujinon XF18-55 f2.8-4 OIS zoom. 

The X-Pro1 has an APS-C sensor which is slightly smaller than the APS-H found in the M8. A crop factor of 1.5 compared to 1.3 in the Leica, so not a lot in it. 
16MP of CMOS goodness in the Fuji compared to 10.8MP of Kodak CCD in the Leica. Neither has an AA filter, Leica forgot (or just didn't care), Fuji jiggled the sensor filter layout with an alternative arrangement to the usual Beyer filter design found in most sensors so as to do without an AA filter yet avoid Moire.

I read and re-read all the info on the Fuji I could find (and there is a ton of it out there) and could not find a bad review of either the camera body or the Fujinon X lenses. This is hardly surprising really as Fuji have been making top quality cameras and lenses since the 1940's. 

The Fujinon lenses drew many comparisons to Leica lenses and were not found wanting by any reviewers both in construction and optical quality.

Reviews of the first X-Pro1 bodies mentioned slow AF due to firmware gremlins but these were quickly dealt with and with the latest Firmware (v3.40) it appears these issues are now sorted out.

All reviews commented on the quality of the images from the Fuji X-Trans sensor, even the out-of-camera jpegs looked really good.

It could be argued that the X-Pro1 is closer to what the Leica M should have been (obviously the Leica would have remained manual focus) but this would have meant loosing the Rangefinder focussing, probably much to the disgust of many Leica users.

What about going to an APS-C crop sensor, smaller than the Leica? Now, I love my Full Frame Canon 5D2, its never let me down and produces top quality results and its my go-to camera for when I have to deliver. I like the 35mm full frame as years of learning photography on 35mm cameras has made me extremely comfortable with the focal lengths etc. Having to do some mental maths with a crop factor is a bit awkward but can be overcome easily enough. But are we loosing out on image quality by settling on APS size sensors? I've not thought so with the results from the Leica M8. I recently found this entertaining piece on FF Vs crop sensors. The website Dedpxl from where this came is also a decent read.

There is a ton more tech in the Fuji than the M8, most of it I probably won't use more than once to try it, we'll see, I'll post more stuff after it all arrives.

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