Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why I Love My Leica M8

The M8
The Leica M8 is a dinosaur in the photography world. Released in 2006, its specs can't even compare to cameras today. It's slow, expensive, and at times difficult to use. So why did I buy one in 2013, and why do I still shoot with it today? Simply put, the M8's got character!

Rangefinder Experience
In film photography there are countless rangefinder options. But in the digital world there is only Leica. My kit is simple: a Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm f2, and Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 (37mm and 53mm equivalents). No zooms, flashes, or exotic lenses to be found. 

If you haven’t shot a rangefinder before, I highly recommend trying one. It provides an experience unlike anything you get from an SLR. There’s no mirror, viewfinder, or depth of field preview. Instead, you have a window where scenes enter and exit frame lines. With rangefinders you shoot more on instinct and feel, rather than calculated technique. Just match up the two images and snap! This is great for street and travel photography as it doesn't distract you from your experiences and surroundings.

Learning From the M8
With the M8 there are only the basics: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. In addition, the light meter can be inaccurate and its buffer is small. These lacking features, however, go a long way in helping one grow as a photographer. The more I use my Leica M8 the more I realize it has everything I need. I learned to meter light with my eyes, anticipate moments before they happen, and recognize new aspects of a scene. The Leica M8 may slows things down, but it does so in a good way.

Film photographs have an organic beauty that digital doesn't always capture. Its dynamic range, grain, and aesthetic are all unique to the medium. For some examples check out my post: Falling In Love With Film. A big reason I keep the Leica M8 is because its rendering is very film-like. The M8 has natural looking grain, subtle contrast, and the raw files are a joy to process. No other digital camera I've used produces anything close to what I get from the M8.
Black & White
One of the M8's quirks, the lack of an IR filter, is also one of its charms. A potential issue for certain colors, it's great for black and white photography. Without the sensor filter, details are crisper and images have extra pop and definition. Combined with the grain quality, this makes the Leica M8 an excellent B&W camera.

Final Thoughts
There are so many great things about the Leica M8 that I haven't covered - most notably the beautiful lens options and amazing build quality. But for me, it really is all about the Leica experience and the rendering of its files. The M8 will never replace my DSLR as a workhorse, but it definitely has a place in my camera bag. It's usually the one I reach for when I want to slow things down and enjoy photography.