Leica M8 Reliability problems/returns????

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by John Smith, Dec 11, 2007.

  1. John Smith

    John Smith Guest

    I'm considering buying a Leica M8. I owned an M6 a few years ago and fell
    in love with the typical Leica qualities, i.e. compact size, light weight,
    phenomenal optics, silent shutter, etc.

    But a dear friend of mine who belongs to a "Leica List" on the net said he's
    been hearing horror stories from a number of Leica fans (and we know how
    biased they are TOWARDS their Leicas) about the M8. And these are
    apparently problems beyond the IR and banding problems so often discussed.

    Has anyone heard similar issues about the reliability of the M8?

    This has me worried enough to consider waiting until the M10 is released....

    John Smith, Dec 11, 2007
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  2. From what I have read Leica designed the M8 for a specific audience. That is
    why they made the choices in sensor filters that they did. I would suggest
    you try and find out who that audience is and if you are one of them.

    The Spider
    The Spider Formally Seated Next To Little Miss Muf, Dec 11, 2007
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  3. John Smith

    John Smith Guest

    I know what audience I'm in but that has nothing to do with reliability,
    mechanical failures, returns, etc - the stuff I asked about.
    John Smith, Dec 11, 2007
  4. This is the wrong place to ask that question; I think there's only one
    person here who's seriously interested in actually acquiring an M8.

    The rest of us here have figured out that you'd have to be seriously nuts to
    spend that much money on such a badly defective camera (no IR filter, no
    low-pass filter (which really is required on a Bayer sensor), and lousy high
    ISO performance) so we wouldn't know about reliability.

    As someone who once owned a Leicaflex, I can't imagine there being any
    _mechanical_ reliability problems with the M8, but if the electronics are as
    bad as the sensor...

    Leicas really are nicely made, but if you care about the quality of the
    images you produce, there are lots of better cameras. The two that I'd
    recommend would be the Mamiya 7 and Canon 5D. The Nikon 3D should be pretty
    sweet too, but the weight, bulk, and price put me off.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Dec 11, 2007
  5. John Smith

    Tony Polson Guest

    I pre-ordered an M8 but the early problems (banding especially) put me
    off buying one. So when my M8 arrived I transferred the order to a
    friend who just *had* to have one. He paid me the deposit I had paid
    the Leica dealer and paid the balance to the dealer.

    The infra-red problem began to be noticed just after I escaped from
    the deal. Had I known about the infra-red problem I would have run a
    mile. You have to use UV/IR "hot mirror" filters to avoid it, and
    those filters bring with them a lot of problems, especially severe
    colour fringing with wide angle lenses. If you shoot RAW (actually
    DNG) you can remove the fringing with careful post-processing, but
    this takes time.

    There are problems of light fall-off (vignetting) with many Leica
    lenses, and chromatic aberration on a scale that you never seem to see
    with film. These effects can be reduced or eliminated in-camera if
    you shoot JPEG and use 6-bit coded Leica lenses, because the firmware
    corrects for it. If you shoot RAW, you will have some post-processing
    to do. RAW shooting gives greater dynamic range and is therefore

    As for reliability, mechanical failures and returns, the first year
    after the introduction of the M8 was more or a less a beta test.
    Reliability was poor, with many just dying - becoming completely
    unresponsive. Many could not read SD cards reliably.

    All the early M8s were recalled for (if I recall correctly) a sensor
    change which solved the banding issue. Later M8s seem to be more
    reliable but Leica are still dealing with large numbers of returns,
    less than before but still a lot.

    Unlike the trusty M6, paying a lot of money for an M8 does not carry
    any guarantee of reliability. The fact the M8 is hand-made in small
    quantities adds to the cost but does nothing to help the reliability
    of what is a very complex electronic device in a traditional shell.

    My friend who took over my M8 order has had his M8 body replaced three
    times under warranty, the first for the sensor change (there were
    other issues which meant a full replacement body had to be offered)
    and the other two because the camera just died. In between, there
    were other problems which required service attention twice. He has
    given up on the M8 and when the last brand new body arrived, he
    promptly sold it.

    I have seen nothing that makes me want an M8. Some users are getting
    very good results, but only with what is - to me - a disproportionate
    amount of time spent post-processing. The M8's reliability is still
    questionable. It costs a fortune for "only" 10 MP.

    But it has its good points. The camera manages to combine
    successfully the incomparable handling of a Leica M with digital
    capture. The absence of an anti-alias filter makes for much sharper
    and more detailed images than "only" 10 MP would suggest. The sensor
    is good enough to allow the fine optical qualities of many Leica
    lenses to be realised in digital form. If you must have a new digital
    rangefinder camera with the M mount it is the only game in town.

    So for the keen amateur with plenty of time to remove aberrations in
    post-processing and the money to pay for what is probably the most
    expensive 10 MP camera on the market, the M8 might make sense. But it
    doesn't do it for me, not by a long way.

    I still keep a "Leica" outfit although my bodies are made by Konica
    (Hexar RF) and Minolta, and I am gradually replacing my Leica lenses
    with Carl Zeiss ZM equivalents. I shoot film and scan it, and the
    results are (technically) every bit as superb as they always were.

    But my main outfit consists of two Canon EOS 5D bodies and a set of
    mostly Carl Zeiss (Contax) fixed focal length lenses with EOS
    adapters, plus Canon 16-35mm, 24-105mm and 70-200mm L lenses. I would
    not swap one of my 5Ds for an M8, even though I can buy two 5Ds for
    the price of an M8 and have enough to spare for a good lens.

    If you really must have a new digital rangefinder body, the M8 is the
    only game in town. If you are prepared to buy used, there is the
    Epson R-D1 (and R-D1s) which was thought to be flaky and unreliable
    until the M8's problems caused people to revise their opinion. Epson's
    after-sales service is patchy at best but the mechanical parts of the
    camera (especially the rangefinder) can be serviced by any technician
    who is experienced with Voigtlanders - the camera is closely based on
    the Bessa R2.

    If I decided to buy a digital rangefinder now, I would buy the Epson
    and take a chance that it stays reliable. But I will probably wait
    until there is an M9, or a Zeiss Ikon D. In the meantime, there is
    still film.

    If you do buy an M8, consider buying the Carl Zeiss ZM lenses which
    are much more digital-friendly than the older Leica lenses. The
    latest Leica lenses (28mm Elmarit-M ASPH and the new, less expensive
    Summarit range) are digital-friendly too, but the Carl Zeiss ZM lenses
    offer wider apertures at the same price as the f/2.5 Summarits, or
    less, and exceptionally competent optical performance.
    Tony Polson, Dec 11, 2007
  6. John Smith

    G.T. Guest

    And Tony Polson wrote this back in August:

    The vast majority of M8 users will never encounter or notice the IR
    problem. Only if you cannot tolerate the possibility of ever seeing a
    magenta cast on a man-made fabric do you need to use the filters at
    all times.
    Don't be ridiculous. No-one who is serious about their photography
    would ever use JPEG. This isn't a snapshot camera!
    See above.
    Surprise! The M8 is a rangefinder camera. If you don't like
    rangefinder cameras, don't even bother to comment.

    If people want to buy a rangefinder camera, they will find the Leica M
    series is the best available. If people want a new digital
    rangefinder camera, the M8 is the only game in town. If they want a
    DSLR, they should buy a DSLR.

    The M8 is not a DSLR and cannot be criticised simply because it isn't
    one. It just isn't. Period.
    So it doesn't give a vivid, over-saturated image like a low-end
    consumer DSLR? Now there's a surprise. Not.
    Set white balance manually. Shoot RAW.
    Do you want it to wipe your ass for you too? Or clean up your drool?
    No, you darn well don't! You can set up corrections for each lens in
    image editing software.
    Just don't buy it. Like other anti-Leica trolls, you quite clearly
    don't understand it, and you can't afford it.

    Life is *so* tough.
    G.T., Dec 11, 2007
  7. John Smith

    er Guest

    * You really have to want it, $4800 for the body and $1600 for a 50

    COULD easily afford it. Would love for it to be the camera it SHOULD be.
    Will wait until it IS.

    Have happily been paying a premium for Leica RFDR equipment for years.
    Would do the same for
    a Leica digital, but not until it matches the quality AND reliability of
    their film cameras.

    er, Dec 11, 2007
  8. John Smith

    Patrick L Guest

    Why not ask the many rangefinder enthusiasts at www.rangefinderforum.com ?
    You might people there far more familiar with that camera than on this
    forum, which is dedicated to dSLRs, etc.

    Patrick L, Dec 13, 2007
  9. John Smith

    Viperdoc Guest

    I have one, and have used the M8 extensively, with the 28, 35, and 75mm
    summicrons. The camera has worked flawlessly for me, and the sharpness of
    the Leica lenses is outstanding. I also use a Nikon D3, and my early
    impressions are that the Leica seems to have a greater dynamic range, and
    that the Nikon tends to burn out highlights more easily than the Leica.

    It seems like a lot of the posts slamming the Leica are either hearsay or by
    people who have never used the camera. It has the classic Leica feel, and is
    a natural extension of the Leica legacy.
    Viperdoc, Dec 13, 2007
  10. John Smith

    Chuck Guest

    Evidently, you were lucky enough to get a good one. Others were not so
    Chuck, Mar 26, 2008
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