I bought my Leica M8 used in 2012. After dabbling in all sorts of digital cameras – Nikon, Fuji, and Olympus — I was looking to replicate the joy of my old Leica M4-2 so I finally mustered up the courage (and the money) to buy the M8. I had never spend so much money in one go on photography gear till that day. Things did not start off smoothly. After a few months with the M8 the shutter failed.
I had to pay an extra $400 to have this fixed and when it came back I found myself constantly disappointed with what are known limitations of the M8: performance at high ISO, the buffer, the freezing and how slow it was as a camera. And for the life of me, I never got along with Lightroom. The negative reviews of the M8 were making me feel like a fool for spending so much money on a first-generation dud. Up to that point it never had the magic my M4-2 and little by little it saw less and less action. I tried selling it to no avail. To “salvage” my M lenses I bought the Sony A7ii at the end of 2014 and an adaptor. Long story short: no magic here either (although paired with the 55/1.8 lens it is pretty good, but I digress).
April 2019: The Turning Point
At this point the M8 was 13 years old and I told myself I’d give it one last go. We took a holiday to celebrate my son’s second birthday. I took only the M8 and the last M lenses I had (Leica 35/2.5, Zeiss ZM 25./2.8, and 7Artisans 50/1.1) and gave myself no other option to shoot with. Then this happened:
I was blown away by the quality of the image for such and old camera and was that 3D pop I was seeing?
What happened next was the perfect antidote for my dwindling passion in photography. I shot with the M8 with interest and curiosity. I took photos to understand it’s quirks— when it does well, when it performed like the M8 I hated, and what look it was creating. This was one of the happiest times as a photographer because I was eager to learn again and I was figuring out the M8 and I was falling in love with the results.
What many M8 users past and present say is true: it was a good camera back then and it remains a good camera today (if you know how to use it).
For a whole year I shot 90% at ISO 160 which is crazy talk these days. For the remaining 10% I shot at ISO 320 and if I did crank up the ISO to higher levels I would do it with the intention of creating a certain look. I didn’t bother shooting it in conditions where it would suck. I paired it lenses that gave me the look I liked: Nokton Classic 35/1.4 SC for the more classic look and the ZM C-Biogon 35/2.8 + ZM Planar 50/2.0 for 3D pop. I shot in DNG + JPG black and white because the monochrome output is fantastic (better than the M10 IMO).
With the M8, I shoot slowly and more intentionally just like with my M4-2 many years ago. I tend to know what I’m looking for based on what the camera can and can’t do.
This past year the M8 has taught me a lot and because of the renewed enthusiasm it brought, I’ve been able to take a lot of photos my son growing up. To try and sum up the lessons of the past year:
- Set up your gear for success. Learn where it shines. Don’t ask it to do what it can’t do excellently otherwise you’ll be left wanting another piece of kit (expensive for most of us).
- Figure out what you like and get tools based on those likes. I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing makes me happier in photography that shooting a rangefinder, hence the upgrade path will lead to another rangefinder. I also prefer the classic look over the modern look and people over landscapes this is my I have Nokton Classic 35. I value simplicity so I use Luminar over Lightroom.
- Enjoy the process. Sometimes reading reviews and the opinions of others based on their preferences can lead to premature Buyer’s Remorse (I am guilty on serval occasions). Immersing one’s self in the learning first might put all the other opinion’s around in a better perspective later on.
- The M8 is a very capable and enjoyable camera even today if one can sidestep its limitations. I do regret not figuring this out sooner becuase I could have taken this to so many interesting places instead of another camera.
(While I’ve enjoyed one full year of the M8, I’ve decided to move on to the M10. And while they are several generations apart I’d say there are things where I prefer the M8 over the astounding M10. I will be very sad to see it go when the right buyer comes along. )
Thanks for reading!
You can find me (and even more photos of my son) on Instagram.