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September 15, 2006 – In a long awaited announcement, today Leica Camera AG announced its first digital rangefinder, the M8. After a three-year hiatus from the M-series, the celebrated German camera manufacturer is re-entering the consumer market with the 10.3-megapixel digital M8. The Leica M8 fuses the M-series’ classical minimalist aesthetic with a Kodak-manufactured low-noise CCD sensor and will enter the market in November. Exact pricing has not yet been determined.
"The dream of many Leica photographers has come true," states the Leica website. Combining contemporary electronics with the design of the past cameras, the new M8 is the fruition of a digital viewfinder that carries over the analog M-series design.
Leica fitted their first digital rangefinder with a 27x18 mm 3:2 CCD imager, manufactured by Kodak. Designed to produce low noise in low-light situations, Leica quotes the camera’s sensitivity range at ISO 160-2500, providing significant available light shooting potential.
Known as the reporter’s camera, the Leica comeback camera retains a compact look. The camera measures 1.45 inches thick and weighs only 1.2 pounds (without battery), according to today’s Leica press release. Like the M7 introduced in 2002, the M8 maintains a traditional metal body made from magnesium alloy and brass top and bottoms, and will be offered in both black and silver bodies. Each camera is hand-made, according to the release, and contains the insignia "Made in Germany" on the back of the body.
The cameras "have one of the quickest viewfinder operations in the world," according to the release. Unlike other manufacturers of compact cameras, the M8 viewfinder system lacks a mirror reflex box, thus maintaining the small body size. The viewfinder metering system also allows for more quick and accurate focusing at short focal lengths, according to the release. Lenses applied to the M8 will carry a 1.33x magnification.
The Leica M8 also distinguishes itself by withholding the use of a separate Moiré and IR cut filter on the camera. Leica "deliberately rejected" the moiré filter to preserve image detail and reduces moiré through its processing, stated the release. The single-component design also helped retain the camera’s compact dimensions.
The M8 has a 2.5-inch LCD with 230,000 pixels of resolution. With the monitor, users can view RGB tone value histograms and change screen brightness. The camera has fully manual controls and an auto aperture priority mode, which can also be used with flash. The camera has a flash sync at 1/250 of a second and contains a pre-flash meter. It’s compatible with SD memory cards and takes Li-ion batteries.
For RAW image files, Leica elected to use the DNG (digital negative format), a format which many other manufactures including Canon and Nikon have steered clear of thus far. The M8 includes Capture One LE RAW data conversion software and Leica Digital Capture software for shutter control by remote via a USB connection.
Fans of the old M film system will find that most all M lenses will be compatible with the new M8 with a 6-bit coding on the bayonet ring. Virtually all Leica lenses since 1954 will be functional on the digital M8, stated the release. In addition, Leica promised their customer service will repair lenses dating back five decades.
With a total of four new cameras and two lenses announced today, the slew of new products marks Leica’s noticeable move towards the digital world with the M8 leading the way. Traditionally known as the reporter’s camera, the M-series cameras have been used by some of the most famed artists in the photographic cannon, including the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Huynh Cong (Nick) Ut.