September 14, 2022

From Gerald R. Lucas

Leica M8: My New Motorcycle of Cameras

20220914-Leica M8.jpeg

Waiting for me on the porch when I got home from campus was a square box of photography magic: my Leica M8 has arrived. I know it was in good shape, but it’s truly mint. I’m not sure Ernest used it too much, and he told me the guy he bought it from—the original owner—only used it from time to time when he had it. This infrequent use it what prompted him to sell the camera in the first place. Well, with me, that likely won’t be a problem. People tend to take good care of their Leicas.

One problem I’m having is finding the proper IR cut filter for the sensor. I purchased one from Amazon that turned out not to be correct, but I can’t really find these anymore. It seems as if they were made specifically for the M8 and no longer are being produced. I have some feelers out, but this may not be a huge issue for me. Without the filter, the M8 has a vintage feel through the faded greens. I put a standard UV filter on the Ultron 2/28 for protection until I can procure the correct filter. Also, I have to get a couple of strap connectors, like these rings or these, to hang my Peak Design strap dongles on.

Other than that—zero problems. The camera works as expected and feels just like my old M 262 in my hands. I went through the limited menus and quickly set. my preferences that likely will never be touched again. It does have an auto-ISO where I can limit the range, but I might just keep the ISO on 160 and work within that limitation.

This is why I’m considering the M8 my motorcycle of cameras. When I first learned to ride, my instructor gave me some guidelines for riding; the first is “every ride is special.” You don’t take the bike out every day, nor do you ride in the rain. I don’t wear headphones for music, and I try not to get distracted. This is for safety, but it’s also about getting into the zone in order to enjoy the ride. In other words: use the bike how it is meant to be used. The same will apply to the M8. Every shot will be deliberate and special: I do not need the M8 to take a photo of my latest pizza or beer, but will use it for family and photographic experiences.

The Ultron performs well, too. It’s sharp, the bokeh is pleasant, and there’s little barrel distortion. I immediately recruited Henry for a couple of shots. On the first ones, I used the incorrect filter I purchased, so I had to make those black and white for them to be usable. However, just keeping the filter off, I was able to get some almost golden-hour color. Notice the somewhat faded greens in the background.

I tried the Summicron 2/50 on the camera which becomes about a 65mm, and it felt long, but still usable. I can see myself using a 50 occasionally for portraits, but wider lenses are definitely more comfortable. I’m going to try out the Ultron 1.8/21 tomorrow to see if I can even compose a shot. I should be able to use it, since it will be almost exactly a 28mm on the M8.

Well, I am very pleased so far. I can’t wait to take it out for a real test. See a couple more images in the Leica M8 Test gallery.