Fuji X100 vs Leica M8 (a simple unscientific comparison)

I don’t really like the camera vs camera titles for my posts but I haven’t found yet a more descriptive title for comparing two cameras.

Lately, I am trying to do some simple comparisons between the cameras I own, since I am planning to let go part of my gear. It’s a decision based on practical terms. I am planning to update to the Nikon D800E, so its only natural that some of my cameras and lenses will have to go. Also, as times passes by, I find myself using some of my cameras less, and since I am not a collector there’s no reason to keep gear gathering dust.

One of the first candidates for selling is the Fuji X100 (I have already ditched the Nikon D300 with all my DX lenses). This a camera that has created quite a stir when it arrived and it’s considered a top quality image maker. The 35mm focal length is my favorite so I thought that would be the small camera with super IQ I could have with me all day in a small bag. Well, it didn’t turned exactly this way !!

I also own the Leica M8, so someone could ask, why was I bothered to also purchase the X100 ?

The reason was simple, ISO performance of the M8 is just terrible, it barely goes up to ISO 640. The Elmarit 28m f2.8 (37mm equivalent) is two stops behind an f1.4 lens (and the Summilux 35mm costs a fortune). Even at f1.4 the ISO performance was a problem. Its not the same with film where I can shoot at 3200 ISO with a Ilford Delta film, there’s a huge difference between film grain and sensor noise.

So, the X100 was much cheaper than the Summilux, furthermore it had a fantastic hybrid viewfinder, auto focus, great IQ and of course fantastic ISO performance combined with a f2 lens. But with the addition of the Sony NEX 5N, which can also take my VOigtlander and Leica lenses was there a reason to keep the X100? So, I just made some test images to compare the X100 and the M8, to see if there were benefits on image quality in favor to the X100.

This is not by any means a scientific test, as with my previous tests, I compare these cameras based on the way I take image. The images are all handheld at f5.6 and focused at the same spot, but that’s all, the rest involves my personal way of shooting. I did these comparisons for myself, but I thought I could share them on my blog, after all, some people may notice things I didn’t, or even better, find these images useful.

So, here are the images and my personal comments.

(click on thumbnails to view full size images)

The M8 file is definitely sharper, after all this old camera still produces the sharpest images I have ever seen (even sharper than the M9). The lack of the AA filter sure helps for that, but also the amazing quality of the Elmarit 28mm. What I also observed, was that the M8 file looks more “gentle” (I couldn’t find another word) and the tones seems more subtle. Probably, the CCD sensor has a look of its own (there are no other cameras today with a CCD sensor, just the M8, M9 and medium format digital backs). I much prefer the M8 picture in this occasion.

(click on thumbnails to view full size images)

The same conclusion for this image also, the M8 file is sharper and provides better tones.

So, my personal conclusion is that the X100 is not going to stay with me for a long time. The M8 is still an excellent camera with superb image quality, it’s a rangefinder and also provides better images at base ISO. For landscapes it sure beats the X100 and for street shooting of course it’s a landmark camera. Furthermore, its a fantastic camera for infrared photography.

Now, this is my conclusions based on the fact that one camera overlaps the other (for available light photography I much prefer the NEX 5N over the X100, so one more advantage of the Fuji is not needed for me). But, if we take away my personal bias, there’s of course a great difference between the two cameras.

The M8 is a rangefinder which can change lenses, the X100 is a 35mm focal length camera. The Elmarit 28 alone will cost more than the X100, so there’s no really price comparison between them. An an all around camera, the X100 will serve better as long as someone is satisfied with shooting just a 35mm lens. But keeping both is not really an option for me even. For a backup camera I would much prefer the Sony NEX 5N since it can take all rangefinder lenses, and its really a superb mirrorless camera. At this time, the Fuji alternative (the XPRO-1) maybe be a state of the art camera but it’s price is way up.

Well, that’s all for today, one more last photo with the two cameras side by side (taken with the iPhone since I didn’t have a third camera with me!)

(c)2012 Konstantinos Besios. All rights reserved.

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7 Responses to Fuji X100 vs Leica M8 (a simple unscientific comparison)

  1. Evan says:

    Dude, what are you thinking?? Take the iPhone over the other two! šŸ˜‰

  2. robert says:

    Certainly, your are joking …to compare a camera costing 4000 or 5000 $ con one of 1000$?

    • kbesios says:

      Actually, a used M8 with a lens will be about 2500$. It’s still very expensive compared to the X100, but that does not mean that those two cannot be compared (in the same sense that people compare a Nikon D800 with a Hasselblad).
      The point here is how close in image quality the X100 is to a camera like a Leica, and that’s what I wanted to show. In terms of ISO performance the X100 will beat the M8, it has auto focus and video, so I consider it to be a better choice over an M8 with at the 35mm focal length.

  3. kIELBASA says:

    Let’s be honest.
    Each of the Fuji pictures look better in colors than Leica.. Leica looks more washed out and less vibrant. If it’s about sharpness, we don’t know where the sharpness is set (at least on first two pictures), and it’s clearly visible that different planes are in focus on on them. That’s true Leica might be a tad, but tad(!) sharper here but i’m not so sure.. Go to this website mate an take a look on x100 and…m9 pictures:


    Are you still so sure that fuji definitely less sharper?
    Summing this up, you’re a Leica fanboy, and even when it’s visible that Fuji makes better colors, You say the opposite, feeding people with non objective statements.

    • kbesios says:

      First of all, as the title implied, this is an unscientific test, which means I did this for myself and wanted to share on my blog.
      Second, I didn’t talked about color. The images were published with no post process and its only natural that the X100 nailed the White Balance better than the M8. In fact, the White Balance accuracy straight out of the camera of the X100 is the best I’ve seen so far,even better than my Nikon D800E.
      The M8 is better in terms of sharpness and to tonality. The Steve Huff article you mentioned comes to the same conclusion (“M9 is sharper when focus is nailed”). And you have to consider that the M8 files are sharper than the M9. Tonality is also better with the M8 (its a CCD sensor, and also larger than X100 sensor with a crop of 1.33).
      If you read my previous answer to a reader you’ll see that if I had to choose among the two cameras (with only one lens choice) I would pick up the X100, since it also offers auto focus, better ISO and video. In fact, as I write this answer, I am carrying the X100 with me since I am going to make some images until late at night and I will sure need the ISO performance of the Fuji.
      My intention on this post (as I clearly defined in my answer to a previous comment was to show how close these cameras are despite their huge difference in price. But at base ISO (where I do most of my photos) the M8 is a margin better, and that’s a fact. Now, is this important for most shooters? Probably not, but for me it is. And this is exactly what I am writing, this is my personal opinion, not a professional technical review and I made it clear from the start of the article.
      So, if your conclusion from reading this article was that the X100 is better, then by all means you are entitled to your opinion and you will choose what’s better for you, I do the same when I read reviews, and I don’t always agree with them, that’s only natural.
      Finally, about the “Leica fanboy” statement, I didn’t buy the M9, and I am sure not going to buy the new Leica M even if I had the money. I find them seriously overpriced today when cameras like the Sony NEX, Fuji XE-1, D800 cost far less and produce stunning images. But the M8 is a very special camera, it shoots amazing b&w photos (due to the lack of the AA filter and the very thin IR filter) and is also a great camera for infrared photography. And at base ISO also shoots great color images. Its also the last digital affordable camera with a CCD sensor which has a unique look (you will only find CCD sensors today in medium format digital cameras which worth tenths of thousand of euros). Does these features worth the cost? For me yes, for others probably not.

  4. Hello Konstantinos,

    I appreciated your post and I recognize the ‘problem’ of choosing between these two camera’s. I choose the Leica M8 after I shot the X100 extensively for 1 year. First of al the AF of the X100 frustrated me very much, thus I prefered to manual focus all like I do with my analog M. When I look at your example images they are not comparable in IQ. Imo the Leica M8 is wayyy better in tonality and sharpness due to the CCD sensor. The files of the X100 look over saturated and have too much contrast ooc which gives them a ‘muddy’ impression. The M8 files look harmonic and crisp, almost like portra 160 film. Ofcourse you lose 6 mp but believe me that the M8 files hold up beautifully on prints up to 30x40cm or even bigger.

    @kielBasa: I got angry when I read your reply! where are your f**cking manners? If you don’t appreciate the post then leave the page, but don’t spread your trollish ‘leica hate’ on someone else his page! Contribute something useful yourself instead!

    • kbesios says:

      Thank you. I also consider the M8 to be a very special camera and that’s a reason I didn’t sell it to upgrade to the M9. As you’ve mentioned, I have typed many 30×45 cm prints and the look is wonderful. The X100 is a much more versatile camera due to the high ISO performance,fill flash, auto focus (when it sorks) but the CCD sensor gives a wonderful look to the images at low ISO. For my style of photography I rarely go past 400 ISO (even with my Nikon D800E) so I have no problem with that. Add to that the wonderful b&w images (possibly a combination of CCD sensor and the weak IR filter) and the ability to shoot infrared handheld and its really a unique camera. With rangefinders you either love or hate them, its so simple.

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