The wonderful infrared world of the Leica M8 (and some thoughts)

Back to my favorite infrared images for today’s post. This time, I added one more step at post processing which gave me very artistic (almost like painting) images. It’s a simple Cross Balance effect (Daylight to Tungsten).

(Leica M8, Voigtlander Skopar 21mm f/4, B+W 092 infrared filter)

Before I continue, a few words about the M8. I bought it a couple of months before the M9 was announced, since I got a very good discount. When the full frame M9 hit the market, for some time I thought I had done a very bad choice. I came very close to sell my M8 in order to get the latest model (which would account in a very significant money loss), and then I discovered its infrared side.

Today I am very glad that I kept the M8 which is a truly superb camera even for today’s standards. It’s only flaw is the terrible ISO performance, but that hasn’t kept me from making great images. at base ISO its CCD sensor produces fantastic photos with great subtle tones, and it’s IR sensitivity helps in rendering beautiful b&w images which are the closest to film than any other camera (with the exception of the new M Monochrome, but that’s a very special and expensive piece of equipment). But for serious black and white I always prefer film, which is the reason I invested on a used Leica M7. The 1.33x factor is not something I adore, since I like wide angles, but I can use cheap uncoded Voigtlander lenses without problems at the corners.

I was really impressed with the new Leica M which seems to be the perfect hybrid rangefinder/modern digital camera. It’s the perfect mirroless camera (and it’s full frame) but at a huge price. By selling my M8, M7 and Plaubel Makina 67, I could probably afford it, but that would be a very serious compromise. No infrared camera anymore (I don’t want to use a modified DSLR), and I will surely miss my most portable film cameras (you just can’t beat the folded Makina with its glorious 6×7 negative).

So, as long as I remain a fan of IR and film photography, these cameras are not going anywhere. That gets the new M out of the equation. And one more thing, the change to a CMOS sensor is something that I will wait for the reviewers to evaluate.

Now, back to infrared. For the images of this post, I used the known red/blue channel swap to get false color, but this time I also added a Cross Balance effect, which basically transforms Daylight to Tungsten. I have tried it before with good results, but this time I was really impressed. The sunlight was partly diffused by the clouds, and the lake had a strange green substance on its surface which created great patterns. So, after process, I got painting like images which really surprised me. Apart from the techniques I described, my only interference to the original images was Auto Levels. That’s the beauty of IR, you can get results which you don’t expect without having to go through time consuming post process and experiments.

(Leica M8, Voigtlander Skopar 21mm f/4, B+W 092 infrared filter)

The Voigtlander Skopar for one more time was my IR lens. When the new Ultron 21mm hits the market, I will wait to see reviews, since a 28mm equivalent with f/1.8 at the price it was announced would be a very serious contender for my IR images. Two more stops mean shooting at base ISO even with difficult light conditions and at the same time you get a fast wide angle for the M8 at a much cheaper price than the 28mm Summicron and Summilux.

That’s all for today, enjoy the rest of the images.



(c)2012 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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2 Responses to The wonderful infrared world of the Leica M8 (and some thoughts)

  1. Sanj says:

    Hi there,

    Stunning IR pics with your m8 and 21mm f4 !

    I too have an m8, though I’ve only had it for a couple of months having got rid of my big heavy d800e. I get great results but I must admit prefering ISO 160, max 320…I’m not that excited about the results beyond this. I wasnted to ask what ISOs you routinely use with your f4 lens shooting IR? Also, did you get a chance to try the 21mm ultron – I’m tempted, but can’t see to many reviews online and the place I would buy from isnt really that happy to return/exchange.

    Keep up the excellent work!


    • kbesios says:

      Thank you Sanj. Trading the D800E for a M8 was really a bold move !! I know I wouldn’t sell my D800E for any reason, but at the same time I will always prefer the M8 as a walk around or travel camera. The D800 is indeed large and heavy (and I don’t like carrying weight !), so I strictly use it for landscapes or pro events.

      With IR I try to stay at base ISO 160, and if its absolutely necessary I will use the ISO 320 for handheld work. Anything beyond that, produces very noisy images.

      For normal photos I will try to stay below ISO 640, although ISO 1250 has given me great images (when converted to black and white).

      About the Ultron, I’ve read its a good lens, but I hadn’t the chance to try it personally. The fast aperture sure is tempting.

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