Long Exposure: Leica M8 vs Fuji X100

This year I decided to rest on my vacations,instead of making daily photo trips. So, there are not many subjects to take pictures of. Yesterday, I decided to make a long exposure with my Leica M8, and I thought it would be a good idea to make a quick comparison with the X100. Today, I am posting the results.

Now, before I go on with this post, a few remarks. This is a test I did for my own personal reasons, and it reflects my way of shooting, its is not a scientific test. I am not a reviewer, and I just share these comparisons, because I know that some people might find them interesting. My old Leica M8/X100 comparison, is by far the most visited article of this blog, but at the same time I got the usual emails and comments of people who just because they disagree, they think its right to verbally attack the author. So, just to clarify things, this is my personal test, you can filter the results based on your needs or tastes to extract some useful conclusions, or you can simply ignore this article. Your choice.

So, lets get on…

Both cameras were placed on a very steady Manfrotto tripod (I use it for my 4×5 monorail, so it’s stable enough for these small cameras). I used the cameras’ light meters to calculate exposure, the M8 gave me 16 seconds at f/5.6 and base ISO 160, while the X100 gave me 15 seconds at f/5.6 and base ISO 200. The M8 was used with the Elmarit 28mm f/2.8 lens, which is 37mm equivalent (X100 lens is 35mm equivalent). The RAW files were converted to JPEG, and the only post process was Lens correction at Lightroom 5.

So, here are the two images.


You can see that the way both cameras render the scenery, are different. The CCD sensor of the provides a more neutral file with more tonality. I’ll leave the White Balance performance to your own interpretation, since this is something that can be corrected easily.

Let’s see a couple of crops.



Its clear that the CCD sensor provides better tonality. The M8 images is also sharper. This crop is from the left corner side of the image, and Leica lenses have a reputation of sharp images along the frame. This is shot at f/5.6, if both lenses were shot at f/2.8 I believe the difference in favor of the Leica would be even more evident.



These crops are near the center, so the X100 shows better definition. I think they are pretty close, although the tonality is still in favor of the M8. Remember that the M8 is at 37mm and the X100 at 35mm, but there is also a 2 megapixel advantage to the X100, so I think that pretty much equals the parameters of the comparison. Still, its up to the individual eye to detect what he prefers.

One thing to notice, is the street lights. The M8 shows a clear star on then, while on the X100 its a little mushy.

Shot at base ISO, the CCD sensor shows its quality. For my photos, I always try to shoot at base ISO (even with the Nikon D800E), since you get the absolute best of the sensor.

Now, a few personal notes. These days I’m on vacation, and the camera I choose to take with me when i want the lightest possible gear, 90% of the times is the Fuji X100. Simple reasons. Superb image quality, has my favorite 35mm focal length, and fast one (f/2). Combined with its very good high ISO performance means I can carry it from day to night. The built in flash also works excellent. It can shoot macro and do a short video (not very good to my opinion, but still you can shoot a short clip if you want to). The auto focus, despite being slow, can also come in handy many times. So, I consider if (for my needs), to be an excellent piece of gear.

I enjoy far more shooting a true rangefinder, it feels better in my hands, so I’ll choose the M8 if I want to use different focal lengths (28-50-90). And of course when I shoot IR photography. For these times when I have the M8 with me, I also pack the Sony NEX 5N body for low light shots and video. The NEX without a lens, is a tiny thin camera that really fits anywhere, and its weight is really negligible.

Finally a few words about the M8/X100 comparison. The Elmarit 28mm alone, costs more than the Fuji X100 (or the newer X100S, which has a better 16mp sensor). Its one of the sharpest Leica lenses, pretty difficult to match. The price of the M8/28mm combo is far beyond an X100(S). So, although I consider the M8/28mm (at base ISO) to produce better images, the difference of course is not on par with the price gap between the the two systems. I dare to say that I am very happy for choosing the X100 over a Summicron 35mm f/2 lens.

If you want to take a closer look at both images, you can download them at full size here.

Please, don’t use these images without asking me first.

(c)2013 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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