The Leica M8 is 10 years old, yet it remains my favorite digital camera. I love shooting with rangefinders, and the M8 has served me well over the years, and still does. The sensor has a very thing IR filter and produces razor sharp photos and has a distinctive look (being a CCD sensor). It is also a great infrared camera which can be shot handheld at decent shutter speeds, so I don’t need a tripod with me. Finally, I consider it’s black and white converted files to be the best of any other camera, probably due to the lack of a proper IR cut filter on the sensor.
10 megapixels are enough for me, more than adequate for the web, and I have printed at 45x30cm without any problems. The two main problems I had with this camera, is the low light performance which is not good at all and the 8-bit DNG files actually there’s a third one, the awful LCD screen, but that really does not bother me!)
I recently started to experiment with 14-bit RAW files on the Leica M8. If you visit http://m8raw2dng.de/ you will find out how to shoot uncompressed RAW files with the Leica M8. The site has all the files and tutorials needed, so I won’t get into many details.
In a few words, you enter M8’s service mode (by pressing 4 time the right arrow key, 3 times the left arrow key, 1 time the right arrow key and finally the SET button), and choose JPEG+RAW files. Then you import the files into the computer, run the software and it will convert the RAW file to 14-bit DNG’s.
It’s not a very simple process, but it gives you the chance to shoot uncompressed RAW, which I consider to be a great upgrade for a 10 years old camera.
Shooting RAW requires times for the camera to write the file into the SD card. It takes about 10 seconds, so you have to go easy. I don’t really mind that for the times where I will need the RAW quality.
What I have found from my own experience, is that you gain more detail in the shadows and more important for me, ISO 1250 much better than the DNG file. It produces less color noise , so it’s easier to produce good files. With the DNG, I considered ISO 640 to be the highest acceptable. Even at ISO 2500 you can now get a decent image (and when converted to black and white its even better).
This is really a great upgrade for me, and one stop difference on a camera like this is huge. I will try to make a comparison between DNG and RAW files and post it soon. For now, here’s a very simple example that shows the difference between DNG and RAW at ISO 1250 (click on image to see large size)
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