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  • The M-addiction….

    April 05, 2020

    The M series rangefinder cameras of Leica are no less an addiction. The overall activity of taking a picture with the camera is a satisficing experience in its own terms.

    The act/art of taking a photograph is no doubt an abstract process but the feel and the adjustments to get the camera ready and receptive for the photograph in itself is a nostalgic, wonderful, worthwhile and satisfying process in-itself.

    The act of photography is a very individualistic approach towards the slice of life that you would like to carve out of an everyday scene. However the tool you use to do so can either give you immense pleasure in doing so or not. And in the case of a Leica Rangefinder you can never feel bad about the whole act of taking a photograph right from the act of grasping the camera into your hands, making the adjustments and the focus alignments and composing the image and finally pressing the shutter. This whole experience is like a surrealistic feeling with the magic of a M rangefinder…That is probably why I would like to call it , M- magic.

    I have had many cameras in my journey of photography depending on the economic situation in my life. However my whole outlook towards photography changed when I had held the first Leica Rangefinder in my hands. Have never looked back ever since.

    I still do have my workhorse dependable excellent cameras like my Nikons and Sony A series but when it comes to the pure indulgence of 100% raw photography, I resort to my old kit of Leica Rangefinders- Leica M6 and/or Leica M8.

     

    For most of my Street photography I now use my Leica M's and sometimes the Ricoh GR III.

    But for the sheer act and pleasures of photography I always choose my Leicas over any other camera.

    A glimpse of some photgraphs taken in London are as follows:

    What is it with the Leica M?

    The following characteristics which makes M cameras differnt from others.

    Heft: The cameras and the lenses are made with a certain heft to it which screams of exquisite craftmanship. I love a well balanced heavy camera in my hand which makes it feel substancial than anything now the modern bodies offer.

    Build quality: One has to hold the leicas to experience this. It is not something that can be expressed in words. An absolute marvel carved out of the finest quality brass and aluminium by hand.

    Manual focusing: The pains and gains of a manual focus camera and making the photograph is beyond the common grasp. It is not like a modern day autofocus AF system which is blazing fast and makes you do nothing but point and half press the shutter to get everything into focus. The Leica RF system makes you work hard for the photo and lets you enjoy the process of twisting brass shells against one another to bring the glasses aligned for focussing. Sometimes a zone focussing method can yield faster and better result in the RF camera than any AF system camera.

    Aperture and shutterspeed adustments: The M cameras have minimalistic buttons and adjustments for photography. It is easier for the photographer to concentrate on the scene ahead and capture it in its true essence. A true work of Art an Engineering marvel on the move.

    SHOOTING THE LEICA M8 ON THE STREEET

    I consider the rendering of Leica M8 photographs to be the digital equivalent of any film camera. The photographs have a distinct character which comes very close to how a film renders.

    The first digital camera from the Leica lineup, M8 is perhaps the only camera that has APSH sized crop factor of roughly1.33 crop factor. It has a CCD sensor which renders dreamy film like quality photographs. The reason for me to use an M8 in 2020 is due to rendering of this CCD sensor which is so close to any film camera look. It has the discreet look of a rangefinder which is unobtrusive and aften ignored by people on the streets. Only to a trained eye can occasionaly spot the red spot and ask an odd question or two but that too I had limited by camouflaging my red dot with a silver tape to avoid unwarranted attention. 

    The Look and feel of M8

                                                                                                                                               

    M8 bears ample similarities with the Leica film body M7. Only way to distinguish between an M8 and an M7 is by the lack of a wind-on lever and the rewinf button on the top plate. The feel weight handling on the M8 are so similar to the film body ( M7) that it is sometimes difficult to remember whether tit is film body of a digital camera, particularlt the viewfinder display is very similar t the M7. However the M8 body is 0.125 inch (3mm) deeper than the predecessor M7. The screen at the back of this camera is very bad and no less than a joke. It is pixelated and of no use at all. However this limitation also is boon in disguise as I tend to look less to the screen and treat the camera as a pure film camera. It is like a “BACK 2 the BASICS” kind of a camera.

    The Leica M8 was introduced in the year 2008 and since then in this 12 years technologically there has been a century of advancements in the digital camera space. Leica itself have evolved from this basic APSH model to M8.2 and then to  the full frame CCD M9 and then to M typ 240 (cmos) and M10.

    It does nothing better than any modern day cameras and whatever it does, it is less by far in comparison to any modern technological marvels but for me this less is more. It gives me the pure joy of using a camera with lots of limitation to put my manual efforts to maximum in order to get the best picture out of it.

     

    The shutter:

     

     

    The shutter used in M8 is a multiblade, vertical running shutter similar to that found in the Leica R9/R8 replacing the horizontal running, rubberised fabric, focal plane shutter. This shutter provides wider range of shutter speeds including 1/8000 second. It makes a very distinctive and loud noise which is very mechanicalbut gives a very robust feel with every exposure.

     

    Metering:

    The TTL meeting sensor reads from the horizontal white strip ( one of the shutter blades) rather than a white spot as was there in M6, and the metering cells are in the base of the body rather than in the top corner. Althought the metering area is horizontal, it is quite well center-weighted and provides very accurate exposures even in the most difficult situations. FOr a trained eye it will not be very difficult to get the correct exposure by pointing the camera at the point of interest.

    Viewfinder:

     

    The range/viewfinder is a highly developed M system pattern with the base length of 2.7inches (69.25mm) and combined split-image/coincident-image focussing. This makes it precise and clear. The magnification is at around x0.68. When the lens is fitted , the appropriate pair of luminous brightline frames appears automatically in the viewfinder. The small lever below the viewfinder in the front can be also used as a preview of different available combinations of frame fines for different focal lengths.

    The brightline frame viewing angles have been preadjusted for the reduced size of the CCD sensor compared to the 36mmX24mm film frame.

    The frames now corresponds to 37mm and 120mm ( with 28mm and 90mm lens), 66mm and 100mm(with 50mm and 75m lens), and 32mm and 47mm(with 24mm and 35mm lenses).

    Apart from these information the viewfinder also provides the user with the metering information to enable correct exposure. It is a combination of red arrows (left & right ) and a red dot in the center.

    Apart from these technical attributes there are very few things to talk about in this camera. It is something which I donot want to discuss more here as for me the camera is a tool and as basic a tool as this M8 is , it is the experience of shooting with this work of art; is what makes it class apart.

    Some more photos are given below for you to enjoy:

    There is something about this camera which makes me addicted to it and I always want to take it out only on those occasions when I intend to enjoy the art of photography.