The Leica M8 is Leica’s first digital rangefinder and it quite old for a digital camera. Let’s find out if the Leica M8 worth it still.

Table Of Contents

Hi my name is Sven the Leicaphile and in this article we will look at the facts and determine if the M8 is a good buy even if there are more modern Leicas available.

Is the Leica M8 worth it?

The Leica M8 is the complicated beast, that is why answering the question “Is the Leica M8 worth it” isn’t simple. There’s just so many quirks to it that you must really be into Leicas to love it. But if all you want in life is a digital Leica on the cheap, this might be it.

leica m8 camera

Let’s look at the pros and cons and determine what makes or not the Leica M8 worth it.

Built like a tank

leica m8 sample image 1

First things first, the build. Leica M8s are made of a high strength aluminum alloy that pretty much guarantees that the cameras will have been protected for all of these years. Leicas make one of the most durable cameras in the industry, hence the expensive price that they command. Any little dings and small drops should not affect the camera so the chances of you scoring a used M8 condition are high.

leica m8 sample image 2

Leica M8 problems

But the M8 camera have a series of problems that make it hard to jump in right off the bat. The sensor was quite problematic and Leica even had an exchange program.

The IR Filter

leica m8 sensor problem 1

The Leica had a very sensitive IR filter that, under the right conditions would render black fabric as red/purple. As a fix, Leica suggested to use their screw-on UV/IR Filters. While you think that an overly sensitive filter to fabric isn’t a big deal…simply consider that people wear CLOTHES and you can see why that is a problem. You shoot someone with a dark grey shirt, and out pops out a magenta shirt.

The horizontal green lines problem

leica m8 line problem 1

Under the right conditions. Namely having a bright source near the edge of the frame could cause your images to display an image breaking horizontal line with a green blob. This is an image ruining bug that Leica tells you to simply avoid shooting bright light sources at the edge of the frame.

The vertical line issue

This one is a bit vague but again, under the right conditions there would be a 1px line that is brighter than the overall image that would just sit there. If you have underexposed and high ISO images you might encounter it.

That crappy ISO

leica m8 high iso 1

In most cameras, namely in the APSC sensor size territory, iso 1600-3200 is cutting it close. On the Leica M8, anything above ISO320 will be noisy. Read that again and be baffled. The above image was shot at ISO 1250, the image is noisy and has that low-quality digital look in the shadows.

Lens combability

leica m8 sample image 3

But hey, it can cake any Leica M lenses, right? Not so fast, there’s issues here too.

Cannot be used:

  • Hologon 15 mm f/8
  • Summicron 50 mm f/2 with close focusing
  • Elmar 90mm f/4 with collapsible tube (production
    period 1954-1968)

Can be used, but risks damaging the camera

Lenses with retractable tubes can only be used with their tubes extended, i.e. their tubes must never be retracted into the LEICA M8. This is not the case with the current Macro-Elmar-M
90 mm f/4, whose tube does not protrude into the camera body even when retracted. It can therefore be used without any restrictions.

Can be used, but precise composition is not possible

The LEICA M8 has bright-line frames for focal lengths up to 90 mm. Therefore, when
using longer focal lengths such as the 135 mm models, their image field in the camera viewfinder which is very small to start with – can only be “determined” very imprecisely.

Exposure metering is not possible with:

  • Super-Angulon-M 21 mm f/4
  • Super-Angulon-M 21 mm f/3.4
  • Elmarit-M 28 mm f/2.8 with serial nos. earlier than 2 314 921.

That crop factor

leica m8 sample image 4

One of the reasons why the Leica M8 is NOT worth it is the sensor. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it is just the fact that it is an APSH sensor compared to the modern Leicas (starting with the M9) who have full frame sensors.

It is larger than APSC sensor cameras and yet has a smaller than full frame sensor.

Stuff like better image quality is a given but APSH sensors also have a 1.3x crop factor. So all of the lenses will have a different focal length. Your 28mm wide angle will become a 36.4mm (28mm x1.3) so it won’t be much of a wide angle on the M8 anymore.

But the price is right

leica m8 sample image 5

You are better off going for an M9 but it still holds it’s value pretty well, so if you can’t afford the M9, the M8 is a pretty good choice. It is actually one of the cheapest digital rangefinder Leicas you can get.

You just have to know that it is an APSH sensor camera and that crop factor makes every Leica M lens 1.3x their native focal length.

You might get the upgraded sensor

There’s been an update to the M8 sensor, customers had to have their cameras shipped back. Make sure to figure out if the one you are looking at has been upgraded or technically if it was made after November 27th, 2006 you should have it by default. For that infrared issue, you need an added UV filter.

If you get an old M8 without the upgraded sensor, you are stuck with it, so caveat emptor!

An it’s a Leica still

leica m8 sample image 6

But even with all the issues. The Leica M8 is still a Leica trough and trough. It’s a lovely camera and when it works it works VERY well. Sharp and sexy, as every Leica should be. Does it have problems? You bet. But not all images will be ruined by the sensor issues, a small fraction will be. But the ones it gets right will be amazing.

leica m8 sample image 7
leica m8 sample image 8
leica m8 sample image 9

Best Leica M8 alternatives

I personally don’t think the Leica M8 is still worth it when there’s the M9 that is full frame while the M8 is APSC. The best alternative you can get to the M8 is Leica’s own Leica CL. It is a small, rangefinder type camera that is also APSC with image quality that simply blows the M8 out of the water.

If you want an alternative to Leica, then a great choice is the Fuji X100 or X-pro if you prefer interchangeable lenses. The X-pro is one of the best non-Leica M cameras with the smart adapter.

leica m8 sample image 10

Is the Leica m8 worth it? Conclusion

So if you are wondering if the Leica M8 is still worth it, the canned answer is no. The M9 is a much better camera. But if you get the upgraded sensor and willing to look past it’s quirks like the crop factor and very low ISO, you have yourself one of the cheapest digital Leica M cameras you can buy. If price is your concern, you have no other choice as a used M9 is twice the price. Click here to launch price checker.

Scroll to Top