Leica unwraps the M8, its first digital rangefinder

Leica has unveiled four new cameras ahead of Photokina, of which the flagship digital rangefinder is the most unique.

In a departure from other manufacturers’ naming conventions, Leica has named its first Digital Rangefinder the M8, following on from its analogue M7 model. It now becomes one of only two digital rangefinders on the market, the other being Epson’s R-D1, announced in March 2004.

The M8 has a 10MP CCD sensor that produces a 1.3x field of view crop, and accepts nearly all M-system lenses made since 1954. This will be a boon to Leica enthusiasts who may have a hefty collection of quality glass and have so far resisted the investment that the switch to digital, and another company’s products, would entail.

Its compact design, which is very similar to the traditional M7 model, is achieved because a rangefinder doesn’t have the mirror box that SLRs require to operate. This rangefinder design also means that the metering is made by the range finder, rather than through the lens as with SLR, so that its accuracy is better at short focal length and in poor lighting conditions.

The ISO ranges from 160 to 2500, making it a solid performer in even difficult low-light conditions, and Leica has rejected the inclusion of a Moire filter so that fine details are more likely to be preserved.

The camera’s flash system is based on new M-TTL technology, which involves a pre-flash to measure the amount of light needed for the main flash, so that a given scene isn’t overpowered by the flash.

Leica has chosen DNG files as its RAW format. DNG is a Digital Negative developed by Adobe that is designed to encourage interoperability between processing software, so that each manufacturer doesn’t have its own proprietary format. The bundled software is Capture One LE professional, based on Phase One’s professional image handler.

At the moment, a final price hasn’t been set but the M8 should be available in November.

Joining the new model are two new M-series lenses, the Tri-Emar-M 16-18-21mm F4 ASPH, and the Elmarit-M28mm F2.8 ASPH, as well as a Universal Wide Angle viewfinder M.


>