Leica has upgraded its M8 digital rangefinder camera with two key new features as part of an ongoing programme to keep the camera up to date.

First is a new shutter, which is claimed to deliver lower noise and vibration during exposure.

The new electronically controlled metal-blade slotted shutter retain the fastest shutter speed of 1/4000s and maximum flash synchronization time of 1/180s.

Leica says that the new shutter also reduces vibrations during exposure even further by reducing the kinetic forces. "As a result, hand-held exposures with slow shutter speeds are even more sharply defined, enabling the photographer to make even more of the quality of his high-performance Leica lenses", it says.

The second new feature is a protective sapphire glass LCD cover which is scratch-resistant, even after contact with metal, stone or sand.

Sapphire glass is the hardest and most scratch-resistant glass there is, says Leica and has been used in high-quality watches for many years.

Leica M8 owners can book in their camera to be upgraded from March 2008 with the program due to start in August on a first-come-first-served basis.

In addition, all camera functions will be inspected and adjusted by Leica technicians when a camera is sent in, and the latest firmware will be installed.

An additional two years of warranty cover is included and, according to online reports, Leica is investigating future upgrades including changes to the digital capture system - not least a possible sensor swap.

Steven K. Lee, CEO of Leica Camera AG explains: "While other digital cameras quickly become outdated and are replaced by newer models, our new concept extends the value retention that stands for the Leica brand.

"Over time, we will gradually offer new product features and developments as upgrade options. Our customers can therefore still invest in the photographic tools they need without worrying that they will miss out on improvements and technological developments along the way."