Monday, September 15 2008
Leica M8.2, digital rangefinder remix
Leica today announced the M8.2, which is basically an upgrade to the company's M8 digital rangefinder, which has now been around for about a year. Here's a quick rundown of the improvements:
• Metal blade focal plane shutter which is supposed to feel and sound more like a "Leica" shutter
• Ultra scratch-resistant sapphire crystal coverglass protects LCD
• New snapshot mode (for those who want Leica caché%3B but don't want to actually learn to operate the camera. We hereby dub it "Dentist Mode")
• Quick Override setting
• Redesigned bright frame lines in viewfinder
• Leica dot now comes in black
• Vulcanite finish
• Compact charger
Despite rumors to the contrary, the sensor remains 18x27mm. Multiply lens focal length by 1.33 to get its 35mm equivalent. Price will be 4400 Euros, which is approximately $6,213. The Leica M8.2 should be available this month.
For details, read the Leica press release:
LEICA M8.2 / Evolution of the LEICA M8 digital rangefinder camera
GERMANY - 15 September 2008 – The new LEICA M8.2 is an exciting upgrade of Leica Camera AG’s German-made M series digital rangefinder camera for professionals. Improving on important LEICA M8 attributes such as discretion, intuitive work and robustness , the new model retains the key characteristics of the Leica reportage camera such as the compact shape, the exceptional image quality in connection with Leica M lenses and the unique picture composition with the Leica rangefinder that show it to be a genuine M camera. The LEICA M8.2 complements the M8, and many elements of the M8.2 can be integrated into the M8 if desired. With this parallel marketing, Leica Camera AG is underlining yet again the full system compatibility and high value retention of its M series.
The LEICA M8.2 integrates a new extra-quiet, low-vibration metal blade focal plane shutter which allows the photographer to determine the right moment for cocking. This addition brings the digital LEICA M8.2 extremely close to the ideal of the famous rubber cloth focal plane shutter of its analog sisters. Responding to the request of many professional photographers, the new model has been given an even more inconspicuous design: the Leica dot and the accessory shoe now blend in with the color of the camera. The black version of the camera boasts a new extra durable high-quality deep black finish.
The new snapshot mode will appeal to all who want exceptional results immediately without having a vast knowledge about photography. If the shutter speed dial is turned to the new “S“ setting, the camera controls all the key features automatically, such as automatic exposure (aperture priority), automatic ISO speed setting and automatic white balance. For the three most commonly used subject modes, the LEICA M8.2 gives suggestions on aperture and focus settings, which can be seen when the “INFO” button on the camera monitor is pressed. Portable information can be found on the new brief waterproof instructions which can be folded to the size of a credit card.
The automatic ISO setting can be selected in all operation modes of the LEICA M8.2. Another new feature is a quick override setting: When the shutter release button is sustained as far as the first pressure point, a correction of +/- 3 stops in 1/3 steps can be made with the dial on the back of the camera. The setting is shown in the viewfinder. Further modifications include a more pronounced detent mechanism of the main switch of the camera to prevent inadvertent activation of the self-timer, and redesign of the bright line frames in the viewfinder to allow more precise determination of the picture frame for longer distances.
The new LEICA M8.2 is the first professional digital camera to use an ultra scratch-resistant sapphire crystal as coverglass for the camera monitor. It is so hard that it is repaired exclusively with special diamond tools and is permanently resistant to all mechanical or abrasive stress. The camera also has a new easy-grip and specially robust “vulcanite“ finish.
The new compact charger unit is designed to take up a minimum of space in the photograper’s bag, and charges the lithium ion battery to 80% in only an hour and a half. This is sufficient for an average of 400 exposures, so that recharging the camera in a very short time is possible, especially when the full 500 exposures is not utilized.
The new LEICA M8.2 has inherited the superior image quality of the LEICA M8, resulting from the combination of the legendary M lenses with a CCD image sensor specially designed for the requirements of the Leica M system and high-performance image processing. The new Capture One 4 raw data converter of the Danish manufacturer Phase One ensures the best possible picture quality in the camera’s DNG mode. Unlike any other digital camera, the LEICA M8.2 is compatible with almost all Leica M system lenses produced since 1954 due to their high standard of performance.
Like its predecessors, the new LEICA M8.2 continues in the tradition of easy operation, concentration on the essential, few controls and logical, easy-to-follow menus.
The LEICA M8 launched in the fall of 2006 is still available as an alternative to the new LEICA M8.2. Following a tradition of the Leica company that is unique in the world of digital photography, many elements of the new LEICA M8.2 can even be integrated into the LEICA M8: the shutter, the sapphire coverglass or the new viewfinder frames can be retrofitted by Customer Service.
The LEICA M8.2 is available now at Leica dealers.
Compared with other sensor types, CCD technology causes the least image noise and was therefore chosen as image sensor for the LEICA M8.2. With its 10.3 million pixels it is fully optimized for the special characteristics of the Leica M lens system, offering the ultra high resolution required for excellent picture quality.
The special design of the rangefinder camera without a mirror box allows the typically compact and flat shape of the LEICA M, but requires light rays to strike the sensor at a more oblique angle. Comprehensive measures have been taken so that the picture quality demanded by Leica is seamlessly achieved. The special modification of the image sensor with a micro-lens offset avoids any annoying vignetting in the corners of the picture. A particularly thin coverglass, reduced to only 0.5mm, prevents the usual undesirable refraction of light when light rays strike at an angle. Leica deliberately omitted a Moiré filter, which filters out fine details of the picture, so as to fully exploit the high resolution of the Leica M lenses. Any Moiré fringes that occur are instead eliminated by the camera’s signal processor. This results in high contrast and extra high resolution with natural color rendering from corner to corner.
“The LEICA M8.2 uses the field-proven CCD image sensor with 18 x 27 mm recording area,” says Stefan Daniel, Product Manager for the M System at Leica Camera AG. “The small focal length extension factor of 1.33 enables creative freedom even in digital Leica M photography by using selective image sharpness with an open aperture.” The extension factor of 1.33 means that the equivalent focal length of the lens is shifted slightly by about one focal length step towards a telephoto focal length, meaning a 21 mm lens has an equivalent focal length of 28 mm.
The LEICA M8 can be used with virtually any lens produced since 1954 in the Leica M range. This high system compatibility has been maintained despite the changeover from film to digital technology. Even new customers who begin with a LEICA M8 or M8.2 are given numerous application options and profit from the high value retention of Leica products. The high mechanical and optical precision and the exceptional imaging performance of the current product range in particular mean that Leica M lenses are ideally suited to digital applications. Performance criteria such as the individual coating of each lens element are provided as standard and don’t require special ordering measures.
The Leica viewfinder system distinguishes the LEICA M8.2 and M8 from the general run of SLR and compact cameras on the market, making the camera a specialist tool for lively reportage and available-light photography and discreet portraiture. The photographer is part of the action and uses the viewfinder to frame what he wants to capture – a scene, a mood, a moment. He also sees what is happening outside the viewfinder frame. This enables him to anticipate the desired critical moment and record it at exactly the right instant. The result is a particularly authentic shot which contains nothing that betrays the presence of the photographer.
The photographer can still see his subject during the exposure and the bright and high-contrast viewfinder allows quick and accurate focusing even in difficult available-light situations. The short shutter delay, in digital and analogue photography, and the rangefinder principle make Leica M cameras the fastest in the world.
Unlike with a reflex system, where the photographer has to focus through the lens while the focal length and speed determine the accuracy of the measurement, the measuring basis with the Leica M rangefinder remains constant regardless of the lens. This makes the measurement many times more accurate at short focal lengths. The high-contrast measurement field in the center of the viewfinder image guarantees fast and precise focusing with pinpoint accuracy, even in very poor light. The frame selector enables the photographer to simulate the effect of a different focal length and thus choosing the right focal length in advance without changing the lens. The six different bright line frames demonstrate precision framing as the automatic parallax compensation adjusts their position depending on the distance setting. All the other information that is relevant for achieving a perfect result can be seen in the bright-line frame viewfinder along with the subject’s surroundings – ideal for spontaneous, inconspicuous photography.
The electronically controlled metal blade focal-plane shutter of the LEICA M8.2 permits shutter speeds up to 1/4000 sec. Even in bright surroundings, the photographer still has complete creative freedom due to the selective focus feature with open aperture. The high flash synchronization speed of 1/180 sec. now allows daylight flash photographs to also be taken with selective focus.
Intuitive operation The LEICA M8 models direct the photographer’s attention to the picture, not the operation of the camera. Therefore, the creative aspects of aperture, time and focal plane which determine the result of the picture are in the foreground. Great care, many years of experience and comprehensive knowledge of how professional photographers work have contributed to the operating concept of LEICA M8 digital functions. By concentrating on the essentials, a simple, clear and intuitive user interface has been created: multifunctional keys and complex menu structures have been deliberately avoided.
The core controls for operating the digital functions include the direction pad and dial, which when combined allow rapid navigation. Pressing the “Set” button opens the exposure parameter menu on the 2.5” monitor, where the crucial settings can be quickly selected: sensor sensitivity, exposure compensation, white balance, data compression and resolution. Three free profile slots are available for quickly retrieving frequently used and application-specific combinations.
Pressing the menu button recalls a clear system menu for selecting basic settings, such as the ECI RGB, Adobe ® RGB and sRGB color variants. This function allows the photographer to specify whether the photographs should be shown for checking on the large display directly after they have been taken, how long they should be displayed and whether he wishes to see a tonal value histogram with the display.
The LEICA M8 models have an auto-release function with two customizable delay times of two and twelve seconds.
The remaining capacity of the SD card and the lithium ion rechargeable battery are continually displayed for easy reference at the top of the left side of the camera body.
Innovative flash technology The LEICA M8 models use M-TTL flash technology. This special feature fires a calibration pre-flash immediately before the actual flash illumination. The TTL metering detects the light reflected from the surface of the subject, and determines the exact power requirement for the main flash. The smooth addition of the flash to the available light creates flash pictures that have the appearance of being taken in natural light.
The “Auto Slow Sync” function permits the use of aperture priority mode in combination with flash technology. This provides a balanced background to the picture, even if the intensity of the continuous light changes. To achieve the correct exposure, an appropriately metered fill-in flash is used. Depending on the desired effect or experience, various maximum exposure times can be set for the aperture priority mode. These can be input manually or automatically, if coded lenses are being used, demonstrating the proven rule of thumb “1/focal length = exposure time in seconds”.
Checking results using the tonal value histogram As professional digital cameras, the LEICA M8 models provide a RGB tonal value histogram. This can be recalled at any time to check the quality of saved pictures and can also be combined with the automatic review function. Another useful feature is the additional identification of overexposed parts of an image known as the clipping warning. These two control tools are continuously updated when zooming in on the LCD display, allowing the quality of even the finest image details to be assessed. All photographically relevant settings in the picture parameter menu and other “meta-information” stored with the image can be displayed as required by pressing the Info key. This enables complete evaluation of a picture as soon as it has been taken.
Use of raw data in DNG format using Capture One 4 software The Capture One 4 professional raw data converter ensures that raw data supplied by the CCD sensor and saved in the in the future-proof Adobe® Digital Negative (DNG) format is “developed” in the best possible quality. Leica worked in conjunction with the Danish software company Phase One to create the sophisticated camera profiling to make the necessary software modifications. The results are quality-optimized algorithms for digital color processing, allowing exceptionally low-noise photography with incredible resolution. The development of the finest tonal value steps from the 16-bit image delivered by the CCD sensor is comparable to the picture quality achieved by a professional combination of film and specialist laboratory development. The logical functions for adjusting the quality and the clear user interface allows the user to quickly master the use of Software Capture One 4 to create outstanding results.
Materials, machining and dimensions The robust top cap and base plate are machined from solid brass blocks using the most innovative milling techniques. The enclosed all-metal body is made of a highly stable magnesium alloy for professional durability. The rechargeable battery and SD card slot are well protected under the base plate from dust and moisture. Its locking mechanism effectively prevents inadvertent opening and thus the loss of the battery and SD card, even when the camera is used for reportage under tough conditions. This design, proven over decades in the Leica M system, increases the robustness of the camera.
Measuring a compact 5.46” × 3.16” × 1.45”, the LEICA M8 models are just a few inches larger than the size of the analog M models. Apart from a few differences in the controls, such as the absence of the winding lever and the rewind button, the front view of the LEICA M8 and M8.2 is virtually identical with analogue M series cameras. The discreet appearance of the camera particularly prized by many customers and its timeless elegance is enhanced once again in the LEICA M8.2.
The assembly and adjustment of the camera, together with the minute checking of all mechanical and electronic details, are precision hand-crafted in the Leica factory in Solms. Leica Customer Service maintains and repairs cameras over decades and thus creates the basis for long retention of value. All M cameras produced since 1954 are still repaired and serviced today.
Cleaning the sensor The LEICA M8 models have a special function for manual cleaning of the image sensor: when the corresponding option in the menu is selected and the release pressed, the shutter remains open for the duration of the cleaning. The flat profile of the Leica M cameras means that the sensor is more easily accessible than in a digital reflex camera, where the sensor is accessible only by reaching behind the mirror mounting.
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