Parting they seemed to tread upon the air…
On April 4, 2011 I captured the first photo with my M8. It was the start of an aesthetic love affair that ended just days ago. While the Leica M8 was exchanged for even happier things, I can’t help but look back on the images and time spent shooting with Leica’s first digital rangefinder.
The Leica M8 isn’t the best camera if you’re a numbers photographer. It’s finicky, has a noisy sensor, 1984 digital interface and a 2003 resolution. The colors can be baffling and without the proper filter, good luck photographing anything black. But…
That doesn’t matter. Not to me.
The M system and the Leica M8 somehow creates a certain intimacy – a relationship between man and machine that inspires and satisfies. It’s how you see the world through that bright viewfinder. It’s the always-there physical connection between your hands and the controls. And ultimately – the M8 always did exactly what I asked of it. No more, no less.
The result was a series of images with which I have an emotional connection. Unlike with any other digital camera, I can remember the sounds, the smells, the feel of a time and place behind each image.
After I packed her up, I browsed through 10 months of photographs and really appreciated how lucky I was to shoot with this amazing camera.
What will I remember about the Leica M8?
It forced me to previsualize. To know my lenses intimately. To understand aperture. To focus with intuition. That bright viewfinder shows you the world as you see it, not as the photo will be. The M8 forced me to create an image in my heart and mind – adjust the controls and release the shutter
It begs you to interact. With the M8 around my neck, I met more strangers, people on the street, other photographers. Many of my M8 portraits were people who asked me to photograph them. This does not happen with a DSLR
It challenged me. The M8 demands you nail the shot or it punishes you, particularly at higher ISOs. You have to finesse the files much like you have to know all the ins and outs of our favorite film
It brought me closer to my photos. As I look back on my 2011 catalog – the DSLR photos almost seem foreign. I cannot explain it. But the M8 photos stand out – right in Lightroom. I remember each shot. My thoughts, my reasons for clicking the shutter.
It helped me see the light. The Leica M meter is a guide, not a dictator. It’s loose. A mentor, gently suggesting what you may do. Shooting with the M8, you know what you are going to do before raising the camera to your eye. Then there are those gently glowing red arrows helping you along, but reminding you that only YOU can make the final call
It made me happy. All too often I tend to lose the joy in photography. Really, the joy is what makes it worthwhile. The M8, for all its pimples and warts made me smile inside every time I picked it up. DxO really doesn’t have a test for that. (Yet)
So, I hope this serves a proper sendoff for you, M8. We had some good times. Although it’s become popular to say “The best camera is the one with you” I don’t agree… the best camera is the one that makes you happy.