The Leica M8 Review: Is The M8 Worth It In 2020/2021?

Good day you war torn camera geeks! There have been few digital cameras that I return to again and again. The Leica M8 is one of the few that I still enjoy using. Today I would like to give you the pros and cons of this camera.

INTRODUCTION

The Leica M8 was introduced in 2006 by Leica Camera AG of Germany. It is their first digital rangefinder model but not the world’s first digital rangefinder. The world’s first digital rangefinder is the Epson R-D1 introduced in 2004.

The M8 features a 10.3 megapixel sensor made by Kodak. The sensor is the model KAF-10500. The sensor is an APS-H sensor with a crop factor of 1.3x.

The M8 has a shutter speed of 1/8 to 1/8000 and has aperture priority and manual mode. The M8 was updated in 2008 with a newer model called the M8.2 which apparently has an improved and quieter shutter as well as more accurate frame lines and a sapphire lcd cover which is reportedly more scratch resistant. The M8.2 has a reduced top shutter of 1/4000.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who enjoy a more “dynamic” experience, here’s our accompanying YouTube video on the M8:

HOW I CAME ACROSS AN M8

As I’ve mentioned many times here, I was and to some degree still am a frequent reader of photography form threads (though not as much these days) but I’m more of a lurker than a contributor. I’ve learned a lot on these forums over the years going all the way back to the mid 1990s!

Part of the reason I don’t get involved in the threads is that there are so many knowledgeable posters there, what I am going to say to them? 🙂

I read, I digest, I research for myself if I’m especially interested in something and I find out for myself what the truth is.

And so ten years ago in 2010 my interest in the M8 was very high. The digital cameras from the year 2007 and up were really taking things up several notches. My main digital SLR at the time was the Nikon D3 which I loved but I kept reading all these great things about the M8.

Now the M9 had been introduced in the fall of 2009 but as is usually the case I almost never buy anything new and especially that pricey, so the M8 was really my only option for a digital Leica M. Never mind that I already had the Epson R-D1 since 2006! It was G.A.S. creeping in again 🙂

“Dream Time” February 2010. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. My first picture with the Leica M8! It was certainly “Dream Time” for me in 2010 when the Leica M8 arrived in the house! 🙂

So I found what was a good deal at the time, a near new M8 for $2000 USD. I found it in an ad in one of the forums. I happened to have the money but as always I had to bite hard when anything is over $500! But I did bite and soon I was in possession of a beautiful silver/chrome M8.

Now it wasn’t really that I wanted the M8 in silver, though it looks very beautiful in this finish. I’d probably have done better with a black model which would be more stealthy for street photography. The choice of color didn’t have anything to do with my purchase. The lowest price did! Though I must say the M8 does look beautiful in silver/chrome but I don’t really want my camera to look like jewelry, especially if I’m going to use it.

HANDLING & IMPRESSIONS

My first impressions of the M8 back in 2010 was that it handled like an M camera. I had my M3 film camera for comparison and the M8, while definitely way more modern, did feel like a Leica M. The one big difference I felt right away was that the M8 felt quite a bit bulkier. The only film Leica M that feels this bulky is the M5.

The viewfinder is bright and easy to see. The frame lines for the lenses appear in pairs and are as follows: 24/35, 50/75, 28/90. This can be a bit confusing especially due to the 1.3x crop of the M8’s sensor so I’ll keep it short except to touch on a couple of things. A common question I hear is if you put a 50mm lens on the M8 does the 50mm frame line show up? Yes, the 50/75 frame line shows up and apparently they have been adjusted for the crop factor. The 50mm frame line would be the wider of the two (50/75) when looking through the viewfinder. And don’t forget that due to the 1.33x crop factor, a 50mm lens translate to a 66.5mm lens on the M8.

The M8 has a distinctive “clunk” to the shutter. And then you get a “whirr” from the shutter re-cocking. It is not silent but not disturbing to my ears. It is definitely not the soft shutter sound you hear on an M3, M6, or other film Leica M cameras.

To offset this, the M8 has a “discreet” mode that you can activate via menu. What happens in discreet mode is that the camera will not re-cock the shutter until your finger has lifted off the shutter release. This does help in quiet situations.

SAMPLES

Here’s just a fraction of my favorite photos from the Leica M8 over the past ten years. Some photos have been lost but I had resized copies that were used on photo sharing sites such as Flickr so the quality on some may not be optimal and not truly indicative of the M8’s potential image quality.

LEICA M8 PROS & CONS

In my video, I gave viewers “3 For 3” which is 3 Pros offset by 3 Cons. Here on the blog I am listing a few more since I’m not restricted by time constraints as I am on the videos. So here, in no particular order, are my list of pros and cons for the Leica M8:

PROS:

  1. In 2020/2021, the Leica M8 is the cheapest digital Leica M you can buy. Only on the used market of course! But the prices are trending at $1000-1600 USD.
  2. CCD Sensor. There has been a lot of debate over the years over the merits of the CCD vs CMOS sensor and I’m not the one to end that argument. What I will say is that the M8, with the right lenses, will produce images with “presence.” Images have a clarity and acuity that I have not seen in many digital cameras. Color images can have a “chrome” look of slide film and images can “pop” with the right lenses.
  3. The “Poor Man’s Monochrom:” Perhaps because of the CCD sensor and its lack of an AA filter, the M8 produces superb b&w images and has been labeled by its fans as the “Poor Man’s Monochrom.” The Leica Monochrom of course is Leica’s B&W only digital rangefinder. The original Monochrom was the 18mp version based off the M9 but there are newer models today.
  4. The M8 opens the door to the fascinating world of Leica M mount lenses. Not just from Leica, but you also get access to wonderful glass from Zeiss, Voigtlander, Canon LTM, and the wonderful low cost Russian lenses and there’s even more options if you look around.
  5. The 1.33X APS-H sensor is a good compromise between APS-C and Full Frame sensors. For street and portrait work, I actually find the 1.33x crop factor to be beneficial.

Here are the cons that are counterpoint to the pros above…

CONS:

  1. In 2020/2021, the Leica M8 would be the oldest digital Leica M body. As anyone knows, even a few years is ancient for a digital camera, so that would make the M8 beyond ancient! However, it retains its value due to several factors which I’ll discuss later on. But buying a digital camera this old is risky, make no mistake about that. However, it’s a Leica and everyone that goes up for sale eventually sells. We’ll talk more about that later!
  2. CCD Sensor Limitations. The CCD sensor on the M8, while producing lovely images, has limitations inherent to CCD sensors in general. The M8 does not do well at higher ISO values. I generally keep the M8 at low ISO’s and ISO 640 is usually my “high iso” on this camera, although I have many images at ISO 800-1600 that I like. At ISO values higher than 400 on the M8, you risk more noise and sometimes banding in the images.
  3. Color Cast Issues. While the CCD sensor and the lack of AA filter make the M8 a terrific b&w camera, the con is that this sensor is near infrared and as such it does not produce completely accurate colors. There is potential for false color especially on dark cloth where for example a black dress would turn brown or purple on the M8. Indeed early on Leica recognized this and once offered IR cut filters for free (not anymore though!). That said, in most situations, the M8 can produce punchy colors that I find very appealing.
  4. As stated in the #4 “pro” the M8 opens the door to the wonderful world of Leica M lenses. However the “con” is that in 2020, the point is moot because these lenses can be adapted to almost any system, especially mirrorless systems.
  5. The 1.33X APS-H can be a negative for wide angle lovers and anyone who is bothered by the crop factor conversion. As I said I have no problems with it, but I totally understand why people would be bothered by that.

M8 VS M8.2

If you’re looking for an M8, the M8.2 is a newer variant of the same camera and was introduced in 2008. Main differences are an updated and supposedly quieter shutter on the M8.2, sapphire glass on the lcd for better scratch resistance on the M8.2, flash synch 1/250 (M8) vs 1/180 (M8.2) and a top shutter speed of 1/8000 for the M8 and 1/4000 for the M8.2.

Out of all those things the main thing that mattered to me was the top 1/8000th shutter speed on the original M8. I like using fast glass on the M8 and fast glass means bokeh so I wouldn’t want to lose the extra shutter speeds for those rare sunny day bokeh portraits. That said if I had the M8.2 I’m sure I’d be fine with it!

ISSUES

As with any digital camera nearly fifteen years old you should be concerned with the camera developing issues.

That said, I’ve never had any real issues with my M8. I’ve shot thousands of frames on it, used it for paid weddings and engagements. But keep in mind I was never a run and gun professional. If I were using the M8 during a paid shoot, it was always with another camera or two for those kind of shoots. I would never put thousands of photos a day on my M8 like I could with say a pro EOS 1 digital body even though the M8 is supposedly rated for 150K shots.

The main issue I saw in my ten years of using the M8 was that the battery could go flat fast in cold temperatures and that’s only happened within the past couple of years. I’m still on the original battery so take that into consideration!

Anything else like noise and/or banding is not a fault of the camera but inherent to its image quality. It IS after all a camera released in 2006 and probably designed way before that. Speaking of noise/banding, that is usually seen at the higher ISO settings and personally I’ve encountered noise but no so much banding.

The other issue I hear often in the M8 is a “coffee stain” effect that occurs randomly on the back LCD. The LCD develops a flaw and it looks something like a coffee stain on the LCD. In most cases it’s just an annoyance but nothing that gets in the way of you seeing the data or affects the picture taking abilities of the camera. Leica apparently does not fix it.

Lastly and best of all, the Leica M8 does not suffer from the infamous “Sensor Corrosion” issues that plagued the M9, the original Monochrom, nor the ME, all of which are based on the original M9 sensor.

That was a very serious issue that affected thousands of cameras and in my opinion put a stain on the M9 which was perhaps the most popular and iconic Leica Digital M up until that point. Leica originally replaced the sensors for free, and sometimes the replaced sensors ended up with the corrosion. It was a mess for Leica! Today, Leica claims to have ended the M9 sensor replacement program stating that there are no more M9 sensors to be had.

Be grateful the M8 did not suffer this issue!

IS THE M8 WORTH IT FOR 2020/2021?!

So here’s the question of the day! Is the Leica M8 still worth it in 2020 going into 2021? My personal opinion is an enthusiastic YES!! Yes, for me anyway! That is my catch 🙂

For you, if you really think you want to dip into a digital rangefinder, it is a great first step and it won’t kill your bank account like the $5000 digital Leica’s will!

Just keep in mind a few things; the M8 is nearly fifteen years on the market and things can go wrong with old digital cameras. The M8 offers no modern amenities such as focus peaking, 4k video, not even HD video. But you don’t need that! That’s why you got your Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon Z, EOS R right? 🙂

The M8 offers a pure, no-frills shooting experience closer to film but with the conveniences of digital. That’s what you’d want it for!

The main thing you want to do when considering an M8 is to buy it from a trusted dealer. I’ll list some affiliates below but if you buy it from places like KEH, Adorama, B&H, Amazon, UsedPhotoPro, etc, anywhere that offers a lengthy warranty I think you’d be ok. But don’t blame me if something goes wrong 🙂

A camera like the M8 is not one I’d buy off some random guy on eBay. Too risky unless the price was beyond good, which would probably mean that something was wrong with it.

And in case you don’t like it, you can always sell it. I bought mine in 2010 for $2000 and they’re still selling used for $1000-1600. In fact, nearly every M8 that goes on sale from a legitimate dealer eventually sells!

Get your last minute Christmas Gifts today! You only have one more week!

Instant & Mail In rebates from Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fuji

BOTTOM LINE

The Leica M8 is one of my all time favorite cameras, film or digital! In the ten years that I have owned the camera, it remains one of the few digital cameras from that era that I still use regularly, a camera I return to time and time again.

When the M8 was first released it seemed very much like an unfinished product. The color cast issues and the need for IR Cut filters to correct them, the noise at higher ISO settings, the 1.33x crop factor could have easily doomed a lesser camera. Yet in spite of all its shortcomings, the Leica M8 is still very much revered by a large cult of camera fanatics (myself included). And it all comes down to all that the Leica M8 does right; sharp files straight out of the camera, punchy vibrant colors reminiscent of chrome film, superb b&w possibilities and a pure rangefinder experience, as pure as you can get from a digital camera.

The Leica M8 is a digital Camera Legend. The fact that we are here nearly fifteen years later still talking about it, the fact that nearly every M8 that comes to market still sells says a lot about the camera and how highly regarded it is by its devoted group of enthusiastic users. If you have one, I’d love to hear about it! 😎📸👍🏻

WHERE TO BUY?

The Leica M8 is plentiful on the used market and as mentioned before prices are trending at $1000-1600 USD. The prices also apply to the M8.2.

My best advice is to buy it from a trusted dealer. Make sure they have at the very least a 30 day return policy/warranty although ideally a 90 or 180 day warranty will give you much more peace of mind.

Leica M Cameras

Flashback Friday: Kodacolor VR 1000 Pics

Good morning awesome war-torn camera geeks! Last night I was going through a bunch of photos I haven’t seen in a long long time. They were all stored in boxes I haven’t opened in years.

Today I want to share some of them with you. These pictures are basically just snaps from a New Year’s Eve party all the way back in 1986!

Our parents had a rich doctor friend who often threw New Year parties in his New Jersey mansion. He had an elevator in his house! He had a Mercedes, a Range Rover and even a DeLorean.

We were poor kids who lived in NYC and we always appreciated a chance to get out of the apartment. No jealousy, we loved the doctor and loved seeing all his toys 😀😎

If this was in today’s world I probably wouldn’t share these photos especially if shot on a phone camera but due to the passage of time and the technical information on the photos, I thought some of you may find it of interest.

Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens, Kodacolor VR 1000 film. No flash. Shot on December 31, 1986. Here’s Dad in the corner of the basement at a New Year’s Eve party taking a smoke break. Note the grain structure and soft colors.

So to set up the story for you, I was a geeky teenager in 1986 and looking back now I was lucky to be shooting a Minolta X-700 that Mom got for me & my brother. The X-700 has become one of the most desirable Minolta cameras on the used camera circuit.

The Minolta X-700 was my main camera from 1985-1994.
“Party Animals” 1986. A flash was used for this shot.

The lens I used in these pictures was the 50mm f/1.7 Minolta MD lens which was a lens I would use for the next ten years. Simply because Mom didn’t want to waste money on more camera gear because cash was tight. But it’s ok. I learned a lot using one lens 99 percent of the time. And it’s probably why even to this day I still prefer using prime lenses.

Anyway the film is the star of the show here. It’s a Kodak film and it’s ISO 1000! Now back in those days “High ISO” was nothing like we know it today and high iso film were few and far in between. Surprisingly or not high iso film is few and far even today!

The film used in these pics was Kodacolor VR 1000 color film. Based on my research it was the only Kodak ISO 1000 color film that would have been available in 1986.

“New Year’s Day” 1986. Shot on January 1, 1987. The morning after the party. “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day” as the U2 song says. I love the grainy look of this shot!

The general consensus back then was that these high iso films would be grainy, not very sharp, and intended to be used for low light or dimly lit shots. Back then the compromises were not objectionable to me because the high iso film gave me the chance to take photos without the Minolta flash I used for all my indoor party photos.

Kodacolor VR 1000 apparently used the same T-Grain technology used in some of Kodak’s Disc Camera films. No wonder the big grain looked familiar to me!

If some of you may remember I reviewed the Kodak Disc Camera here. You may find it by using the search bar.

So what do you think? I personally love the grain and grit! I wish I had more photos to show you. I might but I have to look around. Seeing these photos actually made me wish a similar film was around today but alas there isn’t.

In today’s world you could take pictures way better than these with your cell phone but then again what fun is that?! 😀

As I always tell people, try not to throw away or delete your photos, no matter how trivial. You may look back on them one day and find memories that are priceless.

SEASONS GREETINGS

The “Wacky Bunch” wishes you the best for a safe and Happy Holiday season! Stay in touch with us on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/cameralegend

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-W7cBZNiiA7BOeCQ_vyhUw?view_as=subscriber

https://www.instagram.com/camera_legend/

Appreciate your support, many thanks!

Photo Of The Day: “Sunday Girl” Mamiya 7 80mm f/4 Mamiya N L Lens

Good Sunday camera people! Here’s a flash forward to this Thanksgiving. I developed this last night and it’s one of those “boring test shots” that I take a lot of! 😀

Photos that I usually don’t post here (don’t we all want to post exciting shots?) but I love the pic and want to tell you about it because sometimes even simple unassuming shots can tell you a lot if you know the story behind it.

This was shot with a Mamiya 7 and 80mm f/4 Mamiya lens. Ok so I’ve had the Mamiya 7 since 2014 and used it sparingly. Now it took me like six years to get the Mamiya 80mm! So it’s not like I have the money to run out and buy stuff any time I want 😀

The 80mm was always more expensive than I wanted to spend and whenever I found one at a price I was comfortable with, I didn’t have the money.

Flash forward to 2020 and I found one for under $500 and because I had put in extra time at work due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had extra money to spend! So don’t let anyone tell you hard work doesn’t pay off because it does 😎👍🏻

Unusually I started out with the 50mm f/4.5 wide angle but if you know me it’s not unusual at all because it was the first Mamiya 7 lens I found cheap! Got it for around $300.

The 80mm f/4 N L lens is considered more of the “standard” lens for the Mamiya 7. The field of view is equivalent to around 40mm in 35mm film. Actually it’s probably around 38 or 39mm.

I wanted one because portraits are one of my favorite things and this lens would get me closer though none of the Mamiya 7 lenses focus that closely. But I already knew and understood that I’d be doing “environmental portraits” with it as opposed to head & shoulders “bokeh” portraits. Bokeh isn’t everything right?

Anyway to make a long story short this lens as well as the Mamiya 7 has passed my tests! Here’s a portrait of the “Sunday Girl” in her environment. It’s as close as I could get to her with this lens of which the minimal focal distance is around 1 meter or 3 ft 3.37 inches.

The film was Ilford Delta 400 developed in Ilfosol-3 in the standard 1:9 dilution. Aperture was wide open at f/4 and shutter speed was 1/15th of a second.

What this says to me is that if and when I can return to NYC for street shooting at night, which was my specialty, then this combo is going to work for me! I can use the lens wide open and go down as low as 1/15th of a second.

Now rangefinders have always been better for handheld photography at low shutter speeds due to lack of mirror shock but I was concerned whether that was true with the big clunky body of the Mamiya 7. In this case as it is with many big cameras, perhaps its bulk added to its stability.

Ilfosol is also not as bad as some reviews I have read say it is. Sure this image is very contrasty and the blacks are all black but I like that high contrast look! And not all the images came out this contrasty. If you could see how dim the room was it would give a better appreciation that the image came out this vibrant.

The main post processing I did on this shot was to crop in a little as well as try and minimize the dust bunnies! I think that in today’s world where we are spoiled with ultra high megapixel cameras, some people may have forgotten that the ability to crop was one of the reasons people shoot medium format in the first place. There’s only so much you can crop into 35mm film without losing quality. And the sharpness of the Mamiya 7 lenses certainly allow me to crop in closer. That helps to negate the negatives of the system such as slowish (f4 and up) lenses as well as the inability to get in very close without that hard to use close-up lens contraption.

So will the Mamiya 7 be the next camera to be reviewed on Camera Legend?

It is a medium format legend after all right?! Well perhaps I will but I’m not too keen on doing another review on a camera everyone knows is great. But who knows perhaps I could add a word or two that you may find helpful so we’ll see!

As always, I appreciate you reading today and wish you a very happy Sunday and a great rest of the week ahead. Thank you!

Ilford Ilfosol 3

The Contax N Digital Revisited 2020

In 2014 I posted probably one of the last “real” reviews of the elusive Contax N Digital, the world’s first full frame digital SLR with a true 35mm sized sensor. By “real” I mean it’s a review by someone who had actually used the camera and not just repeating information off the internet. The original review can be found here.

Flash forward to 2020 and today I have a new review on the Contax N Digital only for you the readers of Camera Legend!

INTRODUCTION

I won’t repeat everything that I’ve already mentioned in 2014 but I think a little bit of the specs and history of the camera are important and worth repeating.

The Contax N Digital headlining claim to fame is that it is the world’s first digital slr with a 35mm sized full frame sensor. It was introduced by Kyocera in the year 2000 and brought to market in 2002.

At the heart of the camera was a 6 megapixel full frame sensor made by Philips of the Netherlands.

The Contax N Digital is based on the Contax N1 film camera and it takes the newer N Mount lenses. The N Digital, N1 and NX are not compatible with the older Contax/Yashica (aka C/Y) lenses.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who prefer a video review, here it is:

In this video, I discuss a few things not mentioned in detail here including image quality, and a lively “film vs digital” discussion including my early (Circa 2005) experimentations of scanned 35mm film vs digital.

At that time I had a Microtek Artixscan 120f which was a high resolution 35mm & medium format optical film scanner. In 2005, I compared scanned 35mm images to my 12mp Canon EOS 5D Classic and was surprised by what I saw. I speak about these results in my video.

REVISITING HISTORY

To fully appreciate how big this was in the camera world back then one must remember that the top cameras of the digital world from 2000-2002 were cameras with APS-C sensors like the 2.7mp Nikon D1, the 3mp EOS D30, and the 3mp Fuji S1 Pro plus a plethora of 1-3mp small sensor digital point and shoots.

As I said in 2014, the Contax N Digital was full frame before any of us knew what “full frame” was! Of course, I was talking tongue in cheek but you know what I mean. If you don’t, I was basically saying that in those days every megapixel seemed to mean something. Every increase in megapixel was exciting and expensive. And digital cameras, low end and especially high end models were also expensive.

We were getting used to APS-C sensors and hoping for increased megapixels so a “full frame” sensor was not on most people’s radar. But the thought of a “full frame” digital camera was out there no doubt. However the prevailing thought was that a full frame sensor back then was either not yet technically doable or it would be incredibly expensive.

And when the N Digital came out to market, it was indeed expensive at over $7000 for the body alone. The competition, primarily Canon, followed up in that same year with their own full frame body, the original 1Ds which came to market at $7999.

Nikon did not come out with a full frame DSLR until 2007 when it released the pro D3 model.

THE 2014 REVIEW

In my 2014 review I stated that I was lucky to have a friend who allowed me to use his camera for a short time for a review. I returned the camera to my friend shortly and a few months later the camera had a dead sensor.

Thankfully my friend did not blame me for it because it was working fine for months after I returned it. However, this is one of the reasons I no longer accept from or loan cameras and lenses to other people.

Not because I’m being greedy, but I have lent cameras and lenses to friends in the past and some of the equipment would come back with scratches or dents that weren’t there before. Sometimes, the equipment would be gone for months, and I’d have to kindly ask for the equipment back. Sometimes repeatedly!

I’m not extremely picky but as a collector if something is in pristine condition I’d like to keep it that way. The thing I hate more is the feeling when someone borrows cash and they promised to give it back to you, but then you have to chase them down to get your money back. You know the feeling! 😀

At the same time, I hate borrowing equipment from my friends for the same reasons. But since the Contax N Digital is so rare, I just had to ask! And my friend was kind enough to let me use it for a couple of weeks in 2013. I’ve always felt a little guilty for my friend’s dead sensor even though I know in my heart that I treated that camera with kid gloves and it was working when I gave it back to him.

(Above) An image from my 2014 review showing a little of that “Zeiss Pop” otherwise known as the Zeiss 3D effect. Contax N Digital, 50mm f/1.4 N Zeiss Planar.

Anyway, if you’ll remember from my 2014 review, I helped arrange and send the camera out to Kyocera for a repair and it came back a couple months later as “Unrepairable.”

FLASH FORWARD TO 2020

I was browsing photo gear ads without any real intent to buy anything when I saw a listing for a Contax N Digital for $477 USD. It was in “Bargain” condition (you know the dealer!) and no notes about a bad sensor.

Remembering what happened to my friend’s camera, but still so curious, I was hesitant but I bit hard and bought the camera!

The model I bought looked exactly like my friend’s (why wouldn’t it?) and worked well except it would only AF using the back AF-ON button.

If you’ll remember what I mentioned in 2014, I kept the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Contax N lens to use with my N1 and NX film cameras so I used this same lens on my new to me N Digital.

The images were just as beautiful as I remembered in 2013, color and everything looked the same. I was happy!

SAMPLE IMAGES

Here are some of the better images I got from my short five months with the N Digital in 2020. Images were shot using mostly ISO 200-400. I have always loved the Contax 50mm f/1.4 N Zeiss Planar and in combination with the sensor on the N Digital, I feel they are a perfect portrait combo, which is why you see a lot of pictures of the kids 🙂

Most images have been processed but most remain very close to the original files. Any of the images with trees have not been processed if you need to know for camera geek reasons 😀👍🏻

THE SURPRISE

About a week in to using the camera, a couple of photos started showing purple lines and blacked out images. I said uh oh! I remember seeing this on my friend’s camera back in 2014. I knew what was happening. The sensor was going to give out! 😦

This is how a failing sensor looks. Images begin to have lines, streaks, and discoloration.

In all honesty, it wasn’t a surprise to me. I was expecting the camera not to even work and when I saw the sensor failing, it didn’t surprise me at all.

I was all ready to pack up the camera for a refund when I took a few more shots and the photos came out fine. What? Yep that’s what I said!

I figure ok, no doubt the sensor is going to fail but if it works for a year I’ll keep it and take the loss so long as I get some nice pics out of it.

So over the next few months, I used it sparingly. As I’ve mentioned many times, much to the chagrin of Contax fanboys, Kyocera/Contax electronics are very delicate, fragile even.

I basically used the camera only on weekends, maybe 5-10 shots at a time. I always made sure it had fully charged AA batteries in it.

About five months into my ownership of the camera, the Contax N Digital gave up the ghost. After one last good picture, it started shooting only blanks. Black screen. It was game over.

This is how images look when the sensor finally dies. The camera starts shooting blanks. Nothing but black screen images.

I did everything I could think of to see if I could get it to start taking pictures again. I cleaned the contacts, tried different settings, tried RAW, Tiff, what have you. No dice. The sensor was dead.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

If you’re seeking the Contax N Digital, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, I have revised my trending prices to around $500-2000 USD for the N Digital body only. That is, if you can find one, and in working condition!

I would not recommend it unless it had a working sensor and at a very low price. Anything in the $2000 range would have to be old new stock, brand new in box, which I think is almost impossible to find.

As in the two copies I have tried, when the sensor dies, the rest of the camera may still work which is a shame because without a sensor, it becomes something like a chicken without a head or a man without a heart. A digital camera without a sensor becomes a paperweight. In the case of the N Digital, it’s an expensive paperweight.

As I mentioned in my video, I even reached out by email to Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com, a man known for tearing down cameras and lenses to see their innards and how they worked. I asked Roger if he or his team would like to open up my Contax N Digital and see if they could fix it. He politely declined to do it 🙂

BOTTOM LINE

I said this in my 2014 review and I’ll say it again…As the world’s first 35mm full frame digital SLR, the Contax N Digital is no doubt a Camera Legend.

However, it’s hard to find them, and almost impossible to find one in working condition. The main issue appears to be dead sensors in these cameras which are in Kyocera’s own words “Unrepairable.”

The camera was pulled from the market very early in its production run so it’s apparent now that Kyocera either may have known something we didn’t know or perhaps it cost them too much to produce versus how many sold. We’ll never know.

Take it from me and avoid the urge to buy one. I was your guinea pig. I did it for you guys! I can almost guarantee that if you can find a rare working model with a working sensor, that sensor will fail if you use the camera enough.

All that said, I will say something that might surprise you…when it was working, the Contax N Digital might have been my favorite DSLR ever!! I love the way it renders. There’s something to the images. A lot has to do with the Zeiss lenses but I also give credit to the flawed Philips 6mp CCD sensor. In my opinion, images can have that rare 35mm “film-like” quality and it has a lot to do with the low resolution sensor. I speak more about this in my video so check it out if you’re interested.

The N Digital also has some very digital qualities such as banding and not so pretty noise at higher iso ranges or underexposed images. But overall its images can be impressive especially when you remember it’s a camera introduced in the year 2000!

(Above) The Contax N Digital is among my favorite cameras of all time. Unfortunately, they never last and almost always end up with dead sensors

Looking back today, it’s clear that in 2002 Canon was on the verge of releasing the 1Ds, the world’s second 35mm full frame digital slr. Contax just beat them to it, but by beating them to it, they have that distinction of being the first and anything “first” will always be remembered.

So despite the Contax/Yashica brand being gone for years now, I do miss them. They thought differently and brought something different to the camera world and the Contax N Digital is a prime example of this. Despite the sad fact that in my opinion and experience, the sensor will inevitably fail and is unrepairable, the Contax N Digital will always be a Camera Legend as the world’s first 35mm full frame digital slr. It will always have a place in my heart as a camera I have experienced and loved, as well as a camera that will always have me thinking what could have been.

Photo Of The Day: “Autumn” 😍

It’s early November and around here where I live the leaves are well past their peak. This photo was taken a few weeks ago up in Rockland County, about 25 miles from NYC. The autumn leaves were still at their beautiful peak and I just had to get some shots. This was one of my favorites.

The camera I used was the Olympus Pen-F Digital, my current favorite digital camera and the Panasonic LUMIX 20mm f/1.7 G lens. I’ve had this lens since 2009 and it’s sharp, versatile, and always delivers the goods.

Whatever you shoot, there are still a lot of Autumn remnants. It’s a beautiful season for photography. Get out there and shoot! 😎📸👍🏻

YouTube Video Part III…Results, Poor Man’s Rollei Wide, and What YOU Need To Start Developing Film

Good morning you war torn hardcore camera geeks! Just posted last night the latest (I don’t want to say last) installment of the “The Lonely Art Of Film Developing.”

As stated in the video, when I first thought of doing this, I just wanted to take you guys through the process, give people an idea of what a film developing session is like, for me at least.

The focus was not really to show you pretty results or anything, although the results are just a by product of this.

As you’ll see in the video, before I even thought of making the video, I was testing a Rolleiflex 3.5F with a 0.7x Mutar which is an add on lens that turns the 75mm lens of the 3.5F into a 55mm, or around 28 or 30mm in 35mm equivalent.

The goal was to see if this would work for me as a poor man’s Rollei Wide. The Rollei Wide is the Rolleiflex with the 55mm f/4 lens. The prices for these cameras are insane, like $3000-4000 insane! Like Crazy Eddie’s “Insane!!” 😀👍🏻

They have pretty much become collector’s items. In comparison my poor man’s version cost me $400 total.

I’ve read in many forums and discussions that the Mutar is junk, that it doesn’t get sharp until you stop it down to f/11 or f/16 even. But there were a few who said it was very good, fine even. Since opinions differ greatly, I wanted to find out for myself.

The above photo is a good example. I shot this probably at f/4 or 5.6. I definitely did not stop the lens down to f/11 or f/16.

Maybe I’m not as demanding as the $4000 Rollei collector but the sharpness is perfectly acceptable to me. Center sharpness is best but even corner sharpness is not bad. Sure it may not be a match for a $4000 Rollei Wide but the point here is that this is good enough for me! If you want to see the photo larger, just pinch the photo to enlarge it if you have a phone, tablet or smart computer.

The film was Ilford HP5 Plus developed in ID-11. This is one of the frames I developed in Part II of my video.

I still have some more testing to do with the 3.5F and Mutar but needless to say, it works for me! I’m happy with my poor man’s Rollei wide and as most of you know, you can’t get much better in photography than getting something good for cheap! 🙂

Also in this video I discuss a little bit of the basics you would need to get started in the fascinating world of black and white film developing.

To make it easier, here’s a list of the items you would need. Please understand, these are affiliate links. You pay nothing extra and I may get a few cents, maybe not even enough to buy a cup of coffee but every little bit helps the site to grow.

As always, thanks for reading and I truly appreciate your support!

LIST OF THINGS YOU NEED TO GET STARTED:

1) Patterson Tank https://amzn.to/3kstlBr

2) Kodak D76 Developer https://amzn.to/3kfJmue

3) HC-110 (Great Developer!) https://amzn.to/2T6PZTP

4) Kodak Rapid Fixer https://amzn.to/3m3Byw1

5) Kodak Photo Flo https://amzn.to/31qabEG

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

YouTube Video: How To Load Film In Leica M6 Quick & Easy!

Good morning camera geeks! Today’s YouTube video is perhaps my shortest! And surprisingly no words from a guy who seems to be able to gab endlessly 😀

This is not part three of “The Lonely Art Of Film Developing.” That is part of a longer series on black and white photography. I was almost done with that video but allergies and lack of time has set me back.

But I didn’t want my subscribers to wait as long as I used to make them wait for a new posting and I had this video already made months ago. I never posted it for some reason or another. I guess I was waiting to do a full M6 review but I knew that would take forever so I posted it tonight as a way of saying thank you to the camera geek faithfuls so they have something new to watch. I have a bunch of videos I made and never posted. This is just one of them.

The Leica M6 is perhaps the most popular Leica camera in the world. They sell every one of them! Have you ever noticed an M6 go for sale on your favorite camera dealer’s website and within a day, sometimes hours, it’s guaranteed to be gone.

This is a testament to the M6. It’s a great and reliable camera. It’s an icon. It’s a Camera Legend!

However, its popularity is more complicated than just the fact that it’s a good camera. It’s a mesh of several factors, ie, the resurgence of film, it’s a Leica, it was at one time “affordable,” it’s been reviewed ad nauseam, it’s been touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread and oh yes, the hipsters love it!

All these things and more have worked in the favor of the M6 driving up the prices and continuing to cement its legend.

In many ways, the rise of the Leica M6 reminds me a lot of the Canon AE-1. Two totally different cameras I know, but both have benefited from similar circumstances. And yes, hipsters love the AE-1 as well!

Like many cameras before, I’m just so glad to have bought it at an earlier time when the prices were sub $2000.

Anyway today is not a Leica M6 review. Today’s video will show how easy it is to load the M6 and it is EASY!! It is in no way intimidating like older Leicas.

Extra Tip: Once you have the film secured in the camera, just start taking shots, no need to wind to “0” to get that first shot. If you do it this way, you may be able to get a couple extra frames from the M6!

If you are thinking of getting an M6 or just got one I hope this helps! Thanks for reading and watching and have a great week my friends!

Photo Of The Day: “Social Distancing” Olympus Pen F Digital

Good Sunday morning you war torn camera geeks! Well, anyone who knows me knows that I have been chasing that elusive “film-like” digital file for ages.

Perhaps it’s my love for b&w film, but when I started shooting digital the first thing I remember doing was trying to convert the images to black and white.

In the very early years, circa 1996-2003, most digital camera files looked horrible in b&w. They really did! Lots of blotchy noise that made it obvious it was from a digital camera.

Then in 2006, I got a Ricoh GR DIGITAL 8.1mp original and it rocked for filmic digital b&w. I’m still using the GR DIGITAL to this day.

I’ve never used the Leica Monochrom but I’ve looked at many, many files from that camera and I thought it was what I needed but it was always more than I wanted to spend on a digital camera.

Fast forward to 2020. I recently got an Olympus Pen F Digital specifically because of what I’ve read and seen of its b&w capabilities. The above photo was shot using the Pen F Digital and the 20mm f/1.7 Lumix G Asph lens. I’ve had this lens since 2009 and love its compactness and its sharpness.

And now I can verify that, yes, to me this camera in Monochrome 2 mode produces the closest I’ve seen to a black and white film image! Reminds me of Tri-X. There’s a nice balance of softness and sharpness in the film like tones.

It betters the GR Digital in that I can change lenses but I love the files from both these cameras equally. I could go on and on but today’s post is not meant to be a review but that may come at a later date. Happy Sunday good peeps!

Photo Of The Day: “Sisters” Rolleiflex 3.5F

Good September morning camera lovin’ geeks! Here’s a photo recently developed using the methods shown in my previous two YouTube videos.

The camera used was a Rolleiflex 3.5F 75mm f/3.5 Planar lens, film was Ilford HP5 Plus, developer was Ilford ID-11.

I’m pulling together the rest of the roll as well as some from a roll I developed tonight for the next video.

As seen in the YouTube videos, I’m not always textbook when I comes to developing. Perhaps I’ve gotten sloppy and I’m certainly not advocating you get sloppy.

Many years ago when I started developing film again, I was always by the book. The exact amount of developer, fixer, the exact number of minutes.

But over the years, and not on purpose either, I began to get off the books. I would sometime miss a minute of agitation here and there. Sometimes I would forget and leave the stop bath for an extra two minutes. Sometimes I had little fixer left but used it anyway with an extra dilution of water and extra minutes.

To my surprise, my results were almost always the same as when I did it by the book.

So when I say black and white film development is not an exact science it’s from my experiences. It’s not an excuse to be sloppy and for the absolute beginner I do advise going by the book. That said, black and white film developing at home is very forgiving of variations in time and temperature.

Of course if you do more esoteric b&w developing like stand development or cafeinol you might want to follow the recipe more closely.

Now C41 color film development I do find to be much more of an exact science when it comes to time and temperature. This is what I want to explore in the coming months.

As for the above photo, I do love any chance to have the girls stand still for a photograph and while I’m happy to have this portrait I was testing for something very specific with regard to the Rolleiflex 3.5F. I will share this with you in upcoming posts. Why not today? It’s not because I’m trying to build anticipation lol but simply because this would take up a whole article in itself! 😀

Thanks for your time and happy Tuesday good peeps!

YouTube Video: The Lonely Art Of Film Developing Part II: “Fixer…It Just Smells Funny!”

Good September morn you war-torn, hardcore camera geeks! Continuing on from our last article, here is Part Two of my YouTube series on “The Lonely Art” of film developing.

This video focuses on the “fixing” part of bw film development. It is a very important process that makes your images permanent and protects the film from going bad, ie, fogging up, etc.

Incidentally, the fixer is also the part of bw film developing that “smells” the most! All the fixers I have used have had this really pungent, sour smell to them.

Some of you may remember the Flickr group with the brilliant name of “Film Is Not Dead It Just Smells Funny.” Personally, I believe the fixer is what they’re talking about. If I am wrong, let me know!

Anyway, this video is a little more technical than the last but my main point is still NOT about teaching bw film developing. Many people already have videos up that show you how to do it way better than I can.

What I have learned over the years is that, even though there are guidelines as to what to do for whatever film or developer you’re using, there can be variations and people sometimes do things a little differently but as long as you don’t stray too far from the formula, your results should be ok.

The point of this video is to show how tedious the process can be. There’s a lot of downtime involved, a lot of counting minutes. It reminds me a lot of when I worked overnight security for a big tech company. I did in the 1990s so I could go to school during the day.

There was a lot of downtime, free time with that job. Often I would read books, eat, call friends, exercise or get lost in thought. Anything to past the time. And the same goes for developing film.

When I started relearning the process over a decade ago, it was fun, fascinating and I did a lot of it. Today, I still find the results fascinating but I don’t quite enjoy the process as much. My mind wanders.

And even though it doesn’t take all that long to do one roll of film, it feels like forever sometimes but no it’s not. Actually yes, when you factor the scanning and processing thereafter, it does feel like forever!

In the video, I exaggerate some of the things I might do while waiting but there’s a lot of truth to those exaggerations. It is a deeply personal process. Some people put music on, some might do their bills, meditate, etc. It takes a patient person to want to develop film but the results, especially when good, are most worthwhile.

Also to keep it fun, I reveal in this video a camera I’ve been shooting with a lot the past couple of months. Can you guess what it is? 🙂

Thanks for watching and feel free to leave a comment about your experiences, I love to hear from you!