The Leica M8 and the Working Photographer

I’m going to keep stoking the Great M8 Debate, which seems to have partially evolved into the question of why anyone should consider paying US 5000 dollars for a manual focus, manual exposure (plus Av), fixed-screen camera that is not only based on a fifty-year-old optical and mechanical design, but also requires that you completely remove its bottom plate just to change the SD card.

The answer is, of course, that not just anyone should.

The argument has been made many, many times that it seems ludicrous to pay so much for a digital camera that, on paper, does not offer nearly the number of amenities as other models costing a fraction of what the M8 does. This argument is almost always made by people who don’t make their living from photography. Hell, even most professional photographers could make the same point.


The Leica M8 is not meant for everyone. I’m willing to wager that most of the people who buy M8s will belong to one of two categories. 1). People with so much money that 5-large is but a drop in the well (fondlers), and 2.) working photographers like myself who can actually benefit from the other things the M8 has to offer, which is everything that every other M body has to offer, plus the ability to use it on assignment in the digital world. That’s the key.

I have a lot of cameras, old and new, but my M6 is by far my favorite to use. There is only one thing I don’t like about my Leica, and that is the fact that I can rarely use it on assignment because of the immediacy of the digital age. I don’t have time to wait for film, especially since much of my work is done at night or on weekends. No labs are open to run my film, and my clients aren’t going to wait until Monday afternoon for their images.

“Big deal, just shoot it with a DSLR.”

Shut up.

Let’s get down to brass tacks here… The fact is that, yes, for most things, it truly doesn’t matter what kind of camera you’re using. But sometimes it does matter. Sometimes stealth is required. Sometimes you need a camera that doesn’t look like a camera. One that doesn’t announce its presence at all. One that is whisper-quiet. One that is durable to the point of taking three consecutive falls onto pavement and still shooting like it was brand new (that’s documented, folks… did it myself, unfortunately). One that has optics of unsurpassed quality. One that will come to your rescue.

Sometimes you simply need an M.

Until now, digi-boy, you were SOL while on assignment. But now… Now, you have the M8. Sure, it’s a little different. Metal shutter, motor-driven mechanism, etc. But it still shoots like an M. It’s still quiet, it’s still durable. It still has your back.

Here are a few shots that would have been much, much harder to get with any other camera.

Three Shades of Macy

DIA Traveler


Patient Father

All of these photos depend on the stealth factor. Try shooting in an airport with a pro DSLR and see how quickly you get noticed. Try not being noticed be the woman and her dog, while standing right in front of them, while using a Mark II or D2X. It’s a lot harder to do. Try sneaking your DSLR into the county courthouse, har-har. My M6 got in. I put it right into the tray at the metal detector. The guy thought it was a phone or something; he didn’t even look at it.

I photographed a play on opening night, while sitting in the middle of the front row. At intermission, I asked the lady who was sitting next to me if my snapping was bothering her, and she replied, “You were taking pictures?”

Yes, ma’am, I was. And soon (like, as-soon-as-I-get-five-grand-soon), I will be making those photos digitally, and on-time for the money-makers.

I have an assignment coming up for American Cowboy magazine. It’s one that would be perfect for the M8, but alas, I don’t have one. Just in case any of you marvelous Leica reps read this, I want to let you know that I’m totally open to putting an M8 through its paces for you… You know… If you like. E-mail me and I’ll give you my mailing address, hint-hint.


~ by peakaction on November 3, 2006.

2 Responses to “The Leica M8 and the Working Photographer”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. There is a stealth factor with a leica you just can’t get with anything else. Most people think my m6 is a 50 year old antique. I’ve also found hiding an m6 behind a scarf is really effective and easy, or just throwing it in a pocket.

  2. do it mate, that would be fantastic.

    ah! just thinking about those images made with the m, and the m itself (the sequence of the girl is amazing) makes me want to get out there and make some photos… even if it’s with an slr.

    we make do with what we have.

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