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1. Control Refinements: The on/off switch has been redesigned to keep it from slipping into the self-timer position, a frequent complaint in the M8. 2. LCD: The 2.5-inch LCD has a resolution of approximately 230K pixels. LCD previews can be displayed in four stages of magnification, up to 100%, and there’s also an RGB histogram with clipping warnings for checking exposure. 3. Optical Viewfinder: A better, bigger bright-line viewfinder in the M8.2 automatically compensates for parallax view (a problem with rangefinders); 100% of the sensor is covered, and there’s 0.68x magnification.

Leica M8.2

ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: List Price: $5,995 (body only)

Leica and the little red dot that serves as its logo are synonymous with a certain photographic mystique—and phenomenal optics. As the name implies, the Leica M8.2 is the sequel to the M8, Leica’s initial foray into digital. The M8 itself, released in 2006, continues the traditional aesthetics and minimalist elegance of the analog M Series, which goes back more than 50 years.

A STRONG FINISH: The M8.2’s LCD screen includes a tough, new sapphire crystal coating for superior scratch resistance.

GAINING EXPOSURE: There’s added exposure compensation, accessed by depressing the shutter halfway, similar to focus lock in other cameras, then use the Command dial to adjust exposure up or down three stops in 1⁄3-stop increments.

RAW EXPOSURE: Leica captures 3916x2634 image files in Adobe’s open-source DNG RAW format, which guarantees support from Photoshop and other software makers for the foreseeable future.

QUICK CHARGE: A new compact charger unit is included with the M8.2. A flashing yellow LED alerts when 80% of the charge capacity has been reached.
Thanks to digital, big things can come in small packages, and the classic range-finder design of the Leica 10.3-megapixel M8.2 understates its true potential as a pro-level camera. The sensor, manufactured by Kodak, is an 18x27mm with a 1.33x magnification factor, specifically designed for compatibility with the short focal lengths found in rangefinder lenses like the M Series. Rangefinders offer more compact bodies with more compact lenses than typical D-SLRs, and at 5.5x3.1x1.5 inches, the M8.2 is almost pocket-sized. The ISO range is a healthy 160-2500.

The Leica story is all about the optics. There are more than 20 M Series lens models currently available from Leica, and the M8.2 is also compatible with over five decades’ worth of superb Leica M-mount lenses (21-90mm focal lengths only). Rangefinders typically don’t support zoom lenses, however. Consequently, the M Series only offers very few lenses that aren’t primes, and these—like the 15/18/21mm—only offer selectable fixed focal lengths. Similarly, telephoto capabilities in a rangefinder are seriously limited, with the longest available focal length in the M Series currently at 135mm (which is the 35mm equivalent of almost 180mm with the magnification factor). That being said, Leica glass offers very fast fixed apertures and delivers ultrasharp images.

The M8.2 features the same body, sensor and construction as the M8. The differences between the M8 and the M8.2 lie largely in design improvements. The M8.2 includes a new microprocessor-controlled, metal-blade, focal-plane shutter mechanism that reduces vibration and noise. While it may not seem like a large improvement, one of the advantages of a rangefinder over a D-SLR is its quieter operation, useful for discreet shooting in reportage situations. The shutter also has been constructed not to automatically re-cock, allowing the photographer to do so manually for quieter operation.

Leica builds cameras that last many years, and the M8 and M8.2 feature tough, all-metal bodies comprised of magnesium alloy and a black synthetic leather coating. The M8.2’s exterior adds an improved black paint finish with tough, deep vulcanite for an easier grip. The rangefinder is available in silver or black. (Interestingly, there’s a subtle black Leica dot on the black version instead of the traditional red one.)

STANDOUT FEATURE: Selected with the “S” setting on the shutter speed dial, the Snapshot mode provides automatic exposure, ISO and white balance—it’s the first auto mode in the 50-plus years of M Series Leica cameras.
VERDICT: Lacking typical D-SLR features like autofocus, Live View and a fast fps rate (it captures 2 fps), the pricey Leica M8.2 will be most appealing to longtime Leica shooters who already own Leica lenses.

Leica M8
The Leica M8.2 was released as a complementary model to the Leica M8, not as a replacement. While the Leica M8.2 features a few improvements over the Leica M8, at $2,000 less, the Leica M8 also offers the same performance and an almost identical design for a (relative) bargain. The M8 excludes the automatic Snapshot mode, sapphire crystal LCD cover glass and redesigned shutter, but otherwise, it’s almost exactly the same camera. For such a substantial drop in price, you can’t argue with the appeal; although, if you’re considering such a luxury purchase, you also can’t argue with having the best of the best. Estimated Street Price: $3,995.


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