Friday, February 1, 2008

Leica M8 - Customer Service Mis-steps

After fits and starts, calls for a digital Leica, and then missteps, Leica finally announced their M8, back in September of 2006. Following problems with the camera with color offsets because of a bad infrared filter, Leica finally responded with a "fix it yourself" mentality and put out two firmware updates back in March of 2007, as well as it's UV/IR filters. Way to go for a $5k camera, touted by many as jewelry.

(Continued after the Jump)

It seems that, (Leica rolls out M8 hardware upgrade program -- for a price) as with Apple's iPod scratch issue, so too does the Leica have one with their LCD screen. Further, all you beta-testers of the M8, you can get an "electronically-controlled metal-blade slotted shutter that offers less noise and vibration." Doesn't an issue that needs that level of attention cause your beautiful Summicron-M glass to become about as sharp as a Nikon/Canon lens?

The Leica forums (Rangefinder Forum, and the L Camera forum) are, rightly so, chock-full of complaints about this, and Leica should be listening.

Further, I know of several Leica professionals (yes, that would be people who actually use the Leica for paying work, not as an accessory to their Aesculapian staff) who are selling their M8's (for a loss, no doubt), and have stated their intent to wait until Leica produces a professional camera that's ready for prime time.

Dear Leica -- when you come this late to the party, you need to step up to the plate and hit it out of the park. So far, you're at risk of being sent back to the minor leagues.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

I have used Leicas all my life - in addition to SLR's and medium format gear. I own two M8's and have been very frustrated with the cameras - from the lack of accurate framelines to the extremely high noise in IS0 1250 and 2500 images to the very loud shutter. I've had both bodies die on me at least once. One repair for a body that quit came back DOA. It was replaced by Leica and Leica USA seems to care.

The new "upgrade" seems a bit absurd. I have decided to sell my M8 cameras along with an M6 and several lenses. I will keep a trusty M4 and one M6 for personal projects.

It is discouraging that Leica releases a $5000 camera that had such birthing pains (IR filter, AWB that was way off, framing issues, lock-ups, having to have your lenses coded for the camera).

Leica is now suggesting an 1200 EURO upgrade that you pay for in advance with Leica promising that the camera will be returned in four weeks. What do you get for the upgrade - a two year extension on the warranty, a sapphire glass LCD and a less intrusive shutter sound - something that Leica was always known for. These should have been included with the camera.

I'm sorry, but they have lost me. I'll continue to use my film Leicas and hope that the rumor that Nikon is considering a digital rangefinder to be true. One
advantage is the "M" mount is now out of patent - that is why other companies (Zeiss and Voightlander) are making "M" lenses.

Anonymous said...

I am going to ditch my M8. Keep on eM body with the wonderful 35mm Summicron and enjoy shooting Tri-X again. With all the money I'll having after selling my system, I can afford a high-end scan or two and processing.

Anonymous said...

Leica has lost it.

The only quality thing left in their bag of tricks are the lenses.

Why spend more money for a camera body that has had less features than a 3 year old Nikon or Canon.

John you hit the nail on the head here, it is jewelry for the rich wannabes.

jonathan Levin said...

As much as I like digital, I miss my days with my M6 stuff and lenses. The design, build quality, optics, and simplicity made this my instrument of choice for capture. You could carry a couple of these around for days and not end up in traction.

When the M8 came out, I was disappointed by two things: I had put all my Leitz stuff on ebay, and that the sensor of the M8 was not full frame. And then there are the stories mentioned here.

Personally, I don't feel any great love for a Nikon or Canon hanging from my neck like a mechanical cinder block; the weight, the size. I like the quality I get from the cameras, but I just don't feel a connection to the camera as I once did with the Leicas.

I also don't need or want every bell and whistle the current line of DSLR's have to offer. I still manually meter, focus, and so on.

I hope that Leica gets their act together and comes up with some improvements with an M9 or M10. I will then switch back.

And please, will someone come up with a camera that is upgradeable by some sort of moduler design? It's hard to get to attached to a camera when you know you are going to replace it in 18 months. I am now an every-other generation upgrader. And that goes for software as well.

Well maybe Nikon or Canon will come out with a striped down version of their current offerings, along the lines of a Nikormat.

Now I'm dating myself...

BTW- I'm looking at the instruction manual for a D2x and an M6. The M6 manual is impresively simple..

Lae said...

nice photos, really great blog!

LeicaBoy said...

Guess what, another M8 goes on the block this weekend. Bought a Nikon D3 and I'm as happy as can be. My trusty M3 will continue to function for many years to come. The M8 is going to be sold.

MikLav said...

I started wondering already a few years ago how Leica can survive in today's market. I am not sure it will, despite all glory in the past...

Fabien Penso said...


I was thinking about the same thing, and I totaly agree about how bad is the camera.

However as they released the new firmware the awb looks like it was fixed (a year for a decent awb ???). So I'll keep my M8 a bit longer (few weeks at most) and then I'll get a D3 with Zeiss lenses. Looks like the best combo for image quality, if you do not need autofocus.

See for some night shots with latest firmware.

It's Just a Tool said...

This is what happens to a company when the focus shifts from a tool for working pros to an adornment for wealthy collectors.

I have used M cameras throughout my career as a newspaper photographer. They are good for certain situations and nothing feels finer in my hands.

I eagerly awaited the M8 -- and watched the train wreck with disgust.

For now a Canon G9 serves as my stealthy imaging device. Reminds me of the Leica CL I had back in the early '80's.

Paul said...

I am not wealthy or a collector. My M8 is imperfect but still outstandingly good, and I have very few complaints. Images taken with it require less post processing than those taken with my Canon dSLR or G9. The latest firmware update has sorted the WB issue well.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually thinking of buying another M8 for pro work.

The current model puts my Canons to shame. An upgraded model with a less jumpy shutter (still quieter than anything Canon has) will only make a great camera better.

People who were waiting for an AWB fix obviously don't understand how to process a file anyway.

Sorry: if you know your stuff, the M8 is a great camera.

M4-M6-M8 said...

I know my stuff and have used Leicas for years. I own a couple of M8 bodies. I use ASPH Summicrons and get decent files out of them. I always need to work the files some. I do not have to with the Canon Mark III's. those files are close to perfect direct from the camera.

I don't agree that the M8 is a great camera. As a pro shooter for twenty-seven years and primarily with Leicas, I feel that the M8 is not up to the same standards of reliability and quality as the M6, M4 or M7. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and my comes from experience with lock-ups and a repair gone seriously bad.

I am at the point where I don't consider the M8 reliable enough to trust on portrait assignments. I have started using the Canons for just about every assignment. They work, the color is spot-on and they are reliable. As a pro ad shooter, reliability is my prime concern.

C said...

There is a comment thread on the Leica forum about your essay on the M8. There are ugly comments about you and your web site.

You may want to take a look at the thread and refute the comments.

sp said...

I love my analog LEICA M-Equipment (2 Bodies, Motor M, 5 Lenses).

In the beginning I was happy to hear that LEICA brings out a Digital M.

But the M8 with all the flaws is the most crappy camera Leica ever built.

With the new business-politics of Mr. Lee I will buy nothing more from LEICA.

A TRI-X in the M from time to time is very nice.

For digital I have Nikon - much better. :-)

bye bye Leica...

Anonymous said...

Which forum? What is the url?

C said...
There is a comment thread on the Leica forum about your essay on the M8. There are ugly comments about you and your web site.

You may want to take a look at the thread and refute the comments

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Actually, among a few "how dare he blaspheme Leica" posts, many are supportive of John and critical of Leica.

David said...

I brought Johns column to the leica forum because I could not believe how much these guys over there just swallow all the problems the m8 has had and keep paying for all of leica's mistakes. I am a rangefinder person for all my non commercial work tried using a canon 5d but hated the shutter release. Leica has got to be the most irresponsible company in the camera business. They take all there mistakes and make money off them. I have been vilified but keep on posting there hoping people will start waking up and protest to leica. the rangefinder forum folks are more angry. The amazing thing is the personal attacks at me and John yet we have done nothing but complain about a company and its policies.

LouisB said...

I can appreciate the frustration if you are a professional with this camera. I would have a hard time convincing myself to use one in a critical situation, e.g. weddings, one-time events, etc. However, I am a serious amateur photographer (I hope my website demonstrates I don't wear a camera for purposes of vanity) and for me, the ability to use high quality glass on a small and easily transportable body is a dream come true. I totally agree about this upgrade, completely unecessary unless you are a professional stealth photographer. On the other hand, from comments I've read elsewhere it does seem as though my camera has a future, whereas, the Nikon kit I sold to part-finance it, did not. It is horses for courses, really. You either manage your workflow around the shortcomings of the M8, as I do, or you find something else that works better for you.

Felix said...

It sure is true what was said above, that the old guys with M8's at that Leica forum do not like to be reminded that the Emperor has no clothes.

They bah-humbug anyone who vents their frustrations and happily endure the many shortcomings of the red dot. They're happy but I wasn't. I sold my M8 for a small loss and chalked it up to experience. Shame as I wanted to be a fan.

I don't mind them doing what they do, I'd rather see Leica succeed than fail, so their support is kind of important I guess - but urgh it was all too much for me as a working pro

Anonymous said...

Leica made a great camera. They truly and most assuredly did.

Past is past. Maybe they can make something incredible again.

DSLR is for work and personal shoots. Film Leicas are for personal work.

Digital Leicas, I am not sure of. The limits of the camera make you wonder if it is worth taking into a professional situation.

They sure do make some great lenses.

paulo colaço said...

well.. i would have liked to see some of the information on this blog and centainly i wouldn't have bought a Leica camera. i bought D-lux 4 recently, some weeks ago and paid 90€ for the leather case, now they are offering it, not only that they launched a special edition.
I wrote to Leica and they said: "too bad for you", not only that they lied to me, telling some crap that i won't repeat... i could expect anything from Leica but this lack of respect for those how buy their cameras.
They have already jumped to a minor league, they are now only more expensive, MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE, nothing else then that.
If you want an advice: IT'S VALUE AND COST DOESN'T MATCH and they don't respect their clients.

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^^ nice blog!! thanks a lot! ^^

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