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Leica M8..serious design flaw?

Discussion in 'Leica Camera Chat' started by SteveEM, Nov 9, 2006.

  1. SteveEM

    SteveEM Well-Known Member

    Hi folks,

    I am a Leica R user (amongst others), so take an interest in most Leica news, if you have bought or intend to buy the M8 there is serious discussion at the moment re possible bad design flaws, I suggest you read this:


    I also suggest you take a good read of the link to a thread in the Leica users forum.

    cheers Steve. (do not shoot the messenger please)
  2. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Er......... I couldn't see anything remotely resembling a serious discussion there........ just a bunch of ego's waving themselves in public as usual.... :D
  3. SteveEM

    SteveEM Well-Known Member

    Hiya Nigel,

    The serious discussion is on the Leica users forum, there is a link to it on about the 3rd or 4th post on the photonet thread. On the Leica users forum thread there is an official reply from a Leica manager.

    cheers Steve.
  4. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Ah I see.... I'd lost the will to live by that point......... :D
  5. SteveEM

    SteveEM Well-Known Member

    Hiya Nigel,

    I can see you might, but anyone who is coughing up three grand, or thinking about it, for an M8 may want to know why, under certain conditions their precious new camera needs a filter in order to work properly...and apparently needs the coded lenses too.

    It seems that enough M8 purchasers are worried enough that about 52% of them are either returning the M8 or cancelling their orders..at the very least it seems a PR disaster for Leica.

    cheers Steve.
  6. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    I presume the serious design flaw is referring principally to the IR filter situation?....

    Unless the internal IR filter is weaker than that fitted to my D30 I do wonder how much of a real world problem it is. Now granted my 20D has far better IR screening than the D30 (the filter is dark compared to the D30's light pink and doesn't really take proper IR pix with R72 type filters) and has far less tendency to blow highlights but I've always ascribed this to it's having a later generation sensor and better processing rather than the filter. Am I wrong in this assumption?.....

    While having to have an additional external filter might be a bit of a pest if you want maximum IR screening I'm sure some 'togs will be glad of the ability to take IR pictures with R72 type filters. I guess you can't be all things to all people....
  7. SteveEM

    SteveEM Well-Known Member

    Hi Nigel,

    I am no digital expert, but I am an intelligent person and reading the thread on the Leica users forum is very illuminating. Apparently the IR issue is one of three issues which have come to light after the first batch of M8's hit the street. Many users, which include several very well regarded pro's including Guy Mancuso are very concerned about these issues.

    Apparently many M8 buyers are cancelling their orders, so at the very least this seems a PR disaster for Leica at a crucial time for their future. I would guess their new American CEO is doing lot's of head scratching..

    cheers Steve.
  8. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Leica users tend to be perfectionists or at least pretend they are. If the camera is giving as magenta cast to the blacks and shadows as they say then yes this is a flaw. Mind you what they see as a cast and I might see could well be different. That said my far more IR sensitive D30 has never given me a magenta cast in the shadows. I actually wonder whether it's really a problem with the IR screening or whether it's more an issue with white balance and processing that needs a firmware tweak...

    Doesn't bother me anyway....... I don't have the requisite readies to spare.........
  9. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Believe it, the problem is definitely real. The effect is to make certain blacks go a purple colour. If you bought the BJP of 20th September, there is a spread of pictures taken with the pre-production M8 in it. Back then I didn't notice a problem (or put anything down to pre-prod firmware), but re-visiting the magazine now (or they can be seen in the new M-system brochure) the caste can be seen clearly.

    It is possible to reduce the caste in Photoshop using the Curves command, for example, but doing so can introduce a green caste. The IR filter on the chip will need to be strengthened I reckon.
  10. Mark_Norton

    Mark_Norton Well-Known Member

    There are 4 problems with the camera, my camera, which show me that it has been released too early. I'm not expert in optics as Huw is but I am in electronics and software and the problems suggest these are not all in the "we'll fix it in firmware" variety.

    I start, by the way, from the position that the JPEGs should be excellent with the promise of RAW development producing still higher quality. It's not acceptable to have to routinely fiddle with them in Photoshop. If that is required, why bother with in-camera processing at all?

    The problems are:

    As Tim has described, the camera is too sensitive to infra red light caused by inadequate filtering in front of the sensor. This was done to reduce colour fringing but many black objects have a distinct deep magenta colour; there are some laughable pictures of people in matching magenta evening dress. The problem is, examples with and without a lens mounted IR cut filter show that the overall colour rendition is being affected too, not just blacks. Leica's response so far has been to suggest using an IR cut filter which is expensive and inconvenient and has all the problems we've discussed here of using filters in the first place. As a short term fix, maybe, but not acceptable long-term.

    Then there's the banding issue where it seems bright, over-exposed highlights are leaking along the rows of pixels causing banding. The banding stops abruptly half way along the sensor which is divided into two and the left/right sections read out separately. This may be an issue with the signal timing used to clock out the data from the sensor and that might be fixable in firmware since the signal timing chip is itself programmable.

    The third problem is where a bright object on one side of the sensor creates a dark green ghost mirror-image on the opposite side. This, to my mind, looks to be some sort of cross talk effect between the two left/right sections of the sensor or the associated circuitry. These two faults may be happening all the time, you just can't see them in normal lighting conditions.

    Finally, the white balance shooting under incandescent light is poor, to put it mildly. I took 4 pictures, auto, incandescent, 3000K, manual (capture a white card) and I got 3 different results, none of them correct. I repeated the exercise on a Nikon D2x and I got 4 near identical results, essentially correct.

    I am hugely supportive of Leica as a company and am certainly prepared to wait for them to work these problems through but I am looking for engineering solutions, not marketing spin about how, all of a sudden, filters are Good News. On a 21mm Elmarit? I don't think so.

    To my mind, the worst case scenario (other than Leica going out of business, which would truely be a disaster) is that Leica have to pull the camera for 6 months to sort it out and then rework the cameras already out there which might well involve sensor replacement.
  11. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    It should be said that this oversensitvity to IR is not confined to the M8 (though that camera does perhaps exhibit it more than most. See this page, which shows the problem on three cameras, plus the D2X as a "control" (though I reckon I can see a very slight caste even with that, look at the jacket second from right in particular).

    You don't get these problems wih film. Repent, ye fools! :D :D
  12. Mark_Norton

    Mark_Norton Well-Known Member

    The D1 and R-D1 are aons old in sensor terms... The D2x looks pretty clean to my (biased) eyes; that camera sets the benchmark for me.

    I am surprised that Leica, with all their coating expertise, were not able to come up with a whizzy IR filter coating themselves. Does make you wonder whether the camera people talk to the lens people. Mind you, I used to work for IBM and the hardware guys never thought to talk to the software guys. They were, after all, on opposite sides of the corridor.
  13. scm

    scm Well-Known Member

    Come on, Mark, the marketing guys from one division wouldn't speak to the marketing guys from another division - they were more competitive in-house than with their "real" marketing rivals! Why do you think their PC division was so unsuccessful?
  14. Mark_Norton

    Mark_Norton Well-Known Member

    I was talking about the guys working on the development of the same (non PC) product...
  15. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Having looked at the examples provided for the RD-1 etc then if the M8 is as bad or worse I would have to say Leica have not done themselves any favours. Granted they are relative latecomers to the digital party but they have had the DMR out for a while and after a loooong gestation period. Does that have the same problem and if it not it begs the question why have they apparently gone backwards with the M8?

    Like I say I've not seen the same effect on the D30 but then possibly I've not photographed anything black under the right sort of conditions. When I have a moment perhaps I ought to have a go....
  16. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Not just anything black, it seemingly has to be a synthetic material, or something like black velvet. So things like leather, paint etc won't do.
  17. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Hmmm, thats interesting.

    There are a few black pigments and dyes available which have relatively high IR reflectance properties (compared to carbon black) and are suitable for synthetic materials like modern fabrics. It's possible the presence of these in the object being photographed are exacerbating the problem. The final IR picture in the example sequence clearly showed that the clothing that gave the worst casts also reflected the most IR......
  18. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Leica Respond

    Stefan Daniel of Leica Camera has posted the below at the Leica Forum this morning.

    Dear Friends of Leica,
    Customer feedback to us following the start of shipment of the LEICA M8 points to a performance under certain conditions that does not meet the expectations in the Leica brand. Our technical and engineering teams have isolated the source of these concerns und have identified definitive solutions. Over the next two weeks we will communicate a plan to further assure you of your investment in the LEICA M8.
    We hope for your understanding and support. Please accept that I will not be able to answer all messages in the forum personally.

    Kind regards
    Leica Camera AG

    Stefan Daniel
    Product Management
  19. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Leica Users Respond

    This ad has just appeared on the LUG:

    "M8 wanted
    Now is your chance to get rid that #%$$^ piece of junk with magenta color, banding, and WB balance problems. Chrome or black does not matter. Willing to offer up to $219 or trade for a Rollei SE." ;)

    I'm afraid the whole episode underlines to me the importance of not being an early adopter. I would love an M8 when they've ironed out the problems, even though I can't afford one - it will be a superb camera.
  20. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    That does sound worrying. when Leica originally announced their intention to make a digital 'M' I thought the big and expensive problem to sort would be the corner sensitivity, but I'll give them their due - they seem to have managed that well enough. I didn't however expect them to have problems in areas that we've come to regard as sorted.

    As you say, some of those sound like things that aren't going to be fixed in firmware. At least the WB issue is one that the user can 'fix', albeit with the requirement of post-processing. I agree the D2X is particularly good at WB, so it's a high standard to judge by. My D2H isn't nearly so good, and ditto for the D100. But you really would expect a manual WB setting using a white card to work. Hopefully that is something that firmware can sort.

    The IR problem is one I have mixed feelings about - when I bought my D100 several years ago I soon picked up on some internet tests and forum complaints which showed it to have an issue with 'black' clothing, and other things. But in the years to follow I never once had a result from the camera that I could look at and say, oh yes - that's been affected by IR sensitivity. If there were any shots where the effect was present, I just didn't notice them. But then I suppose I don't photograph synthetic fabrics very often, so other people's experience might have been different.

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