Leica M8 vs Canon 5D MkII

Two totally different cameras so very difficult to do any form of comparison. Well maybe, but I just happen to own both of them so I thought that I would just do a couple of test shots and compare them.

Both of these cameras, in my opinion, are amongst the best currently available. I have been shooting with a Canon D60 and a Canon 1DS Mk 1 for a few years now and both have proved to be good work horses and I must admit that on occasion the D60 provides better results than the 1DS!

I had, however, been hankering for something just a little different for a while so mid 2007 I started looking around at a Hasselblad 503CWD and the Leica M8. I’ve always dreamt of owning a Hassy every since I first used one back in the sixties, the images are just wonderful, the one below is of my wife before we were married many, many years ago!


I think that the results speak for themselves. The nice man from Hasselblad actually came to the house to let me try one out for the afternoon and it was an exceptional piece of kit, just as I remembered it. So why didn’t I buy one, well apart from the cost I just wasn’t sure that I could still get on with the waist level finder and the manual focus. The other downside of course is it’s size, not the sort of thing that you put in your pocket. So then I tried the Leica, another camera that I have lusted after over the years, in fact every since I was allowed to use Tom Pictons back in the sixties at Time & Life.

The Leica was also a refreshing blast from the past, lovely rugged construction, a real camera. Of course there was that really small hurdle to get over, the manual focus! After so many years of just pressing a button and hey-presto everything is focused it isn’t easy to go back and try to line up the multiple images in the range finder, especially with my increasing years and my declining eyesight. Nevertheless in October 2007 I bought the M8 with 3 lenses and have since used it regularly. even on occasions when maybe it was not quite the right choice. It is a nice camera to chuck into a Hadley Billingham Pro and take with you almost anywhere, especially on a plane now that there are so many luggage restrictions. The photo below, of my wife Steph, is one of the first I took with the Leica, like the Canon it is a very forgiving camera (except for focus of course, which is solely down to the guy behind the lens!), this was taken at 1/20th at ISO 640.

2007 - October - LABBS Convention - 1000018

The image quality is really quite superb, but then I would expect nothing else from Leica glass.

Now I also have the 5D MkII, ostensibly a replacement for the D60 or the 1DS, unfortunately there isn’t really a market for them so I guess I’m kind of stuck with them. I was originally going to get a Nikon D700 but my investment in Canon glass was just too great, so when the 5D came along it was a bit of a no brainer. At first it was a toss up between Stephs christmas present and the 5D, so the 5D had to wait a few weeks, which meant that all the photos from our trip to Salzburg just before christmas were taken on the M8, and as you can see from the following available light shot, 1/60th ISO 160, that was no bad thing anyway.

Around Salzburg

Since January I have been using the 5D exclusively, it replaced the Leica in the Billingham for our trip to Northern Ireland a couple of weeks ago ( A Weekend With Friends). The bag easily held the camera with a EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM attached, a EF70-200mm f/4L USM and a 580EX. In the front pocket were 3 spare batteries (didn’t bother to take the charger) and obviously lots of memory, about 36 gig I think! Took some 130 photos, a short video and lots of reviewing and the battery didn’t even loose a bar. Used the same battery this last weekend to shoot Tom (our son) doing the Reading Half Marathon and it is now down to 2 bars, it is very impressive.

Anyway, yesterday I thought I would just do a quick comparison between the M8 & the 5D, nothing technical just a shot of a dusty Lindt Russian doll that was once full of fantastic chocolate.The shot was taken in my study around lunch time with the light from the window and my desk lamp which just happened to be on at the time. The following table shows the settings used, the 5D was on Auto ISO so it set the ISO itself and I forgot to check the aperture that I used for the Leica but I believe that it was wide open.

Setting M8 5D
ISO 160 3200
Lens 120mm EF70-200mm
Focal Length 120mm 200mm
Shutter Speed 160 640
Aperture ? F4

In retrospect I should have done both images at the same focal length and at the same ISO, oh well never mind what’s done is done! This really isn’t a ‘lab condition’ comparison, just something for general interest and to see what difference, if any, that another 9MP makes.

The results follow and I will leave you to decide what you think is best, I personally think both shots have their own merits.

First the M8 full frame:


Next the 5D:


The first crop from the M8:


Next the same area from the 5D:


Lastly a crop of just the face from the M8:


The same area from the 5D:


One thing that this does show is that the 5D is very usable at high ISO levels. Maybe at some stage when I have more than just a couple of minutes spare I will do a more controlled comparison, still I’m happy with this for now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: