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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Leica M8 in Namibia

by Ken Tanaka

Dan Suskin, an Atlanta-area neonatologist, recently took his two Leica M8s to one of the harshest places on earth: the Namibian desert. Not only did the cameras survive the journey but he returned with some truly stunning images from them. I am not generally a rock-and-tree photo enthusiast, particularly from places where both are scarce. But these are really uncommonly good images from a place that's becoming an increasingly common photo site.

Dan has a Flickr slide show, and you can also read the related Leica Forum thread.

Posted by: KEN TANAKA


Blogger Brambor said...

Excellent corner to corner performance. I'm sure it's going to please Leica enthusiasts. And some of the pics aren't bad either.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Very nice.

I'll be picking one of those up as soon as the price comes down to $800


9:59 AM  
Blogger Peter said...


10:42 AM  
Blogger cb said...

Minolta Hi-matic into space, Hasselblad to the moon and Nikon aboard the international space station. Well, leica a little bit behind- as always.

3:34 PM  
Blogger PJ Proudhon said...

So... a doctor buys himself 2 Leicas, a tour to Namibia, comes back with pictures, and...?!
He would come back with the same pictures shot with a Pentax K1000, would you post the same dithyrambic flattery?
Allow me to doubt.

7:04 PM  
Blogger David said...

Boy, talking about damning with faint praise ("And some of the pics aren't bad either.") Each to his own, but in my opinion they are quite extraordinary. While it speaks well of the Leica, it speaks more of the talent of the photographer. Very nice.

8:49 PM  
Blogger About Loose Lens said...

Beautiful pictures indeed.

10:01 PM  
Blogger expiring_frog said...

I must confess I don't find most of the pictures that astonishing either. The place looks fascinating, and any photographer would kick himself if he didn't get shots at least as good there.

And yes, I agree with PJ on the equipment issue.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Ernest Theisen said...

Those are very,very beautiful pictures.Thats because the guy is an excellent photographer with a wonderful eye. But whats with the Leica talk. Does anybody here think that any Leica as far back as you can go in Leica history, in the hands of a competent photorapher wouldn't produce excellent exposures? Hey pj I don't know what dithyrambic flaattery is but I agree anyway. Take the same shot by the same guy with my Minolta SRT 101 and lets see side by side.

1:40 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Don't you guys think that the point of the pictures was more a field report on how the M8 held up under tough conditions? After all, the M2-through-M7 has a reputation for holding up under hard use in unfriendly environments. Why isn't it valid to provide some evidence that the M8 upholds that tradition?


4:59 AM  
Blogger Tim Hurst said...

To be honest, I'd expect a point and shoot to hold up to a sightseeing trip around Namibia let alone a Leica. You'd get a more challenging environment by standing in your garden in a light rain shower. I spent 2 months treking in Sinai with a 10D and hot and dry is no big deal.

Nice pics though!

5:23 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I think that there's always going to be a fair amount of Leica bashing. Indeed most of it seems to come from those who've never used one for any length of time. It has always been a critique of the marque that only doctors and dentists could afford them. How many well heeled professional own top of the line equipment from other brands? Quite a few. In fact my local pro dealer says he sells more pro-euipment to non-pros.

I think that in evolutionary terms that the M8 is good for digital photography. Leica have tried to solve some difficult problems and have to a reasonable extent on their first attempt had some success. I hope that it will stimulate other manufactures to take some risks with camera design as otherwise all we're going to end up with is a generic design.

Its also good to see that the camera is able to survive in hostile environments in true Leica tradition.

My only regret is that it is out of my price league.

5:45 AM  
Blogger Brambor said...

Boy, talking about damning with faint praise ("And some of the pics aren't bad either.") Each to his own, but in my opinion they are quite extraordinary. While it speaks well of the Leica, it speaks more of the talent of the photographer. Very nice.

Let me rephrase it then: The pictures are technically flawless and I like the composition and content in some of them.

I hope he has the corrective filter on his Leica, although I see a suspicious absence of black color.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Since the subject was raised, why hasn't anyone put in a good word about the *video* camera this person used (results posted to youtube)? The camcorder obviously "survived" (gag) equally as well as the Leica.

If the conditions were as difficult as some of the Leica acolytes are leading us to believe, then the video camera must be pretty amazing, too.

Sorry, I don't see the fuss.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Allen George said...

According to Michael Reichmann over at Luminous Landscape, the M8s certainly didn't fare well in Antarctica. In fact, from his Antarctica 2007 - What Worked? What Didn't, the other cameras (Nikon, Canon, Pentax and even beasts like Hasselblad and Mamiya) held up much better. And M.R. is an acknowledged Leicaphile...

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice images.
Talking about M8 relability. Michael Reichmann returned from a trip to Antartica. There were 4 photographers using M8's, 2 of the 4 cameras failed before they got to Antartica. Not exactly a testimonial for a $5 K body!

11:58 AM  
Blogger Electro said...

The photos are certainly beautiful. But the sharpening - whether the fault of Flickr or the photographer I have no idea - is brutally harsh to the point where I just don't enjoy looking at them.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Michael Glynn said...

Well, he DID put the cameras in ziploc bags when he wasn't shooting, he never changed lenses, yet he still reports that some dirt got inside the bodies.

So I vote with the skeptics. I own Leicas too, but an Oly E-1 has better sealing and costs a few grand less.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

This has produced an interesting mixture of reactions, perhaps predicable.

For the record:
- I brought Dan's recent Namibia work to Mike's attention primarily because, irrespective of the camera he used, it's just plain good photography that stands on its own. Many of these images are every bit as surrealistic as any painting produced by the 1920's French surrealists. Dan's been visiting Namibia for 25 years and his scene savvy is certainly in evidence.

- The fact that Dan used the new Leica M8 to get these images was, to me, particularly interesting. I've enjoyed some rangefinder photography for several years (yes, I have an M8...but, no, I'm not a "doctor or dentist") and was glad to see the M8 do well in such a dusty, sandy environment. (I agree that the video camera also may deserve recognition.) But this work would be noteworthy from any camera. In my book, all that really counts is the image.

- I do not know Dan Suskin and have had no direct corrrespondence with him.

I was happpy to see that LFI, the Leica photography magazine, has asked Dan to write an article and provide some images on his Namibia excursion for an upcoming issue.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello all,

I appreciate all your comments about my pictures, although I don't necessarily agreee with them all (grin).

Ken - thanks for your kind words and for bringing the images to this site.

Mike is exactly right - the purpose of my posting on flickr was simply to report on how the camera did under difficult conditions. It was not to say or imply that it is better than something else, or that these images could not be taken with something else. Of course they can - I have 26 years worth of images from the Namib taken with a variety of cameras and formats. It's never the tool, or the toolmaker - it's always the tool user.

Many people have photographed the Namib and produced superb pictures. I do not say or imply mine are better or equal to others. They're just mine, just the way I see the world. Nothing more and nothing less.

Again, thanks for all your comments.


8:21 PM  

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