R8 - masterpiece or mistake?
Opinions are deeply divided on this. One side hates the R8 with a passion and points to poor sales figures and large rebates to justify their claims. Others love the R8 and consider it the best manual film advance SLR ever made. The case for & against can be summarised thus:
Masterpiece: Very bright long-eye-relief viewfinder; quiet shutter; highly damped, vibration free mirror/shutter movement; mirror pre-release lock up with only 1 cable; smart shutter priority; very accurate matrix metering; ergonomic design; solid, quality build; 1/250th X sync; easy-to-use +/- EV over-ride; auto film loading; DX contacts; new motor drive kicks butt; distinctive "look".
Mistake: Dead without batteries; requires CR2 rather than AA batteries; no built-in motor; heavy motor which relies again on custom, non-AA batteries; accessory winder is too s-l-o-w; body too bulky for small hands; RHS strap lug sticks between your fingers, chafing them; sticky DOF lever can lead to aperture linkage stopdown failure; early models scratch film; the ISO/frame counter LCD only displays when the meter is on; early models have flaky electronic contacts and are very susceptible to static electricity; an interior micro-switch is faulty in some models, resulting in camera-lock when using the motor-drive; too conspicuous; poor sales which need to be propped up with constant rebates.
WRT sales, according to an online chat held by Leica at the end of March 2001 and as reported by Tom Schofield <tdschofield@ email.msn.com>, the R8 is currently doing quite well and indeed is outselling the R6.2 by a factor of 3:1! In Tom's words:
R8 outsells R6.2 by 3:1 margin, which is consistent with what dealers around her have told me -- most see the R6.2 as a special order item. The usual comments about being committed to the R system, that they think the R8 is great (and I concur!) and that the R6.2 will be made as long as there is sufficient demand. They pointed out that "lite" models -- RE and R4s never sold well, and I can see why -- you can usually find a demo or other deal on the full-fledged model, so why buy a stripped down one, unless it was very substantially cheaper or smaller.
You can read the confirmation of this in the Leica Yearly sales report for 2001, click here and scroll down the page to the "Sales by product line" heading.
… mind you, this is big turn-around from what Leica management said at the end of 1999 when they met with a small group of LUG members. Back then they said that the R6.2 was out-selling the R8, despite no money being spent on marketting the 6.2. See below for a summary.
For a transcript of the Leica chat, see the following URL:
Another tidbit for R8 lovers - in April 2001 Leica announced that R8 manufacture will be moved from Solmns Germany to their plant at Vila Nova de Famalicão in Northern Portugal. Wetzlar Snobs are no doubt going to have a lot of trouble adjusting to this …
See the last page (7) of the following Leica corporate investor brochure (Adobe Acrobat PDF format document):
Also, another amusing item from the wild-whacky-web: check out the Seagull D8 "inspired" camera, the DF-5000:
(scroll down the page to view the DF-5000)