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Leica posts sample image

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Fish Fight © Copyright 2004 Lloyd L Chambers

Just to be clear—that’s my shot below, not Leica’s. Taken February 2004 in Homer, Alaska using a Nikon D2H—and it’s a wild eagle, not captive (maybe not certified organic though). My D2H also suffered from excessive infrared sensitivity, though none is apparent here. I don’t know whether the D2Hs has the same issue, and I no longer own a D2H.

Stalking Eagle © Copyright 2004 Lloyd L Chambers

As discussed previously (November 8), and also in Infrared Contamination: Good Color Gone Bad, the Leica M8 has an infrared sensitivity problem which causes magenta or purple discoloration, subtle on some subjects, and pronounced on others. I am very skeptical that it is as rare as claimed. Instead of objective evaluation, I suspect a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

Suggested “solutions” recommend a color profile or adjustment to eliminate a red/magenta color cast—good for some parts of the image, bad for others, since infrared is reflected just as unequally as red or green or blue and so wholesale adjustment of the image is non-optimal. Desaturation is yet another band-aid solution. Any of these might improve an affected image and so they are worthwhile if your image is afflicted, but they are not fixes, as I learned first-hand with the Nikon D2H.

The Leica M8 sample image (see “Performance Proofs”) [thanks to a reader for pointing this out] is likely the European eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla, not Haliaeetus Leucocephalus, the North American Bald Eagle. The yellow beak and eyes of Haliaeetus Leucocephalus appear with sexual maturity, so identification is complicated by that.

Juvenile Haliaeetus Leucocephalus © Copyright 2004 Lloyd L Chambers

I downloaded Leica’s sample DNG file of the eagle head and opened it in Adobe Photoshop CS2 Camera Raw, Tint=0. I tried a few different color temperatures, and no matter what, the dark background is actually a very dark red—about 10 points more than green or blue. The whole image is too red also. I tried removing 3 points of red in Photoshop, and it became more natural looking, though still not quite right. Is this the infrared sensitivity problem manifesting itself as excessive red? Without knowing the lighting, it’s hard to say for sure, but it seems unlikely that Leica would have used a red background, or a red eagle.

I also downloaded the JPEG file “M8 Performance Proof - White-tailed eagle_en.jpg”. It is tagged with the Adobe RGB color space, though it looks more natural if sRGB is assigned to it instead (usually the wrong thing to do). The reddish cast is strong, and the color is also over-saturated. Not all all a good rendering.

I do still envision buying an M8 once Leica sorts out this challenge. In fact, I have a very nice 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH sitting on my desk right now, purchased in advance for the M8.

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