Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2015/03/10

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Subject: [Leica] M8 RAW--high ISO improvement!
From: pklein at (Peter Klein)
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 2015 00:07:44 -0700

I recently became aware of a way to shoot the M8 at ISO 1250 and even 
2500, without the horrible degradation in image quality that setting the 
camera to those ISOs normally entails.  It seems that there is an 
"Easter Egg" in the M8 that allows you to shoot 20 MB uncompressed RAW 
files.  This was meant for Leica's internal testing, but the secret is 
out.  :-)   A German programmer has written a command-line Windows tool 
that converts these files into DNG format that Lightroom, Capture One, 
etc. can process.
The key sequence for the Service Mode, which enables the uncompressed 
RAW files, is here:

The 20-MB files retain information that is lost in the M8's standard 
compressed files. This information leads to much better gradation, and 
less of the awful noise and blotching found in compressed high-ISO 
files.  Further, we shoot with the camera set at ISO 160 and underexpose 
to a high ISO equivalent. This keeps dynamic range that is normally 
thrown away at the high ISO settings.

A week ago I attended an Armenian birthday party, which gave me the 
chance to put the M8 Raw through its paces in a real-world setting. I 
stuck to comparing the camera's own ISO 640 DNGs to the M8Raw 160 with a 
3-stop push to 1250. Here are two examples of each, screen shot directly 
from Capture One at 100% magnification.

You can see the pictures at normal screen size here:
Pictures through L1009967 through L1009989 are taken at 
160-pushed-to-1250.  Earlier shots are at camera-640, as are L1010029 
through the end.

 From an image quality standpoint, the Raw push to 1250 (marked ISO 160) 
is almost as good as the "native" 640. It's got just slightly less of 
the very finest detail. With the exposure compensation set to -3 stops, 
autoexposure works fine. I would have no hesitation using it. It's so 
much better than the camera's native 1250, which is terrible--I'd only 
use that if there was no other way to get a shot.

The disadvantages are that the files take almost forever to write to the 
SD card. You can only take a couple of shots before the buffer fills up. 
The playback is very dark, so you won't see what you shot on the back of 
the camera. And you need to remember to turn the Power Save to Off, 
because the Service Menu settings go away if the camera goes to sleep or 
is turned off. Even so, pushed 1250 is very much worth using when it 
means the difference between a shutter speed that stops motion 
sufficiently vs. not, or when you need to stop down a bit for DOF.

I'll be giving pushed 2500 and 5000 a try next. These will be a little 
harder, as the exposure compensation only goes to -3, so a 4-stop push 
will require going all manual, including metering. I could also try 
setting the camera to ISO 320 and 640 at -3 exposure compensation, but 
this will probably lose some dynamic range.

Some more explanation and more examples here:

There's life in the old M8 yet!


Replies: Reply from red735i at (Frank Filippone) ([Leica] M8 RAW--high ISO improvement!)
Reply from photo at (Nathan Wajsman) ([Leica] M8 RAW--high ISO improvement!)