Leica has released firmware 1.201 for the M8 Digital Camera on their website. The new firmware addresses several issues not the least of which is Automatic White Balance (AWB).
White Balance (for the uninitiated) is a measurement of the color temperature of the light being used to illuminate a scene being photographed. Color temperature is measured on the Kelvin scale (the one with Absolute Zero). Varying light sources have different color temperatures and the lower temperatures are in the red part of the spectrum (oddly referred to as warm light) and the higher temperatures are more in the blue part of the spectrum (again, counter intuitively referred to as cool light). A sensor in the digital camera takes a reading at the time of exposure and makes a guess as to what the correct white balance is. Sometimes it makes a good guess and sometimes it doesn’t.
The film equivalent to this was film type. If you were going to shoot outdoors, you selected daylight balanced film. If you were going to shoot in a studio (with studio lighting), you selected tungsten balanced film.
One of the Leica M8’s more known quirks was a white balance sensor that waffled more than John Kerry. Shots taken in the same lighting condition would have wildly varying white balance settings. Most photographers got around this by shoot in RAW mode (the native format of the camera sensor). With firmware 1.201, Leica has made some real strides to correct this glaring problem.
The shot above was taken in fluorescent light, a very cool light that often gives M8’s fits. The shot was stored in RAW mode and processed in Adobe Lightroom 1.3.1. No adjustments were made to white balance. The color (to my eye on my calibrated monitor) seems spot on.
Another shot taken in daylight shows similar results. You can view that photo here. For Leica M8 owners, this firmware is a must-have item for your camera. It won’t help you take better pictures, but you’ll have to massage them much less to get them to look really good.
The firmware can be downloaded from Leica’s website.