The first of Leica's M series, the M3, arrived to a sceptical public in 1954 and soon won the photographic world over with its lethal combo of awesome lenses, near-silent operation and bomb-proof build.

If you're not familiar with the concept of a rangefinder camera, it's how things used to be done – and it seems massively over-complicated.

Finding your range

The optical viewfinder doesn't show a view directed from the lens like on an SLR, but an approximate view of what'll be captured. Inside the finder is a secondary image, just a small portion in the centre – as you focus the lens, this smaller image with converge with the main image until the shot's in focus.

As you may have guessed, this means the M8 is manual focus only, but thankfully, unlike the M3, it does have an automatic aperture-priority mode on the shutter-speed dial. Shutter priority isn't an option, as aperture selection is also manual.

In all these aspects, as in the amazing, solid build quality, the M8 is much like the 35mm-film-based M7. Where it differs wildly is that it has a 10MP sensor and a 2.5in LCD.

RAW talent

Image quality is, as you might hope from a camera costing as much as a small island, simply extraordinary. Best results by far come from the RAW capture mode, as the JPG mode is a little washed out and far less punchy – just shoot in RAW and convert on your computer.

We tested using a 35mm f1.4 lens, which also produced sublime bokeh – that's photographic geek speak for the smooth out-of-focus areas of a pic, and has long been the trademark of Leica lenses. The range available covers from 21mm to 90mm, so nothing that'll get in too close.

The menus are all very simple to navigate, all the controls are sensibly placed and – this is the nicest touch for experienced Leica users – the base-plate, which was removable on old Leicas to load the film roll, is removable on the M8 to allow access to the battery and memory card slot.

The price isn’t right

The rangefinder focusing method makes you think more about the shots you want to take, rather than allowing you to take spontaneous shots, but it makes photography so much more fun.

Where the M8 really falls down is in the price. Thousands of pounds was just about justifiable on the film models, which will last for decades of use, but there's a good chance this digital model will be obsolete in a few years. The lenses are worth the investment, but the body needs to be cheaper.

Stuff says... 

Leica M8 review

Amazing images and great fun, but this quirky cam is way too pricey for most