Leica M8 vs Pentax K-1
The Leica M8 and the Pentax K-1 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2006 and February 2016. The M8 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, while the K-1 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-H (M8) and a full frame (K-1) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 10.4 megapixels, whereas the Pentax provides 36.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M8 and the Pentax K-1? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica M8 and the Pentax K-1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
Both cameras are available in two different colors (black, silver).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax K-1 is notably larger (36 percent) than the Leica M8. Moreover, the K-1 is substantially heavier (71 percent) than the M8. It is noteworthy in this context that the K-1 is splash and dust-proof, while the M8 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Leica M8||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||591 g||..||n||Sep 2006||5,499|
|2.||Pentax K-1||137 mm||110 mm||86 mm||1010 g||760||Y||Feb 2016||1,799|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|4.||Canon 1100D||130 mm||100 mm||78 mm||495 g||700||n||Feb 2011||449|
|5.||Canon 400D||127 mm||84 mm||65 mm||556 g||370||n||Aug 2006||799|
|6.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|7.||Leica M Typ 262||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||Y||Nov 2015||5,195|
|8.||Leica M9||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||585 g||..||n||Sep 2009||7,999|
|9.||Nikon D500||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|10.||Nikon D3000||126 mm||97 mm||64 mm||536 g||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|11.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|12.||Nikon D40X||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|13.||Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|14.||Olympus E-M1 II||134 mm||91 mm||67 mm||574 g||440||Y||Sep 2016||1,999|
|15.||Panasonic L10||135 mm||96 mm||78 mm||556 g||450||n||Aug 2007||599|
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||137 mm||110 mm||86 mm||1010 g||670||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|17.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The K-1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 67 percent) than the M8, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica M8 features an APS-H sensor and the Pentax K-1 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the K-1 is 77 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 36.2MP, the K-1 offers a higher resolution than the M8 (10.4MP), but the K-1 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 6.84μm for the M8). Yet, the K-1 is a much more recent model (by 9 years and 5 months) than the M8, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Pentax K-1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the K-1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica M8 are 19.7 x 13.2 inches or 50 x 33.4 cm for good quality, 15.7 x 10.5 inches or 40 x 26.7 cm for very good quality, and 13.1 x 8.8 inches or 33.3 x 22.3 cm for excellent quality prints.
Unlike the M8, the K-1 has the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
The Leica M8 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 160 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Pentax K-1 are ISO 100 to ISO 204800 (no boost).
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the K-1 offers substantially better image quality than the M8 (overall score 37 points higher). The advantage is based on 4.3 bits higher color depth, 3.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|2.||Pentax K-1||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||25.4||14.6||3280||96|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|6.||Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|7.||Leica M Typ 262||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||none||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Leica M9||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||none||22.5||11.7||884||69|
|14.||Olympus E-M1 II||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|15.||Panasonic L10||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.3||10.8||429||55|
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||..||..||..||..|
|17.||Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The K-1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the M8 does not. The highest resolution format that the K-1 can use is 1080/60i.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The M8 and the K-1 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica M8 and Pentax K-1 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n|
|7.||Leica M Typ 262||optical||n||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||n|
|14.||Olympus E-M1 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||optical||Y||3.2||1037||full-flex||n||1/8000s||4.4||n||Y|
|17.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
One feature that is present on the K-1, but is missing on the M8 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The Pentax K-1 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the M8 and the K-1 write their files to SDXC cards. The K-1 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the M8 only has one slot. The K-1 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the M8 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Leica M8 and Pentax K-1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|7.||Leica M Typ 262||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Olympus E-M1 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.0||Y||-||-|
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|17.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the K-1 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the M8 does not provide wifi capability.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Pentax K-1 (unlike the M8) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the K-1 has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
Both the M8 and the K-1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M8 was replaced by the Leica M9, while the K-1 was followed by the Pentax K-1 II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Pentax websites.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M8 or the Pentax K-1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Leica M8:
- More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 137x110mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 419g or 41 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2006).
Arguments in favor of the Pentax K-1:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 10.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 87%.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (37 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (4.3 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.3 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.3 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60i video.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.4 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (67 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 9 years and 5 months of technical progress since the M8 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the K-1 is the clear winner of the contest (22 : 4 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M8 or the K-1. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Leica M8||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2006||5,499|
|2.||Pentax K-1||5/5||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||1,799|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||4.5/5||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|4.||Canon 1100D||..||80/100||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||449|
|5.||Canon 400D||..||+ +||+ +||o||4/5||Aug 2006||799|
|6.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|7.||Leica M Typ 262||..||..||..||..||..||Nov 2015||5,195|
|8.||Leica M9||..||..||..||4.5/5||..||Sep 2009||7,999|
|9.||Nikon D500||5/5||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|10.||Nikon D3000||..||+||72/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|11.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|12.||Nikon D40X||..||79/100||+ +||4/5||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|13.||Nikon D80||..||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|14.||Olympus E-M1 II||5/5||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||1,999|
|15.||Panasonic L10||..||85/100||+||3.5/5||4/5||Aug 2007||599|
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||..||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|17.||Sony A99 II||..||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
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Specifications: Leica M8 vs Pentax K-1
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Leica M8||Pentax K-1|
|Camera Type||Rangefinder camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Leica M mount lenses||Pentax K mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2006||February 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 5,499||USD 1,799|
|Sensor Specs||Leica M8||Pentax K-1|
|Sensor Format||APS-H Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||27.0 x 18.0 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||486 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||32.4 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||10.4 Megapixels||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3936 x 2630 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.84 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.13 MP/cm2||4.20 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||160 - 2,500 ISO||100 - 204,800 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||59||96|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.1||25.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.3||14.6|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||663||3280|
|Screen Specs||Leica M8||Pentax K-1|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fully flexible screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica M8||Pentax K-1|
|Focus System||Manual Focus||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||2 shutter flaps/s||4.4 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||no shake reduction||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica M8||Pentax K-1|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Leica M8||Pentax K-1|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
139 x 80 x 37 mm
(5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
137 x 110 x 86 mm
(5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 in)
|Camera Weight||591 g (20.8 oz)||1010 g (35.6 oz)|
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