[iHEART] Leica DMR (Digital Module R)


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Leica DMR (Digital ModuleR) by Bob Atkins; created 2005

Ever since the first DSLRs came out people have been asking for a digital back
for their film cameras. Canon, Nikon, Minolta and Pentax haven’t answered, but
finally Leica has. For several years now Leica have been talking about the
upcoming digital back for their R8/R9 series cameras (the DMR or Digital Module
R). Well, so much for talk, it’s finally hitting the streets. A little late, but
better late than never!

The DMR has a 10MP CCD sensor (made by Kodak) with a 1.37x focal length
multiplier (i.e. it’s not full frame, but has a 26.4 x 17.6mm area, slightly
smaller than the 1.3x sensor size of the EOS 1D MkII series). ISO equivalent
sensitivity is 100 to 800 in full stop steps plus a “push” setting which is
equivalent to around ISO 1600, frame rate is 2 frames/sec and it has a 10 frame
buffer. Unusually, the sensor has no anti-aliasing filter, though previous Kodak
DSLRs also didn’t use one. This theoretically improves image sharpness, but often
(at least in the case of the Kodak DSLRs) at the cost of some aliasing (false
color patterns) in the final images. Images are stored on an SD (Secure Digital)
flash memory card.

The cost is $5995 in the US.

dmr_back.jpg (14972 bytes)You asked for it (an interchangeable
digital back for a film camera), but is it what you wanted? Well, for owners of
Leica R8/R9 SLRs and a bag full of lenses, it probably is. Technologically it’s
not quite leading edge, but then it was designed several years ago. I don’t think
it’s something that’s going to encourage many (any?) people to actually go out
and buy an R8/R9 plus lenses in order to use it though. Even if you’re a die-hard
Leica R lens lover, you can get a Canon 5D for $3300 (saving $2650) or a
Canon 1D MkII N for $4000 (saving $1995), buy a Leica R to EOS adapter and you’re
all set. Plus you get autofocus (with Canon lenses), a faster frame rate, a
larger buffer and better battery life thrown in. The usual argument for a digital
SLR back was that it could be upgraded when a better sensor came out. This is
true, but if it costs more than an entire new integrated digital SLR, that
advantage seems to evaporate very quickly.

Field reports so far suggest performance is good, though overall image quality
doesn’t seem to be significantly better then a $800 8MP Canon EOS
Digital Rebel XT using the same lens. It may be a little better, but performance
probably lies somewhere between the $800 Digital Rebel XT and the $3300 full
frame EOS 5. I’m sure some will debate that and since I haven’t personally shot
with a DMR, I’ll defer to their better judgement…

So overall I think the DMR gets a “B” grade. It’s something owners of existing
R8/R9 systems can use to “go digital”, at a (high) price, but it’s not really a
viable alternative to integrated DSLRs from Nikon and Canon for anyone who
doesn’t already own a Leica R system. I guess it was never intended to be, so it
does serve its design purpose. Now where’s that Leica M digital

Leica DMR Specifications

Type: Interchangeable digital module, fully
compatible with LEICA R8 and R9, can be exchanged by the photographer
Lenses All Leica R-lenses as well as those earlier
LEICAFLEX/SL/SL2-lenses that have been modified by adding the R-cam can be used.
Image Sensor 3872 x 2576 Pixels (10 MP) CCD-Chip, active
sensor area 26.4 x 17.6 mm
Focal Length Multiplier 1.37x
Sensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 800 (in full stops) plus “push”
(ISO 1600)
Max frame rate 2 fps
Buffer Size 9 images
Maxium exposure time 16 seconds
Color Space sRGB, AdobeRGB
Color Display LCD 1.8″, 130338 pixels
Storage media: SD-card
Data-formats RAW/DNG (21MB), TIFF (29/58MB), 2
JPEG-compression rates
B&W Display Frame counter, ISO, exposure compensation,
battery status, self timer, compression rate, resolution, moiré on/off,
white balance.
Menu sharpness, color saturation, contrast, frame
number, contrast of color display, brightness of color display, duration of auto
review, histogram on/off, power save options, card formatting, warning signals,
audio histogram on/off, date, time, user-profils, firmware update, reset.
Interface IEEE 1394 Firewire
Power supply Proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable battery
pack. (Good for around 150 shots?)
Color monitor Image control and menu-controlled settings.
Shutter cocking By motor integrated in power unit.
Size: Comparable to LEICA R8/R9 with Motor-Drive (W x
H x D) 158 x 140 x 89 mm.
Weight with Power Unit and Battery: 725 g or complete
with R9: 1395 g
Price (est street) $5995

Where to buy the Leica DMR

Purchasing through the following links helps to support photo.net.
In our experience Amazon.com offers great service, is trustworthy and has a
generous 30 day return policy. They also have excellent partners that offer
competitive prices.

Original text is (©) Copyright 2005
Robert M. Atkins
All Rights Reserved

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4 Responses to “[iHEART] Leica DMR (Digital Module R)”

  1. Bob Atkins give this equipment a ‘grade’ without ever using it. Says more about the quality of his review than about the equipment.

  2. Bob Atkins, the original author of this DMR “review”, has never used the camera. His performance “grade” and expectation of image quality is based entirely on reading spec sheets, not on pictures made with the camera. User reports tell a very different story.

  3. A roommate encoraged me to look at this site, brill post, fanstatic read… keep up the good work!

  4. 4 rif

    nice post

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