Like other M-series cameras, the front of the M8 is flat. A burnished metal button on the left of the lens mount releases the lens. A black lever to the right of the lens sits just above the camera's surface. Moving the lever left or right shifts the frame lines in the viewfinder, to show the angle of view for lenses from 24 to 90mm. The front and back of the M8 are covered with a synthetic material with a leather-grain texture.
The top quarter or so of the M8 is a cap milled from a piece of brass that is plated with either a dull chrome or black. Three rectangular windows in the cap form the viewfinder image. From the left, they are the rangefinder window, the frame-line illuminator window and finally the main viewfinder. A red circle with the Leica logo is centered on the front of the cap, and "M8" is engraved at far right. A small, round window along the upper edge of the cap is a secondary sensor for the light meter.
The viewfinder window is at the far left of the back. It's small, compared to high-end DSLRs, but it's fully visible for glasses-wearers. A column of buttons runs down along the side of the 2.5-inch LCD, starting just below the viewfinder. They are labeled Play, Delete, Protect, Info and Set. To the right of the LCD, near the top corner, is the Menu button. The 4-way controller, which is surrounded by a rotating dial, is low on the back, next to the LCD. The M8 is labeled "Leica Camera Made in Germany" along the bottom edge of the cap.
A circular, monochrome LCD shows through a window at the far left of the top, showing the image counter and battery status. The hot shoe, which accepts dedicated flashes, is slightly off-center above the lens mount. The shutter speed dial is to the right of that. It's relatively small and flat, with marked speeds from 1/8000 to 4 seconds, plus B for time exposures and A for automatic shutter speed. The shutter release is a small metallic button that's threaded for a mechanical cable release. The button sits in a concave dish about fingertip size. The power switch sticks out from under the dish. It can be set to off, single shot, or continuous shooting.
The sides of M-series cameras are rounded from side to side, and they are plain. The left side has a small strap lug just below where the cap starts, a resilient cover over the USB port, and a small tab that catches the left end of the bottom cover. A rectangle of plastic is set just above the strap lug, apparently to protect the finish on the cap.
The right side of the Leica M8 features nothing but the strap lug and the protective plastic above it.
The bottom of the M8 comes completely off, just the same way previous M-series cameras work to load film. The same metal, pivoting latch folds out from the right end, and turns. The bottom tilts off until it is freed from a small catch on the left end. Unlike old Leicas, the M8's tripod socket is centered on the lens axis, making the camera easier to balance on tripods. Removing the bottom reveals the Li-ion battery, and the SD card slot.
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