[LRFlex] DMR: Hands on

  • From: Doug Herr <telyt@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <leica@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <leicareflex@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 19:33:37 -0800

Adam Bridge and I visited Reed's Cameras in Walnut Creek, California today
where west coast Leica rep Tom Brichta brought an R9 with Digital-Module-R
for demonstration.  The DMR was demonstrated by a Leica employee who had
flown in from Germany that morning.

My impressions: the handling was great, just like an R8 or R9 with a motor
drive.  The digital back protrudes farther back than the motor drive does
but it doesn't interfere with my nose - and I'm left-eyed.  The controls
were easy to manage and with a minute or two of instruction it was all
intuitive.  Size and weight are also about like the R8/R9 + motor drive.

The Leica employee said the firmware is still under development so picture
quality isn't as good as it will be, so he wouldn't print any of the files.

Other things he said:

About 1200 have been ordered.  Leica expects to be back-ordered through
March next year.  Until all orders have been filled the DMR units will be
allocated to dealers based on their paid (or substantially paid) orders.  No
dealers will have any on the shelves until all the backorders have been
The hardware is in production.  The DMR will be released once the firmware
work is complete, still expected to be December.  Firmware can be updated by
the user.  The updated programming is downloaded to the SD card, then the
card is put into the DMR.  The DMR will recognize the updated  instructions
and ask the user if he wants to install the update.
SD cards from several makers will be available in sizes up to 2 gigs by
about May next year.
He's not certain if the entire image capture from sensor to output is
He recommends using RAW file format for maximum image quality.  The RAW
files are in Imacon format so Photoshop already can handle them well.  RAW
files are ~21MB which expands to 60 MB TIFF files.  TIFF files may be
written in LeicaRGB or sRGB color space.  Software included with the camera
will be for Mac or Windoze.
The moire filter is in software, not hardware.  The idea behind this is to
maximize image quality in most situations, and use the software moire filter
only when nessesary, such as with fabrics or other fine patterns like
distant picket fences.  Other camera makers use a hardware moire filter
which softens the image.

In use, Adam tried ISO 800 with a 1-stop push to check for shadow noise.
IIRC the noise was mostly in the blue channel.  The noise in the blue
channel probably will be one of the things that will improve in the release
firmware.  As it is, the white balance was off (a firmware issue).  Several
white balance settings are available including Auto and Custom.

Swapping between the film back and the DMR was quick and simple, but it's
not something Leica expects the user to do often.  See Adam's comments
below.  The sensor is protected any time the back is off the camera.
Cleaning the sensor consists of scrubbing it with a microfiber cloth.  The
hard coating on the sensor is the same as the coating used on the front
element of Leica sport optics.
Here are Adam's comments:
I feel that the ergonomic design of the the DMR is not just "much
better" it's "vastly superior" to the D30 and 10D. Setting aside the
basic shooting controls of aperture and shutter speed selection -
which are precisely where they "ought" to be, the various digital
settings are easy to select and not buried beneath layers of menus or
hidden. The monochrome display on the back panel gives full indication
of the camera's settings. I like having 3 difference "user modes" -
one perhaps for black and white, one for vivid color and one for more
subdued color settings.
I'm a little wary of the color spaces. "Leica-RGB" doesn't have a
meaning to me. Does this color space exceed Adobe RGB?
It's odd to use a digital camera whose shutter and winding sounds are
precisely those of a film camera.
I liked the coating over the sensor so it could be easily cleaned.
The Leica rep said that this is not a product meant to be changed
"daily" and that if it were changed two or three times a week it would
require replacement in a couple of years. Why? I'm not sure but the
idea of shooting between digital and film frequently with the same
camera on the same day are clearly NOT Leica's intention.
The software seems to be in a continual state of flux. He pointed out
that when looking at the noise in the 1600 ASA mode that because
white-balance software wasn't working properly it was difficult to
evaluate the noise. I still think there was a lot of blue channel
noise - but post processing can address some of that.
I don't have a feeling about the brightness of the color display - you
definately want to have that be bright enough - the 10D's is just
bright enough in full sunshine, the jury is out on whether the Leica
display will be bright enough.
I'm pleased that the firmware can b e upgraded via the memory card or
via direct connection between the camera and the computer over the
FireWire connection. This bodes well for keeping the camera up to date
-- I have a feeling that over the next year there will be a LOT of
software upgrades to this puppy.
[end of Adam's comments]

Doug Herr
Birdman of Sacramento

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