lördag 2 oktober 2010
What is this camera about?
Leica has just brought out this special titanium version of the Leica M9 digital camera. Launching the limited-edition model, Leica states, "The exclusive special edition Leica M9 "Titanium" is the result of a collaboration with Walter de'Silva, the prominent automobile designer. Responsible for groundbreaking design concepts for the latest models from the Volkswagen Group, the chief designer and his Audi Design Team have re-interpreted the design of the LEICA M9 just as he envisaged it. The outcome is a unique camera with a new interpretation of the characteristic features of Leica rangefinder cameras, which lends precision engineering, unique style and solid titanium to extraordinary formal design."
At a price that is intentionally outrageous, this is obviously aimed at the super-rich extravagant consumer and not intended to be a professional's workhorse in the way that the M2 was, in the early 1960s. The latter is still regarded by many as the best-ever Leica. I have one and enjoy using it, but it is getting too fragile to carry around all the time. I have also got used to the built-in metering of the current MP, launched about ten years ago, which is in most respects identical to the M2. Leica film cameras continue to be made in small numbers but the main production is now devoted to the digital cameras, including the successor M9.
With its 1950s styling, the latter is in some ways a bit of an anachronism. However, it has an overwhelming advantage over all other full frame digital cameras - its small size and simple viewfinding and focussing system, which show not only what is in the picture but what is outside the frame as well. This makes it particularly easy to use and has brought Leica a full order book.
Because of Leica's iconic status, the brand has tended to be taken up by the super-rich, although in fact the prices are within the same range as other full-frame digital cameras used by professionals and serious amateurs. The firm can hardly be criticised for exploiting this niche market, even though the cameras themselves end up in display cabinets or are rarely taken out of their presentation boxes. Who, one wonders, would want to buy a gold-plated camera covered with red crocodile leather and would they ever use such a thing?
As it happens, the Titan development programme led to some unintended technical developments, including the abolition of the frame illumination window and its replacement by LED illumination. It would be surprising if this feature does not soon turn up in the standard M9. I would be surprised also if a titanium bodied M9 similar to this special edition will not soon be on offer as a new professional workhorse, preferably without that peculiar strap.
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