A coda to the "Leica Year" post—Leica's current owner revealed recently that the last two film Leicas, the MP and M7, were discontinued in 2009. (The cameras are still available new but are being sold out of what's called "new old stock," or NOS—meaning products that were already produced but have been stockpiled or warehoused. In this case, "NOS" may mean parts that are not yet completely assembled; I don't know.)
What this means is that the 35mm Leica camera had a run of 85 years and that a grand era has come to a close, not with a bang but a whimper.
The last 35mm Leica, the retro MP, was a direct descendant of the original Leica M camera, the M3, designed by Ernst Leitz II and Willi Stein, that debuted in 1953. The form factor lives on in the M9, but as a 35mm camera the design lasted 56 years. The changes made over those decades are, all things considered, surprisingly minor. It is surely the single most significant camera design in history—unless you consider the folding field view camera of the Deardorff type to be one design, which of course it really isn't.
I'd like to humbly reiterate one point I made at the very end of my three Leica Year posts: "...taking hold of the best of the recent past while it still retains a little currency and viability might be valuable too. Especially for the young, whose life journeys will take them farther away from it than us 'old guys' will ever get. Specifically, from the not-so-lofty perch of my modest 52 years, I'm convinced that any 20-year-old who spends a year shooting Tri-X with a Leica now will value that photographic experience more and more as the years of their own lives slip past, and as that method, and the possibility of that experience, slips ever more irretrievably into obscurity. I just can't imagine them regretting it, thirty years from now."
(Thanks to David Dyer-Bennet)
UPDATE (August 26th): The British Journal ofPhotography website, bjp-online.com, reported today that it has obtained a denial from Leica of the substance of the Asahi Camera article.
Send this post to a friend
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Marcelo Guarini: "I have an M4 like the one in the picture but with the normal non-collapsible Summicron 50mm ƒ/2. It was given to me by my father when I finished my university studies, it was his camera. I still have it and shoot with it. It works so well. Here is one of the first pictures I grabbed with it:
Featured Comment by Dogman: "Seems like every time I post a comment on TOP, it ends up being misty-eyed nostalgia. So be it with the 'maybe/maybe not' passing of the Leica M 35mm. I've had the pleasure of owning three Leica Ms—an M4-P and two M6s. The M4-P was a 'gotta have it' camera but one that came along at a time I was unable to appreciate its unique capabilities. I was into view cameras back then and also working as a news photographer, using motor driven Nikons daily. Although I lusted after a Leica, when I finally got one I discovered it did not fit into the photography I was doing. So the camera and the wonderful Leitz lenses I had bought new were all sold.
"Years later, no longer working as a photographer but enjoying photography more than ever, I again lusted after a Leica. My photography had changed. The view cameras and the large format color landscape photography were in the past as was the grind of daily newspaper photography. I had set up a darkroom and my photography was more personal, a little off-beat and always done with HP5 or Tri-X. This time, the Leica fit right in with my purposes. I ended up with two M6 bodies. One of them had a 50mm Summicron attached, the other a 35mm Summicron, and seldom did I use any other focal lengths. While I agree with the concept of using one camera and one prime lens, I simply could not live without both the 35mm and 50mm lenses. Having a camera for each lens is the best of all possible worlds. If I could afford it, I would have two M9s right now with those two Summicrons attached to them.
"Fast forward to today and I haven't used the Leicas in nearly two years. The darkroom is shut down. I have a freezer full of film that I will likely never use. Like so many former analog shooters, now I take my pictures digitally, process them in the computer and print them on an inkjet printer. I have several digital cameras to use for various purposes and I believe my pictures are as good today as ever; however, I have no camera that feels as comfortable to use as the Leica.
"And that is the strong point of the Leica—to those who take the time to learn it, it is a comfortable camera. You kind of forget you're using a camera. You just see the real world within bright frame lines."