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Tuesday, 24 August 2010

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"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 surprisingly minor, all things considered."

With relatively minor editing, those two sentences could just about describe Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.

---

Indeed, my first Leica was the M7 which I still use with some frequency. (I just shot my last roll of K64 with it yesterday, in fact.) In anticipation that the MP would likely soon be discontinued I grabbed one in 2008. It's a beautiful anachronism ... that I rarely use.

No, not many cameras (or any products, for that matter) have survived technological and commercial evolution for as long as the Leica M body. Whether or not youngsters would genuinely benefit from shackling their eye to one of these glorious albatrosses is, I suppose, dependent on the individual. Times have really, really changed even during the past 10 years, Mike. I suspect that most kids interested in photography today would find a Leica fun to use...for a day. Beyond that, probably not.

Personally I'm amazed it took so long! They definitely deserve an A+ for hanging in there like they did.

Here in Canada a new MP or M7 go for about $5500-ish yet a new M8 (not the 8.2, that's a big bump more) is less at about $4900. I realize the M8 was quite a bit more expensive when it was introduced but right now the film bodies are looking less and less attractive.

And compare again to an M9 at $7400. If you were in the market for a new Leica M right now, would you get an M7/MP or invest a couple grand more and get an M9? I know which I would choose, and the market definitely agrees since the digi's are the one that is being produced.

I've never even held one.

Check out this thread Mike:
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=94197
I'm not sure the fat lady has sung yet...

it's kind sad - I would never get the new M7 like I wanted to. As 25-years-old am I bound to get the M9 now?

Absolutely agree with your last paragraph, Mike, as many photographers past, and most future, will never experience ANY truly manual, meter-less, metal, mechanical camera. I've owned a few (M4/2, M4/P, M3 and M6) but my favorite "MMMM" was the Leica IIIf RD/DA... would just slip into a trouser pocket fitted with a collapsible 5,0cm f/3.5 Elmar. Sweet!

Though by and large reflect the fact and atmosphere, the article quote does not say that all Leica film camera would be ended. They still take order for a la carta plus, well, the annual thing. Just no new model and the last "standard model" is gone.

What left now on pure film camera:

- Fuji 67
- Nikon F6 (and time to time some Nikon rangefinder)
- Leica non-standard model
- Lomo type

There are still some film camera but they can be dual purpose using digital back (but large format probably should belong the above group more):

- Hasselblad V
- Some medium format camera (Alpha)
- Some large format (2x3, 4x5, ... 5x7 should be in the above group)

Any more last man standing?

Still, I think we are still in the "golden" era of hobby using film camera, as they are cheap, still can be maintained to some extent and still know their existence. Film also still exist (and using old process one can make one's own "film", like Sally Mann). Most lens (even new one) can still work with these old guys.

Like snail using shell of extinct species, good luck and good ride whilst one can.

Sad news, but I have my M6 and M7 to comfort me. I don't doubt they should last many years. Still, like losing an old friend.

Photogdave,
Quite possibly the situation is still, shall we say, provisional. Nevertheless if Andreas Kaufmann said it, then it's worthwhile reporting. Alternately, if monthly sales have dropped from three figures to two, the "end of production" is perhaps virtually here, if not literally so.

Company spokespeople are unlikely to acknowledge the end of the product until they have no more to sell, which is not yet the case here. Also, with all of Leica's financial problems in recent years, I doubt they wish to emphasize an important product's end. (An ending might be construed as a failure in some minds.)

Seldom is the death of an iconic product completely cut-and-dried. Does Bugatti still exist? Sort of; yes; but not really. Is a Tennessee Deardorff a real Deardorff? Is Voigtlaender still in business? Is Ursula Capaul, Thomas Weber and André Oldani's Alpa still Alpa? I have friends who think that Leica really ended when the Leitz family sold the company (a view I don't share). A situation with some echoes of this might be the production of Rollei TLRs. The company went out of business, production stopped, but then a few employees geared up again to make a few cameras for special order. So is it the end of the Rollei TLR or not? The true answer would be "yes and no...."

Mike

I just want to say "Isn't the locomotive photo that's posted a, just, real, pleasing composition. Common/obvious placement yes, but satisfying nonetheless-or is it just that smoking trains are fun to see.
I had an M5 for about 2 years in the 70s and always liked the "vertical hang" position for ease of use when I didn't want to carry a camera tourist style on my chest, wearing plaid shorts of course.
But alas, I traded up (which I thought at the time) for a Hasselblad 500CM and realized too late that I could just about do everything as well with that M5.

This makes me sad...

... I wonder what the last serial number will be?

(And how much will they charge for it!)

But in all seriousness, I think I'm going to have to look after my beaten and bruised M6 a little more. Especially given that on my last repair, the repairer's notes were that my camera were that its problems weren't worth fixing!

Pak

In the L-camera forum

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/analog-forum/136972-keine-film-kameras-mehr.html

two persons who recently (like yesterday in one case) visited the factory report that M7 and MP are still being assembled in Solms

On Erwin Puts' Leica-website there's a nice article on Masterpieces:

http://www.imx.nl/photo/leica/leica/leica/page102.html

Let me quote this sentence, which rather sums it op:

»Leitz in the days of the M3 not only manufactured every part, but even manufactured the machinery to manufacture complex parts.«

Dennis,

You left out the Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander Bessa, still in production as far as I know. Mike mentioned that the Rollei is still hanging on. Holding down the bottom, there are various China-made TLR, SLR and P&S as well as the Holga and Lomo-types. There's the Fuji Instax, and I think it's only a matter of time before the Impossible Project commissions a new instant film camera. Not to mention all the ongoing pinhole projects out there.

robert e

Still the best camera I ever used. I had M3, M4, M6TTL & M8. Miss them all.

I think Leica goes beyond the simple idea of building the best camera these days. Many people want one because it's a Leica, not because it's a camera.

As such, I could see Leica continue to make "special editions" of their film cameras until the end of time, if only to sell them to collectors to put into their glass cages.

Film Leicas will be in trouble the moment they decide to abandon the M mount and come up with something new, "digital only" like both Nikon and Canon have done with their "digital lenses".

I still would like an M7, the only reason I haven't one yet is that I can't really afford the lenses I want with it :(

As any form of Leica is well out of my price range at the moment I really hope that by the time my finances take an up turn there will be some Leicas left to spend my money on.

As an aside I did pick up my old and trusty OM 1 recently to try and take some more photo's with it. As some one who learned to take pictures with a digital camera (as far as I can anyways) the difference is enormous, but strangely pleasing. I feel I can yet learn a lot by shooting film occasionally.

My that's a handsome camera...

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1399117&postcount=18

"....I contacted Christian Erhardt (Vice President of Marketing Photographic Division, Leica Camera USA) and this is the answer he gave me:

“Your questions comes timely, in fact just earlier this week I was in our factory where I saw the production of Leica’s M product lines. While we do not have a constant production of certain lenses and cameras, we have the ability to produce batches of those products. For example: Certain exotic lenses & cameras are produced in batches to be able to produce an economically feasible number of products.

In this case the M analog production line is just next to Leica’s M9 production line to which we have shifted our focus to better manage the backlog and reduce the wait for our customers.

As you might be well aware from the past, we have always stated that as long as it makes sense for Leica Camera AG to produce M analog cameras we will do so. At this time we are reaching our targeted numbers for M analog cameras and do well with the offering of Leica M a la Carte cameras. Just recently Leica Camera AG offered a special Leica M7 Hermes Camera. This camera was quickly sold out and is a sought after collectors camera.

At this time I have no indication that the Leica M analog cameras will be taken out of Leica’s product offering.”

As a camera design I´ve found it always to be a Unisex camera, suitable for either sex. There are loads of women photographers who use the M system daily, I´m sure we can´t say the same about a 1ds or 3dx.
When will the Japanese manufacturers make a camera with the same appeal? Flair, style intensity and panache unsurpassed in the world of photography.
Paul

Patrick,
Yes, I found that quote elsewhere (quite possibly from you, I just don't recall). So we have that, and we have Asahi camera (a very reputable magazine) stating that the CEO said the cameras were discontinued in 2009. So how then would you balance the two? Was Herr Kaufmann mistaken? Was Asahi Camera mistaken? Is Christian Erhardt putting a sort of gentle spin on things for the sake of some agenda or interest? Or--? My impulse is to go with what the head guys said as reported by Asahi Shimbun. But I don't claim to have the absolute answer....

Mike

it's an interesting coincidence that the film Leicas and Kodachrome would be discontinued around the same time.

I don't really have a point here. I just found that interesting.

Mike,

Your last paragraph rang very true. I have no regrets that my personal photography for the first 20 years, was a single camera, single lens, and mostly B&W film, though I sometimes used different cameras. A Nikon F, sold to buy a motorcycle, replaced by Haminex Praktica, replaced by the longest running, Pentax HV1, 50mm f2, no meter.

No nostalgia, either, though I basically only use one camera, an antique G9, Canon. That is so weird that the 3-4 year old G9 is an antique.

Some of the beautiful B&W images, though have me mulling a return to B&W, though probably digital.

Thanks Mike, another batch of nice posts!

Mike, this was discussed at length earlier this summer. Leica deny the rumour, indicating that film cameras remain in batch production. At present many employees are re-assigned to dealing with the backlog of M9 orders.
See this link
http://leicarumors.com/2010/06/23/leica-has-not-stopped-making-film-cameras.aspx/

Chris

Mike, the article from asahi.com you linked to is just the online version of an article that appeared in print in June. Leica already answered it at that time: http://leicarumors.com/2010/06/23/leica-has-not-stopped-making-film-cameras.aspx/

From what I've heard, they are selling the M7/MP at a pretty constant rate of three cameras per day or around 1,000 per year (most of them to Japan). That would be a joke for a company like Canon, but it's enough for Solms to keep them alive. There's no R&D necessary, and they build them in lots once enough orders have arrived. As long as the demand won't decrease dramatically, they don't have a reason to stop producing film cameras.

I'm pretty sure this is a typical self-sustaining Internet rumor that originated in someone in Japan misunderstanding what Mr. Kaufmann said in English (which is not his native tongue).

All I can say is thank goodness for Hirofumi Kobayashi. Without his efforts I'd be stuck with FSU glass for my M4-2. Oh, I suppose I could scrape up enough for an old 35mm f3.5 Elmar, but even they are starting to break the 4 C-note barrier! I have his 21 f4 screw mount and 35 f2.5 M mount lenses now and will add a 75 f2.5 lens shortly. He is really the reason I decided to finally spring for a Leica M film camera.

Chris and Edi,
Yes, as I say, I saw that. I have weighed the evidence here in these comments. I don't have inside information.

It's sort of a "who you gonna trust" question. Personally, my provisional inclination as a journalist is to give weight to the word of the company's owner as reported by Asahi camera above that of the U.S. importer's V.P. of marketing, which (no offense to Mr. Erhardt whatsoever) is is a position that is quite far down the corporate totem pole both absolutely and comparatively. Leica might still be assembling cameras; they might still have new cameras to sell; but if the owner says they were discontinued, then as far as I'm concerned they were discontinued. Especially in the absence of a denial from Dr. Kaufmann or a retraction or correction by Asahi Camera.

That this might have been discussed on forum threads, and a consensus reached there--again, no offense--means absolutely nothing.

Mike

This is hardly a tragedy, or even "the end of an era".

There are plenty of Leicas available second-hand, and many of them are mint. Anyone like Milosz who wants one today or thirty years from now will be able to get one. The fact that they're easy-to-maintain collectors' items guarantees that they'll be available as long as film is available, and probably well beyond.

If you're going to mourn for anything, mourn for all the other, less fetishized cameras -- the AE-1s and FMs and OM's and Spotmatics that are likely to be tossed aside and thrown away en masse in the coming years.

Given the large Leica following in Japan (there are stores with shelves of used camera awaiting owners), I am not surprised by the decision to announce the discontinuance here.

The part of the article that concerns me is the loss of the manufacturing knowledge as time passes, and the work force is replaced. While not camera related, a case in point:

An acquaintance was a mid-level manager of the last shoe factory in Brockton, MA. This city was once a world center of shoe production, but globalization and labor costs whittled down the factories one by one. He took me to see the production line of his company in 2008. They made high end golf shoes by hand. The cost per pair was at least $300.00. But when you saw the amount of effort that went into each shoe, and the quality of the workmanship, the up front cost did not seem so high. And, if properly taken care of, the shoes would last for decades. (In our mass consumption, "I want it cheep now" society, we sometimes tend to forget that the upfront purchase of a better but more expensive product will prove more cost effected in the long run.)

The workers used machines that were decades old, but like the shoes they made, their tools were made to provide years and years of service. Compared to the modern computer driven device, these were simple machines, and that is where the human factor was so valuable. Skilled craftsman ship comes from a combination of technical knowledge and a sixth-sense for how a machine and produce "feel." This only comes from years of experience, but it can be lost with just one layoff or retirement.

I have never used a Leica, but judging from the comments of users here, they reflect the craftsman's art. Sadly that will pass from our collective memory in time.

Alex

I feel I should defend FSU (former Soviet Union) "glass" at least in the sense that the glass itself is often very good. But I assume by "glass" that john robison was including the mechanics, materials, finish and ergonomics of these lenses, which are shabby, which is a shame.

And one more for Dennis Ng's list: one can still buy a Minox submini and film!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00004U0E6/

I do miss the M2 and M3 that I used to own, but had to sell during the last couple of years while I was out of work/in school. I don't know that, had I been allowed to continue working, I could have ever done anything to assist Leica in keeping that particular product line going. I may have been able to save up over the span of a year and a half to two years to buy a new camera, but that was never really feasible. I was always of too low an income bracket to afford a new Leica. My question is to those who could, why did you not buy when it was possible? Why be sad today, now that the time has finally come that Leica no longer makes M film cameras?

If it is true that they have stopped all film production, I know I won’t be affected. As I said, I could never afford to buy new anyway. There must be something in the neighbourhood of One Million Leica M cameras that have been manufactured to date? I am probably short on the numbers, but since I work again, I soon enough will be able to afford these cameras again. One day, I will have another M2, or M3, or the one I really want, a nice Midland Ontario Canada made M4-2. Maybe people should send letters to Mr. Kaufmann asking him to do something similar today. Would you buy a Leica M7-2, or an MP-2 (hasn’t that one been used already?) made wholly in Portugal, Japan, China, or were it possible again, Canada?

If, they have stopped making film cameras, and if, they are now only making the digital M and S2 cameras and their respective lens lines, they are still making something. For the last I don’t know how long, people have said constantly that Leica is failing, they are going out of business. They may have actually found a range that works for them now; they may have actually found some success. Maybe when they are stable, they may have a run of commemorative Leica M film cameras, let us say, 1000 M7 and 1000 MP every 5 years or so. Maybe even ten years. Did anyone think Nikon was going to do it, much less that they did it twice?

The truth is that a Leica M film camera is still available to those who want one; the best part about those that are available is, they are a hell of a lot cheaper.

According to the store that i just purchased a 0.85 MP from (awaiting delivery), that it is a completely false rumour.

AK

No need to defend FSU lenses Robert. I have seen prints (real, not on a computer screen) and these looked fine. But all I've read seems to suggest they suffer much more from sample variation and also inept servicing by hobbyist owners/sellers who don't always get them back together correctly. There is one particular lens I'd love to try out, the 85mm f2 Jupiter 9. But again, what if it has been messed up? I would have little recourse with a seller and even if he did take it back the combined freight to myself and back to the seller could amount to $40~50. Penny pinching me could not like that.

Ken, the shades of Brian Jones, and Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman would surely disagree that their exits constituted minor changes...

Why is it it, that reading this article, my fancy took flight and I imagined myself to be a billionaire, buying up the entire stock of the last remaining Leica MPs?

All things must pass, but not all things deserve to pass.

And no need to denigrate all FSU bodies or mechanicals. Quality control started to slip rapidly in the later 1970s and 1980s but until then Soviet rangefinder cameras were well machined, reliable, and a bargain compared to their German equivalents. And the same was true for East German SLRs.

Speaking of journalists... Of course, being a journalist and the maintainer of a high-profile photography website, you could ask Leica for clarification. I'm sure you'll get a reply if you ask nicely (and ask specifically if Dr. Kaufmann really said that).

Being a lowly Leica customer who only once in his life bought something new from them, I once even received a technical reply from Stefan Daniel himself. I'd be surprised if their PR department didn't make sure that you got a decent reply from someone "high enough".

Edi, this may be wrong, but it's not an internet rumor; the source link is to a bylined article in Asahi magazine, which sources the quote to a particular public speech by the owner of Leica.

Yes, the Leica M was (I mean IS) a "perfect design." And amazingly adaptable, too. Hard to believe that a mechanical camera designed in the fifties could be transformed into a state of the art digital camera almost sixty years later...

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.

Dear Mani,

The same could not be said of the Soviet's efforts at medium format knockoffs. Despite Bob Shell's fondness for them, they shouldn't even be mentioned in...

...The same paragraph with the words "quality control."

pax / Ctein

I'm one of these young photographers you guys keep talking about, and I wish I could afford a Leica. I've been shooting analog most of my life, I spent a year or two with a DSLR but the experience just isn't the same. DSLR cameras feel much more like tools, and I'm not a professional. I'd rather have a camera I enjoy, and rangefinders are definitely my favourite type of camera. I currently spend a lot of time with my Yashica Electro 35, I love it very much.

Anyway the real reason I'm posting here is because I want to ask if it is possible to get a large-ish print of the train photo by Marcelo Guarini? It's amazing.

I highlighted the important part because I'm sure nobody will notice it.

i assume several others have commented about the dubious claim that leica is no longer producing film cameras. now bjp has published an unequivocal denial from leica that it has stopped making m7 and mp cameras.

you should publish a retraction of this, unless you know something more.

Chris,
We'll see.

Mike

I bought my first Leica this week. It is an M7. After searching for 5 months for a lightly used chrome version, I got what I wanted, and apparently none too soon. I understand the attraction of digital, but for me, it is the process of shooting film, developing it and challenging myself to capture on film what I envision that is so much fun. I am 30 years old, and I know many my age (and older and younger too) don't want to be bothered with the tediousness of film, but I find the journey of making the image as satisfying as the final image itself. Something is lost in that respect when it comes to digital. I am just glad I got my film Leica this week.

What a great story, Mike! Funny, isn't it, how we snap to attention when a reputable Website posts a story that we wouldn't stoop to mention if it appeared on a rumor site?

Aren't both Canon and Nikon supposed to be selling their film cameras from stock? And no one bats an eye. That's the power of an icon.

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