Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Leica T: From Block to Camera

Yes, what you see there is the block of aluminum that a Leica T camera body is carved from. Literally. Leica's have always been camera jewelry; the T is perhaps the first step towards cameras that are built like Swiss watches: as polished on the inside as they are on the outside.

A bit much? Have a look at what the inside of the bare chassis looks like, after that initial aluminum block has been whittled down by the CNC machinery:

Ordinarily, metal camera frames are assembled from stamped pieces. Most cameras built like this are rigid enough (Canon 5DMIII, Nikon D800, etc), but carving the frame out of one piece of metal means that there are seams to flex or come apart. Additionally, the metal work can be produced to tighter tolerances, making for easier component packaging. Most of the interior surfaces of the camera frame have a polished to a satin finish; the various screen holes and mounts have crisp, well-defined edges. Only when you look up into the inside top corner edges do you see unfinished metal that still bares traces of the milling machine.

If you run your fingers along the surfaces of the frame, you'll find that there's a fair amount of thickness to the metal, but being aluminum, the bare skeleton is lightweight. This is paradoxical, as the fully assembled Leica T is a weighty camera: despite the additional amount of metal that goes into the frame compared to other cameras, the majority of the camera's weight does not seem to be attributable to the novel frame.

Of course, this is complete overkill as a means to produce a camera. It's entry in product design. The M240 and others of its like trade in the "conspicuous heritage" aspect of luxury goods but the T is breaking with tradition; call this an exercise in "conspicuous precision."

With thanks to the Leica Boutique at Broadway Camera

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