Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Leica M Edition “LEICA 60”

"A picture is worth a thousand words." I swear, despite the obvious allusion in the title, this is the first time  the saying has been used in this blog. It's a appropriate saying for the Leica M Edition "Leica 60"; you will no doubt have formed an opinion about the very existence of this camera by now...

There's absolutely no chance that out of camera sample shots will be possible for this post. So rather than offer thousands of words about a camera that few will ever afford... let alone see in the flesh... here are a few pictures to satisfy your curiosity:

Leica's a beautiful frivolous things. They're very good at what they do and a generally terrible for doing anything else. This is especially true for this particular special edition, and it's generally true for all Leica cameras in general. There's no way to justify having one; you either have it or you don't. Of course, this kind of decisiveness is easier for Leica's key demographic than the average population of photographers....

Special edition Leica's come and go, but this one goes further than a merely applying little bit of extra engraving or a change in exterior finish. For one, the display case that it comes packed in is quite something.... it's gorgeously minimalist in design... but it's not subtle.

At first glance, the camera body looks like a nicer M240 M-P edition. The top is simpler than the usual M body, and it's clad in an tastefully embossed leather wrap. The execution is typical Leica; it's easy to dismiss this as being in the same vein as the gaudy Hasselblad Lunar and Stellar cameras, but the purity of aesthetic design puts the M Edition 60 in another league. All is familiar.... until of course, you find that there's no LCD display on the back.

No LCD screen. No image review. No live view. Ostensibly, this is a digital recreation of a film camera. The only controls available are shutter speed, aperture, focus and ISO via a dial on the back of the camera. Further pushing the film analogy, the camera will only save files in RAW DNG format.

For reference, the regular M240 body is made with magnesium alloy; the regular 35mm Summilux lens is made from aluminum.The Leica 60 Edition is different in that both the lens and body are constructed from steel. The finish has a restrained satin finish that shows its texture in the light, but which doesn't draw overt attention to itself. Holding the camera is a different experience. The colour is a light grey that is reminiscent of the titanium finish that the M9 used to come in. The regular M240 is thick and heavy; the Leica 60 edition is denser still. For many people the concepts of "steel" and "metal" are interchangeable. Holding the Leica 60 reminds one what real metallic steel is, and that many of the things that we take for granted as being metallic aren't as strong as this. It's probably as rugged as any camera ever made, but it's entirely too heavy to be practical for real life use.

The conceit of the Leica M rangefinder is that its minimalist design does not interfere with the act of photography. By having less, you are meant to be able to see and imagine more. If only that were true. The range finder is mechanism on an M body is a joy to work with but most users say that it takes quite a bit of use before they are fully understand it. If your eyes aren't good, then it can be a chore to use without an accessory magnifying eyepiece. The lack of an LCD screen doesn't just impact the experience with the focusing system, though. This also means that instantaneous feedback on exposure is also missing. 

As a camera, this is simply impractical in the digital age, but as an artistic exercise, it's a pretty interesting concept. Strip away the the essence of digital photography... the immediate visual feedback and the endless tinkering... if we remove those things do we once again have the innocence of the film era, or can anything this outrageous be truly innocent?

In this regard, its not ready-to-shoot; it's camera haute couture.

With thanks to the Leica Boutique at Broadway Camera

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