Leica Level UPs

“Personally I find that the price tag of Euro 1200 for a new piece of glass and the exchange of a few springs and cogs in the current shutter mechanism is on the high side. But we all know we are in Leica territory.”
—Erwin Puts on “The Significance of LUP”, Februrary 13, 2008

The article is definitely worth a read from a business of photography standpoint, but before you do, you need to understand that Erwin is a respected rangefinder camera lens expert who is talking about then newly announced Leica Upgrade Program for the Leica M8.

I won’t go into the details about Leica in this article, nor try to justify the insane price tag for their cameras or lenses. Most will not be able to get past that part, however. They’ve never been in “Leica territory”: the bizzaro world where everything only gets more expensive, $3000 for a digital body is a steal, Japanese-made lenses with the most exotic glass and construction are of inferior quality, high technology is retro, and contrast-killing internal reflections are sometimes a highly sought-out “look.”

Every time a geek talks about Steve Job‘s reality distortion field, I want to say, “Have you heard this company called Leica in Germany?”

Despite this and the fact that I own a Leica, we are talking about $1800 for a replacement sapphire glass over the LCD screen, a quieter shutter, and a warrantee extension.

Quiet shutter

The shutter sounds a lot quieter…not ninja stealth yet though.

[quiet shutters and hard glass after the jump.]

It’s crazy, I know. But on the other hand I’d pay twice as much for a ISO performance on par with a Nikon D3 or Canon 5D. It’s not going to happen because of limitations of the rangefinder design, but this is a sign that it will happen eventually. And it is a signal that the M9 won’t be coming out anytime soon.

This Leica clicks softly and carries a hard glass

(Apologies to the Bull Moose.)

The shutter noise does bother me—a lot. Not $1800 lot, mind you. Besides, I’m not very “retro” so I’m still scratching my head on why, if space was such an issue in the camera, they just didn’t invest some R&D into an electronic shutter. You know that thing that makes the flash sync in the D70 amazing? That thing in every pocket digital camera out there? The one making things so quiet they actually have to pipe a recorded shutter sound through the speakers so that the beginner knows, “Yes, you really did take a picture.” Plus you’d get gobs of battery life back this way.

Metering would be a problem, but if a Casio Z-series makes a better light meter than a light meter, why not just put it on the sensor also? You’d be putting that to good use. Or is someone going to defend the crappy excuse for a metering system that has plagued all rangefinders since Nikon gave us evaluative metering and we found out what good metering really is?

So this means, I’ll have to take a pass until I scratch up my LCD some more.

There was one good thing to come from finding about the Leica Upgrade Program: the other day, I was introduced to a person named Safire. I got to tell her that apparently she’s the second hardest substance after diamond glass.

Sapphire glass

When someone tells me that some feature of the camera is resistant to scratches, abrasions and the like, my first thought is ORLY? Those who know me, my cameras, and my repair bill know what I’m talking about.

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