Yet another return to tradition is the shutter speed dial, which goes clockwise
for faster shutter speeds, counterclockwise for slower. The M6-TTL and M7, unlike
every other Leica, go the other way. This is fine if you use only M6-TTL or
M7 cameras, but to anyone like me who has been using Leicas for years, it's
a nightmare: you switch from 1/60 sec and think you've set 1/30 sec but
you've set 1/125 sec instead.
The completely mechanical shutter goes from 1 sec to 1/1000 sec, with flash
sync at a leisurely 1/50 sec (set between 1/30 and 1/60 sec). Next to today's
1/4000 and 1/8000 sec top speeds this is not impressive, but it's a low-stressed
design that should continue to work, even without occasional servicing, for
a substantial fraction of a century--as the same design has been doing
block, Levoca, Slovakia. Although Leicas are often seen as available-light
cameras, they are also unsurpassed for street shooting, as here.
There is a school for the blind in Levoca which accounts for the
large number of people with white sticks. (Summilux 35mm f/1.4;
Kodak EBX (ISO 100) home processed in Tetenal chemistry using
a Jobo CPE-2.)
There's no point in saying much about the lenses, which are of course
among the finest in the world: many believe you could drop the word "among."
The MP accepts all four-claw Leica M-mount bayonet lenses (the current range
is 21-135mm); all compatible lenses in the same mount; and all Leica screwmount
(39mmx26 tpi) lenses via adapters, from 12mm upward.
Nor is there much to say about metering: Leica M-series buyers don't expect
(or get) multimode analytic metering systems. The meter is a very basic through-lens
version reading off a white spot on the shutter curtain, but it works amazingly
well. "Over" and "under" arrows, and an "exposure
correct" central spot appear in the viewfinder and nowhere else. Film
speeds from ISO 6-6400 (9-39 log) are set on a dial on the back of the camera.
If the battery dies, the meter fails, but everything else keeps on working.
There is no flash metering, and there is no DX coding (the M7 offers both).
Handling offers no surprises except (to non-Leica users) loading through the
baseplate. Some people apparently find this difficult, but it's hard to
see why: even my wife Frances with her exceedingly shaky hands (a "benign
essential tremor") has no problems. I suspect that those who dislike base
loading are just trying to find fault with the camera, either because they don't
like it--and I'll be honest, not everyone gets on with rangefinder
cameras in general or Leicas in particular--or more often because they
can't afford it.
Actually there is one more surprise about the handling, but you have to add
the Leicavit accessory trigger base to discover it. You replace the standard
base with one that is a little thicker and contains a fold-away trigger. Instead
of winding on with your right thumb, you wind on with a smart pull of the fingers
of your left hand.
Arena, Arles. Some of my most successful pictures seem to be glimpses:
things seen as if briefly, not fully. The MP is an ideal camera
to carry at all times: light, unobtrusive, quiet, and quick to
use. Yes, you can turn the meter off (B on the shutter dial),
but I only do so when I put the camera away--and that only
if I remember. Otherwise it is ready for action at all times and
has a response time of about 1/60 sec. Compare that with autofocus
or digital. (Summilux 35mm f/1.4; Kodak EBX (ISO 100) home processed
in Tetenal chemistry using a Jobo CPE-2.)
Such an accessory was a lot more useful when the alternative was a knob wind,
so the original SCNOO trigger base appeared in '36 for pre-IIIc cameras:
this is its lineal descendant, via the original Leicavit SYOOM ('51, for
IIIc and IIIf) and the SMYOM or Leicavit-M for M1, M2, and MD but not M3. It
is only slightly faster than a lever wind but it makes it much easier to hold
the camera steady at the eye and it is all but essential if you are left-eyed
and want to work fast. Its only real disadvantage is that a Leicavit alone costs
nearly as much as a Bessa R2 body.
As I began the review by saying, the MP is stunning. Already, Leica buyers are
voting with their money. Leica expected the M7 to be their mainstay, with the
MP as a back-up for those who wanted tradition: 60-40, maybe even 70-30. Well,
the M7 has sold slightly better than expected, but the MP has sold unbelievably
better. After allowing for the initial surge of interest, which in some months
has pushed sales even further in the MP's favor, sales are so strong that
they reckon the eventual proportion of MPs to M7s will be exactly reversed.
Leica is looking stronger than ever, which is excellent news for Leica fans
Now, there's one last piece of good news. I discussed it with Leica at
Arles in the South of France in July, but at the time it was under embargo.
Since photokina, I am free to share it with you.
Suppose that like me you would prefer to have just the traditional M2 frames
in your MP: 35mm, 50mm, 90mm. Or that you want black paint, but a 0.85x finder.
Or that you want a really, really unobtrusive Leica: so unobtrusive that it
is just plain black paint, without even the white paint filler that says "Leica"
on the top or "R" beside the rewind. Or that you are a bit of an
extrovert and want your signature engraved on the camera. Or maybe you just
want your name: I quite fancy "RWH Eigentum."
With the new Leica a la carte program, all this is entirely possible: they will
build a bespoke M7 or MP to your requirements. Of course it will cost you more,
and of course you will have to wait a bit longer: by definition, this is not
an off-the-shelf camera. Such custom cameras have long been made in small series
for wealthy customers such as the Sultan of Brunei, but now you can have your
At least, I think it's good news. But until I heard it, I could imagine
nothing better than the MP in the pictures, and I had already told Leica that
they were going to have to threaten legal action to get it back. Now I want
one a la carte. Oh dear.
For more information, visit Lecia's website: www.leica-camera.com.