Category Archives: Black Paint Leica

Another Leica Fish Story

BP M3 5414 3I found this recently, posted to a popular online photography forum by someone who knows a lot about cameras and, as best I can tell, isn’t prone to spreading ridiculous stories on the net:

OK, I’ve seen my share of camera bargains. They include an early Nikon One which sold for $12.50 at a yard sale (one of 4 cameras sold for a total of $75), another Nikon One advertised recently on Craig’s list for $375, an unsynced Nikon M four lens outfit thrown away in the trash, and an original chrome Leica MP outfit also thrown away in the trash.

Well, this beats them all hands down and comes from a retired New York City police photographer whose word I trust completely. He writes:

———————————————-

“Back in July 2002, I was leaving my apartment and across the street where my police car was parked a young couple was having a yard sale to help fund their wedding.

I noticed a Black and Tan Nikon duffel bag on the ground near a small table.

I walk over, and they greeted me as their neighbor but didn’t know my name. When I went to pick up the duffle bag, I noticed on the table:
•2 original Black Leica MP’s both with matching black paint Summicron 50/2

•Leica 72 Half Frame Camera

• 2 Black 50/1.2 and 1 Chrome 50/1.2 Noctilux lenses

• a 250 Reporter GG

• 3 Black Paint M3’s with Leicavits and a bunch of other stuff.

They had small round adhesive stickers on everything. The MP’s were selling for $15 each, lenses $10, etc. I added everything up on the table and if I bought everything, it would’ve cost me $115. The young man said:

“If You take everything, just give me $100 even and the bag is on me.

I asked them to give me some history behind those cameras and lenses and the young lady said:

“It was my Dad’s Stuff. He passed away a few years ago. These can look pretty as decor if you’re into photography. No one here is really into it, besides the fact they probably don’t make film for them anymore.”

The Young Man chimed in an said:

“I don’t even know where the film goes”

I requested of the young lady:

“Would you mind fetching me a bed sheet or table cloth if you don’t mind”

She replied:

“Why?”

I replied:

“I want to cover this table while I give my broker a chance to drive up from the city because you probably have between $300,000-$500,000 worth of vintage German Camera equipment and I will stay here with you until he arrives”

The young lady had her hand over her mouth, and about 30 seconds later both of them broke down in tears.

When my photography broker arrived and did his thing, he said:

“You’re a much better man than me because I would’ve walked off with everything…But it’s pretty cool, I suppose it was the right thing to do”

I replied:

“It wasn’t the right thing to do…it was the Human thing to do”

This was a young suburban couple struggling to start a life together. I didn’t even contemplate “Should I or Shouldn’t I”…
They were a young and innocent couple who didn’t know any better. I look at it from a standpoint that I wouldn’t want that done to me.”

A great yarn, no doubt, but could it possibly be true? I guess it could, but I’m betting against it. In any event, if you believe it, I’ve got a bridge I might be willing to part with on very favorable terms.

*************

We’ve all heard the stories over the years – the Leica MP with Leicavit turning up in a dead uncle’s closet, the black paint Nikon SP on craigslist for $15, the guy who buys a black paint M3 at a yard sale in New Jersey along with all the appropriate documents attesting to its authenticity. I suppose these could really have happened just like the story says, but, knowing human nature, I suspect the stories have morphed from an initial kernel of curious truth to the status of “fish story.” [It’s not like I’m not susceptible to the phenomenon – My story of “meeting” HCB does have a kernel of truth: in 2004 I saw him at the opening of a Sarah Moon show in Paris. Of course, as I am apt to tell the story now after a bourbon or two, HCB and Sarah Moon came to my Paris exhibition and then we all went out for coffee afterwards.]

MP 39 2

And it’s not like there aren’t some incredible finds out there if you get lucky. Probably 20 years ago a friend casually mentioned to me that he had a box in his closet filled with old junk cameras from his uncle. I asked him to get it out and show it to me. Upon opening the box I found an M2, an M3, a LTM Nicca, and 4 or 5 Leitz lenses, including a Canadian 35mm Summicron and a Super Angulon with finder. Being the good guy I am, I fought off the urge to offer him $25 for the lot and helped him clean everything up and sell it on Ebay, netting him a cool few thousand bucks and me a free M2 for my labors. And then there’s been an item or two bought from ignorant sellers in arms length transactions that have netted some seriously nice kit for bargain prices – a IIIg with a W-Nikkor 35mm 1.8 LTM lens I bought for a few hundred and then turned around and sold for $2500 ($1900 for the Nikkor, $600 for the IIIg); a IIIg with pristine collapsible Summicron for a few hundred, etc.

But there’s something about the reported event that doesn’t pass the smell test. First, how is it that the “Dad” just happens to accumulate an incredible amount of rare, collectible stuff, it and it only? You’d think there’d have to be a few pedestrian items too, a Canonet or a Minolta SRT-101 in there somewhere. Three Noctilux? Really? And think of it this way – if “Dad” really was as important a guy as his camera collection indicates, don’t you think his kids might have some sense that what he had was valuable? But the kicker for me, the “tell” as it were, is in the inconsequential details (isn’t it always?): “they probably don’t make film for them anymore….” Sounds like a reasonsble thing for a clueless kid raised in digital to say in 2016, but in 2002? In 2002 film cameras were normal; it was digital that was esoteric.

So, In spite of my sense that the original poster honestly believes the story, I’m calling BS. It is, however, a lovely fish story.

Oh, and did I ever tell you about the time HCB and Sarah Moon came to my show in Paris?

Two Well-Used M2’s

two m2s

Found this picture of two well-used Leicas floating around the net and know nothing about their provenance except the obvious:  two black paint M2’s, one with an MP Leicavit and what looks to be a collapsible mount uncoated Summar 5cm f2, (although the serial number indicates a production date of 1933, which is claimed to be the last year Leitz made the Summar in a rigid mount prior to introducing the new type collapsible).

The Summar was Leitz’s “fast” 50mm, produced between 1933 and 1939. It was generally considered inferior to the Zeiss 5cm 1.5 produced in Jena for the Contax and for a limited run in LTM during WW2.

A Dead Canary in the Leica Corporate Mineshaft

USP-2_2LENNY_teaser-480x320 USP-3-2LENNY_teaser-480x320 USP-3-LENNY_teaser-480x320

 

From the gold-plated Luxus to the pink Hello Kitty M6, Leica has been known to issue some questionable limited edition cameras. Another in a long list of such, Leica recently announced the “Lenny Kravitz Correspondent MP,” (which begs the question of what Lenny Kravitz has to do with being a correspondent). According to Leica,

Even as a child, the singer, songwriter and rock star, Lenny Kravitz, was fascinated by cameras. But rather than taking photos, he played with them and he never lost that fascination with them. Later in life, photographers he knew, renewed Kravitz’ acquaintance with cameras – with a Leica. But now, he was already an artist with curiosity and a particular talent for observing the world around him. Kravitz’ design, in the form of a classic reportage camera, is an homage to his first Leica.

Lenny Kravitz is famous around the world as an exceptional and very successful musician. But he treats photography with his Leica with exactly the same passion. The Leica M-P ‘Correspondent’, a desirable collector’s piece in the style of legendary reportage cameras, was created in collaboration with the artist. Thanks to deliberate, carefully executed wearing by hand, it appears as if it had been in constant use for decades and would have countless stories to tell.

Many Leica cameras are unique. But now, all 125 examples of the strictly limited Leica M-P ‘Correspondent’ set are all unique, each in its own way. An elaborate wearing process completely by hand has carefully rubbed, scuffed and scratched the black enamel finish away in several places on both the camera and lenses to let the bright brass surface shine through. The look changes every time the camera and lenses are touched and begins new, personally written chapters in the story of their design.

*************

The Correspondent MP is, unfortunately,  another exhibit in favor of the argument that Leica has become a company in the business of retailing luxury goods to foolish people with stupid money.

Granted, Leica remains a solidly profitable company. They seem to be doing very well financially, and, of course, that’s the raison d’etre of any business. I’m certain this makes Leica’s owners and management happy.  But I can’t help but see it as a symptom of a larger problem, sort of a proverbial dead canary in the Leica corporate mine shaft.  Leica now produces little of interest to its traditional base, photographers who used Leicas as real working tools for many years. We are no longer Leica’s target demographic.

Which is odd, because Leica has the ability to make whatever they choose to make, at a high quality level, and yet many would say they’ve abandoned what made them an iconic name to make a quick buck recycling nostalgia. In spite of currently producing innovative cameras like the MM and the S, Leica is increasingly becoming perceived as a boutique luxury goods company, trading on the cache of a brand made famous over decades by having produced top quality mechanical instruments.

It is increasingly difficult for Leica traditionalists to consider a new Leica as a camera we would want to own. Granted, Leica will have no trouble selling them to someone, and to the degree it funds development of new, innovative cameras, these sorts of frivolities for the moneyed class may be a necessary compromise for Leica. Admittedly, collector editions have been part of Leica’s DNA since the 1920s.

The problem is that it seems that’s all they’re doing these days. As time passes and the underlying foundation for Leica’s revered reputation retreats in collective photographic memory, Leica are in danger of irreparably diluting the perception of the brand, which even now remains their strongest asset. Hopefully, Leica understands that it is not a big jump from easy profits to complete irrelevancy. When your viability as a company becomes completely dependent upon the perception of your brand, there’s no going back once that perception is irrevocably compromised.

 

Beware of Men With Guns Selling Black Paint M3’s

$_57 (1)

$_57

Another “Black Paint” M3, # 1095310,  has shown up on Ebay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/191513054364…%3AMEBIDX%3AIT, offered by a seller who goes under the nom de plume “blkconcepts”. (If you click through to his feedback profile you’ll note his avatar is a hand holding a handgun in a slightly menacing manner.)

The seller claims its a legit factory painted Black M3, citing the serial number:

  • Camera is shown to made in Black in correct serial bracket ….. see photo that I included & this website for your proof that this is authentic ….  l-camera-forum.com/leica-wiki.en/index.php/M3

According to the wiki, the batch is both black and chrome; 1093801-1097700** Leica M3 (Schwz Lackiert+chrom-ss).  An enterprising capitalist could easily find a chrome M3 from that batch and repaint it black. Voila, an “official” black paint M3.

Is this one legit? It may be. Who knows. But the seller’s provenance doesn’t instill confidence. Looking at his feedback, you’ll see he’s been accused of selling fake Leica stuff before, in particular batches of M3 boxes that he apparently has knocked off himself. And burrowing down through his Ebay history, you’ll find this transaction, which takes on an ominous perspective for the present auction:

Item returned 4***2 ( 5291*) During past year
LEITZ, LEICA M3 – BLACK PAINT CAMERA BODY, RECENT PAINT, OVERHAUL & CLA! (#191089777670) US $932.00

This particular camera does betray signs of being a fake.  The black rings around the two flash output sockets on the back of the camera are black. On authentic black paint M3 bodies those are chrome. The white lettering on this particular camera seems remarkably nice, and the brassing looks contrived.

However, there could be an explanation that doesn’t involve deceit. As Tom Abrahamsson, he of the Abrahamsson Rapid Winder, notes, back in the day there were a lot of black M3 top plates floating around outside the official control of Leitz Wetzlar.  Leitz would transform your chrome camera into a black camera for a fee. Dealers and importers had orders and none in stock – so Leica would fill the void by sending the dealer black paint top and bottom plates. Bigger Leica importers had their own engraving machines with correct numbers.  They removed the top plate, engraved the number of the chrome one on the black top – and then “destroyed” the chrome one. It wasn’t that expensive either – somewhere around $ 100 at the time. There are also numerous factory “non black paint list” bodies that were special orders. These do not show on the “official” lists – only in the shipping documents.

So, who knows, maybe some dude who loves guns and operates a sideline business of forging Leica M3 boxes to sell in units of 10 on Ebay somehow got himself a nice Black Paint M3, all legit. And the guy who bought this one on Ebay for $3100 got himself an authentic black paint M3.

 

Leica To Offer Faux Brassed Leica M

Leica-M-P-Typ-240-Lenny-Kravitz-limited-edition-camera

According to LeicaRumors.com, Leica will announce a new M240  camera made from raw/coated brass, already brassed straight from the factory for your fondling convenience.

The new Leica M-P (Typ 240) “Lenny Kravitz” version will come in a kit with two different lenses: a pre-brassed 35/2 ASPH and 50/1.4 ASPH (black paint E43). Only 120 pieces will be produced.

Why anyone other than friends and family of “Lenny Kravitz” would buy one is a complete mystery.

The Genesis of the Black Paint Rangefinder

Nikon S2 black paint

The camera that started the trend of black finish was not the Leica MP, but the Nikon S2. The black paint Nikon S2 was introduced in October 1955. The black S2 is plated with black nickel and then painted.

The Nikon rangefinders possessed a fit and finish the equal of the Leica, although some folks mistake the inherent play in the fit of the detachable back for a lack of bodily solidity. It is not. In terms of finish, the Nikons sometimes bested the Leica. Unlike Leitz, the white markings are engraved – on the M3, M2 and M4 only the serial number is engraved – on the Nikon S2, all the white numerals, lettering and indications are engraved by hand.

The first of black M Leicas was a run of 5 black paint M3’s followed shortly by the famous black MP’s. Leitz made 150 of the black MPs.  The paint on these cameras is very dull and thin.

Black Paint M3 earliest

Black Paint MP 28

In 1958 Leitz introduced the M2 that was also made in black, the same finish and paint type that was used on the MP: dull and thin. Leitz produced 500 of the M2’s in this run of black paint production.

Black Paint M2 earliest

Towards the early seventies Leitz offered a service for those who were not happy with the flaking and bubbling paint on their early black M2’s. All the black parts were replaced by new ones and the original number was engraved, but slightly higher than the old ones from the fifties. The type of paint was the same of that of the black paint M4 and Leicaflex SL.

Black Paint M2 restored

For some reason lost to time, Leitz did not have a restoration service for the M3 as they did for the M2. However, owners could have their chrome M3’s transformed to black paint. These transformed cameras are very rare, due to the high cost. They were often made to match the Noctilux 50mm f/1.2, a black finished lens.

Black Paint M3 restored

The style of the engraved number will date the camera a bit. This one does not have any spaces in it’s number, so it can date from the M5 era when the numbers were engraved into the accessory-shoe without spaces. Note the position of the engraved serial number, just a bit lower than the M3 engraving.

*Thanks to Eric van Straten for the photos and expertise. This is essentially a verbatim reprint of a fascinating tutorial posted by Mr. van Straten elsewhere. Mr. van Straten is an amazing source of information for all things Leica film rangefinder related.

Black Paint Leica MP 39* to be Auctioned in Stockholm

MP 39 1 MP 39 2 MP 39 3 MP 39 4 MP 39 5

Up for auction December 6, 2014 at LPfoto Auctions in Stockholm, a rare duplicate numbered black paint MP with Leicavit:

Leitz Wetzlar, 1957, Black paint, Double stroke, a duplicate from an original series MP13-MP150, with matching black Leicavit MP. A extremely rare camera, in original condition except body housing with small strap lugs and self timer, with matching chassis number P-39* inside the camera. This is the only MP we have ever seen with a duplicate number, not two Leica cameras have the same serial number. If Leica ever almost duplicated a number, the second item had a star added after its otherwise identical serial number. In good working order, with dark brassy patina after hard professional use.

Starting auction price is 350,000 Swedish Krona (approx $47,500 US dollars). Clearly, this MP has seen more than its share of “hard professional use.” Frankly, it looks like something your heirs would find in a box in your attic and throw in the trash. I suggest whoever ends up with this thing should at least spend the extra $25 for a new vulcanite cover at http://aki-asahi.com/. Hell, while you’re at it, why not have Shintaro repaint it for you?

******

Probably the nicest M being auctioned is a black paint 1960,  Single stroke M3 with L service seal, from original black paint series 993501-993750.  It’s been beautiful restored to new condition by the Leitz factory in the 1980’s with new and vintage parts and then never used. Starting auction price is $6750 US Dollars. Now THIS is a beautiful M3.

29564_1 29564_5 29564_7

In addition to the MP and M3 noted above,   LPfoto is auctioning a number of other interesting collectible Leicas, including:

Leica IIIg LPfoto 1Leica IIIg LPfoto 2

Leitz Wetzlar, 1960, Black paint, from an original series 987901-988025, with Leitz Summaron 2.8/35mm No.1678210 (BC) and front cap, rear top plate and lens with “Triple crown” engraving. A great rarity, only 125 ex in black paint made for the Swedish army 1960, and this beautiful camera is in a very clean 100% original condition and never restored, and even rarer with Summaron 35mm lens (approx. 30 lenses made). Provenance: Bought by the owner at FFV Allmaterial (=Military surplus), Ursvik 1977. 

Starting auction price 390,000 Swedish Krona (approx $52,750 US Dollars)

Leica IIIg LPfoto 10 Leica IIIg LPfoto 11

Leitz Wetzlar, 1960, Black paint, from an original series 987901-988025, with Leitz Elmar 2.8/50mm No.1636136 (B, Filter rim with one minor dent), rear top plate and lens with “Triple crown” engraving. A great rarity, only 125 ex in black paint made for the Swedish army 1960, and this camera is in 100% original condition with dark brassy patina and never restored. Provenance: Bought by the owner at FFV Allmaterial (=Military surplus), Ursvik 1977. Slow shutter speeds irregular.

Starting auction price is 350,000 Swedish Krona (approx $47,500 US dollars).

The ‘Added Value’ of Black Paint

On November 22, 2014, Westlicht Auction will put up for sale, among other things, two Leica MPs, MP-375 and MP-24, both with matching Leicavit. Both mechanically sound. The only difference between the two cameras is that one is chrome ((MP-375) and one is black paint (MP-24). The chrome MP-375 could easily be described on Ebay as “MINTY!” The MP-24, not so much.

Westlicht expects MP-375 to sell for a maximum of €60,000 and MP-24 a maximum of €180,000. In effect, the guy who buys MP-24 will be paying a €120,000 premium for the black paint, most of which, given a quick look at its photo, has already worn away.

‘Black Paint’ is one of those serendipitous features that has assumed incredible importance for ‘collectors.’ Years ago, some professional users wanted cameras that were less apparent in the field (usually PJs in Korea and Viet Nam getting shot at), so manufacturers like Leica and Nikon started producing black cameras along with traditional chrome using black paint (as that’s all that was available at that time). The black paint wore much quicker than the traditional chrome finish and a well worn black paint Leica or Nikon usually signified a professional user. Most amateurs avoided the black cameras because they looked old and beat up much too fast for their tastes. As a result of customer complaints about the lack of permanence of black finished models, Leica offered new black chrome models, black anodized chrome over brass meant to be much more durable, starting with the M5 and the Leicaflex SL.

Leica resumed offering black paint models again with the M6 TTL, mostly due to nostalgic demand from fondlers. Today, the black paint fetish has assumed the irrationality of the Tulip Mania of 1636-1637, usually doubling or tripling the value of any pedestrian vintage Leica or Nikon. Like all matters of style, speculative investments based on such ephemera are tentative at best. My advice: buy the chrome MP and use the extra €120,000 you’ve saved to buy an original Thomas Kinkade painting.

Original MP in beautiful and perfect working order, clean finder and shutter, with Leicavit MP, matching chassis number inside the camera. Expected selling price: EUR 50.000 – 60.000

Original and very rare black paint MP with patina of professional use, in perfect working order, matching chassis number inside the camera, with black Leicavit MP. Expected selling price: EUR 150.000 – 180.000

Buying a Black Paint M3 on Ebay. Caveat Emptor.

fake BP1

Black paint Leica M3’s are rare, as in really rare. And, like all Leica rarities, they’re expensive. One recently sold at  auction in Hong Kong for $472,00.00.  So, imagine my surprise when a “Leica M3 100% Original Black Paint Finish – With Original Documents,” above, showed up on Ebay with a No Reserve starting price of $.99, complete with ample paperwork  from Leitz, NY proving its provenance. The seller (he of two feedback) apparently bought the camera from an estate sale:

  • Leica M3 in original black lacquer finish – Early Double Stroke
  • I recently found this entire set an estate sale. I have been a member of eBay since 1999. I recently started this new account. There is no reason for concern because any potential buyers will be protected under the buyer protection plan established by eBay and Paypal
  • M3 comes with original receipt, guarantee, and gold tag
  • All serial numbers match and you can verify that Leica made Black M3’s during this Serial Range by going to this website (L-camera-forum)
  • L Seal is intact on Camera
  • Camera come with its original brass body cap – made by Leica for their black cameras
  • Auction has plenty of original brochures and manuals (see photo)
  • Camera has glass film Plate
  • Camera is operating perfectly and firing at all speeds
  • Timer is working correctly
  • Viewfinder is clean and clear
  • Camera has been tested recently and takes wonderful photos
  • This camera has to be the rarest camera on eBay currently, a very early run of Leica’s Black finished M3’s
  • Kind Regards

fake BP3

fake BP2

Is the camera a “real” black paint M3? Who knows. Suffice it to say that there are numerous red flags that suggest its a fake: according to Leica’s records, before the original black paint MP’s, from no. 13 to no. 150 (1957), just after batch M3 882001-886700, no black M’s were made; the vulcanite looks suspiciously new; and the wear looks just a bit contrived. The amount of supporting paperwork also seems contrived, too comprehensive for a camera that was used as much as this one purports to have been (in my mind, somebody who would hold onto all that original paperwork and sales brochures, i.e. with an eye to posterity, probably would have treated the camera a little better).

Fake

But….Leica’s records, unfortunately, are incomplete, because the verified black paint M3 sold at Hong Kong auction this past May is serial number 746572. And this guy seems to think his, serial number 779019, is legit too. It is known that Leica would produce black paint M’s on order – even before the first “official” black paint M3s were produced in 1957/58.  Keep in mind: in 1955 black Leica’s were not “collectible”; maybe the original owner, a Busby Cattenach from Wisconsin, simply wanted a black camera, ponied up his $324 and had Leitz, NY send him one special, and 45 years later some guy with a new Ebay account and two feedbacks grabbed it for a few hundred bucks at an estate sale in New Jersey. It could happen.

Whatever’s up with this camera, it’s no longer for sale on Ebay, having been pulled down after a day or so on site, which is a shame, since I’d already configured my Bidnip account to bid it up to $2100 at the last moment. So much for scoring an under-the-radar deal on Ebay.

Takahashi “Jewelryware” M4

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leicapaint1 leicapaint3 leicapaint4

This is a Takahashi Leica M4. Takahashi was a Japanese painter and engraver well renowned in the 70′s and 80′s for his extremely highly detailed and precision repainting and engraving work. This particular M4 has been refinished with a crystalline stone fleck coating, known as ‘Jewelleryware Coating’ in Japan. According to Bellamy Hunt of Japan Camera Hunter,  this is the last camera Takahashi painted before retiring. 

It certainly is beautiful, although I’m not sure what you’d do with it other than putting it up on a shelf and admiring it, which seems to me a bit of a waste.