Leica F**ks With Us Yet Again

Andreas Kaufman (Leica Bigwig) and Lenny Kravitz Share an Inside Joke

“The Leica M-P “Correspondent” is an homage to Lenny’s lifelong passion for photography that started with the Leicaflex he received from his father on his 21st birthday.” – Kravitz Design. One question: How does one start a “lifelong passion” at 21?

Here’s the “unboxing” video of the Lenny Kravitz MP. The camera and lenses of the Kravitz set are identical to the production MP’s technical specifications i.e. the only difference is the faux wear and the Lenny Kravitz stamp of approval. Give Leica credit: only Leica could introduce an artificially worn camera named after a B-grade rock star, label it the “Correspondence Edition”, require that it be handled with white gloves, charge 3 times the price of the normal petty bourgeois version ($24,500 US), and sell them all.

Make Sure You Wear Those White Gloves While Handling That Old, Beat Up Camera!

Apparently, Leicaphiles eat these absurdities up. In doing a Google search on the camera’s introduction, I can find nothing but breathless fawning by people who should know better – PetaPixel, Leica Rumors, Steve Huff Photo, et al. Critical thinking has always been in short supply among the secondary Leica press. Lesson to be learned: just know when you read these sites that you’re not getting objective information; you’re getting recycled press releases and boot-licking sycophancy whose main objective, as best I can tell, is to stay on the good side of Leica in hopes of catching some scraps from the table.

You may have noticed that I’m seemingly on an extended Lenny Kravitz rant. To clarify: Lenny Kravitz is a very talented guy, much more so than I could ever be. He’s not some self-promoting hack hawking the illusion of his own competence; he’s just a guy who’s outside of his lane when it comes to photography, hawking a vanity project with the complicity of Leica who makes money from it. Apparently, his dad was a professional photographer who used a Leica. His dad gave him a Leicaflex when he was 21 and he’s had an interest in photography since that time. All perfectly legit. He’s also a famous musician…which he’s parlayed into his gig with Leica, and Leica has pimped him as a photographer, giving him exhibits and publishing his vanity project – “Flash” – whose print run, except for a bunch given away for promotional purposes, has probably long ago been remaindered and pulped.

The secondary press has actively promoted the whole schtick, often with great enthusiasm, which says a lot about what they must think of you, their reader. You’d think at least one critic, someone with a media platform like the ones above, would question the whole thing – or at least not smugly play along – but apparently no one did. The reality is this: those sites are just further marketing arms for camera manufacturers, Leica foremost among them. They’re not there to look out for your interests. They’re parasitical to the whole Leica marketing enterprise, there to manipulate your interests and make money doing it.

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The Re-Introduced Leica M6

And Yet. If you can get past all the nonsense – what I like to refer to as the ‘Overgaardization’ of the brand – Leica continues to do some pretty remarkable things. The reintroduction of M6 production, almost 40 years after its initial offering, is a case in point. What other camera company is producing and marketing mechanical film cameras in 2022? Nobody. Now, with the new M6, Leica offers three (yes, 3) mechanical film cameras, the MA, the MP and the M6. And they sell every one they produce. As I understand it, Leica is now more fiscally healthy than it’s ever been, whereas twenty years ago they were on the verge of bankruptcy. Cleary as a money-making operation they are wildly successful. And they deserve to be, given their continued commitment to what got them here i.e. mechanical film cameras.

Who’s buying these currently offered film Leica’s is anyone’s guess. Professionals? I doubt it. Old, crusty guys looking to relive their photographic youth? Maybe. Are a lot of them being used to create really shitty “street photography” i.e. seemingly any picture taken outdoors with a Leica? No doubt. Are some people using them to produce meaningful work? Of course. In this respect, the Leica buyer’s demographic has changed little in the last 40 years.

It will be interesting to see who buys the new M6. I suspect it will be one of two types: 1) Younger people who’ve never shot much film and want to engage with, and learn, film photography and 2) everyone else who’ll buy it and never take it out of the box. As for the former, good for them. If your goal is to get back to the basics and cultivate film photography as a viable medium – and you’ve got some disposable income – a new M6 is a worthy way to go about it. I also suspect that, after the initial, all too predictable post-release feeding fenzy, in a year or two you’ll see a lot of ‘Mint’ new M6’s for sale on the secondary market, digital-age photographers having discovered that the reality of film photography and its theoretical allure are often two different things.

26 thoughts on “Leica F**ks With Us Yet Again

  1. Bill B.

    I’m still waiting for the return of the a la carte program so I can get a black paint version of the MA which will brass up beautifully because that’s cheaper than buying a black paint M2. But I applaud their moxy in sticking with film cameras. I think all current users of older M6s will breath a sigh of relief that the light meter electronics can now be fixed if they get fried. Unfortunately the new black paint (lacquer) won’t brass up so easily.

    Reply
  2. Robert Todrick

    I look at it this way…if making a bunch of extra money selling special editions puts more money in the coffers to keep Leica profitable…and making cameras I can afford…I’m all for it.
    For God’s sake…it’s now where near as bad as this https://www.richardmille.com/collections/rm-88-automatic-tourbillon-smiley
    This will cost you a cool $1.5 million…for a watch with a smiley face on it.
    I’ll forgive Leica their Lenny Kravitz edition 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leicaphila Post author

      That’s one ridiculously stupid watch, I’ll give you that. Somewhere in NYC right now there’s a guy walking around with that watch on his wrist while he’s street photographing with his Kravitz Leica and Noctilux. He’s in town for the $5000 Thorsten [von] Overgaard Seminar “Bokeh: Why You Need it and How to Get It.”

      I weep for humanity.

      Reply
  3. Rob Campbell

    At least digital allows us to photograph rubbish without wasting water. That is quite important.

    Is there any law of complex inverse proportionality between ability, youth, and the process of executing meaningful, original photography? HC-B et al. must sometimes roll over in their fine coffins. Or spin in their urns.

    I believe that there is a sad, fundamental futility in trying to emulate the spirit of that kind of photographer – the times have changed; the situations today are hardly comparable in social terms: the US isn’t France (and neither is anywhere else), but neither is France what is was back in the day. Much the same is true for the Leiter paradigm: I’ve heard Saul say on video that NY is not the NY it was when he would wander around his neighbourhood making his pictures, that they would no longer be possible to recreate. Glasgow had its Oscar Marzaroli making interesting observations of the underbelly of that city; I met him back in ‘65, just a few months before I grew my wings. His day job was documentary filming, not soon-to-be-nostalgic documentation of deprivation and societal ills. I have no idea what drove his interest in that direction. His work has been exhibited, and is quite powerful – at least in print. I think online viewing probably reduces everything to a common base that isn’t always for the better. That said, were it not for the Internet, we would know so little about so much. Of course, how deeply that knowledge ever really goes is open to debate.

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    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Never heard of Marzaroli. I’ll just done a Google search on him. Very nice work. Apparently he confined himself to shooting Glasgow. I may be extrapolating my ignorance, but I’m not sure he’s much known at all in the US. Which is a shame, because what I’ve seen looks really interesting.

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      1. Rob Campbell

        I don’t think many Glaswegians knew about him either, photographers included. The entire photo art thing was unknown in most of the UK until much later than in your country, or even France. I think Italy gave its immediate post-WW2 neorealism photographers some attention, but I think the photographer heroes there were more in the fashion or the Roman movie industries.

        British amateur photography had one bible: Amateur Photographer. I guess it was responsible for all those thrilling, overlit images of faux seamen in heavy knitted sweaters, pipes optional. Or was it all the fault of Karsh? Later on, it was blessed with Photography magazine, edited by Norman Hall. Apart from giving me my first published picture, it introduced many of us to people like HC-B, Frank Horvat and some of the Italians referred to above. Like Nova magazine, it was far too good to survive, at least as under the wonderful, sympathetic Hall stewardship.

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      1. Rob Campbell

        I guess they’ll have to start a youtube channel or adopt a celebrity parent or two.

        Apart from the gallery world, is there much commercial photography around anymore to give kids the chance they need? I imagine that both must be pretty hard to crack; worthwhile pro photography always was, even back when there was still plenty of it about.

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      2. Leicaphila Post author

        Cool link. I’m pretty sure that’s Richard Thompson with the guitar. One of my Rock God heroes.

        Reply
  4. Tamara

    I’m skeptical. Young people who buy $6000+ hobby items tend to finance them for 36 months at the Kawasaki dealership, not pick them up at the camera shop. This status symbol is unlikely to get anyone new into film photography.

    The lack of actually affordable new film cameras priced anywhere in the gulf between semidisposable toys from Holga and Leica’s Veblen goods is the second biggest threat to film photography.

    The biggest is the eventual collapse of local processing options, specifically for color film.

    Film photography has been in a post-apocalyptic state, scavenging the graveyards of a dead industry, for a decade now.

    https://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/2021/04/eaters-of-dead.html

    Reply
    1. Leicaphila Post author

      “I’m skeptical. Young people who buy $6000+ hobby items tend to finance them for 36 months at the Kawasaki dealership, not pick them up at the camera shop. This status symbol is unlikely to get anyone new into film photography”. You may be right…although I think your average Upper West Side kid – the kind who’d be seduced by the whole ironic film thing….had more disposable income than you think. Shit, I’ve know 20+ somethings like that who could buy and sell me. Yes, the 20 something in Iowa is going to be financing his Ninja 400; however, a $5000 camera is easily with the reach of the Upper West Side kid, or the LA kid, or the Berkeley kid, and those are the kids who want an M6. Remember, we’re not talking massive production runs of M6’s. I think there’s more than enough affluent kids who’ll want one. My guess is that 90% will be back on the market in a year or so once they tire of the novelty and they’ll move back to a new M12.

      Just remember, the whole thing is ultimately about status. These are Veblen goods, as you note. A rational kid, wanting to get into film photography, would buy a cherry F5 and a few inexpensive Nikon primes – the whole thing costing maybe $500 – and he/she would be set. But it’s not about that, as you realize.

      Reply
      1. Tamara

        Fair enough!

        I’m probably just working through my bitterness that I didn’t grab a good M3 or M5 when the market was at its bottom back in ’13 or ’14.

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    2. Rob Campbell

      Well, Tamara, I don’t think it’s the cameras that will be the death of film. The world (and its graveyards 😉 ) is overflowing with old ones, most of them, I’d guess, pretty much unused for much of their lives, but the real killer, at least for me, is the price of film: a never ending overhead. Colour is really a distraction, for as somebody of note – whose name now escapes me – remarked: black and white is the language of photography. I tend to buy into that.

      Thing is, if you don’t do all the darkroom work yourself, you aren’t getting much from your efforts, and at the end of the day, to whom does the image you get to display really belong?

      As I perceive it, colour negative film is the least satisfactory form of filmic recording; it always was, its only virtue being a less demanding requirement for accurate metering than was the case with transparency; transparency materials were always the required medium for quality reproduction for advertising etc. Even when I had to do print blowups of clothes for trade shows, say 5’ tall on 40” paper rolls, I’d shoot the original on transparency and then have a larger internegative made, from which would come the print. For most purposes other than professional, however, transparency film is a bastard medium that is the devil to examine, and hot projectors can easily ruin slides if the projectionist gets too excited/distracted and lingers between them for too long.

      Irony, though, is that when I could buy Leicas on the business, I never wanted to. Decades later, there is this silly feeling that I missed something… probably all I missed was making a mistake because I was not into work where a rangefinder camera made any kind of sense at all. That said, and rational thinking notwithstanding, I can’t pretend that I would refuse and return it if Santa picked the wrong house and filled my festive sock with Leica.

      I think that though type of work is an important factor in making the call to use a rangefinder or not, I also suspect that some of us have a predisposition towards favouring reflex cameras. Or, of course, the other way around.

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      1. Bob Todrick

        I’ll beg to differ. We are Western Canada larges independent photo retailer…and we cannot keep color film in stock. What makes is so interesting to so many of today’s new shooters is that there are so many variants that give special effects…weird color casts, built in flare…the latest film that emulates to look of the movie Euphoria (whatever the heck that means).
        All things you could do in post processing with a digital file…but there seem to be a whole lot of people willing to spend $$$ to do this with film.

        Personally I don’t get it…but if it keeps people buying film and cameras instead of just taking selfies of themselves with there smart phones I’m all for it 🙂

        Reply
        1. Rob Campbell

          Well Bob, that many people buy negative colour doesn’t in any way mean the medium is wonderful. It does, perhaps, indicate that it makes life more easy, which is what I have been saying. Easy and wonderful are not the same thing.

          I hope it continues to flourish and keep your business afloat, but I don’t think I’d bet the farm on it.

          Spain, well, Barcelona, still has a photo-goods company called ARPI. It used to have several branches around Spain, the one in Palma, Mallorca, being the one closest to me. Thanks to having retained my UK business when I moved out here in ‘ 81, I was able to get Kodak in Madrid to validate my pro standing, and I was accepted as a trade customer by ARPI’s Palma branch. As a wholesale customer I could buy film and cameras etc. at trade prices (which broadly matched UK retail prices!) and life was sweet. However, come digital and the drying up of the vast pro market for film and chemicals, the local branch vanished. The rump that remains in Barcelona appears to be a mere shadow of it’s former self. Thinking of trying to buy Nikon through it online seemed impossible. That company, in photo terms, was huge, printing thick, seasonal catalogues a couple of times a year.

          Like it or not, the cards are stacked against film, and it would surprise me if I get to use my remaining film Nikon ever again, despite quite a lot of film in the freezer. I also have a few Kodachromes for historical, “ investment” purposes that may prove of value to my grandkids’ kids, if they ever get around to having them. I hope I’m mistaken, but unless prices revert to some more acceptable level, the future does not look too rosy for a wider rebirth. Sure, you will probably always have few people for whom cost is irrelevant; let’s hope they continue beating a path to your door. A niche market is ever dodgy, as I discovered all by myself.

          Reply
          1. Bob Todrick

            You may be wrong.
            We have five stores in a city of one million. We have a central film lab that has operated continually for 50 years. Ten years ago it was processing about 50 rolls of color film a week from all our stores.
            For the last year it has been at maximum capacity…80-100 rolls a day. We’re looking at having to buy another processor.
            It could turn out to be like vinyl records…20 years ago it was a niche market that everyone said was dead…in 2021 vinyl records were the music industry’s most popular and highest-grossing physical format.

          2. Tamara

            “The music industry’s most popular physical format” in 2022 is kinda like being the tallest midget at the state fair.

      1. Dan Newell

        The progression from the GR series to the 240/246 seems to be common, or at least more common than I thought. Reasonable buy-in as well.

        I’ve found that another sleeper is the Nikon DF with the older Nikkor glass. Normally the AA filter would have put me off but it’s a pretty weak filter so it’s doable.

        Reply
  5. Rob Campbell

    Never heard of the guy before, but most enjoyable video, with a message with which I feel much empathy. Thank you for posting it, Dan.

    Escape from the self; the problems that grow from too much time alone with yourself. I think I wrote the book. I wonder how many people do street shooting just to break that chain, that slow slide into not bothering to do much of anything, but just drift? And then it’s possibly too late. Drifting is too comfortable.

    He was right to opt for the city. You can’t feel that human vibe he wants to experience when the streets are almost empty after the tourists go home. I often wonder where all the local people hide – there are lots of locals to be seen in summer… As bad, the tourists are not exciting. But then neither are the people in the video, which flies in the face of Leiter, who made much of describing his photographic life as a search for beauty; you have a hard time doing that search when you have no access to such people. Shoulda settled in Rome instead, just as I’d wished that I could when I was twenty.

    I think it’s a great point he makes suggesting that, in the end, the “subject” as such isn’t what it’s really about. What it is is a starting line, the agreed place from which you go to find something you don’t yet know. At least, I guess that’s so in the pics in the video.

    All that scaffolding: I couldn’t help thinking of Peter Lindbergh, who made much use of it in his work, and when there was none, appears to have used a music stand as substitute. Funny the things you learn from watching hero videos. 😉

    Reply
  6. Dan Newell

    “Escape from the self; the problems that grow from too much time alone with yourself. I think I wrote the book. I wonder how many people do street shooting just to break that chain, that slow slide into not bothering to do much of anything, but just drift? And then it’s possibly too late. Drifting is too comfortable.”

    Yeah, comfortable ain’t comfortable. You find your jam is photography and you want to maintain a standard that has to be met. It has to be vital and relevant or the groove stops.

    Reply

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