Above is a used Leica MP. It’s made of titanium. It’s currently for sale at the Miami Leica store for $39,995. First come, first served.
The Leica MP Titanium (0.72) camera was introduced in April 2007 to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the opening of Leica Store Ginza in Tokyo, Japan. It was produced exclusively for the Japanese market and was available only at the Ginza store in Japan. All exterior metal parts and fittings are made of titanium, similar to the Leica M7 Titanium and the Leica M9 Titan. The camera weighs approximately 90 grams less than a regular MP. A signed (by then-CEO of Leica Steven Lee) certificate of authenticity is included.
Which gets me thinking: if I had $40,000 burning a hole in my pocket and I wanted a titanium 35mm film camera of exceptional quality, I could always go to Ebay and pick up a nice titanium Contax G1 for less than $125. And I’d still have $39,875 left for film. Of course, it’s not a Leica, but it’s a damn fine camera with a host of truly exceptional dedicated Zeiss lenses, each the equal of the latest stratospherically priced Leica offerings. And it has ‘modern’ features that the Leica lacks, like Auto Focus and Auto Exposure and a built in motor drive, all housed in a beautiful titanium body, just like the $40k MP. But that’s not the point, is it?
“Collectors,” the sort of people who would buy a titanium MP, aren’t buying one so they can use it to take pictures. You’re not going to see a stubbled photojournalist pulling one from a beat up rucksack in some third world hot spot. I get that. And, given the crazy prices collectible Leicas go for, you can easily make the argument that a titanium MP might be a pretty safe investment. But….
Being old enough to remember when beat up Leicas were routinely pulled out of rucksacks in third world hot spots, I’m still emotionally married to the idea of the Leica as a functioning photographic tool. Call me a relic, but that’s why they’ve always appealed to me: traditional Leicas – the M2, M3, M4, and to a lesser extent the M5 and M6 – were the simplest of photographic tools. Nothing more than the strictly necessary features, nothing that presumed to do the thinking for you. Of course, that minimalist ethic is long dead photographically. Pick up the latest issue of PDN and every young up and coming hotshot has a big plasticky Nikon or Canon with a lens the size of an RPG launcher draped around his or her neck, extolling the necessity of its’ 100 Point Matrix Auto Focus. Or, even more depressing, go over to Rangefinder Forum or your favorite photo forum and join the discussion about which bag goes best with your M240 and attached Noctilux; while there, you can post pictures of your cat taken at full aperture.
Maybe its this obscene denigration of Leica’s real history that has caused throw back Leicas like the titanium MP to have become fetish objects commanding insane prices, collectors attempting to hearken back to an era where cameras were not computers but simple, reliable mechanical instruments. In my mind, however, a better way to scratch that itch is a buy a “real” Leica, a beat up M4, say, on Ebay. You can find beautiful examples for under $1000, cameras you’ll actually use to photograph things. With the money you’ve saved, you can travel the world for a few years all the while documenting your travels with your beloved M4. Or you can just stay home and photograph your cat with your Noctilux wide open. Either way, you win. And you’ll have plenty of money left for that fancy Filson bag.