The Zagato Leica

Zagato is an independent automobile design company and total design center located northwest of Milan, Italy. Apparently they’ve been hired by Leica to create a limited edition M10, price approximately $26,000.

My question is this: what is the Zagato M10’s purpose? Who is it being made for? To do what with? I’d feel vaguely foolish carrying one about for regular use and I don’t care who designs it, or what its made of –  it’s an M10 with non-functional design cues added to appeal to people who know the Zagato name. I’m not sure what car designers, even the best, can add to a photographic device, and the filmed advertisement for it above never articulates an answer to this obvious question. So, the motive behind the camera appears to be pure, vulgar ostentation. Why, when you could easily do so much better?

In any event, regardless of who it’s designed by, it’s not half as cool as a nice, well-used IIIg with Leicavit, which isn’t merely a beautiful design, but was designed as a working camera by designers who were also photographers, functionality always being the best design principle. That’s what the current people running Leica seem not to understand: the timeless designs of the iconic Leica Film rangefinders were a result of functional decisions. Now, design decisions seem to be about bling.

This is a Beautiful Camera. It was designed by camera guys at Wetzlar

As for collector value, I wouldn’t put money on any digital device having long-term value as a collector’s piece, given it’s not a mechanical device but an electronic computer with all the inherent obsolescense problems associated therewith.

Instead of projects like this – designed by luxury car designers or inspired by rock stars – you’d think someone at Leica would think back to Leica’s history and proudly work from there. Is that too much to ask, Leica?  Instead of these pointless vanity pieces, why not play to your strengths and your history and design a new all mechanical film camera, you know, the kind that made you famous. Yes, there’s still a market for serious film photography, certainly a larger market than that of the Zagato M10, and it seems to me you’re the obvious company to exploit it. How about this: stress minimalism – a 35mm rangefinder w/o meter, simple mechanical shutter, manual focus M-mount with capability to use the full range of Leitz optics. Give it an updated body design, not something radical but an evolution of the LTM and/or M models and their timeless designs. Make sure it has an engraved top plate. Please do not put a red dot on it, or a dot of any color. Hand assemble it, just like the IIIg and M3. Price it fairly for both leicaphiles and Leica AG. Don’t do something stupid like giving every buyer a roll of Tri-X to sweeten the deal. Do not put someone’s name on it. In other words, act like the proud company you once were. I’m pretty sure a sufficient number of people would line up to buy it. Or, if that’s too ambitious, why not make a new run of M3’s, much like Nikon did with the S3 and SP in the early naughts…not a replica, but an actual M3 indistinguisable from the ones you made through 1966? I assume you’ve got the tooling to do it. Make some in black paint. Offer it with a Leicavit. Call it the M3R. Leicaphiles will go nuts.

Whichever of the two options you choose, you’ll be trading on the Leica name in a way that honors your history in a serious way and shows some basic understanding of why the Leica name means so much to so many in spite of your heretofore short-sighted vulgarization of the brand. You’d make a lot of us really proud, you’d make a huge splash in the camera world, you’d bolster your flagging reputation with serious photographers, and you’d probably sell a few cameras. And you wouldn’t have to pay some famous designer to do it.

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16 thoughts on “The Zagato Leica

  1. Keith Laban

    I’ve given up imploring manufacturers to build their cameras to my bespoke specifications, they just don’t seem to share my vision: funny that.

    I’ve moved on to gently suggesting they provide a level of service worthy of their cameras.

    Keith Laban

  2. Hector S. Ramos

    I’d be seriously interested on a new black Leica M3. I’ve searched for a genuine black M3 but the prices are exorbitant . I needed a back up for my aging MP the back door of which has become loose. I ended up with an M-A. But I miss the M3 which I sold sometime back. And I agree that Leica making special edition cameras has hurt Leica’s reputation among discerning photographers and has made photographers who use Leica cameras for day to day photography become an object of ridicule. The benefits of the M system has become obscured.

    1. Keith Laban

      Phew…thankfully I never have real-life contact with other photographers, discerning or not – the mere thought fills me with horror – so I can just get on with the job in hand without fear of ridicule and with the benefits of the M system intact.

      Keith Laban

  3. Dominique Pierre-Nina

    Its ridiculous if Leica keep this up it will be shooting it self in the foot. Yes put resources in a reproduction of am M3, no t in an M10 that only rich Russian or Chinese to carry around taking photos of there food and Gucci shoes and bag.

  4. Ed Rubin

    In defense of car designers and cameras, Giorgetto Giugiaro did an excellent job on the Nikon F3. Other than the VW GTI inspired red line, Giugiaro did extensive work on ergonomics, displays and handling, which led to Nikon continuing to use Italdesign for the F4, F5, and F6.
    That said, Zagato is not Italdesign and none of Zagato’s car designs has achieved the stature of Giugiaro and this Leica will never have the design stature of a Nikon F3 either.

    1. Rob Campbell

      I still have an F3… I preferred the F and F2; for starters, they didn’t need any little batteries! The non-electric emergency speed should have been up at a 125th or more, but I suppose they were thinking of the synch. problems if your batts died on a job and you had no spares.

  5. Christopher

    Spot on Tim. What is Leica management thinking? Outsourcing for bullshit glitz design? Zagato disco Leica for the vacuous bling brigade . . . totally bogan . . . perfect for Overgaard!!!

  6. wayne

    I think back to the M mount Barnack camera, I forget which model it was, DAG advertised a few years ago. I believe he imparted that his father had built it on a whim. I wanted it, bad, but did not have the scratch for it at the time. I have it now…..No longer available. I bet Leica could sell a few of those.

    Ironically, many of them would probably be picked up by the same crowd being targeted in this Zagato effort.

  7. Andrew

    You can get close to that brand-new hybrid M2/M3 by ordering an a la cart M-A and opting for only 35, 50 and 90mm frame lines.

    I’d much rather have a new production run of the M5 like they did in 1992, but that will never happen.

  8. ScottP

    I dunno, I’d kind of like a meter in my black M3. You’re free to not use it, and maybe they could make the LED arrows disappear when you turn it off.

    I worked in a camera store in the 70’s. (Yeah, I’m that old.) Literally every other manufacturer started including a meter in their cameras then, for almost no additional cost. Only Leica held out, and when they did finally add one with the M5 and M6, they acted like it was some enormous technical feat, and they charged something like a thousand (inflation-adjusted) US dollars for it.

    In a similar vein, they waited years to produce an SLR, after it was more than clear that SLRs were going to rule the market. Then they came out with SLRs that were overweight, underfeatured and of course, overpriced. They could easily have introduced something like a Leica-quality, bayonet mount Spotmatic that that photojournalists would actually have wanted to use. But they left that market to the Nikon F.

    I love my film Leicas, but Leica AG acting like a corporate doofus is not something that started yesterday.

  9. Van Marcu

    Regarding the Leica Zagato design project, the camera you specify that Leica should have made already exists. It’s the M5!

    Yes, it has a meter, which is both the reason it it is loved by Leicaphiles and also, the reason it was the camera that almost broke the bank for Leica.

    It was ahead of its time in the early 1970’s. The engineering was brilliant and mechanical. Unfortunately, it was necessarily complicated. Example; the mechanical/optical relay system that transfers the shutter speed setting to the viewfinder readout window requires PRECISE alignment, of the same exactness as the rangefinder patch alignment.

    I believe there are tiny solid-state optical systems that were not available back then that could replace that troublesome readout in a M5 redux.

    Make an M5 without the meter and the dream mechanical camera that you speak of is almost a reality – “a 35mm rangefinder w/o meter, simple mechanical shutter, manual focus M-mount with capability to use the full range of Leitz optics. Give it an updated body design, not something radical but an evolution of the LTM and/or M models and their timeless designs.”

    I can hear the critics because I have encountered them already. They asked, who wants an M5 WITHOUT a meter? Well, I do, for one. I have already asked a qualified Leica repairman if that could be done. Sure, he said. No problem.

    So I get a camera with a fresh design unlike any previous Leica M camera. One that fits the hand near perfectly, has a brilliant user-friendly shutter speed dial that does not require moving the camera from your eye to check the setting, a rapid-load film system and the BEST strap lugs ever invented.

    I love my Leica M5.
    Van Marcu
    20 July 2018


    Well, I have a second F3-“MINT” which needed to be serviced because faulty meter, I bought it for collecting. I used my 1st F3 since 10 years with no problems, but today it’s too old for repair if it fails.
    I collect Leica stuff, my last piece is a IIIG, (use it for black and white films), seems to be produced the last week..
    As many people on Leicaphilia, I have dreamed Leitz could make a new film camera, with meter or not, in spite of those “things” like M10. Every digital camera seems equals to me.
    Too much time spent for pushing too many buttons, wheels, watching the screen,and so on.
    And 15 minutes late, the computer makes the picture…

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