Okay, Leica, have a seat, we need to talk for a minute. I know you’re one of the iconic camera brands. I love my Leica M3 so much that I got a vasectomy so I wouldn’t have to give up my firstborn just to own one. And, yes, some of the best street photos in the world — photos that changed the world in so many ways — were taken with Leica cameras. But at some point you’ve got to take a breather and realize that you’ve done what you can.
One of those times is when you released the Leica MA Titan, the 250-unit limited edition camera that Leica announced this month. It’s a gorgeous camera carved out of titanium, with a glorious APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2 ASPH lens slapped on it. The Titanium makes the camera strong and lightweight, but the price tag — all 20,000 clams’ worth — weighs it down so heavily that it goes all the way around the dial from “yeah maybe” to “lolwut, okay, we need to stage an intervention.”
Look at that photo at the top of this article. Phwoahr. Tell me that ain’t one of the most beautiful cameras you’ve ever seen (although, it doesn’t look that dissimilar from the Fujifilm X100V, which at least has the common courtesy of adding a screen and, y’know, an imaging sensor). The MA Titan is an analog camera. Yes, analogue. Yes, as in you have to put film in it, the kind that gives you 24 or 36 frames to shoot before you need to change the film again. The kind that makes me all doe-eyed thinking of the hours spent sweating in an underventilated dark room, smelling fixing liquid and other (possibly carcinogenic) chemicals.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Leica has shoved a block of titanium in a mill and made special edition cameras — this is the sixth limited edition the company has put out there. I suppose it’s got to be nice to put a product out there that is so outrageously silly that a tech journalist gets their camera-pattern panties in a bunch (Yes, I am wearing MeUndies underclangers that have cameras on them this very moment), but I can’t help but wonder if, by putting products like this in the world, Leica leans even further into alienating its hard-core rangefinder fans. They — we — are becoming more and more estranged from a camera brand that was so relevant, and now seems less and less so.
I get it, this camera isn’t for photography fans. Or, at least, not photography fans like me. I suspect most of these cameras will end up as collector’s items for people who once told their hedge fund manager boss that they are really into photography because they installed a Hipstamatic app on their iPhone, strategically timed right before bonus time. Or perhaps as wedding gifts. Or retirement gifts. Or. . . I dunno, I can’t say I’ve received a $20,000 gift for a hot minute, so I can’t even really imagine the circumstances that that is happening.
Give me some grace over here — as I’m scanning my soul for why I’m so despondent, I’m realizing I’m just grieving how the mighty are falling. At least the venerable Hasselblad wouldn’t stoop so low as to lend its prestigious brand to something as frivolous as a phone camera, would it? Aw, damn, I spoke too soon.
Okay, fine, I admit it. I’m just embittered and sad that I’ll never get to play with this camera. Still, I already have my M3. It’s a peach. I love it. And if I were to pick up another Leica after winning three lotteries back-to-back, it’d be the 40-megapixel Monochrom, which eschews the color matrix on the imaging sensor to create one of the best-looking black-and- white-capturing cameras I’ve ever drooled over.
Look, I get it. Camera brands are struggling. Leica only sells about 100,000 cameras per year and was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2005 or thereabouts, and today they have a market share of about 1% of “real” cameras sold. They’ve got to do whatever they can to get by, as more and more folks are leaving “real” cameras behind altogether in favor of the ever-improving smartphone cameras.
It’s not that smartphones are so much better than stand-alone cameras. They aren’t. But with a good enough camera that’s improving with every generation of smartphones, always available in your pocket, why would you drag another chunk of steel and glass with you when you’re going on a trip to the other side of the world? Mind you, I’m writing this 12,000 km away from where I usually live, with only my Google Pixel 6 Pro to keep me photographic company, so I’m clearly in a deeply biased state of mind over here.
I just wish there wasn’t a new press release every 6 months that serves as a reminder of how quickly the camera industry is circling the drain.
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