I'm sure every photographer out there has that one special camera which they dream about. I would like to share my thoughts and feelings about my dream camera which is the Leica MP.
The model which I own was introduced in 2003 but of course this is not the original Leica MP. Originally it was introduced in 1956 in Photokina. Leica MP was a special production series of the M3. The “P” in MP that time stood for “Professional”. Leica aimed the MP at professionals and photojournalist so it was never advertised to wide public. This means that the camera was manufactured in such small numbers that there is a big chance you will never see one in real life! This is probably the most desirable M model out there.
Fast forward to 2003 and Leica reintroduced the MP model. This time the “MP” stands for “Mechanical Perfection”. Leica made few design changes but also introduced some new features.
I will not list all the differences but I will focus more on the 2003 model.
Light meter was one of the new features which was added. Battery is powering the light meter only. The battery compartment was added to the front of the camera. Which we have seen in some previous Leica models like the M6. Battery is only needed to operate the light meter (or exposure meter if this term is more comfortable for you). One really good thing about the camera is that it will be operational without the battery. The shutter is mechanical and it will work on all speeds. Unlike the M7 where the shutter is electronic and only 1/60 and 1/125 sec are working without the battery.
The rangefinder has now a multicoated glass elements and condenser lens which helps to reduce flaring. Also the contrast of the rangefinder was improved dramatically. The focusing patch is nice and visible in most situations. I am using 0.72x magnification but other available magnifications are 0.58x and 0.85x. The Original MP has 0.91x magnification (this allowed you to keep both eyes open while looking through the rangefinder with one). Biggest drawback to this is the limited coverage of focal lengths which you can use (without magnifying adapters anyway). My MP’s frame lines are covering focal lengths from 28mm to 135mm. For anything wider you should get external finder. Frame lines preview lever can be used to change the frame lines while you have lens mounted so you can see if there is any other focal length which would work better for your photograph. Of course if you mount the lens on the body the frame lines are selected automatically for you. They are displayed in pairs as 35-135mm, 50-75mm, and 28-90mm. The frame lines illumination window was redesigned and provide really good illumination. Modern digital Leica cameras like M240 are using LED lights for example.
Shutter speeds are ranging form 1/1000 to 1 second. Bulb “B” is also available. Off is shared with B. Always remember to switch the camera to Off position when not shooting as light meter will activate if shutter is pressed. If you don’t your battery will discharge. No A mode here (apparently stands for Amateur I heard).
ISO dial is on the back of the camera. And you can go form ISO 6 to 6400!
As with all M lenses the aperture is changed on the lens.
Now the really exciting suff. The film advance lever it’s so smooth, each time you advance film you hear and feel all the gears working in perfect harmony. You can really feel the mechanical perfection. Shutter sound is on another level compared to anything you heard before. There is nothing like it in today's world. That click when you press the shutter if so beautiful and satisfying.
Flash can be attached to the hot shoe or contact socket for cord connections. Maximum flash sync speed is 1/50 second. You can see flash symbol on the shutter speed dial.
Loading film is really straight forward. Open remove the bottom plate, load the film as indicated on the diagram. The back doors (or rear panel) can be open so you can check if your film is aligned properly. Advance film, release shutter then attach the bottom plate to the camera and make sure you close it properly. Advance, release shutter, advance, release shutter and your frame counter should now be on zero.
You are now all set and ready to capture some magic.
Now after you taken award wining photographs to unload film flip the film release lever and use the film rewind knob to wind the film back to the case. Remove the bottom plate and pop the film out. Get the chemicals ready and warm up the scanner because the film is ready to be processed.
What I really like about this model specifically is the black paint. Over time the black paint will start to fade and eventually the brass will shine from underneath. This is the sign that the camera was used for its purpose and served well. I really like that look and I'm sure a lot of Leica fans really appreciate that look as well.
I never understood people which are just keeping their cameras at home on the shelf. In fact the Leica MP was created to be used like all Leica cameras (I don’t really want to go into fancy special editions…).
This is really beautiful camera and of course as you already know it is fully manual. You could be thinking why would you use such camera? Just because! The photography it's not always about taking photographs it's also about how it make you feel. Yes, I use digital cameras as well. But sometimes you just really want to slow down and appreciate the world around you and take your time with your photograph. Because in today's world we are chasing megapixels and the fastest autofocus and everything has to be so perfect. Well, I have news for you the world is not perfect. So with a camera like this you can capture the world as it is. It would be really amazing if you post your photograph on social media and someone would actually stop and look at what you have created. And not just look because we are just going through thousands of photographs on social media and we don't really stop. Sometimes we look but we don't really see what is actually happening on that photograph. Or we don’t ask the question what are the photographers trying to say with their photographs. So try to slow down, enjoy your photography. It should make you happy and it should make other people around you happy. Of course in most cases it should tell the truth or doesn't have to, this is all really up to you as you're the photographer.
When you provoke some sort of feeling you have already succeeded. Happy or sad just try to make people to see.
Really the main point is just to try to slow down and see what is happening around you. Wait for the moment and capture the moment!
My intention was not to make the article and video about technical specifications. But rather to share some appreciation for this special camera.
Please enjoy the following photographs which were taken with this camera.
Visit my YouTube channel where you can find video related to this article.