2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the LHSA, and to commemorate this milestone, a new LHSA Special Edition model has been created. I have been working with Stefan Daniel and the team at Leica Camera AG for almost two years on this project. Originally, a Special Edition set consisting of a camera and lens was envisioned, but the introduction of the new Leica M10 last January changed that plan. Hopefully we will have something in the way of a Special Edition camera next year. We decided to continue on with the lens part of the project, and here is the result of the latest collaboration of the LHSA and Leica.
I had worked with Stefan Daniel on the past three previous Special Editions for the LHSA. The first of these was the Black Paint M6. Leica had abandoned the black paint cameras almost thirty years before with the last model produced in this finish being the M4. The black paint M cameras are highly prized by aficionados, especially those cameras that have seen a lot of use with the subsequent “brassing” taking place. These cameras take on a unique patina, and their appearance tells the story of a well-used work-horse in the hands of a serious photographer. The M6 Black Paint camera was the result of many discussions between me, Tom Abrahamsson and Leica Germany to bring back their black paint M cameras. It took quite a bit of effort to overcome the reluctance of Leica to do such a camera. Indeed, their first reaction was, “why would you want something like that, surely our black chrome finish is superior to black paint!” Part of the problem was that the original painting process was not exactly environmentally friendly, and had been discontinued almost thirty years earlier! The other part of the problem was that when the M6 was introduced in 1984, Leica had gone to a cast zinc top plate for the M cameras. Black paint necessitated a brass top plate, but the original dies had all been scrapped years ago and the cost to produce new tooling was prohibitive. At this point, new technology came to the rescue. It was now possible to do a brass top plate with CNC machining, without the need to use the original die stamping process. The black paint finish had also become a lost art for Leica, so they had to relearn how to do it. Many sample top plates were sent to me to evaluate the progress being made on the painting process. Eventually all obstacles were overcome and the camera was produced. With over 1,000 units produced, the concept of the black paint camera was so successful that the LHSA Black Paint camera became the basis for numerous other special edition cameras. Brass top plates and black paint again became a standard finish for the Leica M camera.
2003 marked the 35th anniversary of the Society, and a new concept for another special edition would be have to be arrived at. I felt it was very important that we not do just a special engraving or body covering. I wanted to do something that was highly desirable to Leica collectors and users. The Hammertone finish was chosen for the new LHSA MP Leica limited edition. Hammertone was one of the rarest of all the M cameras, with only ten special Leica MD cameras in this finish having been made for a special order in 1964. Like the original Hammertone, the advance lever, shutter speed dial and rewind knob are finished in satin chrome. Along with the camera, a retrostyled 35/2 Summicron ASPH lens resembling the original eight element Summicron in chrome finish on brass was specified and a Hammertone Leicavit completed the set. One thousand units of this special edition were made.