Capturing period-defining moments in history, these limited Leica cameras are some of most fashionable photography tools to collect today – one even comes with rare Audrey Hepburn prints.
In 1839 photography enabled people to capture moments in time and the world has never been the same again since. Cameras have undergone great modifications from big wooden boxes in their first 70 years to the compact and digital single-lens reflex cameras of today. While advanced functions make contemporary cameras a great tool for wide usage, some photographers remain loyal to simple classic models. Avid vintage camera collector Douglas So, who founded the award-winning art photography gallery F22 Foto Museum in Wan Chai, says he’s not the only one. “A lot of photophiles use film cameras for their special image quality,” he says. “And young people love vintage cameras for they are timeless, yet period-defining innovations.”
F22 Foto Museum opened its new shop in The Peninsula Arcade this February, featuring a series of Leica cameras in the roaringly classy set-up of the 1920s. This Art Deco period saw the prevalence of Modernism in art and architecture. More symbolically, the twenties coincided with the opening of The Peninsula, Hong Kong and the creation of the first Leica camera. Invented in 1924, Leica cameras are known for the 35-mm handheld design that popularised 35mm film photography.
Even today, Leica still stands out with style and elegance in its innovative design. Here are five special vintage pieces that will add a touch of class and personality to your camera collection.
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The Leica M Monochrome “Drifter”
Designed by musician and designer Lenny Kravitz in 2019, a black-and-white photographer himself, the Drifter is Leica's first camera produced to feature a python pattern. Each individual camera is uniquely painted in sepia-brown and wrapped in a vegan python leatherette sourced from Stella McCartney. There is a limited production of 125 sets around the world, and F22 Peninsula features #1 and #8. The Drifter reflects the present day and the spirit of Kravitz, an adventurer who captures his journeys in monochrome photographs. Paired with all-purpose accessory pouches, it is perfect for wanderlusts who wish to carry a stylish camera for artsy travel photos.
The Leica M (Typ 262) “Red Anodized Finish”
This digital camera’s lens (apo-summicron-m 50 mm f/2 asph) wasn’t popular when it was first produced in 2016 because of its bright red colour. Leica’s lenses usually come in less flamboyant colour tones like black or silver. Yet it grew popular for it is the first lens ever to fully exploit the capabilities of modern high-resolution camera systems, which means that it makes no compromises in image sharpness and pushes boundaries in technical performance characteristics. As more people grew fond of the lens, Leica anodised the solid aluminium camera in red to pair with the lens. It has since become a limited collectable, with only 100 sets being sold; #5235016 and #5235099 are available at F22 Peninsula. Due to its rarity, its value surged to nearly seven times from the original retail price at 8,200 euros to 60,000 euros at an auction in 2019.
Leica M7 Edition Hermès
Another model famous for its colourful design is the limited edition camera set from 2019, the successor to the “Leica MP Edition Hermès” launched in 2003. This second series made in collaboration with Hermès comes in silver chrome with a choice of two calfskin leather finishes – orange and étoupe. Each colour is only available in 100 sets. Both are matched with a vented lotus lens hood in silver anodised metal, manufactured specifically for these models. The Hermès collection also comes with a silver Leicavit-M Rapid Winder, as well as a leather carrying strap, handcrafted by Atelier Hermès to match the cameras’ colours – ideal for collectors looking for a simple, elegant design.
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The Leica MP “Terry OʼNeill”
Legendary British photographer Terry O’Neill, known for documenting the fashions, styles, and celebrities of the 1960s – even including Audrey Hepburn – collaborated with Leica UK to reinvent the classic Leica camera into a stylish combination of British racing green, brown leather covering, finished with O’Neill’s very own signature engraved in white paint. After the cameras were released, the photographer bought one of them, limited to only 35 sets. In the mid-1960s, O’Neill was working more frequently in movie sets, shooting stars such as Frank Sinatra and Roger Moore, when he was invited to work on Two for the Roadstarring Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn in the South of France. In an interview, he recalls, “I was shooting portraits of Audrey when a dove landed on her shoulder. She stood as still as could be to allow me to get a few frames before the bird flew-off. Anyone else would have moved right way, but Audrey understood what makes a great image. She was a wonderful person to work with, a real star.” Produced in 2018, the “Terry O’Neill” model is technically the same as the standard model of the Leica MP film camera designed for photographers to work with difficult lighting situations. Yet this special model set includes a signed 16 x 20 photograph of Audrey Hepburn, taken right when the dove landed on the actress.
Leica M10 Edition Zagato
“Zagato custom-make their cars for their clients, so each car is one of its kind,” says Douglas So. “I visited [their plant] in Germany and their cars were more beautiful than the Batmobile!” So when third-generation designer Andrea Zagato of the family coach empire collaborates with Leica to produce a digital camera model in 2018, it’s no surprise that the product is the epitome of German craftmanship and Italian design. Famous for its sleek aesthetics and precision, the camera features an aluminum top deck, baseplate, and outer casing which, combined, offer a body that is 70g lighter than serial production M10 cameras. The body shell is further sheathed in aluminum with hundreds of finely milled grooves. Intended for journalists, the camera has a super-sharp, super-fast general-purpose Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M lens. It’s sharper than most other brand 35mm lenses at any aperture when shot at f/1.4. There is only a limited production of 250 sets, with #198 and #200 being available at F22 Peninsula.
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