Article by Allen Perkins
The Leica M community let out an audible gasp when the electronic shutter equipped M7 arrived and it was announced that the M6TTL would be discontinued. Would this be the end of life without batteries?
M enthusiasts caught their breath with the introduction of the MP, the final development in the M line. Touted as the ultimate answer for the Leica traditionalist, the implication was that it embodies all that can be done to advance this great design.
A first look at the MP generated some questions: was it aimed at the photographer or the collector? In what ways does it improve upon the M6TTL? Though the MP incorporates advanced technology compared to prior M models, such as special anti-reflection coatings and an improved viewfinder design, some of the changes, like its classic black lacquer finish and M3 style film advance lever and rewind knob, appear to be mere retro side steps from the M6TTL.
I wondered for whom this camera was designed? That question was easily answered after a few rolls of film: it is a photographer's camera. As with the legendary M4-P, the MP's design priorities included robust build quality and high reliability. The 5 year warranty and 30 year parts availability-among other plusses- have me believing that most Leica M photographers will love the MP.
I say "most" because while I think the best features of the all-mechanical M6 are refined and reinforced in the MP, it will represent a step backward for some. For example, it doesn't include TTL flash metering, an important feature for accurate flash photography. The M7 has it, the M6TTL had it, so why did Leica remove it on the MP? My guess is the company figured most M users don't care much about flash photography. By removing TTL flash metering as well as the larger shutter speed dial, the MP ends up being the same size as the smaller, older M6. Size is part of the legendary Leica "feel" and that is something about which most M users care very much.
So what makes the MP different and worthy of being the "last of the M line"? Firstly, fit and finish are exceptional, even by Leica 's high standards. The black lacquer finish is absolutely luxurious compared to black chrome's refined "industrial art" look, though there is a durability price to be paid: expect to see the naked brass of a truly loved camera after years of being caressed by the hands of an active photographer! If you're not into romance, buy the MP in silver chrome.
As for that famous Leica feel, I wasn't expecting a significant difference from previous Leica M bodies. To my surprise, this is the most solid feeling M I've used, or touched for that matter. The MP feels better in my hands than does my 1985 black M6, or my '97 chrome M6, or my 2002 black TTL. The MP feels mechanically "tighter," and small but significant details like the texture of the outer covering are very much to my liking.
After several hundred shots, I am still surprised by the MP shutter's quiet operation. It produced a far softer and lower pitched "thuck" compared to other M6 bodies I've used. I found that when photographing my children, who are accustomed to picking up my camera shutter's "click," and strangers in public settings who aren't, the MP shutter's sound is audible far less often. This increases my confidence and allows me to get in closer and stay there for a few more frames.
The M6's rangefinder window often "whites out" with side lighting, yet with the MP, so far, I haven't experienced this problem under any lighting conditions. Apparently the coatings and additional element in the MP finder do their job effectively. Also, I can't see any reduction in brightness. This could be a rare design instance where there is improvement without compromise.
Viewfinder information is similar to the TTL but without the flash data. The metering readout consists of a triangular LED on either side of a dot to indicate over, under, or accurate exposure. Comparisons with my digital Gossen meter indicated that the camera's meter was spot-on.
The final bit of viewfinder information, monitoring what will perhaps be the least used feature on this camera, is the "low battery indicator." I never use the "Off" position on any of my M bodies and my biggest concern has been that my spare battery will be past its shelf life if and when I ever need it. No matter, since the camera is mechanical.
Leica MP Review Part II >>