Good Design is Worth The Price? You Decide.

I don’t want this post to start a major flame war about the Leica vs Panasonic. But at the end of the day, the guts inside the Panasonic Lumix GF1 are pretty much the same as the Leica M9 for a whole lot less money. Now, with that said, the new Leica M9 Titanium edition, designed by legendary automotive designer Walter de’Silva is a thing of beauty and if you are independently wealthy, with nothing better to do than shop, this might justify a price increase.

The exclusive special edition “Leica M9 “Titanium” is the result of a collaboration with Volkswagen Group’s Walter de’Silva, and the iconic camera maker Leica.

de’Silva, chief designer at Audi, along with his design team have re-interpreted the Leica M9 and the result is a special edition “Leica M9 ‘Titanium'”, with limited production runs totaling 500 cameras worldwide. It is offered as a set together with a Leica SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. lens, whose exterior metal components are also manufactured from solid titanium.

de’Silva has given the Leica M camera a precision, logical, ergonomic look and feel without changing the overall character of this classic rangefinder camera. His design manages to create a new look without sacrificing, the  distinctive style that represents a true Leica M camera.

TheLeica M9 “Titanium” is constructed exclusively with premium quality materials. For example, all visible metal elements on the camera body are made from solid aircraft grade titanium. This grade of titanium is particularly light but extremely strong and durable. So much so that can only be manufactured with special tools. In addition, the exposed surfaces are also treated with a special scratch resistant hard clear coat. Sapphire-crystal glass is employed as a protective cover for the camera monitor and further enhances the exclusive and rugged character of the camera.

The Leica M9 Titanium’s trim, uses leather typically reserved for the interiors of Audi’s automobiles. This leather cladding fits perfectly with the body’s titanium surface and is designed to provide better grip. In addition the grip is enhanced by a specially designed and embossed diamond pattern.

de’Silva addressed not only the design of the camera, but also focused on its handling and technical specifications. New features include the LED illumination of the bright-line frames in the viewfinder, removing the necessity for a standard illuminating window and making the front aspect of the camera even more balanced. In addition  de’Silva’s team restyled the Leica logo with an elaborate hand-engraved piece in pure resin, which is inlaid with white enamel, sealed with clear varnish and then polished and positioned centrally – directly above the lens.

The Leica SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. lens supplied with the special edition LEICA M9 Titanium, also features a new, focussed design concept, in which the essential elements harmonize perfectly with the special design of the camera.

One of the things that I really like about de’Silva’s design is the way he has reworked the traditional camera strap. Instead of a traditional style strap, de’Silva and Leica engineers developed an innovative camera carrying concept that is reduced to just one single mounting point on the camera body. This allows you to carry the camera at your side and quickly pull it into shooting position on the fly.

Finishing out the limited addition M9 “Titanium” is a book devoted to the design process leading to the creation of this high quality, special titanium edition and which also includes an interview with designer Walter de’Silva. The unique set is presented in an elaborately handcrafted black presentation case with recesses for the camera and lens lined with Alcantara microsuede in Leica red.

The Leica M9 ‘Titanium’ will be available starting November 2010 for the low low price of just $31,300. Pick your jaw up off the floor, you are buying a “Premium” brand and a limited edition item. (use your own sarcastic tone here) Even if it costs 31k, you have to admit it is a thing of beauty.

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