Leica MP Titanium - A Commentary on Indulgence or an Exercise in Practicality
I started out writing a piece on Steve McCurry’s final roll of Kodachrome. But I felt the images on this post didn’t quite match up with what I wrote. Instead, I will write about my first day out with the Leica MP Titanium, seeing how special it is. With only 150 sets ever made and sold exclusively at the Leica Store Ginza (making it one of the rarer and more sought after modern collectibles in the Leica universe), I knew I had to take it out and make it mine through actual use.
Given how much value the camera generally commands in the second hand market, collectors are reluctant if not completely unwilling to take it out of its gilded packaging. As such, it comes as no surprise just how rare sightings of the Leica MP Titanium is. It’s like bumping into a unicorn on the streets. Still, it’s not as if this special edition MP offers any specific benefit in documentation. That said, one cannot deny how indulgent it feels in normal use.
Mind you, it’s not as if titanium feels any better than brass or any other metal alloys. But knowing how coveted the Leica MP Titanium is, one can’t help but let its extreme rarity go straight to one’s head. One look of that titanium body, and you know you’re handling an object of desire with real substantive value beyond other editions with mere cosmetic differences. It’s not a paint finish that can easily be replicated. The camera is made of a completely different material.
So why am I writing about this? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been rationalizing my hoard of DSLRs and Sony gear. Given the long awaited migration to full frame mirrorless cameras by Canon and Nikon, in addition to last ditch partnerships struck by Leica in protecting the competitiveness of the full frame TL mount, the writing was clearly on the wall. The era of the DSLR has come to a an abrupt close with the full frame mirrorless game finally in full swing.
But in reducing my exposure to DSLRs, I have also come to terms with the hit I took in the second hand market. Admittedly, depreciation in digital gear is no secret. Nevertheless, it still boggles the mind how willing many consumers are in accepting the substantial monetary loss from trading up unnecessarily to updated versions of what they already have - and usually after a short period of ownership. To me, that seems somewhat counterproductive.
In contrast, the same cannot be said about the Leica MP Titanium. Because it is an analog camera with no functioning electronics other than a simple light meter, its value can never be impacted by the headwinds of technological upgrades. And because the Leica MP Titanium is substantively rare beyond cosmetic variation, given its titanium body, it is strangely a very practical investment. At present, there is no other camera like the Leica MP Titanium.
Admittedly, the value of the Leica MP Titanium makes it too prohibitively out of reach for it to be considered a practical investment. It’s silly to even suggest that line of reasoning. I mean, how practical can it be if one can’t risk exposing it to the hazards of an unpredictable world? If it’s too precious to be used as a camera, then what good is it? The investment ceases to be meaningful as a photographic tool if it’s consigned to be left under lock and key.
It’s true. The risk is really there. I know, because I accidentally dropped the bottom plate onto the pavement while loading a new roll of film. How my heart skipped a beat when I saw it plummeting to the earth - in slow motion no less. Somehow, it just slipped out of my pocket. Fortunately, the titanium was hard enough to withstand any noticeable damage from my clumsiness. After that, it just emboldened me onward with shooting the Leica MP Titanium.
Having said that, why should I be so worried by regular wear and tear in the first place? It’s not as if I plan to flip this camera anytime soon for a return in investment. Besides, on that day far into the future when this camera is pried off my cold lifeless hands, I’m confident its valuation will not be too greatly diminished by my casual use. One only needs to look at a tattered original black paint Leica M3 to know that supply and demand will make it hold its value.
At most, my decision to expose this Leica MP Titanium to everyday hazards is only going cost me a fraction of its maximum potential valuation over a lifetime of use. If so, isn’t that worth it for the sake of feeling special? But, there’s more to it than just the extravagance of handling it. Knowing how very special this camera is, one can’t help but bond with it. The Leica MP Titanium moves the heart. It makes you want to use it. Because of that, it has become my constant companion.
Of course, in being the obsessive compulsive I am, the Leica MP Titanium would feel incomplete if not paired with a titanium lens. Unfortunately, it never came paired with any lens at the time of its release. As such, one is forced to cannibalize lenses from other Leica titanium sets, if one intends to handle the Leica MP Titanium in proper fashion. Excluding lenses from the Leica M6 Titanium, which strictly is only titanium in finish, there are only six options from three different sets.
There is the electronic shutter Leica M7 Titanium set, which includes the 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH version I, the 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH, and the APO 90mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH. Next there is the Leica M9 Titanium set, which only includes the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH FLE. Last there is the Leica M240 Titanium set, which includes the 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH version II, and the APO 50mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH.
Since I am already in possession of the MP Typ 240 Titanium set, it only makes sense to liberate one of its lenses for the MP Titanium. Naturally, I selected the 28mm Summicron, given my intent to use it as an everyday documentary tool. Having decided on that, it also made sense to earmark Kodak Tri-X 400 to meet my informal needs. After all, it is the gold standard of black and white film for conventional photographic use.
With all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed in figuring out what to do with the Leica MP Titanium, it is also worth noting that I’ve wanted to keep a photographic journal for quite some time. In making sense of this exorbitantly indulgent investment for everyday use, I suppose a certain amount of mental contortion is required - but, hear me out. Shooting Tri-X 400 on the Leica MP Titanium is like having comfort food served with the finest bone china and silverware.
From a conventional perspective, it may seem rather odd that I’ve resorted to such an elaborate setup for such a mundane task. But it’s precisely because my intended task is mundane that an elaborate setup makes sense. Still, I suppose a simpler black and white setup like the Leica M9 Monochrom or the Leica M Typ 246 would make more sense. At least with the convenience of digital capture, I can benefit from immediate gratification.
There is no denying that digital capture would offer a more convenient workflow - especially for the purpose of keeping a photographic journal. However, there is a relevant procedural benefit to an analog workflow. With film, the delay in gratification can be viewed as an advantage - in that an extended period of wait can make one more involved in viewing when the image becomes available. In that way, I find film to be a more suitable medium for keeping a photographic journal.
That said, it’s not as if a Leica MP Titanium is necessary for keeping a photographic journal. One could just as well not upload images immediately after a day of photo taking, if the digital route is taken. Or alternatively, if the analog route is taken, a more modest film camera can also do the job. Still, that doesn’t mean one cannot opt for a little bling. Personally, I often find an indulgent approach can make the shooting experience all the more satisfying.
Still, I doubt my endorsement of the Leica MP Titanium is going to motivate the world to get it - especially with only 150 sets in existence. But, there is a moral to my story. At times, indulgence in the long run can be more practical than practicality in the short run. Thing is you will never find solace in a digital camera that will become obsolete at the next product upgrade cycle. So, take it from me and splurge on the best film camera you can justify. Believe me, you won't regret it.
Negatives were all digitized and cropped to some extent on the Pakon F135 scanner. Images have all been optimized on Adobe Lightroom.
In case you’re wondering, the camera on Lydia is not the Leica MP Titanium.
PS: For the Steve McCurry post, please check on my Facebook link in a couple of days or so... seeing that I’m almost finished with it. I’ll probably be posting it up on that page instead, given that the content doesn’t quite match the look of this blog. So, please stay tuned.