Rangefinder

Views on the photographic universe by Erwin Puts

Leica Special Editions



Manufacturers of photographic equipment know that any product today has a limited production time with a general lifecycle: A product announcement is hyped by the ubiquitous cheerleaders, publishing on the social media. Then a product is available and the sales are initially high. Then sales flatten and even dry up. The product managers know this and they carefully hold back some improvements for inclusion in future model changes. When a new market is required, a totally ‘new’ product is designed. ‘New’ is not the correct designation: the competition has these features already or a clever modular construction design allows for a mix of features. Canon is a master in this area.
Leica follows a different strategy. Given the high investment in a new or improved model and the long period of amortization (required because of low production volume), a new model can be announced every two or three years (compared to the six months to twelve months that a typical Japanese manufacturer requires). As soon as a camera model approaches the flat sales cycle, the company starts producing special models, specially for the M-range.
This was the obvious sales strategy for the period between 1980 and 2000 when a confusing amount of special editions was announced.
Not one of these special models could improve or efficiently support the photographer to take better pictures (technically and/or artistically). This statement is true for the most current special M models. While previous editions used iconic models of the past as a source of inspiration, current special editions are fashion statements, like the haute couture world.
The most recent edition is the Kravitz Monochrome Drifter edition, one of the most appalling and ugly versions in the history of the special editions. The ASC edition occupies a good second place, because of the simulated gold plating of the lenses. The subtleties of previous models are gone and the design statement is more aggressive and may I say (?) desperate.

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