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"New" Leica MP 2003

The MP 2003 is styled much like the 1954 M3, down to the rewind knob and all metal advance lever.

At the March 2003 PMA photo show in Las Vegas, Leica officially introduced the new Leica MP.   The first Leica MP was introduced in 1956,  a modified M3 with M2 film counter and capable of taking the bottom mounted Leicavit MP trigger winder.  Less than 500 original MP's left the factory.   Today they are very rare and very expensive, usually $10,000 plus, though I would not be surprised to find 5,000 or more "original MP" grace Leica collections.  Yes indeed, big bucks attract forgers. 

After hearing complaints for years that the M4-2, M4P, M6, and M6 TTL were not up to the fit and finish of the earlier M3/M2/M4, Leica decided to reintroduce the higher grade finish on the MP of 2003.     In fit and finish  new MP  is definitely a step above the standard M6 and M6TTL.
At the PMA 2003 Leica booth I talked with Leica's  CEO Mr. Hans Peter-Cohn and the head of production, Mr. Stefan Daniels. Both are very nice people, very sharp, to the point, open minded. and open to all questions. Stefan explained that the M7 and new MP finders were improved by adding another lens to the finder to eliminate stray light, which gets rid of the M6 RF patch problem.   Having an older M6 or M7 finder modified to the MP will cost you about $250 at Leica USA.  In my opinion this is money well spent if you take your shooting seriously.

I was surprised by the new Leica MP, I like it.  My fears that Leica would discontinue the mechanical shutter M happily did not pan out.  Initially there were two new MP's, the black paint MP6 .72 limited production  for the Asian market, and the MP for regular production world wide. The Asian market MP6 has a different top plate engraving with a serial number starting with MP6 instead of MP, and a traditional vulcanite body covering instead of the a new shark skin like body on the new  MP.  Predictably the MPP quickly became a sought after collectible.    For the new 2003 MP, imagine a M6 classic with

In the MP brochure the term "Mechanical Perfection" is used,  as well as on the Leica web site, but I have not seen a statement explicitly stating what MP now officially stands for.   Initially the new MP is offered in silver chrome in your choice of the .58, .72, and .85 finders, or black lacquer with the .72 finder.    A dealer friend tells me  the black MP is getting the lion's share of initial orders, at least with him.  Presumably they will eventually  be made in black for the .58 and .85 as well.  Originally MP stood for "M Professional" in 1956. 

Rewind knob on black paint MP VS rewind lever on black chrome M7

I find it strange that Solms would get so much right about the MP, yet  install a cheap looking sand paper like body covering instead of the traditional vulcanite covering.

Personally I don't like the new MP's M3 style rewind knob.   I didn't like it on the original M2/2 either, it just takes too long to rewind the film for my taste.    Every pro that I have talked to about it does not care for it, with the notable exception of Tom Abrahamsson who believes the knob is a stronger rewind mechanism than the M6 style rewind lever.  Leica has made a high quality rewind lever attachment with a MAP of $175,  but unfortunately the sample at PMA had too short a knob on it, making it difficult to use.  Hopefully the knob tip will be made longer.  Even so, I personally would not buy the new MP without the rewind attachment.  And yes, the new Leica rewind attachment (the 1st made by Leica), will fit the M3/M2/M1/MD, and will be available in either black or chrome.  

In terms of mechanical excellence, the MP is a BIG step in the right directions.  Kudos for the Leica management team for listening to long term Leica users.  However, ALL is still not right.  My complaints?  The body covering may or may not wear better, but I just don't like it as much as the traditional vulcanite.  The paint does not seem to be as  thick or as well finished as the classic M's.  Aesthetically the camera would be improved to COPY the top deck engraving of the M3/M2/M4.  This means the Leica engraving would be closer to the top plate edge, with "Leica Camera Solms Germany" engraved on the top plate.  The serial number would also be slightly re-positioned on the top plate to match the earlier M's.   Small details?  Yes.   Leica Maniac?  Assuredly.  In my opinion the new MP is the best made Leica M since the M5.  Yes, I know the M5 had many detractors due to its non traditional design, nonetheless a good argument can be made it was better made than the Leicas that followed it.

The MP also reintroduces the bottom trigger wind Leicavit M to the Leica catalog, after an absence of about half a century.  The original Leicavit M's are now high priced collectors items, and often do not work due to lack of repair parts.      With a USA MAP of $995.00  it is twice as expensive as Tom Abrahamsson's Rapidwinder which works in exactly the same way.  The higher priced Leica Leicavit will probably increase Tom's Rapidwinder sales.    The funny thing is that Leica dealers tell me the new Leica Leicavit is selling quite well, to people who would not buy the Rapidwinder.  Weird.

For all of my nitpicking, do I like the new Leica MP?   YES indeed.  I like it a hell of a lot.  In this ever increasing age of plastics and disposable camera, it is very refreshing to see Leica go the other direction and introducing an even higher grade mechanical camera.   The mechanical MP is unexpectedly outselling the M7.  Kudos.   Over the last few years under CEO Cohn's leadership, Leica has become much more responsive to customer's input than in recent memory.  The improved M product line is looking better than it has in decades.

March 2003:  New Leica MP regular production introduced, returning a hand fitted Leica to standard production after almost four decades.

March 2003:  New Leica MP6 Limited Production introduced, with a traditional Leica script top plate engraving, serial number starting with MP6 instead of MP, and a traditional vulcanite body covering instead of the a new shark skin like body on the new  MP.   Originally 400 planned, but due to low orders the actual production closer to 200.   Ten are said to have been made by special order in chrome.  All MP6  quickly became sought after collectibles.

October 2003:   A new LHSA MP  made in grey hammertone, with matching hammertone Leicavit MP and special chrome 35/2 ASPH Summicron.   Production 1000, commemorating LHSA 1968-2003.  Available January 2004.  The hammertone is a particularly handsome finish and should be very popular with collectors. 

October 2003:   A new chrome Hermes MP with chrome 35/2 and red leather became available.  Predicted production 500 units.  About $8500. Unfortunately it looks rather garish to my eyes.

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Revised: December 08, 2005 Copyright  2005  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.