One of my dream cameras since picking up Rangefinder photography. The Leica Hammertone MP is a limited LHSA (Leica History Society of America ) edition to commemorate 35th anniversary of the society. The camera was announced back in 2003 as a camera/lens/leicavit set which consist of a hammertone finished MP body, a Leicavit and a 35 Summicron f2 ASPH with a matching hammertone round hood.
This review is on the MP body which is finished in a gorgeous hammertone finish. The paint has an uneven cavity-like surface painfully applied over the brass top and baseplate. The color has a greyish green tint and nicely offset with black vulcanite-like leatherette covering on the body. The knobs and controls are beautifully contrasted in chrome against the grey body.
On the top plate, we have the classic Leica script engraved on the left side. This is a nice addition missing from the M6 and regular MP. In the middle, we have the shutter speed dial, which has an OFF mode, bulb mode and speeds that go from 1s to 1/1000s. The advanced lever is the classic lever used on early M bodies. This is a departure from the precious M6 style advanced lever with a plastic tip. The film advancing is buttery smooth and the shutter speed dial turns with nice firm intervals.
This is a metered M with a built-in meter indicator that is visible in the viewfinder. A left n right arrows indicate over/under exposure. A dot in the middle will indicate a spot-on exposure. Exposure is achieved by turning the shutter speed dial while holding the viewfinder to your eye level. It is a welcome convenient for those shooting meterless Ms like the M2, M3 or M4. We also get six framelines on the 0.72 magnificaion viewfinder and they are 28/35/50/75/90/135mm. The shutter is fully mechanical, meaning even if the meter runs out of battery, you can continue to fire the shutters with the help of an external meter or using Sunny 16 rule. By the way, the battery compartment is conveniently located at the front of the body. Batteries are modern and easily available.
At the back of the body, you have the backdoor with an ISO dial. You have to set the film ISO manually using the dial, which also allow you to push/pull the film speed.
At the bottom of the body you can access the film loading area by removing the baseplate. Films are easily loaded using the quick-loading system which has been available since the introduction of M4 model.
Once you’ve finish shooting a roll of film, film has to be manually wind back by pushing down the small rewind lever on the front of the body. To rewind, you pull up the rewind knob at the right of the top plate.
Is this limited edition any different from the production M6 or MP? Well, the MP has a flare-free rangefinder patch which helps to reduce the white-out RF patch when you point the camera at a direct light. This is a massive improvement over the older M6. This feature is available on the regular production MP and this limited edition.
A regular MP or M6 can perform the same as this model, but somehow those limited edition Leica seems to have a bit more of the Leica magic dusts sprinkle on them. My experiences with the M6 Millennium edition, a MP3 LSHA edition and this hammertone seems to confirm that.
If you want to enjoy the Leica rangefinder experience, pick up any of new or used M bodies available in the market. A good CLA will ensure the camera will last you a lifetime of memories. However, if you want something a little bit more special with a unique finish, this Hammertone is a beauty to own. It’s a limited edition of 1000 pieces, find yours before they all go to some collectors’ faults and never see the light again.
Review contributed by Dave Tang