A Leica (still) is forever. The revival of a legend resulted in many technical innovations but maybe none involved quite so many renowned creative minds as this Leica Digital Rangefinder Camera. The result of collaboration between two innovators in their respective fields, this camera is a unique creation meant to be auctioned for (RED) project, a charitable cause founded by Bono. As an initiative of The Global Fund, the money resulted from the auction will support the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in African villages.
This technical masterpiece was sold on the 23rd of November for 1,805,000$, more than twice the original estimated sum. That comes as no surprise considering it carries the mark of Jony Ive, the man who sets the creative direction at Apple’s design department and who Steve Jobs once referred to as his “spiritual partner” in the company. Add to that the contribution of another leading figure in industrial design, in the name of Mark Newson, considered one of the most influential designers in his time, and you can’t expect anything less than a masterpiece.
With its basic white lines inherited from the clean-cut Apple look and complex handcrafted details slightly evocative of Marc’s Random Pak Sofa, this special Leica required 85 days for the parts to be crafted and over 50 hours to assemble its final version. Nearly 1000 prototype parts and 561 preliminary models were needed to be created and tested before the final product was finalized. While the internal mechanisms are of typical Leica precision engineering, they’re covered in a smooth anodized aluminum body featuring more than 21,000 hemispheres. More than 50 engineers worked alongside Jony and Marc to pack so much advanced technology into a small sleek case. The control dials and buttons integrate perfectly in the body of the machine, seeing form and function come together to contribute to an elegant but practical design; although the impossibility to use many accessories and even an external flash slightly undermines that last statement.
I keep talking about its unrivaled appearance, quite understandable considering the two design gurus involved in its creation, but if its new owner values it as more than a museum exhibit and wants to use it for what a camera is actually meant to do, he can rest assured: he has a full-format 24 megapixel CMOS sensor to play with, managed by a high-performance processor and making use of its new Leica APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2 ASPH lens.
Beyond the technological and aesthetic attributes of this camera, let’s not forget the reasons for which it was designed. Hopefully the creation of this special Leica M contributes to achieving the noble purpose behind (RED), and soon we will meet the first AIDS free generation in 32 years. This isn’t the only product they collaborated on; for over 18 months they gathered and curated objects from various disciplines, from contemporary art to space travel, with the goal of reuniting valuable and innovative items. Jony and Marc’s (RED) Auction raised over 26 million dollars in support of Bono’s charity brand.