The New $50,000 Limited Edition Hermès Leica M9-P: Sometimes Beauty is Only Skin Deep


posted Friday, June 8, 2012 at 12:17 PM EDT

Hermes fronm9-pLeica is into “Special Edition” cameras the same way McDonald’s is into supersizing. With its latest offering, the $50,000 Hermès/Leica M9-P sets, it is has produced the "triple cheese whopper" of photography, complete with bacon, cheese, chili peppers, onions.

Responding to our tough economic times and the desire of the exceedingly rich to find ways to turn unstable cash into collectible objects of value, Leica has produced another luxury priced product. And they're so certain there's a demand for it, Leica is forcing buyers of the Leica Hermès edition to sign an agreement they won't resell the camera for two years after they buy it.
But just what do Mr. or Mrs. Monopoly get for $50K? Let’s look at the Leica press release put out on the Leica Forum website.


Remembering that selling luxury items requires a good deal of extra excitement, the press release about the M9 Hermès comes across breathless and a wee bit silly:

“The highlight of the Leica M9-P 'Edition Hermès' is the ‘Veau Swift’ calfskin leather in ‘ocre’ supplied by Hermès for the leathering of the silver-chromed version of the Leica M9-P camera. This extremely fine and supple leather is applied not only to the camera body, but is also used for the shoulder strap included in the set.”

Glove soft calfskin covering is a nice touch, but we have seen cameras covered in all sorts of materials even wood. And, as reported earlier, the Ilott Vintage wood paneled Argus C-3 costs nearly $2000.
The Leica release goes on:

“In addition, the camera sports a special design, created in collaboration with the automotive designer Walter de’Silva. Various features of the camera body have also been completely redesigned – for instance the top deck, the base plate, the shutter speed dial, the multifunction wheel and the shutter release. These distinguish the cameras from the standard version of the Leica M9-P and emphasize the unique status of the limited edition.”

As if a $50,000 price tag wasn’t enough to distinguish this camera! Reading on, though, I discovered something even stranger.

“In the case of the Leica M9-P camera in silver-chromed finish, the frame selector lever, the accessory shoe and the Leica script on the top deck have been omitted in favour of its unique design.”

I understand removing the Leica script because it is so ostentatious, so déclassé, so screaming “LEICA.” But, somehow, removing the hot shoe, which is actually useful for photography, in “favour” of design elements feels wrong. Excuse me, but for my $50K I want the hot shoe reattached.

Nonetheless, there is specialness here, if you know where to look.

“In addition to a dedicated serial number, each camera also bears one of a series of consecutive limited-edition numbers.”

Now you’re talking, not just any old random serial number, but a dedicated one, special to this camera. I don’t know for sure what is meant by “a series of consecutive limited-edition numbers,” perhaps they mean something thrilling like, #101, #102, and #103?
Leica has begun to sell the Leica M9-P “Edition Hermès– Série Limitée Jean-Louis Dumas” sets and here’s what $50,000 gets you:
A Leica MP-9, Veau Swift covered body
A Leica Summicron-M 28 mm f/ 2 ASPH
A Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH
A Leica APO-Summicron-M 90 mm f/ 2 ASPH
A hand-finished Hermès camera bag
And a book of photos by Jean-Louis Dumas
The set is a “strictly limited edition of only 100 sets,” strictly limited as opposed to merely limited, or the more down market limited.
Then there is a very strange line.

“In all other technical details, the cameras and lenses of the special editions are identical to those of the standard versions.”

In other words, the specialness of the Hermès M9-P is truly only skin deep.
This deluxe Leica is, “a celebration of the friendship and collaboration between Jean-Louis Dumas, the former president of Hermès, who died in May 2010, and Leica Camera AG.”
Monsieur Dumas was an avid amateur photographer and his enthusiasm for photography was the reason that Hermès and Leica got together in the first place. However, there is another irony here. Dumas’ book of photographs, written and edited by his daughter Sandrine, (Seidlt, 2008) sells on Amazon for $59.

In the book description she writes: “Jean-Louis Dumas always carried two things: a small red notebook and an old Leica.”
Yes, all the 200 photos in Dumas book included with the Hermès/Leica were shot with an old Leica M6, which cost him a lot less than $50,000.