Leica M7: Meet Neil of Old Street, dressed in his best lizard suit
It's not often I can venture into Red Dot Cameras in London's Old Street without spying something new or unusual. So it was last week when I happened upon Neil, lurking in his lizard suit next to Ivor Cooper's desk. What a beauty. I had been vaguely interested in buying a used M7 for some months; I had rather warmed to the idea of a film camera that would work exactly like my M or Monochrom in automatic aperture priority mode. But I hadn't made any overtures until I met Neil.
Ivor had taken him in in part exchange from the eponymous former owner who had specified him as a special à la carte repast from Wetzlar. Immediately I was smitten by his dark good looks (Neil, not Ivor in this case) and rather taken with his lizard-skin suit. Sans branding, just like the Monochrom, he is a really beautiful example of the M7 genre. A new M7 kitted out like Neil would now cost the thick end of £4,000 although, in fairness, Neil is probably a good six years old already.
Ivor had acquired Neil in a part exchange deal and wondered if I would be interested, even though I'm a Mike and not a Neil. I don't suppose I would ever think of putting my name on a camera, but Neil seems as good as any. Fact is, though, not everyone would be so understanding of past liaisons and wouldn't be prepared to pay top price for a special edition with such a bold signature.
I didn't mind, especially when I found out that Neil, magnificent à la carte specimen that he is, would cost me no more than one of the several mundane table d'hôte M7s being served at Red Dot's previously-owned table. Deal done, and I even got a lizard skin strap to lead Neil around.
There's always a bit more to the tale, though. On the following day, last Saturday, I presented myself at Red Dot to make Neil my own. Unfortunately for me, Ivor was busy unpacking a consignment of used Leica lenses. I just sort of fell over a pristine 50mm f/2.8 Elmar-M, the last version of the nifty collapsible that aped the original Elmar of Leica's youth.
This is one of the smallest M lenses, definitely the most compact when collapsed, and also one of the sharpest as I know from reading reviews in the past.
So I had to part with just a few more pounds and was able to introduce the new Elmar-M to Neil. I am confident they will live happily ever after.
Red Dot Cameras has one of the country's biggest collections of used Leicas, from the earliest days to the latest Ms and compacts. Find them at 68 Old Street, London. EC1V 9AN, +44 (20) 7490 8444.