Review: Classic Cases for Leica M cameras
Leather half-cases are one of the most sought-after accessories for Leica M cameras. Somehow they perfectly complement the retro image of the M9 and the latest M. To my knowledge there are five companies in the world, other than Leica itself, which make cases to the sort of quality that the owner of an expensive camera will appreciate. They are Arte di Mano (Korea), Luigi and Pelle (Italy), Artisan & Artist (Japan) while the fifth, Classic Cases, is based here in the UK. Paul Glendell of Classic Cases has a background in the saddlery business and he manufactures to order in the picturesque Devon village of Bovey Tracey.
I have had the opportunity to examine two cases, one for the M8/M9/M9-P/M-E/Monochrom and the other for the new M (Typ 240). Other designs fit a wide range of Leica film cameras. The quality of leather and the workmanship is superb. The leather is thick and sturdy and has a smooth gloss finish like typical saddlery materials. It is the sort of leather that will improve with age and will wear in to fit the camera like a skin. Stitching is very precise and neat and the overall impression is of a high-quality product. Having compared a Classic Case with a Japanese-made Artisan and Artist design I can confirm that the quality is very similar.
A unique selling point of Paul's cases is the protection offered to the top end edges of the camera. Paul makes the two leather "ears" (which secure the case by press-stud) slightly wider than you will find on other cases so that the leather covers the top corners of the camera. This arrangement provides considerably more protection than you get with the more conventional designs where the ears are flush with the top of the camera.
Another unusual feature is the way in which the bottom of the case is crafted so that the seams stand proud of the base. This results in a solid and regular bottom edge which allows the camera to stand up on a flat surface (subject, of course, to size of lens fitted). With other cases, such as the A&A, the bottom seams are flush. The leather bottom of the case sits on the surface and this can lead to instability, even with a lightweight 28mm Elmarit hitched to the camera.
All Paul's cases are of the closed design, with leather surrounding the screen and controls, as opposed to the fully open back favoured by other manufacturers. Paul believes this leads to a closer fit on the camera since, with the open design, it is often difficult to ensure the two rear side edges of the case are stable. A&A insert metal stays along the edge of the leather to help with stability but Paul prefers the enclosed approach. In the case of the M240 case, there is a cut-out to accommodate the electronic viewfinder.
Both M8/M9 and M cases are available with a leather flap to cover the screen and controls if required. This adds protection and also helps disguise the camera so that it looks more like a film Leica. Personally I prefer to have the screen and controls visible and would choose the case without the flap.
Classic Cases (except the M240 model) can be specified to accommodate a Thumbs Up grip, but this has to be stated at the time of order. Also, cases can be fitted with a brass tripod bush if required.
Classic Cases come in black, brown and rich brown and may be specified with a choice of red, green or blue plush lining to protect the camera body. The M240 case costs £175. The standard M8/M9/M-E/MM case without screen protector is £165 with the Thumbs Up version at the same price. The screen protector flap costs an additional £30. For the M6 and M7 film cameras the case costs £150. In all cases the brass tripod bush adds £30.
For full details on the full range take a look at the Classic Cases website.