Settlement of Leica M9 sensor issue boosts used values
Last month’s announcement by Leica that the M9 sensor problem had been solved should put new life into the used market for the CCD-equipped models. Earlier in the year, following reports of sensor corrosion, the market for used M9s and Monochroms definitely softened. Prices went lower as dealers found that many part-exchange cameras needed attention. For a time there was a worry that repairs would be chargeable.
Consumer confidence was boosted when Leica announced that it would replace corroded sensors without charge but there was still a lingering worry that problems could occur in the future. Now, however, Leica engineers have developed an improved coating which, they say, avoids the corrosion problem.
While preventative exchange is not being offered—the sensor will have to be faulty before replacement is authorised—the message for owners is very positive. Anyone owning a CCD-sensor camera can now be sure that it will be supported in the future.
I know several friends who sold M9s and Monochroms on the principle of getting out while the going was good. Some, I suspect, will come to regret their hasty decision because, without a doubt, values of used cameras will now begin to firm up again. The CCD sensor still has its fans and there is no doubt of the ability of these Ms.
The future for the M8 is not so rosy and I know that some dealers are now reluctant to take them in part exchange. Screens on some cameras have suffered from what is known as “coffee staining”. While this doesn’t effect the operation and is purely a cosmetic issue, it clearly has a bearing on consumer confidence. Leica has stated that the manufacturer of M8 screens has now ceased production and it is now impossible to find replacements. However, the problem was restricted to one lot of displays, both M8 and M8.2 but it is not possible to tell which is which simply from the serial number of the camera.
Similar problems have not been reported on M9 screens and Leica has now taken steps to support digital cameras for ten years after production has ceased. In the case of the M9, most components are still current in the M-E, so owners can have long-term confidence.
Such is the pace of progress in electronics that so-called digital rot will be a problem for all cameras going forward. Ten years is a long time in the digital world and it is impossible for any manufacturer to offer the same sort of decades-long support that Leica has traditionally given to owners of film cameras.
Even now, parts are available for many of the earliest Leicas as a matter of routine but, as we all acknowledge, such spares are old tech and, if necessary, often replaceable. It’s different with new technology with its built-in obsolescence and it is a particular problem for high-end camera manufacturers such as Leica. In the past we’ve expected cameras to last well over 50 years; now we are talking about ten years being good. It’s not so important for cheaper, more disposable cameras, but the build and cost of Leica Ms, in particular, increases consumer expectations.