Swimming with the Leica M: Take your holiday snaps at 120 meters below
Seems like it’s diving time for Leica this year. Hot on the heels of the X-U waterproof camera launch comes news of a sleek new housing to take the Leica M down to as far as 120 meters below the surface. Brighton here I come.
I’ve had experience of Leica underwater housings. As I wrote last May, I bought an original 1950s heavy-duty enclosure for the old screw-thread Leicas from R.G.Lewis prior to the shop close in July. This massive construction was invented by the R.G.Lewis founder, Norman Lewis, and went into production in Croydon around 1950. I even have the original blueprints.
But the new M housing from Subal GmbH in Austria is a serious affair aimed at the affluent Leica diver. Subal have been making underwater camera housings since 1954 at their factory in Steyr, Austria—a city known for its automotive engineering capabilities and the former home of the Steyr-Daimler-Puch conglomerate.
Subal’s CEO Harald Karl tells me that he has been a keen Leica photographer for thirty years and felt it was time to build a housing for the new M. He’s also working on a housing for the SL, but for which lens, I wonder.
The M housing weighs only one kilogram (unlike Norman Lewis’s creation which tips the scales at a worrying 2.25kg) but this will be reduced effectively to a few grams when the rig is below the surface. The housing is made from a high-quality electrically oxidised aluminium which prevents corrosion and protects the natural surface of the metal. It is a process exclusive to aluminium but similar in effect to galvanisation of other metals.
Again, unlike the Lewis housing, the Subal permits the operation of all camera functions including aperture and, as you see from the photographs, the pressing of the small buttons around the screen. The company offers a wide range of accessories, including flat and dome lens ports to facilitate macro photography or wide-angle shooting.
This, I have to say, is one handsome looking piece of kit. If I were into underwater pursuits I’d be dreaming of encasing my M-P in a Subal. Without a doubt. It looks such fun that I imagine some well-heeled people will buy them as a beach accessory, something to ensure that their M is noticed as well as protected from sand and water.
For serious underwater types this is likely to be an interesting piece of equipment and I can believe that there is a market out there.
There are two versions, with the standard outfit keeping the camera safe down to 80 meters. For more adventurous divers there is the Tec Version to take the M even further, to a depth of 120 meters. Overall dimensions of both versions are 165 x 125 x 80 mm.
Harald Karl says that the first production housings will hit the market next month and will cost around €6,600 (£5,125), including 20% VAT.
Further information can be found at Subal’s website. You can also contact the company at SUBAL GmbH, Schulgasse 2, 1180 Vienna, Austria.