Leica M goes on holiday

The title is a little misleading, but you will get what I mean as you read on. I’m back from my holiday in Japan for around 10 days, travelling through a few locations, utilizing the JR Pass. I spent a few days in Tokyo before flying off from Haneda Airport, and I dropped by at Leica Ginza Salon to send in my friend’s Leica M for rangefinder calibration. The calibration took about 1-2 hours to complete, and it only cost 3,240 yen (tax included), which in my opinion is a very reasonable price (in fact it’s cheap by Leica’s standard).

I also dropped my M for general cleaning and checking of rangefinder at the same time, if there’s any problem I’ll get them fixed as well. So after dropping both cameras at the store, I went off searching for lunch and shopped around that area. It’s Ginza, you get all sorts of funky trendy shops and not to mention some famous camera shops around the corner. Later on, I just pop back to the store, flipped through some photography books and both cameras were serviced. It only took them 3 hours in total for both cameras.

Based on my understanding, general checking and cleaning of sensor usually took about 1 hour, while rangefinder calibration may goes up to 2 hours. Either way, it’s considered a very quick turnaround time for me and I’m very pleased with their services.

So here’s the thing: in Singapore, any rangefinder calibration of Leica M camera can only be done by sending your camera back to Germany. Apparently they can’t do it locally because the lack of tools. At least that’s what I was being told. I’m not sure how much it will cost to send in the camera for rangefinder calibration, but I would assume it will not be as cheap as 3,240 yen. Furthermore, it will take you months (usually 3 months based on average feedback) for your camera to travel for holiday in Germany while you are still stuck at home. Sensor cleaning turnaround times will depends, fastest I have experienced so far is 2 days, but I do heard before some cases of minor cleaning can be done on the spot.

So, that brings us to my point. Instead of letting my M goes on holiday for 3 months, why not I go on holiday myself to Japan instead? At anytime I would rather go to Japan, send in my camera and get it serviced, and then I can start using it on the spot in Japan. At the very least I get to enjoy with my camera, but not leaving it to be attended by some unknown person who just anyhow pack it and deliver it back to Germany.

I wonder when will Leica Singapore be improving on their service level. Anyway, not putting much hope on them either. I’m more than willing to spend my time and money in Leica Japan instead. For those of you who are facing similar problem, do consider to check out their services in Leica Ginza Salon. Till then.

Servicing of Leica M Type 240

Image Source: Leica AG Website

As per my understanding, all Leica M Type 240 cameras need to be sent back to Germany if you want to perform any repair or calibration work. If you have a bunch of other cameras sitting in your dry cabinet, this probably won’t bother you. But if it’s your on and only camera, then you are out of luck. When you send it to Germany, it simply means that you will need to wait for a month or two (if you are lucky) to get it fixed and returned back in your hand.

To Leica, this makes total sense. The M is a precisely crafted camera with components that have almost zero tolerance. They are hand assembled. They require tremendous amount of skills to get the extreme accuracy. They need specialised machines and equipments in order to service, repair or calibrate the camera.

To me, this is bullshit.

I came from manufacturing business background, though I’m not expert in it, but I understand the basics at least. My personal opinion about the M is, it’s a failed product from engineering and manufacturing point of view. It failed so badly. During the design stage of a new product, engineers should have already started to consider the serviceability of their product, together with the assembly process and etc.

So they ended up designing an M that require special machine to service, and the machine is only made available in Germany. According to some technician that I spoke to, the machine is heavy and expensive. Hence, it wasn’t deployed to other locations due to the limitation of where it can be placed and of course the cost of investing in the machine. A true engineering failure in my opinion. If the new product is going to introduce more problem than it solves, it fails.

Skilled technician can be trained, so if you say technician in Germany can service the M but technician in other countries can’t, it doesn’t make sense. Precision assembly is a combination of precise components, precise tools and technician skills. This can be happened everywhere, but due to the limitation imposed by their own for requiring a special machine, it was made impossible. Hence, all M users need to bear with the consequences and let their camera go on a 3 months vacation once in awhile.

Well, I may be wrong on some of my opinions above. Those are just my thoughts based on all that I know of. Anyway, maybe this is one of the “feature” of Leica cameras, maybe there are those who appreciate to have their camera travel all the way to Germany, but certainly not me. My M9-P has gone for vacation in Germany for more than 3 months, and it’s unacceptable in my opinion. If you want your customers to send in their camera to Germany for servicing, you should at least make sure the turnaround time is much faster and provide the necessary resources to support it. Imagine if I bought a Mercedes and they told me I need to send the car back to Germany for service and repair and it took 3 months to complete… this is crazy.

For now, All I can do is try to use my M carefully (well, I’m certainly not…) and hope that nothing breaks in between. And hopefully the next M will be more service-friendly. Till then.