It isn’t quite like Leica to foray into instant-cameras. It doesn’t coincide with their philosophy of producing only the finest, most premium cameras ever, backed by superior lensmaking and finesse, all bound together in a beautifully minimal packaging. An instant camera doesn’t fall within those parameters. They’re meant for instant gratification, for capturing images that are often filtered/distorted for flair, and aren’t high-resolution, given that they’re developed on a tiny canvas and subsequently forgotten about.
It is, however, a designer’s job to explore uncharted territories, often imagining scenarios that don’t exist, or aren’t even thought about. So here’s Daniel Huang’s self-made Leica Instant M, a minimalist camera featuring a viewfinder display of 1:1 ratio to film, designed to mount Leica’s M Lenses… or as he calls it, a premium instant photo camera. Huang believes Leica’s first and only instant model, the Sofort failed to capture the Leica spirit. It based itself on Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 90 and even used Instax film. “Traditionally, Leica lens and cameras are highly treasured collectibles. Their manual lenses produce a recognizable “Leica look” –Notilux lens continue to increase its resell value. Leica camera bodies are prized for its build quality, although they don’t have the highest specs. Their entry-level TL camera bodies, each hand polished for 40 minutes, became a minimalist icon. On the contrary, Leica Sofort’s plastic body and fixed lens feels like an unjustifiably expensive rebadge.”, Huang says.
Huang’s Leica Instant M takes advantage of a hybrid digital and analog system to reduce its flange focal length, effectively allows the camera to mount full-frame lens for the first time. The camera would sport an interchangeable lens system, allowing you to mount and use any of Leica’s lenses on it, something that’s innately Leica-esque in quality.
The camera comes in a simple box-shaped design that definitely exudes a quality of seriousness, unlike the playful nature of the Instax Mini 90. You’ve got the M-Mount on the front that sits atop Leica’s sensor (the hybrid arrangement), and a 1:1 ratio viewfinder on the back that lets you compose your shots and gives you a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) sort of deal. The Instant M is stripped of digital adjustments and post-processing, and analog controls like aperture and focus are done via the manual lens. The viewfinder is slightly inset, giving you a curved surface to dig your fingers into for better grip, and the shutter button on the front lets you click the picture you see in your viewfinder, before the film slowly ejects off the top of the camera.
The Instant M isn’t an official Leica camera, but is, on the other hand, a brilliant interpretation of what Leica’s instant cameras (if they ever decided to re-enter the market) should look like. Clean aesthetics, a design that feels pure and precious, and integrates into it the ability to use all of Leica’s M-mount lenses… the Instant M is the Leica instant-camera that should have been but never was!
Designer: Daniel Huang