Over at Leicaphilia there’s a bit of a shindig going on about black-paint Leicas. Is the buoyant market for genuine, factory painted black paint bodies about to crash?
We all know that a shiny black paint M3, M2 or M4, is a desirable object commanding a premium. But, because of this, there are many repaint jobs on the market and even the experts find it difficult to tell genuine from modified.
Black chrome bodies, such as my 1970s M4, are also desirable although priced much lower than a genuine black-paint body. In practical terms, black chrome can be more durable and, in a user camera, I think I prefer it. Others prefer the way black paint versions wear, showing the brass underneath. My much more recent 2004 black-paint MP never fails to appeal when I pick it up. There’s just something alluring about a shiny black finish with, as in the case of the MP, a bit of brass showing at wear points.
Because of the premium attached to an old black-paint body, it is very much a case of caveat emptor. I am certainly not qualified to judge the provenance of a 50-year-old camera and I would certainly be wary of buying from auction sites. Some, such as this example which appears to be genuine and comes from a dealer can have eye-watering price tags.
Leicaphilia believes that the market is about to come crashing down. But will it? Whether it is an original factory black paint or a well-done repaint, many buyers will still prefer the finish to mere chrome or black chrome. It’s just a matter of being sure that the price is commensurate with the provenance. A genuine factory black-painter, such as the one shown above, is worth much more than a repaint job and, for the unwary, it is easy to make expensive mistakes.