He is one of the foremost collectors of Leica cameras in the world. Douglas So is also one of the nicest and warmest characters I have met in the world of Leica. He presides over two must-visit venues in Hong Kong – the f11 Museum in Happy Valley and the f22 foto space in Kowloon where you can overdose on Leica history and the work of Leica photographs through the decades.
I was therefore delighted to read this week’s interview with Douglas on the Leica Camera Blog, a fitting celebration of his journey to becoming such a foremost figure in the world of Leica. But for a man who has everything, what could possibly be is favourite collector’s item?
“There are too many! But among them all, I like the M cameras, especially the MP cameras made in 1956 and 1957. They were made especially for professionals, and were not considered commercially successful. At the time only 402 cameras were made; but in the end they became collectibles because of the very special features that do not exist in other Leica M cameras. So, right now, in auctions, the MP cameras are often the most sought-after items. They also hold a high value, because many of them were used by very famous photo journalists.”
But being owning so many cameras brings responsibility. Such as exercising them.
“I think you have to exercise them. When you let them sit idle for ten or fifteen years, I think there will be problems, even though they are mechanical cameras. So it’s good to use them from time to time for half a day, to let them run and fire them at different speeds, so they will remain in a healthy state.“
This is advice I took to heart years ago. Every few months I heed a recurring to-do to take my modest and fairly nondescript collection off the shelf and I run through the speeds, firing the shutters as Douglas explains above.
Most Leica collectors tend to be a friendly lot, even those of the standing of Douglas So. But Douglas remains so approachable and is possessed of such an infectious enthusiasm for photography that it’s hard not to be impressed. If you haven’t splurged on a Leica I or an early double-stroke M3 (perhaps a black MP, sir?), you’d be well advised to stay away from Mr So. Otherwise you will be setting foot on that very slippery slope to Leica perdition. Many of you already know the feeling.