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Leica CL in eccentric British design

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith
THE CARRYING STRAP: Dominating the press images of the Leica CL Edition Paul Smith is the thick carrying strap of the camera, which is a big part of the design. (Press image: Leica)

Another special edition Leica camera has appeared, and Leica will, as usual, produce a limited number only. Leica has based the design of the Leica CL Edition Paul Smith on a mix of colorful, eccentric British design and German technological precision.

Maybe the camera is Leica’s carefully considered good-luck greeting to the Brits on their Brexit endeavor? Alternatively, a thank-you-for-everything greeting? Who knows?

Anyway, the design history of the camera will likely make it especially attractive among Leica users who sometime in the past also owned a Land Rover.

(The original Norwegian version of this article is available here. My 2018 review story on Leica CL is available in English here.)

However, before I try to explain that particular connection, it is time to ask who Paul Smith is?

Here is Paul Smith

A Wikipedia search brings up a long list of persons by just that name. So Paul Smith is a rather common name. We are, however, talking about the 73-year-old British designer Paul Smith.

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith
THE DESIGNER: Paul Smith pictured at the London Fashion Week of 2009. (Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Initially, Paul Smith was primarily known for designing gentlemen’s clothing. Later, he expanded his talent for design to many other fields. He opened his first fashion store in Nottingham in 1970, and eventually, his business grew to 70 countries. Some of his stores are considered unique by design, and some even slightly eccentric, according to Wikipedia.

Among his projects was designing t-shirts for the launch of the last album by David Bowie, Blackstar, which was published in 2016, two days before Bowie died.

In 2000, Queen Elizabeth knighted Paul Smith.

Now he seems to be involved in a kind of knighting of the Leica CL. Leica has decided to let Paul Smith redesign some elements of the camera manufacturer’s APS-C-camera Leica CL, launched in the fall of 2017.

Here is Leica CL

Leica CL is a rather compact and modern mirrorless system camera in a minimalist retro style, initially available with a black or silver-colored top and bottom plate.

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith
THE COLORS: The playful colors and Paul Smith’s signature are among the essential design elements of the Leica CL Edition Paul Smith. (Press photo: Leica)

Paul Smith has set his mark on the special edition of the camera first and foremost by what we may call an audacious use of color, particularly given Leica’s classic minimalism. You’ll find the explanation of Paul Smith’s habit of using many and robust colors later in this article.

Blue is ruling

The primary focal point of the special edition is the top plate in a robust blue color. I guess there aren’t many of us walking around with a blue camera? Also, there are some evident color stripes on the lower part of the camera body.

Another visually striking element is the thick carrying strap, with the logos of both Leica and Paul Smith on the leather connecting the strap to the camera.

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith
ECCENTRIC BLUE: Wearing a camera with such intense blue color, you will be very visible when walking around with a Leica CL Edition Paul Smith. (Press image: Leica)

On top of the camera, you will find a smiling eye in cartoon style, and on the rear side are a couple of text inscriptions. The first text is perhaps a Paul Smith slogan: «Look and see.» The next piece of writing is the designer’s signature or logo.

Inspired by Land Rover

The source of inspiration for the camera design was a project Paul Smith performed in 2016 in cooperation with the British car manufacturer Land Rover, who had decided to end the production of the classic Land Rover Defender all-wheel drive. Paul Smith wanted to honor the classic car, which had been in production since 1983, based on the original 1948 Land Rover.

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith
INSPIRATION NO. 1: It was the original Land Rover Defender, here shown in a random choice sample, which inspired Paul Smith to design the colorful special edition of 2016, which later on became the inspiration of the design of the Leica LC Edition Paul Smith. (Photo: nastogadka from Pixabay.)

The usage of the Land Rover Defender throughout the years had been widespread, ranging from military missions and emergency services to farming and numerous other tasks. Paul Smith chose to design a special edition of the Land Rover, where the different parts of the car were painted in different colors. The colors were a way of expressing diversity, 27 colors in all. A 27-color car is attracting a lot of attention in traffic.

Readers who are interested not only in cameras but also in cars may read more on Paul Smith’s Land Rover Defender 2016 edition here

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith
INSPIRATION NO. 2: This is Paul Smith’s tribute to the Land Rover Defender in 2016, a car of a total of 27 colors. This picture was taken in the previous year, in 2015. The vehicle represents the direct inspiration of the design of the special edition of Leica CL. (Copyright: Nick Dimbleby, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

2016 did not mark the end of the Land Rover Defender after all, though. Land Rover launched a new Defender model at the big auto show in Frankfurt recently, in September 2019, and the new car will be available in 2020.

However, it does not share components or technology with its Defender ancestors but represents new technology. In the Land Rover world, that means, for example, that the new model no longer has a body built on top of a steel frame but has a self-supporting vehicle body.

This is included

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith comes with a thick and colorful carrying strap with a Leica logo as well as a Paul Smith logo. You also get a blue lens cleaning cloth with a picture of Paul Smith’s camera imprinted, and a certificate of authenticity.

The presentation box also contains Leica’s compact 18-millimeter wide-angle lens. The focal length is equal to 27 mm on a 35-mm camera.

To make sure you got it: The Leica CL is a system camera with interchangeable lenses. Therefore, those of you buying a CL camera will have an abundance of lenses to choose from, provided you also have an abundance of money at your hands. Leica lenses don’t come cheap.

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith
THE COLOR GAME: Leica CL Edition Paul Smith gives you an extended range of sharp color contrasts. (Press image: Leica)

The production of the Leica CL Edition Paul Smith will be limited to 900 copies.

If you want to find out more about Paul Smith, please check out his web site here.

The price

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith has a recommended sales price of NOK 43,500 including sales tax and is available now (in Norway). US price: $3,995. UK price: €3,975.

In addition to the camera body, the price includes Leica’s so-called pancake lens for APS-C cameras, the Elmarit-TL 18mm f2.8 ASPH.

This camera is a special edition of Leica cameras that do not institute a price hike at the collectors’ level. The regular Norwegian price of a Lecia CL with an 18mm Elmarit-TL f/2.8, which is the same lens, is NOK 40,695, according to the price list of Norwegian Leica distributor Bresson AS. In other words, the additional price hike for the Paul Smith version is limited to NOK 2,805 only. In the Leica world, this is a very modest price hike for a special edition.

Just to have mentioned it: The regular price of the original Leica CL camera body here in Norway is NOK 28,595, whether you want the black or silver version. However, adding the 18mm lens to the purchase adds NOK 12,100 to the price. Leica lenses don’t come cheap, you know, even though this is one of Leica’s most affordable lenses.

Leica CL Edition Paul Smith
THE PRICE: The Leica CL Edition Paul Smith costs NOK 43,500/$3,995/¢3,975. (Press image: Leica)
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