Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2003/02/23

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Subject: [Leica] Leicavit M
Date: Sun, 23 Feb 2003 16:53:57 -0500

Just to put all the rumors to rest; I did not design the new Leicavit M for the M6P, but I have known about its existence for about a year and a half. At photokina 2000 I was talking about it with Solms and I suggested that they consider making it as I seem to be permanently backordered on mine and this proves that there is a demand for this kind of device. Last year at photokina 2002 I was told that it would be shown at PMA together with a “reborn” MP/M6 Classic style (with more than hints of Millennium M6 incorporated, M3 rewind and advance lever, chrome or black paint etc.). I had some suggestions as to the design of the Leicavit, naturally so, as I have more experience with this type of M6/M7 device than any one else! One of the points that I stressed is that the lever be less knife edge like than on the original and also that the lock be of the “folding key” style of the regular base-plate. The original side-swipe lock had a tendency to get snagged in clothing and inside camera bags. 
 I was told that one of the design features of the new Leicavit is that in order to reduce the height of it by 2,5-3 mm (from my design) they have gone to a 3 gear drive. The part that engages the camera comes from the Winder M motor and this is too tall to fit with a clutch/sprocket in a more shallow housing. This necessitates a second drive gear and a clutch gear to ensure that the drive rotates in the correct direction. The belt drive is of a style similar to mine. I did investigate using a chain in 1987 when I started, but having had problems with several original Leicavit MP’s before (chains stretching, noise, weight etc.) I decided against it. Modern technology has given us some really good materials for these belts and also for clutches. The original Leicavit had a single action clutch that had to be “just right” to advance a full frame in one stroke. The latest multipin clutches engage with less than 1-2 degrees of turning and are extremely reliable.
 I haven’t gotten one of the new Leicavit M’s yet, but I have been promised one at PMA next week. It is interesting that it initially will only be available in chrome or black paint (what about all those “regular” M4-2/M4-P/M6 and M7’s out there?) and that the prices quoted are just about double what mine cost. I am looking forward to getting one and putting it through its paces as well as taking it apart and study the complexity of it.
 The shell for the Leicavit M is machined from brass (CNC’d, just like mine) and although brass is a wonderful material, it inherently is soft and flexible. The original Leicavit MP suffered from this, as the track inside could be distorted by simply pushing at the base of the winder with your thumbs! The inside gear train is also quite exposed in any trigger winder as there has to be an open track for the lever and “drawbar” to function. This will allow dirt and sand to get inside. You can design around this by giving allowances on the track and gear-train not to jam when a grain of sand gets in there. In the new Leicavit M there are three different gears that are exposed to this and I hope that Solms has tried it out thoroughly.
 I find the price quoted a bit alarming, close to US$ 900 (at photokina 2002 I was told “around $750”, but the strengthening of the Euro in the past 6 month has changed that). This puts it in mainly collectors' price range, which is too bad as the trigger winders are a boon to left-eye shooters. I don’t know if the new winder will be fully compatible with the older M4-2/M4-P’s as the drive in those bodies are subtly different from the M6/M7 and with my winders, occasionally requires a slight modification to the profile of the teeth in the drive to function smoothly. I will try this out when I have the new Leicavit M in my hand.
 Will the new Leicavit M affect me? I certainly hope so; Leica needs to sell them and make a profit and I might be able to catch up on my back-order list, at last. This will also allow me to spend some more time on finishing the first batch of “BarnackWinders”. I will still be making my Rapidwinder and there are enough M shooters out there who want a lower cost alternative and also a match to their black chrome M4-2/M4-P/M6/M7.
 Unfortunately, Leica did not take up my suggestion that they start numbering the M6P with the next # after the original batch in 1957 (which I think stopped at #MP 408).
 My only other problem is that after almost 5 years, I have gotten used to the “wrong” direction of the M6TTL shutter-speed dial and now I have to revert back to the old style of dial. I also wish that Leica had put the shutter release lock from the M7 on the new camera.
 I am truly looking forward to trying out the new Leicavit M and also the M6P (I hope that they will make them in black paint and 0,58 finder) and once I have had a chance to take the new winder apart, I probably can figure out what a “rod” designed drive is!
Tom A

Tom Abrahamsson
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