If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible to have an instant camera with the revered Leica M lens, the short answer is yes.
Leica may already have its own instant camera in the form of the Sofort, introduced in 2016. But, let’s face it: it feels more like a glorified Fuji Instax Mini than a truly premium instax camera with the Leica brand. Shanghai-based product designer Daniel Huang took up the noble challenge to make the first instant camera designed for the Leica M lens. The result is a minimalist masterpiece that will delight the Leica fans, and intrigue instant photography lovers.
Huang describes the personal project he later named Leica Instant M as a minimalist camera that features a viewfinder display of 1:1 ratio to film, and accommodates a Full Frame Leica M lens. The main rationale behind his creation is two-pronged. First, he pointed out a “thriving movement which celebrates artistic approach instead of precision.” Second, he feels that the Leica Sofort “failed to capture the Leica spirit” and is simply “a $300 camera based on a $150 Fuji Instax Mini 90” that even takes the same film.
To bring the Leica experience to instant photography, Huang stripped the Leica Instant M of digital adjustments and post-processing, and put emphasis on the analog controls for aperture and focus using the manual lens. The camera, he put simply, is just a digital view finder with instant film capabilities. With the 1:1 ratio to the film, what you see is really what you get. “Stripped to the essence, it appeals to slow and thoughtful photography,” he added.
Designed to be as premium as the Leica brand name suggests, Huang made the Instant M out of a single piece of translucent polycarbonate shell with a stamped inner frame. He also installed a curved glass rear which angles the display for optimum viewing and provides thumb grip. There are also swappable neck and hand strap provisions integrated at the sides.
Huang noted that mounting a Full Frame lens to an instant camera requires a hybrid system like the Instax SQ10. While there are interchangeable lens instant cameras out there, they can only take custom or medium format lens. He cites limitation of the flange focal length as the reason why there haven’t been any instant cameras for APS-C or full frame lens. The hybrid system on the SQ10 and SQ20 solves this, so he hacked an SQ10 to work on a prototype that takes a 35mm Leica Summicron-M lens.
The results are pretty amazing and will surely make you wish this instant camera becomes a reality. Let’s hope Leica picks up on this!
Do check out Daniel Huang’s website to learn more about his inspiration, ideas, and process for building the Leica Instant M.
All images pitched by and used with permission from Daniel Huang.