Ok, here's my take...
Let's start with a car analogy. Nikon and Canon are Toyota and Honda. Leica is Mercedes or maybe Porsche. Leica will never make or sell as many cameras as Nikon or Canon, but they don't have to in order to stay in business. Like Macintosh in the computer world they can sell to a very small segment and still make money.
The M6 has been around for almost 20 years now. Leica finally came out with an aperture priority camera in the M7. Some people love it and some people don't. But Leica, and many of the people who use them, are steeped in tradition.
Most of these people (myself included) have owned and used the earlier M2's 3's and 4's. Many people consider these cameras the greatest M's made by Leica. When you fire and advance one of these cameras they feel buttery compared to M6's, M4-2's or M4-P's. Lots of this has to do with the brass gearing used in the older M's over the steel gearing in the later M's.
But, as much as many people loved these older cameras, they switched to M6's for the built-in metering.
Now Leica has to be thinking to themselves, "how do we sell more cameras?" My guess is that many people who are going to buy M6's have already done so. They've tapped into the market of M users who have wanted an aperture priority camera. They finally came out with different magnification versions to bring out the eyeglass wearers and those who love the M3-style higher mag for longer lens users.
Now's the time to tap into that tradition of the all mechanical M. What if they made a camera that's as great as the M2, 3 and 4, but updated for today? They finally fixed the rangefinder flare problem. They made the shutter even more robust. They updated the light meter in the camera. They used some retro styling with the wind lever and the rewind knob among others. The top plate is now brass instead of zinc. They are also offering this camera in black paint (but only with the .72 mag). The black paint Leicas are the most sought after Leicas for the collectors.
Now Leica has two distinct M's in their stable. The M7 for those that want AE and the MP for those who pine for the good old days of the M2, 3 and 4.
Right now this seems to be really smart marketing based on how much buzz this new camera has generated in the Leica community.
Time will tell how different in feeling this camera is compared to the M6. If Leica really pulled off an MP that feels as great as the M2's, 3's and 4's, while addressing the shortcomings of the M6, then it will probably entice a lot of Leica users to buy it, in turn making Leica money to stay in business.
I'm curious to get one of these in my hands. I exchanged a few emails with someone in Germany who has had the chance to play with an MP. Here's what he wrote:
The look and feel of this camera is simply incredible. Maybe that is the reason why even Erwin Putt ?whom I consider to be a technician rather than a photographer- went over the edge with his marketeering and very emotional comments.
Well, I am a photographer and therefore I will allow myself to be a little more on the emotional side when talking about an everyday tools. In terms of look and feel I would rate this camera by far better than the M6/7. It is much like an old black paint M3. The Leica representative told me it is definitely not an M3. They engineered a lot new and one can feel it. And the pictures of the MP do not come close to the actual look. The polished screws on the r-lever and the bayonet release button just look terrific. It is a real joy to have this camera. They had to talk to me like to a child to hand it back to them. I put down an order for it instantly.
The camera body is sold for 3.000 EUR and the Leicavit for 800 EUR. I simply cannot remember the price of this crank thing, but who dares. This is what I consider a good price and I mean it.
Jim, since you then know, how a M2 or M3 feels compared to a M6/7 you know what I am talking about. But I really don?t know what they actually did. If they returned to all brass? Maybe. I did not asked them and even if I would , I would not remember the answer because I was ?shooting? around with the MP and didn?t listen to their marketing gizmos. I am just realizing, that one is shooting with an MP (machine pistol)! Oops! All I remember is, that they told me it is mechanically superior to any former model and that they used a block of metal for the body (instead of several metal forms screwed together).
Well, I am quite sure you will like the camera and you should prepare to have funds available to own one! Because I doubt you can resist ;-)