One could almost picture Tom Cruise dangling Mission Impossible-style over a glass case in what looks like a museum. In this instance, Cruise’s quarry would be a Leica S2 — the epitome of a camera lover’s camera due to its pedigree and the pin-sharp resolution of images it creates.
But in the light of day (specifically on May 20), people just walked into the Leica Boutique at its opening that included catered food, wine, and representatives from the renowned German optics company. Clients of Camera West in Rancho Mirage drove in from Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as from points within the Coachella Valley.
While cases along the walls include binoculars, camera bodies, lenses, and a range of camera parts and accessories, the S-P2 with sapphire glass LCD takes center stage. Even though it runs $33,000 (assuming one wants a lens), Camera West has sold “more than you’d imagine,” says Sean Cranor, who owns the store with his wife, Diana. Pressed for the number they’ve sold since the camera debuted in 2010, he says, “20 … 30 … 40.” Although it’s a pro-level camera, the Cranors say many of their buyers — like most who fit “the Leica profile” — are simply people who enjoy the finer things in life.
Because Leica cameras are entirely handcrafted and each one bench tested, S2s are not stocked and waiting for customers. “We have had people on our waiting list for over a year,” Diana says. Mary Jo Kuehne, a Leica representative at the opening, confirms that “Camera West has one of the longest waiting lists in the western United States.”
The Cranors get first availability on Leica products. In 2002, they were one of the first stores in the country to open a Leica Boutique (they also own a store in Walnut Creek and relocated their Carmel store to the desert
2 1/2 years ago). Since Leica created a new, uniform/branding design for its in-store boutiques, Camera West runs the only one west of the Mississippi (the others being in Washington, D.C.; Manhattan, N.Y.; and two in South Palm Beach, Fla.).
There will be no waiting list for Leica’s next luxury item, scheduled to arrive this month: the M9-P Edition Hermès — Série Limitée Jean-Louis Dumas (named in honor of the former Hermès president). The package includes a specially designed Leica camera body wrapped in Hermès calfskin, three lenses, a calfskin shoulder strap, and a calfskin case. With only 100 available worldwide, Camera West could get just two of these gems, priced at $50,000. Both are spoken for.
While Leica commands five figures for new cameras, a 1923 model — from the first batch of 31 the company created (only 12 are known to exist) — fetched $2.8 million at an auction in May. It makes $33,000 seem like chump change.