Inside Leica's factory in Wetzlar
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Inside Leica's factory in Wetzlar

It was a great privilege to be allowed to visit the Wetzlar facility, and hopefully, if you've ever been tempted to leave a snarky comment on DPReview asking why Leica's cameras and lenses are so expensive, you now have a better idea. The time spent in manufacturing and assembling each lens, and the huge amount of manual labor involved in even relatively simple parts of the process (and even for Leica's lower-cost Summarit M-series lenses) is truly remarkable.

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On my way out, I visited the on-site outlet store (of course I did) where as I munched on some Haribo, this curious and very expensive camera caught my eye. Notice the mismatch between the description, and the number engraved on the front of the rangefinder housing. This is a prototype M9, disguised as an M8 for off-site real-world testing. 'Erlkönig', by the way, is a codename, taken from the title of a characteristically scary and depressing poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (and later, as a choral work, one of Franz Schubert's greatest hits). I won't spoil it for you but suffice to say things don't end well for the little boy in the forest...

As for the garish orange covering on a supposedly incognito prototype camera, well - if you were looking for proof of the elusive German sense of humor, I think you just found it.