When I first got my Leica M8, I immediately disliked the standard leathering it came with. The fine grain of the original M8 leathering resembles sandpaper (from the looks at least), and offers as good as no grip. Leica fixed this with the M8.2, where they switched to the more pronounced vulcanite covering, but for some stranges reason reverted to the sandpaper style with the gray M9. The black M9 and the new M9-P models, however, all feature the vulcanite covering, which has just recently been slightly refined.
Thus, very early, I desired to give my M8 a new leathering. However, at that time, the only supplier for M8 leatherettes was cameraleather.com (if you did not wish to send your camera in to Leica themselves). They have some very nice leathers in their product lineup, but they’re all relatively expensive. Then I remembered that when I got my Olympus E-P1, I ordered a custom leatherette from the Japanese manufacturer Aki Asahi, for much the same reasons that I now wanted one for my M8: grip. And also looks. But the E-P1′s metal finish in particular proved very slippery, and also attracted finger prints due to its shiny surface. However, Aki Asahi were only offering custom coverings for analog M models, not for the digital M8 or M9. That is, until very recently.
When I revisited their website a few days ago, I noticed they had introduced a custom covering for the Leica M8 around mid-March. Finally! I immediately placed an order for the #4034 style called “Pebbled Emboss”, which looks very similar to Leica’s vulcanite covering. Today, I received the shipment and immediately fitted my M8 with the new leatherette. And what can I say — not only does it look so much nicer, I also find that grip is much improved by the more pronounced structure of the #4034′s surface. Applying the leatherette was pretty straightforward, as you can see in the pictures below. For anyone who’s contemplating to re-skin his M8 or M9 (the coverings should fit the latter as well, as M8 and M9 share practically the same body), I can only recommend Aki Asahi. Their service as well as their products are excellent. And for a price of US-$ 28, including shipping, there’s really no reason not to go for it.
UPDATE: Before you guys all go ahead and reskin your M8s, here are two hints I missed.
- Cover the adhesive side of the leatherette with water or alcohol before applying it. This way, you can reposition it before it beforenit gets real sticky. I did this when I covered my Olympus E-P1 with their #4040 skin.
- Start with the frameline preview lever. This makes things much easier and significantly reduces the chance of ripping the whole leatherette apart. See John Sypal’s blog post on re-skinning his Leica MP.