Leica M2 - Replacing the Leather

Leica M2 - The finished product.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently bought a used Leica M2. This camera arrived unexpectedly missing a chunk of vulcanite, and the majority of what was still on the camera appeared to be very brittle. I knew that this was merely cosmetic, so while I was dismayed, I wasn't too upset about it. After confirming that the camera was functional (again, see my previous post), I set out to give the camera a bit of a facelift.

I knew it was possible to replace the leather on cameras, and a bit of research gave me the confidence to attempt doing it myself. There are a couple of places where you can order replacement camera leather online; the two I found are CameraLeather.com and Aki-AsahiBoth sites have plenty of options, and both seem to be highly regarded, so the tiebreaker was shipping time. I went with CameraLeather.com mostly because I didn't want to wait for an order to arrive from Japan.

I'll admit, I was a bit tempted to go with something a little more unique, but in the end I really just wanted that classic Leica look, so I went with "Seal Grain Black—Coarse," which is strikingly close to the original leather.

Leica M2 - "Before"

As I said, the original leather (or at least whatever was on my M2 previously) was very brittle, so for the most part it was very easy to remove using a craft knife. The leather on the film door was a bit more stubborn, but a bit of patience and elbow grease did the trick. There are two suggested methods for applying the new leather outlined on CameraLeather.com: the "dry" method, and the "wet" method. The only real difference is that the wet method uses an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to provide a little more room for error. By painting on a bit of the hand sanitizer before application, one can easily adjust the leather if placed incorrectly, And since it's alcohol-based, the hand sanitizer will eventually evaporate. Despite this being my first attempt at doing something like this, I chose to go with the dry method. I felt confident that I could take enough care to do it correctly. Also I forgot to buy any hand sanitizer. I figured, worst case scenario, I'm out $25 and I have to try again.

Fortunately, as you can see from the video below, it turned out great. While it might not be 100% perfect, I'd say it's about 99%. The entire process took about two hours from beginning to end, but I was taking my time and also taking breaks here and there. If this is something you've thought about doing, I can attest that it's definitely possible if you're patient and prepare thoroughly.

A few tips:
• Be very careful with the craft knife. Obviously your first priority should be your own safety, but beyond that you don't want to end up scratching the camera outside of the area that will be covered by the leather.
Be patient. As you can tell from the video, removing the original leather from the film door took longer than the rest of the camera. As long as you are patient and remove pieces little by little, eventually you'll get there.

Wear gloves when handling the new leather. You should still be careful not to touch the glue, but if you do so accidentally, it's better not to get oils from your skin on it. This could affect the efficacy of the adhesive.