The Leica M 240 – Plasti Dipped!
By Darren Wong
As an industrial designer, ux architect and general photo dude, I’m pretty fond of the processes and physical tools in which we create our work, be it our phones, computers, kitchen knives, pens, or cameras. These tools themselves can be a treasured item to be coddled or handed down to the next or an object that inspires confidence to go out and use them; some of the greater designs out there can be a bit of both. In the end though, tools are just that: a means to create something meaningful in our lives and possibly others.
However, as a lot of folks on this site and other gearheads know, we like to make the tools that we use our own complete with fancy or functional straps, bags, gaffers tape, bling, or sharpies. When the day came to upgrade my Black M9-P, I was presented with the opportunity to score one of the first Silver M240s here in LA and as soon as it popped out of the box, I stripped the red paint off the dot for an instant pseudo M240-P look even before Leica slapped a giant 300 dollar screw on theirs maybe a year later. Since then it’s never really left my side in my daily life and travels and his been a great companion scarred with use. However classic, iconic and beautiful any Silver Leica looks, I couldn’t help but feel it did indeed get a bit more attention while walking around and it was about time for an experiment.
I was looking for a solution that was preferably non-permanent and even though I’ve spent many of hours around model shops and paint booths, I was a bit less familiar with Plasti Dip, a spray-on or paint-on rubberized substance that’s graced the surfaces of workshop tools and used by custom car enthusiasts alike. Known for it’s grippy and durable finish, it’s also completely removable on most finished surfaces leaving little to no residue if the coating is thick enough (~2+ m). My biggest concern was the resolution of pigment in the atomized spray as I didn’t want to gum up any of buttons or internals. I took to the internets to find any information on spraying this stuff on cameras, but came up short with only a few dudes using them on GoPros, repairing camera bellows, and coating circuit boards – at least I knew it wouldn’t affect any of the circuitry if it did happen to penetrate. After a successful test on a beater Nikkormat, it was time to get down on the M240!
[DISCLAIMER: Use this information at your own risk. I or this site take no responsibility messing up your camera. I have somewhat decent modeling experience but even I was a pretty cautious and/or crazy throughout the process.]
Supplies: M240, Pocket rocket blower thing, Isopropyl 95% alcohol, microfiber cloth, Plasti Dip, carbide Xacto, a standard ¼”-20 screw, some painters/artist tape, some toothpicks, and some scrap wood to mount the parts on. Not in anyway sponsored by any of the above products – brand names are just for contextual use.
With some quick masking of the middle section and a once over with an alcohol wipe to make sure the body was entirely clean (super important), in a well ventilated area away from dust, it took about 3-5 coats at 6 inches with a set time of ~15mins between coats, per surface starting with the small delicate parts first (buttons, toggles, small radii, etc.) and then moving on to the coating the larger body panels. Luckily with the pretty tight tolerances between the buttons and switches on most cameras, Plasti Dip didn’t seem to give me too much of a problem, the spray is thick enough to cover most part-lines without going any deeper or gumming up things like the menu buttons, shutter speed. About 45 mins after the last coat I took my Xacto knife and carefully score around all the (sapphire) windows and used a sharp piece of plastic to score around the non-glass edges. Using the toothpicks, delicately peeled away from all the parts I wanted to leave uncoated. It’s important to score, release buttons, and peel off the rubber at this stage as it’s easier to get cleaner lines around these delicate parts.
Left to finish curing for another 4 hours or so, I’m pretty stoked. The result is an almost fully murdered out soft-touch rubberized Leica M240 with an overall grippier feel, a bit more durable, and best of all completely reversible! It’s definitely a process but possibly a nice alternative to sharpies, gaffed up bodies, and DigitalRev style pinkentas!
Thanks for letting me share Steve! Shouts to the Todd Hatakeyama and the LA Photo Gang!