Can I have my M3/2/4 repainted?
Yes you can, it is an excellent (albeit expensive) way of refreshing a brassy and scuffed M. It isn't cheap though, and you can expect a long delay in getting it done.
One important caveat though, only older brass body Ms can be repainted (along with the new M7 or MP, now Leica have gone back to using brass). The zinc bodied Leicas (M4-P after #1600 000, M5 and M6) cannot be done because their zinc alloy top covers would melt(!).
Shintaro Yaginuma in Tokyo is the man to do the work. See his excellent and detailed www site at:
Expect lengthy delays as Mr Yaginuma can get very overloaded with orders. Finally, there can also be Japanese Customs Duty issues — so make sure you discuss this first with Mr Yaginuma before sending your camera.
Other Japanese repainters
Another Japanese alternative is Kantoamera Service Co Ltd. (N.B. the site uses Flash, so good luck trying to find things!)
Dr Joseph Yao (see below) has also had cameras repainted by Mr Takahashi at <onelovepeace.tripod.com/ Teru.inc.html>.
CRR Luton (UK)
Peter Grisaffi of CRR Luton in England also paints cameras. He's is also on of the finest Leica repair person in the world, IMHO. See <angelfire.com/biz/Leica/page3.html> for more details.
I picked up an M2-R at a very reasonable cost (for an M2-R) and sent it to Peter to have a CLA and black paint job done. The camera just came back. It's magnificient! The paint job is more like a black chrome job you would see on the M6, though it's a deeper black than my M6, which is 14 years old. The photos on his site make the cameras seem more like a BP finish but that's just due to the lighting used.
My M2-R needed a new strap lug so we replaced those. The back had some play and the baseplate had some slight movement vertically if you pressed on it under the key lock. Peter tightended those up in the process too. Now the camera is as solid as a brick. […]
Malcom Taylor (UK)
Herefordshire-based Leica repair wizard, Malcom Taylor also apparently repaints cameras. It is claimed he does a superb job, but the $ charge is unknown (by me!).
On a mailing list in Oct 2004, Andy Whysall noted the following:
I've just been on the phone to Malcolm […] Yes, he will repaint chrome bodies, stripped down to the brass, the works. He has his own paint made specially, including his own acid etching primers. He says he demonstrated the durability of his paint to two guys from the Leica Historical Society by immersing one of his black-painted base plates into boiling caustic soda and an original Leica-painted base plate into the same. Guess which came out completely unscathed? Give you a clue: not the Leica one. He says his ethos is to create a finish as close to the original Leica black paint finish as is possible. I didn't ask him for a price for a paint job: if you want one, you can ask him that.
If you're bored and enjoy taking cameras apart, why not DIY repaint? Take a deep breath though, for as you can imagine it ain't easy. First you have to rip the camera apart. Then you have to remove the (black or silver) chrome layer by reverse-electrolysis or strong acids, and then remove the underlying nickel plate (more aggressive chemicals) before you get to the brass!
Nevertheless, see the following notes by Akira Nakajima:
… as well as the June 2005 efforts by Joop Mes, who took DIY to the extremes of even fabricating his own camera tools (didn't mix his own pain though — wimp):
Unfortunately both these examples are boring black or grey. But if you're splashing acids and enamel around, then why not try something a little unusual? Say NASA Duck Egg Blue? Or Ferrari Red? Or "Eurotrash Raver Doof-Doof-Doof" Safety Fluoro Orange?…
After reading the above in June 2005, Akira Nakajima sent me the following correction:
I just wanted to correct you on paint color. In actual fact, I used the Tremclad Anthracite Hammertone paint finish rather than black. As this was my first attempt at doing this, I used the hammertone to hide any flaws which might be visible after spraying. It certainly did a fine job of texturing the top and bottom plates. In retrospect, I should have selected a different color like metalic aquamarine hammertone, which I've seen in Japanese Leica magazines.
In May 2007 Akira rode again, this time taking my advice about fluoro colours and painting his Leica MDa a bright glossy red. You can read the story and see examples of his results at:
M2 Repaint by Oliver Thoma
In June 2007 Oliver Thoma noted the following about the brand and type of black paint to use when repainting:
I disassambled [the beater quality M2's], had the chrome and the nickel removed by a professional service, airbrushed them with black enamel paint, backed them in my stove, painted the engravings, assembled them, did adjust the rangefinders and applied a new leather cover.
My own working time was about 5-6 hours for disassembling, painting, assembling, leathering and justage.
The paint is called "SENOCRYL®-Lack 05-0945", by a german company WEILBURGER Coatings GmbH, it is the same black paint that Leica used or still uses, I guess on the MPs and for all black paint jobs.
I diluted it with the matching thinner, and used a low pressure artistic airbrush with a 0,5mm nozzle. Then baked it for 1 1/4 hours at 160°C in my stove.
You can view the results of Oliver's efforts at <L-camera-forum.com: #26341>
Shintaro repaints - user feedback
(1) Henry Chu noted the following in Oct 2001:
[…] I had an M2 and an M4 painted by Shintaro back in the days when it was $400/body. Gorgeous! I've also had a 50 Summicron painted. Gorgeous again! Currently he has another body and lens of mine.
On the down side is the amount of time it takes to have it done. Secondly, the camera has to be sent to Japan and the declared value has to be less than $100 otherwise Japanese customs will charge duty. To ensure peace of mind, send it registered. Below is an excerpt of a recent e-mail with him.
"Now I have three plans for paint. This price is for Leica.
 $500US just paint on the brass. I do not paint eyelet's and flame at back door. It is good for the camera which is mint condition or owner doesn't care about scars.
 $600US Fix dents or dings then paint on the brass. I do not paint eyelet's and flame at back door. It is good for the camera which has dents or dings but has good leather.
 $700US Fix dents or dings then paint on the brass and change leather. I do paint eyelet's and flame at back door. It is good for the camera need total service to be mint condition black repainted camera.
Nikon S,S2 Add $100US. Nikon S3,S4,SP Add $ 200US.
I don't want to paint Canon.
Rollei Hummer tone is $500US."
(2) Tom Abrahamsson made the following remarks about his repainted cameras in May 2002:
Being an owner of probably the largest collection of Shintaro painted cameras I feel I should wade into this discussion. - Shintaro's work is on par with the best of the other "painters". There is an other painter/restorer in Japan that can do a better job, but at a price (US$1200 for a M2/M3), but his work is strictly for show as the paint is soft enough to rub off.
Over the years Shintaro and I have conspired to make a lot of specials, including hammertone grey, US Army Blue/grey, Ivory hammertone, black IIIF's etc and the paintjob has always been of a quality that compares to or exceeds the Leica original paintjob. I know that there are other painters of cameras that only sprays over the chrome and leave it like that (including somebody back east who powder coats bodies black over the chrome). Leica was never that good at painting the M's. I am old enough to have bought new M2's and M3's in black paint from the factory in the 60's and these paintjobs would not have met with our standards today. One of the ways of spotting a fake paint M is usually the fact that the paintjob is too good. Leicas paint used to react with the brass and cause bubbling of the paint almost instantly.
When Shintaro started painting cameras about 6 years ago, we experimented with various finishes. Initially the finish was quite glossy and very hard. Later he refined the process to incorporate the "semi-gloss" finish that closely matched the original M finish (of the M2/M3 and M4 - the finish on the Millenium/LHSA/Dragon TTL is different. It is glossier than the original M paint). Every camera he paints involves removing the existing chrome and underlaying nickel and polishing the brass to a high gloss finish. This is painstaking work and also involves the use of some rather aggressive chemicals.
The only item that I know that Shintaro paints black over chrome is lenses. Some of the early Leica M-lenses are a mixture of brass and alloy and if you use chemical removal of the chrome, you would also dissolve the alloy! There is a precedence for this as Leica used to supply 50/1,4 Summiluxes in black paint and these were simply painted over chrome and I have had 35/2 which had the same paintjob, black paint over chrome. These lenses were supplied new from the factory in that finish!
A couple of the cameras that Shintaro made up for me had "brassing" incorporated into the original scheme. My favourite was a black Nikon S2. Shintaro painted it and then studied other black S2 and "mapped out" the brassing on them and matched it on mine. I have a Nikon SP in "Ugly-" condition that I am sending to him for a similar treatment this summer.
Shintaro is a working photographer and regards cameras as tools, not as collectibles and I agree with him. He is not making "fakes" that can be passed off as overvalued collectibles. He is providing a service to M-users, who, like me, prefers the tactile feel of black paint with nicely brassed edges to a black chrome or bright chrome finish.
(3) Finally, Dr Joseph Yao noted the following about his large number of repainted cameras in May 2002:
I have known Shintaro as well as his work for a number of years. He has painted over forty of my cameras. […] On one of my visits to Tokyo I asked him to paint an M2 for me. He asked if I had a few hours to spare and he did my camera while I waited - I witnessed every step in the process, and I would say it loud and clear again, ' the chrome is removed from the brass'.
As for the jpeg on his website, looking at the M3 on my Apple LCD monitor, there is BRASS underneath the black paint on the top cover as well as the external controls. As for the back door, there are silver patches showing because the back door is NOT made of brass. If you have a user M2/3/4 with painting peeling off the back door you will see what I mean.
I have also handled this very M3 on his website - and yes, there is brass underneath black paint and no, there is no chrome between the black paint and brass. As for the amount of brassing, I understand some were deliberate, like the edges of the viewfinder and rangefinder windows.
Is his paint durable? Sure it is. Very much so. My daily user is a M6 classic with a painted M4 top cover and various M2/3/4 external controls. After three years of constant use, only the rewind knob and shutter speed dial have brassed. The former was scratched by the buckle on the leather neck strap and the latter was marred by the M3 advance lever.
I have compared his painting against an unused original black paint M4 as well as the current black paint M cameras such as the Millennium and LHSA. Shintaro's paint is thicker and harder. The Millennium and LHSA feature a thinner layer of paint, and in the case of the former, polishing marks are visible. The black paint M4 has started bubbling at various places, but since this camera is over thirty years old I will give it the benefit of doubt. I am not an expert to judge whose paint is 'better', but I would say without a moment of hesitation I prefer Shintaro's work over that of Leitz and Leica.
In addition to Shintaro, I have also had some of my cameras painted by Mr. Takahashi.
He charges three to four times more and his work is even more refined. However, his painting is more delicate and I would say it is less suitable for regular use. IMHO, if you wish to USE a black paint M3, you send your camera to Shintaro. If you want your M3 to LOOK great in black paint, you send it to Mr. Takahashi.
And thanks to Shintaro, we Leica users now have an extra choice for the finish of our cameras. I had wanted a black paint M6J for sometime and he has made my dream come true. Now with the M7 featuring paintable brass top cover, things will get very interesting indeed. I wonder what finish the LHSA M7 will have.