Truly veteran gadget geeks know that long before PCs and component audio systems, let alone wireless wizardry, cameras were the toys that drew the interest of earlier generations of technophiles. In fact, I come by my love of tech honestly and genetically. My maternal grandfather was a camera nut in the '40s and '50s who handed down to me his prized cache of Bolex 16mm movie cameras, one of the first stereo 35mm cameras, and first-generation home movie lights that generated enough heat to fry fuses and produce lifelong second-degree burn scars on anyone who got too close. He used to make pilgrimages to the legendary Willoughby's camera store in Manhattan to secure his next rare find. Grandpa was my ubergeek progenitor.
The one thing Grandpa didn't have in his wonderful collection was a Leica. The king of the 35mm rangefinders, Leica cameras have always been unearthly expensive, embraced almost exclusively by the highest rung of photojournalists and art photographers. They have also been behind some of the most beautiful black-and-white imagery of the 20th century, used by everyone from Alfred Eisenstaedt to Henri Cartier-Bresson, Yousuf Karsh to Diane Arbus.
Why am I taking you through this little history of gadget geekdom? Well, at this time of year when memory, technology, sentiment and images commingle, it's fitting that one of the most revered original gadget lust brands -- Leica -- pioneers a new way to shop via the latest camera craze, smartphone and Instagram.
Leica Brazil, along with its agency F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, created a @leicabrasil Instagram account that allows visitors to buy the latest consumer-grade Leica C camera simply by posting “buy” in the comments section to one of the posted photos. Well, it is not that simple, of course. You first need to register with e-commerce intermediary O Arco. Leica is also giving to buyers who use this channel a poster of the image they commented on.
Just as Pinterest has already discovered, the visual social network is treated by many users as a catalog of desire. Their traditional strengths -- creating aspirational imagery that engages positive passions -- are the heart of Instagram and Pinterest's appeal. Unlike with Twitter and Facebook, people tend to share inspiring and pleasing moments on these channels, not trivia and snark.
Leica's is a unique use of the Instagram sales channel that is a bit ironic but fitting for the brand. The new Leica C is the first one of its models to have built-in WiFi for automatically transferring camera photos to a smartphone or PC. It is a curious nod to the ways in which the smartphone has replaced one of the mainstay gadgets of the last century. The Leica C is also the most affordable model the company has ever offered for the consumer market.
Alas, my understanding from reviews I have read is that the actual gadget at the heart of this, the Leica C, is actually just a rebranded Panasonic digital rangefinder that otherwise sells for much less.
If my grandfather were still here, he would have been first in line anyway, although I would have had to walk him through the Instagram ordering. Did I mention that Grandpa never actually understood how to work most of the photography gadgets into which he poured thousands of dollars? I would not have had it any other way. How else would I have a lifetime of memories of showing him how a light meter or a Bolex actually worked?