camera leather

m. werneburg, 2004

preamble

This review does not cover a particular camera, but rather an after-market kit that allows you to re-cover (mostly older, film) cameras. I figured that a useful part of this review would be a detailed explanation of the process for using one of the kits.

the rangefinder

I replaced the old and worn leather on my Olympus 35DC rangefinder. This older model is a fairly simple rangefinder that dates to when the style of camera first started to miniaturize. These are, nowadays, inexpensive cameras that have typically seen a fair bit of (hard) use. By the time I was given mine in 2006, the unit was likely thirty years old. I felt that the leather on my 35DC showed a lot of wear and that its uninspired flat grey probably had never really looked great to start with.

The photos below show the progression of changing the leather.

before
The kit arrived from a CameraLeather.com. It was just three small pieces of leather between a flat piece of cardboard and some wax paper. The leather kit cost about $30.

during I peeled off the existing leather. The trick is to do this slowly so that as much of the glue residue as possible will stick with the leather and leave the camera body.

Removing the leather took only a couple of minutes. Removing the rest of the tiny fragments of glue took another forty-five minutes (a process that would have been greatly speeded up if I had had some rubbing alcohol, I'm sure).

after
Applying the leather is pretty straightforward. I lined up the points of the curved front pieces with the corners of the spot where the lens meets the camera body. Then it was just a matter of ensuring that the edges were straight and gently pressing the leather to the body. The larger piece 'round the back was quite simple, of course.

I used a small metal tool originally from a dental kit to press the edges of the leather into position. It seemed, for aesthetic purposes if nothing else, important to get the edges worked into the camera properly. The tool I used is a slender hook thing that is slightly curved. I image that the round back of a butter knife or something similar would work as well.

after
This is the back of the camera. The leather shown here is the red snake variety. And here's another view:

sexy view, des ne?

This was not the first camera I've recovered, nor was it to be the last.

the X-700 SLR

Just under a year later, I replaced the frayed and holy plastic covering on my Minolta X-700 with the dark Griptac offering from cameraleather.com. The X-700 is a very common camera, a long-selling model that spanned nearly twenty years. Since it was born in the early 80's the body is largely plastic and the material covering the body is an awkward, unsightly stuff that tends to wear through a fray.

the workhorse, recovered

Replacing the cover on the X-700 turned out to be fairly easy. There is no timer release lever, as there is with the 35DC and the Minolta XD (my first camera re-covered). In fact, the X-700's cover turned out to be a series of small panels that were quite easy to replace.

Re-covering my camera led to the happy discovery that the uncomfortably-textured thumb-rest on the back of the camera was replaceable. I'd never liked that feature of the camera over the 12 years I'd been using the thing, and I was very glad to see it gone.

The X-700 is a very different beast from the 35DC, and I felt it warranted the no-nonsense functional Griptac. This is not billed as a particularly attractive covering, but as it turns out I think it's a big improvement over the X-700's weird 80's covering.

a second X-700

For my other X-700 body, I went with a cheap-and-cheerful faux leather in blue.


X-700 in blue

the XD/XD-11 SLR

I've replaced the covers on a pair of Minolta XD/XD-11 bodies twice, each. The first was in 2003-2004 (when I first wrote this page). I put a "lizard skin" cover on the first XD body because the sexily soft—and notoriously flaky—original cover was peeling off. I like the result so well, that it sold me on the idea of replacing the cover on all of my cameras.


The first re-covering

Years later, when I bought a second body of this type, I decided to re-cover that as well.

Eventually, the glue backing the lizard skin seeped through on the first body, so I replaced that with a very different look from Aki-Asahi.com.


Bright pink camera cover from Aki-Asahi.com

review

The kits offered by cameraleather.com are everything I'd hoped for. They're well-made, attractive, and well-priced. They're also surprisingly easy to put on, and while they don't come with explicit step-by-step instructions, they do have general instructions that tell you everything you need to know.

I have no bought a lizard-skin kit, a snake-skin kit, and a "Griptac" kit and can attest that these covers look good and feel good in-hand. They are also fairly durable.

Update, 2014: The lizard skin on my Minolta XD SLR has been replaced with a bright pink imitation leather from Aki-Asahi.com. I'd mentioned to the folks at CameraLeather.com that the glue was bleeding through the lizard skin, and they told me they'd send a replacement. That didn't happen, and when I went back to the CameraLeather.com site I found that it was in disrepair—several pages were not working, and you couldn't place orders. I've been happy with the inexpensive replacement from Aki-Asahi.com, which both came quickly and feels at least equal to the CameraLeather coverings in quality.

In all, I strongly recommend the kits sold by cameraleather.com.

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reader comments

Hi, Thanks for the write up. I used cameraleather.com for about 8 years and the service within the last few years has been really horrible. On all of my recent purchases, I usually wait three weeks and then start a case with paypal. I normally get my covering within a month. Remember if you If you wait too long you won't be able get your money back with paypal. I have purchased dozens of different kits and covers over the years. The cuts are always very accurate, but some covers have gotten thinner and don't match up with the sides of the Rolleiflex or Rolleicord very well. The Griptac is ugly but my favorites for actual use. Hugo, your kits look reallynice. I'll have to give them a try.

Scapedude
2017.02.01

Sorry to hear that that's the case, Scapedude. I eventually had to replace some of the leather kits due to glue bleeding through the material - quite disgusting on a camera!

-Michael

Hello Would you consider taking a look of my camera covers. I can send you a sample sheet with all the material I have available I have more than 125 vintage camera covers kits my webpage is hugostudio.com e-mail hugo@hugostudio.com Thank You

hugo
2016.05.11

I'd love to Hugo, but I'm afraid I finally set aside my film cameras for good last year. I'd have nothing on which to evaluate it!

I will say it looks like you've got a nice set of colors and from what I can see on the screen the texture looks nice. It looks like it must be fun?

-Michael

rand()m quote

(In which I leave the final word to someone else.)

Satires which the censor can understand are justly forbidden

-Karl Kraus

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