To most photographers, "toy cameras" are cheap cameras, often plastic, often with plastic lenses, that are nevertheless capable of taking pictures. There is however another category: toys that look like cameras, but don't actually take pictures. This is a particularly spectacular example. It's even in "Luxus" gold trim.

Leica Turbo Diesel. At least, that's what TD normally stands for, and it's at least as credible as the lens data. A Summilux-M 35 Asph has glass in it, for a start, and costs about £4000 in the UK, VAT paid, or maybe $5000 in the US, plus tax. This cost me 1€ (80p, $1.10) at a vide-grenier in 2015. It was brand-new, in a Cellophane envelope. 

Like most cameras of its type, it is pre-loaded with a series of ready-made pictures. Look through the viewfinder (which isn't quite where a long-time Leica user might expect); press the "shutter release"; and a new frame comes into shot. I first encountered such things when I was 9 or 10 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Ta'Pinu in Gozo, where I bought a toy camera loaded with souvenir photographs. Photographically, this one isn't even that exciting: the pictures are eight bad cartoon drawings in sub-Jungle Book (Disney) style. On the other hand, the camera is magnificent and the lens is even more fun than the camera.

The front of the camera has a lens release button, a frame selector, a focusing tab and even a viewfinder illumination window. On the back, as you can see, there are still more controls: all resolutely non-functional, but who cares? I've been using Leicas for over 40 years and I can't help feeling that Leica really ought to get in touch with TangDa toys for the launch of their next M-model. One of these pre-loaded with eight press pictures of a new Leica would certainly be memorable and would soon be a collectible in its own right. .

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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016