You gotta love a guy who seamlessly weaves Homer and Spotmatics into one short essay. Mike Johnston, a wonderful writer, did just that in an interesting commentary the other day about black Leicas.
Apparently, all other things being equal, black Leica bodies are generally more desirable than chrome ones. The main logic is that black doesn't grab as much attention. You can hang a black thing around your neck and it might be quickly mistaken for a phone or pair of binoculars or a leather bag, or maybe it's camouflaged against your black shirt. But a shiny piece of metal flashing in the sun? You've just announced your presence. So for the sake of discretion, black is favored. And maybe also because, well, black is just plain cool.
This leads to all sorts of strangely mispriced items like this or even this (thanks, Stan). If you're stuck with a chrome Leica you can pay several hundred dollars to have it replated black here or here.
Honestly I don't know if it really makes a difference. I shot with black cameras for a long time before buying a chrome one. The reactions were different, but it's hard to compare them because none of my earlier cameras were Leicas. It was apples and oranges, or maybe apples and avocados in this case.
But I'd heard the rumors about black Leicas even before Johnston's post, and they made me curious, so a few weeks ago I used black electrical tape to mask the chrome on the front of my camera, taking care not to blind the viewfinder. Overnight it went from shiny tool:
To wandering beggar in disguise:
Does it seem more discrete? I'm not sure. I do know it was a lot simpler and cheaper than paying someone a chunk of money and shipping my camera off for replating.
Next question, did it work? Well, my first venture out after the tape job was the day I was kicked out of Lane County Fair for photographing. Yikes! I knew I shouldn't have worn my chrome shirt that day. Instead of fading into the background my camera blared like a siren. Black shirt next time. Black.
So, strike one. I've kept the tape on since then with no further problems, not because it seems to be doing anything but because I'm too lazy to remove it. Regardless of color the camera is still fast and accurate enough to shoot through a dozen axe heads.