It did surprise them. The production line for the M8 had to be redesigned to allow for making 50 per cent more cameras than they expected (I was in Solms a couple of months ago). Leica M-sales are back to the levels of the late 60s; they can't make lenses fast enough; and as dealers will tell you, a lot of stuff is back-ordered. Although the majority of Ms built are M8s, sales of M7s and MPs have also risen.
Originally Posted by Dorian Gray
Given the essentially hand-made nature of Leicas and Leica lenses, there's no real need to discontinue any camera or lens as long as it has its unique advantages: the sheer speed of the 50/1, the low cost of the 50/2,5, etc. They can just make a small batch from time to time.
In many ways the 50/1 would be the obvious candidate for the chop: modern fast films and an ISO 2500 equivalent on the M8 mean that there's less need for the speed, it's hellish expensive, there's some focus shift on stopping down, and inevitably quality suffers slightly when you build an f/1. It would be possible to redesign it and make a better lens, but I'd be surprised if they bothered. As long as people buy 'em, they'll make 'em: both Leitz and Zeiss say that very small batches -- 25 or fewer -- are feasible, as long as the lens costs enough.
And I'll second your comments about the red dot and the font. Why not go back to the original, after all?
As for collectors replacing photographers, before the M8 came out Leica reckoned they were selling maybe 50/50 to photographers and collectors. The M8 seems to be selling pretty much to photographers.