I get it. You are looking at those beautiful cameras and it just hits you “I can’t afford a Leica”. Well there are some ways you can use to get more affordable Leicas or get the Leica brand without the price. Let’s dig right in.
Hi, I’m Sven the Leicaphile and there’s no secret that Leicas are expensive and for those who have them, worth it. But worth it or it doesn’t change the fact that you need to shell out some cash for them. So if that is you, here’s some creative ways to swing it.
“I can’t afford a Leica” What you can do
Well let’s start by making something clear: This is not a magical article claiming you can get anything you want in life because you want it bad enough, you will have to spend a few bucks, but it will probably be less then you think.
1. Reframe your thinking
I must admit when it comes to shoes, I really don’t care about what I wear. So when my sandals got torn, I just went for the cheapest one I could find. This scenario repeated itself 3-4 times for the year when I finally bit the bullet and simply purchased a higher quality sandal that lasted me for years.
You can get where this is going, sure Leicas have a nice price tag, but they also last a long time, making them cheap in comparison. For example the Leica M8 was released in 2006, and photographers still use this camera to this day. Imagine getting your Leica camera and lens.
First of all the lenses, these are usually kept for a lifetime and many photographers I know still have and use the lenses that they used 20+ years ago. As for the body, let’s say you invest $8000 and keep the camera for a decade, the final price ends up being $800 per year.
When you look at the price of a Leica, sure the price is high. But when you look at it in terms of investment, you get a whole lot of camera for that price. Plus Leicas having such long shelf life means you can always flip them at a future point in time. This is even more true for the lenses, I have a good friend of mine who has no money saved for his grandchildren, but he has a collection of Leica lenses that he keeps like fine wine to cash in when it’s time.
2. Get a Used M
One of the best ways to counter “I can’t afford a Leica” is to go the used route. This automatically shaves off a few thousands out of the retail price. You can get a really good Leica for a few thousands. Check out these articles listing the best Leica you can get for…
There’s even cheaper, see next point…
3. Can you get the Q instead?
The models that come to mind first when someone says Leica is the Leica M cameras. The bodies can be expensive and the lenses can be too. If you really want a Leica consider the ones who have a lens built-in.
The best one you can get so far is the Leica Q2 (see review), and it’s basically a M camera with a stunning lens attached to it. It’s the number 1 recommended Leica camera on this whole site. If that is too high of a budget, get the. It’s basically the same camera, but since it had a dust issue, it goes for pretty cheap.
You can then tape the microphone and speaker holes and you have one of the most affordable Leicas you can get if you want full frame.
3. Go for the APSC sensors
Leica is not only the M system, there are some solid Leica-made ASPC sensor cameras. The one to get is the Leica CL, or it’s more modern brother the Leica TL2. Check out the best Leica compact cameras or if you want to go by price, the best Leicas under $1500 and $1000.
4. “I can’t afford a Leica” still? Get the X cameras
Before the Leica Q cameras took over the fixed lens series were the Leica X. If you can imagine the Q camera but with APSC sensors, this is pretty much it. They had no integrated viewfinders however and a bit slow on autofocus, especially the first one.
The one to get is the Leica X, but if you want the viewfinder, it needs the Visoflex viewfinder and that can be pricy. You can get the Leica X2 (see review) that is compatible with the Olympus viewfinder and is cheaper too.
5. Get the partnership cameras
One of the reason why Leicas are so expensive is that they are hand assembled in Wetzlar, Germany. But Leica has a good relationship with Japanese manufacturer Panasonic, they make their cameras on Leica’s standards and they mass produce them.
All of these cameras have the -lux moniker and these are some of the BEST cameras ever made. The Leica D-Lux 7 (Review) is an absolute STEAL and you can go even further down the road of Leica point and shoots and get the Leica D-Lux 6, one great vintage digital Leica.
If price is REALLY an issue, simply go back in time to get the camera that fits your wallet. In order I would recommend:
Leica Q2 > Q > CL > TL2 > TL > T > X > X2 > X1 > D-lux 7 > C Type 112 > D-Lux 6
You can get a Leica for under $500 if you go that route
The wonderful world of alternatives
If you read the above and still go “I can’t afford a Leica”, time to check out the alternatives.
1. Put Leica lenses on other bodies
Leica M lenses outlast Leica bodies. I know someone who used the same lens on his M6, M8, M9 and now M10. Considering that the M6 was released in 1984, you can see how long lasting and sought after these lenses are. Unlike modern cameras, Leica M lenses are manual and 100% future proof. There is no motor or focusing mechanism that will be upgraded and make them irrelevant.
So many photographers give up of acquiring Leica bodies altogether and instead invest in the lenses. The good news is, pretty much every manufacturer under the sun has M mount adapters so you can turn your Sony NEX, Fuji X or Olympus PEN into Leica shooters.
Some cameras also share the rangefinder look, making the lenses feel right at home. The only downsite of this whole system is that most cameras like the Fuji X line are APSC sensors, and a wide angle that is normally 28mm, will be a 42mm on a APSC sensor (x1.5 factor).
What’s great however is that some of these adapters are not obscure accessories, many of them are first party devices made by the camera manufacturer themselves. The Fuji M mount adapter for example is made by Fuji themselves and can store presets for your lenses and correct distortions right in camera. So if you can’t get a Leica body, get a Leica lens, most keep them for life.
2. Get Rangefinder inspired cameras
Lastly, if you REALLY can’t afford a Leica, your best bet is to get a Leica-like. Leicas are (mostly) rangefinder cameras and there are plenty of cameras nowadays that look, act and feel like Rangefinders. Sony has the A7C, Olympus has the PEN F, and Fuji has the Fuji X line of cameras. Some alternatives even shoot M lenses natively.
Both are just as sexy as Leicas. The downside is, they are not metal and they have an ASPC for the Fuji and 4/3 sensor for the PEN, so they are smaller sensors. These two are the closest thing you will ever get to a digital rangefinder, so as close to a Leica as possible.
The Olympus PEN F is the closest thing Olympus has to a rangefinder camera (Their other PENS don’t look as good) but Fuji has a lot of options. They have the fixed lens X100 line or the larger X-Pro 3 and their smaller counterparts that all look like rangefinders.
One advantage of shooting the mu43 however is that Panasonic has some Leica mu43 lenses too.
3. Get Voigtlander lenses
If you can only afford the body or the lens, I recommend getting the Leica lenses rather than the bodies. But if you really want the body, some of the best M mount lenses that are non Leica are Voightlander lenses. They are insanely cheap compared to Leica and are just as solid and trustworthy. Plus they look right a home on a Leica body, so it completes the look without the price tag.
If you REALLY want the most Leica-Like kit, you can get yourself a Non Leica M mount camera and add Voigtlander lenses to it.
I hope this article has open your eyes to the world of Leica so that you don’t say “I can’t afford a Leica” to yourself anymore. You can either look for used models, other Leica lines, use the lenses of other manufacturer cameras, get Leica versions or simply get rangefinder inspired cameras.