If you are into photography it doesn’t take long until you encounter Leica cameras and lenses. After the initial sticker shock, you can’t help but wonder, are Leica cameras worth it? It it just a piece of marketing psychology or they are really worth the price?
In this article I will explain the facts to see if the Leicas cameras are worth all of these thousands of dollars. You will be surprised by what I’ve found.
Are Leica cameras worth it?
Leica is unashamedly expensive and 100% worth it for the right person. If you care about craftsmanship (Leicas are hand made), high quality photography and a sense of design then it is worth the investment. For those who care more about having the most options for the lowest price, it is grossly overrated.
Why are Leica cameras and lenses so expensive?
The first reaction to the question “Are Leica cameras worth it?” is usually it’s just a marketing ploy. Let me start by saying something you probably already suspect: Yes, part of the Leica price is, you pay for the brand name. Leica and Panasonic released a few cameras that are essentially the same but with different branding. The Leica versions always cost more. Here’s an example from a few years back, the Leica Digilux 2 and the Panasonic LC-1.
They are essentially the same camera but the Leica is $300 more expensive. It might win in the looks department but they are essentially the same camera.
While there is some brand name rolled in the purchase price, the price you pay for a Leica is not just because of a name. There are reasons why Leicas are so expensive. As I say in this article a big reason why the prices go up is because Leicas are hand made.
Consider this: You could buy a bag at Wallmart. These have been made at the rate of thousands a day in a factory by robots and fancy machinery. Or you could buy one from a craftsman who made it by hand.
You do not expect the same price out of them because of the care and effort that went into the hand-made bag. Humans can only work so quickly so everyday there’s only a small amount of Leica cameras that are made.
That makes Leica cameras worth it from an availability perspective. They are more expensive because they are not mass produced like other cameras.
But just because it’s hand made doesn’t necessary mean that it’s good, right? Indeed, everyone says that Leicas are worth it much BECAUSE they are so good, is that any true? Let’s ask…
Are Leicas really that good?
Here’s the uncomfortable truth: while there are not that many digital rangefinders that are not Leica, there are very strong Leica alternatives from many other camera manufacturers. So the idea that Leica cameras are worth it solely because they are good doesn’t really stand.
The Sony RX1R II for example offers stellar images and so does the full frame offerings of Fujifilm and Nikon. If you put a bunch of images and try to guess the camera brand, you probably won’t pick out the Leica from the pile.
Leicas really are THAT good. But so are a few offerings of other manufacturers. So them being that good don’t really justify the price. So why would you pay premium for a Leica camera and lens? Here’s the two main reasons.
Leicas last a long time
Simply put Leicas are built to last and they do.The cameras (at least the M line and derivatives) are made of metal and the lenses being manual focus without any sort of electrical components means that they have an extremely long shelf life.
I have a friend of mine that still has Leica lenses from 30 years ago. Let’s say you buy a Summicron lens for $3000. It might be expensive up front…but it’s only $100 per year. No other brand has this shelf life. If you add the costs of getting new lenses here and there every few years, you could have had a Leica lens for cheaper. That makes Leica cameras worth it from a financial perspective.
Plus Leicas stand the test of time too. What do I mean? Well, still to this day people shoot older Leica models like the M8 and M6 religiously. A parallel comes from the gaming world.
Most games cost $60 upon release…and are only worth half that price a few months down the road. Nintendo games however keep their values up and are rarely discounted. Even games that have been released years ago still fetch a high price.
I’ve just told you the three main reasons why Leicas are worth it: They are hand produced, are of high quality and have a long shelf life. But all of these reasons are logical. Between me and you the final reason trumps them all…
Leicas are special
There, I said it.There’s something special about Leicas that you simply cannot find anywhere else. When you hold one and start shooting, it speaks to you. It might be the design, the metal body, the fact that they are small…who knows, they simply are special.
Fujifilm tapped into this when they released the first x100 camera. They tapped into the enchanting nature of rangefinder cameras. If you have one or used one, you get an idea of the appeal of Leica cameras.
While I also have autofocus, high fps cameras, I often yearn to have a Leica in my hands with a manual lens with a focus ring. There’s just something about that whole experience that you cannot find anywhere else.
Cameras like the Olympus PEN F and Fuji X satisfy this sensation, but Leica fulfills it. I’ve often by compulsion put my finger under auto-focus camera lenses because I yearn for this experience.
Only Leicas can offer this experience and photographers around the world pay a premium price for a camera that inspire them and help them produce great work.
What about everybody else?
For everyone who just wants a long list of features in their camera, this does not compute. Ask them if Leica cameras are worth it and they’ll tell you that they are overrated and overpriced And it’s understandable, that is why Leicas are strictly a photographer’s brand.
Sure some people use it as neck jewelry (I remember seeing a video of a guy shooting their Leica with their lens hood on) but there’s a reason why photographers gravitate towards Leica: There’s something “photographic” about it that is yet to be replicated, making Leicas oh so worth it.
By now, you get it, Leica cameras are worth it. And nothing is more exciting than getting your first Leica! Let’s make sure you get the best one for you by reading:
- The definitive Leica camera buyers guide
- Best Leica cameras for beginners
- The definite Leica lens buyers guide
- Can’t afford a Leica? 5 ways you can
Are Leicas worth it? Conclusion
There you have it. Leica cameras are worth it, but only for the dedicated photographer. The photographer that only cares for photography (and not video), who likes great design and wonderful optics. While some other manufacturers match the Leica quality, the real reason to get yours is simply because they are special. Once you pick one up, you’ll get why Leica cameras are worth it. And always have been.