Is Leica Worth It? Are Leica Cameras Worth the Money?
The common question I receive, is Leica worth it? Let me ask you this. When did you last buy a digital camera, enjoy using it for 7 years (in my case) and sell it for a few hundred pounds profit? Never? Welcome to Leica! This article explores the topic of are Leica cameras worth the money (high cost) and covers both film and digital Leica cameras. Let’s jump in!
Are Leica cameras worth it?
Many people would probably agree that Leica cameras are not worth their very high price tag. This is where the detail matters. Are we talking about new Leica cameras or used cameras? Are they film Leica cameras or digital bodies? Let’s look at each in turn.
Buying new digital Leica cameras
At the time of writing, one of the latest releases from Leica is the new Leica M11 camera. Retail price – £7500 or $9000. OK choices time. You can buy a nice used family car or splash out on a luxury Leica camera for the same price. This camera is obviously not aimed at the mass market and for most people I would suggest it is not worth the high price tag.
For those of you with limited money (me included) and looking to invest in a Leica camera, you are better to buy used rather than new (See below). For all of you not willing to wait that long, the Leica M11 is the latest and greatest digital Leica M camera offering up to 60MP resolution.
More fun than a Rolex
When I teach Leica workshops and host photographers from around the world, I get to meet the people that buy the latest Leica camera releases. The common theme I see across these specific Leica photographers is they are very hard working, smart individuals, often with high pressure jobs. Photography is usually their creative escape rather than their profession. In person they are just your average nice guy (those i’ve met) but happen to use more expensive cameras. If I had such a job, I would treat myself once in a while to a nice camera too. Cheaper to run than a fancy sports car and more fun to use than a Rolex watch.
Are you a Leica User?
The cost of buying new
So are new Leica cameras worth it and good investment (verses buying used)? No. The same as when buying a new car, as soon as you take it out the shop you’ve just lost 20% of the value (20% VAT (value added tax) in the UK or the tax rate in your country). If you wake up the next day and decide you don’t like the camera you just lost over £1200 in added tax value as a minimum loss. More realistically, you’ve lost over £2000 as people will never pay as much for a used product.
So why doesn’t everyone just wait and buy used? Some people like to buy new and most others can’t wait that long to get the latest and greatest camera. Photography GAS or gear acquisition syndrome is real! Leica also build these high end cameras in limited quantities so demand always outweighs supply. You might have to wait 12+ months to receive your new Leica M11 because of the high demand and lack of availability. You then might need to wait another year before you see one appear on the used market.
Is this true when buying all new digital Leica cameras? Yes and no. I still recommend buying used (as new) versus new as a better investment but cameras that have been in production for some time can be ordered new and dispatched the same day from B&H or your local Leica store.
Are new Leica cameras a good investment?
As noted above buying a new camera is rarely a good investment. That said, if you buy the special limited edition Leica camera models, these are you’re best hope of a good investment. If demand for these cameras increases, the price will creep up over time as there is limited units in circulation. (Leica lenses are a better investment than Leica cameras but I will have to cover that topic another day). Sign up to the blog to avoid missing future posts.
Buying used digital Leica cameras
This is where Leica cameras are worth it and can really shine. Let’s look at a quick case study:
The Leica M8 digital camera was released in 2006. I bought a used copy in 2014. Wait stop a second. Let’s just think about that for a minute. Name any other digital camera brand where you would buy an 8 year old digital camera for professional use? Exactly. You wouldn’t. I then enjoyed using the Leica M8 camera from 2014-2021. That’s 7 years of paying client work (Leica wedding photography and portraiture). After buying the Leica M240 and Leica CL (and now looking at the Leica SL), I tried to be “good” so I sold the Leica M8. Demand was up and the camera is no longer in production so I sold the M8 for more than I paid for it 7 years earlier. When did you last sell a digital Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Lumix camera.. for more than you paid for it?
Latest isn’t always greatest
OK so my M8 was perhaps an extreme example. I don’t expect to profit when buying used digital Leica cameras but I do see them as a great investment. The older the digital Leica body is, the better the value and the lower the cost. Currently I own 4 digital Leica bodies, aged between 10 years to 5 years old each. All 4 cameras can be bought for less than the cost of a new Sony, Fuji, Nikon, Canon camera.
- Leica M240 (Released 2012) – The best value (do-everything) full frame Leica M camera
- Leica SL (Released 2015) – The best value full frame mirrorless Leica SL series camera. Similar to the latest Leica SL2-S
- Leica Q (Released 2015) – Very similar to the current Leica Q2 at a fraction of the price
- Leica CL (Released 2017) – The smallest digital Leica camera with built in viewfinder and interchangeable lenses (*with no current production alternative)
Are used Leica worth it?
Unlike buying new, used Leica cameras hold there value really well over time. If we take the Leica M240 for example, the demand is still there 10 years on. People looking for an affordable digital Leica M camera see the M240 as a great entry point. The same is true for the Leica SL and Leica Q cameras which I believe offer outstanding value for money. The Leica CL is now a bit of a wild card. The entire Leica CL ecosystem was discontinued in 2022. As time passes, if the demand is there the prices will rise as there is no alternative current production camera. More recent Leica camera releases such as the Leica M10 (2017) and Leica M10-P (2020) will offer more modern features (vs M240) but you will pay a higher price tag for this.
Master the waiting game
Simply put, the longer you can wait before buying a Leica camera, from the time of release to the day you buy it, the better the value and the lower the price. By value I mean a better investment as the annual depreciation or drop in value per year will be less. This is probably common sense but it’s worth pointing out the obvious.
Hire a Leica camera for $100/ year
If you buy a used Leica, the camera value may only drop by £/$100 each year (for the older mentioned models I use). That’s the equivalent of hiring a professional Leica camera for an entire year for £/$100! That equates to 27 cents a day. (Calculated as buy the camera used for $2000 and sell it for $1900 one year later). If you purchase a newer Leica body, perhaps the Leica M10, the equivalent hire cost might be £/$200 per year for example (as the value is still dropping at a faster rate each year).
Free Leica camera
Taking the same example, if you are both savvy and smart you could buy a Leica at $1900 and sell at $1910 (Spot an amazing deal on eBay then use your salesman skills when re-selling). Think of that. Enjoy the use of a digital Leica camera for an entire year for free!
Is Leica worth it, as a brand?
If we just step back from the Leica brand for a moment. Most non-Leica users will agree that Leica cameras are massively over priced. You pay more yet get fewer features. What a joke! It’s safe to say that almost every other camera brand offer cameras with more features for a lot less money. If we take the Leica SL as an example, you can buy the Lumix S5 cameras for a fraction of the price yet I can take similar looking photos. The Lumix S5 offers a flip screen, better video quality (if people need that) and IBIS or image stabilisation.
Save money, buy Leica
The counter argument to Leica cameras being more expensive is they seem to reduce photography GAS (perhaps in some more than others!). When I used to shoot Nikon I was always looking for the next camera release to get more or better features. I went from the Nikon D90, to D700 and then pre-ordered the Nikon D800 as soon as it was announced. Camera brands release new models every 2-4 years so this can soon become an expensive game, chasing the latest releases. I can honesty say that moving to Leica has killed my digital camera GAS. I’m more than satisfied with my 2015 Leica SL for example and as mentioned it only costs me around £100 a year to enjoy. If I did this for 10 years it would be cheaper the shoot with Leica than to use the latest Sony/ Fuji/ Nikon/ Canon mirrorless cameras.
Less is most definitely more
Yes Leica offer fewer features and simpler menus but this is a blessing for many. I’ve seen many Fuji and Sony users get lost in their menus (not sure about Canon and Nikon), missing their shots. All we really need is shutter speed, ISO, a clear viewfinder for accurate focusing/ composing and access to nice lenses. We don’t really need face detect, pano-stitch mode, IBIS, auto everything, video options and all the other modern features offered if we just want to take a simple photo. I much prefer simple Leica cameras.
Regardless of whether you would admit to yourself or not, if you held a Leica camera next to almost any other mentioned camera brands, Leica cameras feel different. Leica just feel solid and beautifully made. Don’t take my word for it, watch any Youtuber/ pro photographers that tries a Leica for the first time. Peter McKinnon was a great example when he tried the Leica Q2 reporter (video linked after my Leica Q video below).
Once you get used to the Leica build quality its very difficult to consider other brands. (I know, I bought the Lumix S5 to save money then regretted it and bought the Leica SL soon after).
Most of use would agree that we prefer a smaller camera (with smaller lenses). Something you can carry everywhere. Leica used to be well known for their small yet mighty Leica M camera system. (My wedding camera setup went from 2 big Nikon DSLR bodies and 2 big lenses (Including a Nikkor 200mm f2 AIS lens!) to 2 Leica M bodies where I look like one of the wedding guests. I can get now get closer to the action with smaller cameras and the photos improved).
In recent years Leica fell off the rails somewhat and now make the oversized Leica SL lenses, similar in size to those from Sigma and Lumix. The great news is you can still enjoy compact Leica M mount lenses on the SL camera via an adapter. (The counter argument for big fat lenses is there are fewer restrictions when designing the lens so Leica can now produce even higher performing optics).
Other brands make small cameras as lenses too. Fuji-X cameras are small but they are APS-C. Sony and Canon mirrorless cameras can be small but some of the lenses are huge. Especially fast primes. I’m sure Nikon are the same. The discontinued Leica CL system is small but that is also APS-C. I think the Leica M system is the only real professional solution offering full frame and compact high performance lenses. That’s why the M system is the most popular Leica system.
Luxury point and shoot camera
If you prefer one camera, one lens, look no further than the Leica Q system. The size, weight and optical performance make these camera a real favourite for many photographers. As with the mentioned Leica SL camera, a Leica Q camera will only cost you around £100 a year to own (in terms of annual depreciation). I don’t think any other brand can complete with Leica when you do the maths.
New film Leica cameras
What about film cameras and specifically buying new Leica film cameras? Leica just announced their new Leica M6 and you can also get the current production Leica M-A and Leica MP models. The same principles apply here as for digital Leica. Buying used is a safer investment and you will get more for your money.
Everyone can afford a Leica camera
Almost everyone that has a full time job can afford a Leica film camera. Leica made more than just the popular Leica M cameras. There are 3 common groups of Leica film cameras (and the additional Leitz CL camera) and they suit all budgets.
- Leica iii Barnack cameras (Screw mount rangefinder cameras) – 1925 to 1956 approx.
- Leica M rangefinder cameras (Still in production today) -1954 to today
- Leica R cameras including the Leicaflex cameras (SLR cameras) -1964 to 2002 approx.
Cheapest Leica camera? (Buy used)
The cheapest Leica cameras are usually the Leica R series cameras. The best value Leica camera I have purchased to date is a £200 Leicaflex SL. Despite the price this camera has perhaps the best film advance mechanism of any camera I own and feels like a real tank. The Leica R5 camera I own was also a great price considering it is Leica. The main drawback for Leica R cameras is the lenses can be more expensive than the camera. See my Leica R lenses guide.
Affordable Leica rangefinder cameras
Leica iii cameras offer fantastic value for money too. They offer the same precision build quality (if not better) as Leica M film cameras but at a fraction of the price. Due to the age of these cameras you should budget for a full CLA as they can cease up and stop working. Once serviced these cameras are pocket size jewels. Lenses can be very affordable as you can use most L39 Leica screw mount lenses from any brand including the Soviet lenses. With the release of the new Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f2.8 LTM lens you can now get modern high contrast vibrant looking images from a camera made potentially 90 years ago. I think that’s just awesome!
Leica M film camera – worth it?
Ok so the big question is are Leica M film cameras worth it and worth the higher price tag? The beauty of the Leica M cameras is they give you access to all the latest high performance Leica M mount lenses from Leica but also Voigtlander and others. The fact that these cameras have been in production for 70+ years and current demand is so high that Leica just re-released their Leica M6, is testament to how good these cameras are.
You don’t need the Leica MP or Leica M-A
Should you pay the premium for the Leica MP (2003) or Leica M-A (2014) models? For me no. The best made Leica M cameras are the early models. The over engineered Leica M3 and Leica M2. If you shoot mostly 50mm lenses get the M3 (and a cold shoe light meter if required). If you prefer the 35mm focal length get the Leica M2. If you need to have 28mm or 75mm frame lines you can step down to the Leica M4-P. Not as nicely build but still great (I have 2 of them and I enjoy the hotshoe feature). You only need the Leica M6 if you want the additional built in light meter (but that may fail at some stage, a weakness of the M6).
Leica camera buyer’s guide
There are more Leica M film bodies available than just the few I mentioned here. See the full Leica M film camera buyer’s guide.
Investing in Leica cameras
The beauty of Leica film cameras is they can double up as your pension plan. To the most part these Leica film cameras are no longer in production but demand continues to increase. With the current film photography resurgence, prices of film cameras have generally increasing year on year. All of my Leica film cameras are worth more now than what I paid for them. Some cameras are up by as much as 200% in value. Can you imagine a bank account offering 200% return over a few years (AND the enjoyment of using the asset during that time). Leica film cameras are built to last so buying a Leica is buying a camera for life. (The problem then is you enjoy it so much you want to buy another, and then another!)
Check used prices on eBay
- (US) https://ebay.to/2F0HoxY
- (UK) https://ebay.to/3ijzle2
- (DE) https://ebay.to/3iqDNYs
- (FR) https://ebay.to/2ZJ3E75
- (HK) https://ebay.to/32A8xBu
Buying old Leica cameras in 2022
It’s difficult to predict the future of film. The fact that Leica has just brought back the Leica M6 and demand for film is at a new all time high (in recent times) I think film and film cameras are safe for at least another 5 years. This might just be the beginning. The new wave of film photography as people desperately seek out analogue alternatives to the digital world we live in. The majority of the customers I meet in the London film camera shops are in their 20s. These are cool kids, not the stereotypical camera geeks of yesteryear (like me).
Need Leica Presets?
Film cameras are a better investment
So if we compare digital Leica cameras to film Leica cameras, film bodies are the best investment. Film cameras will hopefully go up in value year on year if you buy used. Older Leica digital cameras hold their value really well but will decrease in value each year even if buy used. Buying new Leica cameras is a near guaranteed money loss but life isn’t just about money. If buying a new Leica will make you happy and get you out of the house then it’s still a great investment in my book.
Are you a new Leica user? (new or old camera)
Moving to Leica from other camera brands can be quite a shock to the system. The lack of features and rangefinder focusing (if an M camera) takes some getting used to. I setup the Leica club to help you get started by putting together a free welcome pack for each type of Leica camera. Leica M, SL, Q, CL and film bodies.
Find full details of the Leica club below. Just enter your email address to receive the info starter pack for your specific Leica camera.