Leica q3 - Why Leica cameras are worth it

Elevate Your Photography with Leica: An Introduction to Leica Cameras

Over the years, you’ve grown by leaps and bounds as a photographer. Now, you’re hitting a wall. And obsessing over gear doesn’t help. So, how do you rediscover the joy you felt when you first fell in love with photography?  

Not many brands can claim to have changed the history of modern photography. Leica can. Read on to find out what makes the iconic German brand synonymous with adventures in excellent image-making.

The Legend of Leica 

At the beginning of the 20th century, cameras were unwieldy contraptions that required considerable skill and energy to operate. They were bulky, sat on tripods, and their heavy glass negatives demanded punishingly long exposure times. For obvious reasons, the idea of taking photos quickly and discreetly was out of the question.  

Photography Stripped to Its Essentials

The first Leica, a little camera from the Ernst Leitz optical company, a manufacturer of microscopes in Wetzlar, Germany, changed all that. It weighed around 400g (14oz) and was small enough to fit into a coat pocket, making it cheaper to manufacture at scale, and easy to carry around.

The Leica’s design made it quick and easy to use, and brought photography to amateurs, paving the way for the ubiquity of modern photography. Remember, before the smartphone, there was the Leica!  

How Leica Revolutionized Photography

Leicas were small enough to carry around all the time, quiet, quick, and easy to use. They were adored by photojournalists and photographers of everyday life. Street photographers loved that they did not draw attention to the photographer, and war photographers depended on their sturdiness and simplicity. 

Everyone from Henri-Cartier Bresson to Sebastião Salgado has used a Leica. Robert Capa made them famous in war. And pioneers of color photography like William Eggleston have favored them too. 

Of course, no tool will turn you into a master photographer overnight. But a camera stripped to its essentials can help focus your attention on the most essential elements of image-making, which remain the same over a hundred years later.

The Leica Camera Lineup Today

SeriesSensor SizeLens CompatibilityViewfinder TypeKey FeaturesRecommended Use
M SeriesFull FrameM-Mount (Manual), Vintage Leica Thread MountOptical RangefinderManual analog-style operation, High precision, Compact sizeDocumentary photography, Street photography
Q SeriesFull FrameFixed Summilux LensElectronicElectronic viewfinder, Light-weight body, Fixed lensEveryday use, Travel photography
SL SeriesFull FrameL-Mount (Wide Range of Manufacturers)ElectronicHigh-resolution sensor, Fast autofocus, Robust video capabilities, Weather-sealed bodyProfessional use, Versatile photography including video
Sofort SeriesInstant FilmFixed Lens with Custom EffectsOpticalEasy to use, Options to share images, Custom lens effects and film stylesFun, instant photography, Social sharing

With the many camera mounts and styles out there, finding your way around a new lineup can be a challenge. So, here’s a quick roundup of Leica’s lineup today.

Leica M-Series: The Classic Rangefinder Camera

Leica M-Series cameras epitomize the classic rangefinder-style cameras that Leica first became famous for. They continue to prioritize manual analog-style operation and higher precision over the convenience of electronic tools.

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Leica M-Series: Leica M11

Rangefinders are known for their:

  • Compact size
  • Discreet operation
  • Optical viewfinders
  • Precise focus capabilities, and
  • Exceptional imaging quality.

M-Series cameras can be paired with any manual M-mount lens going back to the 1950s, and even with vintage Leica Thread Mount glass that’s almost a century old.

The Leica M11 Digital Rangefinder Camera is the latest iteration of the M-Series. Updated with the latest digital tools but staying true to the original Leica design philosophy, it remains a favorite of documentary photographers even today. 

Leica Q-Series: Compact Fixed Lens Excellence

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Leica Q-Series: Leica Q3

The Leica Q-Series cameras are more contemporary than their M-Series brethren. While marginally short of the optical quality of the more premium M-Series, they make up for it in convenience and ease of use. 

Standout features that set them apart from M-Series cameras include: 

  • The inclusion of an electronic viewfinder
  • A fixed Summilux lens
  • A noticeably lighter-weight body

For those interested, here’s a more detailed comparison of M and Q-Series Leica cameras.

Leica SL-Series: Advanced Mirrorless Technology

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Leica SL-Series: Leica SL2

The Leica SL-Series caters to users seeking the versatility of the latest mirrorless technologies with the unmatched optical quality that Leica is known for. The Leica SL2, for instance, combines a high-resolution sensor with fast autofocus and robust video capabilities, wrapped in a weather-sealed body

SL-series Leicas accept all L-Mount lenses. They give you the option to pair with more affordable lenses from a wide range of manufacturers. Of course, you’ll find that you most often get what you pay for. 

The Sofort Line: A Leica for the Smartphone Age   

The Sofort Series is Leica’s most accessible and affordable line of cameras. They’re Leicas for the smartphone era: fun and easy to use, with easy options to share images, and a host of custom lens effects and film styles to choose from. 

The Leica Sofort 2 Digital and Instant Photo Camera is the latest camera in this lineup (also comes in red)

Top 6 Reasons Why Paying More for Leica Makes Sense

Top-of-the-line Leica cameras, such as the M-Series, tend to be fairly pricey. A Leica M11 Digital Rangefinder Camera will set you back $8,995, for instance, and that’s without a lens. Toss in a Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 and we’re already north of $14,000! So why do Leicas cost so much? Are they worth it?

Leicas are Value For Money

A Leica M-Series camera like the Leica M11 can cost significantly more than comparable models from other manufacturers. There are good reasons for this. As, we’ve suggested earlier, with Leica, you get what you pay for.

[1] Unmatched Image Quality 

When stacked against other high-end cameras, Leica’s output is distinguished by its richness, detail, and texture. Leica has kept pace with advances in digital technology, releasing more and more superior sensors and algorithms with every new model, but it is the legacy of German optical engineering that truly sets them apart.

Listen to any Leica aficionado gush about their favorite camera and what stands out are the constant references to the ineffable qualities of Leica glass. The Leica look, it’s soft bokeh and particular color rendering, are what people refer to again and again. There’s no other way to put it: the best Leicas consistently produce excellent images.

[2] Durable Build Quality

Crafted from premium grade magnesium and brass, Leica cameras are not just durable but are destined to age gracefully. The extensive market for Leica second-hands will give you an idea of just how long Leica cameras and lenses can last. Not only do they hold up well, but they also perform just as well for decades. 

[3] Timeless Styling 

Many photographers covet Leica cameras for their timeless design aesthetic. But Leica cameras are not just beautiful to look at, they’re also amazing fun to use. That’s because the Leica design philosophy has always derived form from function.

Leica cameras remain compact, well-balanced, and easy to operate quickly and discreetly. They continue to feel as good in the hand as the best-designed objects of the analog era. Even today, few cameras are more fun to use.   

[4] Access to Legacy Lenses

All Leica M-Series cameras accept M-Mount lenses dating to the 1950s. With Leica’s history of superior lens-making and the incredible longevity of Leica’s lenses, that’s a lot of lens pairing options for the discerning image-maker.

Like most mirrorless models, Leica’s SL-Series cameras are also compatible with a wide variety of third-party lenses via adapters.  

[5] Strong Resale Value

The most expensive Leicas, such as the M-Series cameras tend to last a long time and perform consistently across their life cycle. This means they do not lose value as fast as most other cameras. You could sell your Leica M-Series at a future date and recoup much of your initial investment.

[6] The Leica Community

Beyond the camera, Leica offers entry into a vibrant community of passionate photographers. From the legendary Leica Akademie workshops to user forums and photo walks, being a Leica photographer means having access to a world of inspiration, knowledge sharing, and networking opportunities with fellow aficionados and professionals.

Final Thoughts

Leica systems strip photography down to its bare essentials. They return your attention to what truly matters when making images, make photography fun, and help capture extraordinary images every time.

For a complete catalog of Leica products that we carry, head over to the Focus Camera site

While you’re there, sign up for our excellent weekly newsletter. It has all the latest information on new offers, deals, and any upcoming workshops that you might be interested in. Touch base on social media for more updates on all things Leica!

FeatureM10M11Q2Q2 MonochromSL2SL2-SSofort Line
Sensor24MP CMOS18MP CMOS47.3MP CMOS47.3MP CMOS (B&W)47.3MP CMOS24MP CMOSFujifilm Instax Mini film
Sensor sizeFull-frameFull-frameFull-frameFull-frameFull-frameFull-frameN/A
Best Intended UseStreet photography, DocumentaryDocumentary, PortraitureTravel, EverydayStreet photography, MonochromeProfessional, Sports, WildlifeProfessional, LandscapeInstant photography, Fun, Casual
Highlight FeatureRangefinder focusing, Classic designFull-frame sensor, 4K videoCompact size, Fixed high-quality lensBlack & white sensor, Unique tonal renditionHigh-resolution sensor, Fast autofocusHigh video resolution, Lightweight bodyInstant prints, Creative effects, Sharing options
ViewfinderOptical rangefinderOptical rangefinderElectronic viewfinderElectronic viewfinderElectronic viewfinderElectronic viewfinderOptical viewfinder
ISO range100-640064-50000100-50000100-25000100-5000050-50000N/A
Max shutter speed1/4000 sec1/16000 sec1/2000 sec1/2000 sec1/4000 sec1/8000 secN/A
VideoNo4K at 30fps4K at 30fps4K at 30fps5K at 30fps4K at 60fpsN/A
Weight660g680g (black), 600g (silver)718g718g840g740g280g (Sofort 2)
Price~$6,000~$8,995~$4,295~$4,795~$5,995~$4,395~$300 (Sofort 2)

Sample Photos Taken on Leica SL2

Take your photography to the next level with Leica gear and accessories. Leica cameras and lenses are renowned around the world for the finest image-making and build quality. Most importantly, their compact designs and elegant modern engineering make taking pictures fun for both professionals and amateurs.    


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