At first glance, a Leica Camera could seem extremely overpriced in comparison to the rest of the cameras on the market that are in the same caliber. There is a sense of history and artistry to the best Leica cameras that sets them apart from anything else out there. What is so special about these cameras that would cause someone to drop thousands on the body and even more on Leica lenses?
The Cost of a Leica Camera
Here are the factors that affect the price of a Leica’s, we’ve expanded on each of these points in the paragraphs below.
- Superior design and feel
- Built-in rangefingers
- Special glass lenses
- Great track record and endorsed by some of the biggest names in photography
Every photographer that has experienced the magic of a Leica remembers the first time they held one in their hands. They feel heavy and solid, and there is something magical about them, almost as if they’re old; even the newest models feel like a brick of cool metal in your hands, like they’re operated with heavy gears and cogs. Whether it was to shoot 35mm film photos on an antique film Leica, or to snap photos with one of the digital models, there’s a sense of magic in creating a photograph on a Leica. I remember my college photography professor showing us his 35mm Leica Film Camera that he had been using since he was a teenager, and still uses today, 30 years later. The photos were as crisp and dreamy as they were in his youth. A Leica camera is an investment in your craft as an artist.
All Leica Cameras are rangefinders, which means they ability to measure distance and shoot photos that are so incredibly focused. In most Leica viewfinders and glass, there is a rectangle or circle split in half, and when both sides are matching perfectly, your photo is sharp as a tack. It takes some time to learn to focus with this much precision, but becomes worth it the first time you see just how sharp you can make an image, even with the widest of apertures. They also give you the ability to see outside of the frame lines, so you can better predict the composition of the photograph, which gives you an advantage in street photography. Since they are so excellent at taking sharp images, there is no need for the camera to digitally auto-sharpen, giving you cleaner images with virtually no digital noise.
Leicas also use their own special glass, and Leica lenses are known to create some of the most beautiful images on earth while lasting forever. The brand touts their German heritage for the simple reason that meticulous craftsmanship and pristine design is what the Germans are known for, and Leica is no exception. Every Leica Camera and Lens is handmade by a skilled artisan, making every single model unique. Purchasing a Leica is not a rushed process because they only have the capacity to make so many models at a time, causing lengthy waiting lists and a higher second hand market value than most other cameras out there. There is virtually no light leakage because of their special lenses, which causes beautifully natural contrast that is as close to human perception as possible, even in intense situations like midday sun. If this all sounds too good to be true, visit a Leica store and take out a loaner camera to see for yourself. You can read about Leica cameras all day, but there is nothing like shooting with one yourself.
Leica Cameras are incredible, but they are also a luxury item. These are well thought out purchases that are made mostly by very experienced photographers, or specific types of photographers that can benefit most from the features that makes these cameras special. For street photographers, these cameras are unbeatable. Many fine art and well known photographers use these to create beautifully, distinctly unique images, like Danny Clinch, Bruce Gilden, and Bruce Davidson. Many wildlife and war photographers choose these cameras because of their durability and extraordinarily long life spans. You would be surprised at how many of the most famous photographs in history have been shot on a Leica, such as the iconic image of a Navy Soldier embracing a woman with a kiss, V-J Day shot by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1945, and the famous portrait of Mohammad Ali with his fist to the camera shot in 1966 by Thomas Hoepker. My best advice to you is to hold a Leica in your hands and experience the magic on your own. Like most incredible things in life, it’s hard to put into words.