This from a popular digital camera discussion forum.
“Q: Why buy a Leica?
Considering the cost and the way that people gush over Leica and its lens I was expecting camera perfection… But when I look at the pictures posted I’m like MEH???
Looking at the specs, they aren’t impressive as other cameras seem to provide more features for much less cost and then reading reviews the reviewer tends to highlight several shortcomings and then comes to the conclusion that it’s the best camera they’ve ever used.So not owning one, what is so special about the Leica brand that makes people go gaga over them?
Coming from astronomy, I hear this all the time with handmade Apochromatic refractors but looking through them I don’t see the cost/benefit ratio. I’m not trying to bash Leica, but when one can get a Sony/Canon or Nikon for much less and that people post MUCH better photos…….”
A1: I bought my first Leica (an M6TTL) when film was still popular. I grew to love the lenses. Later I bought a Leica M8. I still use it from time to time. It still takes great pictures. (The new M bodies are too far out of my price range. Oh well.)
I don’t own a Rolex but I do have a Tag Heuer Autavia that I have been wearing for many years. It still keeps perfect time.
A2: Nothing really special apart from the price and their past reputation.
Much Leica stuff is made for them by Panasonic as they have some sort of arrangement. Even Minolta used to make some of their lenses for them. My Panasonic LX3 has “Leica” engraved on the lens and it is a good lens for a compact but has bucket loads of barrel distortion that needs a lot of help from the in-camera or post processing correction. The same camera was sold as some Leica D-Lux product name but at twice the price. I guess it’s a lot like the Toyota-Lexus arrangement where the Lexus appears to be a better built Toyota.
The Leica camera models and lenses that have the truly astronomic prices are probably still hand-made by a bunch of German elves in the Black Forest or somewhere like that. Nice but why?
A3: As an ex Leica film camera owner, I think that the current cameras are basically living on reputation…
Back in the day, the lenses were very good, and certainly my m4’s never gave me any issues… they were reliable cameras… more so than the Nikon’s or Contaxs that I also had… but of course they were much simpler cameras as well, so bound to be. They were fairly small, discrete, quiet, reliable and robust cameras with excellent glass. Otoh… they also were a right PITA for loading, and focusing was nowhere near to as accurate or fast as with an slr…. in effect they were actually deeply flawed, and inevitably most of my work was done with the Nikon’s I had as well.
Moving forward… I simply cannot see that the cameras are anything to go gaga about… like all digital cameras their end output quality is restrained by the technology of the chip… so unlike the film camera, their exquisite build quality is superfluous… as they are life limited by external factors. The glass is very good… but others have caught up and arguably a lot of the Zeiss glass gives a similar organic feel with a lower cost.
so, I deeply regret selling my film leicas, As they were jewels which would still be perfectly useable film cameras now… but the gaga factor over these is more about narcissism than practicality… as for the digital gear…. they are toys of the rich, and have no real practical value for myself…. rangefinder manual focussing being rubbish in 1980, never mind 2018.
A4: On the whole there’s nothing special about a Leica unless you are in love with a mystical toy. In my case the purchase of a Leica M9 which was the Leica Representatives demo camera. It was an economically good move. It cost me about $3,000. Over the years, I have had Leica M2 M3 M4 and M5 cameras which are now being sold to collectors .
I started shooting Leica in the late 1960s when I was in university. I more than covered the cost of the Leica by shooting University Theatre and dance Productions. This was a far better choice for shooting the Performing Arts compared to the then available Nikon F1.
Over the years I have accumulated many Leica lenses from 24 to 200 mm which have been written off and have a book value of zero. Since I continued my hobby of àshooting the Performing Arts after University I made enough money to pay for the additional lenses and cameras. I now have a complete camera system that as far as I’m concerned that cost me $3,000.
The Leica is a superb Walkabout camera with old lenses that are even today pretty fine. On a regular basis I still get some excellent photographs with this manual full frame rangefinder camera. It is relatively small lightweight and convenient.
I normally shoot with a pretty large Canon DSLR system for Sports theater dance Studio and other forms of photography.
A5: Nothing, except a 1950 German legacy of prestige that’s long gone but lives on in the minds people who want to show off that they have the money to spend on luxury and you can’t.
A6: Leica cameras represent status and prestige because not everyone can afford them. If you can spend $40,000 for a camera and a few lenses you are in a very select group.
While there are other more sensible reasons to buy a Leica, the biggest factor might be as a status symbol. Which is why they are purchased by a lot of non-photographers who happened to find themselves wealthy and who want to show off their wealth.
This doesn’t mean their cameras aren’t wonderful. It just means their high prices put them in the same category with Rolex, Hermes, Gucci, Mont Blanc, and Ferrari as status symbols for some people.
Absolutely no one buys a Timex watch, Parker pen or Toyota Corolla to make a statement about how successful they are.
A7: Because some people think owning a Leica would transform them overnight into a pro if they use the camera used by people like Cartier-Bresson, Koudelka, Eggleston and etc…
A8: Do you think that Leica owners are so bored that they hang around photographic forums? They are far too busy enjoying themselves. Leica owners tend not to be of the type that want to show off how much better the pictures from their cameras are. A lot of the Canon and Nikon stuff you see has been rinsed through Lightroom etc before a sanitized version is posted online for comments of admiration. Leica owners do far less, or zero image enhancements outside the ability of their camera.
A9: Looking at the sample [Leica User] galleries I expected to be blown away by the quality of Leica, mostly I got was badly composed pictures of guys with beards and black and white homeless people.
Cafe de Jaren, Amsterdam. Need a good meal before walking the city looking for homeless people to photograph.