Fixed lens provides incredible quality; photos can be shot in RAW or JPEG format. The viewfinder is larger than in any other camera in its class. Comes with battery, charger, and lens cap. Users find it has a much faster response time than similar models.
High price tag will dissuade most casual photographers. The fixed lens means there's no zoom.
Excellent quality for an instant camera. Printed photos are about the size of a business card. Can use whatever film size fits, either color or black and white; not limited to one brand. Camera comes in 3 colors. Good size for travelers wanting immediate results.
No capability to save photos to a memory card. Shutter release is a different orientation than other cameras and may take some getting used to.
Smaller size means better portability, and it’s a great size for the traveling photographer. Fast lens captures action shots, with crisp, clear images. Photos in both RAW and JPEG formats; video in MP4, MPEG-4, and AVCHD. Excellent battery life. Built in Wi-Fi.
Some users find the owner's manual a bit lacking, and the camera's functions are not always intuitive. High price point.
Along with still photos, camera takes 4K video and video footage can be made into still shots. Comes with battery, charger, lens caps, and strap. Relatively lightweight and comfortable in the hand. Photographers of all skill levels can use with a low learning curve.
May not take great shots in bad weather, as lens fogs up. Professionals feel that after 400mm, photos are not as sharp as other models.
Integrated WiFi allows for transfer of images to a smart phone or tablet. 4K video capability. Comes with a mini-flash, although camera's ability to take photos in low light means it's not necessary most of the time. Can shoot in auto mode or use manually.
Extensive menu of functions may take some time to learn. Fixed lens is a dealbreaker for some photographers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
When most people think of high-end digital cameras, Canon and Nikon are the brands that spring to mind. But if you limit yourself to those two companies, you’re going to miss out on some great choices. Leica is a leader in with some terrific camera offerings. The company is known for its outstanding lens quality, but this manufacturer has some impressive digital cameras, too.
Some people classify Leica as a luxury camera brand because its cameras have excellent build quality and are made with high-end materials. It’s true that these cameras are far more expensive than the majority of consumer and professional-level cameras on the market. But when you want a cool-looking, high-quality camera that creates amazing photos, Leica is tough to beat.
If you’re going to invest in a Leica camera, you’ll want to take the time to choose the right one. There are many models, features, and technical considerations to weigh. Our Leica camera buying guide brings the options into sharp focus so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
When comparing Leica cameras to each other and to other brands, it’s helpful to understand the various parts and options of Leica digital cameras.
The image sensor is extremely important in a digital camera, as it measures the light coming through the lens, essentially creating the digital photo. Leica digital cameras carry a variety of image sensor sizes. Full-frame sensors are the largest, delivering the best image quality. You also can select APS-C, Micro 4/3, and 1-inch image sensors with these cameras.
Resolution is the number of pixels (or individual dots) recorded in the digital photo. Leica cameras carry between 20 and 47 megapixels. Larger megapixel counts generally result in better-quality photos.
The camera’s LCD screen allows you to see your images after you record them and to make changes to the digital camera’s settings. A 3-inch LCD is common on Leica cameras. Some Leica cameras have touchscreen LCDs to simplify operation.
Leica cameras often can record videos at a maximum 4K resolution, which is an improvement over HD resolution.
When shooting in burst mode, you can capture several photos per second, which is great for action photography. Leica cameras can shoot at speeds between 5 and 20 frames per second in burst mode.
Leica camera lenses do not require any special cleaning techniques; you can use a microfiber cloth.
Leica makes a wide range of cameras, including fixed-lens cameras, interchangeable lens rangefinders, and mirrorless ILCs (interchangeable lens cameras). Here are some of the strengths of the primary Leica camera models.
Leica offers a few different models that it calls compact cameras, including the C-LUX, D-LUX, and V-LUX. These cameras have a relatively modest 1-inch or a Micro 4/3 image sensor, so they are among the lowest-priced cameras Leica offers.
The Leica CL mirrorless ILC uses an APS-C sized image sensor, which allows it to be offered at a lower price than other models. And yet, it still delivers excellent low-light images, 4K video resolution, and 10 frames per second in burst mode.
Leica has carried the M family of cameras over from the days of film. This is a rangefinder style of camera, which is a bit like a DSLR because it can accept multiple lenses. However, it has a different focusing mechanism than a DSLR, as well as a smaller body size. The M series has a retro design and outstanding image quality. Full-frame image sensors are common in the M series. Leica even offers a monochrome M-series camera that removes the color-array filter, allowing for a contrast boost in the black-and-white image.
Leica Q cameras also contain full-frame image sensors, but they cost a bit less than the M series. Q models often include a touchscreen display for ease of control.
The Leica SL camera is a mirrorless ILC option, delivering impressive resolution levels. It outperforms the majority of mirrorless cameras available on the market from other manufacturers. It also delivers 4K video resolution and excellent low-light results.
The Leica TL fixed-lens camera is made for action photography and tough conditions. Its body has a rugged build quality and boasts up to 20 frames-per-second in burst mode. It has an APS-C sized image sensor.
The Leica Sofort is a fun, instant print film camera that produces distinctive small-format photos. It has a menu of different preset photo modes available for intuitive shooting, but the Sofort also lets you control all of the photo parameters manually if you so choose.
The Q is one of the highest-quality cameras on the market, delivering outstanding features and build quality. It has a fixed lens built into the camera body that uses high-quality glass. It includes a handy viewfinder, as well.
Leica cameras have carried a premium price point in the market for decades. The manufacturer delivers a high level of build quality to justify its higher-than-average prices.
Leica offers instant film cameras for about $300 to $400, but you will also have ongoing costs for film packs with this model.
Fixed-lens Leica digital cameras can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. These models may have a zoom lens. Cheaper fixed-lens cameras will use a 1-inch image sensor, while those at the top of the price range may have full-frame image sensors.
Leica rangefinder cameras can use interchangeable lenses, much like a DSLR, but in a smaller camera body. These models will cost anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000.
Leica mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras can have a price range of $3,000 to $7,500. You may need to purchase separate lenses for these models in the future to add new features, but most mirrorless ILCs from Leica ship with a starter lens.
Leica built its first camera in 1914, and the manufacturer created its first digital camera in 1996.
Leica is credited with building the first 35mm film camera, the Ur-Leica.
Leica cameras are popular for a variety of reasons. Some people love the types of photos they can shoot with the incredibly sharp lenses. Others appreciate the design of these vintage-style cameras that look great in their camera collection. Here are some of the best ways to make use of a Leica camera.
Create some amazing street photos. Because Leica digital cameras are smaller than a typical DSLR camera, they are less obvious to others in the area. This makes them great for street photography, where you don’t want people to pose for the camera, creating spontaneous photos instead.
Take advantage of the fast aperture lenses. Leica lenses often have large aperture settings available, including f/1.7 and f/1.4. These lenses are perfect for shooting photos with the background blurred.
Enjoy excellent low-light photo results. Leica cameras tend to have large image sensors with fast lenses, which means they’re excellent performers in low-light conditions.
Collect your favorite cameras. It can be fun to collect vintage Leica film cameras. They have a variety of cool retro styles. Additionally, Leica cameras are not mass produced in the same quantities as models from other camera makers, so they are fun to search for and collect.
Fun, inexpensive camera
Considering the typical types of cameras Leica builds, you might be surprised to find that it manufactures a fun instant print camera in multiple body color choices. It creates photo prints roughly similar in size to a business card. This camera has a low price versus other Leica cameras, comparing favorably to other instant print cameras.
We believe most people shopping for a Leica camera will find a high-quality product in our highlighted favorites. However, if you need a model with some different features, we did consider a few other lovely Leicas. If you like the size and performance of mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, the Leica SL Mirrorless Camera is a great choice. It’s expensive, but it’s equipped with a full-frame image sensor for outstanding image quality.
At a slightly lower price point, consider the Leica CL Mirrorless Camera. It has an APS-C sized image sensor, which lowers the cost but still makes great pictures.
We also like the Leica C-Lux Digital Camera, which is a lower-end option that features a fixed lens, an electronic viewfinder, and a 1-inch image sensor.
Q. What is a rangefinder camera?
A. A rangefinder camera sets the focus using a rangefinding device. Once two superimposed images are lined up in the rangefinder focus system, the scene will be in sharp focus. You do not focus by looking through the lens. Instead, you focus using a window that looks like a viewfinder near the top of the camera.
Q. Do companies other than Leica make rangefinder cameras?
A. During the 1950s, rangefinder film cameras were popular, and many camera makers offered them. However, Leica is the only camera manufacturer offering digital rangefinder cameras.
Q. Why do Leica cameras cost more than other camera models?
A. Leica cameras typically consist of high-quality materials in the camera body, often featuring quite a bit of metal instead of plastic. Leica lens glass is among the best made by anyone, which drives up the price.
Q. Can I use any lenses on Leica cameras?
A. No. Leica cameras only work with Leica lenses. Because Leica lenses are of such a high quality, you probably wouldn’t want to use other lenses with these cameras, anyway. Leica recently announced plans to develop a lens mount with Panasonic and Sigma that may become a standard for all three companies’ lenses for mirrorless cameras.
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