Best Leica Cameras

Updated March 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

35 Models Considered
18 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
164 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best leica cameras

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.

If you purchase a used Leica camera, the warranty does not transfer from the original owner to the new owner.

Key considerations

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.

Image sensor

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

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.

LCD screen

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.

Movie quality

Leica cameras often can record videos at a maximum 4K resolution, which is an improvement over HD resolution.

Continuous shooting

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.

Camera types

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.

Compact

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.

CL

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.

M

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.

Q

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.

SL

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.

TL

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.

Sofort

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.

Leica camera prices

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.

Did you know?
Leica built its first camera in 1914, and the manufacturer created its first digital camera in 1996.
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Tips

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.

Other products we considered

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. 

Leica is well-known for the build quality of its camera bodies, which often consist of an all-metal design with weather sealing.

FAQ

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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