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Why are leica cameras so expensive?

Francisco Iacobelli , Oct 23, 2003; 11:30 a.m.

I am somewhat new to photography, and I was looking at 35mm SLR cameras. When I saw how different the prices were between leica and any other brand I was surprised. What makes these cameras sooo expensive?.. even the rangefinder ones?



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Petr Zavadsky (CZ) , Oct 23, 2003; 11:41 a.m.

Why simple (but first rate) Large format lens is well over $1000 ? There is 3x less glass than in my "wunderzoom" 70-200/2.8 for example ?

Because Canon sells ten or hundret thousands of these wunderzooms, and there are sold 100x less LF lens.. This applies to Leica too. There are other reasons also..

Douglas Green , Oct 23, 2003; 11:43 a.m.

They cost more because they have found customers who will pay that much for them.

richard oleson , Oct 23, 2003; 11:49 a.m.

Doug has pretty well hit it; beyond that, it becomes a sort of spiral: they're expensive because they don't make many of them, and they don't make many of them because there aren't many buyers at that price level.

Obviously quality does enter into it.... but there are some awfully good quality cameras out there at lower prices than Leicas. Sometimes that last little bit of quality costs more to attain than the bit below it did.


Ellis Vener , Oct 23, 2003; 12:18 p.m.

Mostly hand crafted, small production runs, highly skilled and highly paid labor, marquee brand value, excellent optics-- and some people are willing to pay for them.

Mike Scarpitti , Oct 23, 2003; 12:25 p.m.

Doug is only half right. Leica, as any company, must make a profit to survive. But excessive profitability is not the reason Leica is so expensive (they have lost money in recent years, actually). I own Leica myself, and have for more than 30 years. Leica's standards of design, manufacture, and performance (optical and mechanical) are the world's highest. Their lenses are state of the art in all respects, including mechanical aspects. Their durability is far greater than that of Japanese products. How is this achieved? It ain't cheap. It costs money to research and produce the finest lenses. Just the raw glass itself (before cutting and polishing) for many Leica lenses costs more than the entire finished product of other companies at retail! Take the 50mm 1.4 Summilux-R, for example. It costs about $2000 retail. It's also the best 50mm 1.4 in the world. (The raw galss alone costs more than a Nikkor or Canon 50mm 1.4.) To get this performance, Leica has invested in glass research and owns propreitary glass formulations that no-one else has, or that other companies can't afford to use, because their cost would then be so high that they could not market the lens. Each company has a 'niche', and though Leica has a reputation that allows them the luxury of making and selling costly lenses, not every other firm can do that. In other words, Leica, being devoted to being the best AND achieving it, has earned them the marketing clout that enables them to sell that product. Other companies have not achieved the level that Leica does, and can't afford to do so. That's not their market.

You'll note, though, that the extreme focal lengths of any camera company are all pretty expensive, regardless of make.

And yes, Leica lenses ARE worth it!

You should read the materials written by Erwin Puts on these topics:

Here's his site


and Leica has some of his other lens analyses: http://www.leica-camera.com/index_e.html (Leica home)

http://www.leica-camera.com/produkte/rsystem/objektive/index_e.html (R lenses)

Francisco Iacobelli , Oct 23, 2003; 12:29 p.m.


Shawn Kearney , Oct 23, 2003; 12:30 p.m.


Why is Armani so expensive? Same reason.

Beau . , Oct 23, 2003; 12:33 p.m.

Don't believe all the hyperbole about durability and leading-edge technology -- I think the Japanese companies win in both those categories. What you get with Leica is very high optical quality and a design philosophy that serves a certain market better than other brands.

Also, and this has been said a thousand times, there is a difference between price and value. Traditionally Leicas have held their value extremely well over time, so that you recoup most, if not all your investment upon resale. In that sense Leicas are the cheapest brand around.

Douglas Green , Oct 23, 2003; 12:58 p.m.

Mike, actually, I am fully right about this. He didn't ask about Leica lenses (which, IMHO, are in many cases worth the steep premium) he asked about the CAMERAS, which, I think it is safe to say, are clearly NOT worth the premium vs. alternatives such as Konica Hexar RF, Voigtlander Bessa R2, or a Contax G2, or a used Minolta CLE. At least NOT worth the premium based on any intrinsic build quality or ergonomic advantages. Leica hasn't built a camera worthy of it's cost since the original M-4.

Nowadays, their cameras are male jewelry. They just happen to mount the best family of optics made in the world, but so do most of the other cameras I listed.

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