The Return of the LEICA
September 2009 Rangefinder vs. SLR cameras
Leitz has been among the world's leading optical companies since its founding in 1849 as Optisches Institut von Karl Kellner. They changed their name to Optisches Institut von Ernst Leitz in 1869. The LEICA (LEItz CAmera) brand came along in 1924 when they decided to make cameras, too.
LEICA was a very popular and profitable camera from the 1930s through the 1960s.
LEICA lost its way when SLRs took over the market in the 1960s. LEICA cameras have been on the verge of going out of business ever since.
Luckily for LEICA fans, LEICA refused to make what the broader market wanted, and stays true to its roots even if people don't really want 1950's technology any more. Sadly, this is also why they've been on the verge of bankruptcy as long as I can remember.
In 2008, Nikon lost many of its long-time customers when it had the audacity to ask $8,000 for its then-new Nikon D3X digital camera.
The D3X only had a market value of $5,500, so it was a flop at Nikon's gouging price of $8,000.
Worse than the D3X being a flop, attempting to ask such a foolish price was such a bad move on Nikon's part that Adolph Hitler himself came back through history to express his astonishment.
If something is offensive enough to disturb Hitler, it's not something I want to touch even with someone else's 20-foot (6 meter) pole.
Then I started thinking: LEICA has always been overpriced, but it's also always been a quality product built to last forever without compromise. Compared to the price of a D3X, how bad can it be to finally buy that LEICA we've always wanted?
Most of us laughed so hard that we wet our pants in 2006 when LEICA introduced the LEICA M8, which was an attempt at a digital camera with a sub-standard sized sensor, and lacked anti-alias and IR-cut filters which are required to make a digital camera that works. Every point-and-shoot has them; digital cameras just don't work right without them. Without an anti-alias filter, weird color patterns show up on window screens and fabrics, and without an IR-cut filter, black clothes look brown. Duh.
Then in 2008 Nikon came along asked $8,000 for the D3X, and looking at LEICA prices, they're a bargain!
Wait a year or two, and the digital Nikon stuff will be worth next to nothing, while the LEICAs you buy today will still be worth a lot. Looking at prices of old LEICA gear, and learning that it's no big deal to get old cameras, even back to the 1920s, serviced today, the scariest part is that any LEICAs I buy will still be valuable and taking pictures long after I'm dead. What I buy today will outlive me.
LEICA lenses and cameras are forwards and backwards compatible since 1954, and with a simple adapter, all LEICA's lenses made since the 1920s work perfectly on today's newest LEICA cameras, even the M9.
For the same $8,000, you can buy a brand-new LEICA M7 with 28mm, 50mm and 90mm lenses. You'd have a complete Made-in-Germany LEICA setup for the same price as a stripped Nikon body alone. You could save $1,000 and not even bother with a 50mm lens. You also could pay a lot less finding these items used.
Here's the kicker: LEICA's newest M9 sells for less than the old D3X. The M9 is smaller, lighter, quieter, and has better, smaller lenses. The solid metal LEICA M9 weighs less than the plastic Nikon D90, or one-third the weight of a Nikon D3X!
Why pay more for Japanese consumer products when you can get professional German products — for less?
The M9 is the compact, high-quality, big-sensor digital camera for which we've been waiting, and now that people are looking at it instead of Nikon, LEICA might become the most popular camera again, replacing Nikon for pro use. It's already happened in England.
Help me help you top
I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.
If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.
The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, Calumet, Ritz and J&R when you get your goodies. It costs you nothing and is a huge help. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
Thanks for reading!