The best Leica cameras may be expensive, but they also happen to be some of the most finely engineered cameras ever made. The German firm has perfected its craft over a century of camera manufacture, and Leica users will waste no time in telling you that the experience of using one is like no other. The iconic Leica red dot is a mark of respect among photographers, and if you've got the budget, a good Leica camera can be a lifelong companion.
In this article we're dealing with digital Leica cameras – if you're craving more a vintage, analogue experience then our guide to the best film cameras includes some Leica models. There are three main categories of Leica digital cameras: Leica mirrorless cameras, Leica M rangefinders, and Leica compact cameras. Let's take a quick look at each in turn.
The Leica mirrorless range includes professional cameras like the Leica SL2 and the relatively affordable Leica CL. These cameras use the L-mount, in an alliance with Sigma and Panasonic, and provide large, high-resolution sensors for top-quality image-making.
Next, the Leica M rangefinders. A rangefinder is an unapologetically vintage shooting experience: it involves a manual focusing method that utilises multiple lenses. While it takes some mastering, once you're used to it, there really is nothing like it. The new, headline-stealing Leica M11 and its triple-resolution sensor is the star of this series, but there are also loads of other great options, like the high-quality M10 Monochrom, which provides an amazing B&W photography experience.
Finally, we have the Leica compacts. These fixed-lens wonders are as finely engineered as any other Leica camera, including the sublime Leica Q2. This total stunner pairs a high-resolution full-frame sensor with a pin-sharp 28mm f/1.7 lens. Its beautiful handling and essentially immortal construction means that while it’s a pricey camera, it’s one to use and love for a lifetime.
Our list of the best Leica cameras includes all the best models from the venerable manufacturer, at the best prices, so let’s get started!
The best Leica cameras in 2022
Best Leica mirrorless cameras
Pairing a 24.2MP APS-C sensor with the L lens mount, which Panasonic has also adopted for its full-frame Lumix S system, the Leica CL is a comprehensive and capable camera at price that's on Leica's lower end. With 4K video, 10fps burst shooting and built-in Wi-Fi, it's got all the features that modern photographers expect, with the top plate dials that give the handling that Leica feel. A 3-inch touch-sensitive LCD and eye-level viewfinder provide the users with plentiful composition options, and that hand-crafted premium Leica feel really can't be beat. Some may bemoan the fact that the screen is a fixed model, rather than tilting or vari-angle, but otherwise there's plenty to love here if you can meet the price.
Read the full Leica CL review
Plenty of Leica cameras form an unusual hybrid where their insides are essentially the same as cameras from other manufacturers, while their outers are all Leica. Some of these are simple rebadgings, but the relatively recent Leica SL2 is something a little different. On the inside it's extremely similar to Panasonic's Lumix S1R, a superb mirrorless full-frame camera, but the outside is completely different, a sleek and minimalist design with few controls, designed to completely immerse you in the shooting experience. The interface is a revelation, classy and elegant and so intuitive it puts a grin on your face right away. With the future looking bright for L-mount lenses (see the L- mount lens roadmap), this 4K-capable camera is a fantastic buy for any prospective Leica owner.
Read more: Leica SL2 review
The Leica SL2-S (seen here with optional battery grip) is a great option for those that are already using the L mount and have L-mount lenses. The price looks steep by regular standards, but it's much lower than the higher-resolution Leica SL2. What's really good about this camera is that even with such a drastic difference in price, the compromises are minimal and the drop in resolution is the only major downside. This could be a great entry point for those considering the SL camera system but put off by the price of the SL2. If its 24-megapixel resolution is all you need, you still get the Leica build quality and interface, and 4K 60p video capability, at a lower price.
Read more: Leica SL2-S review
With its slim, minimal and sleek exterior this Leica certainly makes a fashion statement, while the huge for its class 3.7-inch screen that occupies all of its backplate should appeal to existing smartphone users looking to trade up to a dedicated image capture device. If we have a gripe, it’s that attaching a lens makes the camera feel a tad front heavy, while the minimalistic design has led to some operational quirks – not least the fact that its controls take a bit of initial figuring out. There’s also no on-board image stabilisation and the auto focus response isn’t particularly fast. Still, it is intended to be a serious photographic tool too, thanks to its adoption of the increasingly well supported L mount, a 49-point contrast detection AF system – as also found in Leica’s more ‘conventional’ CL – plus, unusually for a digital camera these days, 32GB of built-in memory. Added to this you get the option of 4K video and it can shoot stills up to a respectable 20fps with the aid of its electronic shutter. Another plus is that the image quality is stunning.
Best Leica M cameras
After months of leaks and teases, we've finally got a glimpse at the future of the M-series in the form of the Leica M11, and it's one of the most technologically advanced rangefinders ever made. Leica hasn't tinkered too much with the formula of a rangefinder camera, but has added lots of smart tweaks and features. The triple-resolution full-frame sensor is a real standout, letting you shoot at 60MP, 36MP or 18MP, all of which use the sensor's full width. This is great for speeding up your workflow with smaller filesizes, and shooting at 18MP also gives you the advantage of an unlimited burst buffer.
The M11 makes use of new electronic shutter that gives users the options of a 1/16,000sec shutter speed. It does away with the bottom base plate, giving easier access to the battery and SD card. And in another neat touch, the camera also has 64GB internal storage, making it easy to record simultaneous copies of your images. Leica has beefed up the battery and added USB-C charging; what's more, if you can afford a little extra on top of the considerable price tag, you can add new Visoflex 2 electronic viewfinder to augment the rangefinder experience. Designed in conjunction with the M11, it has a 90-degree tilt function.
While we still need to fully review the Leica M11, all signs so far are pointing to a triumph.
Read more: 60MP Leica M11 is here – a legend reinvented
This is where you need to pay attention. This is NOT the previous Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) with 24 million pixels, but a brand new model with 40 million pixels in what Leica describes as the best black and white sensor it's ever made. Yes, that's right, it's a digital camera that shoots only in black and white. It's not as mad as it sounds, because it's only by removing the color filter array used universally in front of digital sensors that you can get the camera to record black and white at its best possible quality (the color filter array restricted photosites to single colors which means much of the image data has to be interpolated during processing). This is why a black and white Leica comes so high on this list, and because Leicas have been traditionally associated with classic black and white photography. Of course, you pay A LOT to get this level of quality. And yes, of course, we want one.
Read our full Leica M10 Monochrom review
Leica M cameras are an acquired taste. They are fiendishly expensive – of course – and resolutely old fashioned in their design and operation. They don’t suffer fools gladly. And yet the M10-R also happens to feature some of the latest digital technology to produce image quality to challenge any other full frame camera, and a shooting experience that remains unique. Like previous M-series cameras, the M10-R does not suffer fools gladly and you need to put in some practice – and make a few mistakes – to learn how to use it effective. It will reward you, however, with a shooting experience like no other. If you have a great deal of money, or your passion is engineering, heritage, the look and feel of classic camera designs or just the look and feel of the images, the M10-R could be your dream camera.
Read more: Leica M10-R review
Photographers and journalists alike have recently been falling over themselves to praise the Fujifilm X-Pro3 and its radical mission to prevent 'chimping' (habitually checking a camera's LCD screen between shots), but they've forgotten that Leica got there first! And, what's more, Leica went all the way with it. While the X-Pro3 has a 'hidden' LCD screen, the Leica M10-D simply does not have one at all! It's for the hardcore contingent who are perfectly happy focusing and composing via the rangefinder and waiting until later to see their photographs. In other respects, it's similar to older Leica M10-P. The rear screen is replaced by a large exposure compensation dial, and other dials around the body control various functions like ISO, though may of them are limited in which settings you can choose; if, for example, you want to push ISO above 6400, you need to connect the camera to Wi-Fi and use the app. Perhaps the biggest downside, though, is the older 24MP sensor.
Note: Stock appears to be low in the UK at the moment, so UK-based customers may have to wait for shortages to be resolved.
Best Leica compact cameras
A premium compact for both snapshots and street photography, the D-Lux 7 is a fixed lens, travel zoom camera that nevertheless exudes that air of luxury (the clue is in that D-Lux = Deluxe naming) we’d expect of a camera costing this much. Key features include a play-it-safe 17-megapixel resolution from a 21.77 megapixel Four Thirds CMOS sensor. This is married to a lens with an equivalent reach of a wideangle 24-75mm in 35mm film terms. Maximum lens aperture is an impressively fast/bright f/1.7, with the ability to adjust this manually via a lens ring that offers incremental settings up to f/16. Or, of course, you can just hit the automatic setting, which has its own button. It's the result of a long standing collaboration between Panasonic and Leica, and based on the cheaper Panasonic LX100 II, but with a Leica makeover. It’s a shame that the 3-inch LCD is fixed, but it does at least offer touch control. The rangefinder-like top plate dials for controlling shutter speed and exposure compensation do lend the D-Lux 7.
Most Leica cameras take interchangeable lenses, but the Leica Q2 is the exception, with a fixed 28mm f/1.7 lens. It's like the unicorn of digital cameras, though a few people have actually seen one, including us. The successor to the original 24-megapixel Leica Q, the Leica Q2 is aimed at photographers wanting a powerful camera that is also relatively small and discreet, yet with a whopping 47.3-megapixel full frame sensor. The body is water- and dust-resistant, plus there’s a 4K video shooting option that additionally includes the choice of ‘C4K’ (Cinematic 4K). In burst mode the Q2 can shoot at up to 10fps with the mechanical shutter, or 20fps with the electronic shutter. The Q2 is of course hand constructed in Germany, with a magnesium body construction. Yes, this is very much a luxury option for the street photographer, but the 47-megapixel sensor delivers shed-loads of gorgeous detail. It looks like the waiting lists are finally clearing, so you may no longer have to 'Q' for your Leica Q2. We also love the Leica Q2 Monochrom version, by the way.
There's also for 2022 a new limited-edition version of this camera, as Leica likes to do. The Leica Q2 Reporter is a subtler version with the red dot removed, an overall dark green makeover and kevlar grip. You'll have to be quick though – Leica is only manufacturing 350 of them.