Though many won't admit it, most photographers secretly covet the best Leica cameras. That red dot carries with it an inimitable cachet, associated with some of the best and most legendary photographers in history, and there's a real feeling of luxury to owning a Leica camera today.
We use that word for a reason: these are not budget options. Head to our guide to the best cameras around or the best cheap camera deals if you want to choose a camera that's easy on the wallet. You're in Leica town now, and these cameras, to put it lightly, do not come cheap.
However, it's not entirely about luxury. Granted, there are plenty of pro-spec Leica cameras that do commanding an eye-watering price tag, but if you don’t want to blow more than a month's wages on a single camera, comparatively affordable Leica models do exist. We've made sure to include them in this guide alongside the big boys.
There's the Leica Sofort for instance, one of the best instant cameras around, which utilises Fujifilm's inexpensive Instax Mini film packs. There are compact cameras too, developed in collaboration with Panasonic, and while none of them are cheap, they don't surpass the upper end of what you might expect to pay for a quality camera in this particular market.
So, with the above in mind, let’s look at 10 of the best Leica cameras currently on the market and available to buy.
1. Leica Q2
Leica’s full frame compact is super, if you can afford it
Type: Compact | Sensor size: Full frame | Megapixels: 47.3MP (effective) | Lens: Fixed 28mm, f/1.7 | Autofocus: Contrast based AF system | LCD: 3in fixed touchscreen, 1.04 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 20fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
Successor to the four-year-old ‘Q’, the Leica Q2 is aimed at photographers wanting a powerful camera that is also relatively small and discrete. Key features include a fixed focal length 28mm f/1.7 maximum aperture lens that’s a match for the original ‘Q’, yet a whopping 47.3-megapixel full frame sensor this time around. Added to this, the camera body is now water and dust resistant plus there’s a 4K video shooting option that additionally includes the choice of ‘C4K’ (Cinematic 4K).
In terms of burst/continuous shooting, the camera offers up to 10fps if the mechanical shutter is utilised. Otherwise it’s 20fps with the aid of the electronic shutter. While not the swiftest on the market, the Q2’s 0.15-second auto focus performance is comfortably described as swift.
The Q2 is now Bluetooth enabled and is, of course hand constructed in Germany, with a magnesium body construction. Leica’s downloadable Fotos app, when used in conjunction with the Q2, can ‘wake up’ the camera, as well as acting as a remote plus means of transferring and sharing shots. Yes, this is very much a luxury option for the street photographer, but the 47-megapixel sensor delivers shed-loads of gorgeous detail. You’ll want to queue too for Leica’s Q2, with a waiting list likely.
2. Leica SL2
Leica's new full-frame mirrorless camera is simply superb
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Full frame | Megapixels: 47MP (effective) | Lens mount: L-mount | Continuous shooting: 10/20fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional
Leica doesn't just make retro rangefinders and luxury cameras for the rich. The SL line sets out to offer Leica's legendary design, build quality and lenses to discerning professionals. But while the original SL was good, the brand new SL2 is simply exceptional.
First, it uses the L-mount that has now been adopted by Sigma and Panasonic for its full-frame mirrorless cameras, so there is an increasing range of optics available, thanks to the L- mount lens roadmap.
Second, it's no secret that the internals, including the sensor, in-body stabilization and 4K capabilities come straight from the Panasonic Lumix S1R. But what's on the outside is pure Leica, including a beautiful minimalist design, simple but superbly thought out controls and a classy, elegant interface that works brilliantly. Yes, the Leica SL2 is expensive, but my word, is it good!
Read more: Hands on: Leica SL2 review
3. Leica M10-P
Leica’s quietest rangefinder ever marries beautiful design to latest digital tech
Type: Rangefinder | Sensor size: Full frame | Megapixels: 24MP (effective) | Lens mount: Leica M | Autofocus: None, manual focusing via rangefinder or Live View | LCD: 3in fixed touchscreen, 1.04 million dots | Viewfinder: Direct Vision | Continuous shooting: 5fps | Max video resolution: None | User level: Enthusiast/Professional
A ‘stealth’ version of the previously released M10, this version comes without the giveaway red Leica dot on the front plate, but is otherwise nigh identical save for a few additional tweaks. These include the Leica M10-P becoming the first Leica rangefinder to feature a touch screen LCD plus an electronic spirit level, while its shutter release mechanism is also the quietest in its class. Added to this, the series’ plastic hotshoe cover has been replaced with an all-metal one.
Emitting that heady mix of old school charm and signature Leica luxury, the camera makes you focus by lining up a ghost image with the fixed field of view optical viewfinder, while despite the inclusion of a full frame sensor here, resolution remains at a fairly conservative 24 megapixels. We also don’t get any video capture option, in an attempt by its maker to distil the camera down to the pure essentials of photography.
That said, the backplate LCD allows for use of Live View and focus peaking – so this camera feels like a best of both worlds in many respects, marrying digital know-how to classic analogue operation.
4. Leica D-Lux 7
For a Leica, this is a very affordable compact camera
Type: Zoom compact | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 17MP (effective) | Lens: 24-75mm f/1.7-f/16 | Autofocus: Yes | LCD: 3in fixed touchscreen, 1.24 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 11fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
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 almost a grand. 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.
Given Leica and Panasonic’s long standing collaboration, it’s unsurprising that this model arrived so soon after – and so closely resembles – the cheaper Panasonic LX100 IIh. Thus we get the Panasonic-like shooting options that include both 4K stills and 4K video options. It’s a shame perhaps that the 3-inch LCD is resolutely fixed, but it does at least offer touch control. We also liked the fact that the rangefinder-like top plate dials for controlling shutter speed and exposure compensation lend the D-Lux 7 a classic handling experience, the camera bringing matters up to date by including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
5. Leica Sofort
This plush instant camera is a great fun at parties
Type: Instant camera | Sensor size: N/A | Megapixels: N/A | Film type: Fujifilm Instax Mini format | Image size: 6.2 x 4.6cm | LCD: For settings only | Viewfinder: Direct view | Continuous shooting: N/A | Max video resolution: N/A | User level: Beginner
More known for releasing cameras to the luxury markets these days, here’s an opportunity to own a Leica at an affordable price – and one of the best instant cameras currently available.
Similar to Fujifilm’s less-expensive Instax Mini 90 – the Leica Sofort is available in several color options. It can use Fuji’s Instax film packs, which work out at around £1/$1.50 per printed image. Leica's own branded film packs are dearer.
These instant packs provide credit card sized images, smaller than the Polaroid instant prints you may recall from childhood. Undoubtedly though, there is still a thrill in witnessing an image ‘emerge’ slowly before the eyes once the camera has squeezed out a print. You can also buy monochrome film packs, to indulge in extra arty low fi whimsy.
The camera comes with a Leica branded shoulder strap, which proves useful because at 122x94x58mm the camera is too bulky for a jacket pocket, though its manageable weight of 310g means it’s fairly easily transported nonetheless. A smaller front mirror aids the taking of the inevitable selfie while operation is kept simple via the fact that the only control on the camera’s top plate is a shutter release button. With focusing as close as 0.6 metres, a 60mm lens on the Sofort’s front provides the equivalent of 34mm, means that what we get in terms of film images is similar to what the human eye sees.
‘Sofort’ is German for instant, in case you were wondering.
6. Leica M10-D
The screenless camera came long before the Fujifilm X-Pro3
Type: Rangefinder | Sensor size: Full frame | Megapixels: 24MP (effective) | Lens mount: Leica M | Autofocus: None, manual focusing via rangefinder | LCD: None | Viewfinder: Rangefinder | Continuous shooting: 5fps | Max video resolution: None | User level: Enthusiast/Professional
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.
In other respects, it's mighty similar to the M10-P mentioned above, sporting the same sensor/processor combo and producing images that look just as good. It also lacks the iconic red dot, opting for a stealthier look. The 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. This is a little fiddly, to say the least.
Without a doubt, the M10-D is a specialist tool, and presumably you've already made the decision as to whether it's for you or not. Compulsive chimpers will hate it, but rangefinder aficionados will be in heaven.
7. Leica CL
L-mount mirrorless camera packs lots of tech into a diminutive body
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP (effective) | Lens mount: Leica L | Autofocus: Yes, 49 AF points | LCD: 3in fixed touchscreen, 1.24 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
This German-constructed, attractive compact system camera welds a large for its class 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor to a Leica L lens mount, as recently adopted by Panasonic for its fledgling full frame ‘S’ system. It’s a sister model to the TL2 camera launched around the same time, which also features a similar feature set. On the CL, meanwhile, chief points of interest include a touch sensitive 3-inch LCD, photo enthusiast enticing eye level viewfinder, 4K video along with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and up to 10fps burst shooting for up to 140 JPEGs, or 33 Raw and JPEG files in tandem.
As it shares the L mount with the TL2, it can utilise the TL line of Leica optics, while Leica M and R series lenses can be used with adapters, and SL lenses without the need for one. Top plate dials give the camera the classic hands-on operation beloved of Leica users, while external flash can be attached if so desired via its vacant hotshoe. While there’s plenty to love here, the rear screen cannot be tilted or adjusted while there is the usual Leica premium to pay for a hand crafted camera rather than a mass produced one.
8. Leica TL2
Sleek statement of a digital camera seeks to entice moneyed smartphone users to adopt the brand via huge rear screen
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP (effective) | Lens mount: Leica L | Autofocus: Yes, 49 AF points | LCD: 3.7in fixed touchscreen, 1.3 million dots | Viewfinder: None | Continuous shooting: 20fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
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’ve 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 L mount, 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 we 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, even if its slightly uneven body/lens combination, quirky controls and could-be-faster responses ultimately still leave something to be desired.
9. Leica X-U
Perfect for a pool party in Cannes (if not a beach trip to Skegness)
Type: Compact | Sensor size: APS-C | Megapixels: 16MP (effective) | Lens: Fixed 23mm f/1.7 | Autofocus: Contrast based AF system | LCD: 3in fixed touchscreen, 920,000 dots | Viewfinder: N/A | Continuous shooting: 5fps | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast
There are not many Leica cameras you’d feel confident about stepping into the deep blue and briny with – so full marks to this waterproof version of the X-E compact camera that doesn’t slouch when it comes to core specs. The X-U has an APS-C format chip and a wide angle 23mm equivalent bright/fast f/1.7 Summilux prime lens for delivering those shallow (water) depth of field images. The price is a lot to pay for a toughened camera, yet this compact is also shock resistant, dust sealed and shatterproof. For those thinking of taking it for a dip, the body is fully waterproofed down to a depth of 15 metres and also features an underwater protection filter.
Further worthy of note here for those as equally interested in image quality as ruggedness, is a larger APS-C format sensor capable of capturing 16 megapixel images. This combo should deliver better quality than either the one-inch sensor or 1/2.3-inch chip found in rival waterproof cameras, even if they are nearly a tenth of this Leica’s asking price.
This high-end adventure camera can also capture Full HD video too – perfect for capturing those shoals of fish in-camera. In short this is a waterproof camera at an eye-watering price – but one that very much stands out from the crowd.
10. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246)
Upgraded black and white rangefinder camera seeks specialist owner
Type: Rangefinder | Sensor size: Full frame | Megapixels: 24MP (effective) | Lens mount: Leica M | Autofocus: None, manual focusing via rangefinder or Live View | LCD: 3in fixed touchscreen, 921,600 dots | Viewfinder: Direct Vision | Continuous shooting: 3.5fps | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast
Here’s a curio: a digital camera that shoots only in black and white: inspired madness… or just plain madness? It’s of a certain niche and an expensive one at that, for sure, but the quality of results justifies Leica’s brave decision to use a monochrome sensor. At its core is a 24 million pixel CMOS chip, coupled with the option of live view display and 24fps Full HD video capture. Light sensitivity range tops out here at ISO25,000, with ISO320 the lowest setting, while shutter speeds run from 60 seconds to 1/4000 sec. Focus is, this being a Leica M for enthusiasts, an entirely manual affair.
The camera is pretty hefty and solid feeling, with construction involving brass, leather and magnesium alloy. Its bright viewfinder provides a double image rangefinder view, with guidelines for the lens in use, so users can compose and focus at the same time. Shooting in Raw and JPEG simultaneously can create some delays, but the uncompressed DNG (Raw) files can conveniently be opened in just about any image editing program or viewing software.
In summation, yes, almost every digital camera has a black and white mode and you can convert images to monochrome in any image editing software, but none will have quite the same look and feel as an image from the wonderfully eccentric Leica M Monochrom.