It wasn't long ago that Leica was selling just 500 film cameras per year and thinking about scrapping analog bodies altogether. In 2023, though, it racked up 5,000 film camera sales – heralding what the company called "the return of analog".
Not only did film camera sales increase tenfold from 2015 to 2023, they now account for 30% of all Leica rangefinder sales – driven, no doubt, by the release of the new Leica M6 in late 2022, which was so popular that it's been out of stock almost since it launched (only becoming widely available again in December).
To put things into perspective, as pointed out by film specialist Kosmo Foto, Leica sold about 11,000 digital M-mount bodies – which really throws the 5,000 film camera sales into sharp relief.
"In our factories, you can still see old machines dedicated to film cameras in operation," Leica head honcho, Dr Andreas Kaufmann, told Phototrend in September.
"But in 2015, we thought about throwing everything away because we were only producing 500 film cameras per year… We really appreciate the return of analog. And we will do more."
To casual observers, the resurgence of analogue photography might amount to little more than Millennials and Gen Zers buying second-hand film cameras and making it harder to get Fujifilm and Kodak stock. However, these figures show that there is something potentially quite seismic occurring.
Indeed, Ricoh's eagerly anticipated Pentax film camera project could yield as many as four new cameras (which might ruffle Kaufmann's feathers, after he crowed that, "We are quite satisfied because we are still the only ones who can produce film cameras").
There have also been rumblings that Leica might resurrect more film cameras – perhaps the "we will do more" to which the good doctor was referring.
Either way, it's fantastic to see such signs of life in what was a virtually dead medium – particularly with yet more news that digital camera sales have slumped.