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The best Leica cameras in 2022: from classic rangefinders to modern mirrorless

Included in this guide:

Best Leica cameras
(Image credit: Leica)

No one will tell you that the best Leica cameras are cheap, but if you have the budget, they really are second to none. Made with incredible engineering prowess by a team who has perfected the formula for a sublime photographic experience, Leica cameras have an unassailable reputation among photographers. There’s a reason that the iconic red dot still confers so much respect, even decades down the line. 

Some of the best photographers in history have used Leica cameras, so if you want to be a part of that history, it’s best to familiarise yourself with the different types on offer. There are three main categories of Leica cameras: the mirrorless system, the rangefinders, and the compacts.

The Leica mirrorless range includes professional cameras like the Leica SL2 and the relatively affordable Leica CL. With access to L-mount lenses, these mirrorless machines pair high-resolution sensors with smartly engineered bodies, and many shoot great video too.

The rangefinders are the Leica M series. A rangefinder camera is an uncompromising shooting experience, a manual focusing method that uses multiple lenses. It’s not for everyone, but if you take time to master it, it’s immensely rewarding. This range also includes some of Leica’s monochrome-only cameras like the M10 Monochrom, which provide some of the best B&W photography in the business.

Finally, we have the Leica compacts, such as the sublime Leica Q2, which 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 German manufacturer, at the best prices, so let’s get started!

The best Leica cameras in 2022

Best Leica mirrorless cameras

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An L-mount mirrorless camera that packs lots of tech into a small body

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Compatible with a wide range of Leica optics (some via adapter)+Large APS-C sensor +Decent resolution
Reasons to avoid
-Fixed LCD screen-Lenses cost extra

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

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Leica's newer full-frame mirrorless camera is simply superb

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Full frame
Megapixels: 47MP (effective)
Lens mount: L-mount
Continuous shooting: 10/20fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+Superb resolution+High speed continuous shooting+Excellent 4K video features+Beautiful design and interface
Reasons to avoid
-Fixed, non-tilting rear touchscreen

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

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3. Leica SL2-S

The SL2-S features SL2 tech at a more affordable price

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Full frame
Megapixels: 24MP (effective)
Lens mount: L-mount
Continuous shooting: 9/25fps
Max video resolution: 4K 60p
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+The least expensive SL camera+Excellent Leica build quality+Fewer megapixels can be a benefit
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than alternatives-Contrast detect AF isn't great-It's a large and heavy camera

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

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A sleek statement camera with a huge screen to woo smartphone users

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Stylish exterior+Sharp and detailed images
Reasons to avoid
-Omits an eye level viewfinder, -Quirky at times -Sluggish operation

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

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Leica's newest black and white rangefinder camera has 40 million pixels

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Rugged build quality, +New screen and live view in a rangefinder
Reasons to avoid
-Only records in black & white-Limited dynamic range

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

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Leica’s classic rangefinder camera now has 40 million pixels

Specifications
Type: Rangefinder
Sensor size: Full frame
Megapixels: 40MP (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: 4.5fps
Max video resolution: None
User level: Enthusiast/Professional
Reasons to buy
+Super 40MP resolution+Quiet shutter action+Premium rangefinder design
Reasons to avoid
-No video capture-Takes skill and practice to master

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

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7. Leica M10-D

The screenless camera came long before the Fujifilm X-Pro3

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Excellent image quality+Prevents chimping
Reasons to avoid
-Some controls require app-Not the latest 40MP sensor

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

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8. Leica D-Lux 7

A Leica redesign of the rather good Panasonic LX 100 II compact

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Large-ish MFT sensor+4K video shooting options
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey compared to Panasonic doppelganger-Fixed LCD screen 

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.

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Leica’s full frame compact is super, if you can get it

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Beautifully engineered, +Superb picture quality+Extensive video options
Reasons to avoid
-Fixed, non-adjustable screen

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 discrete, 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.

Read more: Leica Q2 review | Leica Q2 Monochrom review

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10. Leica X-U

Perfect for a pool party in Cannes (if not a beach trip to Skegness)

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Waterproof down to 15m+Fast/bright f/1.7 aperture +Wide angle lens
Reasons to avoid
-4K video-Hard to get in US

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 sensor 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. However, the sensor is an old design that only captures 16 megapixel images and full HD rather than 4K video. This is a waterproof adventure camera at an eye-watering price – but one that very much stands out from the crowd.

Read more:
The best mirrorless cameras
The best DSLR cameras
10 best compact cameras

Gavin Stoker

Gavin has over 30 year experience of writing about photography and television. He is currently the editor of British Photographic Industry News, and previously served as editor of Which Digital Camera and deputy editor of Total Digital Photography


He has also written for a wide range of publications including T3, BBC Focus, Empire, NME, Radio Times, MacWorld, Computer Active, What Digital Camera and Rough Guide books.


With his wealth of knowledge he is well placed to recognise great camera deals and recommend the best products in Digital Camera World’s buying guides. He also writes on a number of specialist subjects including binoculars and monoculars, spotting scopes, microscopes, trail cameras, action cameras, body cameras, filters, cameras straps and more.