Why are leica cameras so expensive?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by fid, Oct 23, 2003.

  1. fid

    fid

    I am somewhat new to photography, and I was looking at 35mm SLR
    cameras. When I saw how different the prices were between leica and
    any other brand I was surprised. What makes these cameras sooo
    expensive?.. even the rangefinder ones?

    thanks.
     
  2. Why simple (but first rate) Large format lens is well over $1000 ? There is 3x less glass than in my "wunderzoom" 70-200/2.8 for example ?<br><br>
    Because Canon sells ten or hundret thousands of these wunderzooms, and there are sold 100x less LF lens.. This applies to Leica too. There are other reasons also..
     
  3. They cost more because they have found customers who will pay that much for them.
     
  4. Doug has pretty well hit it; beyond that, it becomes a sort of spiral: they're expensive because they don't make many of them, and they don't make many of them because there aren't many buyers at that price level.

    Obviously quality does enter into it.... but there are some awfully good quality cameras out there at lower prices than Leicas. Sometimes that last little bit of quality costs more to attain than the bit below it did.

    :)=
     
  5. Mostly hand crafted, small production runs, highly skilled and highly paid labor,
    marquee brand value, excellent optics-- and some people are willing to pay for them.
     
  6. Doug is only half right. Leica, as any company, must make a profit to survive. But excessive profitability is not the reason Leica is so expensive (they have lost money in recent years, actually). I own Leica myself, and have for more than 30 years. Leica's standards of design, manufacture, and performance (optical and mechanical) are the world's highest. Their lenses are state of the art in all respects, including mechanical aspects. Their durability is far greater than that of Japanese products. How is this achieved? It ain't cheap. It costs money to research and produce the finest lenses. Just the raw glass itself (before cutting and polishing) for many Leica lenses costs more than the entire finished product of other companies at retail! Take the 50mm 1.4 Summilux-R, for example. It costs about $2000 retail. It's also the best 50mm 1.4 in the world. (The raw galss alone costs more than a Nikkor or Canon 50mm 1.4.) To get this performance, Leica has invested in glass research and owns propreitary glass formulations that no-one else has, or that other companies can't afford to use, because their cost would then be so high that they could not market the lens. Each company has a 'niche', and though Leica has a reputation that allows them the luxury of making and selling costly lenses, not every other firm can do that. In other words, Leica, being devoted to being the best AND achieving it, has earned them the marketing clout that enables them to sell that product. Other companies have not achieved the level that Leica does, and can't afford to do so. That's not their market.

    You'll note, though, that the extreme focal lengths of any camera company are all pretty expensive, regardless of make.

    And yes, Leica lenses ARE worth it!

    You should read the materials written by Erwin Puts on these topics:



    Here's his site

    http://www.imx.nl/photosite/leica/leicahome.html

    and Leica has some of his other lens analyses:
    http://www.leica-camera.com/index_e.html (Leica home)

    http://www.leica-camera.com/produkte/rsystem/objektive/index_e.html
    (R lenses)
     
  7. fid

    fid

    Thanks!
     
  8. Why is Armani so expensive? Same reason.
     
  9. Don't believe all the hyperbole about durability and leading-edge technology -- I think the Japanese companies win in both those categories. What you get with Leica is very high optical quality and a design philosophy that serves a certain market better than other brands.

    Also, and this has been said a thousand times, there is a difference between price and value. Traditionally Leicas have held their value extremely well over time, so that you recoup most, if not all your investment upon resale. In that sense Leicas are the cheapest brand around.
     
  10. Mike, actually, I am fully right about this. He didn't ask about Leica lenses (which, IMHO, are in many cases worth the steep premium) he asked about the CAMERAS, which, I think it is safe to say, are clearly NOT worth the premium vs. alternatives such as Konica Hexar RF, Voigtlander Bessa R2, or a Contax G2, or a used Minolta CLE. At least NOT worth the premium based on any intrinsic build quality or ergonomic advantages. Leica hasn't built a camera worthy of it's cost since the original M-4.

    Nowadays, their cameras are male jewelry. They just happen to mount the best family of optics made in the world, but so do most of the other cameras I listed.
     
  11. I earn my living taking pictures, mostly using Leicas. The glass is superb, but the amazing thing is that most of my Leica cameras and lenses are 30 to nearly 50 years old, all purchased used. Leica still maintains parts and service on the rare chance that it might require more than an occasional cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment, which is maybe once every 5 years or so. Let's say you bought a used Leica M2 with a 35mm f/2 Summicron back in 1963 for $250.00. A lot of money back then, a month's take home pay for many people! You've used it ever since, that's 14,600 days. That's about 1.7 cents a day, less than the cost of a single cigarette back in 1963, an era whan nearly everyone smoked a pack a day. In the meantime you've earned a significant portion of your income with this camera, day in and day out, for forty years. If it's in fairly clean condition it should easily bring $1500.00 if you were to sell it today. If you are lucky enough to also still have the original sales slips, registration cards, import certificates, instruction books and boxes, figure another couple or three hundred bucks. So how do you figure that using the best is expensive? The conical lenshood from that era, probably came with the used camera when you bought it, is good for another hundred! Add more for case, strap and filters. Leicas are very inexpensive cameras.
     
  12. "Beau * , oct 23, 2003; 12:33 p.m.
    Don't believe all the hyperbole about durability and leading-edge technology -- I think the Japanese companies win in both those categories."

    You 'think'? That says it all. Leicas ARE made to the industry's highest standards of precision and durability. No question. 'Leading-edge' technology can mean many things. Leica is not interested in that per se, but strictly in optical and mechanical perfection, or as close as can be achieved, not the 'highest shutter speed'.
     
  13. "Douglas Green , oct 23, 2003; 12:58 p.m.
    Mike, actually, I am fully right about this. He didn't ask about Leica lenses (which, IMHO, are in many cases worth the steep premium) he asked about the CAMERAS, which, I think it is safe to say, are clearly NOT worth the premium vs. alternatives..."

    Wanna see my 26-year-old Leicaflex SL2?
     
  14. Mike:

    The optics are excellent. The bodies, welllll. I presently have an
    M3 and M4; both purchased new. They have to be sent in every 5
    or so years for repairs. It is always the shutter. I sold the M6
    because I didn't like the cluttered finder. I have never owned an R
    series body, but I understand that they are less reliable than the
    M's.

    In contrast, I have a Nikon F2 [another all mechanical camera]
    and it still works as well as the day I bought it. I would say that
    my experience differs from yours. I like the M's very much, but
    reliable is not a word I would use when describing them. ;<)

    Art
     
  15. Francisco asked about Leica SLRs. The discussions about high Leica quality apply to Leica rangefinders but not, in my opinion, to Leica SLRs. Does anyone here really think that contemporary Leica SLRs are worth their premium for any reason, including resale value? Not me. As for the 50/1.4 Summilux-R being "the best 50/1.4 in the world," "best" by what measure? My 50/1.4 Zeiss outscores the Summilux in lens tests, and based on my 23 years of use of the Zeiss lens, I can attest to its exemplary build and imaging quality. It costs $275 at B&H. The Summilux-R, on the other hand, costs $2,100. That price difference is not just unjustified, it is absurd.
     
  16. Ellis has pretty much hit the nail. There are about a billion (I could be off by +/- a million) steps to making a Leica M camera- almost all of which must be done by hand.

    For instance the shutters for these cameras are still made on machines from the 1940s- in Spain, if I remember correctly. Just understanding how to calibrate an M shutter practically takes a Masters in Cumbersome Design:

    http://www.skgrimes.com/idcc/

    Leica also costs more because the manufacturing is mainly done in Germany and Canada- Socialist countries where labor costs are rather high. And when practically every piece of a camera is finished and fitted by hand, labor costs matter.

    Finally, once you own a Leica, the company is not afraid to gouge you for every accessory. There really is no legitimate explanation for this sort of customer abuse, but, for instance, it really takes Giant Brass Ones to charge someone who has paid out the wazoo for one of your lenses $42.50 for a replacement rear lens cap; but that's Leica:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=153750&is=REG
     
  17. Oh, sorry, as to the SLR cameras, there is no comprehensible reason why anyone would pay $1,750 for a Leica R8 body only to pay another $730 for a motor drive. The R8 is a glorified Minolta X-series body.

    The Nikon F5 body is the best all-around 35mm SLR body ever made. It has autofocus, a waaaaaaaaay better meter than any Leica camera ever dreamed of, an integral motor drive, better construction, a DTTL flash system and it costs $1,930.

    And I've owned Leica Ms and Rs. The M lenses are just the best 35mm lenses made- in part because of their rangefinder design. The Leica R lenses are outstanding, but simply are not noticeably better than a number of Nikon lenses (e.g. the 28mm f/1.4 AFD Nikkor and the 85mm f/1.4 AFD). Don't get me wrong, the Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R lens is exquisite; but $2,895? What the hell?

    And of course, Leica's pro zoom lenses cannot hold a candle to pro zooms from Nikon or Canon. Leica's 21-35mm f/3.5 Aspherical Vario-Elmarit R lens is really good and costs a mere $2,195. But the build quality on the 17-35mm f/2.8 AFS Nikkor is better IMHO, the Nikkor has blinding autofocus, is a third stop faster, shoots wider and costs $1,380.
     
  18. Mike, I'd contend that your Leicaflex SL2 is ALMOST as good as a Nikon F2. On the other hand, Nikon has continued to advance the capabilities on their bodies in the 3 decades since then, while Leica has NEVER made an SLR that's better than your Leicaflex SL2. They even needed to contract Minolta to have any hope of competing in the subsequent decades.
     
  19. Chris Crevasse wrote: My 50/1.4 Zeiss outscores the Summilux in lens tests
    Chris, you're looking at outdated tests. The Contax lens is a fine piece of equipment but the current verision of the Summilux-R is a better lens. Whether the optical difference is worth the difference in cost is a subjective decision.
    Eric Friedemann wrote: The R8 is a glorified Minolta X-series body.
    Wrong. It was designed entirely by Leica and was produced in Leica's facility in Portugal.
     
  20. "What makes these cameras sooo expensive?.. even the rangefinder ones?"

    I think the Leica SLRs are expensive because of the rangefinder models! The latter are quiet, precise and reliable under the most adverse circumstances. The first camera at the summit of Mt. Everest was a Leica, I recall. The manual rewind knob was in place for years after cranks became fashionable, because you were less likely to create static marks or break film under sub-zero conditions. Because it is so small, quiet and non-threatening, it is the ultimate tool for taking pictures of people being themselves.

    You are paying for quality, legend and an unsurpassed marque, but not necessarily in that order.
     
  21. Certainly, Leica buyers are paying for quality. But it's highly dubious that they are receiving it in Leica's bodies anymore.
     
  22. Why is the exactly same camera equipment almost *two times more expensive* in one place than in the other? Why do the french make more money from *less* wine than the italians do? Why is written on every single Fjallraven sleeping bag "made in *china*"? Why are they jailing somebody for five years for an action that few kilometers further would have been fully legal? Why is the ethiopian restaurant in Amsterdam *so bloody expensive*, while in Ethiopia there are people *starving*? Why are action heros and porn stars and soap actresses getting succesfull in *politics*? Why are there so many loud communists in Italy although they *never lived* in a communist country and have no vague idea abut it? Why do people keep their nuclear weapons in *Belgium* and go and look for them in *Irak*?

    because there's always somebody who'll get payed, maybe?
     
  23. "The R8 is a glorified Minolta X-series body. ... Wrong. It was designed entirely by Leica and was produced in Leica's facility in Portugal."

    1. You might not want to tell those who bought the camera with Leica's representation that it was built in Solms, Germany that it was built in Potrugal.

    2. If you want to believe that the R8 represents a departure from Minolta technology, so be it.
     
  24. 1. You might not want to tell those who bought the camera with Leica's representation that it was built in Solms, Germany that it was built in Potrugal.
    The cameras are marked either "Made in Germany" or "Made in Portugal". Why is it so important where it was made?
    2. If you want to believe that the R8 represents a departure from Minolta technology, so be it.
    Eric, why do you believe the R8 isn't a departure from Minolta technology? You are entitled to unfounded beliefs but having used the R8 and the Minolta-derived R4s and R4sP cameras I can tell you that they are very different.
     
  25. Herr Douglas-

    “The cameras are marked either ‘Made in Germany’ or ‘Made in Portugal’. Why is it so important where it was made?”

    I could care less. However, if you’ve dealt with Leicaphiles, as I have for years, you know that there is a hierarchy of production facilities.

    This is the same as the compact Rollei 35s. Are those made in Germany better than those made in the Pacific Rim? Probably not. Do the German cameras sell for more money? They do.

    “Eric, why do you believe the R8 isn't a departure from Minolta technology? You are entitled to unfounded beliefs but having used the R8 and the Minolta-derived R4s and R4sP cameras I can tell you that they are very different.”

    I owned an R7 for years and I’ve shot an R8. Other than cosmetics, I found the cameras to be similar- though the R8 finally has a shutter with a flash sync speed of 1/250th- Nikon introduced a 1/250th flash sync speed on the FE2 in 1983.

    If you want to believe that Leica reinvented the wheel with the R8, so be it. It would be interesting to know how much of the R8 is OEMed and what company produces the shutter assembly for Leica.

    auf Wiedersehen, E
     
  26. Eric, you still haven't shown any basis for your beliefs. Your experience with 'Leicaphiles' is quite different from mine. Perhaps it is you who is concerned about where the stuff is made? Most Leica users I know couldn't care if the stuff was made in Germany, Portugal, Canada or Japan (as some highly-regarded Leica lenses are).<P>
    Manufacturing has become globalized in so many industries that the "Made in ... " label has become almost meaningless. As long as the products meet the company's design and quality standards, what's the big deal? I'm not concerned that many well-regarded Nikon and Canon (Minolta, Pentax, etc.) products are no longer made in Japan, as long as they work.
     
  27. Hey I think everyone missed one big factor:

    collectors

    there are so many leica collectors vs the number of leica users that the prices are now artificially high for used cameras, and as a results leica can charge even more for the new cameras because the used prices are so high

    are they nice cameras? yes
    are they quality made? yes
    are they a good value? NO
     
  28. "What makes these cameras sooo expensive?"<p>
    Bacause that's what it takes to appeal to the snobs who think ostentatious contempt for the concept of "Cost Effectiveness" is a a badge of sophistication and class.
     
  29. Be careful Chuck you're sounding dangerously close to sour
    grapes.
     
  30. When you buy a Leica you buy two things, prestige and quality. However, I believe the price of a Leica is more in the prestige than the quality. Their is a guy I know with the a M6, and I must admit the lenses are fantastic. Much to his dismay, they are hardly much better than my Nikkor AIS lenses, and we have both enlarged up to 13x19 inch prints. They have the SLIGHTEST edge in all aspects, but honestly (Im gonna make alot of enemies now) Leica lenses are hardly much better to justify a 200% price premium Nikon's (or Canon's) lenses, and the decreasing advantage their optics have over "Inferior" mass produced optics is almost nill now. Honestly, I would never recomend anyone building a new camera system to buy into Leica, only a previous Leica owner should. There now I have 10,00o new enemies on photo.net
     
  31. "Their is a guy I know with the a M6, and I must admit the lenses are fantastic. Much to his dismay, they are hardly much better than my Nikkor AIS lenses, and we have both enlarged up to 13x19 inch prints."

    I have two 12x18 full-frame B&W images hanging on a wall at home. Both were printed with the same APO Rodagon 50mm on Galerie glossy paper. One was shot with a pre-ASPH 35mm f/2.0 Summicron M lens (IMHO better than the ASPH version on balance) and one was shot with a 35mm f/2.0 AF Nikkor. If you took a 10x loupe to both prints, you could probably tell which image was made with the Leica lens- but it isn't obvious.

    "Leica lenses are hardly much better to justify a 200% price premium Nikon's (or Canon's) lenses(,)"

    200%? You wish it was 200%!

    Currently, the 35mm f/2.0 AFD Nikkor sells for $265 after rebate:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=92011&is=USA

    The 35mm f/2.0 M ASPH lens sells for $1,595:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=134723&is=USA

    That is a 600% price difference.

    And the 50mm f/1.4 AFD Nikkor sells for $270:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=134723&is=USA

    Wile at the same time, the 50mm f/1.4 Summilux M lens is going for $1,995:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=99575&is=USA

    That's more than a 700% price spread.
     
  32. Because Germany has to get even with the world.
     
  33. Has everyone seemed to forget what the output is?
    Its a photograph.

    I have a feeling most folks couldnt tell the difference by looking at the output of a Russian FED5 or a Leica M8.

    Seems like the French Wine versus the California Wine blind taste test which the French were blasted.

    I am a canon fan, and I like a razor sharp original image.
    Some Canon lenses deliver this result well others less well.

    THere are many factors in a photograph

    Lens body and film.

    I would love to see some 1600 ASA Fuji exposed in a Canon A2 versus an M8 I wonder if one would be able to tell the difference and would the dfference be worth $5,000?
     
  34. My Us dollar is worth less today than ever before. I can't sell my Leica and expect to get my money back in the near future. I like my M6 but I could use an RZ67 kit much more now.
     

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