It's an understatement to say that Leica makes some of the most desired gear for photographers. There's a (benevolent) cult around their precise, beautifully-machined cameras and sharp lenses. The hype is well-deserved, of course—whenever you handle a Leica, you know you're using something special.
Unfortunately, their products are also very expensive, so most people never get to experience shooting one. That is, unless you shop for Leica gear on the used market, which suddenly makes these extravagant items more affordable, especially older models. Obviously, with any used luxury item, it's best to buy from a reputable source that can assure quality and offer a warranty (you can probably guess who I'm talking about at this point).
If you've been struggling to save up for a while, guess what, you might just have enough already. Here are five of our favorite older Leica cameras that may be within your reach.
The M9 was the first full-frame digital M body in the legendary rangefinder series. Some shooters favor the tones and colors it achieved through its 18.5-megapixel CCD sensor over newer Leica sensors. The stealthier M9-P was announced in 2011 and it's a great looking camera. No red dot on the front makes it a little more inconspicuous on the street, so it won't draw too much attention. It comes both in black and silver—pick your favorite and get to work.
The M10 Monochrom is getting a lot of press right now, making photographers everywhere wonder if they can commit to shooting only in monochrome. But for those who can't afford the $$$ pricetag for the new-new, why not look at the previous model? The still capable Monochrom (Typ 246) sports a wonderful 24-megapixel sensor that's specifically tailored for black-and-white photography, achieving great tones and maximum sharpness from those already tack-sharp Leica lenses. For about half the price, you can start a journey down the monochrome road.
Like the Monochrom (Typ 246), the original Leica SL's price tag has benefited from a new model coming out recently. The SL2 was released in November 2019, driving prices on the OG SL down to reasonable levels. This SLR-style mirrorless body fully embraces the bauhaus aesthetic with its combination of beauty and usefulness. It sports a 24-megapixel full-frame sensor and the speedy Maestro II processor, for optimum performance. Benefitting from the newly-formed alliance between manufacturers, the SL can also fit L-mount Panasonic and Sigma lenses in addition to the more expensive native lenses, so there's a variety of choices available.
When image quality, resolution and clarity are your main concerns, it's time to step up to medium format. The Leica S (Typ 006) is a 37.5-megapixel digital medium format camera with intuitive handling and finely tuned ergonomics. This camera has photography studio specs, yet it's portable enough to take out into the field. Paired with impressive Leica S-mount lenses, you'll get unbelievable medium format tonality and colors from every shot, at a fraction of the original price.
People got really excited when the Leica Q2 was announced because it finally had weather-sealing—I guess those people forgot about the waterproof X-U. That's right, you can take this compact Leica and submerge it fully underwater—no worries. It sports a beautiful 35mm-equivalent Summilux aspherical lens, a built-in flash and simple controls, so you count on great aquatic wildlife photographs on your next snorkeling or scuba trip. It's the perfect size for a walk-around camera on dry land too, with an added bonus of being dustproof and shockproof.