When it comes to camera lenses, Leica trumps every manufacturer out there. Given that this German brand is the king in terms of picture quality, it’s no surprise that a lot of photography enthusiasts dream of having their own Leica camera. If you’re one of them and you’re just a purchase away from making your dream come true, you might be wondering: with the variety of Leica cameras out there, which one is the best for first-time users?

What Are the Best Leica Digital Cameras for Beginners?

Leica T Digital Camera (Typ 701)

Leica camera for beginners Leica T digital camera
Leica camera for beginners Leica T digital camera

A no-nonsense camera from the Leica line, the Leica T digital camera (Typ 701) features a large APS-C 16.5 MP sensor that produces images with exquisite detail and clarity, even when shot in low light. Its optimized autofocus allows you to focus without manually tweaking your camera settings, which makes it perfect for beginners.

The Leica T has a MyCamera option that enables you to program your favorite settings so that you can access each setting at the touch of a button. It also has user-friendly controls that allow you to easily compose and check your shots.

Lastly, it has a built-in 16GB memory, so you can take as many shots as possible and have plenty of shots to choose from.

Key Features of the Leica T:

  • Top-of-the-line Leica lens that’s perfect for achieving the brand’s trademark bokeh
  • Built-in WiFi for easy uploading and sharing of pictures; option to set up your own hotspot
  • M-Adapter T (an optional accessory) that allows using more than 20 compatible lenses with the Leica-T
  • Visoflex viewfinder (an optional accessory) for shooting from a wide variety of perspectives

Leica SL (Typ 601) Full-frame Mirrorless Digital Camera

Leica SL (Typ 601) Full-frame Mirrorless Digital Camera
Leica SL (Typ 601) Full-frame Mirrorless Digital Camera

Even though it’s known as a professional camera, any photography hobbyist will find the Leica SL easy and enjoyable to use. It has a 4.4 MP EyeRes electronic viewfinder with 0.8 magnification that makes it easy to see all the elements of your frame.

The Leica SL features intuitive controls for easy camera operation, as well as an extremely fast autofocus and a high-speed burst rate for capturing those fleeting moments. Like the other Leica models on this list, the SL can be used with a lot of Cine lenses, as long as you get the right adapter for each lens.

Key Features of the Leica SL:

  • Made of durable aluminum material
  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • Full HD 4K video
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Option to remotely control the camera from different angles via its downloadable Leica SL App
  • 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for processing images at relatively faster 11 fps

Leica M-P (Typ 240) Full-Frame Still and Video Camera

Leica camera for beginners Leica M-P
Leica M-P

Understated elegance is what you’ll get from the Leica M-P, with its engraved Leica script on the top plate (instead of the typical front-facing Leica logo design). It has a MAX 24MP CMOS sensor and Maestro image processor for image noise reduction, resulting in excellent-quality pictures and accurate color and tonal gradations.

Handling this camera is hassle-free due to its ergonomic body that allows for a good grip and easy accessibility of controls. It also has a 10x live view zoom, which allows you to focus with precision.

Key Features of the Leica M-P:

  • Incorporates a 0.68x optical rangefinder with split and superimposed manual focusing automatic parallax correction and manual image field selection
  • Features a 3.0″ 920k-dot LCD with sapphire glass covering to maintain the overall durability of the magnesium alloy and brass body
  • Top sensitivity of ISO 6400
  • Full HD 1080p video recording
  • 3 fps shooting for up to 24 consecutive frames

What Are the Best Leica Film Cameras for Entry-level Shooters?

Leica M2

best Leica film camera Leica M2
Photo by Chia Yin Yang / CC BY 2.0

Modern and classy, the Leica M2 is considered one of the most well-designed Leica film cameras. Aside from its aesthetics, what makes it popular among photography enthusiasts is its frameline for 35mm lenses (not to mention the relatively affordable price).

With the M2, you’ll learn how to meter light manually and decide which exposure is best for the shot that you want to achieve. Your creativity will definitely be stretched to the limits.

Key Features of the Leica M2:

  • The first camera to offer a viewfinder with a 0.72x magnification ratio and a 35-50-90mm frameline
  • Bears Leica’s traditional all-metal film advance and knurled rewind knob
  • Has an external shot counter that can be set manually

Leica CL

best Leica film camera Leica CL
Photo by Holley and Chris Melton / CC BY 2.0

What makes this camera special is the 40mm f2 pancake lens that it originally came bundled with back when it was launched in 1973. That lens was said to be the sharpest and most well-designed model Leica has ever made.

Japanese brand Minolta collaborated with Leica to create the CL, which is much more compact than all the other Leica cameras. It was much more affordable, too. Fast forward to today, the same camera remains to be among the most budget-friendly Leica film cameras available in the market.

Key Features of the Leica CL:

  • Smallest and lightest interchangeable M mount rangefinder
  • Detachable back for smooth loading of film
  • Round 7.5mm CDS cell that allows for true spot metering (7% of the film area)
  • Easy-to-view shutter speed and meter needle
  • Vertical moving shutter mount

Whether you’re a first-time digital camera user or a beginner in using a Leica camera, the cameras on this list will ease you into getting the hang of Leica’s technology. It really isn’t as intimidating as it seems.

Why Are Leica Cameras Expensive? 

At first glance, Leica cameras may seem high-priced when compared to other brands. But the price of Leica cameras comes with a few vital justifications:

  • Leica manufactures all their cameras in Germany by experts in the craft. Most other camera brands are manufactured in Asia.
  • Leica cameras are incredibly well-built and designed to last a long time. In fact, their cameras are predominantly machined and built by hand, guaranteeing a superb attention to detail.
  • Images taken by Leica cameras are known for their sharpness. Cameras with such precise tolerances are more expensive to make and well worth the cost.
  • Leica produces far fewer cameras each year compared to other manufacturers. Lower supply means greater demand and greater cost as a result.
  • Leica lenses are assembled without the use of glue, which means they’ll remain durable far longer than other brands.

Are Leica Cameras Worth the Cost?

Just as some cars are more expensive but retain their value exceptionally well, Leica cameras tend to come in at higher price points but can be worth it in the long run. When purchasing a Leica, you can be confident it will perform beautifully for years to come. 

If you’re a photographer who periodically trades in old gear to upgrade, the increased value of a Leica kit is a good investment. Most Leica owners enjoy higher trade-in values they can use for their next purchase.

Leica offers a robust warranty for all its products, which gives you even more assurance your investment is protected.

Leica vs Nikon vs Canon

When deciding which brand to purchase, Nikon and Canon may seem like the obvious choices for their ubiquity, flashiness, and price point. However, experienced and exacting photographers have valued Leica cameras and lenses for decades, thanks to their superior build-quality and sharpness.

If you are a beginner photographer, Nikon or Canon may be a more suitable choice for ease of use. Many models feature automatic settings, and the cameras are significantly more affordable.

For more experienced photographers desiring a degree of precision and the unparalleled look of images shot with a Leica, the choice is easy.