The Rise, Near Demise, and Rebirth of the Leica Camera

Leica made its name a very long time ago by creating the first practical 35mm camera to use standard cinema 35mm film. The rest, as they say, is history. A history filled with successes and failures alike, most of the latter coming in the early 2000s when the company was having trouble moving into the digital age.

In 2013, Leica has a couple of things to celebrate. For one, its no longer in financial trouble; and for another, the company is turning 100 this year. In light of that momentous birthday, here are a couple of short videos (the first one is above) by Deutsche Welle that take a look at Leica’s past, present and future.

In 2004, Leica was snatched from the brink of bankruptcy by Andreas Kaufmann. Beyond just providing the capital the company needed at the time, Kaufmann was the driving force behind Leica’s successful move into the digital age. And even though the video above is titled “revival of a legend,” Kaufmann maintains that no revival was necessary — the legend never died.

Whatever the case may be, what he’s done has worked and worked well. Leica’s revenue between 2011 and 2012 doubled — from 150M Euros to 300M Euros — and he’s not done yet. Assuming the high-end camera market keeps chugging (plus whatever massive revenues those lens mugs will bring in) he’s intent on hitting 500M by 2016.

(via Leica Rumors)

  • XYZ

    Still no reasonable camera from them. Financial trouble will return though.

  • wig

    From where I stand they are doing quite well. And their camera’s are reasonable for their target market.
    While it may not be your trollish cup of tea, many people swear by the red dot :)

  • Jonathan Maniago

    These days though, I’m not sure if it’s innovation or novelty which is driving their sales.

  • leonardo

    I agree you could consider rangefinders a bit of a novelty in this day and age. In all honesty I would go for such a novelty :) and unashamedly so…

    The S is an outstanding camera and doesnt get as much attention due to the more mass market appeal of the M range.

    But camera bodies are just a part of what Leica do. Their lens’ are what truly set them apart.

    Slightly off topic but when it comes to sports optics (spotting scopes), they and Swarovski Optik pretty much own the top-end with nothing even coming close to the level of those two. Same with rifle scopes.

  • shawn

    Hipster trash bodies, aside from the S-line.

  • Jared

    As opposed to…? Oh yes, the plebeians arguing over sensor sizes and frame rights while waving the flags of their brands. Leica is coveted by a specific crowd, and one who appreciates the quality and craftsmanship of the brand. However, they are by no means hipster, and neither is their customer.

  • Doug Hardman

    Leica doesn’t need to be the perfect camera for everyone. They are a luxury brand like Cars, Stereos, and Hotels. If you can afford one…and want one…then buy one.

  • Duke Shin

    Just found out that the ‘-P’ Leicas are just Leicas without the dot. For an extra grand.
    Black tape, anyone?

  • Sarah Palin Rules

    Panasonic LX7 is a Leica

  • Ken Elliott

    Leicas are not for everyone. But for some, they are unequaled at certain tasks. And the rendering of the lens are rather special. I wish they were not so expensive, but the same thing can be said of Porsche. I own 2 old film Leica – a IIIc and IIIf, and owned a M8. If they don’t fit your style of photography, then its a waste of money to buy one. But for some people it gives you an image you can’t quite get any other way.

  • G

    There’s more to it than just the absence of a red dot, but it is still a pricey option on the digital M’s.

  • Ralph Hightower

    Okay, I’ve never been near a person using a Leica, so I don’t know that the “Leica Sound” sounds like.

    Watching the video, some of their special edition cameras look like fashion accessories “Hey, I’m rich enough to own a Leica, but I don’t know how to use it!”. Also, it appears that many Leicas are shelf queens, to be viewed but never used.

  • Dan Chippendale

    Too true. Leica glass is probably the worlds finest. I recently got a 50mm Summilux ASPH for my M9 and I have to say it is quite incredible the clarity, sharpness, contrast, micro-contrast, saturation, flare resistance, lack of CA and lack distortion that that lens has. Craps all over my Canon 50 1.2L. Haters gonna hate and while they’re doing that I’ll be making crystal clear photos thank you very much.

  • TSY87

    its not just the dot thats different however I have a hard time believing the sapphire glass and leather grip justify the price difference.

  • Duke Shin

    Sapphire glass??? What is that, a diamond studded Summicron? Even an uncoated lens can take decent pictures, fer cryin out loud.

  • RH

    I had a panasonic DMC-FZ50 a few years back, before I got a nikon dSLR. Leica had a similar camera called a Leica V-Lux1. The difference? Price. The Leica was more expensive, because it had that famous red dot on the front.
    Panasonic made the camera to Leica specs, but the software on the leica model was just a little different.

  • Flexi

    Indeed, my “obsolete” M8 and 40 year-old 40mm Summicron-C takes insanely crisp images without being too obnoxiously obvious with a large DSLR body and loud mirror slap, great for event coverage of acoustic concerts.
    Congrats on the Summilux purchase!

  • dll

    Sapphire glass is probably used for covering the rear display (it’s mostly used in more expensive watches)

  • Sean Lee

    Don’t forget the 2 month repair time for oil on your shutter blades of your m9. there’s a reason there’s a Leica store in the Hong Kong Airport next to all the luxury brands. You are paying for an invisible premium that may or may not be justified.

    That being said, cameras are tools and it’s a bit ridiculous how much dry humping these things get.

    But then again, I’m a guy who’d rather own a subaru then a bmw. go figure.

  • Steven Keirstead

    Exactly, the standard M9 has a polycarbonate plastic screen cover while the M9-P has a sapphire crystal display cover. The sapphire screen is more durable and rugged, but accounts for a lot of the cost difference. Bothe cameras are discontinued, though the Leica M-E is a stripped down M9 without the lens frame preview lever or USB port. The new M (type 240) which is replacing the M9 as flagship rangefinder will have a gorilla-glass type screen cover, almost as rugged as sapphire but less costly, so the new M will retail at about the same price as the non -P version M9, but with a better screen and sensor.