Leica Classic Is a Treasure Trove of Rare Vintage Cameras and Lenses

A vintage Leica film camera with a black body and brass accents, featuring a textured grip and a lens mount cap. The camera shows signs of wear, indicating frequent use. It has various buttons and dials on top and on the front, and a viewfinder on the upper right.

Leica is such a prestigious and recognizable name in the photography industry thanks in large part to the lasting appeal of the company’s vintage cameras and lenses. The market for pre-owned Leica gear is as active as it is vast.

Leica offers customers numerous avenues for purchasing vintage gear, including auctions and the Leica Classic store. This store slipped past PetaPixel and seemingly launched to very little fanfare, but it is well worth looking at.

Screenshot of the Leica Classic website homepage. The featured image shows a vintage Leica camera and lenses. The heading reads, "LEICA CLASSIC. The marketplace for vintage & preowned Leica cameras and lenses." The navigation bar includes options like Leica Systems, Auction, and more.

Leica Classic opened as a brick-and-mortar retail location in October 2020 in Wetzlar, Germany at Leica Camera’s headquarters. However, as spotted by Leica Rumors earlier this year, there’s also a web version of the store, offering worldwide customers the chance to purchase certified vintage Leica products.

And there are many products to choose from, including thousands of cameras and lenses from Leica’s illustrious history, with new equipment regularly added to the ever-changing catalog. Aside from convenience, the Leica Classic online store has another advantage over the retail location, access to equipment from Leica stores dotted around the globe. For example, a new arrival is a pre-owned Leica M10-P black chrome finish camera from the Leica Store Dubai, which costs $5,515 and is graded “A-minus.” Like many of the products available in the Leica Classic store, it comes with a 12-month guarantee and a detailed description.

A vintage black Leica M2 film camera with visible wear and brass showing through the black paint. The top of the camera features various dials and controls. The Leica logo, model details, and manufacturing information are prominently engraved on the camera body.
Leica M2 black paint

As far as the Leica Classic store’s grading system, the scale ranges from “A” to “C-minus,” with intermediate grades, like “A-minus,” expanding upon the broader system. A “B” grade shows signs of wear, while a “C” mark denotes heavy marks and scratches, which Leica calls “partially defect.” Customers who require more detail than the simple grade and product description can request a detailed condition report before purchasing an item.

While many of the available cameras and lenses are relatively typical, albeit still pricey, the Leica Classic store offers some especially rare items. The most expensive item in the current inventory is the Leica M no.1937 ‘Edition 100’ kit, which costs just under $78,000. The interesting kit, released in 2014, includes the analog Leica M-A and a digital Leica M Monochrom, which had a sensor replacement in 2022. The outfit uses stainless steel for all its visible metal parts, a first for Leica, and includes three Leica Summilux-M lenses (28mm, 35mm, and 50mm). There were just 101 units of this kit produced, and the one on offer is complete, unused, and includes all accessories.

A custom-made briefcase with foam inserts containing two silver Leica cameras and three interchangeable lenses. The case includes a silver Leica 100th edition card and is secured with a combination lock.
Leica ‘M’ Edition, number 1937, one of 101 total units.

Leica enthusiasts will be especially interested in some of the Leica Classic store’s black paint cameras, including a Leica M4 black paint for just under $30,000 and a black paint M2 for about $27,600.

In a blog post on its Classic site, Leica remarks on the appeal of black paint cameras, which have become highly sought after. “For many photographers, a black paint Leica — unobtrusive, discreet, yet with an air of unequivocal professionalism — is a coveted object of desire.”

The origins of the black paint camera have little to do with luxury or value, though, as press photographers demanded black Leica cameras to blend in better. These days, a black paint Leica does more to stand out than fade into the crowd, but for decades, it was a utilitarian decision. There is even a significant market of counterfeit black paint Leica cameras, making purchasing from a reputable source, like Leica itself, all the more critical.

Whether someone is a prospective purchaser of vintage Leica gear or not, the Leica Classic store is a treasure trove of fascinating photographic history for any gearhead.

Image credits: Leica