Because Leica invented the first autofocus system and then realized that it could never be as precise as the rangefinder, so it sold it to Minolta (the first camera equipped with autofocus was indeed the Minolta 7000 AF).
In fact Leica, and I’m talking about the Leica M rangefinder (M stands for “messsucher” which in German means precisely telemeter, rangefinder), has always been famous for its unimaginably precise and often faster manual focus system (let’s think about the zone focusing technique).
The choice of a Leica rangefinder system is not only dictated by the desire to obtain a unique experience taking pictures but it’s mainly focused on the quality of the optics, now known to the world as unrivaled excellences by others who, for precisely market choices, prefer to focus their earnings from quantity.
To better understand the differences between Leica and other photography brands, let’s take a quick look at some production numbers.
- Leica admitted being able to produce 3,000 lenses a month and 36,000 a year.
- Nikon has recently announced its 70 million lens for DSLR system and this means that it is capable of producing 10 million lenses a year. Nikon produces the same number of lenses in a day as Leica does in a whole year.
- Canon already obtained 2.9 million lenses per year in 1989. Imagine today what levels it has reached.
As if that were not enough, most of the optics produced by Leica still work with modern digital bodies and latest-generation lenses can be mounted on very old cameras.
Leica optics have unique performance that many love, especially when they work at maximum aperture where they are able to create images that are always so different from other brands. It’s a shared thought that Leica lenses are the best in the world.
All lens elements are ground an polished individually and cameras are individually assembled by hand with so many tests to assure complete adherence to the highest tolerances in the industry, all with the total absence of assembly lines.
Their glasses are so sharp on its own that there’s little need for post-production sharpening. Moreover these lenses create unique photographs characterized by their bokeh. Leica is famous for the beautiful texture of the out of focus areas in their images.
Leica cameras and lenses are extremely small especially when considering the full frame sensor (36x24mm equivalent). Bring with you a camera with three lenses and the weight will be lower than a professional DSLR with a high quality zoom attached. An advantage of this kind is valuable for those photographers who shoot on the street while maintaining a low profile or those who need to remain discreet in their journalistic purposes, thanks to a very silent shutter (especially the current flagships, the M10P and M10D).
The M series cameras have reached a status that can only be compared to Rolls Royce or Rolex and every photographer still proclaims Leica to be the golden egg of photography brands swearing that their beloved Leica camera transforms deeply their photographic experience.
The camera bodies are so essential, with a pair of dials for shutter time and aperture and one for the focus that go into strong contrast with what Japanese market has been offering for decades.
Considering these facts, Leica cameras are only worth it for a certain calibre of photographer: highly skilled ones looking for total control over their exposure and focus settings.