Earlier today I was pondering Nokia’s luxury Vertu brand and wondering why anyone would pay upwards of £20k for a bejewelled phone. Now John Biggs of TechCrunch reminds me of a somewhat similar situation with Leica. The company’s new V-Lux 3 Superzoom camera, as is the case with all the lower-priced Leicas, is a rebadged Panasonic, in this case the DMC-FZ150. It’s the same with the Leica D-Lux 5 which is a redspot-badged Lumix LX-5.
Both these Leicas are excellent cameras and will serve you well, especially the tiny D-Lux 5. Yet if you read reviews and comparisons you will see that Leica fans are hard pressed to think of any way in which the Leica offerings are superior to the Lumix versions. Clearly, it seems, you are paying for the name.
Higher up the Leica range, though, it’s a different story. The superb M9 isn’t a copy of anything. It is a unique and vastly expensive traditional rangefinder camera¹. This is a great camera and I covet one dearly. Yet I really cannot justify around £5,000 for a camera body². We come back to the Vertu argument here. The M9, unlike the earlier Ms, up to the M7, is a digital camera. This means it will be out of date very soon. Dated technology can do dreadful and fairly predictable things to residuals. Depreciation can only get steeper as the internal electronics become more and more ancient.
The M-system film cameras, up to the M7, are a different matter. They are classics and are at the peak of film-camera technology. They are worth the cost and they hold their value well. If only I could tolerate the idea of going back to film, I would be tempted to invest.
¹ The M denotes Messsucher, German for rangefinder.
² The removable lenses, which are extra, are a different matter and will always remain a good investment.