Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica Monochrom joins the discount club

Leica Monochrom joins the discount club

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Made in Germany. Discounted at a shop near you.

More discounts of current Leica cameras have been introduced this week. Owners will see their “investment” plummet in value as a result and many will be forgiven for wondering what on earth is going on in Leica’s marketing department.

Made in Germany. Discounted at a shop near you.
Made in Germany. Discounted at a shop near you.

After the surprise reduction of Leica SL prices by nearly 30% under a fairly flexible trade-in deal (which now appears to be a world-wide arrangement), more discounts have happened this week here in the UK.

The M246 Monochrom, the current model, has been reduced by just over 26% from £6,500 to £4,750, both prices including VAT.

The old M240, which apparently is still available despite the arrival of the M10 in early 2017, has also taken a knock. The price has been reduced from £5,500 to £3,500.

Careless

The fall in the price of the M240 is understandable and, frankly, I was surprised to see that it is still available as new. But to cut so much off the price of the current Monochrom, well before the announcement of the new model, is quite inexplicable and extremely careless of the brand’s famed reputation for value retention.

As with the SL, these factory reductions will percolate down into the secondhand market and will wipe thousands off the value of owners’ cameras. In my experience, this sort of advance discounting before the announcement of a new model is quite unprecedented. Surely the time to start discounting the SL and the Monochrom is the day they announce the SL2 or the M10 Monochrom.

If you spent £6,500 on this Monochrom (without the lens of course) last month you will not be best pleased to find it now on sale for £4,750.
If you spent £6,500 on this Monochrom (without the lens of course) last month you will not be best pleased to find it now on sale for £4,750.

If nothing else, this new policy undermines Leica’s carefully burnished reputation for value retention. Will you be as happy to sink £6,000 into a new rangefinder body if you suspect that within a year or two the factory will knock off 25 or 30%?

In general, cheaper products are good for the consumer and in we can’t argue with that. I have no doubt, the M246 Monochrom will new find buyers. But, in marketing terms, the discounts on the SL and Monochrom make little sense and go against all the established norms, especially the norms of Wetzlar.

I really do not know what is going on. Leica’s reputation, just like the reputation of other luxury goods manufacturers such as, for instance, Porsche, is built on careful pricing policy and matched demand which encourages owners to feel that their depreciation is contained and controlled.

Confidence risk

If discounting is controlled, there is a stable and acceptable secondhand market. This has always been the policy at Leica. Once that stability goes out of the window confidence will plummet. Although Leica will no doubt enjoy a positive short-term improvement in cash flow as sales of the Monochrom pick up, it will be at the expense of the traditional loyal customer. Long-term, however, this is not likely to play out well.

Potential SL customers could be forgiven for going out to buy a Panasonic Lumix S1 or S1R rather than waiting for the SL2. We all know Panasonic will discount sooner rather than later. It’s what mainstream manufacturers do. But at least we know where we stand when we pay a much smaller price for a Lumix.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Mike, you are looking back rather than forward with this one. A few days ago I got a 17% discount on a recently introduced lens (another make, not Leica) which is on a wait list for most people right now. Almost all camera brands are deep discounting, even on very new models, here in Dublin right now. I won’t say that the bottom is falling out of the market, but the decline is steep and serious, for both manufacturers and dealers. What I have noticed is that most manufacturers are restricting initial output to assess demand. Prices are, generally, dropping a couple of months after a camera has been introduced. Introduction prices have a lot of fat in them, so the manufacturer is still well ahead. As for the Monochrom 246, it is probably about to be replaced by an M10 Monochrom, but there is a deeper issue for the industry out there which cannot be ignored and which may be long term. As for customer value, my Audis generally fall in value much faster than my Leicas.

    William

    • No one is saying that there is no depreciation — whether on a Leica, a Porsche or an Audi. But there is a difference between discounting as a result of market pressures (for instance, individual dealers offering attractive discounts) and sudden manufacturer price reductions. Audi doesn’t do that. Most camera manufacturers don’t do it. Dyson doesn’t do it. The Panasonic S1 will soon be discounted, but it won’t be an official price reduction which would only result in even more discounting.

      What we have here is a factory discount, which is quite unprecedented. I know SL owners who were selling their cameras in anticipation of the SL2 and have taken a £1,000+ hit. The same will apply to Monochrom owners who had been hoping to get a good deal on the new Monochrom. If they lose confidence and go elsewhere, Leica is in trouble. Leica’s pricing edifice is no doubt on shaky foundations but, up to now, they haven’t blinked and buyers have felt some comfort that depreciation would be gradual and controlled. No longer, I fear.

    • Fortunately, I own neither the Monochrom nor the SL — I got out while the going was good. But I feel very sorry for existing owners who have been caught up in this. No one would mind the old models being discounted when the new ones arrive. That’s normal and anyone with sense would have sold six months before. Now they don’t have that chance and I think Leica will come to regret what they have done.

      • Thanks Mike. I am not defending what Leica have done, just explaining that new paradigms are being written for the camera industry and your comments about Lumix more or less reflect what I am seeing right now. I was interested in the 246 before the M10 appeared, but the new discounts would not tempt me now. In truth you can get 95% of what a Monochrom can give by learning how to process in Black and White in Lightroom and Silver Efex. Whether Leica will pay the price in terms of customer loyalty remains to be seen. I am sure that all aspects of this were considered in Wetzlar before the decision to discount was made. I don’t know about the UK car market, but we regularly have national discounts at brand level here in Ireland, which have to be supported by the manufacturers.

        William

  2. I am pretty sure that I saw the SL trade-in discount offered for awhile at Red Dot Cameras at least a year ago. I wonder if it is a periodic thing Leica is trying — maybe trying to figure pricing strategy for digital cameras, with the added complexity of the changing market. Hasselblad also offers significant trade-in discounts for purchase of the top H series cameras.

    • There have been various offers on several cameras but nothing on this scale — and not an official price reduction. While the SL reduction is disguised as a trade in (and I’m sure no one is really interested in the old bangers) there is no pretence on this price reduction on the M246. It’s sudden and unexpected and seemingly unrelated to a new camera appearing anytime soon.

      • Yes, I can only think Leica is still figuring out their pricing and model on digital cameras. They didn’t have so many M models at once when it was only film cameras. So between more models and shorter second-hand lifespan for digital cameras (even if Leica M digital might be longer than others) perhaps the balance has not yet been found. I would think the M cameras are less susceptible to market changes than other types of cameras, but this might still be having some effect.

  3. The discounts likely reflect overstocks of both parts and finished cameras and Leica’s needs to clear them.The M240 reached its sell by date many months ago and demand is probably low. Leica Camera AG may have shelves full of M240 and M246 cameras … taking up valuable space required for the SL2 and Q2.

    • Dunk, I am sure you are right. They made too many and sales have slowed down. But I still maintain that the time to reduce the prices of the SL and Monochrom would have been the day they announce the new cameras. What they have done now is pull the rug from under the feet of owners who are looking to sell now and buy the new model later.

  4. Interesting article. I traded in my M Monochrome (240) and got a Q1 a few months ago. Got 3.5k. Like the previous writer I have no SL or 246. I use Lightroom and Toneality and get superb monochrome images from my processed X Vario and X2. Thanks for the article.

  5. I sensed this last year when asking about a trade-in price for the nor so old CL – there was a Christmas “sale” at many Leica dealers and the value of the CL and its 18mm pancake had dropped considerably. Im pleased that I didn’t lose the CL which with the 18-55 has become my new X-Vario for travel. Im also resolving that the trade-in years are finally over and that, given the long-life of the Leica’s – witness Alan’s X2 (a camera I still use often with great results), I can simply keep using the gear I have until it dies. I did spring for a Panasonic S1R (for the crop using TL lenses) and despite its weight have enjoyed using it with great (almost SL) results.

  6. I still have my M4 which is in my view the zenith of the M camera series, and with a new sensor every 36 or so frames, there is little to go wrong.

    As for the CL’s, I echo Tony’s comment above, as I did almost the same thing, I decided that the digital CL did not fit into my arsenal. This is due to the aps-c sensor which leads to a crop factor for M lenses. Then I looked at it as a stand alone device and as Tony says, with the kit zoom, it turns into an X Vario with a viewfinder.

    I reckon that Leica’s big problem is that it operates out of Germany, which as part of the EU, ensures that prices are uncompetitive with the rest of the world.

    • Leica’s high prices well predate the EU. Leicas sell very well today in markets outside of the EU , such as China, Korea and Japan. I am not sure that being based in Germany is a problem for Leica in those markets, indeed it might be an advantage. The current drops in prices by Leica have more to do with overstocking, model replacement and the general slowing down in the market for digital cameras than anything else. The ‘trade up’ concept seems to be strong in the UK and, perhaps, the US, but it may not have such a big impact in the world wide markets. It is up to Leica to assess how big an impact these drops will have in terms of perceived ‘loyalty to customers’. I would also note here that the, generally awful, special editions are being made in very small quantities and, like Ferraris, are often pretty much pre-sold before they hit the ‘market’.

      William

      • So the fact that the EEC/EU market share has reduced from 40% to 15% and falling has nothing to do with companies casting around looking for ways to shift more product?

        Apparently, I haven’t seen one yet, “7 Artisans” make some very good lenses… They might lack bleeding edge technology, but they are less than a tenth of the European prices that Leica offer for something a tad sharper.

        Without the stability in 2nd user values and their new penchant for discounting, I foresee a sticky end.

        • I tend to agree, Stephen. A company with Leica’s reputation would have been better to dump surplus cameras in a landfill rather than clip the coinage. Henry VIII did that and look where it got him. Six wives, among other things.

          Referring back to William’s point, the German bit of the Euro zone is vastly undervalued because it is a one-size-fits-all currency that has to remain viable for weaker nations. If Germany suddenly reverted to the D-Mark Leica’s prices would rise by at least 80%, if not 100%. Ditto Mercedes, BMW and every other manufacturer in Germany.

          • So if it were not for the euro a lot of UK photographers would not be able to afford Leicas. How ironic? We are where we are and there is no evidence that Eurozone countries are being priced out of markets. This particularly applies to German companies who are benefiting from the present value of the Euro. As for Leica putting cameras in a landfill, remember that Blackstone are still in the company and will want to get the maximum value before they exit and to get the maximum exit price.

            William

  7. The Leica price reductions and the tacky limited editions are surely a response to the fact that the camera market is disappearing very quickly and Leica are not immune from the fundamental shift in the way most people take photos. Indeed arguably Leica themselves are encouraging people to think that a smartphone is the equal or even more convenient than a Leica camera through their very visible association with Huwaei.
    I’m in Berlin at the moment and Apple have an iPhone advertising campaign on the metro stations featuring big posters with brilliant photos taken with an iPhone. Who needs a camera when you can apparently photograph African wildlife and the world’s most spectacular sights with an iPhone?
    After the price cuts will come the cost cuts and I cannot see those vanity project Leica owned retail stores in prime costly locations lasting too long with the way the winds of change are blowing.

    • I agree 100% , John, but I am not sure whether we are at the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. There certainly has been a paradigm shift which began with the first digital photo sensors. It has taken some time, but the traditional interchangeable lens camera is no longer viewed as necessary for the taking of photographs with digital sensors. It will take some time for the market to adjust, but most traditional camera manufacturers will suffer at least some collateral damage.

      William

    • I totally agree with you. Reading an article of a photo magazine in France, the sale of cameras has dropped by 90% over the past 10 years. Leica suffers from that like any camera brand. Although my children have always seen me with a camera none of them considers buying a camera. they all use their smartphones with the various apps like bokeh something and god knows what apps and some of their images look nice when printed. I’ve always bought gear from the same camera dealer and I’ve seen the stock and choice dwindling year after year. Most of the money he gets is from the lab (they still process films and slides) and people interested in photography (in their 40s and upward mostly). Even some Leicas are discounted from the start. The future of photography might follow the path of the camera-phone Panasonic CM 1. On a more positive note, Leica will always have that special “je ne sais quoi” that will make us buy their products in the future whatever form it may take.

      Jean

  8. I have to say I was more than a little irritated when I just noticed my lovely Leica Q-P dropped $1000.00. If I had waited and gone for the Q2 which has not yet had a price reduction… c’est la vie!

    At least I sold my SL just before the big price drop.

    • It just proves that Leica is changing. Pricing currently is all over the place. Even the Q-P was a bit of a come on because it arrived just a few months before the Q2. From the factory’s point of view, it is easy to produce these variations and, if you notice, they always come just before a new model. I no longer have the confidence I once had and I begin to wonder whether it’s worth paying the premium for the red dot.

      • Hi Mike,
        I expected the Q2 to be at a higher premium price than the Q-P which I love how gorgeous it is and 24MP was my sweet spot for this camera. However, I did not expect them to drop the price 20% in such a short time. I will not pull the trigger in future so quickly on a -P camera; even better, maybe I will buy a used -P camera model after a price reduction and cheer at my brilliance. I have to say that Leica has lost an early adopter purchaser going forward. A $1000 reduction in less than 6 months from new is not amusing. At least I did not purchase the Q which was holding high resale prices until that point.

      • Love that allusion at the end Mike.

        It was like Zen photography.

        Perhaps it is not after all, worth the premium for the red dot, but is it worth the even more exclusive premium that is achieved by removing the red dot?

        First there is a red dot, then there is no red dot, then there is.

  9. On a positive note, I am not a camera dealer or sales person who has to face an irate buyer the I told Leica holds its value unlike Sony, ….

    On another positive note, I really love the rendering, haptics, and looks of my Q-P and will be able to balance that with venting when I see my psychologist that I just booked. This is like finding out your best man was having an affair with your wife before, during, and after the wedding. Who would have thought that Leica would join consumer level product “investment”.

  10. I think a lot in the imaging world depends upon there being a rediscovery of real photography. There is such a glut of images and a mindset of disposability and utilitarianism, that a lot has lost its value.

    As Erwin Puts says, “photography does not exist anymore” [1]. Of course, it does, but not in the broader public.

    The strong push in society nowadays is to all things digital, but I do not think it can last, as it pulls humanity ever further from anything real. This is not to say that there cannot be anything digital, but the push for all things only digital is destructive.

    [1] https://photo.imx.nl/Analysis/Analysis/page106.html

  11. Lower prices are to the advantage of consumers, including me, who can’t afford a $7k camera. It’s perplexing how you’ve managed to take a negative perspective on this price drop.

    • None of us has a problem with lower prices. It is just that Leica has carefully tended its pricing structure and sudden official drops by 30% will undermine confidence which has a bearing even on secondhand prices. From a marketing point of view, it is inexplicable.

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