The little red dot I refer to in the title of this piece is the Leica logo. For many photographers it’s the holy grail of camera ownership to possess one, but it comes at a price.
If you look at last Friday’s article on Professional Cameras, you will notice Leica makes Medium Format and Rangefinder cameras. You’ll also notice that these cameras cost upwards of £5,000 to buy.
While it’s obvious why Medium Format cameras are expensive: huge sensors, build quality, tiny production numbers, etc. it’s less obvious why their Rangefinders are so expensive.
Leica Rangefinders use Full Frame sensors, like pro DSLRs, and are built to the highest standards. But more importantly, until October 2008, there was nothing remotely similar available. Rangefinder cameras had occupied a unique space in the market, with large sensor, small body form, & interchangeable lenses.
Since the end of 2008, Compact System Cameras have offered a serious alternative at a fraction of the price, with the addition of autofocus. Even the most expensive CSC is a little more than £1,000, and that includes a lens.
For a certain set of people, however the exceptional build quality, and full frame sensor, make the Leica M9 & M9-P worth the money. (Despite the fact that the Leica sensor is now aging, and being rapidly caught up to by its rivals smaller sensors.)
However, there is another kind of Leica camera: Leica Compact Cameras. Basically, these can be identified by having a Lux in their names, such as the new V-Lux 3 Superzoom.
These cameras are the product of an alliance between Leica and Panasonic, whereby Leica takes a Panasonic model (in this case the FZ-150) and applies their own tuning and processing to it.
All of which comes at a Leica premium.
Panasonic FZ-150 £400 (street price)
Leica V-Lux 3 £690
The Leica comes with Photoshop Elements & Premier Elements, worth about £75, which leaves a premium of about 50% to be the proud owner of a little red dot.
So, if you were in the market for a compact camera and thought that buying a Leica would get you the best, I would suggest you re-think. The V-Lux 3 may produce minutely better pictures than its Panasonic sibling, but at a whopping premium.
If you still want to buy the Leica, then by all means go ahead, so long as you’re happy to pay more for the branding rather than for performance.
For anybody who was thinking about buying a Leica compact, and now wants to know its Panasonic equivalent, feel free to get in contact with me, using the details below.