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The Price of Leica Products and Services


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#1 photolandscape

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 21:26

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I hate to start a thread like this. Bear with me. I am not trying to be inflammatory or unreasonable. But I have what I feel is a very legitimate concern with the prices of Leica products and services.

Like many of us here in the US and elsewhere, I don't work for Goldman Sachs. I am not a Sultan interested in exotic leathers and gold-plating. I certainly do not fall in the 1% category. I am just an ordinary person. Due to world events, a dearth of intelligent life among politicians, speculators, consolidators and changes in technology, even though I am as productive as ever and work as hard as ever, my income today is 30% of what it was in 1999. Not complaining--just a fact.

I have owned an M4, M6, M8, M8.2, and now an M9-P. To afford the last two, I have had to make some real sacrifices--painful, but I sold several very valuable photo books, including a copy of the Decisive Moment. It hurt, but after a couple of years toting a Canon 1Ds, seeing firsthand the lower quality of their glass, and wanting something discreet and more portable--I made the decision and got into the digital-M realm. I absolutely don't regret it--but I have had to go to great and somewhat painful lengths to stay in the game.

The price of the game though, is rapidly climbing out of reach. I just bought a used 35mm Summicron-ASPH, uncoded. It's about ten years old. To help pay for it, assuming I decide to keep it, I will sell my 35mm Summarit--a lens that aside from some barrel distortion, performs almost as well for me as the 'Cron. The price tag on the "Cron's box--c. 2000--$1495. I see new ones going for $3000 or more, though an immaculate used 35mm 'cron ASPH could be had for under $2000 a year ago. It is what it is, but my point is--it has consequences--if it continues, some of us will be forced to bail out and find another solution. I don't want to--but I may have to.

Case in point--in 2007 I sent in my 90mm Elmarit to get a coded mount installed. Price? $125. To get the 35mm 'Cron ASPH coded today--$230. Inflation in the US during the past 5 years? No more than 5% on average. I have written back to Leica, asking if I can buy the part and install it myself. No response yet.

I get it--like it or not, it's capitalism, but it comes with consequences. What will an M10 go for? Who knows, but I am simply saying that there are those whose incomes and resources can't keep pace, and I urge Leica to be aware that our piggy banks aren't as full as they once were.
See some of my work on: www.steveplattner.com or www.pbase.com/photolandscape. And, you can see my growing collection of photo books at www.blurb.com under "plattners".

#2 bill

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 22:04

Thing is, it is a discretionary purchase. Nobody - and I really do mean nobody - actually NEEDS a Leica.

There are many things I would like but I cannot afford. I don't lose sleep over it. If there is something - like my MP4 - that I would like I save up for it. If you want something badly enough you will save hard. That's life.

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Bill
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#3 hoppyman

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 22:16

One option is to remove and refit the mount yourself. You can have it machined for the coding in New York.
Possible complication is the risk of damage to the very fine fasteners/threads should they be excessively tight to remove. A number of people have reported no problems. You can search for comments here.

.... Case in point--in 2007 I sent in my 90mm Elmarit to get a coded mount installed. Price? $125. To get the 35mm 'Cron ASPH coded today--$230. Inflation in the US during the past 5 years? No more than 5% on average. I have written back to Leica, asking if I can buy the part and install it myself. No response yet. ....


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#4 Guest_Ornello_*

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 22:21

I hate to start a thread like this. Bear with me. I am not trying to be inflammatory or unreasonable. But I have what I feel is a very legitimate concern with the prices of Leica products and services.

Like many of us here in the US and elsewhere, I don't work for Goldman Sachs. I am not a Sultan interested in exotic leathers and gold-plating. I certainly do not fall in the 1% category. I am just an ordinary person. Due to world events, a dearth of intelligent life among politicians, speculators, consolidators and changes in technology, even though I am as productive as ever and work as hard as ever, my income today is 30% of what it was in 1999. Not complaining--just a fact.

I have owned an M4, M6, M8, M8.2, and now an M9-P. To afford the last two, I have had to make some real sacrifices--painful, but I sold several very valuable photo books, including a copy of the Decisive Moment. It hurt, but after a couple of years toting a Canon 1Ds, seeing firsthand the lower quality of their glass, and wanting something discreet and more portable--I made the decision and got into the digital-M realm. I absolutely don't regret it--but I have had to go to great and somewhat painful lengths to stay in the game.

The price of the game though, is rapidly climbing out of reach. I just bought a used 35mm Summicron-ASPH, uncoded. It's about ten years old. To help pay for it, assuming I decide to keep it, I will sell my 35mm Summarit--a lens that aside from some barrel distortion, performs almost as well for me as the 'Cron. The price tag on the "Cron's box--c. 2000--$1495. I see new ones going for $3000 or more, though an immaculate used 35mm 'cron ASPH could be had for under $2000 a year ago. It is what it is, but my point is--it has consequences--if it continues, some of us will be forced to bail out and find another solution. I don't want to--but I may have to.

Case in point--in 2007 I sent in my 90mm Elmarit to get a coded mount installed. Price? $125. To get the 35mm 'Cron ASPH coded today--$230. Inflation in the US during the past 5 years? No more than 5% on average. I have written back to Leica, asking if I can buy the part and install it myself. No response yet.

I get it--like it or not, it's capitalism, but it comes with consequences. What will an M10 go for? Who knows, but I am simply saying that there are those whose incomes and resources can't keep pace, and I urge Leica to be aware that our piggy banks aren't as full as they once were.


Leica products are cheap when you factor in longevity and resale value, compared to items such as cars. You can buy a lens, use it for 20 years (with scarcely any degradation of quality if you take care of it), and sell it for a good fraction of its original price, or even at a profit. Basically, free. You pay more for coffee over 5 years than for some new Leica lenses.

Figure a fancy coffee at $3/day x 365 x 5. That's $5475 dollars.

I bought a Leicaflex SL2 in 1975 for $1000. I have had it for 36 years or so; not counting some occasional repair work (which is part of owning anything with moving parts) that works out to less than $30/year. And of course you can borrow money, which for durable goods is not a bad way to go. With low rates in the USA, line of credit borrowing is quite inexpensive.

Edited by Ornello, 15 March 2012 - 22:51.

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#5 earleygallery

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 22:26

It is what it is, I can't afford new Leica stuff now but I can buy s/h.

There's no shame in using other brands of camera/lens either. Leica only suits some people and some subjects. There are plenty of less costly options out there.
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#6 Jeff S

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 22:31

You sold some discretionary items...photo books...for other discretionary items...cameras and lenses. No offense, but that's not a bad place to be in today's economy. Many would envy that situation.

Jeff

#7 CalArts 99

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 22:45

Thing is, it is a discretionary purchase. Nobody - and I really do mean nobody - actually NEEDS a Leica.

There are many things I would like but I cannot afford. I don't lose sleep over it. If there is something - like my MP4 - that I would like I save up for it. If you want something badly enough you will save hard. That's life.

Regards,

Bill


It is what it is, I can't afford new Leica stuff now but I can buy s/h.

There's no shame in using other brands of camera/lens either. Leica only suits some people and some subjects. There are plenty of less costly options out there.


There are lots of cars I want, too. They can also seem equally 'over priced.' As said above, it is what it is. And yep, these are discretionary purchases. I wish I could have a new 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia or a used 1964 Ferrari Lusso. But I can't. And I'm not going to write to Ferrari saying it's unfair.

It can seem frustrating not be able to afford certain things, but that's life. And it's been like this since the dawn of civilization. Not every ancient Greek could afford to buy saffron, etc..

#8 stuny

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 23:06

I wonder if part of the price difference reflects changes in currency exchange rates?
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#9 UliWer

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 23:23

The amount of expensive photographic gear mentioned in the original posting doesn't sound to me as if we were talking of severe social problems.

If one looks at prices for second hand lenses - which are sold by individuals not by Leica company - one can only acknowledge the fact, that it is possible to use an item with the Leica brand for ten years or longer and sell it for the same price as one paid when it was new, or even at a bargain. Maybe the present situation will change in the future, and with digital camera bodies one will have to face a considerable loss in value. On the other hand an M4, M6, M8, M8.2, M9P, Canon 1Ds - all with their proper lenses - will be usable in future without buying anything new.
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#10 thighslapper

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 23:59

Leica is a premium brand.

Thats part of the marketing, ethos and cachet.

Even if they could subcontract the manufacture of an M9 to some fleabitten far flung impoverished child labour using country for $500 it would still sell for $7000...... they have to ... to preserve the exclusivity and luxury connotations.

I'm not sure I could argue that the M9 is actually worth $7000 in terms of the picture quality if produces, but there is an inherent attraction of the overall package that opens the wallet of those that can afford it ..... and many that can't.

No, you can't justify the prices, but this is the crazy world of 'Brands', not the sane world of the dime/pound store....

I have sympathy for those that aspire but struggle to afford ... but at least most Leica gear has good resale value.... unlike most of the overpriced tat that you can buy in the boutique areas of many world cities which is worth almost nothing the minute you leave the shop....

Edited by thighslapper, 16 March 2012 - 00:02.

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#11 steed

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 00:15

Everyone is equally right. There is one point that needs illumination, however. In the past, Leica products held their value remarkably well because of demand, and because they were still great products decades after they were made. At the moment, lens prices are insane because dealers are out of stock, but the cameras still sell. At some point, the white hot demand for lenses must die down; lenses will roll in from Leica eventually. Even then, used lenses will still be top of the heap, and will command top (if lower) prices. It remains to be seen if digital Leica bodies will have the same low depreciation. In particular, it seems to me that there is less of an argument that digital Leicas are the best camera bodies, or are the most reliable bodies. They will also be obsolescent in less time. Thus, it seems to me, that the lifetime cost of ownership for digital Leicas will be very high. Meanwhile, I will keep enjoying my M's, my III's and my 'flexes-which have proven to be the best values imaginable.
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#12 delander †

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 01:07

At the moment it is not just Leica, both Canon and Nikon are noticeably ramping up the price of their new pro and prosumer (horrible word) cameras and lenses.

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 01:09

At the moment it is not just Leica, both Canon and Nikon are noticeably ramping up the price of their new pro and prosumer (horrible word) cameras and lenses.

Jeff


But photo equipment is still pretty cheap compared to audiophile gear.

#14 Lord Fluff

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 01:17

Q: How do Leica set their prices?
A: So as to maximise profits

Now remove 'Leica' from the above statement and replace with the name of every successful company in the world, ever. It is basic economics. This may mean higher prices, or lower prices - all depends on the product.

Two other points - why do you feel the need to 'keep pace'? Many pros, myself included, make money from pretty elderly gear, or if you're only in it for fun, why worry?

And why the pop at 'lower quality' Canon glass? Their current range includes many truly state-of-the-art lenses.

I guess none of us understand your circumstances well enough to truly understand your issues.

#15 Guest_Ornello_*

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 01:32

Q: How do Leica set their prices?
A: So as to maximise profits

Now remove 'Leica' from the above statement and replace with the name of every successful company in the world, ever. It is basic economics. This may mean higher prices, or lower prices - all depends on the product.

Two other points - why do you feel the need to 'keep pace'? Many pros, myself included, make money from pretty elderly gear, or if you're only in it for fun, why worry?

And why the pop at 'lower quality' Canon glass? Their current range includes many truly state-of-the-art lenses.

I guess none of us understand your circumstances well enough to truly understand your issues.


Again, I repeat: Leica is cheap! And not every lens is priced like a Noctilux.

#16 Jeff S

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 01:44

Price and value; two different concepts, which may or may not coincide for any given person.

Jeff

#17 Guest_Ornello_*

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 01:46

Price and value; two different concepts, which may or may not coincide for any given person.

Jeff


OK, but when an item holds its value well, that makes it less expensive to own. It's more liquid, if you want to look at it that way. To me, depreciating assets are the most expensive ones. The money goes away never to return. Food, for instance...there is no used food market.

#18 Jeff S

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 02:08

Depends if one buys considering investment; for camera gear, I don't. That's why value is such a personal issue, with myriad variables, of which investment is possibly just one. And that was my point.

Jeff

#19 ayewing

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 02:41

Yes, Leicas are expensive but very desirable for a lot of reasons not all of which are entirely rational. Back in the 1970s I bought a second hand M2 for £185 which seemed an awful lot of money at the time. I sold it about 10 years ago for £500 when I went digital so even allowing for inflation I had 30 years of use for very little money.

Of course the current digital cameras will not retain their value like that though the lenses may well do so.

I like my M9 and enjoy using it. Is it worth five times the cost of my Pentax K-5 which is in many ways more versatile and in many cases takes photos that are indistinguishable in quality? Rationally it is not but for me it is.

We all make choices in life. Do we have a week on holiday in a five star hotel or a fortnight in a lesser establishment? Life is full of choices.
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#20 jaques

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 04:11

Not being a 1%'er- I am entirely with the OP on this one- and I also had to sell off a rare possession to pay for my luxury camera (a set of Paul Strand prints of Mexico). I cannot justify buying a new Leica lens at current prices- even if I could afford it.

I personally think that Leica is too close to being a luxury brand like Louis Vuitton: aimed squarely at elites and priced accordingly. There is more intrinsic value in Leica than in LV- but I still think perhaps 30% (or more) of what you pay is paying for the brand name cachet and not for the item itself... I also see Leica going further in that direction in the coming years- and doubt whether I will ever buy another Leica camera new.

For me buying an M9 was an irrational and costly decision that I let myself make because I just wanted too... not because it was a sound decision or represented great value. Making the same irrational decision twice would be folly for someone in my economic position.

Investing in vintage lenses was actually a very sound move- I will always look to buy another vintage lens- they are good investments.

From my perspective Leica needs direct competition- to keep them honest- and/or to give those that cannot afford the brand a chance to use similar equipment.
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