That meme you always hear about Leica camera users being dentists, lawyers, and surgeons, is as dumb as Kanye. Not only are they not dentists, many are not even particularly wealthy. It it is time to retire the dated meme that only dentists (surgeons, antesthesiologists, lawyers, etc.) shoot Leica cameras.
At LLFNP I get between 150-200 new memberships/year. That equates to about one a day or every other day and I have follow up communication directly with many members. Somewhere along the line, I started poking around and began trying to sort out who they were and what they did for a living.
What I learned is that the vast majority of the Leica enthusiasts who frequent LLFNP are not dentists, lawyers, crypto bros, or anesthesiologists. Rather, they are normal people with normal jobs and normal budgets. Engineers seem over-represented. The LLFP cohort are not jet setters, flying first class, wearing ZRC Grands Fonds on their wrists.
I cite local photographers Todd Glaser, Justin Diamond, Pepe Diaz, Zairre Wright, and Str33t Shinobi (Bert Celeridad) as further evidence that Leica enthusiasts aren’t always doctors, lawyers, or even ultra wealthy (1).
(Above image courtesy of Todd Glaser. Leica M6. Summicron 35mm.
Lowly Most excellent Canada version. Tri-X 400)
If you don’t believe me, believe the underground.
When I need Leica gear or information I tap into the underground. The underground is also seeing a growing number of Leica enthusiasts that don’t have professional degrees.
Ben Webster of Camera West summarized it nicely when he responded, “…that is a loaded question but this is the same transition every luxury brand has seen over the last 3-5 years.”
What Ben is referring to is a broader trend in luxury goods where normal people with normal jobs (and possibly smaller retirement accounts than they should) opt for a few, very nice, items they will keep for years or resell rather than purchasing disposable junk. This was discussed previously when I opined, “if you want to understand Leica, you first need to understand luxury watches.” Ben further commented, “I think a lot of us, especially in my gen, are fed up with disposable shit. New phone every year, new laptop, new apartment every year or twice a year when in your 20s etc etc. the romantics of tools that supercede our lifetime is special.”
Dan Tamarkin of Tamarkin Camera commented that the Leica fan base is bifurcating. There will always be the old guard Leica but there is also a newer, younger, cadre of customers who don’t fit the traditional rich guy stereotype. Moreover, spoiler alert, he isn’t surprised that Leica is catering to them. He is catering to them as well.
From my vantage point, it is precisely that next generation who created the demand for M6 v.2022 and a lot of what else happened in Wetzlar a few weeks ago. Over the last several years, I have been squawking about “the skate and hipster crowd” and their Leica enthusiasm. Those people, the LLFNP people, played an outsized roll in driving up the price of all of the used M6’s. Not the dentists.
(Above image courtesy of Bert Celeridad @str33t.shinobi. Leica Q.
If you don’t believe me, and you don’t trust the underground, how about watching where Leica is putting their money.
Leica spent a bunch of money flying influencers from around the world to Wetzlar for the release of the Leica M6 v.2022.
That reissue unleashed a flood of passionately stupid comments from the forum dwellers criticizing Leica for “the M6 money grab,” calling the M6 “too expensive(2),” and attacking Leica for being a fashion brand that is “just about money.” If that is true, one would also have to conclude that Leica would want to keep that money or at least use that money to make more money. Greedy, money hoarding, German, Scrooge McDuck’s don’t just do a money grab then piss it away. Right?
When I used to wait tables, I was always upset that American Express Black Card holders left the worst tips. Now, I understand the game. Scrooge McDucks don’t just piss away their money, give it to waiters, or fly influencers around the world for no reason. There is always a reason when Scrooge McDucks spend money.
Assuming that Leica is either smart enough or greedy enough to not just piss away their hard earned money, the forum dwellers must reconcile their other main Leica criticism that only dentists shoot Leica cameras. These criticisms are mutually exclusive given the events surrounding the M11 and M6 v.2022 camera launches where Leica flew a bunch of the skate and hipster crowd to Germany.
As a rule, influencers influence people who look and sound like them. Leica chose the fly the skate and hipster crowd to Germany rather than the cardigan and Lexus crowd and/or stinky fingered dentists because dentists are not the only ones buying Leica cameras.
Like Sam the butcher bringing Alice the meat, this is a partial list of people who Leica flew to Germany for the M6 release party.
- Juan Martinez of Beers and Cameras fame. Not a dentist.
- Big Head Taco. Not a dentist. Wears microbrand watches.
- James Stacey. James has an affinity for the Vacheron Overseas but after listening to him for years on TGN, I can assure you he is one of us and more skate than dentist.
- Joe Greer.
- Ray Barbee. An actual skater and not even a metaphoric one. Also not a dentist.
To reiterate, German speaking Scrooge McDucks catering to dentists don’t randomly bring a bunch of skate/hipster, NATO band wearing, Jeep driving, influencers to Germany just to hang. They bring a representation of their user base because influencers influence people that look and act like them. Leica is signaling who their users are by who they bring to Wetzlar. Can you see it yet?
(Above image taken by me. 90mm Elmarit on a Panasonic S1).
Pro tips from LLFNP readers: A few ways normal people can afford expensive cameras.
If any of this is foreign to you, it might be that you are getting old and are probably still Hangin’ Tough with NKOTB living under 1989 rules. The game changed around 2015. It is possible you missed it.
The following observations are based on feedback from LLFNP readers – not financial advice. I am not your luxury goods crack dealer giving you the freedom and justification to buy expensive stuff you cannot afford. Nonetheless, owning a few nice things that you will keep for years or resell when you are done, in my opinion, is a much better approach to the world than having tons of disposable crap all over the place. That includes starter lenses.
Under the old paradigm, people like me lived in cities, had kids, paid for college, went on dates, bought $12.00 drinks (sometimes served in a fishbowl with 5 straws), and owned cheap furniture we put together with crummy allen wrenches. Some of us even listened to the Indigo Girls and Blues Traveler. It was dark times and Little Miss Little Miss Little Miss was very much wrong.
Whatever stupid crap we did in the 90’s died around the time I started listening to podcasts and all music sounded like rehashed old stuff I already knew. From what I can tell, the skate and hipster crowd rejected our stupidity and luxury goods are part of their new math. I can only hope they are saving appropriately for retirement. Anyway, this is apparently how it works:
- No kids. No saving for college. Some of my readers are not planning on having kids. That obviates any need to save for their kid’s education. Considering college costs about $25,000/year, skipping kids allows them to buy FOUR M6 v.2022’s/year, every year for 4 years and still come out ahead. The coming demographic collapse and/or Idiocracy are untoward side effects of bartering luxury goods for kids but that is a story for another site. Either way, the M6 v.2022 isn’t expensive if you don’t need to save for your kid’s college.
- No city. Same salary. Work from home During the pandemic, some of my readers left the big cities and worked remotely where it is cheaper to live. If they were paying $5000/month in rent in New York or San Francisco and they moved to a different city and are now paying $3000/month in rent or mortgage, they can buy a new M6 v.2022 every three months forever and still come out ahead. If you consider the savings from gas and commuting they are even farther ahead and can add a Summicron or two along the way.
- Less Stuff. Better Stuff. There is a trend where people want to own less stuff but have the stuff they own be top quality and resaleable. Some commented to me that they should have done it sooner and they wasted time and money with lower end cameras and starter lenses.
- Voigtlander and Zeiss lenses: When I started LLFNP, solid third party lens options were few and far between. Voigtlander changed that. I would even contend that Voigtlander has had as much to do with the popularity of Leica cameras over the last few years as anything Leica did. Maybe that gets a full post in the future. Many LLFNP readers get a rangefinder and pair it with a Voigtlander and get on with their life. They no longer need to mess around with vintage lenses which can be a pain in the ass. The M6 v.2022 isn’t all that expensive if you hang a Voigtlander or Zeiss lens on the front.
- Buy Used: Say what you want about Leica cameras but you can always find something in excellent shape on the used market. The dentists and collectors keep them all nice and shiny. Buying used is viable with Leica cameras. The underground is a good place to start.
- Sell it when you are done: what if I told you that an M6 TTL only costs $500? More than one reader advised me about this math. Because Leica cameras hold their value, enthusiasts they can sell them, at a small loss, when they are done. Some Leica enthusiasts see themselves as “renting” their cameras with the intention of selling them when they are done. As long as the camera doesn’t get stolen or dropped, it is hard to challenge the math that for $500 you can shoot a Leica camera for a few years, pass it on, and get most of your money back.
- An M6 is cheaper than being an alcoholic: even if you shoot film on a Leica, photography isn’t all that expensive when you compare it to skiing, biking, scuba diving, golf, horses, cars, or being an alcoholic. #morefilmfewerbeers is one method some LLFNP readers employ to afford their hobby. Although I might be overstating things, I know of one reader who traded an expensive alcohol problem for a Leica habit.
(Above image taken by Justin Diamond. I forgot to ask which camera and lens but there is a Leica on the table. That counts.
Normal people are buying Leica cameras right along with the dentists and collectors. I know it. LLFNP readers know it. The underground knows it. Leica knows it. Now you know it. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. It took me a long time. You will either get there or continue to live in the echo-chamber of the forums while the world moves on and you are left behind clamoring about dentists and Leica cameras like it was 2001.
- I get the feeling Justin Diamond will hit it out of the park here sooner than later. Depending on when you read this it is possible he is already rolling in the dough.
- By definition, if something sells out in 5 minutes it isn’t “too expensive.” It might be “expensive.” It might be “too expensive for you.” But it can’t logically be “too expensive.” A better argument might be that it is not expensive enough. If it were “too expensive,” Leica would have to eventually discount the cameras to sell them. Additionally, it isn’t “too expensive” because vintage cameras (cars, watches, etc.) can be a pain in the ass to own even though they are super cool. Cool co$ts. An argument can be made that saving money buying a vintage M6 for $3500 when you can buy a new M6 v.2022 for $5600 is stupid math. The difference between the two is $2100 dollars. When your retro styley vintage M6 breaks and/or you need to send it for CLA that will cost you at least $500 to fix with shipping and insurance both ways. This brings the difference to around $1600 (or less depending on the fix for your camera). For me, an extra $1000-$1600 is worth my time and headache not to deal with a 4 months wait for a CLA or worry about my old ass camera breaking while I am on a trip or on a client shoot? You might value your time and headaches differently but if I were going to buy an M6 in 2022 it would be an M6 v.2022. I wont, however, be buying one. The aperture priority mode of my M7 trumps all of this M6 vintage nonsense….even though I know the electronics will die at some point. I never actually understood the fascination with the M6.
(above image courtesy of Pepe Diaz. Leica M10P. 28mm summicron ASPH)