What exactly is a user-collectible camera? It depends on whom you ask, but the term usually refers to cameras that are worthy of cherishing as beautiful objects and examples of technology, but can also be used for their intended purpose, namely taking pictures. There is nothing wrong with “showcase collectors.” I continue to marvel at their splendid collections of mint- and near-mint Leicas displayed in neat rows in glass showcases. But while my semi-chaotic collection of 200+ cameras marks me as a bona fide collector, I take pictures with almost all my classics at least once or twice a year, and usually more often than that.
As a lifelong Leica fanatic I’ve probably owned 50-60 Leicas over the years and I’ve now pared that down to a mere 10 Leica and Leicaflex bodies plus 22 Leica lenses. Please don’t ask me why I foolishly sold the others! I take lots of (black-and-white) pictures with all of them except one, a Leica M3 single stroke (serial number around 1,100,000) with 50mm f/2 Dual-Range Summicron and “goggles.” It’s the only Leica I’ve ever acquired strictly as a collector’s item and I bought it brand new back in the day. Over the years, I’ve run exactly two rolls of film through it, and every four months or so I take it out just to fondle it and limber up its shutter.
Here’s some sage advice for anyone thinking of getting into user-collectible Leicas. You’ll see that it dovetails neatly with my top-10 user collector Leica list below: