Leica copy is a term that's often used for 35mm viewfinder or rangefinder cameras. But only half of the cases of so-called Leica copies reveal the real ambition of camera makers to make true copies of Leica's sophisticated camera constructions. This half, the true Leica copies, is divided in 3 classes:

1. Counterfeited Leica rangefinder cameras, sold on the black market as real Leicas or as good copies.

  • sample: Soviet Leica II copy, see right image

2. Copies of mainly the Leica rangefinder cameras, having been made by renowned camera makers as OEM products or bearing the makers' own brands.

  • samples: Soviet Leica II copy FED 1, Japanese Leica IIIc copies Melcon and Chiyotax

3. Camera twins resulting from cooperations of Leica Camera company with other camera makers, differing in a few details from their Leica relatives.

The other half is also divided in three classes:

1. Old rangefinder cameras overemphasized as Leica copies (resembling a Leica but being no copy). Many so-called Leica copies are not copies of Leicas but of such distinctly different models.

  • sample (quite near to Leica design): Canon II/III/IV (difference to Leica: superimposed rangefinder)
  • samples (no Leica design): Japanese Pax, Italian Wega

2. Fake Leicas which look like originals but can't be called true copies due to lousy quality of optics and mechanics.

3. Other rangefinder and viewfinder cameras which have nothing to do with Leica's camera designs. Then the term is used by vendors of old cameras to achieve attention by collectors, or by vendors who just know that Leicas were renowned 35mm cameras and think erroneously that all 35mm cameras are leica-like.

Miniature models of Leica cameras are a class for itself.


Glossary Terms