Leica R4 and the whole R system

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by dugrant153, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. dugrant153

    dugrant153 Member

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    Hi all,

    Im contemplating selling my Nikon F3hp to start possibly getting into the Leica R system. I remember trying the Leicaflex SL and was in awe of it. Reasons for the switch include the awesomeness of the Leica R lenses (I'm assuming they are better than Nikon lenses given their price?) and also the quietness and bright viewfinder of the R system... Or so I've heard.

    I'd like to get an R6 for its all mechanical-ness (I meter using a sekonic lightmeter) but the R4 is available for cheap so it seems and looks like a good segway. Match it up with a good Leica 50mm F2 maybe to pair with my F90x Nikon setup.

    Curious on your thoughts??
     
  2. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Will you take better pictures with the Leica?
     
  3. Steinberg2010

    Steinberg2010 Member

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    There are plenty of good Nikon lenses that cost far less than their Leica counterpart...
     
  4. MFstooges

    MFstooges Member

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    I was thinking the same until I noticed R series doesn't maintain their value as good as M. So I read somewhere that they are problematic especially with the electronics. Turned out they worked together with Minolta to create R series.
    And I converted a Leica lens to Nikon mount :tongue:
     
  5. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    The R-system bodies are sometimes temptingly affordable. However, the lenses are still quite expensive and limited, and I don't think it would produce markedly different image quality than a good nikon lens. If you want a SLR full of mechanicalness with a big bright viewfinder and bigger image quality, the pentax 6x7 SLRs are quite capable as well.
     
  6. blockend

    blockend Member

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    If you want quality glass the Yashica-Contax mount takes excellent lenses that still fall into the affordable category. My impression of the Leica R cameras is of heavy anachronisms that were outdated as soon as they were released with a reputation based on the rangefinders. The lenses are good, but better than Nikon or Contax..? I doubt whether the extra money adds up to results.
     
  7. sandermarijn

    sandermarijn Member

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    I tried an R7 once and found it quite terrible- the ergonomics, the mirror slap, the viewfinder; it didn't fit with me at all.

    I now use my only R-lens (35-70mm f/4, great lens) on an EOS 1N. This works much much better, for me.

    Additional advantage of using an EOS for body is that you can put on basically every lens, so you're not stuck with the rather limited (and still not cheap) selection of R-lenses. The made in China adapters available on ebay are inexpensive and work as well as any. Do make sure though that your EOS has a proper focusing screen.
     
  8. jjphoto

    jjphoto Member

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    As it happens yes, I did.

    Reason being that I spent a long time searching for a camera/lenses that suited me, rather than actually shooting, and I found that with the R4 and R 80/1.4 which soon expanded to a fairly large system. I used all kinds of Contax, Canon FD and Nikon gear for about the previous 15 yeras and was not really happy with most of it, to keep the story short.

    Yes, the OP probably will take better pictures if the technical/optical issues are put aside. The R4 had electronic issues but those bodies that are still around and working have most likely been upgraded. The only disadvantage of the R4 is that the focusing screen is fairly dark but it can be replaced with the standard screen from R5-R7 bodies, giving a much brighter and easier to focus image. The larger viewfinder magnification of the R4 (vs R5-R8/9) also makes it a good choice for wide angle lenses, which are typically harder to focus.

    The R6 would be my choice for an R body. The R8/9's are quite cheap and actually extremely good, but bulkier than the earlier R's.

    JJ
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 27, 2012
  9. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    *Some* (probably even most) R lenses are better than their Nikon equivalents, but you have to choose well and usually pay quite a bit more.
    Grossly generalizing, they often have about a 1-1.5 stop adavantage over comparable Nikon lenses and have much better flare resistance. That said, you can still find some which are no better at all than some nikkors, so choosing wisely is paramount.
    When choosing, keep in mind that lenses having the same name & specs often have several versions or generations, sometimes with wildly differing performance. For example, if you hear someone saying the Elmarit 35mm 2.8 isn't super sharp and tends to flare, it's absolutely true - for the first version of the lens! Later versions perform quite differently.

    Another possible disadvantage of R lenses is that they're heavy: when you have a whole kit with you it can make a difference.

    I agree about the awesomeness of the Leicaflex SL, unfortunately the other R SLRs don't quite equal its viewfinder (the R8/R9 come closest, of the "modern" Rs), though they are still some of the best in that parameter.
    At least the R4 & R5 have pretty long shutter lag (again, unlike the Leicaflex).
    If you can find a Leicaflex SL with a prism in good shape, as they are prone to desilvering, IMHO I see no good reason to get an R6 instead unless you want to save a little weight (as mentioned, most of the weight is in the lenses anyway).
    The R4 was plagued by electronic problems when it came out, but they've long been fixed by now (but if you do get one, get it from a safe source just to be sure).

    So, a Leica R kit won't necessarily make you take better pictures, will cost & weigh somewhat more but can bring some nice advantages with it, despite what the trendy and predictable "Leica-bashers" and "feature collectors" say.

    Finally, while I like the suggestion of a Pentax 6x7 (I love mine), it does weigh several times more than even a Leica R and the mirror & shutter slap are a tiny wee bit stronger... :wink:

    P.S. I used Nikon as my main system for 20+ years.
    I also extensively use Zeiss lenses on Rolleiflex SLRs, as weill as Leica M & R systems (and have gone through many cameras & brands in the past). I like to think there is more experience than prejudice speaking here... :smile:
     
  10. Steinberg2010

    Steinberg2010 Member

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    True – if you really want to see a noticeable improvement in your negs then upgrading to a larger format will make a far more significant difference.
     
  11. dugrant153

    dugrant153 Member

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    Already have a Pentax 645 for larger negs so am looking to "improve" my 35mm setup if I can.
     
  12. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    I made that switch (Nikon to Leica R4) 20 years ago and was extremely happy with the results, but probably would not do that today. And, yes, in my case the pictures were better. At least I was more satisfied with the look of the pictures; my clients (like about all potential customers) couldn't care less.

    It really does depend an awful lot on your current gear and what you shoot. At the time, I had picked up some Nikons to supplement my M Leicas (mostly because of the regular need for 90mm and slightly longer lenses). I was shooting candid people pictures and just really hated the look of one particular Nikon lens (that I used a lot). The other 2 or 3 Nikon lenses I shot with were mostly okay, but not up to what I was used to with the Leica.

    I tested R lenses (that I could afford) and found that the 35/50/90 Summicrons were every bit as nice as my M lenses, and I liked the look of the images much better than with the Nikkors I had at the time. I substituted the much more affordable 135 Elmarit for the 180 I was used to with Nikon, and that focal length ended up suiting me better anyway.

    I'll summarize to keep this from getting too long. The Nikon bodies were much more reliable than the R4's (I had three). The Nikon lenses were more robust than the Leica 3 cam lenses I had, but both were fine.

    The switch was worth it for me at the time. Now, I might well make different choices. I sold the R's after a number of years when that particular job went away (but still have the M's).

    Today, with Leica lenses so expensive, I doubt I would make the switch again. I now have a nice Nikon outfit once again and am happy with it. I've figured out which Nikon lenses suit me and which ones I really hate. It is clear to me that personal preference, along with differences in photographic approach and subject matter, are as much a factor as the objective quality of the lenses. The lens I despised is one that is highly regarded by many.

    Nikons are so insanely cheap it is hard to resist. I just sold an F3HP w/motor here for $50 and couldn't sell either of two very nice autofocus bodies at all. Luckily the lenses I prefer are also very affordable in Nikon (but not Leica).
     
  13. Viggi

    Viggi Member

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    Interesting post, Mark. I have an FM2n, which I do like a lot, but haven't used as much as I hoped as I simply haven't invested in Nikon lenses. I only use a 50mm 1.4 AFD with the FM2. Instead I find myself shooting more with the Yashica FX3 and Konica TC. I debated between Leica Rs and Contax, but due to the cheap entry point via Yashica bodies and reasonably priced Zeiss C/Y 50mm 1.7, I seem to be going the Contax route.

    I do sometimes feel that I should stick with the Nikons, add an FE body, maybe F3 or even F4, and pick up a few solid manual focus lenses (24mm for, 105mm 2.5) - after all, as a hobbyist, I recognise the reputation that Nikon has, which also lends it a romantic notion that these cameras are the ones to have when the going gets tough (OK, it never really does, but it was mighty hot and dusty in India...ermm). But the rendering of Leica and Zeiss lenses just appear nicer to me. Even when shooting Hexanon AR and comparing shot-by-shot to the nikkor 50mm, I prefer the contrast of the former. I just haven't fallen for the Nikon glass (but I need to try more lenses for myself).

    I think I'll head to ffordes one day and actually get my hands on the Leica R-E and Contax bodies, just to get a feel for them. Over time I can keep 2 couple of Nikon manual focus bodies and handful of lenses as my workhorse outfit, and either a Contax or Leica R as something to enjoy but not necessarily rely on.
     
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  15. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    May be Leica lenses are better than Nikkor lenses. But for me Nikon SLRs are vastly superior to Leica SLRs. Right after WWII the Japanese was trying to copy the German 35mm Rangefinders. Canon copied the Leica and Nikon was trying to copy the Contax (not so much copying but rather in direct competition with). But they were always behind the German. But that changed when Nikon started making SLRs and introduced the Nikon F. Leica SLR's never as good as the Nikon although something like the SL may have better craftmanship.
     
  16. Danielle

    Danielle Member

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    I looked up the cost of the R8 and R9 a little while ago. The bodies look beautiful and aren't that expensive, I'd likely love one. However the lenses are hideous amounts of money for me! Ok, its a leica, so it figures. And well, I know for myself that bodies aside, the cost of the lenses will prevent me from getting any leica for quite likely some time to come. Im sure they're beautiful all round if your able to buy into the system.
     
  17. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    In 1985 and 1986 I visited Germany to purhase cameras and lenses, as well as see my girlfriend, now my wife.

    On my first trip, I picked up an F3HP for myself. On my second trip I picked up a Leica R4 and a 180 2.8 (I think it was a 2.8) lens for it, it was for a very good friend. On the way home going through Singapore I found a Nikkor ED 180 2.8.

    Upon arriving home I was in the unique situation of having two virtually identical, but reasonably different cameras and lens alongside each other on tripods.

    For the Nikon system the major plusses were the High Eyepoint viewfinder for spectacles, the clarity of the view in the viewfinder, ease and speed of focusing the lens, the contrast of the lens.

    The plus for the Leica, was the special Leica contrast from the lens. They were just wonderful to print.

    My friend eventually ended up with 4 leica lenses for his body, before moving them on for medium format, then moving back to 35mm with a Nikon system, F3HP in fact.

    Mick.
     
  18. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    It is only fairly recently that the Leica R lenses got so crazy expensive, at least the non-ROM ones. I shopped around when I got mine in the early 90's and think that I got a got 2 Leica R4's and 4 lenses for about what I sold my 2 Nikons and 4 lenses for. The 35, 50, and 90 Summicrons came in well under $1000.

    The non-ROM lenses got even cheaper after digital really took hold, but before people started converting the old Leica lenses to digital bodies. I looked into them again a year or two ago and was shocked at how much they'd gone up.

    I loved those Lecia lenses but don't necessarily agree they are always "better" than Nikkors. I never had any complaints about sharpness with the Nikkors I had, and in at least one of the focal lengths my Nikkor was substantially sharper than the Leica lens (but I much preferred the look of that particular Leica lens).

    The Nikkors I would pick now for the available light people pictures I was doing with the Leica R lenses would be the older 35 f2, 50 f1.4, and 105 f2.5 (either version). And for that work I actually prefer the look of the non multi-coated Nikkors. I was shooting mostly black and white; the Nikkors I owned might have fared better in color (though the R's really excelled in that regard too).

    BTW, my experience is with the pre-ROM 3-cam R lenses.
     
  19. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    There I'd have to argue what your definition of *good* is...

    Owning Nikon F, F2 (among others) and having used them for years and Leicaflex SL & SL2 (among others), also extensively used, I find that the Leicaflexes have vastly better viewfinders & focusing, much more dampened shutter and mirror, a semi-spot meter, a great shutter speed dial you can use with your index finger and several other advantages (without even starting to discuss optics).
    All that means that they can focus more accurately and in worse light, be used hand held at slower shutter speeds, can meter more accurately if using the camera's meter and much easier to change shutter speeds with the camera at eye level...

    Just how are the F & F2 better, apart from perhaps aesthetics, price, usability as a hammer and, perhaps, interchangeable finders (something I've never ever actually needed)? :confused:
     
  20. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    If that was 1986 and the lens was a 2.8, you were comparing a Leica non-APO 180 to a Nikkor ED.
    The APO 180s are even better... :wink:
     
  21. dugrant153

    dugrant153 Member

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    By the sounds like it, seems like I'm not gaining much for the extra change in converting over to an R4. I actually considered the option of maybe getting a Leica to Nikon adapter so I can just invest in the lens and keep my F3 but looks like there isn't such an adaptor. Also, Leica R lenses are still crazy expensive despite being discontinued! WTH!

    From what I'm reading, the viewfinder in the R4 is not great compared to the F3 (yes? no?). Once I put the E screen in my F3, it's been magnificent. Guess I'll stick with it for now. Loved the Leicaflex viewfinder but sounds like the R4 didn't inherit it.
     
  22. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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  23. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    Rol-Lei Nut has pretty well summed it up. Avoid the R3 and first version of the R4, the electronics WILL fail. The problem was cured with the R4s and later models. If you can find and afford it, the SL2 is a great thing, but you may be able to get the R6 for similar money as collectors have forced up the price of the former.
    The lenses are all excellent but although they don't go for stupid M prices, they still aren't cheap.
     
  24. Grainy

    Grainy Member

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    Bought myself a Leica R8 + 35-70/50/80-200 lenses a few months ago, both body and all lenses were new and unused. Took some time to decide to buy it or not.

    I just love it, absolutely fantastic. Yes it's big, heavy and bulky, but I love making photographs with it. After years or trying and buying 35mm SLR cameras I've now found peace. R8 and OM-1 are now my #1 and #2.
     
  25. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    There is no reason to avoid the Leica R cameras. Sure some of the Nikons are more robust than some of the Leicas, but I don't know anybody that is giving them the day to day pounding they got in the 70's and 80's. I used to put 100' a week through my cameras and many pros shot a whole lot more.

    The R3 and R4 were the weakest of the Leica bodies, but I personally thought even those were fine cameras to work with. If they work I wouldn't worry about either. If they break, a replacement is cheaper than a good overhaul on a Nikon.

    The R4 had one of the best finders I've ever used.

    I wish you folks would stop, you're making me miss those Leica lenses. When I said I wouldn't switch again today, it was based on the prices, but it is really more that old Nikon lenses are a bargain than that the Leica lenses are all that overpriced. The R lens prices have been pulled up by the vastly higher prices of later Leica lenses (R & M); old Nikon lens prices have been driven down because of the huge number produced, and lack of demand for manual focus lenses. I'm too cheap to spend the cash for the R lenses today, but if you can afford them they are great lenses (I would avoid the very early wides).

    Sleeper lenses that were still affordable (last I looked, maybe not anymore) are the old style 50 Summicron for SL/SL2 and most 135 Elmarits. I suppose the mod'ers may have driven those up too by now.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2012
  26. Kisatchie

    Kisatchie Member

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    Nikon vs. Leicaflex R... hmm.

    One of my SL2s had a battery compartment that wouldn't stop corroding over. Take the battery out, put in a new one, and 2 weeks later, more corrosion. Sent it to Leitz for 5 weeks to get it fixed.
    My second SL2 jammed within a month of getting it (all my equipment was purchased new). Came back still jammed. Another 5 weeks at Leitz! It also tended to have the shutter speed dial loosen up on occasion.
    I had an R3 that had its self-timer lever fall off. I was standing in shin-high grass, and I felt something hit the top of my boot. It was a miracle, I'm sure, that I looked down and saw the self timer lying on top of my boot.
    I had another R3 that had the glass (you looked through to see the film cannister inside) fall off.
    Those cameras were the most sensitive, fragile cameras I ever used, and I've gone through a lot (no thanks to my bi-polar disorder). You couldn't give me Leica R equipment (well, you could, but I'd sell it immediately)

    Now for the lenses. I had a brand new 60mm Macro elmarit-R squeal like a freight train's wheels whenever I tried to focus it. Had to be relubricated.
    The 21mm super-angulon R had a shade that fell apart in my hands when I went to remove it. Super glue fixed that.
    I also had a 90mm f/2.0 R lens that I dropped about 2 inches onto a glass counter top. Every time I went to change filters, the entire front of the lens would unscrew with it. I wound up supergluing the front on.
    Oh yeah, I had several R lenses have their black finish start flaking off. It must have been my sweat, because I lived in New Orleans and it's hot in summers (none of my Pentax, Canon, and Nikon lenses ever blistered). One of the lenses was replaced under warranty because the blistering was so bad.

    I figure I must have had about 50 Nikkor lenses since 1979. Out of all of them, I had one lens replaced... it was a 50mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor that had the finish inside the lens flaking off (I only had the lens a couple of days, so none of my "corrosive" sweat ever got inside.

    I hope this helps someone decide which system to use.