Leica Rs - Where do they fit in?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Removed Account, Sep 3, 2007.

  1. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

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    It seems that whenever Leica is mentioned, the only cameras talked about are their M series rangefinders. The only time I have ever seen the R series SLRs mentioned was in an article about the R8 being the only 35mm camera to have an interchangeable digital back. The Rs seem to be the estranged brother to the Ms that nobody ever talks about.

    How do the R cameras fit in the grand scheme of things? On KEH I see R cameras and lenses selling along the same pricelines as Nikons and Canons. How do the R lenses compare with their M series brethren? How rugged are the bodies? My Nikon FM3a, which I terribly regret selling, seemed solid enough that I could club someone over the head with it and they would be worse off than the camera. Do the Rs have this same sense of solidity, and are they capable of running without batteries, as the FM3a was?

    Lastly, why does everyone seem to ignore these cameras, especially when priced very favourably compared to the vaunted M series?

    - Justin
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a friend who has used one for years with only a 50mm lens and swears by it.

    Check out Doug Herr's website. He does some fantastic bird photography with Leica R's and old Telyts, often handheld with a shoulder pod and excellent stalking technique--

    http://wildlightphoto.com/
     
  3. matthewbetcher

    matthewbetcher Member

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    not too sure about the r series, but i used to shoot a ton with an old leicaflex SL and LOVED it!!!!!!! - but it did weigh close to a 1970's east german woman shotputter (and probably as strong).

    this thing was a tank. so much so that i couldn't stop dropping the damned thing. i even dropped it off the roof of my two story building to the sidewalk below - nothing wrong with it but a dented prism and a slightly misaligned shutter curtain. damn, now that i think about it i really miss her and boy were her pictures pretty!

    i have heard though that the earlier r series are not built as well as the 'flexes.
    ... just something to consider.
     
  4. Jersey Vic

    Jersey Vic Member

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    I recall reading that the 50mm 2.0 for the R was the 'sharpest' (highest resolving maybe?) lens they make.
    I really dig those R3 Safari kits (made in Portugal) with the matching case.
     
  5. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Leica R cameras seem to be above all unfashionable - always great build quality, although some say avoid the R4, usually a little behind the competition with regard to features. A few months ago I was staggered to find that Leica R3s were available in excellent condition on e-bay for around £150 with lens (Summicron or Summilux, no need to pay any more) - I bought 3 examples, all had been the pride and joy of elderly photographers, had spent a number of years in a drawer or display cabinet, and needed a CLA for £100 to £125 to restore them to full health, after which they have been great. I have acquired numerous lenses, my best deal was a 35 Summicron and 180 Elmar for £200 the pair.

    The R3 was a remodeled Minolta, it is heavy and it doesn't work without batteries but it's a nice camera and has a particularly well-damped mirror. How rugged? I would say indestructable with normal amateur use - I believe Leica R was the camera of choice for many years (maybe still is) for National Geographic photographers working in jungles, deserts etc. under extreme climatic conditions.
     
  6. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    The R3 shutter works at 1/90 flash sync and on B without batteries. The mirror is cam driven, so it decelerates rapidly at the top of its cycle, and doesn't really strike the body or pad at speed like most other cameras. It certainly doesn't do much to move the heavier chassis and top and bottom plates, all brass. At the common US$250 price per body I've seen lately, I consider a properly cared for sample of this camera a steal.

    I think the R series suffered in part from not being considered "real" Leicas by collectors and M shooters. The R3 sold in relatively large numbers, so it's not rare or collectible. The association of the C/CL and R3/R4 with similar Minolta designs meant some Leica purists rejected them. The CL outsold the M5 by a large margin.

    Lee
     
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  7. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    The earlier Leica R series are all nice looking cameras and I have often been tempted to grab an R3. The later models, while feature packed, always remind me of the aliens from the film The Fifth Element.
     
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  8. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    They sell 8-10x as many Ms as reflexes, so the Ms are a lot more common. The lenses are superb, the cameras, very good indeed. But to purists (like me) for whom a Leica is a small, light camera, they're BIG.
     
  9. ehparis

    ehparis Member

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    Leica R Bodies

    I had a Leicaflex SL2 and two R3 bodies, all of which were solidly built and reliable.

    For reasons now forgotten, possibly due to the terrible experience which followed, I "upgraded" to three *new* R4 bodies, one of which was always in the shop for warranty repairs. Sometimes two were in the shop at the same time. All three made it there at least once.

    The R4 in my not so humble opinion was pure junk. The problems were all apparently electrical in nature and I've heard that later models (did I have early ones?) solved all the problems. The cameras cost in excess of $1,000. each and were junk, junk, and junk (junk thrice).

    Part of my disgust and the reason I stuck with them for about a year was the fantastic performance of five or six lenses I had for them. This was in the early 1980's as I recall and I've yet to see their like since and I presently have a stable of top notch Nikkors.

    I traded off the lousy bodies and so had to dispose of the lenses as well. I was *extremely* frustrated and a cooler head might have had me "down grading" to the R3. I did not have a cool head. I was extremely mad at Leitz, Inc. Can you tell from my comments?
     
  10. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    I have and enjoy using a Leica R4SP, R7, and an R8. The R8 is much larger and heavier. But there are features about the R8 that make it my favorite of all of the R cameras that I have owned (which also included another R4S modified to essentially an R4SP and an R3 MOT). All of the R cameras that I own are very well made, rugged, and reliable and take the exceptional Leica Glass.

    Rich
     
  11. michiel fokkema

    michiel fokkema Member

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    I've used two R3's for years. Now on both the AE doesn't work any more. I also use a R8 and real like this camera. It is a joy to use. I'm more comfortable with the r8 than with the canon 20d.
    Sebastio salgado shot his workers project with a R6.
    My repairman says only the mechanical r's are worth having. The Sl and SL2 are great camera's. Built like a tank and probably the brightest vf ever made.
    I own several R lenses and they are all great and on par with the M lenses.
    Cheers,
    Michiel Fokkema
     
  12. Nick Merritt

    Nick Merritt Member

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    I have two of the older SLRs, an SL and an SL2; have never tried any of the Rs. The SL2 came with the 50 Summilux; I have the 50 Summicron for the SL and several of the "cheapest" of the lenses, all the 2-cam versions with one exception: 35/2.8, 90/2.8, 135/2.8 (3-cam) and 180/4. None of these was unreasonably priced, but of course they're '60s-'70s designs. However, they are quite good, as you'd expect -- the equivalent optically of the corresponding M lenses. (This opinion is probably not shared by all Leica fans!)

    The Leicaflex bodies are quite hefty, and certainly not particularly feature-packed -- just basic match-needle SLRs, albeit with semi-spot metering, which is a little unusual. But that's about what you'd expect from a company that didn't even have a metered rangefinder model until the early '70s (the M5). The SL2 is quite refined, rather like the M5, which was made around the same time. But basically you bought these "diesel Leicas" for the lenses; Leica couldn't offer anything like the system capabilities of Nikon and Canon.

    They are very intuitive to use (perhaps with the exception of the meter), and the shutter is really nice indeed -- a soft "fwuff" rather than the harsher sounds of the better-known SLRs. Definitely well worth trying out. I should mention that the cameras take mercury batteries, so you will need to use one of the various workarounds unless you have a hoard of them still.

    Doug Herr's website is a trove of information about all the Leica SLR cameras and lenses. I highly recommend it. I think it's by subscription only now, but he is a great guy and very helpful.
     
  13. reggie

    reggie Member

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    I have owned an R6 for years and I have owned a few M6 models over the years with quite a few lenses (including their F1.0). There is no comparing the 2 in the way they are used. Rangefinder vs SLR are very different ways of photographing. The build quality of the SLR is great. My R6 is a manual camera, everything except the meter operates without a batter, which is fine since I use a spot meter. I have heard that the R6 was actually built by Minolta, but I'm not sure. Many of their lenses were made in Canada, not Germany, but still Leica formulas. So, the R6, R6.2 and a few others may really be Japanese cameras with Canadian lenses, but they sure feel like a Leica. Build quality of the R6 seems on par with the M6.

    As for how they fit in, it seems to that it was simply Leica filling out it's product line with SLR's. It may be the best built SLR that I ever owend (not that I owned that many...). The only other body I ever owned that seemed as solid was the older Canon F1, but the Leica is built better.

    Personally, when I went looking for a very solid fully manual well-built SLR, it was easy to settle on the R6. If you want fancier features, then the R8 and up would be the choice.

    -R
     
  14. mutikonka

    mutikonka Member

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    R3 is solid

    I've been using an R3 as my main camera for some years now. I could never afford an M-series Leica but it's possible to get beautiful Leitz glass (like the 50mm Summicron) much cheaper for the R series. I have found my R3 to be a solid workhorse - utterly reliable and functional even when the batteries run out (on 1/90 second). The drawback is that it is big and heavy compared to other Leicas. Nevertheless, I think the R3 is a bargain - and the images from the Summicron are just amazing.
     
  15. Seele

    Seele Member

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    A step back...

    Assuming when you say "Leica Rs" you also include the Leicaflex models...

    Originally the Leicaflex models were referred to as "diesel Leicas" by Leica purists, but then Leitz felt that there's a need to add an SLR series to its family of products. The Leicaflex, Leicaflex SL, and Leicaflex SL2 were, and are massively engineered (although not quite to the point of being over-engineered like the Contarex models).

    The subsequent R models from R3 to R7 were Minolta-based... actually Leitz/Leica must have had some design and engineering inputs during the earliest design phases. I am not sure about the R4 and derivatives, as I don't have first-hand experiences with them. However, I use five Minolta XD/XD7/XD11 cameras professionally and I cannot say I can complain about them at all. Could it be Leica's modifications to these cameras lessened the reliability?
     
  16. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    The Leica R4 through the R7 certainly were modified versions of the Minolta XD11. I have forgotten the model that the Leica R3 and R3 MOT were derived. Leica did some major design changes to the bodies, top plates, mirrors, mirror lifts, shutters, film take-up, motor winders etc. that are different than their Minolta counterparts.

    Leica required much higher standards than the Minolta counterpart cameras. For R4 series onward, they used a special coated mirror (about 17 coats, many more coatings than the Minolta), along with removable screens, metering system- averaging and spot, etc. There is a reflector behind the mirror and there is a beam splitter to divert a portion of the light to the metering for the camera metering options. Additionally, the mirror lift used a special pneumatic lift if memory serves to lessen the shutter bounce. The Shutters were a vertically moving metal shutter that had as low as 1/100 of second flash sync with the R4 series ending as I recall with 1/250???? of sec. with the R7. The Leica Shutters were supposed to function 100,000 exposures with little of no sign of wear. The top plates of these cameras were all made with sandwich of metal housing with an outer chrome (usually black chrome) sandwiched with Zinc and other alloys to increase the strength.

    The film take up spools were different from the Minolta to aid in the film loading of the cameras. The initial eV correction of the Leica R4 was modified by Marty Forscher to make it easier to make these adjustments when working in automatic. This modification was first seen in the R4SP and was followed on all of the later automatic Leica R cameras through the R7. The Leica R4 onward allowed the reading of the lens aperture directly off of the lens (as I remember that was one of the modifications that could be made for the R4S). Additionally, the motor winders and motor drives (R4 and R) were made specifically for the Leica R4-R7 cameras.

    There is more to the R4 through the R7 than many of you know. These were rugged and generally quite reliable, about the size of an M Leica and not to be confused with their Minolta counterparts.

    Rich
     
  17. Clyde Rogers

    Clyde Rogers Member

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    The Minolta R3 camera was the XE-7, and it was a very nice Minolta. My favorites of the R series were the later R4 though R7. Solid, simple, reliable, compact, quiet, smooth, with a fantastic viewfinder. Great lenses.

    Even the R3 differed considerably from its Minolta counterpart, with the meter cell behind the mirror, spot metering, and a notably superior viewfinder being the changes I recall.

    These are great cameras with great lenses, and a tremendous bargain these days.

    --clyde
     
  18. Seele

    Seele Member

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    The R3 was Leica's version of the Minolta XE/XE1/XE7.

    Somehow I am not completely sure if Leica modified the cameras in fundamental ways, such as the shutters. For instancec the R3/XE models used the CLS (Copal Leitz Shutter) designed jointly with Copal, so there would not be too much of a need to modify further. The Seiko shutter used in R4/XD models, like the CLS and other vertical shutters, was pretty much a self-contained proprietory unit; just bolt it into the chassis and you are done. I cannot see why Leica would want to modify complete proprietory, fully-built shutter units one by one; perhaps some information rather than PR material can ascertan this.
     
  19. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    I may be incorrect in a modification to the shutter. But, it was my understanding that the R4-R7 camera shutter was different than those used for the Minolta XD11. As to the mirror, pneumatic lift, and many of the other Leica designed parts, beam splitter and metering methodology, etc.they are not the same as those found in the Minolta cameras and were made to higher tolerance levels. As an example Minolta made 70-210 mm zooms made for the Minolta system were made to 1/3 stop stop accuracy while the same lens or design made for the Leica R system was made to a 1/6 stop accuracy. These differences resulted in the Minolta lens selling for between $250-$300 while the Leica lens sold for on the order of $2000.

    Rich
     
  20. Seele

    Seele Member

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    Rich,

    I still cannot see why Leica would order a similar but yet higher-spec shutter from Seiko for incorporating into the R4 and its variants; after all Minolta shipped the half-built bodies to Leica for completion so the shutter would have been installed at Minolta's plant, I'd think.

    However the extra one-sixth of a stop in aperture accuracy would not be a major concerne since the Minolta XD models has the "final check" function to allow for such situations. There again, even the slightest change in processing can negate this consistancy, and the modern material with better latitude would not make it a major issue anyway. So I think this advantage would only be academic.
     
  21. mawz

    mawz Member

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    The Leicaflex's are superb but primitive SLR's, comparable apart from metering to most mid-60's designs. Well built and good viewfinders.

    The R3-R7 series were modified Minolta designs. Mid-range bodies without the capabilities or build of the best Japanese SLR's of the Era. Nice, but not a real match for an F3 or New F1 (however they could match the midrange bodies like the FE2 and FM2n for the most part).

    The R8 and R9 are almost pro bodies. Better build, and finally with the features that might have made them a standout in 1985. But once again, they simply don't match up to the capabilities of the Nikon or Canon Pro bodies (even if you ignore AF). The studio flash metering is a nice touch though, but the metering systems are otherwise rather 1983.

    Glass on the otherhand is where the Leica's really shone. R glass is every bit as good as M glass. This is what kept people shooting Leica R's when they could have had superior bodies for less money. However if you can live without Auto Aperture, you can use those lenses on a Canon EOS 1v or 3 body via adaptors and have a more capable body with the superb Leica glass.

    As the German SLR's go, the Contax RTS models are the real gems, particularly the RTSIII. It's telling though that quite a number of people had mount conversions done to F2's to use them with R lenses rather than the Leica bodies (The F2 was probably the easiest camera to do these conversion s on as the metering linkage was in the removable prism and was retractable)