Leica SLR's r3/r4 what's the verdict?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Sean, Oct 25, 2005.

  1. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    Just curious how the R3/R4's stack up. They seem like a good value judging by the used market..
     
  2. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 25, 2005
  3. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    lol, nice! but green isn't worth twice the price of some black one's i see :smile:
     
  4. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    It is if you are being charged by an angry rhino and he misses you because your camera is camouflaged. Either that or he hits you and misses your Leica. Either way, there has to be some value there. :smile:
     
  5. cvik

    cvik Member

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    Don't know about angry rhinos but bulls hunt for the red dot :smile:
     
  6. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Brilliant, wonderful fantastic.
    .
     
  7. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I have an R3 (not the MOT version) and an R4s. I bought both new, the R3 in 1979 and the R4s in about 1986 when it was on sale with a free motor winder. I much prefer the R3, and bought the R4s for a second film choice and a backup body. The R3 is larger and heftier, and fits my large hands well.

    Both have spot metering manual, aperture priority auto exposure spot metering, and aperture priority auto exposure center weighted metering. 99.9% of the time I use spot metering manual exposure, which is in part why I prefer the R3. It has full indication of recommended shutter speed and set shutter speed in the finder. The meter is a needle indicator that runs along a shutter speed scale on the right of the finder, and you can easily interpolate to 1/3 stops. The R4s uses LEDs by a shutter speed scale, and two adjacent LEDs light up for intermediate speeds. The R4s shows only recommended shutter speed in the finder, so you have to remember or double check manual shutter speed settings on the camera top. I shoot a lot on an eye level tripod, and I hate having to turn the camera over to see the set shutter speed.

    One other minor feature I love on the R3 is that the frame counter is on the camera back below the wind lever, which again means it's nice to see it on an eye level tripod or without turning the camera over.

    The R3 uses a cam driven mirror that slows to a stop as it reaches its upper travel limit, so its impact against the massive body is minimal. I've shot handheld 1/15 second exposures routinely with a 24mm lens on the R3 and gotten consistently good results. The R3 also has noticeably less shutter lag than the R4s. I'm not sure if the R4s mirror is cammed. Has film in it right now, so I can't check.

    To make it short, the R3 has some features that make it a major increase in convenience and usability over the R4s for my way of working. My son likes the R3 so much that he saved up and bought a Minolta XE-7 for a system he mostly inherited from grandparents. The R4s is not a dog, it's a very nice and solid camera, and I expect that some might prefer it. The R3 just works like I think.

    You'll see all kinds of things about reliability of electronics on the R3 and R4s both. Mine have been used all day in over 100F and below -20F without special protection. (Days out in Big Bend in July and an all day winter carnival on a frozen Minnesota lake.) I've dragged them all over Europe and hiking through the wet Appalachians routinely. I recently replaced foam gaskets on the backs, and my R3 finally needs a little work on the film advance (frame spacing at the beginnings of rolls) after thousands of rolls of film. Those are the only problems ever to come up. Some places on the 'net have info on which serial numbers of R4 to buy, after a modification to the electronics. Might be at cameraquest.com, but I can't recall now.

    R lenses are a relative bargain now. I passed on a like new 135 f:2.8 for $200 recently because I already have a 100mm and a 180mm, and because my mom has recently started handing down some of her camera gear, which includes a 135 f:2.8 in superb shape.

    Just a note on how she came to buy an R system. I worked for a dealer in 1979 who required me to use an R3 for a week so that I could sell it effectively. My mom is an artist and art teacher and was visiting when I got my Kodachrome 25 slides back from shooting side-by-side comparisons with the R3 and my Canon FTb's and lenses. We threw the slides up on the wall and half way through the viewing she started asking about prices on the Leicas. She made a deal on a used body and bought a 60mm f:2.8 macro, a 28mm, and a 135mm within a week, on an elementary school teacher's salary. The difference was that palpable. My father, who's no particular enthusiast also saw the difference and bought himself a complete Minolta CLE kit for their big trip to Europe after we kids were all out of the nest.

    Two other annecdotes about the optics.

    A customer at the store I worked in borrowed an R3 and 50 Summicron and shot identical frames of multiple subjects in different lighting with that and a Nikon and 50mm Nikkor. He brought back the Kodachromes for processing, turned them over on the lightbox so that you couldn't see markings, then asked an employee to come over and sort the two rolls of 36 exposures and tell him which were which. A couple of minutes later the result was a single pair of shots misidentified.

    In Minneapolis in 1982 or so, camera stores invited their best customers to a Leica sponsored event. Most of these were Nikon shooters, and a few Canon. The main event was a slide show from a photographer who shot stock and magazine assignments with R cameras. About 10 slides in one of the audience asked which polarizer the photographer used to get the color saturation, and whether it needed to be circular polarizing. The answer: "Yes, you need a circular polarizer. I don't own or use a polarizer, but I've heard the B+W is good, and I've been thinking about trying one."

    BTW, I still regret not buying an M5 on dealer special, where employees get Leicas at half list, which is 10% below dealer cost. But I was headed to graduate school the next year...

    I'll stop now and you can PM me with any further requests for rambling and ranting.

    Lee

    P.S. Mine are chrome R3 and black R4s. I wasn't going on safari and didn't need the matching binocs.
     
  8. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    great info thanks :smile:
     
  9. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Sean,

    Forgot to put the minus sign before 20F. The high that day was -20F, and I had the R3 hanging out unheated for well over 4 hours with no mechanical or electrical problems whatsoever. Metering was spot on. I shot a Hasselblad 500 CM that had 1/60 go to 1 second in that weather on a commercial job.

    Also, there are several varieties of R4 with different features. I'm not a collector, so I can't list the differences. I'll see if I can find a reference. And I'd love to try an SL2 as well. They are rarer, and more expensive, but are all mechanical and built like a tank.

    Lee
     
  10. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    I'm a bit undecided at the moment, so far leaning to the r3 and also investigating the leicaflex sl's. I do like SLR much more than rangefinder (had an M6 once and loved how it performed but never was crazy about the rangefinder aspect). I am finding I like shooting two subjects 35mm street & 8x10 largeformat landscape. So my medium format system is gathering dust, I thought I might sell it and fund a leica r3 with 35mm lens or similar. I contemplated using my mf kit for street but my gut tells me it will be too cumbersome for my liking..
     
  11. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    For shooting street, I'd definitely go with the R3 over the R4 if only because of the shutter lag. You can speed up the R4s by holding the shutter release halfway down, so it's faster than from full throw, but it's still not as fast as the R3 from any position. The R3 is also one of the most predictable shutter releases I've ever used.

    My favorite street camera is my CL with 40mm Summicron, although I like the 1:1 finder on the Bessa R3A better. The CL attracts no attention, spot meters accurately, and is very quiet. The 40 Summicron is a great lens. The side hanging strap also lets it hang in the crook of my left arm as I walk, so it's almost hidden. I once shot a photo of a carney who was threatening me for attempting to photograph him. I hit the shutter and then lowered the camera. He never knew I took the shot.

    There are some issues with numbers of lens cams on the SL vs R bodies, but IIRC, the 3 cam lenses work on all but the Leicaflex (original non-TTL metering SLR) body. I'll see if I can find a reference. If not, someone will be along to post the correct info soon. The SL has an overall fine microprism for focusing with larger microprisms in the center circle, and the finder is BIG and bright, really nice. The SL2 has a central split image rangefinder and fine microprism field, 3 stops more meter sensitivity than the SL, and finder illumination for low light.

    Lee
     

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  12. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    You have streets down there? :wink:

    I think you'll find that Leica R users love 'em, even though Leica R models tend not to have features common on competitive brands of the same vintage. But, you get the advantage of Leica glass. Too bad you didn't like the M. It's perfect for street work.
     
  13. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    ok, I've got my mf kit in apug classifieds now, will see what happens..
     
  14. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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  15. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    On their own merits, most Contax cameras are good. But if you can shoot a Leica instead ? Electronic nightmares.

    The Leicas are much better, to me, for making pictures.

    The SL2 is a wonderful camera, but may need some renovation at this point.

    For me, the R4 - R7 series, without a moment's doubt, are preferable over the R3.

    I'm curious about the 'shutter lag' attribution about the R3. I was shooting things like soccer at the time, and recall the 'temporal parallax' of the R4 to be an improvement over the R3, but it's been 25 years so I don't remember the numbers. It was faster, too, than an F1 or F3... it just sounded 'cushier'. At the time, I was working at a largish Leica dealer, and Leica still had great support - there was a lot of data available- but like I said, I don't remember the actual numbers. And nowhere near an M camera.

    .
     
  16. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Then again, the 6.2 is a little smaller and a mechanical camera to boot, battery is only for the meter.
     
  17. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    That's the winner, I'd guess.
     
  18. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    The SL2 and R6.2 are wonderful cameras by all reports, although I can't report from first-hand experience. I'd love to have either one. I thought Sean might be price sensitive, and that's where the R3 has the advantage. The SL2 and R6.2 are rarer and much more expensive used, whereas the R3 sold very well, and is readily available used. You can check the usual suspects for prices. My recollection is that a clean R3 is in the $250 to $300 range, and both the others are in the $1000+ range in very good or better condition.

    I don't have the actual numbers on the shutter lag times for the R3 and R4s, but the difference is very noticeable to me in use. As I mentioned earlier, there appears to be much less difference when the R4s release is already held halfway depressed (to the exposure lock point). The Sept '78 catalog I have mentions the short "time parallax" on the R3 as a feature, but doesn't give numbers. Given its mechanical shutter, I'd expect the R6.2 to be faster.

    I shoot soccer myself, but for that I use rangefinders with 1:1 built-in (Bessa R3A) or auxiliary hot shoe mounted finders. On the Bessa T, R2, and R3A I have to consciously delay my shot so that the struck ball is leaving the foot as it follows through to imply action. Otherwise, if I press the shutter button at the moment of impact, I get a foot that on close inspection is putting a 2 inch dimple in what looks like a static ball on the ground. I use a 135mm Hektor (readily available in VG condition for $99) outdoors and a 75mm CV Color Heliar indoors. The 1:1 brightline finder is tremendous for sports. With both eyes open you can still see the whole field, watch the whole game with camera "at the ready", and anticipate action coming into the frame.

    If anyone has data on shutter lag times for the SL and R series, I'd be interested in seeing them.

    Lee
     
  19. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    I can only speak on behalf of the R4
    I borrowed one for a few months once. Lovely camera, great balance and features
    The location of the controls was super intuitive and the pictures came out wonderful... unfortunately they are a few thousand miles away (in Ecuador)
     
  20. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Funny that these should pop up (Leica SLR threads) just as I was "tracking" some on eBay. I too was intrigued by the affordibility of such high quality hardware, a little lured (I have to admit) by the legendary name (shame on me, I know...).
    Well, the verdict for me is this - as I wrote in the other thread, I can't afford the lenses. Perhaps they are better than Canon/Nikon/Minolta, whatever brand x you may use - but they will never make up for the fact that for the price of one lens I can build a rather capable system of, lets say, Canon FD lenses. And the lowest quality picture (I know I am repeating myself, indulge me:smile:) is the one you never took, because you didnt have the lens to catch it with.
    But, if money was no object...:D