Used Leica SLR Choices.

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by snegron, Jul 8, 2006.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I have never owned a Leica, only Nikon and Mamiya equipment. I have noticed though that there are several older Leica SLR's at reasonable prices. Mostly the R3 and R4 cameras. Has anyone here had any of these? If so, how durable are they? I did notice that used SLR series lenses are somewhat pricey, but not nearly as much as the rangefinder type lenses.
     
  2. StephenS

    StephenS Member

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    I never have been a fan of Leica SLR's. I've used the models you mention and found them to be no better, considering cost, than top model Nikons.

    I can't comment on durability as I'm a person who's very hard on equipment and my stuff gets used heavily, so your experience may be different than mine. The Leicas are substansial though (almost in a clunky way). That said, repair may be more pricey/difficult for the Leica.

    Now the same is not true for Leica rangefinders, as I feel an M4 with a good 35mm lens is the greatest tool there is. But that's a whole different question!
     
  3. StephenS

    StephenS Member

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    Couple more things. At this point the models you mention are at least 20 years old, so a good cleaning and lube may be necessary. (I sent an M6 with a sticky shutter to Sherry in NY earlier this year and the cost was around $400.) Anything I'd buy that's been sitting for a number of years and I'm planning to use in a serious way I'll have cleaned and lubed. So maybe add that cost in.

    I do think the Leica SLR's are OK (though some would argue they aren't really Leicas but super minoltas!) but I wouldn't get one simply for the Leica name or if I didn't already have the glass to go with them.
     
  4. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! I guess I was under the impression that the Leica SLR's carried the same legendary quality as the rangefinder series. Again, I'm not familiar with any Leicas as I have never owned any. I have always wondered though why all the hoopla over the rangefinders? Other than looking somewhat interesting, I can't really think of any practical reasons why they have endured such a following. Other that casual street snapshots, I don't see them suited for studio, wedding, or sports photography. On a few ocassions I contemplated putting the money down for a rangefinder due to the idea of owning a Leica, but after carefull consideration I could not justify the expense. I have heard that the optics are excellent, so I thought that maybe the same would hold true with the SLR series. That's probably why I was giving some consideration to the Leica SLR line.
     
  5. StephenS

    StephenS Member

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    Shooting with a rangefinder is different from shooting with an SLR like shooting with a viewfinder camera if different than shooting with a blad. They are all different tools for different jobs.

    That said, the Leica M lenses were some amazing bits of optical engineering. Shooting with a rangefinder is great for many things but as you mention not so good for sports, etc. For me, its a tool for my documentary work and personal work. For other work needing 35mm I use my Nikon junk.

    If you really do want a Leica SLR, I'd look at the all manual R6 (I think they still make the R6.2) as they are probably the most rugged SLR you can find. Maybe you can get a good price on an older one. I think these are also 'all German' built cameras.

    To me, Leica was never a pioneer in SLR and their success their is largely due to the name. I really think a good Nikon or Canon will serve you just as well. I still love the bunch of F3's I have and have always found them to be fine.
     
  6. tbm

    tbm Member

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    I'd recommend a used Leica R8, which I've used for 6 years and am fabulously in love with since I bought it new. If you cannot afford that, I'd recommend a Leica R6 or R7. The corresponding lenses grab great images regardless of which body they are attached to.
     
  7. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Pricey yes, difficult no.
    You get into the Mercedes mentality with camera repair folk too.
    Having worked in the field, my former employers charged 2-3 times as much for Leica than a similar Japanese camera. Why? It's what the market would bear. Is there a difference in quality of camera? Yes, It becomes very apparent once the covers are off, but the knowhow is common enough.
    With fewer technicians able to service the older cameras today you are paying for a specialist who cares about the quality of work they do. That =$$$.
     
  8. Tom Duffy

    Tom Duffy Member

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    I agree with tbm. When my 35 year old Leicaflex SL developed a shutter problem that would be too expensive to rationally repair I bought a used R8 at a very reasonable price. If you don't mind the weight, it is in my opinion the best 35mm SLR you can buy. Everything about it works intuitively to help, rather than hinder, you in the picture making process.

    The lenses are some of the best available and reasonably cheap in the used market. I once thought I could travel the world with only a Leica M and a 50mm lens. I now think it would be an R8 and 80 f1.4 lens.

    Take care,
    Tom
     
  9. Uncle Bill

    Uncle Bill Subscriber

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    I Handled an R3 that belonged to a friend, a really nice camera. Honestly as much as Leica has great optics and I love my M3 and lust after another M body at some point. I am not in any rush to purchase a Leica R product. R3's and 4's will require some TLC and with the Leica name on the camera it will cost a pretty penny.

    I would look into an Olympus OM-4, the Zuiko lenses are amazing, and servicing will not cost you a fortune.

    Bill
     
  10. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    After 27 years and thousands of rolls of film, my R3 needed new light seals and a part tightened to hold frame spacing. I had that done, a body CLA (shutter, mirror mechanism, meter calibrate (was still within 1/3 stop everywhere), etc), and a 50 Summicron CLA'd and regreased for under $200 including return shipping from DAG camera. I've never felt like I needed another SLR, but I did get an R4s on sale as a back up and for a second film type in the mid 80's. That needed light seals, which I got from Leica and installed myself last year at a cost of $11. With used prices running at $250, I sometimes think I might pick up a lightly used R3.

    Lee

    P.S. I've not tried an R8, and probably shouldn't :smile:, but I've heard great things about their ergonomics, and the viewfinder display looks wonderfully usable.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 9, 2006
  11. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    I have been using Leica R series SLRs since 1984. These cameras have been quite reliable. I have owned 2 R4SPs, R3MOT, R7, and R8. The R4SP cameras have been very reliable small cameras. They do not have TTL however. The R7 has also been quite reliable, has TTL, but is a bit larger than the R4SP cameras. The R4SP and R7 may be built on the same chasis as the Minolta MD11 cameras, but they are not Minoltas. The R8 is my favorite R Series Leica, the camera displays even more information in the viewfinder than the R7; it also has TTL. It is my first choice of Leica R body if weight and size are not an issue. If weight and size are an issue, and particularly if there is battery life concern, I select my R4SP.

    By the way the R4SP cameras were simplified versions of the troublesome R4. Marty Forscher designed the the adjustment for +/- adjustment of the camera. This feature has subsequently passed to the subsequent Leica R cameras.

    Rich
     
  12. tbm

    tbm Member

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    Hey, Tom: I agree with you regarding the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux entirely. It is a fantastic lens! When I was roaming the streets of San Francisco (while not at the LHSA gathering) with it late last year, I got some great shots of people and all faces have the superb Leica glow on the prints I made! I just LOVE its characteristics!!
     
  13. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    Hi Tom, I have owned both the R3 and R4 and had problems with the electrics on both cameras. The R4 is the worst and I beleive that nearly all the earlier R4's have problems with the metering. The later R4S and R5 etc. seem to have the problem sorted out.

    The fault was caused by the vapours from the battery corroding the circuit boards and Leica provided a fix at cost price so some R4's may be ok today.

    I would suggest that you avoid these earlier electronic Leicas and go for the SL or SL2. I have an SL and find it a great camera to use and it's far cheaper than the SL2.

    The Minolta XE1 or XE5 is basically the same as the R3 and for my money is the better camera. These are easily the nicest of the early Minoltas to use and the Rokkor lenses are top notch, although not as good as the Leicas.

    Cheers, Tony
     
  14. Mark Layne

    Mark Layne Member

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    Interesting. Where does one get an OM-4 repaired at reasonable cost? I have 300.00 sunk into one and the shutter still wont give the same speed twice
    Mark
     
  15. f1.4

    f1.4 Member

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    I have used the R5 (borrowed from a friend),and currently own and use the R8.
    It is really a matter of how much money you want to spend.
    R5 and R8 deliver the same pictures with the same lens placed in front.
    Both have quite good metering systems.
    R4s and earlier are rather basic stuff, with some technical quircks.
    After R5 nothing much happened before the R8.
    Likewise, the differences between R8 and R9 are neglible.
    Picture quality is breathtaking. - some of the lenses seems to outperform the M series in practical work.
    Focusing is manual and slower than the M series.
    You need the mindset of the manual camera owner.
    If you are into autofocus, the machine-gun F5 from Nikon could be the thing. The Nikon optics are not near as good though.
    Then again, if I could carry only one camera for travelling, it would most likely be an M.
    The best source I have found for R-series info is www.summilux.net

    Svein.
     
  16. cmdrcody

    cmdrcody Member

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    Leica SLR R8

    If you are interested in a used Leica SLR, I would recommend a Leica R8. I used a Leicaflex SL and an R4 for many years, and then started using the R8. Kurland Photographic in NYC has a used R8 for 1200.00, but if you look around you can probably find many other deals. Having a wider range of focal lengths is where the R system provides more options. I also use an M7 and would not recommend a rangefinder unless you have a specific need for such. The Leica M's are a different beast all together and do require more skill and awareness to use. Some may find changing a roll of film on a Leica M to be somewhat cumbersome, but once you get use to it, it does become second nature. The exceptional lenses for the Leica R system are the 50mm 1.4 Summilux, the 90mm 2.0 APO Summicron, the 180mm 2.8 Elmarit APO, and the 28-90mm 2.8-4.5 Vario Elmar zoom lens.
     
  17. dgillette4

    dgillette4 Member

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    Leicaflex

    Yes I have owned the R3 and went back to my original leicaflexes and leicaflex sl, they are the most solid built cameras I've owned. The r3 isn't half the camera but it has more features to compensate. The R3 is basically a minolta in leica skin. I did camera service and if cars held up as good as the leicaflex and sl bodies Detroit could close their service shops. Don
     
  18. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Just for clarity..the original Leicaflex, Leicaflex SL, Leicaflex SL2, Leica R8 & Leica R9 are the only Leica branded SLR cameras actually completely designed and "made" in Germany (some possibly assembled in Portugal)....the other "R" models used subassemblies made by Minolta.
     
  19. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    I got carried away with the shockingly low price of Leica R3s and ended up buying 3 of them. All were previously amateur owned, very lightly used and virtually unworn - their previous elderly owners had laid them aside in display cases and the cameras were ultimately sold off after the owners' demise. In every case new seals were required and there was a problem with metering accuracy caused by corrosion on an internal ring which communicates the aperture value to the meter. A CLA for around £110 in each case fixed all these problems and they all now work fine. R3s have very well-damped mirrors, the only point of criticism I would have is that they are comparatively heavy (against Nikon F3s, which I also use). I paid £125 to £150 for each camera plus a lens (50 Summicron, maybe £25 more for a camera plus 50 f1.4 Summilux). and once I bought a 35 Summicron and 180 f4 Elmar-R in Exc++ condition for £200 together.

    Summary: If you can handle the weight, a Leica R3 offers astonishing quality for very little money!
     
  20. Rob Skeoch

    Rob Skeoch Advertiser Advertiser

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    I owned a R5 and a R4. I can't recall if it was a R4s or not but it was a "model 2" .. said so on the hotshoe area. I heard the early R4 camera had problems but I never had a repair on either camera. I used them both professionally. I switched from Nikon at the time and feel the camera build quality of the Leica was better. The lenses were better by far. I think the 90 F2 I had was the best lens I ever used.
    Having said all that I would look at a R6 (either model) or an R7.
    Things change over time, and I ended up switching back to Nikon because the long, fast glass for Leica is out of reach and I wanted AF. Now I shoot Canon.
    I think the Leica prime lenses are great, although the zooms don't get much respect. They are all nice to work with.
    If you're just looking for better lenses than your run-of-the-mill Nikons and Canons you could also consider the new Zeiss lenses in the Nikon mount... they are highly regarded.
    -Rob
     
  21. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    I have an R4 and find it very reliable and a pleasure to use. I prefer the R7, though, for its TTL flash system, and half stop shutter speeds in manual. The R 3 & 4 viewfinder also has a slight weakness in that it can be hard to see the shutter speed scale in dim light, or against a very dark background. This was solved in later models. I find the R8 & 9 too big. I would agree that there is nothing particularly special about the R cameras, but the glass is second to none and visibly better than my already very good Olympus OM lenses.

    David.