Already have a Pentax 645 for larger negs so am looking to "improve" my 35mm setup if I can.
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).
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.
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.
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.
All that really matters in the end is the image, not what your using to create it.
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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.
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.
There I'd have to argue what your definition of *good* is...
Originally Posted by Chan Tran
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)?
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa
If that was 1986 and the lens was a 2.8, you were comparing a Leica non-APO 180 to a Nikkor ED.
Originally Posted by Mick Fagan
The APO 180s are even better...
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa
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.