Used Leica SLR Choices.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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.
Pricey yes, difficult no.
Originally Posted by StephenS
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 =$$$.
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.
Originally Posted by tbm
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.
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.
"Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once and a while, you might just miss it."
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.
P.S. I've not tried an R8, and probably shouldn't , but I've heard great things about their ergonomics, and the viewfinder display looks wonderfully usable.
Last edited by Lee L; 07-08-2006 at 11:25 PM. Click to view previous post history.