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  1. #1

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    Leica Rs - Where do they fit in?

    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. #2
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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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/
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  3. #3
    matthewbetcher's Avatar
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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.
    "the age of nature is past; it has finally exhausted the patience of all sensitive minds by the loathsome monotony of its landscapes and skies." naturaimmemorial.com

  4. #4
    Jersey Vic's Avatar
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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.
    Holga: if it was any more analog, you'd need a chisel.

  5. #5
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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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. #6
    Lee L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David H. Bebbington View Post
    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.
    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
    Last edited by Lee L; 09-03-2007 at 11:35 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7
    Andy K's Avatar
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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.
    Last edited by Andy K; 09-04-2007 at 02:58 AM. Click to view previous post history.


    -----------My Flickr-----------
    Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis is beatha, do chéal déanaimh.

  8. #8

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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.
    Free Photography Information on My Website
    http://www.rogerandfrances.com

  9. #9

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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. #10
    naturephoto1's Avatar
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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
    Richard A. Nelridge
    http://www.nelridge.com

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