'R' lens vs. 'M'

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Well I still haven't made the jump to Leica. I read, go to the dealer, ponder... I'm thinking about an R6.2 and 35 and 80 lenses.

Those R lenses are even more expensive than the M's. What accounts for these prices? Are they better optically or mechanically? Or will I just be paying for an even smaller market?

I don't see much on this site regarding the 6.2 or the R lenses. Any comments about these would be much appreciated.

-- Tim Kamke (openmri@execpc.com), September 22, 2000


The new series of R lenses sure are expensive, and they have discontinued some of the great affordable lenses like the 90 f2.8 Elmarit, and the 35 f2.8 Elmarit, two of my favorites and superb lenses in every way. Because of the high cost of many of the R lenses, I only have the 35 f2.8, 50 f2.0, and 90 f2.8, which are all still readily available for reasonable prices on the used markets. The price of the real Lieca made fast zooms is out of control. All the R lenses have great mechanical construction and focus feel is really nice, very smooth and no slop. When mounted to the camera, they feel like they are welded in place. The coatings are superb. I don't like the paint they use on them, and this is really my only complaint. The black rubs off the edges quickly, and I swear they use the cheapest paint made on the numbers! If you use the camera a lot, the lenses look worn on the outside before their time. All three of my lenses are 55mm filter size, and they all have handy built in hoods. These three lenses perform as well as their equivalents that I use with an M3, and all are totally useable wide open. I still can not match the M3 in low light hand held stuff, however, as the SLR's mirror still comes into play and reduces sharpness at speeds of 1/15, 1/30 and even 1/60 with the 90. At these same speeds, I can nail 5 times as many sharp shots with the M camera. The M3 is more accurate with the focus as well. I have heard that the plain screen works better on the R cameras for many people, and I think I will eventually pick one up to try it out. I just picked up a winder R on e-bay, and I am surprised how much I like it. It is very quiet for a winder, and a useful item. It makes it easier to hand hold the camera, as you don't have to change your grip and concenration through the finder to manually wind it after a shot. I enjoy using the R camera, but I don't think I will be investing any serious money in any of the more exotic lenses.

-- Andrew Schank (aschank@flash.net), September 22, 2000.

The R lenses probably represent the absolute peak of optical engineering and art.In short they are superb. Are they worth the big money? I use colour neg film for prints,professional work,weddings and event with some photojournalism.I dont require the best....My wedding clients dont want the sharpest,clearest photos of themselves.I prefer a less expensive way of getting my results.I use a Pentax/Nikon/Canon Fd/System(not all mine !) as required with my very own Leica M3 and 50mm and 135mm Leica-M lenses.A professional friend of mine uses the R system and the results are spectacular. A SLR is easier to use than a Rngfdr.But in low light my M3 wipes out any Slr.I can use slower speeds.I can focus in almost no light.I once did assignment where the other pro had EOS-1 with a light to focus ,fitted to his flash,zoom lens 17~35 or similar.I had the 33 year old M3,50mm Summicron and 20 year old Vivitar 285.My results were much sharper and clearer and no DISTORTION.You will have to decide whether you want slr or rangefinder.Leica is expensive but in the long time use can be very economical. You just must use it more than 33 years!The problem is that technology is going very fast.Modern Japanese SLR offer very much more for your money... I`d recommend the M system.Have patience.Use it at least a year and then compare your best results.In my case,34 years ago,The Leica M3 was the way for me.I use less lenses,no accessories,just the body,2 lenses max.Flash if there is no light.I travel light and free,sometimes...."better a simple camera and a complex photographer than a complex camera and simple photographer.."

-- jason gold (jason1155234@webtv.net), September 23, 2000.

Please allow me to offer my 2 cents worth in here. first a qualification, (or lack of such)... I don't use the Leica R series. These are my points to arrive at that decision.

1. There is a difference between the use and goals of SLRs and Rangefinders. When I wanted to enter the world of rangefinders, there was only one serious place to go... Leica. Even with the entry of several other brands, IMHO the track record is not in yet, so I'll stick with Leica at this point in time. There are many sources of information on RF vs. SLRs, so I won't clog Tony's site with redundant talk about philosophy, but there are times when one system over the other is beneficial... there are times when either / or will also work. Each photographer needs to reach their own conclusions.

2. Owning a using both SLRs and RF cameras offer no cross utilization, so sticking with one system for both is a matter of desiring to do so for reasons other than any true mechanical advantage. You can't use M and R lenses on the opposite bodies, so a fully replicated set of lenses are needed anyway.

3. Cost over performance. I don't want to insult the users of R lenses... I'm sure they are great, but not so great that it should cost me to 1200 Dollars to get the equivalent Nikon lens for 400 Dollars. If you simply have that kind of disposable income... go for it. I am on a different budget, and need to justify my purchases. I can't scrimp on rangefinder cameras, but I can make up for that outlay of cash on the SLR side of the house. If I ever bit the bullet and purchased a R6.2, I'd be so coddling with it that I'd never fully realize its potential. The plastic Nikons of today are truly crap, IMHO... but you can go to any decent camera store and find great manual focus AIS lens in perfect condition for ridiculously low prices. I bought a perfect, (mechanical and cosmetic), 35mm f1.4 and 105mm f2.5 for a combined 800 Dollars. A brand new FM2 goes for 500 Dollars. If the R6.2 is better... is it that much better? Another benefit of the cost differential is that I actually use my SLRs. I'm not afraid to subject them to the abuse that comes with hard use. I can almost buy 4 brand new in the box FM2's for the price of 1 R6.2. If the R6.2 lasts twice as long as the FM2, (and I don't believe it will), I'm still ahead.

Here is a site in which a photographer did side by side comparison of the Nikon and Leica 35mm and 90mm (Leica) and 105mm (Nikon). Read his results and ask yourself about the intrinsic value over true value. Now if you ask about rangefinder cameras... I would totally recommend the Leica line.... nothing can touch it today.


-- Al Smith (smith58@msn.com), September 23, 2000.

The R-lenses tend to be more expensive - remember that reflex lenses need auto diaphragms and extra cams. They are no better optically or mechanically, but they are arguably the best set of lenses available for SLRs. Leica-R cameras have less features than Canon or Nikon etc. but in my opinion these features are not very useful, nor even desirable.

In my opinion the best way to get into Leica R is secondhand. You can pick up secondhand 21, 28, 35, 50, 90 (f2 and f2.8), 135, and 180 for under $700 each and you will be getting the best there is. My experience is that in general the lenses are superior to pretty well most Nikon equivalents, and most Canon (although some Canon L lenses are probably as good - but also cost the same). By "better" I mean their anti-flare characteristics and useability at wide apertures.

Al is correct when he says that for rangefinder there is still perhaps only one choice and that the reflexes suffer from competition from the Japanese. This is indeed the case, however, I think it needs to be said that a better comparison is between the premium Japanese lenses (L and ED types) and the Leica-R glass. The difference is then less of a big deal.

I have never bought a new Leica R lens (which I feel a little bad about) and every now and then wonder whether I might not find Canon as good, but the fact is when I get out my (Leica) projector and look at the results - they speak for themselves - why change something when I am happy with it? So as an answer to Al - I have never paid more than $1000 for a Leica lens (most in the region $500-$900) so although expensive it has not been totally out of proportion and I have not needed a second mortgage.

As others have mentioned on this site many times, rangefinder photography is an acquired taste and not every one likes it. I much prefer reflex viewing ("one kit does all") and bought a Leicaflex SL with older 50mm Summicron 50mm and 90mm 15 years ago and never looked back. The results were such that I lost my taste for the Canon optics I had previously. You can see my comments on the R6 posted elsewhere.

-- Robin Smith (rsmith@springer-ny.com), September 25, 2000.

Please, accept my two cents, gentlemen. During last 25 years I had many R-Leicas: the very first Leicaflex, then SL, SL2, R3, R4, R6 and lenses: 21, 28, 35, 50, 90(2.0, 2.8), 135, 180/2.8-old 2 cam, 180/2.8 compact. After many years of experience I have returned to a classic Nikon F. But RF Leicas I have never left. My opinion is that Leica R- lenses are weighty but excellent, may be the best in all respects, and almost comparable to M-lenses and to a few Nikkors AI-AIS (28/2.0, 35/1.4, 50/2.0/1.8, 105/2.5, 180/2.8 ED). Lecaflexes are not so reliable as Nikons F, F2, F3 are and are very huge, but no vibration. R-bodies have Minolta interior design and Seiko shutters. So much vibration and noise, and so much unsharp pictures made with mid-tele on short distances when handholding even on 1/60-1/125. Even FA is more quiet camera, but has limited reliability too. It is difficult for me to recognize R-Leicas as genuine pro-cameras.(I dont know R7, R8). So, for me R-lenses are exceptional, but R-bodies are not so good for them, R-bodies and R-lenses are created in different styles. By the way, I dream to shoot as David Alan Harvey does, with a single Leica with 35 and 50mm lenses.

Best, Victor

-- Victor Randin (www.ved@enran.com.ua), September 26, 2000.


I don't think the R6.2 has the Seiko-designed shutter as it is completely manual. I do not agree with your analysis. The original Leicaflexes are heavy, but no larger than an F3. The current R6.2 may debatably be less good at handling mirror vibration if this is true (I have not found this in my experience owning both an SL and an R6.2) this is due to the fact that the camera is much lighter rather than because the mirror box is inferior. I have no problem with mirror slap at 1/60 - 1/125. In my opinion the FA shutter cannot be compared with the Leica R6 in sound or vibration. I have looked many times at manual Nikon and like their bodies as a rule, but the R6 is much nicer in operation than an F3 or FA in my opinion with a much brighter screen. Your comments might indeed have some validity when referring to the R3 or to the early R4, which were perhaps less refined than the SL2 they replaced, but the current R6.2 and R8 are of very high quality. The big thing is the money - is it worth paying all that extra to get a Leica body to use the R-lenses. That is a personal decision, but, rest assured, you do get a nice body if you do think it is worth it.

-- Robin Smith (rsmith@springer-ny.com), September 27, 2000.


Thank you for your comments. I realy don't know R6.2, R7, R8 and have never shot with them. My personal conclusions about R3(shutter Leitz- Copal),R4(shutter Seiko-MCE)R6 are not so good.I like horizontal shutters. Seems, that R6 in operation was close on R4, it was very nice and pleasant, with exellent performance as all leicas are. But it wasn't a true pro-camera for me (like all Minoltas, exept XK with horizontal titan curtains). R-leicas are delicate cameras, not for hard work. Meanwhile, though R is not my cup of tea, I would like to play a little with a new R8 too. The difference between men and boys is the price of their tois, isn't it?. By the way, SL,SL2(I have one yet)are more weighty and more bulky in its dimensions than F-non photomic, F2, F3(I like them). But, sorry, seems, I got away from the main theme. Regards,

-- Victor Randin (www.ved@enran.com.ua), September 28, 2000.

Robin, I have just read, that R6.2 shutter is more quiet than R6 I have had http://teachnet.edb.utexas.edu/~leica/leicaslr.html

-- Victor Randin (www.ved@enran.com.ua), September 28, 2000.

The shutter and mirror are well controlled on the R7--noticeably better than the R4 I had. The camera also seems very ruggedly constructed-similar to the Nikon F3 in feel. For macro work, I have used the convenient mirror lock up for some of the sharpest close ups I have taken. By the way, the Minolta 55mm 2 element close up lens works remarkably good on my 90mm Elmarit. I don't do much super telephoto work these days, otherwise I'd pick up an old mile long 400 Leica Telyt lens and try it with the mirror lock up. My biggest problem with the R7 is that the focusing screen is almost too bright and clear. I'd like to find something that snaps in and out of focus with a bit more certainty. Unshart images taken with my R7 haven't been from camera shake as much as missing the focus from time to time. I've talked to Bill Maxwell and he told me to send him a stock matte screen and he'd run it through his process. one of these days...

-- Andrew Schank (aschank@flash.net), September 28, 2000.


I think you need the microprism spot screen (no split image). This is a big improvement in my opinion.

-- Robin Smith (rsmith@springer-ny.com), September 28, 2000.

Robin, what is the number designation of that screen?

-- Andrew Schank (aschank@flash.net), September 28, 2000.

Leica R lenses are the acme of Leica optics. According to Chasseur d'Image laboratory tests there are far more five star ***** R lenses then M lenses.

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), September 30, 2000.


At the risk of pointing out the obvious, there are also MORE R lenses than Ms - so perhaps your statement is not unexpected.

-- Robin Smith (rsmith@springer-ny.com), October 02, 2000.

Just a very good example of a quality of R-lens: "For the first time ever, a 35mm transparency was used for Kodak's 60- foot long Colorama in New York's Grand Central Station. All previous Kodak Coloramas (27 years worth) were made from Large- format negatives. What was truly astonishing was the fact that the tiny 35mm transparency, though magnified an incredible 516 times, retained sharpness. A very impressive testimonial to the quality of Leica lenses and photographer Ernst Haas. The camera: Leicaflex SL with Summicron 50mm lens" (Popular Photography, September 1978, p.75).)

-- Victor Randin (www.ved@enran.com.ua), October 04, 2000.

Robin, there are indeed more R lenses then M lenses. Since you asked, I will answer in a little more detail without copying the test result of Chasseur d'Image ( which they forbid ) Chasseur d'Image tested about eleven M lenses, including 35mm/2.0 3.5mm/1.4 ASPH etc, the highest rating all M lenses recieved were ****, 4 stars, there was NONE five star lens They also test 25 R lenses, with seven top rated lens received ***** rating. In terms of percentage, 28% or R lenses are *****, 0% M lens There you go. Chasseur d'Image lens test lab has advanced computer controlled, MTF lens test equipment.

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), October 04, 2000.

OK Martin

Point taken! Which R-lenses rated 5 stars as a matter of interest? Let me guess:

100mm Apo, 180 f3.4 or 180 f2.8 Apos, 180 f2 Apo, 280f2.8 Apo, 280 f4 Apo, 70-180mm f2.8 Apo, 35-70 f2.8 Asph?

Did they test the new 90mm Apo-M by any chance?

I am not a slave to MTF charts, but they are probably the best thing we have for testing resolution, if nothing else...

-- Robin Smith (rsmith@springer-ny.com), October 05, 2000.

Hi! M 90/2 apo asph received *****5 along with 2/35asph - 135/3.5 apo - 90/2.8 and 2/50.

-- christophe (CRHISROUEN@AOL.COM), December 01, 2000.

Is there a web site where they post these results?

-- Sol Campbell (solcam31@hotmail.com), December 02, 2000.

their web site is photim.com but they don't publish the tests on line. you can order lenses tests files on leicas M and R .(chasseur d'images)

-- Christophe (chrisrouen@aol.com), December 15, 2000.

None of you have mentioned the60mm macro elmarit which has never had needed to be changed optically since it was introduced. What do you say people?

-- David Laing Tribbeck (datri@telus.net), August 11, 2001.

Yes, that is right! The 2.8/60 macro was not mentioned so far. It also belong to the superb line of lenses from R series. All of the macro lens from Leica are very superb. I got an R6.2 fitted with 2.8/100 APO Macro + Elpro 1:1.1, R7 fitted with 2.8/60 Macro + 1:1 converter and an R5 fitted with 4.0/100 Macro. Some of my backup R lenses are 2.8/35 2.0/50 and 2.8/135. All of these 3 backup lenses are supported with Elpro 1-4. The battle of “which” in terms of “better” or “best” in a camera body or lens must be judged by its operational design and logic-user-friendly access. After using different systems before, I gathered test results from different SLR lenses before I decided to get the body. It really went to a very tight screening ended up with getting myself decided to use Leica system. Weight and size can also be added as factors but we do not need to argue about certain grams and certain millimeters. Mirror vibration can be elliminated by the MLU in R6, R6.2 and R7. What I am after for is durability, reliability, resale value and again…. operational design and logic-user-friendly access.

-- Leandro R. dela Cruz Jr. (shuttergear@compuserve.com), September 16, 2001.

The R8, IMHO , is far superior to the M cameras in every way. Leica optics, (their suppose to be better because I spent one katrillion dollars just for one lens), Brightest viewfinder of any SLR and an image that actually changes when you switch lenses. No, I am not a Leica shooter. I would say I can't afford to,but I have invested a good deal of money in the system I have chosen. An inferior choice I'm sure, but it gets used quite extensively. By the way, R lenses cost more because ROM is suppose to be similar to Nikon with its distance information for flash exposures. Hey, I thought Leica glass was fast enough not to need a flash!!

-- Brian Harvey (bharvey423@yahoo.com), September 27, 2001.

The R lenses are expensive yes, that's a horrible fact. But their performance in shooting color slides as I do is not compared by any other brand, I have been amazed to read a lot about lens sharpness, weight and so on and almost nothing about the amazing colors that Leica lenses can bring out in color transparency film, any brand! of course I rather use Velvia. I sold all my Nikkors even the expensive ones like the 2,8 zooms and use exclusively thre R lenses 28 f2.8, 60 f2.8 macro and 135 f2.8 There is nothing more I need. Good luck in your search for you optimal lens choice.

-- Marco Hidalgo (marco_hidalgo@hotmail.com), October 22, 2001.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of discussion of the relative quality of the Leica-R wideangle lenses. I Have wideangle lenses in Leica M mount (21/3.4, 28/2.8, 35/2, 35/1.4); and Nikon mount (20/4, 24/2.8, 28/2.8, 35/2 & 35PC). I might like to add one or two wideangles for the Leica R4, but only if they are really good, and worth the $. Erwin Puts seems unimpressed with the 35/2 R. He doesn't comment on the 35/2.8 or the 28/2.8. These are the two I would probably consider, if I could find out anything about them.

Marco says he got rid of his 28/2.8 Nikkor in favor of the Leica equivalent lens. I take that to be a pretty strong endorsement. What do the rest of you think about R wideangles, especially 24, 28, & 35?

-- Bob Fleischman (RFXMAIL@prodigy.net), November 04, 2001.

Bob: Yes the Leica R 28 f2.8 is quite an impressive lens, compared to the Nikon, sharpness seems to be the same. But then again, color reproduction is outstanding, great resistance to flare and can be used at full aperture, although downstopping the lens to f4 seems to be better. It is very small and light. A great lens I would say. It has a bayonet lens hood wich works very nice but it accepts only series 7 filters. The down side is the 48 mm filter diameter, find a stepping ring 48-55mm. to use other size filters. The Nikkors are good lenses, but the Leicas are better there's no doubt about that. By the way this lens I bought for $450 Dollars. it is early 1980's according to it's serial number.

-- Marco Hidalgo (marco_hidalgo@hotmail.com), November 09, 2001.

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