R Experiences

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As promised, here are some preliminary experiences from my first major travel event with the R system. I spent a couple weeks in Europe with the following: 2x R7, R6.2, 21/4, 28/2.8, 35/2, 50/2, 90/2, 2x. Film: Velvia and Elite 100. Tripods: Bogen 2005+medium ballhead with Kirk QR, and Leica table-top w. 14121 ballhead and Kirk QR. Also, a Rollei 35S loaded with Portra 800 for night-time snapshooting. I had along a Motor-Winder-R4, but never used it.

First off, the R6.2 (my backup body!)developed a metering problem where the averaging reading was about 5 stops overexposed from the selective mode. That body had the same problem before I bought it, which was "fixed" by Leica. Nonetheless, with the spot meter still accurate and everything else functioning, it was still viable as a backup... but never needed, as the R7's worked fine.

Loading the pre-R8 R bodies is not less daunting (to me) than an M6. Get the leader tip behind 2 of the tabs, then bring the cassette over into its recess. I had to pre-reverse-curl the leader tip to do this consistently. I prefer the Nikon system where the cassette goes in first.

Small nitpicks: it's easy to accidentally set the selftimer with 4th finger while holding the camera; also easy to trigger the shutter while attempting to lock the meter reading; meter reading can't be locked in averaging mode, which is a pain when all I needed was to have less sky in the frame to meter, then recompose. In manual mode in the R7, only spot metering is available. However the R7 size let me carry 2 bodies at once, something I couldn't have done as comfortably with the heavier R8.

Lenses: I opted to carry only prime lenses rather than zooms, because I anticipated a lot of handheld shooting and wanted to be able to keep the shutter speeds as high as possible. For that reason also, I carried the 90/2 instead of 90/2.8 even though I prefer the latter from a sharpness standpoint. Another reason was to have more finder brightness with the 2x, if needed. I only used it a couple times. Compared with the 35-70/4 and 80-200/4, the f/2 lenses are a joy to focus. Switching lenses is a pain however the Leica zoom range almost requires a good deal of it, too. For travel photography a 28-105 is very nice, and I wish Leica made one.

In all, I found the R system a workable compromise between the M system's portability and optical quality, and my Nikon's flexibility.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), September 18, 2001



How do you find the Kirk QRs? I use Bogen small QRs which are OK, but would like to get something thinner. Would you recommend them?

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), September 18, 2001.

Nice details Jay. I am a bit surprised by the spacing of your focal lengths. I would go crazy if I had that much back to back glass in my bag. Over the years I have been gradually reducing my volume by expanding the gaps from lens to lens. I recon that for all of the shots I miss by not having the exact focal length, I make up for it by not capping and changing lenses to the point of distraction. With SLRs, I've done many world wide excursions with only a 24mm and 85mm or a 35mm and 105mm. I have tried to like zooms, but to get the speed I like (at least f/2.0) primes are much more compact.

I use Nikons, but I have for years loaded my film by inserting it into the take-up spool first and then drawing the cassette across the film gate and placing it into the camera body. By holding my thumb on the sprocket, this is fast and with one shot with my motor drive, I slam the back closed and have no fear of a miss-load. I read about this trick in a magazine somewhere, and after trying it, I never put the cassette in first again. It is very fast and sure.

-- Al Smith (smith58@msn.com), September 18, 2001.


Thanks for the insight. After reading your post here, and the answers to my earlier R question, it sounds like I'll be sticking with my M for travel and Nikon for tele and macro use.

Thanks again for the report,

-- Jack Flesher (jbflesher@msn.com), September 18, 2001.

Re loading. To be fair to Leica they have always said that the tip should go into the spool and then insert the cassette, they said this in the original Leicaflex and the tradition continues up to the R6.2. I find it very reliable and easy, but it is different from current autoloading cameras.

My usual kit is 21, 28, 50, 80 or 90 and 180 but I do only carry one body. I often think about leaving the 21 behind, but usually end up taking it for the 5% of shots it is useful for and the 21mm SA-R is not a big and heavy lens. In Italy though with many narrow streets and stunning interiors wide-angles are very useful so I usually take the 21mm for this scenario.

I agree with Jay about the selftimer - it is very easy to nudge it and suddenly you find 10secs later the camera going off unexpectedly after you depressed the release to meter something and hence activated the timer.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), September 18, 2001.


Thanks for sharing your "R Experiences" with us. Did you carry all of the cameras and lenses in one bag with you when you traveled? Two camera bodies, five lenses, plus film and tripod paraphernalia sounds like a very heavy load to me! I personally prefer a lighter camera bag, so if possible, I usually travel with 3 R lenses - 28mm/f2.8, 50mm/f2 and 90mm/f2. I know I will miss some shots, but limiting myself to only 3 lenses forces a certain discipline on my shooting style. Of course, the camera bag becomes even lighter if I use only Leica M equipment!..............

-- Muhammad Chishty (applemac97@aol.com), September 18, 2001.

Two years ago I went from three Olympus bodies and 11 lenses to a couple of R3's with a 35-70, 90 F2 plus 2X. All of my work with an SLR encompases portraiture and I find that the only times I've missed the slew of equipment I had was when doing copy work - I miss the 90 macro. I know too many photographers who have back and shoulder problems ( I deal with a lot of pros) who admit that though they regularily carry 30 or 40 lbs of equipment, they infact usually use two or three favorite lenses..

-- Bob Todrick (bobtodrick@yahoo.com), September 18, 2001.

RE: Kirk QR vs Bogen. I have used Kirk (arca-style) QR for as long as I've used a QR at all. The couple Bogen QR heads I have, I made adaptors by securing a Kirk clamp to the Bogen plate with Loc-Tite. To me there is no contest, the arca-style is the only way to go. I know a lot of people like/use RRS but ordering from Kirk has always been easier because they take credit cards and now have a shopping- cart-type website.

RE: Lens focal lengths. Except while on landscape excursions via automobile, I did not carry all of it with me. For walkaround shooting I carried only one R7 body (I was not ever so far from the hotel that I couldn't have returned in case of a malfunction) and a selection of lenses I felt would best serve what I was intending to shoot. Lens groupings were 21-35-50-90 or 28-50-2x depending upon how far I was walking and if stair or hill-climbing was expected. I would have to say that I probably shot more images with the 50 than the others combined. That's not unusual for me, I cut my photographic teeth in an era when the 50 was the "standard" lens and to this day I feel more comfortable with it (at least on an SLR) than any other.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), September 18, 2001.


How do you secure the equipment left behind in the hotel room? I've always been afraid that someone would steel valuables left behind in the room.

-- Bob (robljones@home.com), September 18, 2001.

Jay- you say you prefer the 90/2 to the 90/2.8 for sharpness reasons. Is this the 90/2 APO? If I remember correctly, the /2APO edged out it's slower counterpart.

I'm curious as to how you secured your equipment as well. 2 Bodies and 4 lenses are all I'll carry when traveling, but they're on my hip 24/7.

-- Mike DeVoue (karma77@att.net), September 18, 2001.

Mike: the 90APO is an M lens. I was comparing the second (and final version) 90/2.8 Elmarit-R (which is optically identical to the current 90/2.8 M lens) to the 90/2 Summicron-R. I've got the 1st mechanical version, but the optical computation never changed. The performance of that lens is quite like the last pre-APO 90/2-M (at least that's what I found, having owned both). That is to say, the Elmarit has slightly better performance at f/2.8, and is slightly more even from center to corner at other apertures. It also has better overall performance at close distances. But really, the differences are not humongous, and f/2 while slightly soft, does give a brighter finder image, which is important with an SLR.

Bob/Mike: Many hotels have a little safe bolted down somewhere in the room, with either an electronic "set it yourself" combination or a heavy-duty key-operated tumbler which is given out at request from the desk. I find that 2 bodies and/or several lenses will fit quite nicely. I also have kept my spare gear wrapped up deep inside my largest, heaviest, padlocked suitcase. Hotel theft is mostly opportunistic. Thieves want to get in and out quickly, with whatever (cash, jewelry, etc.)they can pocket. The longer they need to dally with locks and such, the more chance they'll get caught in the act, as would be the case with trying to abscond with suitcases. Of course I recognize that I am taking some risk, but my equipment is insured and replaceable. There were times in the evenings on my recent trip where I left all of my R equipment behind and went out with only my Rollei 35S. I left the TV going in the room and the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the doorknob. In locations where on-site purchase of replacement equipment is impossible, I would probably keep my gear (or at least most of it) on me at all times, and in that case my choice of equipment would have to be made with that in mind. I will say, that my Galen Rowell Modular Waistpack comfortably lets me walk around with 12-15 lbs of gear, thanks to the waistbelt which is similar to that found on an expedition-quality backpack. Photoflex no longer sells them, but they can be bought from www.ecamerabags.com. A worf of caution is to never pick one up or carry it only by the shoulder-strap, though--mine popped apart at the fitting and it was lucky the bag was closed!

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), September 18, 2001.


I was wondering if any other R users had blurry shots of their feet as well! I found this out on the street and it bothered me as I didn't know what had happened to begin with and became concerned (R problems and all), but figured it out in short order and try and keep my ring and pinky away from the timer switch(usually!).

-- Dave Doyle (soilsouth@home.com), September 18, 2001.

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