Leica R4s info please

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I am thinking of buying an R4s; I currently have a Nikon F3 and various lenses but am considering selling my Nikon stuff changing over to Leica SLR. Does anyone have any experience with the R4s, good things to report, problems. I would be grateful for any info, things to look out for.

-- Christopher Goodwin (christopher.goodwin@gte.net), October 12, 2001


I owned one for a while. Very nice looking camera, with features that were good for its time and of course excellent lenses both optically and mechanically. Exposures were accurate. What I didn't like: The mirror dampening is not that great and I was not able to hand hold even 1/30 with much luck, no TTL flash, funky winder if you need one. Also, very limited affordable focal lengths. I think the 20 year old vintage Minolta electronics are an accident waiting to happen at this point. I recommend you stay with your F3, which has a better finder, smoother shutter, and TTL flash.

-- Andrew Schank (aschank@flash.net), October 12, 2001.

Can someone give all us readers an idea which models were made by Minolta and which are Leica originals. Also if it's a minolta clone, what minolta model served as the basis.

-- mark (mramra@qwest.net), October 12, 2001.

I used an R4s for 15 years until I was no longer able to focus it easily. I'm using Leicaflex SL now. IMHO the camera is very reliable, but the R4sP is a better camera because of the idiot- and weather-proofed switches (the former very important to me) and because in manual mode the shutter speed you've set is visible in the viewfinder. This last item is the greatest weakness of the R4s.

None of the R cameras have been made by minolta, but the R3 and R4 were derived from minolta designs (which ones I can't tell ya). Several of the components were made by minolta, the back for example.

If you want a 100% Leica R camera you're out of luck 'cuz even with the original Leicaflex the CdS cells were bought from an outside supplier, but as far as design is concerned, the Leicaflex cameras (standard, SL, SL2) and the R8 are Leica designs. Coinicidentally (or not) these are the R cameras with the brightest, easiest to focus viewfinders.

-- Douglas Herr (telyt@earthlink.net), October 12, 2001.


Give me(us) your reasons for desiring this model over your current setup, I really am curious. For further info on Leica R, Doug Herr's soilsouth@home.com), October 12, 2001.

Well wadda ya know not only did I screw up my reponse, Doug himself posted whilst I was making mincemeat of HTML and trying to direct you to his soilsouth@home.com), October 12, 2001.

Hmmm guess not, weird. www.wildlight.com/leica/

-- Dave Doyle (soilsouth@home.com), October 12, 2001.

R3 was derived from the Minolta XE-7, a superb SLR in its day. R4 was derived from one of the XD cameras, but my brain can't cough up the number today. We had these cameras side by side with the Leicas back in a store I worked at 20 years ago, and although it wasn't quite a "re-badge", I'd say there was more Minolta in there than Leica. Not saying that's a bad thing either, as even to this day, fancy electronics are not Leica's highest strength in my opinion.

-- Andrew Schank (aschank@flash.net), October 12, 2001.

Gosh. What quick and useful answers. In answer to Doug Doyle's question about why I want to change from the Nikon F3, I suppose the main reason is that I just find the F3 clunky, heavy and noisy and I wanted something a little more sophisticated without paying a crazy price. I just simply love the look and feel of the R4s. Also, it seemed to me, with the addition of a Simmicron 50 lens to be the least expensive way into Leicas.

Incidentally, I am wondering what the extra idiot-proofing and weather-proofing is on the R4sP.

And would still be grateful for any more comments, suggestions, advice. Thanks

-- Christopher Goodwin (christopher.goodwin@gte.net), October 12, 2001.

That should be Summicron, of course.

-- Christopher Goodwin (christopher.goodwin@gte.net), October 12, 2001.

Hi, Christopher:

This has to do with "And would still be grateful for any more comments, suggestions, advice . . ."

I own a R4 and though it has not had too much work since the M3s appeared in my life I can tell you it is a very satisfactory camera.

Compact as compared to many actual SLRs, not too noisy, good viewfinder, easy commands and useful viewfinder indications, solid and far from usual Leica prices by far.

Mine has behaved flawlessly though the model is not exactly famous, is it ?

If you can find one with no bugs or already debuged, it makes an extremely cost effective purchase.

My Summicron 50mm f2 is a Canadian one and extremely satisfactory too.

Good luck ! !


-- Iván Barrientos M (ingenieria@simltda.tie.cl), October 12, 2001.

"I just find the F3 clunky, heavy and noisy and I wanted something a little more sophisticated without paying a crazy price."

I am not sure if the R4 will fit the bill. I don't think any of the early R bodies can touch the F3 in terms of engineering. If you use a motor drive then you will find the R motor for the R4-R7 not up to the MD4. If you are going to take the dive in the Leica R photography then the R8 is the only way to go. Alternatively if you only want to use the lenses and don't care about the body then try the Novoflex R to EOS adapter. A used EOS1 adapted to take Leica glass is the best R body there is and I have used quite a few.

-- ray tai (razerx@netvigator.com), October 12, 2001.

Site to look at before buying an R4:



-- John Collier (jbcollier@powersurfr.com), October 12, 2001.


I have been using M's for 30 years and have a custom adapter to use Visoflex lenses on Nikon body. I used it on an F when I wanted macro capabilities. I recently (1 year ago) purchased an R4 body and am not comfortable using it. I prefer an M body with a Visoflex III for long lens or macro work. The R4 does not have a battery off switch, and if the shutter button is depressed slightly, with or without the shutter advanced the LED's light up running the batteries down. I carry a spare set of batteries. The film advance is a short stroke and very stiff despite a recent CLA. The viewfinder is not very bright on the R4 even after putting in an Intenscreen. I recently analyzed why it sits around and it comes down to the finder brightness, batteries and film advance. I would like to try holding an R8 to see if it is any more comfortable to use. I like the option of using the Canon body with an adapter. Good luck.

Mark J.

-- Mark A. Johnson (logic@gci.net), October 12, 2001.

Chris, the R4s as I recall is a simplified version of the R4, intended to fill a lower market niche. I don't have my reference stuff with me, and can't recall exactly in what way they simplified it, but I think it was not meant to be quite as professional a camera as the F3. I saw that you like the look and feel, but do be sure that you like the method of displaying the shutter speeds. On the R4 it's very hard to read which speed is in use, in the finder. With the R5, they went to a much more readable display.

I think what you will find if you make the switch is that the Leica glass is a bit better--just how much depends on the exact lens--but the R4s body is probably a bit of a comedown from an F3. Both brands do have some world-class lenses in their lineup, though. The 55mm Micro-Nikkor and the 105 f/2.5 are a hard act to follow. But then the 50mm Summicron, 60mm or 100mm Macro, and others balance the equation on the Leica side. So do be sure that you are actually gaining something for the work (or play) that you do.


-- Bob Fleischman (RFXMAIL@prodigy.net), October 12, 2001.

I used an R4 along with an SL for about 6 years before going almost exclusively to medium format (Hasselblad); and now back to mostly 35 with Leica M. No problems at all with the camera. I had a decent range of lenses, but used primarily the 35 Summicron and 60 Macro Elmarit. Both are cracking good optics that I would recommend to you. If you like the R4, go for it, although I am intrigued by Ray's suggestion of EOS1 body with lens adaptor.

-- David (pagedt@attglobal.net), October 12, 2001.

I currently use the R8 and the R6.2 as well as the F3HP and my ultimate wet dream is to be able to mount R lenses onto the F3/MD4! Anyway that is not possible but I do own the EOS to R mount adapter and the combination is much easier to use than with either R bodies. You retain full EOS function with the R lenses except for AF of course and you lose auto diaphram. However the way I use my R lenses is wide open or one stop down so auto diaphram is a non issue. Also with the optional Canon split image screen it is actually easier to focus than with either R body.

Now the best reason to use the EOS adapter: you can use the super cheap but excellent one and two cam lenses with no compatibility problems. The fact that you can spend $175 on a used one cam Summicron and use it on a ultra modern body without conversion is reason enough to get one.

-- ray tai (razerx@netvigator.com), October 12, 2001.

Incidentally, I am wondering what the extra idiot-proofing and weather-proofing is on the R4sP.

On the R4sP and later bodies to the R7, the meter mode selector is more difficult to change inadvertantly and the exposure compensation dial is easier to use. Also, the shutter speed/mode selector/shutter release area has better dust protection. The weather-proofing was never a problem on the R4s.

-- Douglas Herr (telyt@earthlink.net), October 12, 2001.


I told you the R4 is not the most famous Leica body. But still MY R4 is more than a decent camera and all I already said holds true.

There is only one item I forgor about: I couldn't say much about the automatic features of this camera since I have used it only in Manual.

Before I bought it I had already learned about the potential problems but no of them showed up in my camera. I don't really know whether it is just a lucky case but I have seen many advises against the R4 from many people who haven´t owned one and far fewer advises in favor of the R4 from people who have actually tried it. I have owned mine for about four years and it seems able to give the same excelent service for many more years.

That said I must confess that I dream of changing it by a Nikon F2 with DE finder (no light meter). But no quality issue is involved here. Only that the R4 still is an electronic body and I strongly prefer all mechanical cameras with no auto anything. And since I also own a Nikon FM2n and lenses the F2 would be a more practical addition to my gear bag.

But my personal preferences don't make the R4 any worst in the least.

Regards !


-- Iván Barrientos M (ingenieria@simltda.tie.cl), October 12, 2001.

I bought into the R series for a number of reasons, and settled on an R3 because of the attractive price (because it is bulkier and doesn't have the 'family' look it is cheaper), but I have regularily used and R4 and quite liked it. The things I like about these cameras are that they are, for the most part very reliable. This goes hand in hand with the availability of repair parts. Being in the industry I know that, for example, if you drop your F3 and crack the prism housing (a fairly common occurence, it seems), unless you buy used you're pooched. Same if the shutter goes. Same if the shutter goes on your FE/FM (though not FE2/FM2). Recently took 10 months to get a replacement prism for an F4 for a customer, a camera that he only bought new in 1994. When I bought my R3 (made in 1977), it was mint except that the light-trapping around the back door was shot, and the battery check LED didn't work, plus the bottom plate had a small ding (okay, maybe not 'mint'), but Leica had all these parts in stock and was able to make the camera as good as new. This is what I find very impressive about Leica, and why I get annoyed at times with the 'quality control freaks'. Maybe not all their cameras are perfect, but they sure as heck back them up for a lot longer than anyone else. (end of minor rant). The lenses of course are suberb, but if you need anymore than the basics you are going to have your bank account seriously depleted.

-- Bob Todrick (bobtodrick@yahoo.com), October 13, 2001.

I wonder if you would consider having your F3 body converted to accept R lenses? See here: http://nemeng.com/equipme nt/f2ar.html.

-- Hoyin Lee (leehoyin@hutchcity.com), October 13, 2001.

Bob is certainly right about Leica backing up their cameras longer than anyone else. Even though it is costly, you can still get brand new meter parts for even a CL from the 1970's for example.

-- Andrew Schank (aschank@flash.net), October 13, 2001.

Hoyin, I have looked into that F to R conversion but didn't like the permanence of it.

-- ray tai (razerx@netvigator.com), October 13, 2001.

Wow, what an idea! The best of both worlds. Ray, what's wrong with permanence? You can always buy another F2 . . .

-- Bob Fleischman (RFXMAIL@prodigy.net), October 13, 2001.

A big advantage to my way of thinking of the R series cameras is that, unlike the F3, they offer spot and center weighted metering, whereas the F3 offers only center weighted metering. The motor drive issues seem to me to be largely academic for most users. I have the R-winder and like it a good deal when I need it (for portraits usually) and cannot really think of a use for a 3-5fps motor. The F3 is a good camera, but the R4s is smaller and you can use Leica optics which is what it is all about...

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), October 15, 2001.

I just wanted to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread for their very helpful comments and suggestions. I've decided to buy the R4s with a 50 Summicron lens and will post my thoughts once I've had time to use it a bit.

-- Christopher Goodwin (christopher.goodwin@gte.net), October 17, 2001.

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