Leica R -- Why no ratchet on the film advance?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Leica Photography : One Thread

Looking for a 35mm SLR to compliment my M, I naturally looked to the Leica R's. But I was very surprised to find that none (I tried an R3, R4 and R8) have a ratchet on the film advance, a feature which I consider almost mandatory and which I equate with high-end 35mm cameras. Leica M's and Nikon F's have ratchet film advance, why not Leica R?

-- Peter Hughes (ravenart@pacbell.net), November 29, 2001


I think I know the answer. The R3 and R4 are pretty much rebadged Minoltas. The Minoltas had some components from other manufacturers including the shutter (either Copal or Seiko). A camera store owner once opened up a Leica R4, a Nikon EM, and a Minolta MD11 and said take a look. They had the shutter.

-- Sanford (sanford@usa.com), November 29, 2001.

It's a feature I had become accustomed to on my Nikon bodies, and I missed it at first when I switched to the Leicaflex SL but it's not a big deal to me now.

It has its advantages, in that with the ratcheted film advance, when it stops advancing I can't tell if it's because the film is fully advanced or if it's because I'm at the end of the roll of film, where with the non-ratcheted film advance, if I'm at the end of a roll of film, the film advance lever swings freely through at least part of its travel.

-- Douglas Herr (telyt@earthlink.net), November 29, 2001.

I really like the feature that the film advance of the Leica Mīs have a ratchet. Having used several Nikons, Minoltas, Pentaxes and Leica Rīs in the past I noticed one correlation: Cameras with shutters travelling horizontal (Leica Mīs, Nikon F, F2 and F3, Pentax LX and MX) have ratchet film advance. Those cameras with vertical shutter blades have not (Nikon FM, FM2, FE2, Pentax MEsuper, Minolta XD-7, Leica Rīs). However, I am not sure wether this is just a correlation or due to technical aspects of the type of shutter.

-- C. Fischer (cfischer@zedat.fu-berlin.de), November 29, 2001.

I noticed one correlation: Cameras with shutters travelling horizontal (Leica Mīs, Nikon F, F2 and F3, Pentax LX and MX) have ratchet film advance.

Leicaflex cameras don't fit this pattern. Horizontal shutter, non- ratcheted film advance.

-- Douglas Herr (telyt@earthlink.net), November 29, 2001.

A ratcheting mechanism is more complex and expensive to make than a non-ratcheting one. Unless your thumb has a limited range of motion or the camera is in confinement so that the lever can't travel its full arc, I'm not sure what the difference is. I've used a bunch of different cameras and never paid any attention...I just normally work the lever all the way. With the R8 I keep the power winder on it all the time and never use the thumb lever.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), November 29, 2001.

I believe there's a design limitation in the vertical-travel shutters (or at least there was when they were introduced mid-60s) that prevented the use of a ratcheting system...the mix of springs and levers and such could not be left "half-wound" while the thumb returned for the second stroke - it all had to happen in one smooth motion.

The multiple stroke on thumb-wound horizontal shutters has been around at least since the M3 came in - orginally with a ratchet that HAD to be stroked twice - no choice! And of course knob-wound screw-mount shutters have to be able to "pause" halfway while you get your wrist uncocked for another twist.

As far as I remember ALL the thumb-wound cameras with horizontal shutters, from the Nikon SP and Canon P right up through the Canon A-1 and Nikon F3, allowed ratcheting. How about the Olympus bodies?

-- Andy Piper (apidens@denver.infi.net), November 29, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ