Which Way to Go??

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I would to get your opinons, advice and thoughts on this. I'm thinking seriously about selling all my 4x5 gear plus some photography odds and ends to do this. I owned and used Leica M's and R's in the past and loved them, but I never had a complete bag of Leica equipment. What I'm thinking is buying a R8 with winder plus some zooms (28-70 and 80-200) or buying a old Leicaflex SL Mot or SL2 Mot plus some fixed lenses, 21,35,60,90 250. (FYI: I own and use daily for work Nikon gear, two Kodak/Nikon digital cameras plus a film body and four S zooms a couple of long fast lenses, all Nikon.) I would like to be able to use the Leica gear where I can for work and for myself. I don't mind the old SL gear and fixed lenses, It could be used for photographing in bad weather, bad situations and where batteries fail. The R8 and lenses could be used for portraits and such, that TTL with studio strobes would be nice. But no fixed lenses for the R8 just zooms. No rangefinders either, I like them but I like SLRs better. So which camera for me? Thanks for your help.


-- John Miller (vwbus1967@earthlink.net), December 05, 2001


The 28-70 zoom is not supposed to be all that good but the 35-70/4 is well regarded, as is the 80-200/4. This is just hearsay, however, since I've never tried any Leica zooms. But why don't you want the best of both worlds: R8 with fixed lenses? Speed would then be on your side.

-- Ray Moth (ray_moth@yahoo.com), December 05, 2001.

John, before you sell your 4x5 gear: do you use it? What kind of jobs do you use it for? Will 35mm be adequate for all those jobs, or will you wind up buying the 4x5 stuff over again, just as you are considering buying Leica gear over again. Do you need some of each for all you do? There are, as you know, some things that can only be done with large format . . .

-- Bob Fleischman (RFXMAIL@prodigy.net), December 05, 2001.


I guess it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I was in a similar situation about a year ago. I found that I was not missing many pictures but then again I wasn't having as much fun as I used to. In my case I picked up an r6.2 and later a well used SL along with a couple primes. they are different cameras each with different feel and I wont try to repeat what has been widely written. Now when I shoot for fun I use a basic camera, and a few basic primes. I may not get as many hits, but I have more fun. the leicas also work as a nice complement to my other gear and serves as a friendly reminder of the equipment I grew up with. My recommendation; a r8 with a winder and a couple of zooms is a fair chunk of money. pick up an SL, skip the SL2 MOT or the SL MOT as they come at a substantial premium and the motor if working is not worth what you are used to. pick up some primes and enjoy yourself. you can always pick up an r8 later. the r6.2 is smaller and lighter. I pack my r6.2 with a couple of primes when I dont want to lug 20 pounds of camera gear around. I pack my SL when I want some thing unobtrusive and I dont want to spend half my time watching my camera gear. let's face it a nikon F5 with a big zoom screams steal me. good luck!

-- greg mason (gmason1661@aol.com), December 06, 2001.

I have greatly reduced my Nikon AF system as I've increased my R system. I still use Nikon for wildlife, and things like photographing at parties, children, etc. where for me AF works better than manual or rangefinder. But my Hasselblad system won't get sold as long as rollfilm is available. The difference between Nikon and Leica is like the distance from New York to Philadelphia...medium- format is NYC to Chicago, and 4x5 is NYC to LA. If you go with Leica R, the choice of body or lens types is a personal question. The 28-70 is a remounted Sigma lens, fine if you're into R primes and want a backup, but not worth the price of admission as your only lens in that range. The 35-70/4 is a wonderful lens, as is the 80-200/4. Those two lenses can not be used on the SL/SL2 nor can they be modified. The cost of those lenses is peanuts compared to a set of equivalent R primes, and you suffer nothing in performance; unlike most slower Nikon zooms you can shoot these wide open with confidence. Add a 21/4 or 28/2.8 and either a 50/2 or 90/2 and you've got it pretty well covered. Only if you're really into low-light photography then consider the primes. As to bodies, you really need to handle them. There's a huge difference in features and handling between the R8 and R7 and R6/6.2. You need to consider them carefully and hold them and work them. And in any case, I strongly suggest at least 2 bodies. Leica R's don't have the cleanest reliability record and service is good but slow. With all due respects to Doug (and I own and love my SL)I wouldn't recommend it as a general-purpose body. The low-light sensitivity of the meter is not up to today's standards, there's no TTL flash, no reasonable way to motorize it and many very good lenses that can't be mounted on it, inlcuding the 24mm and any lens with the 3rd-cam-only or ROM.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), December 06, 2001.


Why either/or? My suggestion would be to get the R8 and primes and forget the zooms. I am not a fan of zooms as they are so slow. I always think that speed is very important, unless you are planning on tripod only. I am 75% a slide shooter of 100ISO films or less, so this might explain my thinking. The 35-70 and 80-200 are indeed reputed to be good zooms, the 28-70, less so, but f4 is too slow for me. I suggest an R8 with 21/4, 35/2, 60/2.8, 90/2 or 2.8 would be a good combination. A s/h R8 is "only" about $700 more than an SL. I guess I don't quite understand why you do not want to use fixed primes on the R8?

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), December 06, 2001.

Thanks for your many fine answers. Let me clear something up, if I need primes for speed I'll get Nikon because it will work for work where sometimes, I need the speed. If I buy a SL Mot or SL2 Mot, it's because I want the motor, I like motors on cameras and I use my left eye to focus, compose and using the film wind lever gets in my eye and I have to drop the camera to do it. I want zooms for the R8 becuase it will allow me to do the portraits without changing lenses and shooting with strobes the speed's not important. Plus for personal stuff using the Leica will be fun and it bring me back to why I got into photography. Plus I'll have the Leica look on the film. Again thanks for the input.

-- John Miller (vwbus1967@earthlink.net), December 06, 2001.

Hi John, I like zooms as well though I haven't used one since I sold my Nikon equipment 3 years ago. However, this 70-180/2.8 seems to be the jewel of zoom lenses for anyone who can afford it. I've never seen one, only read about them.

-- Peter Olsson (peter.olsson@lulebo.se), December 06, 2001.


So your point is that the 35-70 and the 80-200 do not fit the SL, needing the R8? Whereas if you want slow primes you would rather put them on an SL rather than an R8? Why? I still don't really understand. The R8 has a very fine winder and motor - much superior to an SLMOT. Why make a distinction between bodies -- unless you really much prefer the SL over the R8? Is that it?

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), December 06, 2001.

You asked for our opinions, so here are mine. In my experience, buying new equipment in order to renew photographic passion is often only a short term boost. Don't want to get too philosphical here, but I have done this and after a short while you get over the honeymoon of new camera/lens ownership, and then you just have another bag of expensive hardware to deal with in your house. I am certainly guilty of this myself. Anybody else notice this?

-- Andrew Schank (aschank@flash.net), December 06, 2001.

andrew: I too have done the same thing I have bought new equipment, used it and felt renewed, and then when the feeling went away, I felt guilty for spending so much money. I now get much more pleasure and save money, by picking up a well used older camera and giving it a second life. I believe that cameras are tools and great tools are meant to be used not stored on a shelf. not only does this provide a nice contrast to my more modern equipment, but it provides a nice check of my basic skills. recent cameras that i have put to use again include a contax IIIa, a black chrome SL and an olympus OM 2n. To me using an old camera pays homage to the early designers.

-- greg mason (gmason1661@aol.com), December 06, 2001.

I'll back up Andrew's opinion here. You are of course free to buy and use anything you want, but think about your motivation. I have over 30 cameras and over 75 lenses... all "the last one I would ever need", or "the one that will allow me to capture my true vision."

So 30 plus years from my first frame of film exposed, I have 5 frame per second motor driven cameras, lenses from 20mm to 500mm, medium format cameras and 5 Leica M's. For the last three years, 90% of my photography has been accomplished with a Leica M and a 35mm and / or 50mm lens, or a Nikon F-something (1,2 or 3) with a 35mm or 105mm lens.

With all of the promise of results based on "potential", it always (for me) comes back to simplicity and familiarity. I weaned myself off of the new (or additional used) gear bandwagon, and spend all of my money on film, travel and processing...life is good. I'm actually doing photography rather than camera collecting, which is why I picked up my first camera in the first place.

-- Al Smith (smith58@msn.com), December 06, 2001.

Why not get a smaller Nikon body such as an FM3A or an N80 with a couple of smallish Nikon primes? A 24/2.8, a 50/1.8 or 1.4 and a 85/1.8? You likely have these already...

-- Mani Sitaraman (bindumani@pacific.net.sg), December 06, 2001.

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