Future of R - Design Concerns

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I think Leica basically shot themselves in the foot with the combination of a long-throw aperture actuator and the large secondary light-gathering mirror of the R-4 and later R cameras. I believe this combo is responsible for the long delay and the loud (and long-winded) "ker-thunk" of the shutter release. This is the factor that truly turns me off to the R-6.2. The R-8 also suffers here, as well as from a distinct additional delay if the shutter-button is pressed home without first giving a bit of time for the led's to come on. Thus many "decisive-moments" are missed. The older SL's and SL-2's were much better in this regard, with a quicker and more decisive response. My favorite SLR's in terms of both shutter response-time and shutter-release quality in general are, apart from the SL and SL-2, the old Nikon F and the Nikon F-100. If Leica could make a new R with this kind of shutter response and "feel," I bet more people would line up to buy them. Maybe I'm being a bit long-winded on a single aspect, but I'm truly concerned about the R's future, and invite others to detail their own concerns about the system. I've heard lots of general criticism of the Leica R-system on this site, but would like to hear some more detailed specifics. IMHO, the R-8 is conceptually right-on, but needs to be just a bit smaller, with a faster shutter-response, and the "center-weighted" meter setting needs to be truly symmetrical like Nikon's, as opposed to being bottom-weighted with the old-world assumption that we're all shooting 1/3 sky 2/3 foreground landscapes. The truly weird R-8 DOF actuator should be replaced by the Sl-style DOF button. Anyone out there have other specific concerns about the R's?

-- John Layton (john.layton@valley.net), January 26, 2002


John - I whole heartedly agree with you. When I've bemoaned the delay I've often been told I'm imagining it. I think that it particularly struck me as I went straight from Nikon F100 to R6. The R8 is a little better, but as you say still suffers from the same problem. Quite a time ago somebody (I think it may have been Jay but I can't be sure - please don't take offence if I'm wrongly attributing!) said that he was beginning to not be able to see the point of the R system - he would rather use a Hasselblad when he needed slr viewing. At the time I was outraged but I have to say I can see the point of this reasoning. If you've got a delay and a clunky shutter it's very easy to miss the moment - you might just as well slow right down and use a tripod (and a bigger negative). Fortunately for Leica, the new 'blad lenses are so insanely expensive as to make leica look affordable but nonetheless the real selling point of 35mm slr's seems to me to be their flexibility - the ability to use fast-reacting zoom lenses being a key part of this. The R system needs a viable 35-70 2.8. It almost certainly also needs a 20-35 at 2.8. By spending time on an improved 15 you've got to wonder if they are even trying to succeed.

-- steve (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), January 26, 2002.

I've never noticed an objectionable shutter lag on the R8--and I've owned them all, from Nikon F to EOS-1v. Perhaps having the motor helps. Anyway, it's a perfect mate for my Hassy system.

If you want to pick nits, yes, I'd prefer a different DOF button and a symmetrical center-weighted meter. My main complaint is that it's difficult to squeeze off only one shot with the motor in "H" position. I never had any trouble with Nikon or Canon motors in this regard. However, none of this seriously detracts from the fact that the camera is a magnificent instrument, with lenses that are in a class by themselves.

-- Peter Hughes (ravenart@pacbell.net), January 26, 2002.

I just want to reiterate that, if we're talking design flaws, Canon and Nikon--indeed, all other 35mm SLR--suffer from one major design flaw that simply can't be ignored: they don't have a Leica lens mount. The difference in character between Japanese lenses and German lenses is like the difference in character between a Ford and a Ferrari. I would rather put up with a few idiosyncrasies like a slightly clumsy DOF button and an overly sensitive shutter release--neither of which show up on the final print--than put up with Japanese glass.

-- Peter Hughes (ravenart@pacbell.net), January 26, 2002.

I have agree with Peter on this one. While I agree that Leica bodys can always be improved on, I use R-6 and R-7 and M-6 bodys and have had very few problems. With these cameras I can I can adapt to just about any challanges that I come across in my personal photography. But ahh, those optics make me so very happy. Long live Leica and us all in our new century. Cheers

-- Ronald Wills (youngdeer@earthlink.net), January 26, 2002.

The motor drive on the R8 does indeed seem to get rid of the problem. It does, however, make the camera excessively large and cumbersome (the same could obviously be said of the F5 which is why I used to use F100s)

-- stephen (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), January 26, 2002.

Steve: The return of the 35-70 F2.8 has been rumored now for a while. The new 20-35mm zoom is due next month. The company is trying!! Thank God for German glass!!

-- Albert Knapp MD (albertknappmd@mac.com), January 26, 2002.

Does anyone think a Visoflex could be designed that would accept R lenses? Would it have a place in the scheme of things, especially if the R cameras were ever dropped?

-- Frank Horn (owlhoot45@hotmail.com), January 26, 2002.

I have several adaptors which when attached to my R lenses allow me to mount them on Canon EOS bodies. Since I wanted to switch to Canon for the large array of IS lenses with USM motors, it's an ideal situation because the Leica primes and IS zooms can be used on the same bodies. I envisioned selling all my R bodies. But here's something odd: I could never understand why everyone raved about the R8 as being "intuitive" and like a breath of fresh air after a modern AF SLR...until I switched from Nikon to Canon! Setting the controls on my new 1v is like playing a clarinet; so many buttons to press separately, together, along with spinning dials etc. On my Nikon F5 using mirror lock-up was a matter of flipping a lever on the front and the mirror stayed up until I re-flipped the same lever. Even less complicated than the simple arrangement on the R8. On the EOS mirror lockup is a "custom function" I need to remember the specific number and set it with a button (under a door flap) and a wheel...*and* remember to un-set it! I can surely see why the R8 is such a relief after using a Canon for a while. And today I shot a rock band in concert using a pair of R6.2's with 50 and 180 and Metz flashes. No shutter lag that I could tell, compared to other cameras. And it was sure nice to be able to shoulder 2 bodies that each only weigh 1/3 more than *one* R8 or EOS 1v. I'll be hanging onto most of my R bodies for a little while longer.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), January 26, 2002.

Until it has a 100% viewfinder, it will always be looked upon as an amateur's camera, no matter how good it is.

-- (bmitch@home.com), January 26, 2002.

now that olympus has stopped making their om cameras maybe leica could steal a few ideas from them. the r6.2 and my om2n are approximately the same size and handle the sameyet the olympus shutter feels much better and is definately more quiet. they are not substantially more noisy than a leica m.

-- greg mason (gmason1661@aol.com), January 27, 2002.

I agree that for scientific and architectural work a 100% viewfinder is essential, and in other photography it's a nice thing to have (as long as you don't forget to remember to crop loose enough to clear a slide mount). But the prism finders (and even waistlevel finders) of Hasselblads offer less coverage than the R bodies, ditto the prisms on the Pentax 67 (whose coverage is more like an entry-level Nikon or Canon) and neither of those cameras are considered "amateur". Many professionals shoot with Nikon n90s, F100 and Canon EOS3, which do not have 100% viewfinders. If I were going to list reasons why the R system is mostly used by amateurs, the 93% viewfinder wouldn't make the top 10. At this moment, the fact that no digital R body exists is probably now the #1 reason, jumping ahead even of the lack of AF. #3 is the lack of a true spot meter. Then there's the top drive speed of 4.5fps requiring a huge add-on with only one choice of battery supply, the limited "smart flash" technology, old-tech 6-segment evaluative metering...those are some of the more glaring technological reasons. Then there's the cost. Professional photography is a business, and you can put together a Nikon or Canon system for a lot less investment and I haven't heard of any pros being offered triple rate by a client because they use Leica glass.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), January 27, 2002.

I vote the R8 as the ugliest SLR.....no,the ugliest camera ever made.I hope this duckling ends up in a chinese resturant because it's NEVER going to grow into a swan.

-- Phill Kneen (philkneen@manx.net), January 27, 2002.

Hey Phil,I'm with you.Controversial as it my be, I have to agree.

Let's be honest,if the same camera was made by Nikon or Canon it would be treated as a joke and let's look at the evidence,it is a joke.The people who bought them only did so because they are Leica snobs.

-- Craig (craigsmith@hotmail.com), January 27, 2002.

Albert - I strongly agree with your final sentiment. Let's hope the wide angle zoom is as good as the 35-70f4 (and not just as good as the 28-70).

-- steve (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), January 27, 2002.

Phil-why do you have to badmouth Leica? Let's start taking the rip out of English products and see how you like it.I take it you can't afford a Leica yourself?

-- Damian (damianfrost@hotmail.co), January 27, 2002.

Damian,"take the rip" out of the English all you like-I'm not English,I'm manx.The Isle of Man has it's own government and laws independent of England.I do own a Leica actually-M6ttl,35mm 1.4.

Some people on this site need to lighten up.

-- Phill (philkneen@manx.net), January 27, 2002.

I vote the R8 one of the most beautiful cameras ever made. And only a fool who has never done a direct comparison between Japanese and German glass would think that a person bought a Leica R because they were a snob. And as for a 100% finder, well, in all my years of photography I have never discovered this to be of any value whatsoever. In fact, I like having a little bit of extra negative to work with, especially since the negative carrier on my scanner crops off a bit.

-- Peter Hughes (ravenart@pacbell.net), January 27, 2002.

Peter,I made no mention of optical quality.I am talking pure looks.The Leica R8 is a pig and it's nice to see you have posted a picture of an ugly bird to go with an ugly camera.

Why would I Knock the image quality of Leica,I have an M6.....now that IS a fine looking camera.

-- Phill (philkneen@manx.net), January 27, 2002.

HOW DARE YOU! I have never read such an insulting post in all my time coming to this site.I very rarely speak out but I feel Phil Keen has gone too far this time.That photograph may be of a loved one,Peters wife or partner.It may even be an image of someone who has passed away.

You need to apologise Phil.

-- Damian (damianfrost@hotmail.com), January 27, 2002.

I have never seen what the R8's looks have to do with anything photographic. It's a camera, not an objet d'art for the coffee table or perhaps that's *just* what it is for the people who refer to it as "ugly". There is an issue to the fact the right-side strap lug positions the strap between your fingers in an uncomfotable manner. There is also an issue that the shutter-button was mounted on toprather than out front and angled on the grip which due to the body thickness makes it a bit of a reach for small fingers. There is another issue regarding the exposure compensation lever which can't be operated with one's right eye to the finder, at least without risk of putting one's thumb in the left eye. Those are issues I would nitpick over as a photographer, not the outward body design. I own several cameras including a couple R8's, and have owned many over the years. I confess I never thought of them in esthetic terms, maybe I'm missing a gene?

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), January 27, 2002.

I suspect someone is playing games. This wouldn't be the first time an offensive post has been made to this forum under a false name.

To add my 2 cents, what I don't like about Leica R cameras is the way the lens is spring-loaded to its selected aperture. In the R8, the lens spring is used to stop the lens down to its taking aperture when the tension on the aperture control ring is relaxed at the moment the shutter release is pressed. In the case of my R8 (which I have now traded in for an M), the aperture control ring was sticking, resulting in the lenses failing to stop down properly on releasing the shutter. I have heard that this problem is fairly common in R8s.

On Olympus OM cameras (and possibly others, for all I know), the lens is spring-loaded to the fully-open position. The stop-down mechanism is actuated by a lever in the body of the camera when the shutter is released. This is a much more positive action, in my view. I've never heard of any problems in the Olympus stop-down mechanism.

Stephen Gandy refers to the R8 (somwhere on his web site, I think) as "The Hunchback of Solms." I thought my R8 looked OK and no more outlandish than many of its contemporaries but I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

-- Ray Moth (ray_moth@yahoo.com), January 28, 2002.


It is your right to post your likes and dislikes but it is NOT your right to refer to people as "Leica snobs" when they don't share your opinions. Please keep the discussion civil and polite. LB

-- Luther Berry (lberrytx@aol.com), January 28, 2002.

Since we are considering all this there is nothing particularly beautiful about an M camera, nor was the original Contax r/f a thing of beauty. I think the R8 looks just as ugly as any other current reflex camera: it seems to me to be irrelevant to whether it is a good camera. There is a kind if beauty in precision engineering that the M6 and earlier M3-m2-M4 have and I think that the Leicaflex/SL/SL2/R8 also have. The Alpas and the Contarex have this trait, as do a number of cameras built in the 50s. Where are they now? The R3 - R7 are less impressive in this regard, but I think this is not important as I personally think the R6.2 is a very competent camera. I too have never needed a 100% viewfidner, nor have I found the shutter release response time to be an issue at all. Also to be frank, I also find the earnest discussions of depth of field previews strange as I so rarely use mine and consider this not a lot of use, since a) the amount of definition you can make out on the screen is never high enough to tell you whether what you see is really going to be sharp when enlarged, and b) it is usually too dark to see much anyway. I find the same with the Hasselblad. I use the depth of field scales.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), January 28, 2002.

john, at the Seoul Olympics in '88, Jeff Widener (he of Tank pic fame) and I approached Leica and suggested they take a leaf out of Olympus slr philosphy. Naturally enough, all this fell on deaf ears. So now we have the R8. Look out for an 'improved' version sometime soon. It will not meet all of our expectations, but at least they have added a lock to that mode switch. For the rest, I'm afraid it will be a long, long wait to arrive at the 'ideal' slr design, whether film or digital. These guys are on a different agenda. But, that said there is still nothing around in my view that comes close to the 'glass' mounted on the front end. Personally, I'm considering taking abackward step, to the old SL2...except I'll miss the R8's metering. best and re

-- jonathan eastland (ajaxpics@freezone.co.uk), January 31, 2002.

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