SLR sought : LUSENET : Leica Photography : One Thread

Probably just an excuse to buy another camera but I am getting around it by saying it's for my wife. With a horticultural background, she wants to do plant close-ups, also likes gardens, nature and travel photography. So an SLR. She hates fiddly cameras, wants it to be fuss-free, but as an art fan is also very critical of the finished result! Three choices: secondhand manual SLR like an OM1, all-new AF SLR, or top-quality new (ish) manual SLR (Contax Aria perhaps, or secondhand Leica R4 to 7?). It should be a worthwhile investment, not something to exchange after a year or so. Suggestions?

-- David killick (, February 05, 2002


The Aria was supposedly designed for "a woman's hands". Which may be sexist silliness, but it is very comfortable with shorter lenses. If she can live with a 60 macro instead of the Zeiss 100 (which is a little big on the Aria) it should be very nice - and weigh less with it's built-in motor than an R4 without a motor. It has all the traditional analog dials, but also a program mode and segmented metering (which is rare in non-AF cameras - the Aria, the R8, and the old Nikon FA).

Whether the Zeiss glass will stand up to her critical eye compared with Leica is another question.

The 28-70 Zeiss zoom is also very compact/light (plastic barrels) but possibly a good travel lens.

As to investment - who knows how long Contax will stay with manual focus vs. the "N" line?

-- Andy Piper (, February 05, 2002.

I have to agree with Andy, the Aria might be a good choice. Other nice Contax cameras include the 137 (old one, but ok) and the 167 (long time Contax standard) and also have non-fussy intefaces and automatism if you like.
Zeiss glass is great, no doubt, and some of the lenses (not all) are very light to go with the Aria very well. The 60 macro seems to be an excellent choice and the zoom which comes with the Aria is not really bad.

Another choice might include of course a Leica, but others may give better advice here. Leica SLR is just not my kind.

Olympus might also be a good choice, zuiko lenses also have a good reputation. Canon and Nikon cameras seem to be too large to me, but are also a choice if you happen to like them. If they are a worthwile investment, you have to decide yourself - prices drop quite fast after a model is phased out of the product line.

The best way to figure it out would be a trip to a large photo shop where you can try out different cameras, and give everything a try.

Good luck finding the right one !

-- Kai Blanke (, February 05, 2002.

David, you might want to keep in mind that Olympus recently announced the discontinuation the OM line of cameras and are now concentrating on the digital camera market. You might want to take that into consideration if you do decide to go the used manual SLR route. Nikon FM2's and F3's, on the other hand, are still good buys in the used market.

-- Badris (, February 05, 2002.

Re: Contax Aria + 28-70. I can't say I agree with the above. The lens, to start with, is Contax's worst by a very long way (the 35-70 and 28-85 are vastly better optically - can confirm this). As for the body, I have found the viewfinder to be really quite poor and the build to be plasticky. Besides which, it is fairly clear that the contax MM range is a dead system (even if kyocera/contax are not officially dropping it yet). If you like contax, you'd be better off with an NX and one of the new N mount af lenses. A second hand R4/R5/R6 would be much less likely to lose a load of money as depreciation has already happened to a large extent, and you can pick up eg. a 3 cam 60 macro for not too much (a lens which offers exceptional image quality). The OMs may get a little harder to repair (eventually) but have affordable and high quality lenses (secondhand) and have excellent viewfinders for careful close-up work.

-- steve (, February 05, 2002.

I really believe if you want a new SLR it is very difficult to recommend anything other than a new Canon or Nikon mid range SLR. You then have access to an incredible range of lenses at every price point together with all the close-up and flash accessories you could possibly need. The pro level lenses from these two are absolutely second to none - my choice would be an EOS 5 or 33 with the 28-70 F2.8 pro zoom. This would be a beautifully handling, well built set- up capable of of tackling any task - if you need a macro or long lens there are countless examples available secondhand. Leica rule the RF world but I would stay away from their SLR's along with Contax, Olympus etc

-- Giles Poilu (, February 05, 2002.

I agree. (with Giles). Now that Olympus is leaving the SLR market I wonder how long they'll properly service them, and face it, an OM1 for example is going to be 25 years old. I'd love to say Leica or Contax, but unless your wife is the type to get online and argue incessantly, not that I would do this ;-) over nits, she'll probably not appreicate the 'finer points'. I think the Elan 7 and Nikon N80 are great funtioning cameras that allow entry into a vast range of lenses - from the light travel zoom to heavyweight pro glass.

-- Bob Todrick (, February 05, 2002.

I would recommend the Leica C1, in black of course. It is a very elegant design, and fits well in a woman's purse or draped on her wrist. A SLR, no matter how small, is a beast of a camera to carry around, especially for a woman. I'm not being sexist here but how many women do you see lugging around Billingham, Domke or other bags, or even SLR's on their shoulders as they go about their day? Even 500 grams is too much to carry around.

The Leica C1 has five distinct mm stops, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 90mm, and 105mm I think. This should cover most needs. To do close up work, the 105mm works very well. It is so easy to use that even I was able to use it in a few minutes.

I bought one for a friend as a gift and this camera goes everywhere with her. I'll post some of her pictures here soon. They are superb in quality, better than most SLR's.

A camera that is used is a great camera. A camera that is not used is just a depreciating asset.

The view through the eyehole in the C1 is not like the M6, but adjusts according to the focal length, so you can visualize the true picture before you press the shutter.

Please try one if you get a chance. I'm sure your wife will be happy.

-- Vikram (, February 05, 2002.

I would say get the olympus .

1- There's a huge used market , with good prices ( lot's of macro equipment too ).

2- Without the winder , it is very small .

3- om4 has one of the best metering systems of any camera ( 8 spot averaging ! )

4 - You get much more for your dollar with the olympus than with either contax or leica .

-- leonid kotlyar (, February 05, 2002.

Just how sexist is this forum? A leica c1 for plant close-ups? Get a grip.

-- steve (, February 05, 2002.

EOS Elan 7 with 28-105mm USM II. Excellent camera does point and shoot and a lot more besides. I would not worry about buying a Leica or a Contax unless she is a nerd. The Canon zoom is great although slowish. The camera is very quiet, quieter than the R6/7/8 and a good buy. Of course, it is not a Leica, but it is a very capable and affordable combination.

-- Robin Smith (, February 05, 2002.

In discontinuing the OM line, Olympus promised to stock parts for 10 years. The only new OMs they have made in a while are the OM3 and OM4, both comparable to the Leica R 6 series--expensive, too.

The OM1 and OM2 (the first all mechanical, and the second electronically assisted) are great cameras, readily available used. They have a niche in macro work--good lenses, mirror lock-up. Prices are very reasonable. You can usually find the bodies for $200 or less, mint, often much less.

I'm very happy with my OM equipment. It will go head to head with anybody, and it won't require a second mortgage. Try it!

-- Preston Merchant (, February 05, 2002.

Hey, this is a Leica forum. She needs a Leica! :-)

In close-ups the quality of a leica lens shows very well.

-- ReinierV (, February 05, 2002.

Just how sexist is this forum? A leica c1 for plant close-ups?

We do allow women to do their harmless little botanical studies.

I second the Elan 7. I got one for my wife (ahem), then took possession of it myself because she never used it. Just the other day I traded it for an F100, which is a far more manly camera. :) The Leica R's are beautiful also, though a very different type of camera from the Elan.

(Note that the above sexist humor is very tongue-in-cheek. Regular readers know I'm quite feminist in my outlook.)

-- Peter Hughes (, February 05, 2002.

EOS 33 (UK) = Elan 7 in the USA?

-- Giles Poilu (, February 05, 2002.

I also suggest a Canon SLR. I might suggest something other than an Elan 7 or 7E however for one reason: only those bodies will not meter correctly with a non-EF lens. The other Canon bodies will meter in stop-down mode if you use a manual-focus lens with an EOS adaptor. This would allow you to use Leica R lenses (including very affordable 1 and 2-cam lenses!) on it. I own 2 EOS 1n's and a 1v and use my Leica primes in conjunction with Canon IS lenses. To me the only reason to buy Canon lenses is for the IS, which is truly the best thing to hit photography since the dry plate. If you do not want to adapt Leica lenses, then the Elan 7 is a nice body. For macro work, the Tamron 90/2.8 SP Macro is probably second only to the Leica 100/2.8 APO-Macro-R, and not by much. It is a plasticky-feeling lens (and a heck of a lot lighter than the Leica) but optically it is *wow*. The other lens I would suggest is the 28- 135IS. This lens is greater range and optically better than the 28- 105 plus the IS feature is invaluable for shooting without a tripod. Another benefit to the Canon line is you have instant access to top- end digital SLR bodies which can also accept Leica R lenses. The D30 is a very nice body and a worthwhile adjunct to a film system. Undoubtedly the prices will be coming down as soon as 1D stock is plentiful.

-- Jay (, February 05, 2002.

Fuss-free and non-fiddly may not match with macro work, but if she can put up with a bit of fussing on the macro stuff and enjoy fewer fiddles with her general photography, I'd add my support for one of the mid-range AF/AE Nikons. The 60mm and 105mm Micro Nikkors are excellent for close-ups, and there is a wide variety of excellent lenses for general and travel photography, along with plenty of close-up accessories.

-- Ralph Barker (, February 05, 2002.

As someone mentioned, this *is* a Leica list, so my suggestion is a Leicaflex SL with a 60mm Elmarit Macro lens. They don't get much less fiddly than an SL, and in terms of build quality it is the M3 of SLRs. This would be a great botanical close-up kit that won't break the bank.

-- Bob (, February 05, 2002.

I agree with several of the previous posters. My vote for Canon Rebel 2000 or Elan 7 with 50 1.8 or if macro needed 50 macro 2.5. New system, very user friendly and great quality plus positioned for digital. Second choice obviously would be Nikon N65 or N80 with one of their normal or macro lenses for the same reasons. Good luck.

-- Don (, February 05, 2002.

In slr's I have both leica, minolta and the olympus om2n. af will not help you in macro other than maybe a slight focus confirmation light. I I would reccommend the olympus, but get at least the om2n if you can not afford the om4. although they have been dying for some time, they have a very well supported line of macro equipment, and they have a much wider line of macro lenses than canon, nikon, leica or any one else. this is especially true in high speed macro lenses where they offer lenses that no one else does. while not trying to be sexist my wife's main criteria for a camera is that it is small and light, and if it weighs over a certain amount or if it is too large then it will simply stay home. the olympus is very small and light for an slr. now if the camera is really for you and you are just using your wife as an excuse, (gee honey i thought ypou would like this chain saw) then go for the leica.


-- greg mason (, February 06, 2002.

"It should be a worthwhile investment, not something to exchange after a year or so...."

I'd stay away from the AF latest everything SLR gizmo and look for a manual SLR. If you do not mind buying used, you will find that there are plenty of excellent choices for manaul SLRs, most of which can be had without breaking the bank. Though for the 35mm SLR, I settle on the Leica R7 and SL. Simply put, optically as well as mechanically, the performance of the Leica primes will be hard to beat. I like the build quality of Leicaflex SL, together with the 60 Elmarit macro, has no equal even to this day.

-- Gerald (, February 06, 2002.

"Leica rule the RF world but I would stay away from their SLR's along with Contax, Olympus etc."

---Giles, why do you say to stay away from a Leica SLR? Not that it's anathema to the Forum; I'm just curoius as to what you think.

-- Bob Fleischman (, February 06, 2002.


I've had Olympus OM cameras for the last 20 years or so. As stated by others, Olympus has a tremendous range of macro equipment. Your wife might also appreciate the diminutive size of OM cameras and lenses: even smaller and lighter than Leica M. However, the quality of OM lenses for is rather variable and few, if any, are the equal of Leica R glass. I guess you'd expect that, given the price differential.

I dabbled in Leica R for a year or so and am forced to admit that it's nicer to handle than Olympus OM. The following web site, by an astrophotographer, has interesting comments about both systems:

-- Ray Moth (, February 06, 2002.

I'm not being sexist here but how many women do you see lugging around Billingham, Domke or other bags, or even SLR's on their shoulders as they go about their day? Even 500 grams is too much to carry around.

What a bunch of sexist crap. Furthermore, did you even read the question?

-- Richard (, February 06, 2002.

Well I did ask! Contax Aria was the early frontrunner, but soon overtaken by Canon/Nikon, followed by Olympus, with just a couple of folks opting for Leicas - then a late surge again for Leica (a red roundel to each). The Oly is possible. P/S cameras are great for travel but not for macro. The Tamron macro lens sounded intriguing. We looked at Nikon's budget F65 (N65 in the US). It has very impressive features but is perhaps too light - more solid Canons or Nikons might be better. Interesting, isn't it: feature-packed but slightly plasticky new camera versus simpler basic but solid and superbly constructed old Leica. My wife is not in a big hurry and, no, surprisingly, doesn't really want to spend hours debating the merits of each camera! Personally, I like the Leica. Can someone say what are the best lenses for an original Leicaflex or Leicaflex SL? Are newer R lenses compatible? My wife is not in a big hurry and, no, surprisingly, doesn't really want to spend hours debating the merits of each camera - but I think it's fun to have a look! And comparing other cameras on this forum is valid, I think, because it contrasts the pros and cons of Leicas. Thanks to everyone.

-- David Killick (, February 07, 2002.

'Giles, why do you say to stay away from a Leica SLR? Not that it's anathema to the Forum; I'm just curoius as to what you think.'

Nothing anti-Leica meant Bob! The favourite of all my cameras is my Leica M but I have a different outlook on SLR's. IMO the best compliment to a totally mechanical, limited lens range, manual RF is an all-singing all-dancing auto everything SLR - with predictive (very fast) AF, 5+ fps, advanced multi metering modes etc etc and most importantly of all access to the biggest possible range of quality lenses with the very latest features (USM, IS etc). Not to mention access to a huge range of close-up and flash accessories, digital bodies, pro-level support, future advances, second hand choice, easy availability etc...

IMO only Canon or Nikon offer all this and more and I would find it hard to recommend buying into the Leica SLR system. Their RF's are the best but in SLR's they are never going to compete against the Japanese duo!

Obviously as I say, all this is IMO (:)) if the above is not important to you and just want a simple manual SLR with a couple of lenses an R4 or R6 is probably as good as any other.

-- Giles Poilu (, February 07, 2002.

>>>Can someone say what are the best lenses for an original Leicaflex or Leicaflex SL?<<<

Most 2-cam and 3-cam lenses will physically fit either the Leicaflex or SL, but IMHO the original Leicaflex is best suited to non-macro use, and lenses no slower than f/3.4. It has a very bright viewfinder but only the central microprism area can be used to focus with confidence, and it becomes barely usable at f/4.

The SL is far more versatile without being any more complex - in fact, its TTL meter and full-focussing viwescreen make it much simpler to use than the original Leicaflex. The 60mm Macro-Elmarit-R is great on the SL, likewise a 3-cam sample of the 100mm APO-Macro- Elmarit-R. The viewfinder is much much much much better than the R3 or R4 for macro. Its biggest disadvantage is the mercury battery issue. Its weight may be a problem for some people but when my daughter wanted to use it (11 years old at the time) she was willing to carry it.

-- Douglas Herr (, February 07, 2002.

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