Which Leica R to get?

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Thinking of getting a SLR on the side, perhaps the R5 (prices on bodies and lenses are suprisingly reasonable) or a R7. Start off with a 50/1.4

What are the pros/cons of different models? Any issues/traps?

What I'm looking for is good metering, viewfinder and AE option. Will shoot mainly people and places. R8 is too bulky IMO.


-- pat (modlabs@yahoo.com), May 30, 2002


The R8 looks bulky. Perhaps when carrying it around it is bulky. But when actually using the thing, it is a dream. Totally comfortable. I use an R6.2, which is very compact and nice. When switching to an R8 for quick use (ie. using a friends. I don't own an R8...yet) it's just a dream. It's a sweet sweet camera, especially with the winder and a strap. SO COMFY! think you should rent one for a day of shooting before you decide it's too bulk. Perhaps you've already done this, in which case, I hope you'll forgive my presumption.

Finally you might also wait until Photokina in Sept. Rumours of some new Leica R stuff abound.


-- Ramy (rsadek@NOSPAM.cs.oberlin.edu), May 30, 2002.

I believe the R5 is a little bigger than most of the R's. I went through the same process -- originally got an R4 and then quickly sold and got the R7 because of the features and other advances in the metering and haven't looked back since. R8 too buggy and bulky to consider IMHO. YMMV.

-- Donald Brewster (dpbrewster@prodigy.net), May 30, 2002.

The R7 is slightly taller than the R4-R6 bodies, has 1/2-step shutter speeds in manual mode, more flexible fill flash, and mirror pre- release, none of which the R5 has.

-- Douglas Herr (telyt@earthlink.net), May 30, 2002.

AFAIK the R7 is the biggest R (excluding the R8). The R7 stands 94.8mm tall whereas the R-E/R5/R6 stand 89.1mm tall.

-- Bert Keuken (treb@operamail.com), May 30, 2002.

I use an SL, which meets requirements 1) and 2), but not 3). 8^(

The R7 has a significantly brighter, and less blue, viewfinder than its predecessors, IMHO. And is just a touch easier to hold (with the extra height) than the R4/5/6s, at least for my hands.

My main objection to the R8 is the high-eyepoint finder, which seems very small and distant compared to the SL. The 'bulk' and weight are there, but in shooting around camera stores I've noticed they do fade into the background once I start taking pictures.

If there were no SLs and I just HAD to have Leica, I would go to the R7 next in line (actually I'd probably just get lenses for my old Nikon F! - but that wasn't your question).

-- Andy Piper (apidens@denver.infi.net), May 30, 2002.

hey, I'm far from married to the Leica path on SLR. I use to own 2 diff EOS systems and I did like them quite a bit. Another alternative would be a Contax Aria. Or a FM3A. Or...

-- pat (modlabs@yahoo.com), May 30, 2002.

REGRET selling my R7. They're hard to find now. Which tells you something about the R8 that replaced it. The R7 was a perfect answer to all that you seek. Yet, I wouldn't trade my SLII for one. However, the SLII is a manual camera and you want the AE option.

-- Marc Williams (mwilliams111313MI@comcast.net), May 30, 2002.

I use the Leica R (R4,4S,R7) system as well as M and EOS. In JMHO the R system is a very nice camera system with outstanding lenses, but it is 80s technology. I probably use it a little more than the other two systems and always get good, expected results. If I was starting from scratch on a reflex system I would probably buy either an EOS-3 or an F-100 and get the lenses I would use around whichever system. Some examples, the 24mm EOS or Nikon is as good or better than the Leica R. The 50 1.4 EOS or Nikon is at least as good as the previous Leica R 50 1.4. The 85s (specially the 85 1.4 Nikon) for both are as good as the 90 lux R. The high end Pro zooms are outstanding for both EOS and Nikon and telephotos 300mm or greater are very good and a lot cheaper than R equivalents. Both systems offer excellent macro capability at a reasonable price. And both systems have excellent digital SLRs if you need them. Does the R possess some special qualities? It does so far for me which is why I am still using it. Used R equipment is a relative bargain right now, specially considering how durable the lenses are. My R4S is for sale right now if anybody is interested. $375 in excellent condition. Good luck.

-- Gil Pruitt (wgpinc@yahoo.com), May 30, 2002.

Okay, I agree, I'm getting to be the biting dog again. As to your question "Which Leica R to get?" I'd say "None, get an M".

-- Michael Kastner (kastner@zedat.fu-berlin.de), May 30, 2002.

the R system is a very nice camera system with outstanding lenses, but it is 80s technology

Not for me. As far as I'm concerned, it's a 1960s system and that suits me fine. The technology added since then to most camera systems does very little to make better pictures aside from allowing the photographer to put his brain in "neutral".

pat asked for good metering, [good] viewfinder, and AE option. He didn't ask for the latest technology. Aside from the AE option, 1960s technology will meet these requriements, and the 1980s technology of the R7 easily meets all requirements.

If you want to start with a 50mm f/1.4 lens, the older versions (reasonable cost) are good but not spectacular, while OTOH the performance of the current version ($$$) is what you'd expect for it's price.

-- Douglas Herr (telyt@earthlink.net), May 30, 2002.

Hello Pat. IMHO an R7 would be your best option. That said I would be aiming for a body carrying some warranty.I will never forget my new out of the box R4s.....locked up on it's first film and needed factory replacement circuitry to remedy the problem.

-- Sheridan Zantis (albada60@hotmail.com), May 30, 2002.

Hi Pat, I have a R system (R7 and R6) and a M system (M6 and M3). If I need to produce, I pick up the Rs. The R7 is a fine camera and the lenses are outstanding. For the R's I have the 19mm, 50mm 'cron, 100mm APO Macro, 180mm APO F/3.4 and 400mm F/6.8. I have compared prints taken with R glass side by side against prints taken with Nikon or Canon glass. People always pick the Leica prints over Nikon or Canon prints. The usual comment is - Wow what film did you use to get such good results? There is just something very special about Leica R glass and people with untrained eyes see the difference with 4X6 prints. Nikon and Canon have a decided edge on technology and they make fine gear, but their lenses just do not reach Leica standards for film work. Regards, Doug

-- Doug Landrum (dflandrum@earthlink.net), May 30, 2002.

Pat: This is a difficult question to answer as alot of it is really subjective. Personally, I initially found the R8 a little big but as I got used to it, I really began to love it and heartily recommend it. the key to the Leica R system are the lenses which are amazing. Before buying, why don't you rent one?

-- Albert Knapp MD (albertknappmd@mac.com), May 30, 2002.

Pat, I use on a regular basis an R5, R7, and two R8's. The R5 is a spare back up camera. The R7 is for light field work. When I doing serious work I only turn to the R8's (one for slides and one for prints). The controls are intuitive and easy to use. The size and weight disappear when in use due to the excellent balance. All of the cameras have been totally reliable. In fact, the R5 made it through EcoChallenge 2001-New Zealand without a hitch. Try each if you can, and get what feels best to you.

-- Kent Gastreich (KDGast@aol.com), May 30, 2002.

I used to have 2 R7's. I sold them because they were without any warranty and after shelling out $525 to Leica NJ to fix an R6 (a much less electronically complex camera)I wasn't going to take a chance on an R7 needing repairs. The circuit board alone costs $300. So I bought 2 new R8's with 5 year warranties. The R7 has the best viewfinder display of the pre-R8 models but the displays are set at different virtual distances than the finder images themselves, and for a bifocal wearer such as myself the thicker LCD numerals of the R8 are easier to read than the small flickery red LED's in the R7. The R7's 1/100 top flash sync is also annoying and unnecessary for a metal vertical shutter. The fact that you can't use AE lock with center-weighted metering is also annoying, as is the two-handed bass- ackwards film spool loading. And the DOF preview lever has the same tendency to stick as with all similar R bodies. Also, on more than one occasion I accidentally touched the snap-close battery compartment door and dumped the batteries on the ground. These are the worst features of the R7 and they're hardly earth-shattering. The R7 is in every way a true Leica: just enough poorly-thought-out design quirks and failures in an otherwise beautiful camera to make you want to cry.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), May 30, 2002.

Pat, For information on different models of R cameras, see the following links:

-- Ray Moth (ray_moth@yahoo.com), May 30, 2002.

R8 is not bulky. It looks bulky. R8 is not big and is not heavy, compared to high end offers from other manufacturers. It becomes *almost* as big and heavy when you add the optional motordrive. Enough of that legend.

R4/5/6 and even 7 are smallish, but they have no "grip". They handle like middle of the road Eighties SLRs (which they basically are). If you want to hand hold them securely with lenses heavier than basic 35/50 'crons, you will want to add the large and clunky motordrive, providing that needed "grip".

OTOH R8 handles like a dream, with or without motor, thanks to a very ergonomic design. Perfect viewfinder, perfect and simple "command and control" center, great flashmeter capability, etc, etc. Try one with a 19 or a 180 elmarit or a 80 'lux, and you'll get that illumination!

It's only failure, from my point of view, is the necessity to use proprietary battery back with motordrive, while, stupidly, the smaller winder lacks the vertical grip/handstrap capabilities of the motordrive.

If size matters for you, and you want small, go M.

-- Jacques (jacquesbalthazar@hotmail.com), May 31, 2002.

PAt, The R7 is the most verssatile, I put it as choice one.

I currently have a R7, bought it new 6 years ago and it works flawless.

Make sure you have the user's manual since it gives valuable information. Xavier

-- Xavier d'Alfort (hot_billexf@hotmail.com), May 31, 2002.

If you want a small camera then the R5-R6/6.2/R7 are nice. The R6.2 is all manual and in my experience very reliable. If you want extra bulk then get the autowinder which is only $150 s/h. The R7 is a good camera, but personally I would try the R8 if you want a sophisticated modern manual focus camera. The R7 is almost the same price as an R8 and so in my opinion is less value for money. The R6.2 seems to command a high price s/h - it is probably (shame!) the last fully manual Leica SLR. It also depends a good deal on how much flash photography you do - the R8 has 1/250th sync, a flash meter built 1st/2nd curtain sync and SCA 3000 circuitry and all that nonsense whereas the R7-R5 are just SCA 300. Personally this is not a big deal for me. I would buy the R8 because of its superior ergonomics, great mirror prerelease, adjustable selftimer (yes I like them), and timed manual speeds down to 15 (or is it 8?) secs. The R7 was the last camera that Leica managed to force all the electronic circuitry into the small R4 type body - and in my opinion it handles like it. If you want a smaller camera then the R8 may not be for you. I love the small size of the R6.2. (I bought the R6 instead of the R7 at the time) but might pick up an R8 one day.

An older 50/1.4 is a good idea - it is a good lens (like the current Summilux-M) and, as it has been replaced by the current expensive and superb one, is a bargain. Mind you you get a real bargain with the Summicron - you can pick up a good one for $200-250 and it is a superb lens.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), May 31, 2002.

Your question raises others. Do you need or want all the sophisticated / automated features of a newer body or will an early SLR with just an internal meter do it for you? My very old SLRs and their relatively low prices allow more money for more lenses. If you have a good understanding of the technical requirements of saturating film while achieving depth of field vs. minimizing movement and... you're willing to bracket to insure a good shot, buy and older body and go for an additional lens. I'm presuming here you're on a budget but still crave the resolution that Leica lenses are noted for.

-- Joel Shank (labrador@pobox.com), June 01, 2002.

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