Leica R Mount Cameras (+ Lenses) (Leica SLR)
Did you know that Leica made Leica SLR cameras? Here is a brief introduction to the world of Leica R mount cameras and Leica R lenses. I list some of my favourite Leica R cameras, share sample photos and link my detailed post on Leica R mount lenses.
Leica SLR camera models
Here is a simplified summary of the common Leica SLR camera models. All cameras share the same Leica R bayonet mount but not all Leica R lenses work fully on all cameras.
- Leicaflex (1964-1968) – Mechanical shutter
- Leicaflex SL (1968-1974) – Mechanical shutter
- Leicaflex SL2 (1974-1976) – Mechanical shutter
- Leica R3 (1976-1979) – Electronic shutter (Collaboration based on Minolta XE)
- Leica R4 Mot (1980-1986) – Electronic shutter (Collaboration based on Minolta XD-7/ XD-11)
- Leica R4 (1980-1986) – Electronic shutter (Collaboration based on Minolta XD-7/ XD-11)
- Leica R4s (1980-1986) – Electronic shutter (Economy version of R4)
- Leica R5 (1986-1991) – Electronic shutter
- Leica RE (1990-1994) – Electronic shutter (Economy version of R5)
- Leica R6 (1987-1996) – Mechanical shutter
- Leica R6.2 (1992-1997) – Mechanical shutter + 1/2000
- Leica R7 (1991-1996) – Electronic shutter
- Leica R8 (1996-2002) – Electronic shutter
- Leica R9 (2002-2009) – Electronic shutter
Benefits of Leica R cameras vs Leica M
This list of Leica R benefits will be similar to comparing rangefinder cameras to SLR cameras. In no particular order the benefits of Leica R vs M cameras include:
- Leica R cameras are much cheaper
- You can focus closer with SLR cameras
- Higher flash sync speed
- Higher maximum shutter speed (on many but not all models)
- Built in light meter on almost all models (from memory)
- Can use wide angle, telephoto and zoom lenses without additional viewfinders
Cheapest Leica cameras – Leica R mount vs Leica iii cameras
If you want to buy an affordable Leica film camera which models are the cheapest? Leica M film cameras? No. Leica iii cameras? Yes they can be much cheaper. The two cheapest Leica cameras I’ve bought were both Leica R mount cameras. Leica R cameras can be great value but Leica R lenses tend to be less cheap. For screw mount Leica iii cameras you can find really affordable Soviet lenses and then anything upwards in price from there. This means that a Leica iii setup is still the cheapest option as a Leica film camera lens combo.
Nikon SLR vs Leica SLR
How do they compare? I was interested to test my Nikon SLR vs Leica SLR to see which camera setup suited me the best. (It’s worth mentioning that when shooting film the end result come only from the camera lens and the film stock so this was basically a lens test). I enjoyed using both camera setups and I liked the results from both systems. Watch the video to see the model portraits or see the Nikon FE2 vs Leica R6 blog post.
Are you a Leica User?
If you are happy with the results from Nikon F mount lenses, Nikon SLR cameras offer you a cheaper and some say more reliable setup. (Some long term users of both systems that follow me on YouTube commented that their Nikon SLRs needed little or no servicing but the Leica SLRs required attention during the same period). The problem is if you want the Leica lens look you need to use a Leica SLR body as you can’t adapt Leica R lenses to Nikon F mount.
Leica R mount cameras for portraits
Leica R cameras can be better than Leica M cameras for portraits for multiple reasons. Easier use of flash with faster flash sync speeds. Closer minimum focus distances when using SLR lenses. (More important for 35mm and wider lenses). The option to use zoom and telephoto lenses. (I enjoy the Leica R 80-200mm f4 zoom lens*).
Leica R cameras for landscapes
Leica R mount cameras can be useful for landscapes if you like zoom lenses and want to carry just one lens. The are some stellar zoom lenses for the Leica R system but my favourite for performance is the Leica R 35-70mm f4. If you enjoy telephoto lenses they are more fun to use on a SLR camera. If you use wide lenses you can compose in camera and don’t need additional wide angle viewfinders.
Closeup photography with Leica R cameras
Leica M cameras are not suited to close up work with the limited 0.7m MFD coupled rangefinder design. Leica SLR cameras by their design are much better and you can use dedicated macro lenses too like the Leica Elmarit-R 60mm f2.8 lens. There is something I find enjoyable about getting in close. That shallow DOF and different to iPhone perspective always looks more arty to me.
My Leica R mount cameras
My first Leica R mount camera was my Leicaflex SL. Next came a Leica R6, then the Leica R6.2, then another R6. I thought that was it and then I bought the Leica R5 as I found one cheap and finally the Leica R7 as it came with a lens purchase.
To me the early Leicaflex SL cameras (all models) are the best made Leica R mount cameras. (The same as the Leica M3, M2, M4 are the best made Leica M cameras). The Leicaflex SL film advance is as good as it gets (similar to a Leica M3 but equally different). It just feels so good and makes you want to shoot! These are solid and heavy cameras so are not a lightweight setup. That is the main reason I don’t use mine more.
The other explanation for not using my Leicaflex more often is for SLR cameras I benefit from use a viewfinder diopter. The Leica flex cameras can be used with a clip on diopter but they are not easy to find on eBay. Later Leica R cameras had a built in diopter and for this reason I use these cameras more. (Even though they don’t feel as fun to use).
Leica R3 + Leica R4
When researching what might be the best Leica R mount camera for my needs I found plenty of reports of the the Leica R3 and R4 cameras failing due to poor electronics. I did buy a cheap Minolta XD7 to try (similar to the Leica R4) but I returned it soon after.
In number order rather than purchase date, the Leica R5 was an unplanned purchase. I saw one listed on eBay really cheap so I thought it would be a good spare (another ha). The Leica R5 is the smallest and lightest Leica R camera which I like and it will take the same photos as the popular Leica R6/ R6.2. The Leica R5 also offers 1/2000 maximum shutter speed and seemed to have less electronic failure issues. I’ve been happy with mine so far.
The Leica R6 is a bit like the Leica M6. It’s one of the most desirable Leica R camera models with it’s mechanical shutter. Unlike most Leica R cameras it only requires a battery for the lightmeter. My plan was to use only these cameras but later I bought others. These cameras are my most used Leica R cameras and I enjoy the fact that they are mechanical shutters so don’t suddenly die like the earlier Leica R3/ R4 models.
The Leica R6.2 is perhaps seen as the best Leica R camera. It gives you all the features of the Leica R6 but with the added benefit of 1/2000 maximum shutter speed. You pay a premium for this model but they probably hold their value the best too. I thought it was a good camera to own and I liked the idea of the 1/2000 for fast lenses on a sunny day. To the most part the Leica R6.2 is the same as the Leica R6.
I didn’t need another Leica R mount camera but I was looking for the Leica Elmarit-R 60mm f2.8 macro lens and I found one bundled with this Leica R7 body. They were too good to miss so I bought them. The Leica R7 is my best looking Leica R camera (for me) and I enjoy using it more than expected. Larger are heavier than the similar Leica R5 and takes the same photos.
Leica R8 + Leica R9
The Leica R8 and Leica R9 were the last Leica SLR cameras to be made. The camera design is completely different to the earlier Leica R4-R7 chassis. These are much bigger heavier cameras and with a lot more features. Maximum shutter speed of 1/8000. They are probably love or hate cameras from the design. My camera preference is usually smaller and simple so i’ve never really been tempted. That said, if I ever get to try the Leica R8 or R9 I’ll be sure to make a video for YouTube!
If you are looking for information on Leica R bayonet mount lenses see my Leica R lenses post. (Leica R lenses come in various versions – one cam, two cam, three cam, R only, and ROM lenses. The earlier 1-cam and 2-cam lenses were designed for the Leicaflex cameras and the later 3-cam, R only and ROM lenses for the later Leica R cameras. All lenses are the same Leica R bayonet mount but not all Leica R lenses work on all Leica R mount cameras).
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