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Leica R8

by Hans Petter Strifeldt, 1997


This camera is supposed to be the apotheosis of Leica R philosophy. I bought my Leica R8 just after it was released at the Photokina in Köln, Germany, last fall (1996). In fact, this was the first R8 body sold in Norway. I finally got the body in December 1996. So far, I've used the following lenses with the R8: 24 mm Elmarit 2.8, 35 mm Summilux 1.4, 80 mm Summilux 1.4, 180 mm Elmarit 2.8, 28-70 mm Vario-Elmar 3.5-4.5 (a real dog!), and 70-180 Vario-Apo-Elmarit 2.8.

I use my R8 both for professional photo-journalism and art photography. In recent years I've been doing a lot of work outdoors in sub-zero temperatures (Norway, remember). I tried out my R8 in the coldest depths in January and haven't changed batteries yet. Leica claims that the camera will work down to -25 centigrade. I've only been out in -15, but the R8 worked well.

The R8 is big but not bulky. It handles well and feels sturdy but only after a few weeks of use, the metering system failed completely. I returned the R8 to the Norwegian importer, who promptly sent me a demo camera to use while mine was serviced in Germany. After about six weeks I got it back. Since then, my R8 has performed flawlessly. On the demo camera, however, I noticed that the flash-sync didn't sync properly at high speeds. At 1/250 the top 1/4 of the frame was dark, presumably meaning that the camera was triggering the flash before the shutter was fully open.

After this rocky start with a rather expensive camera body ($3000 here in Norway, about the same as for a Nikon F5), my satisfaction is growing steadily. I'm now perfectly comfortable with the camera handling. The prior-to-exposure-flash-metering-feature has proven very useful and is consistently as accurate as my hand-held meter. I've almost stopped using my Sekonic!

I'm currently using a wide variety of flashes and appreciate the lever switch on the front of the camera that selects 1st or 2nd curtain flash-sync. One does not have to purchase dedicated flashes to take advantage of this useful feature.

The design of the R8 is very different from the older R-models. But the control placement feels natural and is easy to get used to. The shutter dial, depth-of-field lever, exposure mode and metering mode switch, and manual film wind crank and lever are all easy to operate by feel.

The high-eyepoint viewfinder shows only 93 percent of actual picture size. An in-finder LCD display shows light metering, shutter speed, aperture, frame number, exposure overrides, low light, flash ready, hi or low flash exposure, flash control indicator (for F-mode) metering method, and operating modes. At first, I had difficulty getting used to a viewfinder display with the looks of a control panel in the Space Shuttle. But now, I've got used to it, and find the information flow inside the viewfinder comfortable and useful. The viewfinder is very bright. Even when I used the 28-70/3.5-4.5 in low light, I didn't have trouble focusing. I wear eyeglasses. The built-in dioptric adjustment (+/- 2 diopters) is not enough to match my bad eyesight, but that's OK because the eye relief is sufficient that I see the entire viewfinder even when wearing my glasses.

There is an additional LCD display on the back of the camera. It shows battery level, exposure override indicator, and flash-ready. There are also four buttons. Two are for overriding the DX-coding, and two for self-timer settings (2 or 12 s delay). On the front of camera, there is a knob to lock up the mirror. When lock-up is enabled, pushing the shutter release swings the mirror up and stops down the diaphragm. A second press of the shutter release makes the exposure. Very slick.

A knob in front of the shutter dial selects the metering method. It is easy to reach, and easy to set. So is the exposure compensation lever, which is on the back of the camera. It's within reach of your left thumb, and is easy to use while looking through the viewfinder. The compensation values are shown inside the viewfinder.

My preferred metering mode is "selective" (which has a metering area slightly greater than the standard spot-metering mode on other cameras - 7 % to the spots 2 %). I rarely use the multi-pattern method, which I suppose would be best when letting P&S-users have a go with your Leica. I did test it once by photographing a woman backlit by the Sun. My R8 gave significantly underexposed pictures when tested against the Nikon N90s in the same situation. Nikon matrix metering appears to be smarter.

Film loading is finally as convenient as with other cameras. Just put the film slip at the red dot, close the back, and wind the film. The winder and motordrive won't be available until Summer 1997 (winder; 2 fps) and Fall 1997 (motordrive; 4 fps). I surely miss a motordrive, and look forward to its arrival.

Conclusion

All of the new R8 features, except for the flash metering, aren't new to Canon EOS and Nikon AF users. But they constitute quite a leap for Leica. Personally, I still prefer manual-focus systems. That's partially why I decided to go Leica instead of Nikon or Canon. Contax is cheaper than Leica but I don't pay for all of my equipment :-). So far, I haven't regreted my choice. As stated, my satisfaction with the overall handling of the camera is still growing. The R8 has all the features I longed for in Leica cameras plus a few more. The prices on Leica lenses and accessories sometimes seem like misprints. But then again you are buying a quality system for life. Once I read an expert driver discussing the difference between a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. He stated that while the Lamborghini was a great sports car, the Ferrari challenged his skills as a driver. That is how I feel about the R8.

Specifications

Metering methods

  1. Selective metering with all operating modes. 7 mm diameter metering area marked in viewfinder.
  2. Multi-pattern metering (6 areas - Leica's answer to the Nikon Matrix-system) with all operating modes (new option).
  3. Center-weighted integral metering with all operating modes.
  4. Center-weighted TTL integral metering for flash exposure with dedicated flash units.
  5. Finally, and probably the thing that makes flash-metering with the R8 unique in the 35 mm SLR world: Selective flash exposure metering PRIOR to exposure with ANY manual flash unit.

Metering range at aperture 1.4 and ISO 100/21 DIN:

  1. Selective metering: from EV -4 (!) to EV 20, or from 32 sec at f/1,4 to 1/8000 at f/11.
  2. Integral and mulit-pattern metering: from EV -2 to EV 20, or from 8 sec at f/1,4 to 1/8000 at f/11.
  3. Warning indicator in viewfinder display for low light.

Photocells: Silicon photodiode protected from stray light.

Operating modes

  • M: Manual setting of shutter speeds and aperture
  • A: Aperture priority
  • P: Variable (note:VARIABLE) automatic program
  • T: Shutter priority
  • F: Prior-to-exposure flash metering

Shutter

Microprocessor controlled metal-blade shutter with vertical movement.

Shutter speeds are manually adjustable at the shutter speed dial from 16s to 1/8000s in half-stop values, plus B and X (1/250, the max. flash sync speed). In automatic modes, the speed varies steplessly from 32s to 1/8000s.

Flash

  • Flash sync via central contact in hot shoe or via flash connection socket.
  • Optionally 1st or 2nd curtain sync on ANY flash
  • Max flash sync speed: 1/250s
  • TTL flash metering: Center-weighted integral metering when using adapter SCA 3501 on flash unit.
  • Prior-to-flash-metering (F-mode): Selective (note: SELECTIVE) TTL-metering on ANY flash unit. E.g. also on studio units.

Dimensions and weight

  • Width: 158 mm
  • Height: 101 mm
  • Depth: 62 mm
  • Weight: 890 g (without lens, winder or motordrive)

Other

Mirror-lock-up. Film speed range: manually from ISO 6/9DIN to ISO 12800/42 DIN; DX-scanning from ISO 25/15 DIN to ISO 5000/38 DIN. 5 interchangeable focusing screens. Optional winder or motordrive - last one features auto-bracketing in 3 shots in either 1/2 stop or full stop intervals. Both provide motorized rewinding.


Copyright 1997 AS Samhold

Article created 1997

Readers' Comments


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Christian Becker , January 28, 1998; 09:26 A.M.

My personal experience with Leica has the names M3, R3mot and R4. All of them had failures and were repaired by Leica. The M3 and R4 had shutter failures (the R4 encountered two times the same problem), the R3mot had problems to synchronize with the winder (fixed by Leica in '84 no problems since then). R3mot and R4 may not be 'real' Leicas because they were developed in a cooperation with Minolta, but they represent the brand. Compared to these the R8 might be quite a leap for Leica but it is in no way advantageous to other brands. Nevertheless (as Hans-Peter Stritfeldt mentioned) it is about the same price as a Nikon F5 (in europe) although the Nikon is in every aspect ahead of the R8 (AF, self-controlled shutter, metering, motor, viewfinder(s),...). Actually Hans-Peter Stritfeldt wrote (to the comment server) that he dumped his R8 and is now with a Canon (and a Leica M6). In his R8 review he compared the R8 to a Ferrari, while in his comment the M6 is like a MG and the Canon now is the Ferrari. I'm looking forward to hear what the R8 might be. Any suggestions?

Christian Becker , February 02, 1998; 10:37 A.M.

Finally I got it! It's a Moose. That's why it is not named Leicaflex SL3.

Hans P. Strifeldt , March 08, 1998; 07:03 A.M.

Correctly observed: Now my EOS1n is the Ferrari, instead of the R8. Now what is the R8? Mercedes? Expencive to buy, and you`ll have to pay a lot for extra facilities, which other brands have included to a much lower price. It is a nice car, but when something breaks, you`ll have to pay a lot to get it fixed. And the Mercedes is not among the top-ten brands when it comes to repair-costs per kilometer. Hans PS

Greg Bicket , July 04, 1998; 11:49 A.M.

After shooting with the R8 for several months, I find myself wondering about the controversy the camera generates. It is a fine camera, with features that are worthy of praise from the most discriminating photographer. After some initial quality glitches which should have been ironed out before releasing the camera, the R8 seems to be establishing itself as a worthy photographic tool. R8 provides a wonderful palette upon which the superlative Leica R lenses are capable of creating very special images.

Many of the wrinkles regarding the camera, is it advanced enough, how does it cope with specific situations, should it have been released with AutoFocus capacity, seem to me to ignore the design parameters of the camera itself. Leica is going through a variety of changes, and this camera is the first in-house designed and built SLR in two decades.

Some decry the design compromises offs Leica chose to make in the building of this intriguing camera as short of the mark for Leica whose design advances have intermittently led the 35mm manufacturing for several decades.

Interestingly, I have read much of this criticism from owners of Leica's benchmark rangefinder cameras, many M6 owners in particular. I find this interesting, as some feel fine rangefinder photography is an anachronism with todays auto metering and auto focusing technology.

In any case, as a user of the R8, my view is that the camera is a result of thoughtful decisions about what the camera ought to be, along with evolution from previous models. From a purely personal standpoint, I find the choices the R8 offers to be an optimal mix of manual focus, with several modes of auto exposure to be selected or ignored, depending on the photographis situation. While I don't begrudge, rather I admire, the results of many of the rangefinder hobbyists and other R8 accusers, the R8 gives me the photographic choices I seek.

The R8 is more than a capable place to mount Leica's near legendary lenses. It is durable, and dependable with precise metering and shutter control, across extraordinary range. Although large, its ergonomics provide a comfortable, stable, and logical fit of camera mass and controls. Its extraordinarily bright viewfinder provides almost 100% of the lenses' perspectives, and the information there, while initially a bit daunting, becomes useful and needed quite readily.

I bought the camera for several reasons, including the fact that I did not want auto focusing. Focus, like choosing the critical moment to expose film is a critical photographic decision that I choose not to yield to diodes and flexible printed circuits. It has its applications, and in those situations, there is nothing like its utility, but for me, a key part of photographing is what I choose to sharply focus upon, and what I choose to throw into blurred background.

To use an established analogy, one seldom chooses a Ferrari to plow a field [deliberately, at least] but I would hate to deal with the daily commute on a tractor. The issue with the R8 is matching it to its tasks while recognizing that no tool, photographic or otherwise covers all situations which arise.

Perhaps the most ignored reality in much of the discussion is that long term Leica lovers would have been thrown into outright revolt if the advances Leica incorporated into the R8 had included Auto Focus. Their beloved R lenses would drop precipitously in value, as none of them would be able to function in the AF mode. Much of this amounts to clinging to tradition while complaining about lack of new technology. A shudder would go through the M owners if they watched Leica waiver in any commitment to a longstanding lens line.

Examining the R8 is a pleasure from the standpoint of workmanship. It is put together most carefully, and puts the right materials to the proper tasks. The camera's back and the contacts for information transfer hint that forward compatibility for additional flexibity is in the works, whether its Auto Focus or digital, or something else, Leica remains characteristically secretive. With its ROM lenses coupling, it has already begun "communicating" information between the cameras pieces and its processor, even though this is limited to serving its exceptional flash coupling capacity at this point.

The appropriate decision matrix for an individual considering the R8 includes the fit of the user's approach to photography and his/her photographic applications. There are situations and use habits and photographic goals for which no other camera comes close. There are likewise other patterns of use which make many other cameras a better choice.

To the naysayers, I say nothing, but conclude that their photographic paradigms fit the equipment better [or so they perceive] than the R8 might. And this might be true. To those who bemoan the lack of cutting edge technology Leica delivers in the R8, I will only suggest that I know of no 35mm SLR which puts the specific capability and features the R8 delivers into a package and provides them at the quality levels found in the R8. Quality sustained at levels found in the R8 is in itself distinctive. It does what it does extraordinarily well.

Alex -- , November 16, 1998; 03:23 P.M.

I own and use a very large number of Nikon cameras and lenses, inlcuding the two F5s. I use them for "professional" photography on a day to day basic. The R8? Now that's a camera to exploit your artistic talent with! it's a camera that inspires creativity, not speed. It's a camera that requires patience and respect, not mass production photography. What kind of car is it? Well, a Rolls Royce of course!

Mark Mitchell , December 12, 1998; 01:09 P.M.

After having owned numerous Leicas & now own tons of Nikon equipment (FM2,FE,F2as, F4s, 2 N90's & 2 F5's)and having played with the R8, my conclusion is it's neither Rolls Royce or Mercedes. Its a fine camera, but really nothing special. It is (as with Leica standards) hideously overpriced.

Gordon Lewis , December 14, 1998; 07:24 P.M.

I dont own a Leica R8 but I once reviewed one for a photo magazine (you can probably figure out which magazine) and I used one for a week as part of Leicas "test drive program. The lenses Ive used include the 35mm Summicron-R f/2, the 50mm Summicron-R f/2, 90mm Summicron-R f/2, 28-70mm Vario-Elmar-R f/3.5-4.5, and the 70-180mm Vario- APO-Elmarit-R f/2.8. Since I learned my craft on cameras such as the Pentax Spotmatic, Canon F1, Pentax 67, and Leica M4, the Leica R8 was a true joy to use. From the smell of the genuine leather body covering, to the buttery smooth feel of the film-wind lever, to the bright and contrasty viewfinder, few cameras offer such sensual pleasure. As for the lenses, only the 28-70mm was a disappointment. All the rest produced images that, while not necessarily superior to the best of Canon and Nikon, left nothing to be desired. But would I buy a Leica R8? Probably not, and not because I couldnt afford one. My reason is that for the amount of money it would cost to buy a Leica R8 and three lenses I could buy a Hasselblad with three lenses. True, the Hasselblad would be larger and heavier, but not by much, and it would provide clearly superior image quality. And isnt image quality the main reason youd want a Leica? It certainly wouldnt be because theyre faster, more affordable, have a wider array of lenses and accessories, or have a better service and support network than Canon or Nikon. As for mechanical quality, although you could argue that Leicas are better made than Canons or Nikons (debatable at best), it would be silly to argue that theyre better made than Hasselblad bodies or Zeiss lenses. In the end, for me, buying a Leica R8 would be an emotional decision, not a rational one.

Robert Wehmeier , January 23, 1999; 07:16 P.M.

I have been using Nikon and Leica M equipment profesionaly for over 10 years. Just recently I sold off my Nikon F4 and the matching zoom lens to purchase a Leica R8 system. This was by no means an easy choice, Nikon makes a very good camera. However, after trying out the new F5 it became very clear were Nikon was heading...Computer controled automation. For some photographers this is a good thing for me it is not. The style of photography I have developed does not need speed or computer decisions on metering. I have been using my M6 for more of my work but there is a time and place for SLRs. I noticed when I used my manual cameras I was more deliberate and accurate with the resulting image, much like when I use larger formats. The more I am forces to slow down and think the better the result. There are two main reasons why I chose to swith to like R equipment. The first is that I have developed a large body of work with my M equipmment and the best way of matching that work with an SLR is with Leica Equipment. I know form my own tests(non scientific)between Nikon and Leica that there are differnences in sharpness, contrast and color (mainly the latter two). I have also notice that on B+W film Leica lens record the tonal changes more smoothly. Second, Nikon with the introduction of it F5 is very quietly making its old equipment obsolete. To use non-AI lenses the camera must be sent back to Nikon for some ajustment otherwise the camera will get screwed up also the new metering systme will not work to its fullest with any of manual focus lenses. This realy reverts the camera to a very fancy F3.

With a month of use on the R8 under my belt I am so far very pleased. I am still getting used to the controles and the display. The veiw finder is bright and very easy to focus. I realy like the ability to swith metering modes without moving the camera away form my eye. I also like that the metering system is devided up into half stops, both the shutter speed dial and f stops.

The Leica R8 is turning out for me to be an execlent camera. For my situation I feel it was the right choice. I do believe that it is not the end all beat all camera for every one and in every situation

John W. Ishii , January 25, 1999; 09:13 A.M.

As a pro.travel photographer here in South East Asia, the climate can be very demanding, therefore I am demanding on my photo gear. My Nikon F5 is simply the finest camera known to travel photographer's period. It is my bread and butter for sure.I can come out of any situation in the jungles or towns and have 99% right on exposure or spot on focus. What's else can track a GP-bike going almost 300k's and be tack sharp. I also use a leica M6 with a 35mm f2 Asph, 90mm f2 ,for my personal use. The M is for sure a true Leica performer. It is unreal for what I use it for. As for R series "No way" could I make money from it.Way too slow and unrealible, out here the R8's are breaking down. For us pro's that's a no no.

John W. Ishii , January 25, 1999; 09:15 A.M.

As a pro.travel photographer here in South East Asia, the climate can be very demanding, therefore I am demanding on my photo gear. My Nikon F5 is simply the finest camera known to travel photographer's period. It is my bread and butter for sure.I can come out of any situation in the jungles or towns and have 99% right on exposure or spot on focus. What's else can track a GP-bike going almost 300k's and be tack sharp. I also use a leica M6 with a 35mm f2 Asph, 90mm f2 ,for my personal use. The M is for sure a true Leica performer. It is unreal for what I use it for. As for R series "No way" could I make money from it.Way too slow and unrealible, out here the R8's are breaking down. For us pro's that's a no no.

David Taylor , March 09, 1999; 02:00 P.M.

I'm an amateur photographer and collector who has owned an R8 for several years. I confess that I bought it because I thought it was the most beautiful SLR I had ever seen or handled. It has a look and feel and balance that puts it in a class by itself. As for balance, I find I can shoot hand-held slow-shutter photos and get great results. I photographed a squirrel in Banff, Canada, in a forest with low light with a long telephoto (Leica) lens and you can see every hair stand out. It never fails to gain comments from other photographers when they see the R8 hanging around your neck. It's nice to own something unique that works so well. It makes the art of taking a photograph that much more enjoyable.

Joe Adnan , March 12, 1999; 05:55 A.M.

My father has owned 3, if not more, Leica bodies (M3, M4-2 and a R4, I think, which had poor tolerance for humidity) and so what I am about to say is not completely devoid of basis. I am struck by the ease with which Leica owners seem to be able to forgive the manufacturers for serious quality shortcomings of their equipment despite its stratospheric price. And yet, as far as I can tell, Leica's reputation is still high. This, I guess, says something about the optics!

Doug Herr , April 02, 1999; 05:36 P.M.

One reason many photographers are fanatics about Leica equipment is the company's exceptional support for older equipment. This support comes at a price, and that is part of the reason the initial cost of Leica equipment is so high. I like being able to get a 30- or 40-year-old camera or lens rebuilt to factory specs, where other camera makers would suggest that you "upgrade" to newer equipment. I'd much rather keep using a camera that is comfortable and has worked well than to frequently "upgrade" to a new camera that has a bunch of features that are not particularly useful to me and that I have to figure out how to disable.

John Keistler , April 07, 1999; 05:26 A.M.

I own two R5's and three R3's and a whole string of lenses, all Leitz/Leica. I started with SL's and M's over twenty years ago and have never regretted my purchases, also owning Nikon up through the F3 and F2AS. What is wrong with owning a Leica for its sensual touch, its beautiful design, in addition to superlative results? I can look through chromes twenty years old, today, and can pick out the Leica exposures from Nikon (or the Olympus I also owned). They indeed have a particular quality that can't be quantified. I am not a pro, don't want to be, don't want to look like one, and wouldn't dream of treating my equipment like that. For my avid amateur use, my Leicas have been extremely reliable and consistent, and I still keep a mf Nikon and a couple of lenses for nasty, dirty situations where I won't take Leica. As always, we're the ones doing the photographing, not the cameras. I've looked at R8's several times and indeed the body doesn't offer anything for me that I don't already have. If I were new to Leica, though, I'd get one along with an R6.2. I'm in my early 40's and would prefer a 'focus advice' in the body re Contax to any af system.

Terry Maltby , August 08, 1999; 04:30 P.M.

I bought the R8 almost two years ago and since then have acquired the newest 19 mm, the 24 mm, the 28 mm PC, the 35 Summicron, the 50 mm Summicron, the 100 mm APO Macro, the old (sensational) 180 mm 3.4 APO, the newer 28-70 mm, the newer 35-70 mm, the old 70-210 mm, the newer 80-200 mm, the old 280 mm 2.8 , and the old 400 mm Leica R lenses in addition to the 1.4 and 2.0 converters. The R8 winder is always attached to my R8 and I love it. I have a blast when using my R8 with any of these lenses. I truly love the R8's ergonomic feel while using it for hours. The lenses? Absolutely outstanding!!! (My M6 and its 15 mm Heliar, 35 mm Summicron, 50 mm Summicron, 90 mm Summicron, and 135 mm are insanely jealous because the R8 gets taken out vastly more often than the M6 and its lenses.) I grew up with my father's Leica M's and acquired a concrete taste of the M lenses' quality when I was a child. As an adult, I get to re-experience that satisfaction with the aforementioned bodies and lenses and will never, ever switch!

Mike Johnston , September 06, 1999; 02:01 P.M.

As a professional camera reviewer for the old (American) _Camera & Darkroom_ magazine and now as Editor of (again, the American) _PHOTO Techniques_ magazine, I've had to use (yes, "had to"--it's not all fun and games when you're forced to do it) most of the camera systems on the market. Since my special interest is optics, I am most interested in the performance of the lenses in the focal length range I use for my work. I've come to the conclusion that, for me, the Leica R lens line is the best lens line in the world, period, both in terms of the ultimate optical quality and also as a matter of consistency. And yes, that includes the Leica M line, which I'm intimately familiar with. Second is the line of utterly classic lens designs for the Contax G cameras.

Alas, photography is full of ironies and frustrations, and it's just too bad that the R line is saddled with such a limited selection of outdated bodies. In an especial irony, Kyocera is gung-ho to produce a proliferation of bodies of many various descriptions for the Contax cameras (RTSIII, ST, RX, AX, Aria, S2, S2b, plus many discontinued options), while Zeiss is evidently relatively uninterested in updating or expanding the Zeiss Contax lens line (they don't even make a 35mm f/2, for heaven's sake, and you say you want to buy a lens to shoot architecture with? That'll be $2,400 for a *35mm* shift lens, please, which--oh, yeah--just happens to be _more_ than the cost of _both_ a Canon EOS-1n and a fully coupled 24mm shift AND TILT lens. _Please_). Meanwhile, Leica enthusiastically updates and expands its already complete SLR lens line...while giving users a severely limited selection of under-featured, anachronistic, and overpriced bodies to use them on. The R8 is not a bad camera; its problem is that it's a niche product and completely uncompetitive. I'm sorry, but in my personal opinion it is just not a sufficient consolation for the lack of selection of bodies that virtually every other serious cameramaker provides.

It's an accident of history that Zeiss chose Yashica as a partner and Yashica developed into a first-class cameramaking company devoted to the Zeiss lens line, whereas Leitz chose Minolta as a partner and the relationship withered and died. Just imagine if the situation were reversed.... And now Leica struggles mightily over a period that has to be measured in *years* to develop...uh, a motor drive, which is now _built-in_ to virtually every other premium camera and totally taken for granted.

Personally, and this is just the most blatant sort of navel-gazing wishful thinking, I agree with Stephen Gandy (www.cameraquest.com)--Leica should become an independent SLR lensmaker, and adapt its R line for some combination of Contax, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, and Pentax lensmounts. THEN they'd sell some SLR lenses, baby.

--Mike Johnston

C Y , September 13, 1999; 06:03 P.M.

I bought a R8 and a summilux-R 50mm(New)last winter, then I took it to the Lake Superior last winter when the outside temperature was -20F. The R8 didn't break down but it ran out of battery after only 2 36pic rolls. The image quality of summilux -R 50mm was not as good as I had expected. I am concerning if I should choose Contax.

Robin Smith , September 29, 1999; 03:19 P.M.

I have to agree a bit with Mike. Leica optics are absolutely superb and better than other top brands (taken as a whole, but not necessarily individually) but their bodies are perhaps a little disappointing. I have an R6.2 and and SL. The SL and the SL2 are wonderful and the R6.2 is everything I need, but it is not really so beautiful that I cannot conceive of anything nicer. The original R6 was a little niggardly - only offering a 1/1000 top speed - later remedied with the R6.2. But I have to wonder as to why they did got it right to start with? They are a bit clueless with SLR bodies. I do not need or want all the Canon/Nikon style of automation (leave your manual behind and you find you have forgotten how to lock the mirror up etc.)and the R6.2 is a fine precision tool, but I could imagine a more inspiring camera with timed speeds below 1 sec and a 1/4000s shutter speed. In a sense the SL2 was and is their finest body and that was back in 1974! I love Leica, but they are not perfect - still I do think they are getting better and the M series are unbeatable.

Alexey Merz , October 29, 1999; 09:36 P.M.

Oh, man. If I could mount the 100 apo macro Elmarit on an FM2n, F5, F100 or Maxxum 9...! Leica *needs* to know that the bodies are what got me IN to the M system but that their bodies are what keeps me OUT of the R system. I don't WANT to be out of the R system after a year using the M lenses; but the bodies prevent me from taking the plunge.

I *would* purchase multiple R lenses IF they could be mounted on one of the above camera bodies - without hesitation.

Herr Cohn [Leica CEO], are you listening?

Jan Senko , October 31, 1999; 07:22 A.M.

When I entered the Leica R system a year ago the idea was to have a superb camera for a handheld shots/besides using a medium format/..At that time I bought the R7 with some "cheaper lenses" as "tryout" to find out what the Leica system can do...Besides using medium format I never expected to enter the Leica system seriously...Well sometimes the things change very fast and today I own some of Leica's superb lenses such as; 100/2.8 APO Macro,180/2.8 APO,and 35/2 Summicron... I could go on and on about how good this system is but it's simply phenomenal !!!..I still use my Leica R7 and love it but after taking a closerlook at the R8 and several hours of using it I think it's a pleasure to operate it..I think that Leica R8 is a camera with a fascinating design,sits well in photographer's hands, (I wish I could say the same about the R7),metering system is more advanced and the viewfinder is very impressive...And I also think that the R8 has a "real Pro-look" compared to Leica R7... Sincerelly Jan Senko

kirk tuck , November 08, 1999; 12:37 P.M.

I swtiched over to the Leica R system after having shot professionally with all the other current systems. Each of the Nik/Can/Con systems offered one or two really great bodies. Nikon had really great flash capability. contax has some good lenses. But.....none were as uniformly good as the Leica system. I did a half-baked comparison between a my nikon lense and my friends Leica R gear and didn't see an appreciable difference. Then we made the test a bit more rigorous and meaningful by sticking the cameras on tripods. Wow! what an eye opener. That's when the body issue started. I initially went with two R5's but found the flash capability very limiting. I recently purchased two R8's and have shot several hundred rolls on various jobs. These bodies are trememndous and the meters seem perfect. I'm getting sharper and better exposed photos than I ever got on the other gear. I suspect that I've stopped taking focus for granted and have started to pay more attention to the exact plane of focus. The most important point is that these cameras have improved my photography.

Bob Woods , January 21, 2000; 05:53 P.M.

As the owner of a Nikon F system, a Contax G2 with three lenses, and a Leica M6 with two lenses, I bought an R8 last year (late 1998) because I had the chance to pick up a brand new Leica-R 19mm lens at an extremely attractive price. I was very suspicious of the camera at first because it seemed too large and heavy. I was also concerned about its reliability, given rumors of apparent quality control problems in the early production run.

A year later, I've come to the conclusion that this is the best camera I've ever used, period. The metering is spot-on, the mechanical operation a joy to use, the focusing quick and snappy. The pictures are stunning.

I really don't think this camera has any peer. I love the 19mm, and have since picked up an 80/1.4 and 60mm macro. These are truly superior lenses, in my opinion. I shoot mostly Kodachrome and Velvia slides, and the quality in the projected image is truly apparent.

kirk tuck , April 08, 2000; 10:18 P.M.

I posted a note just above, last fall when I had just purchased two R8's. I wanted to add my experiences with the new motor drive. The lack of a full motor was the one gripe I had about the R8 system. The new motor adds auto-bracketting and faster rewind as well as faster wind times. I love the combination of camera and winder. If you would like to see examples, we are posting more and more at our web site, www.kirktuck.com buying this camera is not a mistake

stallard ronald michael , May 18, 2000; 01:57 A.M.


portrait of winemakers

I've had a R8 for two months now, shot a couple hundreds of provia, velvia, and t-max on it, and the general feeling is that the camera is an easy to use Formula 1 racing car, it confronts you with your real capabilities. A begginer could make a picture with an R8, as much as he could not do it with an F5 or an EOS1n, and a professional can take advantage of sophisticated features proper of a high end pro camera.It's true autofocus is a missing aid, I was expecting something like the Contax autofocus system, but improved. The R8 is so comfortable and easy to handle that it has allowed me to put behind the technical concern, and concentrate on the pictures I am taking. It is not a technical obstacle,demanding special attention like Nikon or Canon, you hardly notice the camera from your brain. It is defying me to make better pictures by leaving me with no technical excuses. I understand the Leica R8 is not for every one. A camera is not better nor worse than the photographer behind it, and in that sense, the R8 leaves you with no excuses. A Formula 1 as easy to drive as a bicycle, you cant't say it doesn't steer right, buddy, you might just not be good enough!

Ben -- , June 18, 2000; 09:37 A.M.

The R8 is a very fine camera, and there is no doubt about it.

I don't own one, but I've shot with one. Prioir to using it, I was very reluctant to give it a try. This was primarily due to its bulk. Compared to other top qualiy MF SLRs such as the R6 and RTSIII, the R8 looks bulky. I regarded the size as some kind of lack of elegance.

However, a few minutes of handling would completely change one's opinion of the camera. First of all, the "neckless" design, which contributes to the bulky size, is afterall justifiable. The design allows for the sloping shutter speed dial, which is so easy to access. As a whole, the camera is by far the most ergonomic and intuitive SLR I've played with. It is also far lighter in weight than the sheer size would suggest.

However, the camera does have its downsides. First of all, it has AE, but no exposure compensation. AE is far less robust without e/c. Whenever the lighting is not uniform across the frame, one is forced to resort to manual exposure. With e/c, manual exposure is not necessary and things are *much* faster.

Because of the lack of e/c, I used manual exposure exclusively.

Another complaint is the motor drive option. I don't need one, but for those pros who do, the R8's motor drive is a complete design afterthought. Large, awkard, and expensive. I think Leica should have built the drive into the body. Afterall, those who don't want ta motor winder could get the R6.2 which is truly all manual and is still in production.

Lastly, I still think the prices are outrageous, especially the lenses. Can a 35/2 Summicron or the body be worth 1/20 the price of a V8 BMW 540i? Or the price of an Omega chronograph? Not a chance. These items are much complex and costlier to make. For one thing, as a long time Zeiss shooter, Leica shows no improvement in image quality. In fact, I think the Zeiss images look more vibrant and saturated. And the construction of the pieces, although commendable, is not much better than top offerings from Nikon or Contax.

The sad story is, Leica Camera AG is plagued by its large line of product offerings and replacement parts. Whereas the company should've left the business of replacement parts (of the vintage cameras), projectors, dissolving units, laser pointers, loupes etc altogether to 3rd parties and focus on the core business of cameras and binoculars, they choose to make everything. The end result is that their R&D costs are so high with no volume to support, and they need to milk their loyal camera customers to subsidize other product lines to stay in business. If you look closely at Leica products, the projectors and binoculars are sold at prices roughly on par with the competitors'. Its the camera prices that are really out of whack. This is a company with great engineering capabilities but lousy marketing and production efficiency.

Robin Smith , June 20, 2000; 04:58 P.M.

I am a little baffled by Ben's comments above about the lack of exposure compensation on the R8. Just to the left of the viewfinder is a large prominent exposure compensation lever which gives exposure override +/- 3 exposure values in half stops! Also there is a memory lock on AE exposure so there is really no problem. Of course it also goes without saying that the R8 is lighter than a Nikon F5 or an EOS1, so it is the largest Leica, but it is not huge by current 35mm reflex standards.

The reason that Leica produce a lot of products is that they (not unreasonably) think that if you value Leica optics then you should use them across the board instead of letting you mess up the optical train of thought with a lousy Kodak projection lens or some such. It is shame that they are no longer able to to produce their superb enlargers, but I do not see any marketing reason why this product line is a bad idea. They are acknowledged to be the best (with Zeiss) in binoculars for example.

Also of course, Leica have often sensibly rebadged others products and sell them as Leica (the SF20 flash comes to mind as does the Digilux). This is what other camera companies do too (or they license the technology of others). It is a rare camera company that produces all the components of their product lines themselves in their own factories - Leica are not that foolish.

Jorge Diaz , December 28, 2000; 02:41 A.M.

I have owned an R8 for about 4 months. I own an R4, 3 screw mounts and an M6.You could say I was bitten by the Leica mystique bug but I like to think is not just a capricious attachment. I am not a professional photographer.More like an advanced amateur. I have about 30 cameras including some lesser Nikons, Minoltas, Olympus ,Contax , Mamiyas, Yashicas etc.I bought the R8 new after I had bought the R4 because of the impression of competence I got from the R4.I pondered that the R8 had to be a great camera if it was better than the R4.I find it to be the best camera I own.It grows on you.I have shot with it some 30 rolls which I develop and print and the quality of those negatives is always eerily sensational.The camera itself is a work of art.It just is a pretty thing! Comparisons...Honestly I find the current crop of 35mm slr's from fortress Nikon, Cannon and Minolta astounding.I, don't own or have experienced them closely to make a comparison.By the droves of EOSIv packing pros I see at media events one would have to suspect that that's where the competence is on the photojournalism's arena.The Nikon F5 is a desirable machine to try just by the rave reviews it gets and the solid appearance it commands.But I always wonder if I were one of those pros ...would I be severely outclassed by opting for an R8?The more experience I get with the R8 seems to say no.For once the lenses and their formulas seem very competent and by just not solving so many exposure parameters for you the R8 keeps you closer to the nature of the chemistry on the film until it becomes second nature.Sure, the ability of the AF's to chase your eye has to mean that you are more readily prepared for the unexpected photo op that will bring in the dough in certain situations but at which price? Definitely the R8 is a very artistic GT class car.Enough road feel to make you a legend and the beautiful body to turn heads.Porsche just made a limited edition monster like that ...and that's why nobody could come with the simile...it had not been made yet!

capa robert , January 27, 2001; 08:12 A.M.


The other day, I was looking at Japanese photomagazine.And I found out that M/F camera is very popular there. And I saw the Leica R8 for the first time.But I didn't think anything of that camera it was rather ugry one I thought ....But a year later the magazine put article about R8 and I don't know what happen,suddenly I thought " I want to buy one !!!!" I know if i want to do photography the any equipment I use shuldn't matter.I know japanese camera are much better and ok price.But everyone uses Canon or Nikon camera,I tend to go left if everyone go to right.That's why I want to buy R8!!!!!

Kirk Tuck , February 24, 2001; 12:11 A.M.

I've used most of the other systems on the market and have found the R8 quite superior to all others. The 35mm Summilux 1.4 lense and the 80mm Summilux 1.4 lense are reason enough to own the system. I find the R8 bodies to be indestructible in the best tradition of the old SL2's. The transition backwards from autofocus to manual focus seems to have greatly benefitted my composition while freed from the tyranny of auto focus sensors, my selective focus has returned intact. Some of my work with Leicas can be seen on my commericial website, www.kirktuck.com Buy this camera system and your work will improve.

Ray Moth , April 12, 2001; 03:23 A.M.

I agree with Kirk Tuck that the R8 can improve one's work. It doesn't replace the skill of the photographer but it supports it, that is, it does its job properly; it won't let you down (assuming it doesn't develop a bug!) The user can concentrate on the important aspects of composition, framing, etc. Ergonomics and ease of use are among the R8's advantages, making it more intuitive than many of its rivals. It has been fairly said that one doesn't really need the manual for the R8.

One thing about which I am hesitant, however is its multi-pattern (matrix) metering mode. I suspect Leica included it in the R8's features for the sake of being competitive. I have yet to read any coherent explanation of what it does and so I am reluctant to use it. I prefer the other modes, selective and integral metering, since I know what to expect from them. I'd be interested in anyone else's comments.

Regards, Ray

Alan Cheong , April 24, 2001; 12:46 P.M.

I am of the view that Leica will improve on the functions and look of the next generation of its R range in the future. Looking at its chasis, the R8 may have alot of extra internal space for a conservative MF camera. With its radical appearance, the future R9 & R10 may inherit the same look when Leica enters the AF and even the digital photography age (together?).

IMHO, the R8 could be the last MF Leica SLR since MF SLR bodies is the least competitive department of Leica R system while the R-lenses are top of the class.

For once, if Leica adopts the Nikon FM3A technology (minus the Nikkormat look), Leitz would probably see an immediate surge in its Leica-R camera bodies and R-lenses.

We have seen the sucess of the Zeiss-Contax/Yashica collaboration, I guess it is now the right time for a Leitz Lenses-Nikon SLR body collaboration !

Paul Langham , May 18, 2001; 05:11 P.M.

After many years using MF (Mamyia RB mainly) and LF (Sinar P2 mainly) and doing little 35mm, I felt the need to get out of the studio and travel lighter. However I did want to retain as high an image quality as I could. Also I have prefer to have control over what I do and not let the camers CPU decide want I want. I have always had a hankering after the Leica M camers so I went to take a long close look. At the same time I thought I would look at the R8 as well. The M6 was nice, not as light as I thought though. I picked up the R8 and it spoke to me. No not realy but it just felt right in every way. Fitted my hand so well, everything was where my fingers wanted it to be and for an SLR it is very quiet in operation. So I am cash poor but happy having bought the R8 and 3 lens's (35mm F2, 50mm F2 and 100 mm Apo Macro)

Matthias Rueger , August 15, 2001; 08:34 A.M.

Sometimes an outrageously high price is the single most effective "feature" to sell an item, whether you talk about Ferrari, Gucci or Leica, because many people seek exclusivity before anything else. There are enough people who would like to think that the extra dough they spend on Leica will buy them a superior system, but really, what they get is not better and in some respects worse, than a professional SLR system by Nikon or Canon. Leica is a luxury brand, and as long as people want to believe that they get what they pay for, the company will capitalize on it. I guess the way it is, everone should be happy - the Leica owner, the Leica company and everyone who thought it might be more economical to buy into something else. Case closed.

Sam H , November 22, 2001; 12:29 P.M.

After reading all about the Leica R8, here and at Leica's web page, I am quite surprised. The Canon T-90, which is a mid 1980's production, from what I can see, beats the Leica R8 hands down. The T-90 uses the manual focus FD lenses, and it has very much all the features that the R8 has plus a long list of more features and capabilities. The ergonomics and the grip of the R8 are no match for the T-90, and it is hard for me to understand the stiff price for the R8. Instead of the Zeiss lenses (which I agree that sometimes their price looks like it was a misprint), one can use the superb Canon L-series lenses. I have yet to find anyone who can tell if a picture was taken with a Zeiss lens or with a Canon lens, especially a Canon L-series. Now I used the good old T-90 as an example here (and you can read all about the T-90 by doing a simple Internet search) because I think that it is pointless to use any newer high-end Canon for comparison, such as the newer professional SLR's with all the incredible capabilities they have, and at a reasonable price. Leica might be able to introduce a camera with such features and capabilities 100 years from now, perhaps, but these Canon SLR's are light years ahead. To understand what I mean, take a look at the Canon EOS-1v for instance, URL is at: http://www.usa.canon.com/camcambin/cameras/35mm/slr/eos_1v.html then you may begin to have a second thought. There is no doubt the Leica is a high quality camera, but I do not see any justification to the price of the camera or the price of the Zeiss lenses. In addition, the R8's technology (their newest) is a 1970's, or early 1980's technology. Personally, I will continue to use my T-90 cameras (which I have 2 of them, one equipped with the Command Back, which is yet another fantastic world of features and capabilitiesin itself, features that I actually use), and my line of FD lenses, along with the T-90 dedicated flash, the 300TL (which allows for second curtain, pre-exposure metering, and many more features). I believe that we "the buyers" are the ones who are making the Zeiss prices as ridiculous as they are. Just a point of view, and it is my humble opinion, with no offense meant against anyone, or any brand.

Thanks.

Sam H. Michigan, USA sh10453@yahoo.com

Chris Chung , December 06, 2001; 02:16 P.M.

I have recently a chance to play around with a Canon 1v. It is a very high tech body. When I look through the viewfinder and half-press the shutter, 9 or 10 red squares prompted here and there, which should be the some "multiple-point" focusing or metering. I appreciated Canon's idea very much, but it, in a certain extent, block the view (almost central part, which is the most important part most of the time). When I tried to switch to manual focusing, there was no split-image focussing at all! However, in my view, 1v was the best SLR in Canon's in-production series, as it was the only one which feels(weigh and build) and looks like a camera. In my view, Leica and Canon have very different marketing strategies and missions. Leica has and in fact shows its mission to produce reliable, most superb optical and in fact practical tool to professional amateur photographers, where Canon sells attraction to attract function-addicted non-photographers. Nevertheless I agreed that R8 is not comparable to 1V because it lost one of the Leica's principles, practicality - The shutter of R8 relies totally on batteries, so what's the point of retaining the manual film advance? As I heard, the retention of it together with compatibility with motor winder/drive increased the weight of the camera and complexity, and therefore bugs. On the other hand, I will say Leicaflex SL2 is a better camera than Canon 1v. It's totally mechanical except the metering, mechanical continuously variable shutter up to 1/2000s, most sensitive meter, lighting on viewfinder, brightest viewfinder, split-image focussing, hotshoe, quiet and quick shutter(minimal lag), tank-like build quality. It is not a "function-multi-point-focusing-beeping" toy, it is a silent, professional, understated (though expensive) tool for a photographer.

Robin Smith , January 18, 2002; 01:49 P.M.

Sam

I hate to puncture your train of logic, but Leica produce their own lenses and have nothing to do with Carl Zeiss. I actually think you need to investigate why Leica are such a legendary name in photography. Much if it is historical and mythical, but it is based on solid fact - namely the quality of their products, particularly their lenses. If you do not know anyone who can tell Canon FD from Leica optics then I am delighted to meet you! I can, and in my opinion the difference is worth paying for.

Christian Nagel , May 01, 2002; 06:36 A.M.

I'm using the R8 for 2 Years now and I love it. Shure, it is battery dependent - as the R3, 4, 5 and 7 are. But who cares ? Those ones, who use it in arctic regions should take the R6 or 6.2. You won't loose battery power that soon. All other pros with Can or Nik use battery dependent cameras and also take pics in those regions. So who cares ? And when it's too wet, I'll take my Nikonos. I'm also using a Leica R7 and a Canon EOS-1 + EF 2.8/28-70 L USM and EF 2.8/80-200 L. On the Leica side, I use the Elmarit-R 2.8/24, the Vario-Elmar-R 4/35-70, the Vario-Apo-Elmarit 2.8/70-180, the Apo-Macro-Elmarit 2.8/100 and the 2x-Apo-Extender. The R8 balances much better with those new high tech zooms and APO-lenses than the R3-7 do. Handling is quite easy, no manual needed. Reliability and functionality is top-notch ! The optical power is unrivalled. Manual rewind is much better when you have to be quiet. Otherwise, use motor rewind with winder or motor drive. Customer service here in Germany is also top-notch, very fast (1-2 weeks, depending on the type of repair or adjustment), everything is checked for free. You only have to pay for if something is broken. They do tighter adjustments of aperture rings, distance ring, ... so that you gain your optimal personal lens. No other manufacturer can compete with that. The Canon CPS is also quite fast, but if you need repairs without CPS, it'll take approx. 6 weeks !!! The new APO-Zooms and APO-primes are unrivalled and are built for eternity. The precision mechanics and optics are amazing and worth every penny. I didn't have any problems so far, that couldn't be fixed or adjusted fast enough at Leica in Solms. The R8 is one of the first series and was renewed for free. New back "door", new electronics, new front, bottom and cap. Metering is dead-on in all modes. As a flash, I use the Metz 40 MZ-2. Very good one, but tends to red eyes. The best one money can buy is the Metz 54 MZ-3 or the torch flashes 50 and 70. The Apo 70-180/2.8 is a dream lens. It weights about 2 kilos. But neither Canons L-Series-Zooms nor Nikons silent wave zooms can keep up with it. A little bit flare prone in the 180mm position, but nothing of a bigger problem. The 100 Apo-Macro itself is the best lens of the world, together with the Summicron-R 2/180. Far beyond the resolution of any film,e.g. Fuji Velvia. As I told at the beginning, I'm also using an EOS-1 System with L-zooms, especialy for situations wher AF is handy. But I'm thinking about selling it, because why using the second best when you could use the best APO-zooms and primes alive ?

Albert Wang , July 17, 2002; 03:25 P.M.

The Leica R8 is for me, the best designed camera SLR or rangefinder ever created. It is ergonomically fabulous and all of the controls are reachable with two hands if needs be. Also the ISO and self-timer buttons are logically placed as well.

More importantly, unlike most pro SLR's nowadays, there is actually a real shutter speed dial on top. You can actually do full manual without any crappy dial-in mode anymore. That's why Leica R8's are 10 times more user friendly than any other camera I know of, perhaps even more than the M6? :)

I am happy to have 1 R8 body so far and hopefully I will pick up another one later on next year.

Tom Rose , December 30, 2003; 03:42 P.M.

The Leica R8 is a camera I have known about for some time, but though I have used a Leica M6 for nearly 10 years now, the R8 is not a camera I ever considered buying - I have been happy enough with my Nikons. I just thought it was an odd shape, and over-priced.

But then, on a visit to a photographer friend, he showed my his pair of R8's ... and I want one!!

Why?

1. Quality look and feel.

In real life it both looks and feels perfect. It generates lust. Completely irrational I know, as none of it is any guarantee of toughness, longevity or durability. But the solid feel, and precision assembly make even my F100 and F3 seem tacky and primitive.

2. Perfect controls.

You don't need a manual to operate this camera. There is one control for each operation, it is exactly where you expect to find it, and feels just right.

3. Viewfinder.

The brightest, clearest viewfinder you could ever imagine. This was a revelation. I don't like to use built in focus aids, yet have always struggled to focus accurately on a plain screen. On this camera a split-image or microprism aid is unnecessary. It is easy simplicity to focus on a plain screen. I find it especially hard to focus manually on the Nikon F100, presumably because the screen is designed for AF, but I also struggle on my F3, which has rather a dim image. For manual focussing I find Canon EOS screens even worse. I thought my eyesight was failing, but with the R8 the viewfinder is so clear that I can focus accurately with ease. It is a joy to use.

... and it is such a relief to see a plain uncluttered screen. without x-zillion selectable focus points, flashing metering area indicators, etc.

4. Mirror lockup!

Unforgiveably the Nikon F100 has no mirror lockup. Presunably to encourage me to buy an F5 ... but the F5 is too heavy. My F3 has mirror lockup, but the shutter goes off with such a clunk that it doesn't seem to help that much!

5. Silky smooth shutter

It is smoother than any other focal plane shutter I've ever tried, which includes just about everything Nikon and Canon have ever made, and a few offerings from Pentax, Olympus, and Minolta. Only some leaf shutter cameras (like the Mamiya 7 with a virtually silent and vibration free leaf shutters built into each lens) are quieter and smoother.

6. Amazingly sensitive metering.

EV from -4 (!!!) to 20

7. It does not get in the way.

The camera works with you. You never have to fight it. It is entirely free of annoying design flaws.

The biggest problem I have with my Nikon F100 is that I spend half my time figuring out how to stop it from making decisions for me (like refusing to fire if it thinks the focus is not perfect) or disabling stacks of advanced features to regain control. The R8 is more like my F3, but with a better viewfinder, smoother shutter, nicer handling, wider range of shutter speeds, spot and matrix metering, ...

Irrelevances?

I don't really care if Leica R lenses are optically no better than their modern Nikon and Canon equivalents. No one will deny that they are nevertheless very good. It is the mechanical side of them that is so superb. The focussing action is smooth and controllable with just the right amount of resistance, and they don't suffer from very short travel between closest focus and infinity. They are clearly designed for pleasant manual operation, rather than AF.

The Leica R system as a whole is a pleasure to use, and that puts me in a better frame of mind to make good pictures.

Drawbacks?

COST - If you want maximum "bang per buck" the Leica R system is a non-starter. I would actually never consider buying new. In the UK a used R8 in excellent condition sells for one third of the price of a new one. (The same is true of R lenses). At that price it is good value for money. Of course, if you are on a budget, the same outlay will you buy you a complete outfit = second-hand body and 3 or 4 used lenses in some other systems.

LACK OF AF etc. - If you need state of the art AF, this is not for you.

WEIGHT - Most of us would not choose to lug this around in abackpack, or up a mountain. The OM4 ti has a lot going for it if you want a tough camera to travel light, or an EOS 10, EOS 300, or Nikon F80 fits the bill if you want modern features.

LIMITED SYSTEM - If you want , a zoom macro, a 5x life size macro, a wide angle Tilt-shift lens, a TS macro lens, a soft-focus portrait lens etc. this is not the sustem for you. Most of us just need a pair of zoom lenses or 3 or 4 carefully chosen primes. Personally I can get by fine with a 24 f/2.8, and an 80-200 f/4, and maybe a 60mm macro. I'll forego luxuries like Canon's 24mm TS-E in favour of a focussing screen that works.

Nice things to look forward to:

There will soon be a 10Mp digital back for the R8. So long as it has a street price of £3000 or less it will make the R8 competitive with Canon's 1Ds.

--

Laszlo Horvath , September 27, 2004; 10:28 A.M.

I haven't used either the Leica R8 or the Leica lenses. But with respect to the lenses I think that Carl Zeiss lanses match the performance of the Leicas in every respect at a third of the price. Especially now with the digital era, the price of the manual focus Zeiss lens line for Contax has dropped to the level of Nikkor MF lenses. Though I'm not envious on Leica users (I would never trade my Zeiss primes for anything but maybe other Zeiss primes) I don't understand how can Leica justify those horrible prices their lenses have. A 50mm/1.4 lens for 2100 euros, while its Zeiss equivalent sells at 400 Euros?!! I don't think that anybody can find me such a significant difference between the two lenses to justify the four times higher price be it constructional quality, optical performance, robustness or lifespan. Normal lenses are generally so good that you can hardly tell the difference anyhow. And we could go on like this with the other lenses.

The Leica cameras and lenses may be excellent cameras, I don't doubt that but I think that Zeiss proves that the same quality can be built at 1/3 to sometimes 1/4 of the price of a Leica lens. As for the Manual focus line of Nikon, I've hold a 28/2.8 Nikkor MF lens recently in my hand but, be serious, that all plastic lens is no match for the Zeiss or Leica all metal constructions. The feel of focusing is cheep and lousy, the materials used as well. And it's only about 100 Euros cheaper than the Zeiss.

To go back to Leicas I think they are off the mark with their prices

Sanyi Deme , October 15, 2004; 03:31 A.M.


Sunset across the Danube

The pros and cons debate on the R8 is facinating. I have held it and the R9 and they feel GOOD in the hand. However there are some points raised above which need answering.

Why the higher cost than other brands? Very simple! The last 5-10% improvement in lens quality costs double or treble. So does a long spare parts guarantee.

Look at recent detailed lens tests published in the last 10 years and Leica M and R lenses usually outclass every competitor at similar focal lengths and appertures by at least 5-10% and sometimes more. Rare exceptions occur to prove the rule.

Anyone who throws away lens quality with poor photographic technique will rarely see the difference between brands anyway. They will be wasted on Canon L lenses or Nikon ED glass or Carl Zeiss as well.

Let's face it - I can take as great pictures with a Canon FTb with mirror lock-up as I can with a 1964 Leicaflex with mirror lock-up. Use a tripod.

But the only great Canon lens I have is a 1970s 35mm f2 with concave front element which rated superb at EVERY apperture. The airborn lens-grinding dust with radio active Thorium Flouride in this glass dust was an Occupational Health and Safety risk to lens-grinder lungs and so - discontinued in about 1976.

The Canon T90 is a great sports photography tool and you can buy a Macao made adapter to add Leica R glass to it.

I can take great pictures with a Nikon F301 and that extrordinary but rare Nikon AIS 25-50mm f4 zoom which even most second-hand camera shop owners have never heard of.

But when I want confidence in all my lenses from 19mm to 180mm, in any light, with almost any generation of body, I take Leica glass, and a doubler to reach 360mm, and 2 or 3 bodies. I even take a type I Leica Mini for its 35mm 3.5 lens. That lot I carried around Europe and Korea in my pockets and one long snouted camera case, along with a Manfrotto tripod.

Yes, action photography requires super technique or an autofocus, so pros in action photography, and mums and dads with fast offspring will gravitate to whatever works for them. That is fair.

The autofocus sensors are only approximate and so even 100 lp/mm resolution lens quality is immediately reduced to 40 lp/mm. In action photography this is a sacrifice better than totally out-of-focus photos. Of course newspaper is a dot printing exercise on bleeding paper so who cares about resolution.

But only Leica allows me to use those old manual lenses even on their latest R8 and R9 digital-ready bodies.

Future-release sensor sizes greater than in Leica's initial 10 Mp back will NOT mean a throw-away camera. Try doing that with the Nikon and Canon $5000 - $10,000 top of the line prima-donna digital bodies.

With the digital equivalents of 35mm film being summarised simply as:

Amateur film equals 6Mp Critical Kodachrome equals 12Mp Critical Velvia equals 22Mp Critical Black and White equals 35Mp

there are clearly a lot more product cycles in the wings for throw-away digital bodies to be superceded again and again.

Will I buy an R8? The R9 has a couple of extra wrinkles that might sway me. Both will allow interchangeable digital backs - the only 35mm cameras to do that and still allow film photography as well.

So I can keep the same old lenses and bodies and have my cake and eat it.

If you have bought Canon FD L glass and then upgraded to Canon autofocus L glass and then up to Canon digital-only L glass, add up the total cost. Try that with Nikon as well. At least the old AIS glass still fits on a Nikon digital, albeit with zero metering and apperture functionality. Hats off to their engineers.

I think the price of all those complete sets of lens changes costs far more in the long run than buying the best glass the first time and sticking to Leica.

Not everyone sees this. Others do but cannot afford the initial outlay. Others need autofocus to make a living. Horses for courses.

Of course if you are a lousy photographer, Leica will not save you.

Idiot-proofing costs money in electronic R&D and product lifecycle and designed obselence.

Where other makers have won is in the size of that market that needs to buy idiot-proof cameras. They were smart in looking for profits in volume and building their premium lines on top. Leica was too teutonic for that.

That is the bottom line. Teutonic philosophy that wastes nothing and does not throw away superb optics at every fashion change looks to make less money than consumer electronics that creates throw away consumables - even Canon L glass.

Let's hope we do not lose the 5-10% better optics from Leica just because they have not joined the throw-away society soon enough. Some of us enjoy having the very best.

So to all my fellow photographers, just enjoy photography and have fun and forget the equipment. It is just a tool. You are the creative genius.

"Only a bad workman blames his tools" is true because a good workman chooses tools very very carefully.

"The price of a purchase is long forgotten when the quality is still being appreciated"

Gabriel M. A. , April 21, 2005; 12:56 A.M.

"Let's hope we do not lose the 5-10% better optics from Leica just because they have not joined the throw-away society soon enough. Some of us enjoy having the very best."

The original review as well as Gordon Lewis's and Sanyi Deme's comments seem well-rounded, if not sometimes subjective, but have what many always lack: knowledge of the subject at hand, and best of all, first-hand, not by inference.

I had a short-lived relationship with an R8, but not because it was a bad camera, but due to economics. During that time I experienced what it is like to use it, and no review can fully explain what it is like to handle and operate it -- you must do it yourself; Leica glass is the other part of the experience. I went back to an R4, and currently own an M6.

peo hedin , September 27, 2006; 10:29 A.M.

Gabriel youre right. Iv蠨ad my r8 for one year now and just can`t live without it. Just looking thru the viewfinder is fabulous, i`ve been working with Canon 5d and a konica 7d wich are superb digital cameras, but when i have my r8 in my hands i get that feeling, the feeling that i really cant describe but it`s great.

Jon Gibbs , December 04, 2006; 02:54 P.M.

It appears that Leica is on the road to ruin via consumer digitals - but what is the option, they nearly went bankrupt last year.

Andy Reid , January 29, 2007; 06:30 P.M.

As a photographer of cars and auto racing I use the R8, the R9 and the R digital. I use the camera with the 180 2.8 asph, the 35-70 F4, the 21-35, the 35 F2 and the 90 F2 with a 280 F4 coming soon. I have used the Nikon F2, F3, F4, F100, D100, D200, D2X, D2H and the canon 1d, 10d and 20d. I think that the Leica is the best thing out there. The results I get with the camera are just better. It could be a case of me liking the control placement but I think it is more than that. The lenses just seem sharper. I know they don't have AF but for what I am shooting AF is not a real asset. The contrast and resolution seem superior and the mages from the digital, even in jpg format are better in my experience than any of the cameras I mentioned above. Others results may differ but this is what my results have been. Additionally the camers makes it easier to slow down just a bit and wait fr the shot as opposed to just shooting a ton of frames at 8 FPS in AF mode. The R8 and R9 are not for everyone but if you try it and like it, nothing is likely to feel better in day to day use.

Image Attachment: corkscrew Aston web.jpg

Serge Goetzinger , April 09, 2008; 06:53 A.M.

After having the chance to try out a R8, I purchased a used Leica R8 + Summicron 50 2.0 + 90 APO 2.0. So far I shot 10 x 135 film. The results are absolutely stunning. The body is a joy to use, the viewfinder is the best I've ever seen, and last but not least, the lenses are far far better than my Nikkors. Why buy a MF film body Leica R8, when you can get a Nikon d3 or Canon 5D ? Because I am not a professional making his living out of his pictures. Because I do not want to read a 1000 pages manual to operate a camera. Because I have my own darkroom to process my films and prints, and finally because I just love to photograp with the R8.

Bob Drummond , April 17, 2008; 09:58 P.M.

I recently brought a R8 at a wonderful price, I guess you might call it bottom feeding. I am into a R8 plus 35 Elm, and 50mm Cron for less then a grand. The camera feels wonderful. I am delighted. I have an extensive M system for the last 15 years. Strange just jumped into the R pool feels good so far.

I will update as I begin shooting.

Robert Cudlipp , June 02, 2008; 03:17 A.M.

I have 2 x R8 bodies.

As usual, could not believe the price Leica wanted for the digital backs offered some years ago.

What has happened to the price.

Also , given Leica's limited R& D budget, what has been the track record of the digital back?

steven crichton , January 19, 2009; 08:49 P.M.

After recently purchasing a Leica R8 and a summicron 35mm f2 I thought I'd add my 2 cents.

As the story goes, I'm sort of semi-pro. I shoot a lot of event stuff for artistic venues and work for a music magazine in the UK, so can blag a press pass if I desperately want to get in the pit.

Over time I've tried a good few cameras and yes, each one has their own job and providing the body feels good if it cost a fortune, it will probably stay with you longer, thus eventually costing less, a point which always seems to be forgotten especially in the horrible digital megapixel race. My D1x was only retired last year after falling to bits!

Anyway, as a nikon user on digital I had decided to go with an FM as a film body, but the one major thing that no-one seems to ever mention is being left eyed. Which with any nikon manual body is an impossibility in reality. As all the Nikons with manual wind require the wind lever to poke out to turn the metering on. So they are incredibly uncomfortable to use (yes motor drives sort this, but then cripple the camera if the batteries die). Canon's including the F1-n have an odd feel, kind of not quite right in my hand. Also dare I say it I even parted with an M along the way and a contax G system, due to the left eyed and glasses issues.

In retrospect my 400 mile round trip to a dealer should have been made many months if not years before to actually hold these cameras before buying, as all of us will well know ebay has issues with lure every once in a while. However after about 2 hours in Ffordes of Beauly in the UK, I had handled F3's Contaxes a couple of newer bodies such as the F4 and F5 and really had narrowed it down to the Contax RTSIII and R8. The deal breaker there was the leica is a camera that still allows factory support and new (actually off the shelf new! I have also dealt with Kyrocera over a T2 recently. Not a nice experience) to be bought out of the 2 and to my preference the grip is much more suitable. Overall though the R8 is the finest camera for left-eyed glasses wearing photographers you can buy, they just have it right and if you cannot see what you want to take you cannot take it properly, simple as that.

Finally, cost on the R8 is no longer an issue, a well cared for R8 body with a near mint 35mm 3 cam f2 is only parking meter change in difference to a Nikon F3hp - T with a 35mm f2 AIS in near mint or even a good (not battered and dead celled battery) F5. Plus throw in the great flash metering and that is a saving of at least a couple of hundred on a good quality studio meter with similar capabilities.

Basically. If you want a very good versatile manual focus SLR with a great lens selection of good quality and modern metering and features the R8/9 is that camera. There is nothing else in the marketplace.

Robert Cudlipp , January 26, 2011; 06:55 P.M.

The real quality , or rather lack of it, with the Leica R series of SLRs has been seen with their appalling post digital collapse in price on the second hand market.

In Melbourne, where I live, the few Leica dealers do not want to touch second hand R 8 or R 9 bodies as there is just no demand for them.

Despite the plaudits heaped upon them by those of the unblinkered view that Leica could do no wrong in whatever it did, the " Leica all is great and enduring" myth has been painfully exposed with the all but total demise of the R series.

Leica has since WWIII or thereabouts been all about the M3-M7, prior to the invetible migration to digital or coprorate failure.

I could never understand the mega premium charged for the M6 I purchased. Sure, it felt great, but had a primitely limited cloth made shutter limited to 1,000/second when Nikon and Canon had been 1/8000th of a second for a decade +.

Yes, the rangefinder makes focussing a cinch. However, it is just as easy on the Cosina made Voitglanders of which I now own several, and the film can even be loaded without turning the camera upside down and praying that the film leader has in fact engaged.

To me, Leica has really been about optics and their lens, which I have now mounted on the Voigtlanders give superb results, at a price they should.

But forget the R series, dead, buried and you can have difficulty in even giving the bodies away in these firmly entrenched digital times.


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