Is Leica R4 a good start?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by jack_palmer, Feb 25, 2008.

  1. I shoot with a .85 MP with a 50mm Summicron and 90mm Elmarit. I would like to
    use some longer lenses and would like to know if the Leica R4 would be a good
    usable and reliable body? Eventually I would like an R 6.2 but the prices are
    really high. It looks like an R4 body could be bought for just a couple
    hunderd dollars.
  2. They are cheap for a reason. Poor mirror dampening, bad electronics, no repair parts, and a dim viewfinder. Cost to repair is more than value of the camera.

    Sold mine. I am a happy camper with several each R6, 6.2, and R7.
  3. I am quite happy with my R4. I travelled with it all around the world:
    Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Angor Wat, Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Bangkok,Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Yangzhou, Chengde, Datong, Suzhou.....
    No problem all all. If I don't trust it, I would bring it on trips costing $6000-$10,000 per trip
  4. I would buy and R6. The prices seem to have come down on them, and they are excellent sturdy cameras.
  5. The R4 gets good reviews on the web, but last year when I was looking at buying into a Leica SLR, I spoke to (arguably) the top Leica repair guy in the world - the man Leica send the cameras that they can't repair to - and he recommended the R4 to me. He told me that in his opinion they were very reliable and robust and great to use.

  6. I agree with Ronald about the R4's mirror damping but I have not had any problems with
    the electronics in the four bodies I've used. IMHO a recently-serviced Leicaflex SL is a
    better camera unless you want auto-exposure, a motor drive, interchangable viewscreens,
    or need diopter correction lenses.
    One weak point of the R4 though R6 bodies (and possibly the R7) is the tripod mount. In
    these bodies the tripod socket is mounted to the camera's main casting with three tiny
    screws and will break off if stressed excessively, taking pieces of the main casting with it.
    I'd be hesitant about using a 180mm f/3.4 APO and extender with these bodies on a
    tripod, for example. A replacement main casting was US$300 several years ago. On the
    Leicaflexes the tripod socket is mounted to a sub-frame; on these bodies the sub-frame
    is the weak link, not the main casting, and is much easier to replace.
  7. Leica supposedly corrected the circuit malfunction late in the production, somewhere after ser.# 1,6xx,xxx but it may be safer to get an R4S or RE which are similar bodies with slightly less automation and made just after the initial problematic R4. The R3 is also very nice for an inexpensive R body if you need an automatic camera. I've always prefered it's build quality over the R4 despite it's larger size and dimmer finder. Regardless of the body you buy, make sure there is a return option within a week or so if it malfuntions since any camera that old might need a CLA to work properly.
  8. OK: why another Leica? The best and now cheapest film SLR bodies are the Nikon F100, a
    steal at their current used prices, with prime lenses that are as good as they come for SLRs.
    They are the film SLR champs at tele, sports, and macro shots. So, why a Leica R?

    Isn't this question in the wrong forum anyway? No rangefinder advice sought here, I think.
  9. Thanks to all for the advise. I am attracted to the Sl for the build quality and to the R 6.2 for the small size and would eventually like to own both when funds allow. I was just thinking that the R4 would get me in allowing more money for lenses. To Frank: while this is a rangefinder forum, I know a lot of members own both systems and I've seen responses to similar questions. Sorry if the question offends or rubs you the wrong way but I know I will get honest and valuable advise from knowledgeable users even if it isn't specifically a rangefinder question..
  10. "About This Forum

    This forum is for discussing Leica (and rangefinder) cameras and any associated equipment in the pursuit of great photography."

    Frank is incorrect about the focus of this forum. This is a perfectly reasonable question.
  11. I know a few people who pulled out the tripod socket. Also know of one returned to Leica New Jersey with a bad shutter. No parts. They said to send it to DAG for repair with used parts or an R8 at a discount. He took the R8.
  12. My R4S has been 100% reliable. It's a small sturdy camera and handles long lenses well.
  13. Sorry, of course "Leica and rangefinder" is used in this forum ambiguously; maybe rename
    it with an "or" instead of the "AND". Monitors? Logic?

    All I had in mind is open up poster's horizon to look at SLR users and their comments/fora
    when looking for an SLR. And in SLRs I think the F 100 reigns supreme in price, handling,
    features, low weight, ... and so forth for film users.

    But if poster is wedded to the few Leica Rs that are in use and wants only advice from
    those few (relatively) users and is content with that, all the more blinders on his head and
    his self-limiting SLR search, by all means ... Sorry.
  14. Frank, the OP stated that he has problems switching between focussing directions. I do too,
    using both Leica-R and Nikon systems. This forum has a Leica-R category, so there's no
    reason he can't ask an R question here.
  15. My bad, it was another thread where the OP said he has problems switching directions.
    Still nothing wrong with preferring one system over another, or in asking here.
  16. The R4 is cheap these days, I suspect mostly because of bad comments from those who know nothing about it and will badmouth anything except the equipment they have chosen to use. You don't need to concern yourself about repairs, another used body is cheaper than the simplest repair on any camera would be. I have a nice R4 that I got for $100, if anything goes wrong with it I will throw it in a drawer and just use another R4. Many of these offered for sale have seen little if any use, so there is no point in buying a "user" when a clean, close to new or new body can be had for just a bit more money. I have 3. Accessories are cheap, but Leica lenses are not, as I think they can be used on digital slr cameras perhaps. I have been happy with them, in fact my R8 stays in the bag mostly and I use the lighter and more expendable R4. I use the 50mm/f2 a lot. Watch out for sticky dof preview levers, the dof preview may not be important but as it worsens it might cause the lens to not stop down during the actual exposure. The lever should move easily and return on its own. Foam seals are easy to replace, but you don't want to if you don't have to, 2 of mine were fine, one I had to reseal.
  17. I changed my R4 for an R5--but only because I prefer the R5 shutter speed display. The R4 uses light from the lens--from the image--to light the shutter speeds. If the image field is not bright over toward the right where the shutter speeds are, I can't read the speed. The R5 uses LEDs to light the speed display. I like that better.

    No reliability problems with my R4, though.
  18. >>Frank Uhlig, Feb 25, 2008; 10:32 a.m.<<

    "OK: why another Leica? The best and now cheapest film SLR bodies are the Nikon F100, a steal at their current used prices, with prime lenses that are as good as they come for SLRs. They are the film SLR champs at tele, sports, and macro shots. So, why a Leica R?"

    Have you ever actually used a Leica R camera and Leica R lenses? No doubt the Nikon F100 is a fine camera, same with its lenses, but it is not Leica R.

    "Isn't this question in the wrong forum anyway? No rangefinder advice sought here, I think."

    Before they tacked on "...and rangefinder" to this forum title it was simply known as the "Leica Forum" here on and there were plenty of R, M, and LTM messages swapped (try a search of the archives) so a Leica R question is appropriate here.
  19. In answer to some comments that these are not reliable, I seem to remember that it was the earlier R4's that had some electrical /electronic problems but that anything with a higher serial number ( above, I think it was 1,000,000) was regarded as being safe. Someone here will know I am sure. I have not seriously looked at R4s for a while now although I have noted that their price has fallen remarkably. It was only a few years ago that a good R4 body went for around $1,000 Aus. But now they seem to be below $400 last time I saw some. I put this down to the impact of the digital revolution more than anything else as the price drop coincided with digital SLRs taking off. So if I were in the market for a film based SLR camera I think I would consider a late R4 but have put most of my non Leica M cash and effort into digital Nikons recently so have not seriously considered them. I have however thought about buying some Leica R glass to use on my Panasonic L1 with an adapter. I have seen some nice results by people who have gone ddown this path.
  20. James Sugar, one of the Geographic's best for a couple of decades, was an R4s user all over the world. I prefer the R5, of which I own three, because the exposure lights on the side don't intrude in the image and are easier to read. Consequently, the viewfinder image is very slightly smaller. I owned an R4s for years, working flawlessly, and have owned my R5's since new and love them all. Coming from the SL I thought I'd never use the automation, but have come to enjoy their multimodality and shift-able program mode. They are superb, relatively small cameras, so I can understand your attraction to them. Especially compared to the R8/9!
  21. You have to remember that the R4 is a fairly old camera, 20+ years. The R8/R9 is 10 years old, and it is one hell of a camera. However, it is as big as it is capable. While the R4 lacks some of the TTL flash features etc it still has P mode and the other exposure modes that the R8 has. An R4 sold last week on ebay for 75 bucks with a missing focusing screen and some damage to the screen mounting frame. Certainly a repairable body. I bought 4 good screens (all different) for 45 dollars on eBay. Winders go for about 35 bucks, motor drives for 65. So you can not only have three bodies, you can have motors for all of them. Yes, the viewfinder is probably the worst thing about the camera. I wear glasses, it is hard to see the leds, especially in bright light. The image is a bit dim and focussing is tricky for my old eyes.

    Here are some links for info on R series Leicas:
  22. I have used a Leica R4 for the last seven years, and have shot dozens of rolls of slide and b & w print. I have to say that the R4 offers everything you could want from a manual focus film SLR. The two metering modes (spot and integrated full frame) together with aperture priority mean that it is easy to become familiar with the metering characteristics of the camera. In terms of reliability, I have to say that the camera has had some problems in its 25 year life. My father bought the camera new in 1983 and during the late eighties and early nineties, whilst he shot many rolls of slide film which still look superb today, there was an intermittent problem with the electronics. When I inherited the camera, the same problem cropped up again. However, I had the camera repaired about six years ago and it's operated perfectly ever since. I would highly recomend the R4 to a user who appreciates the finer things of photography, including access to an excellent range of lenses. I briefly owned an R7 and never liked its slightly larger body and rather superfluous modernised electronics. The R4 had everything I needed, until the digital SLR arrived last Christmas.....
  23. I bought myself a nice mint R4 from KEH for $179... and wow! Great camera for that price. Good automation and decent all around camera. yes, the VF is a little dim, but even so, I have no problem getting perfectly focused photos. Camera looks very nice. I like it... will probably get a R6 for a reliable full mechanical version sometime... but maybe not.

    A woman stopped me when I was out with mine to say that she owned several Leicas and always seemed to grab the R4 for her casual shooting... "there is nothing amazing about the camera, but it just has everything you want for a knock around camera."

    The real reason to get the camera is for the lenses. Once I realized that I should stop my Summicron 50 down 1/2 stop it is proving to be one of the most stellar lenses I have ever used (way nicer than anything from Canon or Nikon).
  24. Yes. It's an excellent, if wonderfully obsolete, start; although there are better cameras out there.
    (I use & trust my R4s -- the simplified version which has all the features I need. The design choices I appreciate the most in the R4(s) are the heavier weight of the body, the feel of the shutter release, the size and positioning of the shutter speed dial, as well as the layout of the viewfinder.)
    This is a Leitz camera based on Minolta (XE) innerds. Leica-philes scoff at its "not-Leica" provenance, but users are free to ignore this irrelevant critique. Minolta was an innovator in its time and having a Minolta body with Leica R lenses is a fine way to start a non-superficial reflex experience. (Though I typically recommend that young starters use an inexpensive match-needle platform like the Pentax K1000 or Nikon FE -- which are in plentiful supply and easy to use hard without guilt or bad feeling.)
    The R4(s) is a cheap body (now pushing $149 at KEH). But the lenses are less so. Mitigating this for me is the extraordinary quality of the lenses and their compatibility with the Canon EOS digital platform.
    I use two R4s bodies to carry either different sensitivity films or different focal lengths. The bodies from my point of view are almost disposable, given their cost today; but they are strong enough and tough enough to justify periodic CLA service for basic cleaning, light-seal replacement. The costs of more serious electronic or mechanical issues are less easy to justify, but this is overall a solid camera that wears well in my experience (I am firm, active but not careless with equipment).
    Mirror-damping is a problem of perception, i.e., an aesthetic distaste masquerading as a bug -- much as I hate to disagree with Monsignor Herr. Like with the comically loud mirror of the Pentax 6x7, the R4's mirror 'clack' is substantial but occurs after the shutter has closed.
    Anyone going into the Leica R series does so cognizant of the limitations of depending on a discontinued platform: fewer spare parts, fewer service professionals eager to fix. All of these issues are manageable (with the help of the 'net) and shouldn't deter you from experience with a VERY INTERESTING and, in my opinion, delightfully effective & useful design. It's perceived low popularity is more aligned with the high cost of R lenses and the more-than-decent adequacy of the Nikon in the 1980's.

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