Leica R6 Reliability

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by wendell_kelly, Jun 12, 2018.

  1. There are a number discussions concerning the reliability and build quality of the Leica R6 here, and elsewhere, on the web. These are mostly ten to fifteen years old and many of the problems reported seem in the realm of "infant mortality", that is, manufacturing defects which appeared in new cameras and presumably were corrected under warranty and were avoided in cameras produced later.

    At least ten years have passed now, and I post this to ask how well the Leica R6 has held up with time. Early defects, if any, will have been corrected and user's experience/comments will reflect camera durability and quality of design.

    Early problems often mentioned are mirrors becoming detached, frozen shutter speed knobs, and seizing of the DOF lever. Are these persistent problems or just early failures with new cameras?

    I am eager to read responses here.

    I have a nice R6 that I'd like to take with me to Europe. I'd prefer the lighter weight of the R6 but will bring a Leicaflex SL if there are reliability concerns.

    TIA all.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
  2. Strangely, I have never experienced any reliability issues with any of the R cameras I've owned. That includes the R3, R4, R5, R6 and all the Leicaflex models. Don't blame you for not wanting to lug the Leicaflex around on a trip. It's closer to a medium format sized camera than 35mm, but what a wonderful view in the SL's viewfinder. Like a big, uncluttered picture window in your home.

    My favorite small package for shooting Leica R lenses is to use a tiny Nikon EM or FG in stop down metering mode (they both have AE, so this type of shooting is very quick) with a $20 Chinese lens mount adapter from eBay.

    For what it's worth, my best travel photos came from using a light, small and cheap Konica C 35 rangefinder camera (which also had AE) with a 38mm fixed lens. The Hexanon glass is sharp, and being able to simply focus and shoot made the whole picture taking experience a lot more fun. I have a 12x18 print on the wall from that camera that is tack sharp.
  3. I've read plenty on the R6, but not that's plagued by reliability issues; I've mainly found messages of that kind about some R4 and R5 ranges, but the all-mechanical R6 seems among the more problem-free. I cannot comment on the others, but my R6 is a solid camera. It's indeed nice compact, light, simple and very solid metering. In terms of construction quality, I think my Nikon FM2 feels more solid, but at the same time, the R6 never skipped a beat. Of course, that's just a sample size of 1.

    Probably the most famous R6 user was Salgado. The camera seemed to survive very harsh locations.
  4. It's actually the opposite.

    Age is badly affecting all the "R" models.
    The main issue has to do with lubricant failures (congealing which creates stiffness in the component its supposed to assist, and/or the accompanying out-gas fuming):
    1. You already mentioned the Depth-of-Field preview lever. This can stiffen so badly that when the operator forces it, causes the plastic lever to sever.
    2. Along the same lines, internal mirrorbox mechanism lubrication failure. This also creates various problematic symptoms.
    3. Lube failure out-gassing. This creates electronic switch chatter with any item that has an exposed contact pad or wiper (creating malfunctions for either the meter on the R6, or for the more complex Auto exposure systems in the R4, R5, R7, R8 & R9).
    4. Mirrorbox anti-flare lining not only is cracking, but its self-stick backing is also contributing to the out-gas issues.
    5. Foam substance; dust, cushioning & light seal materials, are a contamination due to age related decay.
    6. Even with the mechanical shutter of the R6, lube failure may at some point show up in the slow speed escapement 'clock' mechanism. The other models have electromagnet/armature surfaces that if contaminated, will produce speed errors.
    Leicaflexes on the other hand, lack ANY foam (black yarn used), power through failed lubricant (speeds very reliable), and have robust metering (if the batterybox never experienced acid leakage). The most common issue with Leicaflexes, are the (Leica diamond) prism unit viewfinder flaws (small out of focus blobs caused by age related tarnish to the silver/aluminum coating).

    Still, if an "R" or Leicaflex has had preventive or proactive service performed, then certainly many of these issues can be avoided.
    So there shouldn't be any concern in using them for important activities...

  5. Gus-

    It would be difficult to imagine a more helpful or "on the mark" reply. Thank you for your comments.
  6. I'd bring a back up, no matter what camera you use. That is, unless you don't mind picking up another during the trip if you are where one is available to buy.

    You can drop a camera, have it stolen, or whatever. Bring a back up.
    robert_bowring likes this.
  7. I love the Leicaflex SL camera, indeed my favorite -- glorious viewfinders, the best damping of any SLR I've ever used -- but I've had a series of repairs with moderate use (about 150-200 rolls a year).

    All my cameras were CLA'ed b4 use -- very expensive!!

    The plastic eyepiece of one camera just fell out after about 400 rolls. Simple plastics failure I suppose.

    Another camera had the lollipop of the meter fail after 80 rolls.

    Then one camera developed shutter bounce after 50 rolls.

    Complete shutter failure with another after 25-30 rolls.

    Not saying they are inherently unreliable; they're just 50 year old cameras. Same is probably true with any old camera with identical usage.

    I've had several other Leicaflex SL where I put 25-40 rolls into them w/o problems, and just ended up selling them. So maybe they're still humming along just fine.

    Anyway, most film cameras now days are 20- 30 -40 years old, so age related problems are to be expected.

    Tried Nikons for a year, based on their reputation of reliability, and just didn't like the optics as well. Plus a lot more camera shake. As in at least a stop or two. :(

    If you want to shoot Leica optics with film, got to put up with the cameras.
  8. Leicas are like owning a high performance 50 year old supercar. Preventative maintenance costs are high, but at least your Leica can be repaired so you can maintain the high performance level. Leica quality backup camera? I use a rebuilt and component updated Leica CL.

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