Core Lenses 1 - Leica R

Some time ago I decided that rather than buy into native system lenses every time I bought a new camera, I would start setting up a series of 'core' lenses that, via adapters, I could use on a variety of camera systems. I identified 4 different lens mounts as being the ones that had the widest variety of adapter options, had options that worked for me and were available S/H and at reasonable prices. These were :

This post deals with the first of these - Leica R lenses.

The gallery above shows the Leica R lenses I currently use - 28-70mm and 70-210mm zooms, 50mm + 2x converter and a 135mm. I use them on my Leica SL (Typ 601) and my 2 x Leica T (Typ 701). I bought some of them before I bought my S/H Leica R5 film camera and this was an important factor in my deciding to buy that camera for my return to analogue photography. 

The R lenses themselves are manual focus bayonet SLR lenses for the R system of cameras and they were actually made from the 1960's until 2009. Some R lenses are still VERY expensive, but the ones above are very reasonable and the whole lot (including the Leica R camera) cost me less than £1000. Some of them, particularly the 28-70mm zoom are a bit battered. However they are all optically superb. For some time they have been used by mirrorless camera owners via adapters and they have also proved popular for Canon EOS owners as they can be easily adapted to those cameras. For my purposes I use a Novoflex Leica R > Leica T adapter. Now Novoflex adapters are top of the range in terms of engineering and construction and their price reflects that. However, since I am attaching high quality lenses to expensive Leica digital camera bodies, I see no good reason to cut corners. I've always used Novoflex adapters and currently they are the only brand I use for my cameras and lenses. (There are other cheaper options available for other camera systems and if you are interested I've always found that Kipon have a good quality / price tradeoff. )

Now these are very much 'old school' SLR lenses. They are mostly made of metal and are big and comparatively heavy. However they are seriously well made and the ones that I have are beautifully sharp from corner to corner at all apertures. Designed for 35mm film cameras they are of course 'full frame' but can be adapted to provide standard to telephoto options for m4/3 and APS-C sensor cameras. Though to be honest, because of the size and weight I would hesitate to recommend them for small(er). For example I found using them hand held on my Leica T's difficult, though tripod mounted they work well.

Currently I am using Leica cameras and the Sigma SD Quattros (For which there seems to be little in the way of adapter options) and there seems little chance of my returning to m4/3, Fuji X or Sony FE at the moment. However, who knows what might happen in the future. One of those systems could bring out the perfect camera for me in the future. Whatever happens I have these R lenses and will continue to use them on any camera that allows me to do that. I originally bought them to have a Leica option for my SL, having tried out that systems native lenses and found them way too heavy (and way too expensive!) for me. And I will be using my R's on that camera and the R5. For the price I got them for I'm very pleased and as indicated I have no issues in terms of their performance. Plus as regular readers will be only too aware, 'old school' is a term that could be applied to much of my photographic activity, (and myself!!)  even though I use contemporary gear. And for that reason these R lenses are a 'good fit' for me, though I'm perfectly willing to concede for others they may well be the opposite.