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Leica R8 - worthy successor to Leicaflex SL or pass?
Old 12-07-2019   #1
CharlesDAMorgan
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Leica R8 - worthy successor to Leicaflex SL or pass?

Having decided to concentrate solely on the M5 with a mix of Leica and Zeiss glass, I'm now going through the same process with my SLRs. I have a Leicaflex SL2 which I love and an R7 which I don't. The SL2 has an incredible viewfinder - I have not yet missed focus once - but is entirely manual but for street and low light work it's a bit slow (the latter especially - you can't see the matched needle without pressing the display light, which with your right finger removes you from the shutter).

There are a number of reasonably priced R8s around and I can use my 3 cam (but not ROM) lenses on one easily.

Is it worth buying, any issues to check out, personal impressions gratefully received!
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Old 12-07-2019   #2
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I have the R7 - which i really like- and the 8 and 9.
If what u dont like about the 7 is the shutter lag, try using s soft release on it. It makes it way better.
The 8 is superb. Really big but once you use it you realize how good the ergos are. Ones with a lot of miles on them can scratch film as there is a film guide inside the door that wears down. I fixed mine by covering it with a small piece of sellotape that made it smooth again.
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Old 12-07-2019   #3
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I once held one -with a large lens in my hand. The mastodon of the film era? I had a peek on Ebay and was surprised how expensive this gear -especially the R9 is today.
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Old 12-07-2019   #4
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Yeah, the R9 is too much by a long way. I'm sort of attracted to dinosaurs though - I find the M5 to be close to perfect as a camera.

I don't like the ergonomics on the R7, the fiddling with the exposure compensation button, the flaccid film lever advance and a lack of comfort in the hand. They also go for about the same as the R8 so a relatively cheap swap is a possibility.
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Old 12-07-2019   #5
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I kept my Leicaflex SL and added an R6.2, sold my R8. Reason being that the R8's electronics were always a bit on the fussy side and, since I use these cameras only occasionally, I'd go for the simpler and less likely to have a problem mechanically timed shutter models.

The point was to have a native body or two for my Leica R lenses, which are most often used adapted to the Leica CL nowadays.

G
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Old 12-07-2019   #6
Larry Cloetta
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Charles,

For what it is worth, R8 bodies underwent revisions during the R8 model lifespan, revisions aimed at improving reliability, to the electronics and the back among other things.
Here is a link that may be worth looking at in its entirety:

http://nemeng.com/leica/005c.shtml


But here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

there have been four generations of the R8 camera body. The R8 in black chrome finish is No. 10081, and in silver chrome is No. 10080. There has been no change in the stock numbers since the R8 was introduced. The different versions generally reflect improvements in the electronic components and their resistance to static electricity. The versions by serial numbers are:

First: SN 2285000 - 2422000
Second: SN 2427001 - 2435800
Third: SN 2464101 - 2477300
Fourth: SN (Higher than 2477300)


For this reason, the stock recommendation is, if you are in the market for an R8 as a keeper, at this point in time, what you should be looking for is a serial number 2477300 or higher.

What you are likely to find is that some R8s are listed for prices which are inexplicably higher than the norm, many of these will be ones with the desirable serial numbers, so, maybe not so inexplicable after all.

Huss mentioned the possibility of the R8 back door scratching film, which is true, but this was one of the defects Leica addressed in later iterations. R8s might be made in Portugal or Germany and this is noted on the door. Early "made in Germany" doors were occasionally replaced by Leica with "made in Portugal" ones as they caused scratches on the film. Or, at least that’s how the story goes.

There are differences R8 to R9, but they were not necessarily worth the money to me, though I’d get the R9 if they cost the same, just due to aging concerns if nothing else.

The R9 is 100 grams lighter than the R8 from using magnesium alloy instead of zinc for the top plate, and aluminium for the base.

There's an additional exposure counter on the top cover of the R9.

On the R9 the back cover display is illuminated and shows film speeds even when set for DX.

The R9 mode selector dial locks in place.

The R9 multi-pattern metering is upgraded to measure exposures in tenths of an f-stop, and the AE lock operates with integrated metering as well spot metering.

The flash-sync settings were also upgraded to take better advantage of ROM lenses. This was probably the most significant change.

There may be some other differences.


Hope some of this might be of use.

After going through almost every Leica SLR model, except the R9, I’ve ended up with two SL2s and two late R8s, (too many? Maybe. Belt and suspenders). I found these to be the two standouts of the entire Leica SLR production range, for me anyway. Leicaflex SL vs. SL2 that’s a tougher choice as there are pros and cons to either.
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Old 12-07-2019   #7
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That's extremely helpful Larry! Having checked there's a lot of earlier ones on sale for a rather wide range and quite a number don't show the serial number (so the cynical me can draw my own conclusions). But there are a fair number of later ones from dealers who wish to sell.
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Old 12-07-2019   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesDAMorgan View Post
Yeah, the R9 is too much by a long way. I'm sort of attracted to dinosaurs though - I find the M5 to be close to perfect as a camera.

I don't like the ergonomics on the R7, the fiddling with the exposure compensation button, the flaccid film lever advance and a lack of comfort in the hand. They also go for about the same as the R8 so a relatively cheap swap is a possibility.
Interesting, as the film advance lever is smooth and solid on all my Rs - two R-Es, R7, R8, R9.
It was flappy on my R8 (which is a beater/has seen a tough life- see pics below), but I removed the lever (one screw underneath) and tightened it up at the crank. Took just a few minutes to do and has stayed solid since then.

Even though I have an R9 (because it was a good deal to pass up on) honestly there is so little difference vs the R8. The R9 has a locking mode selector but I must be one of the few people that prefer the way it is on the R8. Leica just should have made the detents a little more solid. And it has a frame counter on the top.
In actual use there is no difference.
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Old 12-07-2019   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
Charles,

For what it is worth, R8 bodies underwent revisions during the R8 model lifespan, revisions aimed at improving reliability, to the electronics and the back among other things.
Here is a link that may be worth looking at in its entirety:

http://nemeng.com/leica/005c.shtml


But here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

there have been four generations of the R8 camera body. The R8 in black chrome finish is No. 10081, and in silver chrome is No. 10080. There has been no change in the stock numbers since the R8 was introduced. The different versions generally reflect improvements in the electronic components and their resistance to static electricity. The versions by serial numbers are:

First: SN 2285000 - 2422000
Second: SN 2427001 - 2435800
Third: SN 2464101 - 2477300
Fourth: SN (Higher than 2477300)


For this reason, the stock recommendation is, if you are in the market for an R8 as a keeper, at this point in time, what you should be looking for is a serial number 2477300 or higher.

What you are likely to find is that some R8s are listed for prices which are inexplicably higher than the norm, many of these will be ones with the desirable serial numbers, so, maybe not so inexplicable after all.

Huss mentioned the possibility of the R8 back door scratching film, which is true, but this was one of the defects Leica addressed in later iterations. R8s might be made in Portugal or Germany and this is noted on the door. Early "made in Germany" doors were occasionally replaced by Leica with "made in Portugal" ones as they caused scratches on the film. Or, at least that’s how the story goes.

Larry my R8 serial # is 2775617 and it scratches film. It is well worn as you will see.
I think that's a myth about Leica making changes to the offending part because according to your serial #'s mine is a late model with the improved bit.
Also I've heard heavily used R9s doing it too. So that is very disappointing that Leica never fixed it.

But the super simple fix is sellotape! See below (and this is only needed if yours scratches film.

My R8 and the near identical Zenit...




The fix IF yours happens to scratch:

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Old 12-07-2019   #10
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Yeah mine is no garage queen...

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Old 12-07-2019   #11
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Keep the SL. It is more or less worthless but there is nothing quite like it so no reason to get rid. I still have a SL MOT. It is a wonderful lump of little value.
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Old 12-07-2019   #12
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Out of this lot, the R8/9 are the best built. You'll feel it when you close the film back. Nothing I have feels like that (Minoltas, Nikon F thru F6, other Leicas). It feels like you're closing a bank vault.

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Old 12-07-2019   #13
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Keep the SL. It is more or less worthless but there is nothing quite like it so no reason to get rid. I still have a SL MOT. It is a wonderful lump of little value.
He has the SL2. Not the SL.
The SL2 definitely is not worthless! Good ones go for about $500.
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Old 12-07-2019   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
Larry my R8 serial # is 2775617 and it scratches film. It is well worn as you will see.
I think that's a myth about Leica making changes to the offending part because according to your serial #'s mine is a late model with the improved bit.
Also I've heard heavily used R9s doing it too. So that is very disappointing that Leica never fixed it.

But the super simple fix is sellotape! See below (and this is only needed if yours scratches film.

My R8 and the near identical Zenit...

Huss,

Well, there’s that

Did you post the bit about the near identical Zenit over at LUF?
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Old 12-07-2019   #15
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Originally Posted by Huss View Post
He has the SL2. Not the SL.
The SL2 definitely is not worthless! Good ones go for about $500.
SL2 has a demonstrably more sensitive meter, though I can’t say real world exposure results have ever been better for me with the SL2 than the SL. Normal daylight shooting they are both fine. I don’t use either in dark bars though, where the more low light capable SL2 would be a better bet.

Some people find the SL viewfinder screen more to their liking than the SL2, though they are both excellent, a couple of the best ever. A nice SL is definitely worth the little they go for these days.

And they won’t scratch your film, AFAIK

(I’ve never had an R8 scratch film, for what that’s worth.)
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Old 12-07-2019   #16
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If only the R8's electronics were as robust as the body. Sigh. Mine was a particularly fussy machine ... sometimes it just wouldn't.
My Leicaflex SL is a rock, and it doesn't matter if the battery is good or not.

G
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Old 12-07-2019   #17
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If only the R8's electronics were as robust as the body. Sigh. Mine was a particularly fussy machine ... sometimes it just wouldn't.
My Leicaflex SL is a rock, and it doesn't matter if the battery is good or not.

G
I heard there was an issue with the early ones, and supposedly... Leica took care of it if you sent it in. Supposedly (again..) the later ones had this already taken care of.
Larry's info/link provides some of that info.

My totally trashed R8 has no electrical issues. My Nikon Fe2 in comparison developed a wonky meter/shutter control and we all know those are meant to be more solid cameras.

I always wanted to try an SL2 but I have far too many cameras as is. And then what would I do with my Nikon Fs and F2s?
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Old 12-07-2019   #18
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S

(I’ve never had an R8 scratch film, for what that’s worth.)
I think that a lot of film has to go through them. A lot..
Which is what happened to the one I bought.
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Old 12-07-2019   #19
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Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
Huss,

Well, there’s that

Did you post the bit about the near identical Zenit over at LUF?
No, I already waste too much time here.


Ya know how some peeps say "X" is a great camera for the money.
Well, the R8 is way way way more expensive than the Zenit. And it is worth every single penny of it compared to the misery of using that lump..
I bought it for the lens, the camera came as a lens cap for it.

Here's the crazy thing. I was convinced that Zenit copied Leica. But this Zenit camera to market several years before the R8 did! It appeared in 1994, the R8 in 1996!
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Old 12-07-2019   #20
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I heard there was an issue with the early ones, and supposedly... Leica took care of it if you sent it in. Supposedly (again..) the later ones had this already taken care of....
Perhaps so, but by the date I bought mine, Leica said "No more service for the R8" and that was that.

It was a beautiful camera, I'm glad I owned it if even for only a short time.

G
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Old 12-08-2019   #21
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I'm not selling my SL2 (or indeed otherwise disposing of it). It is a jewel beyond compare and an icon of German engineering like the great 70s Benzes (and from experience, much much better built and not inclined to rust).

I've narrowed in on a couple of late R8s in Germany and I have plentiful supplies of sellotape.
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Old 12-08-2019   #22
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He has the SL2. Not the SL.
The SL2 definitely is not worthless! Good ones go for about $500.
These days the choice between SL and SL2 should primarily be driven by condition rather than extra features. The same could be said for a lot of older devices.
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Old 12-08-2019   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
SL2 has a demonstrably more sensitive meter, though I can’t say real world exposure results have ever been better for me with the SL2 than the SL. Normal daylight shooting they are both fine. I don’t use either in dark bars though, where the more low light capable SL2 would be a better bet.

Some people find the SL viewfinder screen more to their liking than the SL2, though they are both excellent, a couple of the best ever. A nice SL is definitely worth the little they go for these days.

And they won’t scratch your film, AFAIK

(I’ve never had an R8 scratch film, for what that’s worth.)
I use both the SL and SL2. I prefer the SL2 indoors because of the split image viewfinder is considerably easier to use in dim light.
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Old 12-09-2019   #24
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I've made an offer on a 3rd iteration R8 and will see what happens. I'm entertained by the sheer number of dealers and sellers who really don't want to post a photo of the serial number, but want a top price, one camera even having had the serial number totally scratched out. Twas ever thus.
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Old 12-10-2019   #25
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Well, after an enjoyable little haggle, it's on its way from Leica Nuremburg to be with me Thursday.

Thanks for all the advice!
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Old 12-10-2019   #26
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Well, after an enjoyable little haggle, it's on its way from Leica Nuremburg to be with me Thursday.

Thanks for all the advice!
Congratulations on your new camera, Charles, I think you will enjoy it. I have dealt with Leica Nuremburg before, camera will most likely be honestly represented.
To me, the R8 was the direct successor to the SL2, as odd as that sounds, in terms of the viewfinder clarity, and the general user experience and feel of the camera. Neither is the least bit wispy
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Old 12-10-2019   #27
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Thanks Larry - your conclusion was backed up by my film photography guru, Keith Moss, who said he really regretted selling his R8 (at the outset of digital) and that it is a brilliant camera to use and enjoy.
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Old 12-13-2019   #28
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The R8 from Nuremberg Leica arrived yesterday but lacking CR2 batteries, so after a bit of a hunt today, found some and found the camera to absolutely beautiful, but seemingly stuck in T mode. Then I flipped the mirror lock up selector back and lo, what a beauty. Gorgeous viewfinder, sharp as anything once I used the diopter adjustment (please why so many cameras without this!), lovely to hold and fondle. Mine is in exceptional condition - I've found but one tiny mark on the mode selector, and the thing seems to be so dense that it could be made of depleted uranium. Next job, fit the strap and take it out.

The looks are unconventional, but it works ergonomically. I'm officially in love...
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Old 12-13-2019   #29
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Yeah mine is no garage queen...
Good - you're using it as intended, making good photos, and getting your money's worth out of it.

I, however, am guilty. I was transfixed by its display and I have a fetish for the R-series program mode bias feature.

However, I absolutely love using my Leicaflex SL's.

(old photos below, the cameras do have straps now that I'm using them)
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Old 12-15-2019   #30
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I love the viewfinder display, but the rest of the camera was not my cup of tea... Enjoy yours!
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Old 12-15-2019   #31
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The R8 and R9 oozes quality but are absolutely huge and in my mind unnecessarily huge given so many high quality film SLRs exist at a much smaller package. Moreover the winder is very useful but add additional girth and weight. Without the winder and to wind on the film manually would require some "handling" and the weight along with the lens just becomes more of a burden.
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Old 12-15-2019   #32
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The R8 and R9 oozes quality but are absolutely huge and in my mind unnecessarily huge given so many high quality film SLRs exist at a much smaller package. Moreover the winder is very useful but add additional girth and weight. Without the winder and to wind on the film manually would require some "handling" and the weight along with the lens just becomes more of a burden.
I disagree. The haptics and handling are great on these cameras and everything is in the perfect spot. I also have the motordrive but pretty much just to impress the kids...
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Old 12-15-2019   #33
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I disagree. The haptics and handling are great on these cameras and everything is in the perfect spot. I also have the motordrive but pretty much just to impress the kids...
Agreed. Really beautiful body and built to tight specs. Despite the appearance of heft, its haptics are second to none and fit nicely in one's hands.

The R8 I found at KEH just over a year ago, very late model (277xxxx) virtually unused & with the R8 Motor drive included for $575.

Also found the charger for another $25 and had the battery cells upgraded for about $90. Has worked flawlessly ever since.
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Old 12-15-2019   #34
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Also agree on haptics and size. It handles well and fits my hands. I suppose I like larger cameras - preferring the M5 to M3, for example.
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Old 12-15-2019   #35
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I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands and certain shapes just don't work for me - hence disposal of the D700 and why I'm less fond of the R7 - it needs gripping more as it's thin. Whereas the SL2 and the R8 seem to fit perfectly and are not a trial. It's also among the reasons I love the M5.

All are a bit heavy though around the neck. Time to redeploy my Optech Hasselblad strap!
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Old 12-15-2019   #36
Huss
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I'm wondering if people who complain about the handling have actually used one? Or just saw it in pics and/or parroted what other people have said who also never actually used one.
It is the best handling 35mm sir that I own. Others that I own include all the Nikon F series (except the F5), the FM2n, FE2, Minoltas, Pentaxes..
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Old 12-16-2019   #37
Dralowid
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
I'm wondering if people who complain about the handling have actually used one? Or just saw it in pics and/or parroted what other people have said who also never actually used one.
And if the equipment is currently 'unfashionable' you hear nothing on the internet.

For example I have yet to hear anyone have anything good (or bad) to say about the handling of the SL/SL2 with Leicamotor attached!
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Old 12-16-2019   #38
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In the scheme of things an SL with Leicamotor has to be one of the more recondite choices to be reviewed!

I am genuinely happy to have stuff avoid the attention of the analogue cultists, at least until I own it, thereafter I care rather less. But I do find their obsession with certain setups to be hilariously herd like, as though the act of individuality in preferring film to the digital conformists can only go quite so far...
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Old 12-16-2019   #39
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Nothing I enjoy more than something a bit obscure or obtuse.

I have a curious hankering for the R's digital back despite a complete lack of knowledge about the device...which makes me ideally suited to write an internet review...
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Old 12-16-2019   #40
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Considering obscurity, how about the Leica S series? Not many here seem to use it or speak of it. Generally resembles the R8/R9 and may be considered a descendant of those, or maybe ascendant, only a little larger...
jcrutcher and I seem to be the only ones posting pics from this rig in the Gallery.
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