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The Leicaflex (1964) film camera system that Leica designed as a defence against the mainly Japanese new SLR cameras. Here seen with a 19mm Elmarit-R f/2.8 lens. © Thorsten Overgaard.

   
 
   

The Story Behind That Picture:
"The Leica R and SL Model Chronology"

By: Thorsten Overgaard. October 1, 2022.

 

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The name game of the Leica SLR models

The Leica SLR camera models came about as an answer to the growing popularity of the SLR cameras. Leica had been making their Leica M rangefinder camera since 1925, and in 1964 the world seemed to want SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras, and their answer was the Leicaflex (1964), an SLR camera that very much feels like a Leica M.

 

Layla Bego with the Leica SL2 in Lisbon. Leica M10-R Black Paint with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0. © Thorsten Overgaard..
Layla Bego with the Leica SL2 in Lisbon. Leica M10-R Black Paint with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0. © Thorsten Overgaard..

 

The beginning and the end of the Leica R cameras and lenses

The story of Leica SLR cameras, in retroperspective, is a sad and short period. It never really took off, and in the early 2000's Leica Camera AG simply announced they would stop making the Leica R cameas and lenses. The long awaited Leica R10 would never become reality. But ... thanks to adapters one would be able to use Leica R lenses on the Leica M digital cameras, was the promise (and it became reality with the Leica M240 (2014) that allowed to use any Leica R lenses on the Leica M240 with adapter (se my article, "The Leica R lenses catwalk").

 

The Leicaflex (1964) film camera top left, the Leica R8 film camera (1998) with DMR digital back (2004) top right, and the "new solution", the Leica M10 (2017) with electronic viewfinder and adapter to use R lenses.
The Leicaflex (1964) film camera top left, the Leica R8 film camera (1998) with DMR digital back (2004) top right, and the "new solution", the Leica M10 (2017) with electronic viewfinder and adapter to use R lenses.

 

Leica R: It was great as long as it lasted

The Leica R lenses was widely recognized is the best lenses in the world, so it's not that the Leica R system wasn't a success. It just wasn't a great system commercially. Apart all that was right for in the Leica R system, what was wrong in the Leica R system was that it was built as a defence against mainly Japanese capmera brands cannabilizing on the Leica M system by introducing larger, more advanced, but also faster SLR cameras. As such, it was never really Leica's invention, and it ended up being a patchwork of a great Leica M made into SLR, made into digital. See my video, "The Most Amazing Camera Ever".

Fair be fair, everything ever made in the Leica R syste was great in terms of photography. But not that great in marketing and sale.

 

"It will be great in the end ..."

"...and if it isn't great, it isn't the end" as the saying goes. That is true in the case of Leica SLR cameras, because in 2015 Leica Camera AG reinvented the SLR as the Leica SL, which is Single Lens cameras; a redefined SLR camera without the mirror.

The concept was precise and elegant, and based on the very high-end Leica S medium format system: Inventing a new system from zero with proportions and lens bayonets that would allow for any future lens size and type without comopromises. Built for digital photography, using electronic viewfinder, and still able to use any Leica lens since 1925 and onward.

 

The Leica SL (2015) digital camera with SL. Here shown with battery handgrib on the bottom, and Leica L to Leica M adapter and a 28mm f/5.6 Leica M lens.
The Leica SL (2015) digital camera with SL. Here shown with battery handgrib on the bottom, and Leica L to Leica M adapter and a 28mm f/5.6 Leica M lens.

 

The Leica SL (2015) became so popular, and was such a great idea, that Canon R, Nikon Z and everybody else in the camera industry copied the concept of a "mirrorless SLR" with new big lenses and the overall system camera concept. From everyone agreeing that the real camera was dying and being taken over by smartphones, Leica raised the "concept camera" from the dead and made it possible for the camera industry to once again experience a new booming market of selling cameras and lenses.

Leica made also the Leica T (2014) cameras and the Leica CL (2017) compact cameras that takes L lenses, but having a smaller APS-C sensor size. In 2022, Leica announced that they phase out APS-C cameras and will focus on full-frame cameras in the future.

Leica SL (2015) left with a Leica 50mm f/2.0 APO lens for Leica M via adapter, and to the right the Leica R8 film camera (1998) with the aded 10MP DMR digital back (2004) and a 50mm f/2.0 Leica R lens. © Thorsten Overgaard.
Leica SL (2015) left with a Leica 50mm f/2.0 APO lens for Leica M via adapter, and to the right the Leica R8 film camera (1998) with the aded 10MP DMR digital back (2004) and a 50mm f/2.0 Leica R lens. © Thorsten Overgaard.

 

There is a short overview of the Leica R system turning into the Leica SL system:

 

             
 

Leica R and Leica SL chronological overview

 
  By Thorsten Overgaard          
             
  Further resources          
  Leica Camera Compendium by Thorsten Overgaard      
  Leica Lens Compendium by Thorsten Overgaard      
  Leica History by Thorsten Overgaard      
   
 

Film cameras
Leica R mount

 

Digital cameras
Leica R mount

 

Digital cameras
Leica L mount

 
  Leicaflex (1964-1968)          
  Leicaflex SL (1968-1974)          
  Leicaflex SL2 (1974-1976)          
  Leica R3 (1976-1979)          
  Leica R4 MOT electronic /
Leica R4/Minolta SD-7
(1980-1986)
         
  Leica R4s (1983-1985)          
  Leica R4-sP/
Leica R4s-2 (1985-1986)
         
  Leica R5 (1986-1991)          
  Leica RE (1990-1994)          
  Leica R6 (1987-1992)          
  Leica R6.2 (1992-1997)          
  Leica R7 (1991-1996)          
  Leica R8 (1996-2002)          
  Leica R9 (2002-2009)          
      Leica R8/R9 DMR
Digital Modue-R (2004-2007)
     
          Leica T (2014-2016)  
          Leica SL (2015-2019)  
          Leica TL (2016-2017)  
          Leica TL2 (2017-2022)  
          Leica CL (2017-2022)  
          Leica SL2 (2019- )  
          Leica SL2-S (2021- )  
             

(See the overview of the Leica M models on this page).

 

"The Most Amazing Camera Ever"

To get a view into how amazing the Leica R system was and is, see this video on the Leica R system:

 

More to come

The story unfolds from here. Sign up for the newsletter to stay in the know. As always, feel free to email me with suggestions, questions and ideas.

/Thorsten Overgaard

 



 

 



Job #2169-0922


   
   

 

 

   
   
   

 

Thorsten von Overgaard
Thorsten Overgaard's Leica Article Index
Leica M digital cameras:   Leica L digital cameras:
Leica M11   Leica SL
Leica M10   Leica SL2
Leica M10-P   Leica SL2-S
Leica M10-R   Panasonic Lumix S1R
Leica M10-D   Leica TL2
Leica M10 Monochrom   Leica CL
Leica M9 and Leica M-E   Leica L-Mount lenses
Leica M9-P   Leica R digital cameras:
Leica M9 Monochrom   Leica R8/R9/DMR
Leica M240   Small Leica mirrorless digital cameras:
Leica M246 Monochrom   Leica D-Lux
Leica MD-262 and Leica M60   Leica C-Lux
    Leica V-Lux
Leica M film cameras:   Leica Q2 / Leica Q2 Monochrom
Leica MP   Leica Q
Leica M4   Leica Digilux 3
    Leica Digilux 2
Leica M lenses:   Leica Digilux 1
Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica Digilux
Leica 21mm Leica Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4    
Leica 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4   Leica R film cameras:
Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica R8 / R9
Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH FLE f/1.4 and f/1.4 AA   Leica R4
Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica R3 electronic
Leica 35mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leicaflex SL / SLmot
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95 FLE    
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0   Leica compact film cameras:
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.2   Leica Minilux 35mm film camera
7artisans 50mm f/1.1   Leica CM 35mm film camera
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f//1.4    
Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 "rigid" Series II   Leica R lenses:
Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 19mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 50mm Elmar-M f/2.8 collapsible   Leica 35mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 75mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/1.25   Leica 50mm Summicron-R f/2.0
7artisans 75mm f/1.25   Leica 60mm Macro-Elmarit f/2.8
Leica 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4   Leica 80mm Summilux-R f/1.4
Leica 90mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.5   Leica 90mm Summicron-R f/2.0
Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 180mm R lenses
Leica 90mm Summarit-M f/2.5   Leica 250mm Telyt-R f/4.0
Leica 90mm Elmarit f/2.8   Leica 400mm Telyt-R f/6.8
Leitz 90mm Thambar f/2.2   Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leitz Cine lenses:   Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/4.0
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Above: The Leicaflex (1964) film camera system that Leica designed as a defence against the mainly Japanese new SLR cameras. Here seen with a 19mm Elmarit-R f/2.8 lens. © Thorsten Overgaard.

 

 

 

Thorsten Overgaard.
Thorsten Overgaard.

Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish born multiple award-winning AP photographer, known for his writings about photography and Leica cameras. He travels to more than 25 countries a year, photographing and teaching workshops which cater to Leica enthusiasts. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

You can follow him at his television channel magicoflight.tv and his on-line classroom at overgaard.com

Feel free to e-mail to thorsten@overgaard.dk for
advice, ideas or improvements.

 

 



 


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Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4
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Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
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Leica 40mm Summicron-C f/2.0
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
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Leica 90mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
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