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1960's Leica

Leica R5

Leica R5

First introduced in 1960, the Leica R5 was the third camera from the Leica R series and the second Leitz camera whose body was based on the Minolta XD-11—the first was the Leica R4

For some people, the merger between Leitz and Minolta resulted in an inferior brand of Leica cameras. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Leica R series cameras. Despite the negative reputation that haunts cameras designed by Leitz and Minolta, R-system cameras were of excellent quality and came with numerous innovations and advancements.

Despite having a similar body to its predecessors, the R5 came with improvements that made it quite an incredible camera.

Here are some of these features.

Features of the Camera

One feature that made the R5 stand apart from its predecessors was the inclusion of Through the Lens flash metering.

One of the shortcomings of the Leica R3 and R4 was the lack of TTL metering. Including this feature in the R5 meant that the camera could perform better than it’s predecessors.

And it did!

Thanks to the inclusion of the TTL flash metering, the R5 could measure exposure more accurately irrespective of the ambient light.

And that’s not all!

The R5 also came with two metering modes. Depending on the selected mode, you had the choice of either spot metering or center-weighted metering.

Speaking of modes, how many operation modes did the R5 have?

Like the R4, the R5 came with four shooting modes. These were:

  • Aperture priority (A): You could use this mode with both spot and center-weighted metering.
  • Manual mode: This mode only works with spot metering.
  • Shutter priority mode: Only worked with center-weighted metering
  • Program mode: To use this mode, you had to select center-weighted metering.

As if that’s not enough!

The R5 also came with a big bright viewfinder that had an eye-level non-interchangeable prism. However, it is possible to change the viewscreens.

With the R5, you got the choice of 5 interchangeable viewscreens. These were

  • The standard screen which was made from a coarse central micro prism and a central split-image focusing aid
  • A ground glass screen
  • A microprism screen
  • A ground glass screen with grid lines
  • A clear glass plate screen

Although the R5 offered a slightly lower magnification than the R4, it’s viewfinder had a slightly higher eyepoint.

The R5 viewfinder also comes with an illuminated LED display that shows the selected shutter speed, metering diodes, and aperture.

Another improvement that Leica made to the R5 was the improved shutter speed. Like the R4, the R5 came with an electronically timed vertical traveling metal shutter.

However, the R5 shutter was faster and could achieve a maximum speed of 1/2000 sec. In case of long exposures, you also have access to bulb mode and a flash sync speed of 1/100 sec.

As if that’s not enough!

Leica also added the provision of an optional motor drive in addition to the manual film transport.

Best of all!

The R5 came with the Leica R-bayonet mount. With this camera, you can use the full range of the amazing R-lenses.

Design and Physical Description

One of the first things that’s likely to come to your mind when you first hold the Leica R5 is “what a brick!”

Yes! The first impression you’ll get with the R5 is its compact nature.

Like the R4, the R5 was smaller than previous Leica SLRs. Despite its size, the camera feels solid and sturdy to hold. 

Not to mention how great it grips on the palm.

And that’s not all!

The R5 was also meant to be durable. It came with an improved anti-dust sealing for the control elements—no need to worry about taking the camera to a service station to get cleaned.

Different Versions

Between 1990 and 1994, Leitz produced an economy model of the R5.

Codenamed the RE, this camera had the same body as the R5 but didn’t come with shutter priority and program mode.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One shortcoming with the R5 is that this camera is not a stealth shooter. When shooting the R5, you’re likely to hear a loud clunk as the shutter fires.

Like the R4, earlier versions of the R5 also had malfunctioning electronics. However, later versions of the camera work perfectly.

Final Thoughts

Despite what many critics may say about cameras made by Leica and Minolta, it’s clear that the R5 was a pretty impressive camera.

Not only was it impeccably designed, but it also came with innovations that make it a worthy addition to your vintage classic camera collection.

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