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2000's Leica

Leica R9

Leica R9

After 45 years of manufacturing 35mm reflex cameras, Leica finally decided to stop production. This was after seven years after launching their last SLR flagship project, the Leica R9.

Launched in 2002, the R9 was the last 35mm reflex camera from Leica.

And for their last camera, the R9 was an incredible camera. Not only did it come with most of the R8 features, but it also featured improvements on some of the R8 shortcomings.

What were these improvements? Keep reading to learn more.

Features of the Camera

One of the first features you’re likely to notice with the R9 is its relatively lighter weight. If you’ve held the R8, you know it’s a heavy camera. That’s not the case with the R9.

At a weight of 790 g, the R9 was 11% lighter than its immediate predecessor.

Thanks to the reduced weight, the R9 was more portable than the R8.

Another improvement to the R9 was the improvement to the TTL flash control. With the appropriate flash units, the R9 was able to achieve higher flash sync speeds — speed higher than the X-sync speed (1/250 sec).

To prove their innovativeness, Leica decided to make the R9 a hybrid camera that could transform from a 35mm SLR to a 10-megapixel digital camera.

Thanks to the Digital Modul R (a clip-on that could be placed at the back of the camera), you get to enjoy both worlds, film, and digital.

Another incredible feature of the R9 was the bright viewfinder with a 0.75X magnification and 93% coverage.

Like the R8, the R9 came with a non-interchangeable viewfinder. However, the camera came with a choice of six interchangeable viewscreens. These were:

  • The standard viewscreen that had a course-central micro prism area with a central split-image focusing aid.
  • The Plain ground glass screen for long focal length cameras and extreme close-ups
  • Micro prism screen
  • The Full-field ground glass screen for architecture photography.
  • The bright glass focusing screen for astrophotography and other scientific photography.
  • Special viewscreen for the Digital Modul R.

Shooting with the R9 was made easier, thanks to the inclusion of three metering modes. With the R9 you had the choice of:

  • Spot metering for high contrast situations and portrait photography
  • Center-weighted metering for landscape photography.
  • Matrix metering for evenly lit scenes.

In addition to the different metering modes, the R9 also came with five exposure modes, namely:

  • Program mode
  • Shutter priority
  • Aperture priority
  • Manual exposure
  • Flash ready mode.

As if that’s not enough!

Like previous Leica SLRs, the R9 came with an R-bayonet mount. With this camera, you had the choice of all R-bayonet lenses except for 1-cam and 2-cam lenses (These lenses could destroy your camera’s electronic components).

What about the shutter?

The R9 came with a Copal focal plane, electronic, metallic curtain shutter that could achieve a maximum speed of 1/8000 sec.

Design and Physical Build

The R9 came with a body similar to that of the Leica R8.

The camera had a rounded body with sloping shoulders. However, unlike the R8, the R9 didn’t have a Zinc alloy top plate and a steel bottom plate. Instead, Leica replaced the top plate with magnesium and the base plate with aluminum.

This subtle change was the reason behind the reduced weight.

The R9 also came with an added LCD frame counter on the top plate.

Thanks to the minimalistic design, using the Leica R9 isn’t complicated. All controls are ergonomically placed and are easy to locate.

No need to read through the manual.

Shortcomings of the Camera

The R9 was a pretty incredible camera with very few shortcomings. Although it was lighter than the R8, it was still a pretty heavy camera.

The digital modul-R was also quite expensive. At a current price of $4200, not everyone can afford it.

Final Thoughts

As the last camera in the Leica R series, the R9 was an incredible camera.

It was well built, featured an improved flash sync control, came with faster shutter speeds, had improved optics, and is an incredible shooter. With this camera, you also get to enjoy both digital and film photography.

What more could one ask for from a 35mm SLR?

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