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Overview of Leica-R Lenses

The high quality of the R-lenses has arguably been at the center of the stellar reputation of Leica's SLR-system. While the Leicaflex and R-cameras were very solid premium offerings, they never quite achieved technological leadership. In contrast, the companies R-lenses were almost without exception highly regarded and consistently received praise from reviewers. They combined solid physical build based on an all-metal lens barrel and tight manufacturing tolerances with highly corrected optics that often used special elements to reduce aberrations. For example, tests carried out by Lars Kjellberg at Photodo during the 1990s and early 2000s show that Leica R lenses often topped the rankings for MTF resolution in their respective focal length categories.

The first R-lenses were released in 1964, when the Leicaflex was introduced with the new R bayonet mount. The lens catalog expanded continuously over time to eventually cover a vast range of focal lengths from the ultra-wide angle to the super telephoto lens, along with specialty optics for fisheye, perspective control, and macro photography. Leica thereby focused on high quality prime lenses, so that the system features relatively few zooms, even as the latter became more and more popular among professionals and enthusiasts. Also, Leica continued to rely on manual focus for its SLR system much longer than the competition. Eventually, a Leica R10 with autofocus capability was developed, but management decided in March 2009 not to bring that camera to market and indeed to discontinue the entire R-system.

Leica 105-280mm
Leica R 105-280mm f/4.2[phunag3]

While it is perfectly possible to mount and use a forty-year old R-lens on an R9, it is important to note that the R-mount underwent a number of modifications over time. In particular, five different lens bayonet configurations exist for the R-system: (i) "one-cam lenses" feature one projection at the rear of the lens mount to transfer the chosen aperture opening to the light meter of the original Leicaflex; (ii) with the change-over to the Leicaflex SL and SL2 models came the addition of a second projection to the lens mount, giving rise to the so-called "two-cam lenses"; (iii) concurrent with the release of the Leica R3, which features automatic exposure control, a third projection was introduced, giving rise to the "three-cam lenses". All the newer (three-cam or two-cam) lenses can be mounted on older (Leicaflex or SL) bodies, while older (one-cam or two-cam) lenses can be attached to newer (SL or R) bodies, but function in this case only on the basis of stop-down metering. (iv) "three-cam only lenses" started to appear about ten years after the Leicaflex SL2 had been discontinued. They have the third cam to support transmission of aperture information to R-cameras, but lack the first and second one. Also, due to a small bayonet change they can not be mounted on Leicaflex/SL/SL2 cameras; (v) Finally, "ROM lenses" contain electronic contacts in addition of the three-cam-only projections, so that they can transfer lens-specific information to the R8 and R9 bodies. ROM lenses can be mounted on all R-cameras, but not on the Leicaflex/SL/SL2. Hence, when buying lenses for a Leica reflex body, it is important to pay attention to the type of mount the optic is equipped with.

There are also some third party lenses available for Leica-R. In particular, Tamron offered an R-mount version of its Adaptall-2 adapter that made it possible to use the lenses for this system on R-series cameras. Moreover, French optics manufacturer Angénieux produced several zooms and tele-photo primes for the R-mount. While the body of these optics is of polycarbonate rather than metal, the lenses are highly regarded with respect to imaging quality and mechanical durability. Indeed, Angénieux used to offer a lifetime warranty for its products...

The listing below shows most of the R-mount lenses released, but excludes some extremely rare special order optics, such as the APO-Telyt-R 600mm mirror lens or the APO-Telyt-R 1600mm. Early lenses generally use series filters with corresponding retaining rings, while for later releases Leica switched to the metric screw-in filter standard. Some of the lenses are also available in other colors than black, including chrome, gold or safari-green. Overall, Leica sold about 950,000 R-lenses, or roughly two lenses per reflex-body (about 488,000 Leicaflex and R-cameras sold between 1964 and 2009). However, surely many Leica shooters owned more than one body and, hence, a larger number of lenses. How many R-lenses do you have in your bag?

Headline Specifications of Leica R-Lenses
Wideangle Leica
Reference
(#)
Front
Filter
(type)
Overall
Length
(mm)
Max
Diameter
(mm)
Lens
Weight
(g)
Launch
Date
(year)
Production
Stop
(year)
Price
2009
(USD)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Super-Elmarit-R 15mm f/2.8 Asph 11326 no 85 84 710 2001 2009 8995 check
Leica Super-Elmar-R 15mm f/3.5 11213 no 93 84 815 1980 2001 - check
Leitz Wetzlar Fisheye-Elmarit-R 16mm f/2.8 11222 no 60 71 460 1975 2001 - check
Leica Elmarit-R 19mm f/2.8 (I) 11225 E82 60 88 590 1975 1990 - check
Leica Elmarit-R 19mm f/2.8 (II) 11258 no 60 71 560 1990 2009 4795 check
Leitz Wetzlar Super-Angulon-R 21mm f/3.4 11803 S8 .. .. 228 1964 1968 - check
Leitz Wetzlar Super-Angulon-R 21mm f/4 11813 E72 44 78 420 1968 1994 - check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 21-35mm f/3.5-4.0 Asph 11274 E67 66 75 500 2002 2009 2995 check
Leica Elmarit-R 24mm f/2.8 11221 S8 49 67 420 1974 2006 1995 check
Leica Elmarit-R 28mm f/2.8 (I) 11247 S7 40 63 275 1970 1992 - check
Leica PC-Super-Angulon-R 28mm f/2.8 11812 E67 84 97 600 1988 2009 3895 check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 28mm f/2.8 (II) 11333 E55 48 68 435 1993 2009 - check
Leica Summilux-R 35mm f/1.4 11337 E67 76 75 685 1984 2009 3995 check
Leica Summicron-R 35mm f/2 (I) 11227 S7 61 68 510 1972 1976 - check
Leica Summicron-R 35mm f/2 (II) 11339 E55 54 66 430 1977 2009 2995 check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 35mm f/2.8 (I) 11101 S6 40 63 310 1964 1973 - check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 35mm f/2.8 (II) 11201 S6 40 63 305 1973 1979 - check
Leitz Elmarit-R 35mm f/2.8 (III) 11251 E55 42 66 305 1979 1999 - check
Schneider-Kreuznach PA-Curtagon 35mm f/4 11202 S8 51 70 310 1970 1996 - check
Standard Leica
Reference
(#)
Front
Filter
(type)
Overall
Length
(mm)
Max
Diameter
(mm)
Lens
Weight
(g)
Launch
Date
(year)
Production
Stop
(year)
Price
2009
(USD)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Vario Elmar-R 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 11364 E60 76 69 450 1990 1997 - check
Leica Vario-Elmarit-R 28-90mm f/2.8-4.5 Asph 11365 E67 99 80 740 2004 2009 4495 check
Angenieux 35-70mm f/2.5-3.3 .. E58 136 71 525 1983 1987 - check
Leica Vario-Elmarit-R 35-70mm f/2.8 Asph 11275 E77 133 88 1050 1998 2002 - check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 35-70mm f/3.5 11248 E67 65 72 450 1983 1996 - check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 35-70mm f /4 11277 E60 79 74 505 1997 2009 1995 check
Angenieux 45-90mm f/2.8 .. S8 122 69 774 1969 1982 - check
Leica Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4 (I) 11875 E55 51 69 395 1970 1998 2995 check
Leica Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4 (II) 11344 E60 51 70 710 1998 2009 2995 check
Leica Summicron-R 50mm f/2.0 (I) 11228 S6 39 63 680 1964 1976 - check
Leica Summicron-R 50mm f/2.0 (II) 11345 E55 41 66 290 1976 2009 1495 check
Tele Primes Leica
Reference
(#)
Front
Filter
(type)
Overall
Length
(mm)
Max
Diameter
(mm)
Lens
Weight
(g)
Launch
Date
(year)
Production
Stop
(year)
Price
2009
(USD)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Macro-Elmarit-R 60mm f/2.8 11347 S7/E55 62 68 400 1972 2009 3195 check
Leitz Elcan-R 75mm f/2 C-341 .. .. .. .. 1965 1965 - check
Leica Summilux-R 80mm f/1.4 11349 E67 69 75 700 1980 2009 4695 check
Leica Summicron-R 90mm f/2 11254 S7/E55 63 70 560 1970 2000 3495 check
Leica APO-Summicron-R 90mm f/2 11350 E60 59 70 520 2002 2009 3895 check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 90mm f/2.8 (I) 11229 S7 72 65 500 1964 1983 - check
Leica Elmarit-R 90mm f/2.8 (II) 1154 E55 57 67 450 1980 1998 - check
Leica APO-Macro-Elmarit-R 100mm f/2.8 11352 E60 105 73 760 1987 2009 3995 check
Leitz Wetzlar Macro-Elmar-R 100mm f/4 11232 E55 120 68 670 1978 1995 - check
Leitz Canada Elmarit-R 135mm f/2.8 (I) 11111 S7 91 65 655 1964 1968 - check
Leica Elmarit-R 135mm f/2.8 (II) 11211 E55 93 67 730 1968 1998 - check
Leica APO-Summicron-R 180mm f/2 11354 E100 179 116 2500 1994 2009 8295 check
Angenieux APO IF 180mm f/2.3 .. E82 149 86 995 1986 1992 - check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 180mm f/2.8 (I) 11919 S8 134 78 1325 1966 1979 - check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 180mm f/2.8 (II) 11923 E67 121 75 810 1979 1998 - check
Leica APO-Elmarit-R 180mm f/2.8 (I) 11273 S8 132 76 970 1998 2004 - check
Leica APO-Elmarit-R 180mm f/2.8 (II) 11357 E67 132 76 970 2004 2009 5295 check
Leitz Elcan-R 180mm f/3.4 C-303 .. .. .. 750 1965 1965 - check
Leitz Canada APO-Telyt-R 180mm f/3.4 11242 S7.5/E60 135 68 750 1975 1980 - check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmar-R 180mm f/4 11924 E55 100 86 540 1976 1996 - check
Leitz Canada Telyt-R 250mm f/4 (I) 11920 S8/E55 100 66 1380 1970 1979 - check
Leitz Canada Telyt-R 250mm f/4 (II) 11925 E67 195 75 1230 1980 1994 - check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 280mm f/2.8 11245 E112 261 125 2750 1984 1992 - check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 280mm f/2.8 Module 11846 no 276 125 3740 1996 2009 11290 check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 280mm f/4 11360 no 208 88 1875 1996 2009 6995 check
Leitz Telyt-R 350mm f/4.8 11915 E77 286 84 1820 1980 1993 - check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8 11256 no 314 125 6240 1992 1996 - check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8 Module 11847 no 344 157 5800 1996 2009 17390 check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/4 Module 11857 no 382 157 3860 1996 2009 12490 check
Leitz Wetzlar Telyt 400mm f/6.8 11960 S7 384 78 1830 1968 1994 - check
Leitz Wetzlar MR-Telyt-R 500mm f/8 11243 E77 121 87 750 1980 1996 - check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 560mm f/4 Module 11848 no 382 157 6360 1996 2009 18590 check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 560mm f/5.6 Module 11858 no 374 125 4050 1996 2009 14290 check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 800mm f/5.6 Module 11849 no 442 157 6550 1996 2009 20390 check
Leitz Wetzlar Telyt-S 800mm f/6.3 11921 no 790 152 6860 1972 1977 - check
Minolta RF Rokkor-X 800mm f/8 for Leica R .. no 178 127 1960 1973 1981 - check
Tele Zooms Leica
Reference
(#)
Front
Filter
(type)
Overall
Length
(mm)
Max
Diameter
(mm)
Lens
Weight
(g)
Launch
Date
(year)
Production
Stop
(year)
Price
2009
(USD)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Vario-APO-Elmarit-R 70-180mm f/2.8 11279 E77 190 89 1870 1995 2009 8795 check
Angenieux 3x70 70-210mm f/3.5 .. E62 164 80 783 .. .. - check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 70-210mm f/4 11246 E60 157 74 720 1984 2000 - check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 75-200mm f/4.5 11226 E55 157 70 725 1978 1984 - check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 80-200mm f/4 11281 E60 165 71 1020 1996 2009 2695 check
Leitz Wetzlar Vario-Elmar-R 80-200mm f/4.5 11224 E55 157 72 710 1974 1978 - check
Leitz Wetzlar Vario-Elmar-R 105-280mm f/4.2 11268 S8 238 89 1950 1996 2006 - check

Further Reading

This site takes its domain name from the APO-Telyt line of telephoto lenses. So, evidently there are quite a few pages devoted to this lens family and its members. Additional detail on many other R-lenses can be found in some of the writings of Erwin Puts, such as in his Leica Lens Compendium or his more recent Lens Chronicle. Free online versions of these are available for download on the Leica resources page. Moreover, if you are interested in accessories for your Leica R-lenses, you might want to check out the respective pages for UV filters, tele-converters, or the Leica Ocular telescope adapter.