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Leicaflex SL2: a review

In 1974, Leica released the third and last Leicaflex camera, the SL2. It replaced the Leicaflex&SL as the flagship of its R-camera system. The Leicaflex SL2 has a meter with much greater sensitivity than the SL, shows a flatter design of the camera top, offers lens aperture and meter illumination in the viewfinder, features a split-image focusing aid, and has a hot shoe. Also, the SL2 has a re-oriented mirror that makes it possible to mount lenses with less clearance, notably those that had been designed and manufactured by Minolta for Leica (Fisheye-Elmarit-R 16mm, Elmarit-R 24mm, and the Vario-Elmar-R 80-200 f/4.5).

Leicaflex SL2
Leicaflex SL2 black with 2.8/60mm
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Leicaflex SL2 black with 2.8/60mm

Like its predecessors in the Leicaflex line, the SL2 was a precision-crafted, robust tool aimed at professional or enthusiast photographers. Compared to the original Leicaflex, the SL2 offered TTL-metering, a full-focusing viewscreen with split-image focusing aid, and a hot shoe for flash control. It remained a manual operation camera, but one that many loved to use because of its simplicity, reliability, and viewfinder-brightness. It was reported that Leitz lost money on every SL2 they sold, due largely to the high cost of producing the sophisticated shutter. As a result, the camera remained in Leica's product catalog only for two years. It was replaced in 1976 by the Leica R3, which was a result of Leica's cooperation with Minolta and featured an electronically-timed shutter and exposure automation.

Leicaflex SL2
Leicaflex SL2 in silver chrome
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Leicaflex SL2 in silver chrome

The Leicaflex SL2 was available in chrome and black finish. It shared many of its specifications with its immediate predecessor. In particular, the SL2 inherited the TTL-spot metering system ("Selective Light metering") from the SL. The CdS metering cell was powered by a 625 mercury battery. The metering-light passes through a semi-silvered area in the reflex mirror and is reflected by a secondary mirror to the meter cell that sits on the bottom of the mirror box. Exposure is set by lining up the meter's needle and the follow pointer in the viewfinder.

The SL2 features a full-focusing viewscreen, composed of coarse microprisms and a split-image focusing tool in the central area, and fine microprisms on the remainder of the screen. This normal viewscreen can be exchanged, if desired, for a plain matte viewscreen. The Leicaflex SL2 has a DOF-preview function, but does not offer the possibility to lock up the mirror for vibration-free long exposure photography. The viewfinder eyepiece on the SL2 does not have an adjustable diopter correction, but Leitz offered correction lenses as optional accessories.

The shutter on the Leicaflex SL2 is mechanically-timed, and consists of horizontal-travel rubberized cloth. It offers speeds from 1 to 1/2000 sec, plus bulb mode ("B"). The flash sync speed is 1/100 sec.

Leicaflex SL2 Specifications

  • Three-lug Leica R bayonet mount;
  • Mechanically-timed, horizontal-travel rubberized cloth shutter; 1/2000s to 1s;
  • Manual exposure with metering needle control in viewfinder;
  • Selective TTL-metering;
  • Full-focusing viewfinder screen, with central micro-prism and split-image focusing tool;
  • Hot shoe-based flash control (sync speed 1/100s);
  • Self-timer with 10 sec. delay;
  • Film transport by manual lever; motorized film transport (3 fps) on Leicaflex SL2 MOT with motor drive;
  • Power supply: 625 mercury cell or equivalent;
  • Dimensions: 148 x 97 x 57mm (width x height x depth);
  • Weight: 770g;

Film advance on the Leicaflex SL2 is by one-stroke, manual lever. However, a special Leicaflex SL2 MOT model was produced with fittings to accept a motor. This variant is easily recognized by the designation "MOT" that is engraved on the camera front. Also, the SL2 MOT bodies lack the self-timer of the regular model, as well as the meter switch in the advance lever. Almost all of the MOT cameras had a black finish. The Leicaflex Motor (order number 14077) is quite sizable and about doubles the height of the camera. It can be used with both the Leicaflex SL MOT and the Leicaflex SL2 MOT, and makes it possible to shoot up to 3 flaps per second.

Headline specifications of all Leica R-system cameras
Camera
Shutter
(1/sec)
TTL-
metering
Exposure
modes
Hot-
shoe
Flash
control
Size
(mm)
Weight
(g)
Prod
run
Prod
period
Price
range ($)
ebay
offers
Leicaflex2000MNonon-TTL148.0 / 97.0 / 57.0770~32,5001964 - 68200-400check
Leicaflex SL2000selMNonon-TTL148.0 / 97.0 / 57.0770~75,0001968 - 74125-250check
Leicaflex SL22000selMYesnon-TTL148.0 / 97.0 / 57.0770~25,0001974 - 76400-600check
Leica R31000sel & intA/S/MYesnon-TTL148.0 / 96.5 / 64.6780~70,0001976 - 80125-250check
Leica R41000sel & intP/A/S/MYesnon-TTL138.5 / 88.1 / 60.0630>100,0001980 - 87150-250check
Leica R4s1000sel & intA/MYesnon-TTL138.5 / 88.1 / 60.0620~25,0001983 - 87150-250check
Leica R52000sel & int P/A/S/MYesTTL138.5 / 88.1 / 62.2625~34,0001986 - 91250-500check
Leica R61000sel & int MYesTTL138.5 / 88.1 / 62.2625~24,0001988 - 92400-550check
Leica R-E2000sel & int A/MYesTTL138.5 / 88.1 / 62.2625~6,1001990 - 94450-600check
Leica R6.22000sel & int MYesTTL138.5 / 88.1 / 62.2625~21,0001992 - 02500-750check
Leica R72000sel & int P/A/S/MYesfull-auto138.5 / 98.8 / 62.2670~30,0001992 - 97350-450check
Leica R88000sel, int, multiP/A/S/MYesfull-auto158.0 / 101 / 62.0890~36,5001996 - 02500-600check
Leica R98000sel, int, multiP/A/S/MYesHSS158.0 / 101 / 62.0790~9,0002002 - 091,000-1,500check

Leicaflex SL2 FAQ

One challenge nowadays when considering a Leicaflex SL2 is that the light meter in the SLR might need to be adjusted to work with modern batteries (if it has not yet undergone modification by a previous owner). The mercury cells that supplied a constant 1.34V to the metering cell do not exist any more. Andrew Nemeth lists some alternatives and work-arounds on his website. – Below is some additional information on some other aspects of the camera.

What were Leica's order number for the Leicaflex SL2?

The Leicaflex SL2 order numbers were 10021 (chrome), 10022 (black), and 10023 (MOT); [leica-wiki].

How many Leicaflex SL2 cameras were produced?

Between 1974 and 1976, Leica produced and sold about 25,500 SL2s.

Were there any special editions of the Leicaflex SL2?

Yes, Leica released a limited edition SL2 in 1975 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the first Leica, which features an engraving of "50 Jahre" on the prism housing.

Can all R-lenses be used with the Leicaflex SL2?

No, the SL2 requires two-cam lenses to make use of its TTL-metering capabilities. One-cam lenses can be mounted, but metering will not work. Last but not least, the Schneider Super-Angulon 21mm f/3.4 can not be used with the Leicaflex SL2 because it requires mirror lock-up. On the other hand, the Super-Angulon 21mm f/4, which has a retro-focal design, works fine.

Is the Leicaflex SL2 compatible with ROM-lenses?

No, Leica-R lenses with ROM electronic contacts cannot be used with any of the Leicaflex cameras (unless the ROM contacts are removed and the lenses are retrofitted with the Leicaflex metering cams).

Can a linear polarizer be used with the Leicaflex SL2?

No, linear polarizing filters will cause erroneous meter readings, because of the semi-silvered mirror. Circular polarizers will work properly.

Does the Leicaflex SL2 age gracefully?

The viewscreen on the SL2 may develop a yellow cast over time. Also, the pentaprism may start to de-silver. The viewfinder will continue to work fine, but will not be as bright and clear as it once was.

Where can I get my Leicaflex SL2 serviced and repaired?

Leica does no longer support R-system cameras. The company recommends to send cameras to Paepke-Fototechnik in Düsseldorf for any repairs.

Further Reading

Additional information on the Leicaflex SL2 can be found in the pdf-version of Leica's user manual. Moreover, a description of the evolution of all Leica reflex cameras is contained in the R-camera compendium. A similar overview of R-lenses with their main physical specifications is equally available on this site.

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