PW

Leica R-System Mount

The Leica R-mount was introduced with the Leicaflex in 1964 to enable photographers to quickly change lenses on Leica's then new line of 35mm single-lens reflex cameras. It is a bayonet mount with three tabs around the base of the lens that fit into corresponding recesses in the camera's female part of the mount. The flange-focal distance amounts to 47mm. Most lenses with an R-bayonet can be used on any R-system camera body, but not all camera functions might be supported, as the mount has undergone several modifications over time.

Three cam lens
The location of the three cams[coocan.jp]
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The location of the three cams[coocan.jp]

In particular, five different types of R-system lenses exist that differ in the way that they transfer aperture settings between the lens and the camera. This information transmission is achieved through a cam that is linked to the movement of the aperture control ring. The cam is in contact with another mechanism in the camera that is coupled with the meter, which makes it possible to mechanically transmit information on the selected aperture from the lens to the camera. Leica has over time switched from chrome-colored, curved cams (in German: Steuerkurven) to black, three-stepped cams (Steuernocken) supplemented by a ROM chip.

Single-cam lenses (1964-68): Lenses that were released in conjunction with the original Leicaflex had one curved chrome-bar between the mount and the rear lens element to transfer the aperture setting on the lens to the camera. These single-cam lenses (alternative called "one-cam" or "1-cam"-lenses) can be physically mounted on later Leicaflex SL and R-cameras, but the cam does not transmit the aperture setting to the newer cameras, so that only stop-down metering is possible. In other words, the aperture has to be closed down to the intended f-stop for the camera metering to work properly. However, Leica recommends not to use single-cam lenses on the R8 or R9, as heavy usage of the old lenses in the past might have led to a slight misalignment of the cam that could damage electrical contacts in the female part of the mount of the latest SLR cameras.

3-cam lens
Detail view of the second and third cam[leica-wiki.de]
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Detail view of the second and third cam[leica-wiki.de]
Twin-cam lenses (1968-76): With the introduction of the Leicaflex SL that supported TTL-metering, Leica changed the lens-to-camera coupling mechanism and moved the curved cam to the opposite side of the lens mount. To nevertheless ensure that the newer lenses could also be used on the original Leicaflex, the first cam was maintained, resulting in twin-cam lenses (alternatively called "two-cam", or "2-cam" lenses). The first cam does not have any function on the Leicaflex SL, but is used to set the viewfinder display of the aperture in the Leicaflex SL2. Similar to single-cam lenses, twin-cam optics can also be used on R-cameras using stop-down metering, but are not recommended in conjunction with the R8 and R9.

Triple-cam lenses (1976-96): The R3, which was developed in cooperation with Minolta, introduced once again a different coupling mechanism. This third cam takes the form of a triple-stepped, black projection at the inside of the second cam. The first and second curved cams were maintained to ensure backward compatibility of the lenses. The resulting "triple-cam"-lenses (alternatively called "three-cam", or "3-cam" lenses) function on any Leica reflex camera in open-aperture mode, and can be used with the R8 and R9.

Rom lens
Leica ROM lens-mount with R-cam[kehblog.com]
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Leica ROM lens-mount with R-cam[kehblog.com]
R-cam lenses (1986-09): Ten years after the Leicaflex SL2 was discontinued, Leica started to produce R-lenses that only had the third, stepped cam, but lacked the first and second cams. These lenses would, hence, not transmit any aperture information to the Leicaflex/SL/SL2 models, and Leica indeed changed the shape of the lens mount slightly, so that these R-cam lenses (alternatively called "R-cam only", "R-only", "three-cam only", or "3-cam only" lenses) could not be mounted on the Leicaflex/SL/SL2.

ROM-lenses (1996-09): The R8 featured electronics that could take advantage of lens-specific information to correct for lens vignetting (in connection with the Leica Digita-Modul-R), to adjust the zoom reflector on flash guns according to lens focal length, or to correctly display aperture information if accessories, like tele-extenders, were attached to the lens. This lens-specific information was stored in a Read-Only Memory (ROM) chip that was added in the form of a strip of electrical contacts between the mount and the rear element of R-lenses. The ROM chip came with all newly sold lenses at the time, but could also be retrofitted by Leica technicians to older lenses. ROM-lenses have the R-cam and can also be mounted on R3-R7 cameras, where they support all the functions that these cameras offer.

Camera-Lens Compatibility

Before purchasing a pre-owned R-lens, it is worthwhile to carefully check its compatibility with one's camera. The following table provides a summary of the suitability of particular camera/lens-type combinations. Some lenses with a long production history have appeared in several cam-versions, so that the lens' launch year (see second table below) is not a reliable indicator of its cam-specification.

Compatibility of Leica R-lenses
 LeicaflexSL-SL2R3-R7R8-R9
Single-cam+oo(o)
Twin-cam++o(o)
Triple-cam++++
R-cam--++
ROM--+++
Notes: "++": transmission of aperture and lens information; "+": transmission of aperture information; "o": stop-down metering only; "(o)": not recommended; "-": can not be mounted.

That said, it is possible to have the cams of most (but not all) lenses upgraded in order to make an older lens fully compatible with newer cameras (or vice-versa). For example, a single-cam lens can be upgraded to triple-cam and an R-cam lens can be converted to triple-cam. According to Leica expert Douglas Herr, this service costs between USD 140 and USD 200 per lens. However, as the ROM chip occupies the same place in the lens mount as the first cam, it is not possible to use ROM-lenses on the Leicaflex Standard.

Headline Specifications of Leica R-Lenses
Wide-angle Leica
Reference
(#)
Filter
Type
(size)
Lens
Dimensions
(dia x len)
Lens
Weight
(g)
Production
Period
(years)
Price
2009
(USD)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Super-Elmarit-R 15mm f/2.8 Asph 11326 no 84 x 85 mm 710 g 2001-2009 8995 check
Leica Super-Elmar-R 15mm f/3.5 11213 no 84 x 93 mm 815 g 1980-2001 $$$ check
Leitz Wetzlar Fisheye-Elmarit-R 16mm f/2.8 11222 no 71 x 60 mm 460 g 1975-2001 $$$ check
Leica Elmarit-R 19mm f/2.8 (I) 11225 E82 88 x 60 mm 590 g 1975-1990 $$$ check
Leica Elmarit-R 19mm f/2.8 (II) 11258 no 71 x 60 mm 560 g 1990-2009 4795 check
Leitz Wetzlar Super-Angulon-R 21mm f/3.4 11803 S8 67 x 42 mm 228 g 1964-1968 $$$ check
Leitz Wetzlar Super-Angulon-R 21mm f/4 11813 E72 78 x 44 mm 420 g 1968-1994 $$$ check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 21-35mm f/3.5-4.0 Asph 11274 E67 75 x 66 mm 500 g 2002-2009 2995 check
Leica Elmarit-R 24mm f/2.8 11221 S8 67 x 49 mm 420 g 1974-2006 1995 check
Leica Elmarit-R 28mm f/2.8 (I) 11247 S7 63 x 40 mm 275 g 1970-1992 $$ check
Leica PC-Super-Angulon-R 28mm f/2.8 11812 E67 97 x 84 mm 600 g 1988-2009 3895 check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 28mm f/2.8 (II) 11333 E55 68 x 48 mm 435 g 1993-2009 $$ check
Leica Summilux-R 35mm f/1.4 11337 E67 75 x 76 mm 685 g 1984-2009 3995 check
Leica Summicron-R 35mm f/2 (I) 11227 S7 68 x 61 mm 510 g 1972-1976 $$ check
Leica Summicron-R 35mm f/2 (II) 11339 E55 66 x 54 mm 430 g 1977-2009 2995 check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 35mm f/2.8 (I) 11101 S6 63 x 40 mm 310 g 1964-1973 $$ check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 35mm f/2.8 (II) 11201 S6 63 x 40 mm 305 g 1973-1979 $$ check
Leitz Elmarit-R 35mm f/2.8 (III) 11251 E55 66 x 42 mm 305 g 1979-1999 $$ check
Schneider-Kreuznach PA-Curtagon 35mm f/4 11202 S8 70 x 51 mm 310 g 1970-1996 $$$ check
Standard Leica
Reference
(#)
Filter
Type
(size)
Lens
Dimensions
(dia x len)
Lens
Weight
(g)
Production
Period
(years)
Price
2009
(USD)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Vario Elmar-R 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 11364 E60 69 x 76 mm 450 g 1990-1997 $$ check
Leica Vario-Elmarit-R 28-90mm f/2.8-4.5 Asph 11365 E67 80 x 99 mm 740 g 2004-2009 4495 check
Angenieux 35-70mm f/2.5-3.3 A3570LR E58 71 x 136 mm 525 g 1983-1987 $$ check
Leica Vario-Elmarit-R 35-70mm f/2.8 Asph 11275 E77 88 x 133 mm 1050 g 1998-2002 $$$ check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 35-70mm f/3.5 11248 E67 72 x 65 mm 450 g 1983-1996 $$ check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 35-70mm f /4 11277 E60 74 x 79 mm 505 g 1997-2009 1995 check
Angenieux 45-90mm f/2.8 A4590LR S8 69 x 122 mm 774 g 1969-1982 $$ check
Leica Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4 (I) 11875 E55 69 x 51 mm 395 g 1970-1998 2995 check
Leica Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4 (II) 11344 E60 70 x 51 mm 710 g 1998-2009 2995 check
Leica Summicron-R 50mm f/2.0 (I) 11228 S6 63 x 39 mm 680 g 1964-1976 $$ check
Leica Summicron-R 50mm f/2.0 (II) 11345 E55 66 x 41 mm 290 g 1976-2009 1495 check
Tele zoom Leica
Reference
(#)
Filter
Type
(size)
Lens
Dimensions
(dia x len)
Lens
Weight
(g)
Production
Period
(years)
Price
2009
(USD)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Vario-APO-Elmarit-R 70-180mm f/2.8 11279 E77 89 x 190 mm 1870 g 1995-2009 8795 check
Angenieux 3x70 70-210mm f/3.5 A3X70LR E62 80 x 164 mm 783 g 1985-1989 $$$ check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 70-210mm f/4 11246 E60 74 x 157 mm 720 g 1984-2000 $$$ check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 75-200mm f/4.5 11226 E55 70 x 157 mm 725 g 1978-1984 $$$ check
Leica Vario-Elmar-R 80-200mm f/4 11281 E60 71 x 165 mm 1020 g 1996-2009 2695 check
Leitz Wetzlar Vario-Elmar-R 80-200mm f/4.5 11224 E55 72 x 157 mm 710 g 1974-1978 $$$ check
Leitz Wetzlar Vario-Elmar-R 105-280mm f/4.2 11268 S8 89 x 238 mm 1950 g 1996-2006 $$$$ check
Tele prime Leica
Reference
(#)
Filter
Type
(size)
Lens
Dimensions
(dia x len)
Lens
Weight
(g)
Production
Period
(years)
Price
2009
(USD)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Macro-Elmarit-R 60mm f/2.8 11347 S7/E55 68 x 62 mm 400 g 1972-2009 3195 check
Leitz Elcan-R 75mm f/2 C-341 E60 64 x 77 mm 700 g 1965-1965 $$$$ check
Leica Summilux-R 80mm f/1.4 11349 E67 75 x 69 mm 700 g 1980-2009 4695 check
Leica Summicron-R 90mm f/2 11254 S7/E55 70 x 63 mm 560 g 1970-2000 3495 check
Leica APO-Summicron-R 90mm f/2 11350 E60 70 x 59 mm 520 g 2002-2009 3895 check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 90mm f/2.8 (I) 11229 S7 65 x 72 mm 500 g 1964-1983 $$ check
Leica Elmarit-R 90mm f/2.8 (II) 1154 E55 67 x 57 mm 450 g 1980-1998 $$ check
Leica APO-Macro-Elmarit-R 100mm f/2.8 11352 E60 73 x 105 mm 760 g 1987-2009 3995 check
Leitz Wetzlar Macro-Elmar-R 100mm f/4 11232 E55 68 x 120 mm 670 g 1978-1995 $$$ check
Leitz Canada Elmarit-R 135mm f/2.8 (I) 11111 S7 65 x 91 mm 655 g 1964-1968 $$ check
Leica Elmarit-R 135mm f/2.8 (II) 11211 E55 67 x 93 mm 730 g 1968-1998 $$ check
Leica APO-Summicron-R 180mm f/2 11354 E100 116 x 179 mm 2500 g 1994-2009 8295 check
Angenieux APO IF 180mm f/2.3 A180LR E82 86 x 149 mm 995 g 1986-1992 $$$ check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 180mm f/2.8 (I) 11919 S8 78 x 134 mm 1325 g 1966-1979 $$$ check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 180mm f/2.8 (II) 11923 E67 75 x 121 mm 810 g 1979-1998 $$$ check
Leica APO-Elmarit-R 180mm f/2.8 (I) 11273 S8 76 x 132 mm 970 g 1998-2004 $$$ check
Leica APO-Elmarit-R 180mm f/2.8 (II) 11357 E67 76 x 132 mm 970 g 2004-2009 5295 check
Leitz Elcan-R 180mm f/3.4 C-303 E60 63 x 115 mm 750 g 1965-1965 $$$$ check
Leitz Canada APO-Telyt-R 180mm f/3.4 11242 S7.5/E60 68 x 135 mm 750 g 1975-1980 $$$ check
Leitz Wetzlar Elmar-R 180mm f/4 11924 E55 86 x 100 mm 540 g 1976-1996 $$ check
Leitz Canada Telyt-R 250mm f/4 (I) 11920 S8/E55 66 x 100 mm 1380 g 1970-1979 $$ check
Leitz Canada Telyt-R 250mm f/4 (II) 11925 E67 75 x 195 mm 1230 g 1980-1994 $$ check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 280mm f/2.8 11245 E112 125 x 261 mm 2750 g 1984-1992 $$$$ check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 280mm f/2.8 Module 11846 rear 125 x 276 mm 3740 g 1996-2009 11290 check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 280mm f/4 11360 E77 88 x 208 mm 1875 g 1996-2009 6995 check
Leitz Telyt-R 350mm f/4.8 11915 E77 84 x 286 mm 1820 g 1980-1993 $$$ check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8 11256 rear 125 x 314 mm 6240 g 1992-1996 $$$$ check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8 Module 11847 rear 157 x 344 mm 5800 g 1996-2009 17390 check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/4 Module 11857 rear 157 x 382 mm 3860 g 1996-2009 12490 check
Leitz Wetzlar Telyt 400mm f/6.8 11960 S7 78 x 384 mm 1830 g 1968-1994 $$$ check
Leitz Wetzlar MR-Telyt-R 500mm f/8 11243 E77 87 x 121 mm 750 g 1980-1996 $$ check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 560mm f/4 Module 11848 rear 157 x 382 mm 6360 g 1996-2009 18590 check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 560mm f/5.6 Module 11858 rear 125 x 374 mm 4050 g 1996-2009 14290 check
Leica APO-Telyt-R 800mm f/5.6 Module 11849 rear 157 x 442 mm 6550 g 1996-2009 20390 check
Leitz Wetzlar Telyt-S 800mm f/6.3 11921 built-in 152 x 790 mm 6860 g 1972-1977 $$$ check
Minolta RF Rokkor-X 800mm f/8 for Leica R RF800LR rear 127 x 178 mm 1960 g 1973-1981 $$ check

Further Reading

On a separate page, you will find a comprehensive compendium with the key specifications of all the R-system cameras. Moreover, if you need further detail, you might want to check out the selected Leica brochures that are available for free download, or consult your R-camera's manual. Last, but not least, the Leica family tree provides a visual impression of the evolution of Leica's cameras over time.

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