Leica R Mount SLR Lenses

While the Leica screw-mount and M bayonet mount rangefinder lenses are familiar to most camera collectors, Leitz also produced a wide range of lenses for its 
single lens reflex cameras. These cameras have a long history, starting out with the original Leicaflex , the auto-exposure R3, the famous all-mechanical R6, and continuing on to the current Leica R9 which accommodates an 11-megapixel digital back.

With the exception of auto-focus, the Leica SLR system is just as advanced as their equivalents from Canon or Nikon. However, because Leica always stood for precision, ruggedness, reliability, and mechanical perfection above everything, they never went towards the lightweight plastics and looser focusing tolerances that auto-focus cameras entailed. Thus, all Leica R lenses are manual focus only. For the same reasons, Leica has not produced as many zoom lenses as its Japanese competitors. In fact, a couple of Leitz’s SLR zooms are actually Minolta designs. Ask around, it’s easy to find out which.

Leica R Lenses

For the most part, R lenses are interchangeable with any age Leica SLRs. Except for the newest ROM lenses which should not be used on Leicaflex cameras, at most you lose the ability to matrix meter, or to meter at full aperture (stop-down metering only).

There are some series variations in Leica R-Mount lenses:

  • One-cam (Original Leicaflex). This is the silver-chrome triangular cam marked (1) on the photograph right. Leica doesn’t recommend using 1-cam or 2-cam lenses on the R8 or R9.
  • Two-cam (Leicaflex SL/SL2). This is the silver-chrome triangular cam at the top-left (11 o’clock) position in Exhibit A (behind the 3rd cam in the Exhibit B). Leica doesn’t recommend using 1-cam or 2-cam lenses on the R8 or R9 because the cam may damage the ROM contacts if it’s out of spec.
  • Three-cam (Leica R series). The ‘R-cam’ or third cam is the stepped black metal cam barely visible in Exhibit A, right next to the silver wedge-shaped 2nd cam. The third or R-cam is used on R-series cameras (R3-R7). Three-cam lenses are the most compatible as they can be used on any Leica SLR ever made. In response to my lousy photo, reader Ken O’Kelley sent me a much better photo (Exhibit B) of the 3rd cam.
  • R-only (Leica R series only). These lenses only have the stepped R-cam and cannot be used on the older Leicaflex cameras. Leica changed the mount slightly so they will not even mount on a Leicaflex. You need to make sure that you can see cams 1 and 2 if you want to use newerlenses on older bodies.
  • ROM lenses: the latest lenses designed for use with the Leica R8 and R9 cameras which had electronic contacts between the camera body and lens. This allows the lens to transmit additional data to the camera. ROM lenses cannot be used on the original Leicaflex series as they will not even mount due to a slight bayonet change. They have the R-cam so they can be used on any R series Leica.
Exhibit A: Overview of cams #1-#3


Exhibit B: Exploded view of 3rd cam

Thanks to reader Ken O’Kelley for supplying this photo!



Leicaflex SL SL2 R3-R7 R8-R9 +Digital Back
1-cam O ST ST ST NR
2-cam O O O ST NR
3-cam O O O O O
R-only X X X O O
Note: Don’t copy without asking! Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service.

Key: O=fully compatible; X=won’t mount; ST=stop-down metering;
NR=Not Recommended (may damage ROM contacts)

Courtesy by Karen Nakamura