Leica R9 - pinnacle of manual focus SLR photography



R9 with attached motorwinder and the Apo-Summicron-R 90/2.0 ASPH


At Photokina 2002 Leica has introduced the successor to its R8 SLR flagship camera, the R9. At first glance it is very difficult to distinguish it from its predecessor. Shape and size are identical to the R8, as well as the placement of most controls. The enhancements, which are welcome improvements, have to be sought in the details:

  • The camera's weight, a longstanding complaint of many prospective R8 buyers, has been reduced by 100 gr (total 790 gr). The top is made of magnesium, the interior of aluminium, and the bottom plate is made of strengthened polycarbonate (with aluminium tripod mount).
  • Flash capabilities have been greatly enhanced by the introduction of high-speed flash synchronization (up to 1/8000 sec) with compatible SCA3502 flash guns such as the Metz Mecablitz 54 MZ-3. However, as with the R8, there is no zone-metering (matrix) with flash (average-metering only). So, this remains a weakness compared to the major other top-of-the-line SLR cameras.
  • A small LCD panel is added on the camera top, displaying the frame counter.
  • The backside LCD panel has been altered: it now has backlighting and displays camera settings such as ISO value, battery condition, EV corrections, and light metering indications.
  • A safety button has been added to the main control wheel on the camera's top. Many users complained that it was too easy to inadvertently change the light metering settings on the R8.
  • The zone-metering (matrix) can be adjusted in tenth's of a diaphragm, but the six existing zones remain identical.
  • An inkling for detail can be found in the enlargement of the rubber strip above the camera's strap attachments, in order to avoid scratching the camera body. That was a weak spot on the R8.

The camera is only available in black and grey (anthracite) finish, not in silver-white. Leica catalog number 10091 (black) and 10090 (anthracite).
Note that the R8 motorwinder and motordrive, as well as all R8 system accessories, are fully compatible with the new R9.

A test report on the Leica R9 can be found here. Another review is found here.

Download the R9 information brochure (2002), as well as the Leica R system information brochure (2005).