The Leica R4 family of Leica 35mm SLR cameras was launched in 1980. The camera design was a joint venture based on Leitz's co-operation agreement of 1972 with the Minolta Camera Co. Ltd.. The Copal Company developed the shutter. Minolta's version was launched in 1977 as the Minolta XD-11 in the US, the Minolta XD-7 in Europe and Minolta XD in Japan. The Leica R4 was made available in five versions; the Leica R4 Mot electronic in 1980, the Leica R4 in 1981, the Leica R4 chrome in 1982, the Leica R4s in 1983, the Leica R4s-2 in 1985, and a special limited edition Leica R4 in gold and brown skin was made available in 1984. Later, several more models have emerged from the same basic concept, mostly with improved electronic features like TTL flash metering and exposure modes. The Leica R4 is powered by two SR44 (or LR44) batteries, without them only 1/100s and Bulb shutter speeds work.

Leica R4

Although developed as a joint venture, Leitz made their version somewhat differently, especially the exposure metering system and the top cover design and controls. Unfortunately three of the four series of this camera were encumbered with electronic circuits problems. This relates to cameras with serial numbers below 1.600.000. However, those working after 20 years, or more, are either repaired or not likely to give problems. Although the origins of these Leicas and the Minoltas are the same, make no mistake, the Leica is worth higher price, and it has the Leica R lens mount.

Leitz decided to introduce this all-black camera series with the Leica R4 mot electronic name, to emphasis the technology and features involved. However, since no motor actually was built in, but rather available separately, the term was not very well received, the name was soon abandoned, and replaced by simply Leica R4, available from 1981. A chrome version was launched the following year. A slightly modified model, the Leica R4s, having fewer automatic modes and hence quite durable, was made available in 1983 to justify a reduced price in order to help increase sales. Still another sales adjusted model, the Leica 4s-2 was launched in 1985 with a few conveniences added. It was called the R4s-P in North America.

The Leica R4 family with its descendents is:

  • Leica R4 family introduced in 1980, with variants as described above.
  • Leica R5 launched in 1987, and R5 chrome the following year.
  • Leica R-E, which is R5 with fewer functions
  • Leica R6 in either black or chrome, launched in 1988, it is a fully mechanical operating manual exposure camera, with TTL flash control and several exposure metering modes.
  • Leica R7 replaced the R5 with improvements, especially with regards to the TTL flash control.
  • Leica R8 introduced at Photokina in 1996
  • Leica R9 released in 2002, and ceased 2009, the last 35mm film Leica R series camera
  • Leica R10 a digital SLR introduced in 2008 but stayed as a prototype


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Leica R series cameras
R3 | R4 | R5 | R6 | R7 | R8 | R9 | R10