5 Frames… Of downtown Chandler, AZ on Kodak Gold 200 and a Leica R4 (35mm Format / El 200 / Leica 35mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R) – by James Knox

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I decided to shoot downtown Chandler, AZ. It has been a place I have shot with digitally many times on paid shoots as well as just banging around. The Leica R film cameras have always interested me and I picked up an R4 not knowing much about them. The camera itself really doesn’t do much for me when I hold it in my hand. Ergonomically it’s fine and fits well but as a ‘gear’ guy I look for more personal things.

Shutter sounds are a big one and the Leica ‘kerthump’ is kind of… meh. That said, the view through the finder is pretty great and the lens is very easy to focus manually. Walking around and taking in the sights you actually forget you’re shooting technically and just fire away. I guess that’s what makes the little R4 such a pleasure.


My Leica R4 + Leica 35mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R,  James Knox
Leica R4 + Leica 35mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R, James Knox

Leica really did get it right. I mean the compact body, the phenomenal glass, and the ease of focus. This was a collaboration of work with Minolta at the time so there is a bit of Minolta XD-11 in this camera and you can tell. That’s a good thing by the way. Leica — after moving from the LeicaFlex — went in to the R line and was having let’s say, electrical issues. I won’t bore you with the details, many have written on them already online so you can Google that on your own.

The camera is small like the Minolta, was made in Portugal with Minolta and basically has the electric circuits of an XD body. The film I grabbed for the shoot was Kodak Gold 200 which is the standard drug store on the rack stuff around here. Cheap and not really a stellar film with a bit of yellow shading to it. Thus the Gold nomenclature. It’s a film I use when testing a camera because I know what it does, how it performs, and what expectations I get from it. Also, if the camera has issues and the shots are ruined its not a big deal.

By nature I am a landscape photographer with a passion for street photography but I need more time behind the lens for that so street it was. For those wondering about Leica R bodies and wanting to experience them I recommend the R3. It had no issues electrically, it’s identical — I’m pretty sure it is — the same as the Minolta XE-7 and sorry guys and gals but Elmarit-R glass is absolutely stellar.

I am not a Leica snob but wow. As a sidenote, I still have the lens but the camera, as well as an R3, have come and gone. GAS is my nemesis. I currently shoot the Nikon N90S and Sigma 24-105 f/4 Art lens. That’s the beauty of Nikon. You can use new glass on old cameras without issue.

Well, that’s for another story perhaps.

~ James


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