When I first began collecting and using classic film cameras ten years ago, I discovered pretty quickly that these vintage machines would, at some point, need service. At the very least, a camera that is decades old will probably need new internal light seals.
At that time, the analog film community was much smaller than it is today. There were only a handful of film photography blogs and scant few online reviews of camera repairers. That is why today, I always try and do a quick little review whenever I use a new camera repair shop so others might benefit from my firsthand experiences.
I bought my Leica R4s MOD-P camera body from a member of the Film Photo Gear group on Facebook. I have bought and sold several times to members of this group and have found everyone there honest and nice to deal with. The R4 completes a trilogy of Leica reflex bodies that I have wanted, the other two being the R5 and R6.
The Leica R4 was introduced in 1980 as the first multi-mode Leica SLR. It featured program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual exposure modes. The early R4 bodies suffered from a number of electronic gremlins which gave Leica SLRs a bad name. Electronic issues were resolved later in the production run and those later cameras are very reliable. All of the Leica SLRs were insanely expensive, so a dumbed down R4 was introduced in 1983 to beef up sales; the Leica R4s, which offered only aperture priority and manual exposure modes and no shutter speed indication in the viewfinder. In 1985, the R4s MOD-P was introduced which added shutter speed indication to the viewfinder and some nice ergonomic touches. The MOD-P has the later reliable electronics and the fabulous benefit of both spot and average exposure metering.
My R4s MOD-P arrived in nice cosmetic shape and everything seemed to function as designed. When I opened the camera back though, I found the foam seals very questionable, especially the thicker seal around the little window that allows you to see the type of film you have loaded in the camera. Replacing seals in an SLR is not difficult, but with my fumble fingers and aging eyes, I prefer to leave it to a professional. And while the tech is re-doing the seals, it’s a great time to give a classic camera a good multi-point inspection.
Some years ago, when I was having an affair with Leica M rangefinders, I had considered sending my M3 to Sherry Krauter for a CLA. I ended up trading in the M3 on another Leica, so it never ended up in her shop. With my R4s needing some work and seeing that Sherry is one of the few techs left who work on Leica reflexes, I emailed her to ask if she would work on my R4.
I had read some reviews that said that Sherry has a unique personality—straight and to the point. I sent her a very long email request and she answered with “Call me. 1PM-3AM. Best, Sherry.” So I called her and she was…delightful! First, she tried to convince me that I could do the foams myself, it isn’t rocket science she told me. And a nice conversation about Leica SLR cameras followed with an invitation to send mine in. She did warn me that she was very busy and it might take a while.
A month later, my R4s MOD-P came back from the shop, new seals and everything else checked out fine. Sherry’s prices are very reasonable and her work is top notch. Don’t expect long email responses. Do expect you might be asked to call her. And if you need work on your Leica R or M, she comes with my recommendation. She also has some very nice Leica cameras, lenses, enlargers and accessories for sale on her website.