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I bought the Motor-Winder-R8 to be able to take follow-up shots quickly and to avoid disturbing the camera any more than necessary when using a tripod. It served these needs admirably and functioned flawlessly. I didn't encounter the problems of incompatibility that plagued early R8 cameras and Winders.

The R8 camera has been criticized by many people for being so bulky and yet not having a built-in motorized film advance. Leica's response was to provide this bolt-on accessory Winder that offers the choice between manual advance and motorized advance for each shot. Leica claims that this makes it more flexible than a built-in auto-wind mechanism with no manual option. The Leica Motor-Winder-R8 can be deactivated at any time by moving the manual film advance lever to the 'ready' position.

The Winder is very well made and blends beautifully with the lines of the camera. In my opinion, it definitely enhances the R8's shape, handling and balance. It's a big improvement over the rather clumsy-looking winder designed for earlier R cameras. It weighs 270gm with batteries and adds 2cm to the height of the camera.

It does not use the same battery type as the R8 body, which has been a source of complaints. The Winder needs two type 123 A lithium batteries, whereas the R8 needs a pair of CR 2 lithiums. The Winder, when fitted, replaces the battery compartment of the R8 and the camera is then powered by the Winder's batteries. All well and good but if the Winder should fail in the field, you can replace it with the battery compartment only if you have good CR 2 batteries on hand. Some people object to having to carry two types of battery and the R8's battery compartment everywhere as a back-up to the Winder.

The Winder feeds the film automatically to the first frame after loading. It can also optionally rewind the film, leaving the leader exposed, if you operate a switch on the back of the Winder. This is useful for people who develop their own films or who want to change films mid-roll. If you want the leader fully retracted into the cassette, just operate the switch a second time.

The Winder can shoot at a maximum rate of 2 frames per second, if the shutter release button is held down continuously. It is triggered by the camera's own shutter release button and there is no separate shutter release button on the Winder itself, nor is there a selector switch for single or multiple frame operation. I found that it was all too easy to take an second shot by accident, because I tended to hold the shutter button down for too long.

Accessories that are sold separately for use with the Motor-Winder R8 include a rechargeable power-pack that bolts on to the base of the Winder, a charger unit, an electronic remote controller and timer, an electric cable release and an extension cable.

For those requiring more functionality than the Winder can offer, Leica provides the Motor-Drive-R8. This is a much bigger, heavier and more expensive unit. It offers a selectable frame rate of 2 or 4.5 frames/second - not exactly in the "greased lightning" league.

Unlike the much simpler Winder, the Motor-Drive can perform automated exposure bracketing and is programmable to space three successive shots by 1/2 or 1 EV. It is fitted with two built-in shutter release buttons, one for horizontal and one for vertical shooting, which enhances its convenience. Like the Winder, the Motor-Drive follows the lines of the R8 but, because of its greater size, I think it makes the camera look as if it's on steroids.

The Winder was launched much earlier than the Motor-Drive, with the result that a number of users bought the Winder but then upgraded to the Motor-Drive when it became available. Because of this, used Winders in good condition have been fairly common on the market.