FD Shooting with the legends: the Leica M6TTL

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Advance disclaimer: I’m not a full-blown Leica M nut, so most of my opinions are just that: opinions. But I’ve used a few of these things in my time, both professionally and for personal work. These images predate my recent DIY film efforts, so you’ll see a mix of color negative and slide film in there – I was mostly shooting Provia 100 and Velvia 100F at the time. The vintage of the images is also given away by the early watermark…

The Leica M6 series is perhaps the most accessible film Leica for most; I mean this in terms of both usability and price. A very large number of these cameras were produced in several key variants from 1984 to 1998; this volume means that prices on the secondary market have stayed relatively affordable. For not much more money over a ‘classic’ M2, M3 or M4, you can have something with slightly updated materials – likely resulting in longer service intervals – and of course, most importantly, a meter. With any of the classic M bodies, you need to use an external meter or an experienced eyeball to determine your exposure. Ignoring the design oddity that was the M5, the Minolta-collaborative CL and the more recent (and expensive) M7 and MP, we’re left with the M6 for most people if you want a film M camera with a meter.

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Though the M6 requires a battery to operate the meter, the camera itself is fully mechanical: it will work just fine without the battery. The shutter mechanism – and of course film advance – is powered by springs, gears, and that winding tab. This is in contrast to the later M7, which requires batteries to operate the shutter. The MP does not, but it’s also significantly more expensive – and is an upgraded version of the M6 anyway. The M6 had several major variants – a plain old ‘M6′ (classic) that has the meter but no TTL flash metering or hotshoe contacts; the M6J, which was a limited edition fitted with a high magnification 0.85x finder, and finally, the M6 TTL that added TTL flash metering and the necessary hotshoe contacts. There are also a mind-boggling array of limited edition variants based off this camera – around 31, if my math is correct – making them not really that limited at all; there were six thousand of the M6 Titanium made alone. This is reflected on the secondary market, too – an M6 Titanium doesn’t cost that much more than a regular M6 TTL.

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Enough on the collector-geekery. What you get with the M6 is the same formula that Leica have used for all their M cameras: cloth focal plane shutter, running from 1-1/1000s with 1/50s x-sync and bulb modes; manual exposure only. Set the aperture on the lens, focus and compose via the parallax-corrected rangefinder, set your shutter speed via the triangles and dot in the finder (under, correct, over). The meter is a simple center-weighted affair that takes a reading off a light-coloured circle painted onto the front shutter curtain; it theoretically shows exposure two stops in either direction; the illuminated dot means you’re at what’s metered; circle and triangle is one stop either way, triangle is two or more stops. Then hold the camera to your eye, brace it with your thumb in the crook of the wind lever and the body. Hit the shutter release, and wind on.

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What really sticks in your mind after shooting with an M6 are a couple of things: firstly, just how smooth and silent the shutter mechanism is; for those who’ve only experienced the digital M8 or M9 / M Monochrom, you’re in for a surprise. This type of shutter feel is precisely why Leicas were renowned for their stealth; the buzzy M8/9 shutters are a loud disaster by comparison. And they’re notchy, too – the buttons lack the progressive hair-trigger feel of the M6 which you can modulate to the nearest ounce of pressure. The new M240 is a significant improvement over the M8/9, but still nowhere near as good as the mechanical cameras. Film advance on the M6 is similarly smooth; I actually like the slight bit of give in the articulated plastic tip of the M6’s wind lever as compared to the MP’s solid metal piece. It’s also less likely to scratch the edge of your shutter speed dial.

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The other thing is not so good: loading. I suppose this is true for any M camera; chances are, you’re going to misload it a couple of times in your first few attempts. This was my first film Leica, coming from an M8; though not my first serious film camera, of course. The first roll went in fine; you have to take off the bottom plate, flip up the back window to thread film cleanly through the film gate (the back window is a pressure plate to keep the film as flat as possible across the entire imaging plane) and then slot the end into one portion of the three-lobed takeup spool at the other end. Easy, right? Not really. Not only are you juggling various openings and levers, you’ve also got to ensure that the film winds properly at the other end. I discovered the best way to do this was to advance one frame, then use the rewind crank to tension the film; fire off a second frame, and if the rewind crank moves when you advance the film, the two ends are connected – via the film – and you’re good to go. If it doesn’t wind, and you can continue to spin the rewind crank in the rewind direction, start again. Do not wind the film back into the cannister – you will almost certainly land up losing the leader inside!

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Rather embarrassingly, I learned this the hard way: I about 20 images on my second or third roll, confident that I had some great stuff, then happened to notice the rewind crank wasn’t moving on film advance. And it was loose. And I could rewind it easily. Uh oh…I exposed the leader with 20 great images that day. Since then, I didn’t have a single misload because I made sure to run through the little dance above. It’s still admittedly a lot more hassle than putting a roll into the F6, for instance. Curiously, I’ve never misloaded a Hasselblad even though it’s significantly more fiddly.

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Rangefinder cameras are really all about the viewfinder: the ability to have a bright, clear window on the world that’s uninterrupted by the shutter or mirror cycling. You also have the added bonus of seeing outside your framelines, which can help with anticipating action as well as seeing how you might better alter your composition. It’s a double-edged sword, however; framing precision isn’t great, and the sole focusing point is the rather small rangefinder patch in the center; it’s probably why we also tend to see a lot of RF images with central subjects – by the time you focus and recompose, the subject has moved and the moment has gone. I also found that the 0.72 magnification finder I had wasn’t so good with wide lenses and spectacles; I’d rather have had the 0.58 since I shoot mainly with 28 and 50mm on my rangefinders. Finally, it’s worth knowing that some versions of the M6 and M6TTL have viewfinder flare issues: if a bright source strikes the RF window at a certain angle, the RF patch can flare out and disappear in the finder, making focusing impossible. It’s fairly easy to shade it with a finger on your right hand, but later cameras had a slightly modified internal design that also later made its way into the MP.

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I think if I was to buy an M6 again, I’d probably go for one of the Titanium versions – it isn’t solid titanium by the way, just coated – it’s uncommon enough to be special, common enough to not command too much of a premium over the regular M6, retains the classic two-tone look of the chrome/black Leicas, but is a bit more stealthy; don’t worry too much about the TTL vs non TTL decision. I’ve never used a flash with one of these things, and I suspect the vast majority of most people don’t either; it simply goes against the whole M gestalt in my opinion. I would probably change the ostrich leather for griptac, though. MT

The best place to find vintage gear is on the secondary market in Japan – send an email to Bellamy Hunt of Japan Camera Hunter; he can source to spec and budget. I get a good chunk of my stuff from him and can’t recommend him highly enough. Send him an email and tell him Ming sent you!

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Comments

  1. I shoot a M3 and a Minolta CLE. Even though the CLE is more easy and faster to load than the M3, I managed to screw up more than one roll of film because film didn’t transport correctly in the CLE. The CLE – unlike its SLR brethren from the Minolta XD series it shares the loading method with – does not have that handy film advance indicator. Take your time loading a Leica and pay attention to putting the film strip leader at the correct height to the spool. Memorize the correct position for the next time once you know it and you’ll be much faster. Attach the film to the spool before you put both into the camera. The M3 has a rear door that opens, so you can check whether the film is mounted the right height for proper transport. While it takes me a little longer to load the M3, I have never ever screwed a roll of film. The more complicated loading method ensures that the camera operates like Swiss clockwork and reliably like a German engine.

  2. Strange to see these film reviews (in a good way) as I recently picked up a Classic M6 and used 35 ASPH and 50 Summicrons to shoot slow B&W (ISO 100 or slower). Almost by accident, really, as a fairly priced M6/0.85 waltzed by me. Always wanted to shoot Leica and was dissatisfied with the B&W conversions out of DSLRs. They really are a tactile joy to shoot with. It’s really forced me to decide whether to throw a frame at any given scene and really deliberate on the tonal qualities and shadows. Brings me back to being a kid 40 years ago, shooting a Minolta SRT 102.

  3. Tom Liles says:

    Ray [Evans] mentioned the accuracy of the metering on the M6, and it got me wondering how they went from that to what was in the M8/M9? Curious…
    Interesting to see how big a deal the mag. of the RF window is. I think I get it. I’ve only ever shot one rangefinder in my short foray into photos; I still own it, the Epson R-D1s. Basically a digital R3M. 1:1 finder mag. so you can shoot with both eyes open—the “floating patch” effect is awesome, and when you get in the zone it just becomes a part of you, it’s like being a member of the borg or something. It’s such a pleasure, that must be how I’ve managed to take more pictures with the R-D1s than any other camera I own. But I couldn’t believe this 1:1 thing wasn’t the norm when I looked into Leicas [which have, rightly, defined the RF "norm"]…

    I’m doing my best be on topic, but my real question is about the lead product shot—it looks uncharacteristically contrasty to me. It might even have been done on film? Or an early digital camera [with less dynamic range]? Or am I completely wrong? :)

    • Yes Tom, I think you are wrong. Ming doesn’t make contrast/exposure mistakes in studio shots. He probably wanted to make a statement concerning the Leica mystique. We all know what I Leica looks like.

      • Tom Liles says:

        Morning Christian. Yeah, I can see what you say. I suppose I was wondering whether, like the other shots which betray their vintage with the older watermark, the product shot wasn’t also an older one; and if it was, the juxtaposition (with other stuff) seems to gesture towards how MT’s product shots have come on. I think it is older, and with the same mood in his mind, Ming wouldn’t light it quite as contrasty as that, if he were to do it today. As you point out though: I’m probably completely wrong!

        The mystique of Leica, with a Voigtlander on? ;)
        MT rarely leaves anything to chance — even the clock hands on his desk get arranged for a snap of the workspace — so considering that Leica’s rep is built on the glass more than the bodies, this is either classic MT “real talk” (a statement about Leica effect; sufficiency; unbiased opinion) or, more likely, an older shot—like everyone, Ming started humbly on equipment and I doubt could justify the expense of premo Leica glass, way back when. Who can!

        I’m sure he’ll be here in a minute to put a match to everything I’ve said :)

        Cheers Christian

      • Tom Liles says:

        Ah! While you’re here Christian, I’d always been dying to say two things: I think your “about” page, what you did for that, is one if the best I’ve seen: I once thought about having a page for photos myself (then thought better of it!) but at the time, and still now, I think your way is the only way to do the obligatory “about” page for photographers. Bravo.
        The other thing: remember on the Hasselblad and watches thread you mentioned a studio stand you have for adjustments (manfroto 806 ministudio?)—did you have a snap of your rig to look at? Was just interested ever since I saw a Dean Collins tidbit on YouTube where he has a heavy large format camera rigged up in a studio on some sort of stand, and he was just moving it about single handed = Woah! I’m just interested to see/know; it’s nothing other than raw curiosity!

        • Thanks for the kind words Tom. And you were mostly right about Ming’s lighting. Much more sophisticated nowadays. Sometimes I go back to my early days and say to myself,” I can’t believe you lit that so badly!” Then again, I see old stuff I shot and say,” boy, I really lit that well!” Good days and bad days I guess.

          • A lot of the difference – for me at least – is in repeatability: back then, if I did it well, I might not be able to do it again. Now, when I light something, I can consistently replicate it. Notice how all of my product shots all now have a very similar and distinct style…

          • Tom Liles says:

            Morning Christian! Oh, thank God. I find this — the love/hate — with all my photos. And it changes in time, too. Right now, when I look at the first fledging “I’m taking myself seriously now” photos I took, I prefer them to where I’m at. They’re more spontaneous and I can see (only me, I’m not good enough to communicate anything to a viewer yet) the enjoyment in the photo—I was reveling in being out and about and taking photos.
            Now, I’m familiar and basically capable with post-processing, understand my equipment and have a more trained eye [not "trained" I suppose, but experienced, in my own limited way]. So I get many more “that’s OK” shots, and much less dross. But something feels incomplete or boring about them. Like I didn’t dare to do something.

            Then again, in a few months I’ll look back at the same images and only see amateur crap. Self-important and plain. This is why my basic philosophy is to take them, output them as quick as I can, and move on and try never think about them again. I only want what I’m going to get today and tomorrow in my head.

            I am very interested in lighting — the physics and practice of — and enjoy trying to light things myself. I’m an ant compared to you Christian, and Ming. But you both help—with little words here and there in places like this; but mostly you’re images. I just sit and study them. I like this one. It was probably dead simple; but there you go, I like it. And this one. I haven’t dared to mess with color gelled lighting yet…

            Agh! I did two links again! :o
            Sorry Ming :)

            Cheers Christian

      • Nope, I do – it’s an early work from me; partially conscious choice, partially unsophisticated lighting. I owned the camera in 2009, and the product shot was done then – before I did it professionally for a living…

    • I wonder if part of it is the latitude of film, but that can’t be true for slide, too; that has less DR than digital. Perhaps it’s got to do with the reflectivity of the sensor vs. the non-reflectivity of film? I do know the M8/9s acquired a secondary meter diode near the ‘step’ on the camera body to help counter this. Whatever the case, the digital bodies have terrible metering…

      I owned the M6TTL back in 2009; it was shot with an early camera and less sophisticated lighting than I’m using now. :)

      • Tom Liles says:

        I wouldn’t go as far as saying “it shows,” rather, as a regular visitor and viewer of images here, I feel like it’s just worth standing back and appreciating the level of confidence and craft [artistry!?] that goes into your lighting for the current stuff [not necessarily "complexity" though I'm sure the lighting schemes are quite intricate]. We all read the reviews and enjoy them; but I sometimes sit for 15 minutes or so trying to figure out how you would light the gems that accompany the articles. You’re an authority, in my view. Well and truly in the pantheon. An MT lighting scheme should be taken as canon. So I sit and look. And try myself. And fail. Like not even a smidgen close.
        I would be over the moon with that shot above: maybe put the highlight on the top plate a key or so lower to make the overall phrase a bit more baritone [but not all out bass], and that’s all. Perhaps, more than the subject lighting, the scenario lighting [the background] dates it a little more conspicuously… the product shots we enjoy daily here are set against paper backs, toned velvet black to grey, the subject often sits in a seemingly soft but tight beam of light — a very kind spotlight, of sorts — with delicately placed highlights on and around it from other light sources. The highest key part of the lighting always seems like it’s planned on the principle “less is more” and the overall image quite often engineered to look as though the object is emerging from darkness [not total darkness].

        I Plead Guilty to Hoarding is an absolute pleasure. And an education. And it’s there for free. Like the contents of this site: I watch it as much as I can before we’re found out. I mean, it costs nothing to access all this content! Remember the days when you couldn’t even leaf through a magazine without being asked to purchase it?.. On the subject of Leicas, though, most every picture of a Leica in I Plead… is a beauty.

        I’m trying to do some gear porn of Charles Bronson this lunchtime. Why I’m probably all on a product shot kick at the moment ;)…
        Now, where’s my black paper at?

        • Haha, I’m flattered. I used to use much more complicated setups than I do now; a lot of the time it’s only one light and a couple of bits of board. Perhaps it’s an experience thing; being able to visualize the end effect definitely helps.

          The current style I use for product tends to focus on highlighting the key contours and shapes with minimal lighting; there’s beauty in most of these things, you just have to spend some time looking before you try to extract it. I plead guilty to hoarding is a place for me to host and easily find all the gear shots I need for reviews etc…

  4. Great Gear porn! Great series. I like how you try to remain unbiased and how you write about ‘what is it like’ to use certain cameras.

    I started off with a voigtlander R3M. Now I use a leica M3. The most memorable moment of the purchase what when I put in my first roll of film and fired off the shutter. it was so soft and reassuring. It gives you a very gentle vibration through the body and into your hand to let you know you have taken the photo. But it is in no way invasive. Conversely, when I think about using the Voigtlander every shot is like a slap. You can hear it (so can everyone else). You can feel it reverberate through your hands, through the eyepiece and onto your face. Where the leica is like a mother’s hand gently leading their child, the voigtlander is the angry mom slapping their child in public. In conclusion, I adore my leica.

    I wear spectacles. I don’t think I mind not being able to see the full frame. Yes it does prove difficult with accurate framing, but what ends up happening is that I end up moving closer to isolate my subject and then the slight wideness that I don’t see because of my glasses, becomes a part of the environment.

    • Thanks Jason. Interesting analogies…

      I’m a stickler for clean edges, so the sloppiness of the RF already bothers me; I can learn to compensate for that, but not even being able to see the frame lines is rather annoying at times, because the amount lost outside your FOV depends on whether your eye is perfectly centred relative to the finder or not.

      • When I use the 135 elmarit (with goggles) I get a very nice FOV. But I understand our different shooting styles and requirements from the equipment that we choose to use. In your arsenal, there is the 800E and GR and hasselblad. In mine, I notice the importance of framing is lost, including a Polaroid 110b for 4×5 and fuji instant film, Mamiya c220 and the leica. All these cameras suffer from a weakness in percise framing. It was an interesting observation that I noticed in myself about our different shooting styles and requirements of equipment.

        A part of me wishes that I didn’t start with the voigtlander; because I use it so little now and a M3 isn’t that much more than a Voigtlander – and the other various advantages of a leica over the voigtlander, which I can rant on hours for. But I know the practical side of me knew it was the right choice. I wanted the guarantee of new camera. I didn’t want the risk of a lemon. And when first looking at Leicas, they can be ridiculously expensive, especially how everyone only talks about summiluxs and notilux’s. After testing the waters with voigtlander and Leica I feel like I have a much better grasp of navigating through the expensive waters of swimming with my leica. And hopefully I can continue to avoid the depth charges that will suck my wallet dry. I tried a number of voigtlander lenses to see what I like and don’t like. Someday, After my focal lengths are all sorted out, I’ll make one time purchases of the leica lenses.
        Current leica kit: (leica M3 with 50mm planar and 21 VC skopar)
        Ideal leica kit: (leica M3, M240, 50 summicron and 28 elmarit) someday.

        • I found imprecise framing to be good and bad with the Leica Ms: it makes you really focus on your central subject area, so that portion of your composition is stronger than usual; yet you don’t tend to use much of the periphery of the frame, so there’s a lot of wasted space. I wonder if that enforced working method is at least partially responsible for the reason why Leica images have a certain ‘feel’ to them…

          • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

            When I shoot I do find myself focusing on the subject. What ever is left in or out is just garnish for the subject. The subject will remain the hero. (Admittedly, I have I aversion to cropping and have on occasion done so for the stronger image. )

            • It does seem like wasted space, doesn’t it? The garnish doesn’t always add anything, and like culinary garnish, is often left aside and discarded…seems like a waste of a plate to me.

  5. Thanks for a good article Ming, as always you write in an informative and captivating way.

    I mainly use a TTL (though I have an M4, too) because I prefer the larger shutter speed dial and its direction of rotation. But speaking of flash, it is a myth that Leica cameras were intended to be used only/predominantly for available light photography. This is perpetuated online, it seems. An f1.4 lens is, evidently, an f1.4 whether it was made by Leica or by Canon. It is true that just as the screwmounts Leicas revolutionised handheld photography way back when, they also enabled handheld available light photography in previously unavailable locations, such as indoors, once fast lenses like the Summarex were launched (an excellent book is Erich Salomon’s “Berühmte Zeitgenossen in unbewachten Augenblicken” (Famous Contemporaries in Unguarded Moments”)). But while the Leica with fast lenses would work OK for available light photography, that was only *a* purpose. The main purpose of the Leica was to enable handheld photography wherever the photographer wanted to go. One need only look at the early editions of the Leica Manual (Morgan & Lester) to find information on flash photography with both screwmount and M mount Leicas. It is even said that “The Leica lends itself very well to photography by flash lighting, and in many ways often surpasses larger cameras in its adaptability to this type of photography”.

    • Flash is flash, and lighting shouldn’t change in effectiveness due to the type of camera. Fundamentally most serious flash work until very recently was done with manual power calculations or flash meters anyway; the Leicas are just better suited to available light work than SLRs because of the lower vibration of the horizontal cloth shutter. This is no longer the case with the digitals and their noisy/ notchy shutters. Even so, I’ve done studio watch photography with an M9 and flashes…so it is definitely possible.

  6. christianfresco says:

    L’ha ribloggato su ChristianFresco's Blog.

  7. Guillaume says:

    I have a Leica M3 and I can say I really really like its simplicity.
    I have to admit that it’s a very challenging camera for street photography because it has no meter. I rely on my Leica Meter with Selenium battery for my exposures. Sometimes I like challenging my eyeballs too and with a bit of train you can be surprisingly good at metering yourself (1 stop accuracy difference with reality).
    Sometimes I wonder if I should trade it for a M6 or M7 but I can’t resign myself selling it. Leica M3 is very very smooth and I love it’s huge magnification rangefinder and rounded frame lines style. I was a bit bothered by glasses to but I recently did LASEK surgery (not LASIK). I can now see very clearly without glasses so I am very happy (surgery took 8 min overall and It was not painful…just some discomfort). It’s a real game changer with Leica’s !
    Have you ever used a Leica M3 Ming ? I am wondering how you like it :)
    Moreover I am wondering if you now just shoot SLIDE film or not ? After watching your first video lesson I was wondering if I had to shoot SLIDES for a better control over my exposure…(since it’s saw important as we can see on your trees shot in the park).

    • Eyeball is how I meter these days anyway with my mechanical cameras. I have a small pocket meter but rarely bother to use it; it’s just faster to go by feel, and eventually you get a good intuitive grasp of how much light there is – the only time our eyes get fooled is when it’s very dark or very bright – I think it has to do with the nonlinear response of our retinas…

      If you love the M3, why sell it? There’s nothing much the M6/7 will give you other than a meter and a lower magnification finder that sometimes flares. I never got the chance to use one, but I’d imagine the experience is similar enough to the other Ms

      No need to go to the expense of shooting slide unless you want to for the results – I would actually suggest working with a compact point and shoot digital for a while instead – this has similar dynamic range, requiring similar exposure discipline, and you probably have one lying around already :)

  8. What a beauty!

  9. sergeylandesman says:

    Sorry,
    Would be cheaper.That computer board again!

  10. sergeylandesman says:

    Very interesting article and very nice camera! If only film developing and printing would cheaper….

    • DIY is the way to go, I think. B&W costs me about US$0.30 a roll in chemical compared to US$5-7 if I send it out. Film I buy in bulk from the distributor. It’s nowhere near as bad as I remember it being in the past…and this in a time of disappearing film.

  11. One thing you didn’t mention about the TTL that has me using it over the classic M6, or the MP, is the larger shutter speed dial–that also rotates the “correct” way. I find it very intuitive to use one finger while keeping my eye in the viewfinder to adjust speeds.

    Great review/impressions. Keep your amazing site going!

  12. Steve Jones says:

    By the way Ming, every so often when I take a candid or portrait of someone with the M, it seems to pick up a ‘quality’ about the subject that I just don’t see in the results from my other cameras. Leica mystique? I’m not sure, but that same quality is right there in that monochrome portrait you’ve included here.

    • I think it’s a bit of the way the lens renders, but more about how people react to the camera. I see it in my Hasselblad shots too; these older cameras have a way of disarming the subjects somewhat that the big black intimidating digital howitzers do not. Compacts produce similarly candid shots; hence my love of the GR…

      • I get the same reaction when using a TLR or one my bellows camera. It is great for disarming subjects and helps me to make the subject much more at ease.

  13. Steve Jones says:

    Mine is the 0.85 mag. as I often used the 90mm for portraits and a few years back, on the day I visited Lemon camera in Tokyo, I was lucky enough to find an almost brand new 135 Apo Telyt, with box and warranty ( which someone had bought, tried and rejected ) for half price. needless to say i snapped it up. The mechanical construction of this lens doesn’t quite match the older versions and has a sloppy aperture ring but… the optics are superb.
    On the limit for an M camera in terms of focal length and rangefinder accuracy, but gives fine results with the high mag. M6TTL and is useful for isolating details in landscapes and mountain photography. You can frame for 28mm with the 0.85 version by ignoring the RF lines and using the whole finder view. Works well enough in practice.
    When shooting with an M though, I do prefer the classic 35 / 90 combo. When I first bought it, i rememberThe 50mm Leica lens on this camera giving me such sharp and clear images that I felt it was necessary to improve my technique to live up to it. A good thing. Yep, I hardly ever use the flash, but to be honest, that’s true with my other cameras too! Feels much, much nicer to use than the digital M’s and I can trust it to get images when I’m on location far from a power supply and my hotel is sometimes a tent. Wish it was a bit lighter to carry, but that, and the tricky film loading , are it’s only drawbacks.

    • Lemon has some great deals if you get lucky. Also, some lemons. It seems to be a bit hit and miss. As for your aperture ring, you can actually tighten it up by removing the ring, and pulling on the spring that holds the ball detent in place (the source of the clicks) to lengthen it a little. This way it exerts more pressure on the ball to sit in the detents tighter, which in turn improves the ‘clickiness’. Unfortunately removal of the ring isn’t so simple…but useful to know there’s something you can do about it.

      I found 90 to be the limit for me, especially if shot wide open; 90 on the 0.72x was hit and miss. Enough misses to be frustrating, but not as bad as the imprecision of the frame edges, so I stick with 28/50 for RFs…

      • Ming: any downsides to the 0.58? Like you I also favour 28mm a lot and wear specs. Would be interested to hear the pros & cons of getting the 0.58 or just doing as Steve Jones says and using the whole frame to compose…

        • For wides, it’s a must. Otherwise, using the whole frame isn’t precise and the FOV changes a bit depending on whether you position your eye dead-center or not; I don’t find it reliable. I frame much better with the GR’s LCD, to be honest.

      • Steve Jones says:

        Thanks. Useful info about the aperture ring.Won’t attempt it myself but might get someone more skillful to look at it sometime.

  14. Thanks Ming. I have a 1986 Leitz Wetzlar ‘classic’. Nice camera. Great solid feel, and the metering system is pretty clear. I went through the little batteries way too quick until someone pointed out that you are meant to leave the camera set to Bulb when not in use (“B” for bag). I use it mainly for 35mm focal length, because for 50mm I prefer the amazingly bright viewfinder of the M3, which is better suited at 0.91x anyway. Though lacking the meter of the M6, and even more of a pain to load than the M6, it just feels even more solidly hewn, and the mechanics feel exquisite in use – more like a great Swiss watch than a camera.

    That said, and somewhat contradictorily, day to day I more often use the Zeiss Ikon (ZI ZM) Bellamy sold me. It doesn’t have the chiseled-from-solid-block feel of the Ms, but in usable details, trumps the Ms, incl the 7 (viewfinder, AE metering, film loading, ASA viewing, etc). But… as nice as it is, it will never be a ‘classic’ in the way the Ms are.

    • I thought the detent on the rewind lever was also the power switch, but putting it in B makes sense – you don’t need the meter for that. Since the meter activates on the half press of the shutter, if you don’t notch-in the rewind lever, any accidental touch of the shutter in your bag will probably start the meter and LED indicators, draining power…

      The ZI has much better ergonomics and finder – but I agree, it simply doesn’t feel as well built.

  15. Ah….the M6….when one has actually used the camera a few times the entire M experience ( both good AND bad ) becomes embedded in the psyche, especially the sound of the shutter and the tactile sensation of winding the film. Certainly M users are guilty of hyperbole. Nevertheless, when one holds an M6 there is the realization that HERE is a man- made machine that is entirely correct for the “task”. I never fail to smile when the camera is in my left hand and I am heading out to photograph.

    The M lenses are part and parcel of the Leica M experience, but such discussions would take far too much time-and books to accomplish.

    Faults? Of course…sometimes the film loading might not go quite as desired ( I have used Ming’s technique for many years now ), focusing can be a bit more of a challenge as one ages and glasses become a necessity ( one can purchase diopter corrective lenses ), seeing the entire frame with glasses can be a challenge, etc., etc. Every camera has issues that reflect the anatomical differences of those who use them.

    The M cameras have been the subject of many books and so any truncated discussion of the cameras will by necessity omit information that is better experienced in person then vicariously.

    Elliot

    • Your last point pretty much sums it up: you really have to shoot with one in person. I think the first time you’ll get the tactile pleasure part; perhaps not the shooting experience, but that will come. And then you’ll realize that there really is quite a lot of fluff in modern cameras…

    • sergeylandesman says:

      Well said,Elliot!

  16. A lovely review Ming. These are great cameras.

    Just have two comments, one on method, and one asinine. Please humour me.

    – Your comment about focusing and composing problems only apply if you aren’t zone-focusing. Millions of words have been squandered on reviewing the latest “high speed” AF systems, when all one ever needs is to know the basic arithmetic of the focal zone. Especially when shooting wide or normal. Granted for shooting portrait & wide open, a little bit of precision is necessary but in those cases we also usually have time on our side.

    – Black = “stealthy”? When did the half funny ninja joke become a shibboleth?

  17. Ray Evans says:

    I picked up the 0.72 magnifier for use when shooting the 50mm. Fills up the VF nicely. Almost as good as having 2 M’s.

  18. The image quality and tactile experience are beautiful with this camera. Simplicity is bliss. I will never sell mine.

  19. Ray Evans says:

    Nice review. I have the M6 ttl 0.58 (in black of course) and use primarily 35mm and 50mm lenses. I also use a Voightlander 75mm which comes complete with it’s own viewfinder, making framing so easy.Wearing spectacles I chose the 0.58 VF but in fact have fitted the appropriate diopter which now enables me to shoot without glasses and press in tightly against the viewfinder for a much improved view. What I particularly like is the frame lever enabling quick focal length comparisons, the introduction of an “off” switch and the incredible accuracy of the metering.

    All in all a fabulous camera and one I will never part with.

    • I tried an 0.58 the other day – really a necessity for us eyeglass wearers…perhaps I should look at an MP again…

      • I have an M7 with 0.58x finder and loved using it before I got an M9P, and now the M7 lies neglected. I do really like the 0.58x finder for 28mm use (without glasses). I wish the M9 and M240 series had 0.58x as a finder option, but I checked and Leica said the digital Ms can’t use finder parts from film Ms. Too bad. I sometimes use a Zeiss 25/28 accessory finder on the M9 now.

        • No, they can’t. Something in the RF mechanism changed again – size, apparently, to accommodate another control board in the top plate. I found the eye relief of the M9 to be pretty bad for 28mm, and the M 240 is even worse – I can barely see the frame lines even if I’m not wearing glasses. I suppose they want you to buy the EVF2, which of course defeats the point of having an RF…

  20. Love my M6, a 1987 Leitz Wetzlar with the original Leitz logo. I think I could do without my M9-P and just shoot film with the M6.

    • I think the B&Ws would definitely have more character and feel than digital…high ISO work with the M9 isn’t so great, so you wouldn’t lose out much there either. In fact, you might well gain in hand-holdability because the shutter in the film Ms is both much smoother and easier to release on a hair trigger without jerking the body.

    • We have the same cameras Bill…use the camera with the tiny 35mm lens and the camera will almost fit in the shirt pocket…:}

  21. I have a TTL model also and agree with what you wrote, quiet shutter, and somewhat difficult film loading (especially with a leather case on). I also have a never used Leica flash which I should pull out and test someday.

    • Hi Thomas: Many M users state that the M camera was never really “intended” to be used with a flash….with the fast lenses and fast film one can frequently get by with natural light. However, I agree that having the flash available can make life easier.

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