I’ve been fortunate (or unfortunate) depending on which way you look at it to have had quite a few different film cameras go through my hands over the past few years. The Olympus OM1, OM2, Nikon F3 to name just a couple which are highly rated in film circles and I enjoyed each one for different reasons, but the Leica M6 I bought last autumn is the one which feels like it all makes sense to me.
My Leica M6 is turning me into a bit of a fanboy
I make no bones about it but my M6 is turning me into a bit of a Leica fanboy. I’ve always been a fan of the Leica brand but since buying one I’ve kind of fallen for it in a really hard way.
I’d read plenty before I bought mine and having briefly owned an M2 I had a good idea of what it was all about. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite such a bonding experience as it’s proving to be.
I’m not going to lie, I love the M6 and the Leica brand. They are iconic and the heritage of classic film cameras is strong with the M6. OK, it may not be Leicas best offering, but it certainly has to go down as one of their most successful
The solid build and construction are obvious. Mine is a 35-year-old camera and going from a quick check of the serial number it’s one of the first that was produced. There’s a durability about it that makes it feel that longevity is ensured.
Like all Leica film cameras, it’s a no-frills design.
You get the basics and nothing more – but in truth, you get everything you need to make great photographs (apart from skill obviously!). It’s been said the light meter is a bit rudimentary but I like the simplicity of it. It’s simple to understand, the lack of information in the viewfinder is a bugbear for some, but for me I enjoy the uncluttered view.
My only gripe would be the meter arrows showing under/overexposure operate ‘the wrong way’ compared to my digital M10-P and that can become a bit confusing at times especially if I’ve got both with me at any time.
The trick is to set your ideal shutter speed first and then use the aperture ring on your lens to perfect metering. The arrows in the viewfinder show the direction the aperture ring needs turning, not necessarily the shutter.
So what makes the M6 special? It has a limited feature set but the basics are all solid. Film loading is easy (much easier than you would imagine), once you get the hang of it and allow the camera do the work. Its rewind system works well, the round rewind lever works perfectly for me and is a lot less fiddly than found on the older models.
The viewfinder is nice and bright – at least on mine. The RF patch takes a bit of getting used to but I think if you’re coming to a Leica from an SLR or similar there is a learning curve. I haven’t come across the issue of RF flaring (haven’t had many sunny days to test it with here in the UK) – but I’m sure it will exist as it seems a pretty standard bugbear of the M6.
Ability to work fully mechanically
With only the light meter requiring batteries the M6 will work as a fully mechanical camera should those batteries fail.
Through a mix of sunny 16 or an external light meter, the M6 still functions perfectly. I keep a spare set of batteries in my bag, but it’s great to feel safe in the knowledge that if the meter fails, the camera still works without issue.
I also occasionally carry a small light meter (Weston Master V) in my bags as well, just because it’s fun to use and pretty accurate as well which gives me a good starting point for the onboard meter.
One area the M6 excels is in the size and weight department. It’s quite compact, especially when coupled with a small lens such as the Leica Summicron 40mm f2 or Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 which I tend to use most of the time.
I don’t ever feel as if the M6 is too big and even though I had thoughts about adding a smaller point and shoot camera, in truth, I doubt it would get that much use as I find the M6 comfortably small enough to use almost 100% of the time.
As you can tell, I’m pretty smitten by the Leica M6. Indeed so much so that in time I think I’m going to add a second M6 (maybe Chrome this time) to enable me to keep one for colour film and the other for black and white film! Of course I could buy a different model, but shooting the same camera and lens appeals…
That seems the perfect option for me.