Why I think the M6 is the best Leica rangefinder
I have been through a lot of cameras in my time, and I have owned a few different Leica bodies. I have also got the enviable position of being able to try out more cameras than you can shake a stick at, and I have come to a conclusion that may put a few noses out of joint.
I think that the Leica M6 is the best M-series analogue rangefinder camera that Leica ever made! Now that I have your attention let me explain myself.
Leica has made some great cameras and I have had the great pleasure to be able to have used almost all of them (still not got my hands on an 0 or an Elmax). While the M3 is a stunning piece of engineering and design, there are things about the camera that stop me from owning one. Mainly the lack of 35mm framelines, that is a biggie for me as I shoot pretty much exclusively in 35mm.
Then what about the M2 I hear you ask, that has 35mm framelines. Well, yes it does, but it also has the original vertical film rewind, which is too fiddly for me, I want to wind my film fast and get things done. OK then, the M4 is the camera that you are looking for, it has the angled winders, the framelines, the bright viewfinder and quick loading. Unfortunately, no, it is not. Whilst the M4 is a beautiful camera, which ticks many of the right boxes, it is missing something that I want, something major.
I want a meter in my camera.
There, I said it. I want a meter in my Leica, not on my Leica but in my Leica. So, for purists I am a heathen or something. But no, I feel that the true evolution of Leica design was to have a meter in the camera and I think that the M6 is the camera that has done this perfectly.
So why do I like the M6 so much? What about the MP? The M7? They have meters in them.
Basically for me the M6 is the ultimate user experience in a Leica camera when you really want to get the most out of your camera. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have an MP, but at the same time I don’t want a camera that I would have to cradle, as they do tend to be rather fragile beasts. The MP is made to such high standards that it doesn’t take much to put it off kilter. If you have the money then this is not really a problem, but many of us don’t have the money. And for the price of one clean MP, I can have 2 stunning M6’s. I could even have a black paint TTL and have change, a lot of change. This is a big thing for me. If I am out shooting on the street, I would like to be able to have 2 bodies with me. 2 bodies means 2 different focal lengths and more shots. Buying 2 MP’s would require that I sell some of my organs, which I am rather attached to.
Shooting with a Leica camera is expensive enough, it doesn’t need to be overly expensive. I handle a lot of really amazing Leica cameras, special editions and whatnot, and it makes me feel a little bit down sometimes as I know that some of them will never be used. They will sit in a box, in a safe or on a shelf and never have a roll through them in case it lowers the value. This is such a shame, it is a camera and it yearns to be used. The M6 is not immune to this either, in fact the M6 has had more silly special editions than all of the M cameras, and some of them are downright daft.
But a regular run of the mill M6 is not all that expensive and it will last you a very long time indeed. A sound investment I think.
The M7…well, I am not a big fan of that particular camera. It is not really much of anything in my opinion. It was meant to be the next step, the evolution but it came at a difficult time. Digital cameras were finally starting to be taken seriously and I think that Leica had reached the peak with the M6, what else could you add? I think Aperture priority has no place on a Leica M camera, it makes things too easy. A Leica is meant to be something that you learn to use, something that you have to develop a relationship with. The M7 is also full to the brim with electronic whatnots and thingummys, which is all the more to break down. This brings me on to my next reason why I love the M6.
The M6 is a mechanical camera, that happens to have a meter. One of the very few. If the camera runs out of batteries you can still use it, you just cannot use the meter. The MP is the same in this respect, but again it is the price issue that trumps it.
I love the fact that my M6 will power through roll after roll of film and I don’t have to worry about a battery running out, as if it does I can get 2 LR44 cells pretty much in any convenience store or electrics shop.
The M6 is also tough, very tough. The zinc alloy top plate is tougher than the original brass plates of old (although it doesn’t get the beautiful brassing over time). I have found my camera to be something that I don’t have to be concerned about in the rain, or any adverse conditions. It just keeps on going. You can really work one of these cameras, knowing that the worst is going to happen is that you will need to have it serviced after a few years.
There are other things I like about my M6 too. The viewfinder is clean and uncluttered. The shutter is very very quiet, so I can shoot just about anywhere. Loading is fast, and rewinding is very fast. The camera is very well balanced. There is one thing that I hate when walking with a camera and that is when the camera is poorly balanced so that it tips over or rolls to the heavens. When I have my Summicron on the M6 it is perfect.
The build quality is excellent, despite the purists saying that Leica’s were never the same after the M3. True, that camera was almost over-engineered, there is no way that could be replicated. Some people say that the Solms M6’s are better than the Wetzlar M6’s, but there is very little in it that most people would notice.
I would love to give you some flaws, some cons, but I honestly cannot think of any. I have been using my M6 for a year and a half and it just keeps on getting better. It has become and extension of my hand and I know the camera intimately. I think that this is the sign of a perfect camera, when you know it so well that you could use it in your sleep.
So that is why I think that the M6 is the best film rangefinder that Leica made. It is not overly expensive, it is tough, it is extremely well made, and it has everything that you could possibly need in a rangefinder camera.
The other M series cameras are all brilliant cameras in their own right (I have a soft spot for the M4-P) and I am not saying they are no good, but they don’t have everything that I need from a rangefinder. If only they put a meter in the M4 then I would say that the M4 would probably be the same. But they didn’t.
I am sure that there are plenty of people that disagree with me or may think that I have lost my marbles, and I would love to hear your opinion on this. What do you all think? Please comment and tell us what you think. What is your favourite M camera and why?
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