My thoughts on The NEW Leica M6
They did it, they actually bloody did it! Yes, Leica actually re-released the M6, and not just as a special edition. This is the New M6. That’s right, the hype is real. But is it worth the hype? Well I have been taking this in and ruminating on it for a while. So, here are my thoughts on the camera and what this means for Leica and film photography in general. But before we get into that we must tip our hat to the Leica marketing team.
If you ever want to see a masterpiece of marketing, look no further than what Leica have done to build up the hype for this camera. The secret whispers, little snippets of rumors, all under the veil of cloak and dagger, building us all up. And the rumors flew, from the fantastical to the awfully cynical. But Leica just sat by and watched, waiting for their moment. And when they released they did it to great fanfare, bringing together a new generation of young and influential photographers in a big announcement in Wetzlar. This was a master stroke by Leica.
It’s no secret I am a huge fan of the M6. It was my first proper Leica rangefinder and I have written about the camera a lot. Initially I was cautious and somewhat cynical. I listened to some of the rumors and believed some of them too. Particularly the one circulating about the lack of qualified engineers to make the MP at Leica. So when the rumor circulated that this M6 would be a limited edition of 500 I fell for it.
Well, I stand corrected, kudos to Leica. Leica have shown that they do have what it takes to release a ‘new’ film camera. And it is new. It is not a restomod, which has creeped into cars and watches in recent years. This is a pretty huge undertaking.
Before we go any further we do have to talk about the price. And it is not cheap at $5295 USD. Shed a tear for us over here as it is 750,000 Yen thanks to the strong Dollar. But I really feel like you will be getting what you pay for here. A hand built camera, with brass top and bottom plates, black paint laquer, upgraded finder, and a later style meter. This is going to be a camera that will in theory last you a lifetime.
The price will certainly put some people off and there has been plenty of people making a fuss about the price. But we should remember that then the original camera came out in 1984 is was an expensive camera, and if we go by inflation it has consistently remained an expensive camera. In fact, the sale price for the M6 in 1992 is almost the same as the release price now, once inflation is taken into account. So there should be no surprise that the new M6 is expensive. And remember, Leica is a luxury brand after all.
Then there are folks that will say “just buy an MP instead”. Well, sure, but some people want an M6 and that’s kind of the point really. It is nice to actually have a choice for a change.
But what about the used market for M6’s? It has been surging in the last few years. Will the release of the new M6 change that? Initially I don’t think it is going to make any difference to the market, as we will not actually see any of the new cameras in peoples hands for a few months at least. In the long term I think it might help to level out prices a little bit. But there are always people who will want an original and are prepared to pay for that.
What I think we might see is a slight drop in the prices of used MP’s, as there will be a lot of people eager to trade in their MP for a new M6. This should make getting your hands on an MP that little bit easier. Maybe.
But more importantly, the cost of building a completely new camera, training technicians, building a parts supply infrastructure and having a repairs and maintenance department is hefty. And whilst Leica has an advantage in already having much of this in place, it will certainly have had to ramp the production up by some scale to meet what will be huge demand.
Despite the price this is going to be an extremely popular camera. As has been evidenced by the massive amount of social media posts and comments. Leica have shown that they do care about film, and by releasing this camera they are making a commitment to that. Many years ago I met Stefan Daniel and he told me he was a huge film fan, so I imagine it is cake day for him now.
But it wasn’t just the release for the M6 that was important. There was also more important news that Leica will be offer repair and service for all M6 cameras. All of them. Not just the new ones. That is going to be great information to some people who have been nursing their classics and TTL’s for the last few years, praying that the light meter doesn’t die. To do this is also a pretty big deal. To have the parts and the techs available means they are expecting demand.
So how will this affect film photography? Well it is certainly going to bring new customers in, who may have never shot a film Leica. Which is good for the film business in general.
But will other manufacturers take a chance like Leica? Initially I don’t think so. Leica has a unique position and has continued to produce film cameras. Whilst the other big players in the business ceased production. Starting up production on even an old model would be extraordinarily expensive. And Whilst Nikon, Canon and the others may have big names, they may have difficulty asking $5k for a new camera. It comes down to economies of scale, they would have to produce hundreds of thousands of cameras to be profitable, and they have determined that they cannot make it profitable, otherwise they would have already done so.
But that doesn’t mean that there will not be others that try. I think that a move like this from Leica could provide the push needed for other companies to take the leap. We have already heard rumors from Mint about a new camera and there will certainly be more.
Is it worth it?
Well, put it this way. I waaaaant one. Of course I don’t need one. I have a perfectly good MP-6, but my word do I want one. I love the look, I love the idea of a brand new film camera and I love the M6. Now if only that Yen could be a bit more friendly…