Better than any Tinder match
It’s been a little over a year when I acquired my Leica M6. Now that I have some actual experience with it, I’d like to share it with you guys. Year ago I was shooting with a bunch of different cameras that started to collect dust almost immediately after moving to M6. Since then I’ve sold or traded all my other cameras, which certainly has saved some closet space.
Almost every camera has their quirks, that makes me go back and forth between them, but M6 has proven to be so close to a perfect match for me that I haven’t felt the need to shoot with anything else anymore. Notice that I’m not claiming it to be perfect, but just a really good fit for my needs. It’s actually a bit of a niche instrument for only certain types of shooting styles, but for those, it is close to perfect.
This is not a Leica M6 review
Before moving along, I’d like to quickly point out that this is not meant to be a Leica M6 review, but rather a short write-up of my personal experience with it. There are so many reviews out there that I’m not writing this to compete with all of them. In other words, no technical specifications in this article.
Leica M6 is a perfect match for anyone who appreciates simplicity and well made rangefinders
Leica M6 was a very smooth transition for me, because I used to shoot Leica M4-2. Back then I specifically wanted to have a Leica body without a light meter, but then I changed my mind and started to look for an M6, because let’s face it, an internal light meter is nice to have no matter how much you sunny 16.
All in all, owning an M6 has been a really positive experience. You could say it pretty much solved all my gear problems, because I simply don’t need anything else anymore. I used to shoot with Olympus OM-1, OM-2, OM-4, Canon AE-1, a bunch of Canonets and GOD knows what else, but they’ve now all gone.
The perfect body
The old adage says that one acquires a Leica body in order to shoot Leica lenses, which I do not agree almost at all. I wanted a Leica because I wanted a Leica body. I’ve had one Leica lens too, but mostly I’ve been shooting with Voigtländer lenses and one Zeiss too. I specifically wanted the Leica body, which is genius in design for several reasons. If I’d win the lottery, I’d buy Leica lenses too, but my current Voigtländer lenses are nothing to complain about.
If I’d prioritise Leica glass, I’d buy a Voigtländer Bessa R2M body and use the remaining money to buy Leica lenses… or at least one… cheap one. I’ve handled a such Bessa once and — how to say this nicely… let’s just say it was a nice camera, but not quite what the doctor ordered.
When talking about gear, people often pay much more attention to sharpness (etc.) than user experience. I often compare cameras to musical instruments. Of course it has to sound right, but the instrument has to work and feel right too. It put a lot emphasis on the camera body, because I feel it’s such an important factor. Maybe in some styles of photography it isn’t as critical, but I’m interested in very spontaneous captures on the street, that favours a no-bullshit camera.
How many times have you tried to take a photo, but had to wait before the auto-focus finally manages to settle and allow you to press the shutter? Or failed to take the photo because the camera thinks there isn’t enough light, and prevents the shutter to go off? Or instead of firing, pop’s up the flash? Or maybe the camera went to sleep even though you thought it was turned on? And how many times your subject has been rendered into a silhouette because the light meter decided to expose according to back light? Or perhaps there’s just too many buttons and you don’t remember what this or that does? I think most cameras are designed to make you mad.
M6 body is a really good design. It’s 95% what I’ve always been looking for. It doesn’t have any useless features and the ones it does have, are well designed and engineered. I find the ergonomics and handling spot on. It works exactly how I want. The same cannot be said with all cameras. The more buttons and features the camera has, the more often I think “Gee, I really wish it would stop doing that.” You know what I mean… whenever there’s a feature that tries to think on your behalf, it increases the risk of doing something wrong, because it can’t know what you think. My digital camera has about 20 different buttons and dials and a vast menu system. There’s always a button that I press accidentally or a wrong setting is somehow activated. A simple mechanical camera, such as Leica, basically has just a shutter speed dial and a shutter release button (+ the controls on the lens of course). What I really like about it, is that photography never feels like a wrestling match with a computer.
The viewfinder is so good, that it is hard to imagine using anything else. It is very close to not having anything between you and the scene.
The honeymoon might be over but the relationship remains strong
During this first year, I’ve definitely used the camera a lot. I got it for serious use and I put roughly one or two rolls through it every week. So far there haven’t been any failures or almost nothing to complain about. I’ve taken in it on long hiking trips, portrait shoots and done more street photography than the law allows. No issues what so ever.
Compared to every other film cameras that I’ve ever owned, Leica M6 seems bullet proof. These things are getting old and most cameras are starting to fail after 40 years. My Leica is from 1986 and still works as it should. Every other of my previous film cameras has failed at some point or at least started to show their age. Some has either failing electronics or mechanics. For absolutely serious photography, something like a Leica M6 is really good option, because it is so well made. I don’t think I could trust an electronically controlled Canon AE-1 enough to take it on a week long arctic hike. Of course there’s no way of telling when a camera is going to fail and how, but M6 certainly seems reliable as heck. My camera herding days are long gone and I’m really not into buying every other piece of junk I find on the flea market. One good camera is enough.
At the moment, how ever, I’m sort of looking into buying a good SLR at some point. Other than that, I have no plans of swapping the M6 for anything else or buying anything unnecessary. At least at the moment I could see myself shooting with the M6 basically as long as I’m into photography. You know when you buy new gear and after a month you sort of forget about it? That really hasn’t happened with the M6. At the moment I don’t have any kind of SLR, which would be nice to have. I lost interest in Olympus OM system, sorry to say, and probably will look into Nikons if I seriously start to gather an SLR kit. But at least for now, I’m more than happy to shoot just with the M6.