leica m6 review

Leica M6 Review (Compared with M6 TTL)

I always found the Leica M6 TTL to be a perfect mix of quality engineering and great user experience. The build quality and the mechanics is a joy to work with as like with any other Leica camera [1], the M6 TTL is solidly built. There’s merely anything to complain about. And then, there’s the minimalist approach. The camera layout and the viewfinder is clutter-free, meaning that there’s nothing distracting that comes in between you and your photographs.

The Leica M6 Classic was my favorite earlier as it came with a light meter built into it. The same metering system has been carried forward to the M6 TTL. However, it has an additional feature for TTL flash metering, and the exposure indicator is improved as well. What’s also new in the M6 TTL is the availability of a 0.58x viewfinder option, along with a bigger & intuitive shutter speed dial.

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Who is the Leica M6 TTL meant for?

If you’re willing to chuck out some extra dollars for a film camera that is well built, is precise, and has a minimal yet beautiful design, seriously consider getting the M6 TTL for yourself. This camera model is like the Leica cameras from the old days, but has the benefit of having been made in the modern age.

The Leica M6 TTL fits very well in the hands and has the perfect size for you to carry around. It is definitely not visibly loud, and even the shutter sound is satisfyingly quiet. The absence of a mirror is what makes the camera a bit quieter than the contemporary SLRs. However, don’t expect ninja-level stealth with this camera as it does not have a small footprint as far as size is concerned. If you are mostly into street photography, you’ll instantly fall in love with its rangefinder camera design.

Consider getting yourself this camera if you have the budget [2], and want a clutter-free experience. Then there’s the reliability and satisfaction of working with a Leica.

leica m6

Leica M6 TTL features

Model Leica M6 TTL
Release date 1998
Lens mount Leica M
Dimensions 138×79.5x38mm (5.43×3.13×1.49 in)
Weight 585g (20.6 oz)
Shutter speed 1/1000s – 1s, Bulb mode
ISO range ISO 6-6400
Battery 2x silver oxide (type SR44) or 1x lithium (1/3N)
View finder 0.58x, 0.72x and 0.85x
Framelines 0.58x : 28-90, 35, 50-75 mm0.72x : 28-90, 35-135, 50-75 mm0.85x : 35-135, 50-75, 90 mm

Light meter and TTL flash meter

One of the best features for me that the Leica M6 packed with it when it launched was the inclusion of a light meter. The center-weighted light meter on the M6 meant that you got to be more efficient with the exposures you took. Likewise, when the M6 TTL came out, it included TTL flash metering. When using compatible flash units, this feature allows you to automatically adjust the flash output to get the near correct exposure without having to fiddle with the power settings.

Many Leica users, especially those who are into street photography do not use flash. If you are one of them and do not prefer working with flash, you can pass on the TTL flash metering feature. However, there are other upgrades with this model that may keep you excited.

For instance, the light meter in the M6 TTL has seen some improvements as well. The light meter display has three LEDs for under, correct, and over exposure. The M6 on the other hand only had a left and a right arrow to indicate under or over exposure respectively. This made it confusing to judge how far you were from correct exposure. I’m really glad how this has reduced the amount of guesswork I have to make when shooting with the Leica M6 TTL.

The inclusion of a light meter means that you need to load batteries in the camera. Not doing so will not render the camera dead though. It will work perfectly as the rest of the camera is entirely mechanical. It’s only the light meter that you won’t be able to make use of.

During my course of using the camera, I noticed that the battery life was not really that impressive. On average, I needed to replace the batteries after 5-6 rolls of film. I admire the fact that Leica has an “Off” option on the shutter speed dial. This turns the light meter off to save battery and also locks the shutter release button.

Shutter speed dial

The Leica M6 TTL has a shutter speed dial that is much larger and located closer to the front. Due to these reasons, I really like how you can conveniently change the shutter speed with just the index finger. With the smaller dial on the M6, this was totally not the case.

Size isn’t the only thing that has changed with the M6 TTL’s shutter speed dial. The shutter dial of the M6 TTL is reversed from previous models. What this means is that you can now turn it in the same direction that the arrows in the light meter arrows points towards in order to adjust the exposure. I really liked this change as it makes the camera much more intuitive to use.

leica m6 ttl

Film loading mechanism

I am a fan of the film loading mechanism in the Leica M6 TTL. Dubbed the rapid load system, It is not different from the mechanism in the M6. With my older M6, it did take me a few tries to get used to, but ever since I got a hang of it, there has been no looking back.

However, the fact that we need to take the baseplate off the camera body concerns me sometimes. What if I drop it while changing a roll of film, and it manages to creep down the drain, or into a river? I really think a hinge mechanism would’ve been better to keep the baseplate on the camera body.

Viewfinder

Besides the 0.72x and the 0.85x viewfinder variants, the Leica M6 TTL has a 0.58x viewfinder variant as well. This variant has frame lines that work great with wide-angle lenses, and if like me, you too wear glasses. However, the one that I have is the 0.85x variant. This is ideal for use with longer focal lengths, and with lenses that have a wide aperture. It makes focusing much easier for those kinds of lenses.

Should you get the Leica M6 TTL?

If you are in the market for a Leica film camera, the Leica M6 TTL can be a serious contender. It has to be one of the best film cameras ever made by Leica. The size, the light meter, and the ease of use can make anyone fall in love with the camera.

If you find yourself shooting a lot of action shots, do keep in mind that the shutter speed on the Leica M6 TTL only goes as fast as 1/1000s. While this is ample fast, you might want to consider if that is fast enough for your purpose.

Another very important consideration you want to make with the Leica M6 series is that these are all mechanical cameras (except for the light meter though). You thus have no auto or semi-auto modes to assist you when doing your job. If you want to work with a Leica and wouldn’t mind the camera assisting you, maybe have a look at Leica M7 for its aperture priority mode.

Leica M6 Sample Pictures

The following photos were taken with the Leica M6 TTL with the Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 VM II Nokton-Classic SC Lens using Portra 400.

Final verdict on the Leica M6 TTL

The Leica M6 TTL has to be Leica’s best offering when it comes to a film camera. From the camera’s build and design to the superb light meter, the camera shines in all the departments. And remember, it’s not just the TTL flash metering where the M6 TTL outshines the M6. The shutter speed direction, the ease of use of the shutter speed, and the exposure indicators on the light meter, all come together to make working with the M6 TTL a great experience.

See more recommended 35mm film cameras here and a review on a number of 35mm film types here.

References

[1] https://en.leica-camera.com/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/technology/personaltech/leica-cameras-have-eye-popping-prices-with-photos-to-match.html

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