Picking up a Leica camera is quite the experience. Whether due to its impressive history in the bags of some of the most storied photographers out there or simply the feeling of carrying what some say is the perfect rangefinder, Leica and its products have developed quite the cult following over the years.
More recently, Leica M cameras, specifically the Leica M6, have become some of the most sought after film cameras out there.
I purchased my M6 not too long ago and have spent nearly every day with it since.
Let’s take a look at what makes it the top of the line rangefinder, and cover some of the less-than-ideal features as well (after all, no camera is perfect).
The light meter in the M6 is incredibly accurate. I’ve relied on it for nearly every single shot I’ve taken, and aside from my own poor metering judgement, it’s gotten it right every time.
I’ve compared the readings to my Sekonic L-508, and they line up.
The viewfinder itself is bright and easy to see. When you look through, you’ll see two sets of framelines depending on what viewfinder you have and on the lens you’re using.
My M6 comes with framelines for 28mm/90mm, 35mm/135mm, and 50mm/75mm, which works well for my lens lineup. If you want to shoot anything wider than 28mm, you’ll need a hot shoe viewfinder to look through.
Since I have the standard 0.72x viewfinder magnification and wear glasses, it makes it nearly impossible for me to see the 28mm frameline.
I would definitely suggest figuring out what focal lengths you like to shoot before deciding on a viewfinder.
The Lens System
Many people believe that Leica lenses have some of the best optics ever made. And in my experience with them, it’s true.
But while I’ve heard people say that it’s not worth shooting Leica without Leica glass, I just don’t think it’s true.
The nice thing with the system is that you don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars to get incredible sharpness and image quality. Both Voigtlander and Zeiss make some wonderful lenses at a fraction of the cost.
Another advantage, surprisingly, is the age of the M system.
You can pick up vintage Leica lenses that have beautiful character and amazing rendering for under $1,000 that work perfectly with the M6.
Ultimately, buying into the Leica system is a big purchase decision, but it’s one that will likely last a lifetime (at least the mechanical cameras and lenses).
For me, the Leica M6 was the perfect hybrid between a classic, simple analog camera with a light meter.
If you’re set on buying Leica and you don’t need a meter, the M2, M4, M4-2, and M4-P are fantastic options that offer everything that the M6 does and cost less.
If you don’t need 35mm framelines, the Leica M3 is the original. If you want a Leica that’s electronic and more advanced (with aperture priority, exposure compensation, DX coding, etc.), you’ll need to find a Leica M7.
But there’s a reason the M6 has become one of the most popular analog cameras out there – it offers the perfect amount of functionality without much else.
At the end of the day, a camera is a tool to help create. There are plenty of incredible options out there that won’t cost so much. But in my experience, the Leica M6 is a tool that pushes me.
I’ve taken by far my best images with this camera. And I can’t imagine a day where I don’t feel excited and inspired to use the Leica M6.
It might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely right for me.
Thank you so much, Drew! Drew is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out his work on his website and Instagram.
Let us know any questions you have about the Leica M6 below in the comments, and you can pick up one for yourself at KEH Camera or on eBay.
Drew Evans is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film, and he specializes in cityscape and landscape film photography.