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The M6TTL is the last Leica rangefinder camera with a mechanically timed shutter. It's a handsome, compact camera which is surprisingly heavy (1/2 kilogram). It's very solidly built and workmanship is first class. The basic model is available in either black chrome or silver chrome finish and there is a more expensive titanium body.
The M6TTL is essentially a very simple camera. The shutter speed, lens aperture and focus all have to be set manually but that gives the user the ultimate control. It's a camera that has to be mastered and it's not a beginner's camera, nor is it for the impatient or for those who like the electronic convenience of most of today's cameras.
This camera's only concessions to modern electronic technology are its built-in selective metering, with a light-balance display consisting of three red LEDs, and TTL control of flash with compatible SCA 3000 units.
IMPROVEMENTS OVER THE M6
The M6TTL differs from its predecessor, the M6 (sometimes referred to as the M6 classic), in three main ways. The M6TTL provides SCA 3000 compatible TTL flash control. The red LED light balance consists of two opposed arrow-heads and a central dot, instead of only two arrowheads. This makes it easier to see when the exposure is correct.
The M6TTL has a larger shutter speed dial that is easily adjusted with the finger tip and rotates in the opposite direction to the M6. The logic for this is that it now matches the direction of rotation of the lens aperture control and also the direction indicated by the red LED arrow-heads, for correcting under- or over-exposure.
All M cameras have a combined viewfinder and rangefinder. The rangefinder is coupled to the lens and operates from 0.7 meters to infinity. A small rectangular patch in the center of the viewfinder provides the second image from the small rectangular rangefinder window. Focusing is achieved by turning the lens focus ring until the RF image coincides with the main image in the viewfinder. A more accurate way can be to use the top or bottom edge of the RF patch, which gives an effect rather like the split image focusing aid in some SLR cameras.
Focusing using the rangefinder is very accurate and is easier than an SLR in low light or with wide-angle lenses. However, because there is no ground-glass screen, the depth of field is not visible. Lenses have DoF markings but the image through the viewfinder is in sharp focus at all distances.
The M6TTL has one much complained about fault, namely, the tendency of the RF patch to 'white out' if there is bright light source just outside the field of view. I've seen this happen but, frankly, I don't find it too much of a problem and slight repositioning of the eye can overcome it.
VIEWFINDER AND FRAMELINES
Leica RF cameras don't have a zooming viewfinder to match the focal length of the lens in use, such as is the case with Contax G cameras. Instead, the viewfinder is of fixed magnification and has framelines, arranged in pairs, so that a cam on each lens automatically selects the appropriate framelines when it is mounted. The frameline pairs are: 28mm + 90mm; 35mm + 135mm; and 50mm + 75mm.
The framelines move diagonally as focus is changed, to compensate for parallax. This helps avoid unfortunate framing mistakes that can lead to cutting off the top of someone's head in a close-up shot. There is a selector lever, on the front of the camera below the viewfinder window, that enables different frameline pairs to be previewed, to show the view for different lenses without having to change lenses to find out.
The fixed viewfinder magnification has a couple of disadvantages. Firstly, you need to remember which lens you have mounted, to ensure that you use the correct frameline of the two that are visible at any one time. Secondly, lenses of focal length shorter than 28mm need to be used with a separate viewfinder that sits in the flash shoe. Thirdly, the magnification of the camera's viewfinder has a big effect on the camera's usability with different focal lengths, especially at the extremes of the lens range. For this reason, Leica offers a choice of M6TTL bodies with three viewfinder magnifications.
VIEWFINDER MAGNIFICATION OPTIONS
M6TTL bodies come in viewfinder magnification of .58, .72 or .85. In addition, Leica sells a separate 1.25x viewfinder magnifier accessory that can be screwed into the eyepiece to convert a .58 body to .72, or .72 to .91, or .85 to 1.06. Only the .72 body has all six framelines. The .58 is missing the 135mm frameline and the .85 doesn't have the 28mm frameline.
The effective base of the rangefinder and, hence, its accuracy, depends on the magnification. The higher the magnification, the more accurate the focus, which becomes very important with long lenses of wide maximum aperture such as the 75mm Summilux and the 90mm Summicron.
Generally speaking, the .58 body is best suited to those intending to use lenses in the range 28mm to 50mm, especially if they wear glasses. The .85 body is best suited to the use of longer lenses, from 75mm to 135mm. The .72 body is a compromise but works well enough from 35mm to 90mm; the 28mm frameline is too big, especially for glasses wearers, while the 135mm frameline is too small for convenient composition.
Film loading is strange if you're not used to it. The base plate has to be removed and the film loaded from below. I found it surprisingly easy to master film loading but it's still inconvenient owing to the need to detach the base plate. I don't find loading the M6TTL any more difficult, though, than in older SLR cameras where the leader has to be manually threaded into the take-up spool.
Flash synchronization occurs at shutter speeds only up to 1/50 second, which is very slow by modern standards and makes it difficult to use daylight fill-in flash, even though the required SCA 3000 adapter is capable of it. Daylight fill-in can normally be achieved only with very slow film and/or ND filters, to enable the slow 1/50 second speed to be used. However, to many M6TTL users this is of no concern, because they don't see flash as being compatible with Leica M cameras.
The M6TTL can be fitted with the Leica Motor-M, which has a three-position switch giving a choice of off, 1.5 frames/sec or 3 frames/sec. It has a built-in grip that also serves as the battery compartment. It is mechanically linked to the camera's shutter release and causes the release button to recoil quite forcefully after each shot.
For any shot, you can elect to advance the film manually or to use the motor, depending on your needs. That is just as well, because the motor replaces the camera's base plate and it's not practical to attach or detach the motor mid-film. It does make a faint clickety-click sound if you advance manually with the motor attached but I haven't found that to be objectionable, just different to the normally silent operation without the motor attached.
One major advantage of Leica M cameras is the large range of lenses that are available. There are 15 superb lenses in Leica's current range, with focal lengths ranging from 21mm to 135mm, in addition to many older designs. Even the old screw-mount lenses can be used with an adapter, which can be chosen to select the appropriate framelines automatically. Less expensive third party offerings are also available, from Cosina/Voigtlander, Konica and others. Many of these are very good and some are available outside the range of focal lengths provided by Leica, such as the C/V 12mm and 15mm Heliar lenses.
WHAT ABOUT THE M7?
Since the launch of the Leica M7 in the Spring of 2002, the question has to be asked: why choose the fully manual M6TTL when you can have the manual exposure or aperture priority exposure M7 (for additional cost, of course)?
Whilst not wishing to denigrate the M7, my personal preference is still the M6TTL. My reasons:
Firstly, the M7 is a relatively untried model and electronics have tended, historically, to be a problem in new Leica products. I'd rather wait until the hidden bugs have been found and ironed out before taking the plunge.
Secondly, I can't reconcile myself to the idea of only two shutter speeds without batteries. The M6TTL shutter operates normally if the batteries are dead, since it's mechanical. The M7 offers only mechanical speeds of 1/60 and 1/125 with dead batteries; all other speeds are battery dependent.
Thirdly, I don't like the idea, in AE auto mode, of having to keep taking a meter reading from a suitable surface (such as green grass, gray asphalt or the palm of the hand) and then locking the exposure by pressing the shutter release halfway, recomposing and taking the shot - for EVERY shot. This could be a PITA with a motor drive, necessitating manual exposure. It would be better, in my view, if the M7 had an exposure lock that lasted until it was cancelled.
Fourthly, I keep hearing of 'minor' irritations with the M7, like having to make sure the film canister is pushed fully home when loading, to ensure that the DX sensor is making proper contact; the film not falling out easily when unloading, owing to the pressure of the DX sensor; the battery compartment cover tending to fall off and become lost; a constantly blinking light in the viewfinder if the film speed is set using the ISO ring instead of using the DX setting or if the exposure compensation dial is even slightly displaced from the 0 setting; a film speed selector ring that is easily nudged out of place; an exposure compensation dial that needs two hands to change its position.
Finally, I feel sure the price of the M7 will fall in the future. I wish Leica every success with the M7 but, for the present, I'll stick with the M6TTL.
ItÂ´s very easy to work with the M 7. I would never replace them with another M model. The camera is faster, very reliable, helps to get more good shots. Of course, if you will find weaknesses you will find them. ThatÂ´s not different to all other cameras.
I believe Leica should really look into building their M's to order. M photography is very personal and people want different things from their camera. It might even save them a buck or two and increase their margin by selling directly to end-customers.
Bas, Good idea!!! They can accept orders on the website and allow customers options on a number of configurations of the camera. For ex&le, different colors and patterns of the leather wrap, color of the camera (silver chrome, black chrome, black paint, titanium, magnesium, etc), electronic or mechanical shutters, coated or non-coated viewfinders, color of the baseplate, or even etche any names or words on the top-plate, etc. Every option will be charged additional fee.
Exactly. The only way that Leica will be able to meet all of their customers demand. Choices shouldn't be limited to cosmetics but also things like DX coding yes/no. That blinking dot. What's that all about. I would guess that the fast majority of Leica shooters don't rate their film at box speed. So I don't want that in my M7. 135 vf lines, well I'll never need those, take'm out. I'd bet you people are willing to pay a premium for their M-p(ersonalized)
Guys, I disagree on a few points. "Back to the basics" to me means little. Basics in photography is a very subjective thing. No matter how sophisticated the camera, the person operating it still has to compose and make conscious decisions about the metering, etc. Does and all-mechanical camera make you a better photographer? No. Does a Nikon F5 make you a better photographer. No. But I would submit that AF SLRs are certainly much more flexible and allow anyone to take a greater variety of better-exposed and in-focus shots than any Leica M could ever manage. I own Leicas, Contax, and Nikons. I own Leicas because I simply love the quality, mechanical engineering, and aura of the bodies. Yes, I personally feel (I emphasize personally) that Leica lenses do add a certain warmth to photos, but my Nikon primes mounted on various Nikon bodies have taken far more truly good photos. Why? Spontaneity, better metering, and easier handling. My wish list? A Leica M-series autofocus body with multi-pattern TTL metering (I.e. and improved Contax G2). Still made of brass, aluminum, and all that other sexy stuff, but up-to-date technically. It has to happen guys, because Leica has lost market share and the R-series is dying a slow death. For you holdout guys? Maintain the M6/M7 in production until its sales won't support it any longer. Final insult to you "Leicaphiles"
, a true SLR Leica digital that will use R lenses or a new breed of AF lens. It's gonna happen guys, like it or not. Leica can't exist just to make me and every other mechanical device junky happy. It's a business for them as well. Cheers.
Instead of focusing on cosmetics, it would smarter for Leica to look into the new 4/3th optical chip used by Olympus Kodak for the digital M rangefinder. Based on the specs it looks perfect for the smaller M size. I think that the research would be worth looking into so that the Digilux 1 is upgraded to the Digilux M-2
If Olympus is innovative I think that now's the time with the new Kodak chip to drop the science into the digital M rather than this illusory back to the basics.
I would prefer not to see Leica rebuild the M3 again for practical reasons.
I understand what your saying about the Nikons, the AF etc. but I can tell you that from my experience manual non-metered camera's have made me a much better photographer then I previously was with my Nikon F100. Was this because my manual non-metered camera's are Hasselblad and Leica. No, appart from giving you some convidence they don't make you a better photographer. But working with non metered manual camera's have learned me so much about photography that I believe I now am much better then before. I can even say that I am now also much better with the Nikon then before.
It requires knowledge and confidence to stray away from the matrix metering and having made some very good shots with the manual stuff has given me that confidence. I'm sure that I would not have learned so quickly staying with the F100 alone.
So there is a lot to say about learning photography the old way and only then moving to the new stuff. I now do enjoy my F100 more then before. I now quite often use it with spotmetering & slow rear sync flash.
Leica can't build their Ms to order. There are no economies of scale in such an enterprise and would not be profitable. Unless, I suppose, you'd be willing to pay doulble the current prices for an M body.
The M's are already almost completely handbuild /assembled so there is no practical reason this couldn't be done. Because of their "outdated" production methods, they are now very well situated for a Build to Order process. It all depends on the options that they would offer. Economies of scale are not a major driver at the prodcution volumes we're talking about here. Also these would be sold through a different physical channel that could save a bundle for all involved. No more inventory buildup /risk etc. So I see no reason this could not be done. Only risk is that Leica might allianate importers and dealers
I agree for the most part with what you said. However, we often assume that a mechanical camera somehow forces you to make more deliberate decisions about your photos. That may be true to an extent, but at the same time that same concentration devoted to just getting the focus and exposure set correctly detracts somewhat from the effort devoted to "seeing" the shot. There is little to be learned from the process of focusing a camera manually. Exposure, sure. I may be somewhat less sensitive to this issue since I grew up on manual cameras and migrated to AF bodies (while still keeping many manual cameras I should add). I understand metering, contrast, filters and all of the other technical aspects pretty well, so high-tech bodies have never been anything but enhancements for me. Besides, you can always turn all of that stuff OFF on many AF cameras and do it all yourself. I use an F4S as the workhorse of my SLR cameras and it allows utterly complete control over every aspect of the process while also allowing P&S simplicity when conditions favor that.
Finally, consider that the automation that many want very much to show contempt for has so much affected their photo world that they don't even realize it. Autofocus/autoexposure film scanners, TTL flash that allow us to take MUCH better flash photos, motor winders (even M6 guys use them), matrix metering that can get 99% of the photo exposures right, and autofocus which, in my opinion, is MUCH better than I or you can ever manage with manual lenses. That's not opinion, that's fact as documented by countless pros and journals. Several years from the now, when 24 megapixel cameras will be the norm, and most folks will process in Photoshop instead of a darkroom, the F100s of today will be the nostalgia pieces then. Your M6s and Contax S2bs will be the URs of today. And you know what? I don't care as long as I can still get that Leica "look" in my photos and fire off several frames a second at a Formula 1 race with my digital marvel.
A very lengthy reply, still a very quite day at the office here. You come from a different background. You have learned on the manual camera's and moved on to the automated ones. Hence you know how to apply the automation to get the best of it. I started with the automated stuff and moved to the manual stuff and so you have to see my comments in that light.
I'm not saying that a manual camera is better then an automated one, I am saying that a manual camera is a better learning tool then an automated one. You're comment that you can turn off automation and shoot manual is technically valid but the issue is that a user is faced with a $1500 camera equipped with the best matrix metering system around and it takes a lot of confidence to overrule that. The point is that the automated camera's made me feel that correct exposure setting was difficult. Why else would Nikon/Canon put so much effort in developing matrix metering? Why could they still not make one that's 100% correct? Why are all the reviews always paying a lot of attention to the automated exposure settings? Surely it must be difficult then. Then if it is difficult then why should I override it and not trust the technology.
I'm a kid of the computer generation and our attitude is that automation is superior to manual, hence our difficulty to override camera settings. That is a real paradigm that is out there with many photographers. Ask aspiring photographers which technical area they believe to be the most complex and difficult to learn and they will say exposure. The abundance of choices and methods are intimidating to them. Matrix, center weighted, large spot, customizable spot, regular spot, multi-spot averaging, zone system, incident metering, reflective metering and the program modes, sports, landscape, macro, portrait, are all terminology's and methods that are thrown at the aspiring photographer. Even in the manual metering arena there is a lot of confusing subject matter. Dome up or down? Pointed towards the camera, the sky or subject? It takes a lot of time, effort and film for people to start understanding that. Most will be so overwhelmed that will not even bother.
However if one starts with a manual camera you'll find that the principal of the thing is very simple to master. Even Sunny 16 works very well. Only a few rolls will learn you the principals of it and then you have a solid foundation from which to expand. Then you will begin to understand how to apply all the different methods and how they help speed things up. The sad fact is that many will never get there and will stay stuck in their auto mode because they cannot understand the paradigm that they are in. For these people the camera is more then a dark box that holds the film and the lens. It holds the knowledge that they lack and thus they put far more importance on the camera then is required. Go read the canon/nikon flames on the net. They are full of people that are debating that a 45 field evaluative metering pattern must be better then a 10 field matrix because of the sheer higher number of fields, same debate is going on about the 5 AF sensors to 45 AF sensors and the 1005 RGB sensors in the F5. There are very serious, committed amateurs out there that do believe that lugging a 3 pound proSLR around is the only way to get good pictures and that if your serious about your photography then stop complaining about the weight. If the weight is to much of an issue, get a P&S and stop nagging. I'm serious, I've read those comments often. Worse I even believed them for a while.
I see the same thing in the office. People trusting calculations because they are done with a spreadsheet. I've seen people presenting numbers that were absolutely gob smacked that I could spot errors in their spreadsheet calculations just doing the calculations in my head. How could the mighty PC be wrong?
However, now that I've learned to shoot manual I was surprised at how easy it is and at how much better it works for me. I now also understand why matrix metering will never be 100%. Now that I understand exposure I also feel that there is no such thing as a correct exposure. Exposure, as is composition, is a matter of taste on where you want the highlights and shadows to be, there is no automating that.
Camera bodies for me now are not important anymore. I judge them by the tools they have and most importantly the ergonomics of them and how they will support my shooting. For me matrix metering never really worked. I now understand that I favor lighting situations in which matrix metering does not excel. I now prefer spot and set manually or use the exposure compensation. I use the custom function on the F100 that allows you to set compensation with the tumbwheel and that works really fast and reliable for me. If I don't need the speed I still prefer the Hasselblad or the Leica.
So the manual camera's have made me a much better photographer in a shorter period of time then I would have been staying with Nikon only. An other fact is that I would not have picked them up had I not believed that their neg size and optics are better then nikons. So do Leica / Hasselblad make you a better photographer? Yes they do.
Hi Bas, hi Charles, you are right, both. Of course you can`t withstand progress in technology. And nobody really want it. For a lot of purposes autofocus, automatic exposure is a must. If you work as a journalist/reporter you canÂ´t live without digital photography anymore. But most of us make photographs for own use. And to make photographs of my family and my hometown i do not need 5 frames/second. I can only speak for myself: I do not want this automatic stuff if it is not necessary. If one of my frames is not in focus or whatever can happen, it is my mistake !
I chose the M6 because of following:
Battery for metering only, on pair a year, no thought about spare, not expensive, can buy it everywhere.
Spot measuring together with manual shutter/aperture setting, never forget to push the memory button, always involved in light-control (Sorry, M7).
Manual Focus, no attention to what an automatic want to focus.
Quiet operation of shutter and film advance/rewind.
Long lasting rigid construction.
Relatively small together with fast lenses.
Guys, I agree to a point with everything you say. I think everyone's ideas are right. One thing that I feel is still overlooked is that an AF body (especially pro models like my F4S) can be manually focused very easily and you can even get focus confirmation doing so...IF YOU WANT TO. There is simply no advantage to having a manual focus body compared to a good AF body. There seems to be something of a myth floating around that manually focusing makes you a better photographer. I agree with Bas that from a metering standpoint that starting with multipattern metering makes more bad photographers than good ones. I don't disagree with that at all. I guess the easiest way to state my case is this; if Leica made an autofocus M body (M8)
, and it had manual override for the focus, maintained its size and feel, and maintained the beautiful build quality, Leica sales would increase and many more folks would buy Leicas. Even some pros. Not possible you say? The Contax G2 is such a camera with some flaws. It's limitation is a smaller stable of lenses. Period. Zeiss even makes a zoom for the darn thing that's pretty good. Want quiet? Ever use a Konica Hexar Silver? Wanna talk lens quality? Use a 45mm Planar and you'll think some Leica designers defected to Zeiss. The point? Quality, feel, and convenience are possible in the same small Leica package. Wanna go all manual? Do it. Wanna use more convenience at times? Do it. Don't fall prey to the party line that lack of innovation and technology infusion somehow maintain better photographic standards. The fact that 99% of the world's photographers use AF bodies (35mm or medium format now) ought to tell you something.
That's another myth about manual focus. No way, no how can you focus your M6, R8, or any other manual camera as quickly or accurately as I can with my F4 or F100. Can't be done. Especially the F100 with a fast lens. It's nearly instantaneous. I own an M6, have owned other Leicas, and still love them. But, fast to focus compared to good AFs they aren't. You can get to near film-plane-tolerance pretty quickly with an M6, but my F100 will be dead on. You'll get 50% truly sharp photos your way (assuming we're talking focusing quickly) and I'll get 95%. Come on, guys, ask any reputable reviewer or pro and he'll tell you the same thing. We can go on forever on this, but there are many myths about M Leicas that have been hanging on since the 50s. They were faster to focus than the Spotmatics and Nikkormats of 30 years ago, but this is a new day and they are technological relics. I used the same lines to convince my wife I needed the M6, but the simple fact is that it's an outdated design with only minimal advantages: quiet to operate, small, and wonderfully built. They won't outlast a Nikon F5, are no more reliable (mine needed 2 repairs in 2 years), are far more cumbersome to use (ever tried to load your M6 in a hurry or without doing the leader fold?), and are lens-limited. There are a few valid reasons for owning an M6 or M7: you like the beautiful body, you like Leica lens quality (but you can get that with the Rs as well), you like the exclusivity, you like well-crafted mechanical objects (that's me), and you just like the idea of the whole "process" of M usage. All valid, all fair, all a matter of preference. But please don't try to tell me that an M is more productive in any way than a pro AF camera. Not true. Period. I will refrain from further discussion on this topic since I know this discussion with most Leica users is wasted time. I'll spare you all. Remember though, that I've been a Leica user since 1969 and I am as loyal to the brand as anyone. Just know when to put the M6 away and use my other stuff.
On the focussing your 100% correct, but on my walls at the moment the only shots worth putting up come from the blad and one from the Leica. I have however made great shots with the F100 that grace the walls of friends.
I have learned to be more deliberate with my photography resulting in more keepers per roll. Previously I was happy with 2 or 3 out of 36. Now I get 6-7 out of 12 (120 roll) and 10-12 on 24 roll with the Leica (prefer 24 over 36 for push/pull reasons, don't shoot enough for 36 at one speed)
They all have their place. On the F100 I have disabled the focussing via the release button and use the seperate AF button, that helps placing focus where I want it to be.
All in all I am sure that if I now only had to shoot Nikon I could match the quality that I get from the other stuff. But my favorite camera ranking