Whether amateur or professional part of our enjoyment of being a photographer is the satisfaction one gets from the camera they use. No matter what, every camera is a different experience. We all have our favorites, yet we are also willing to try as many different formats and brands as possible.
Some base their ownership on cost and exclusivity. Others want to use the cameras that the pros use. For me personally, I have never been a ‘camera snob’, meaning I use what works best. Brand popularity doesn’t mean a hill of beans to me. Results are what matters most.
In the camera world, especially when were talking about small format 35mm cameras, none have as much mystery or panache as Leica. Maybe it’s because Leitz invented the 35mm camera or because of the German craftsmanship or that they seem to last forever? There are so many reasons one can find to own a Leica. Often still considered the finest cameras in the world.
My first Leica was a Leitz/minolta CL, then a Leica CL, then the M6 you see here. I had read all of the stories, all of the professional reviews and even my close friend photographer guru Bruce Starrenburg touted how the M6 was a camera he would never be without. I think he sold his before I sold mine.
Purchased new, right out of the box the camera needed servicing. The lenses wouldn’t focus to infinity, that and the meter was off a good two stops. Hmmm.
After a CLA (for a new camera.. really?) I was set. I loaded some of my favorite Fuji film and went off to shoot.
Things to like; the build quality is stellar, the viewfinder is crystal clear, the lenses are wonderful. The shutter fire and wind is smooth, though not the smoothest. (minolta XE holds the crown). Easy to carry, fairly compact.
Things not to like; the ‘black chrome’ wears easily and looks ugly after a few hours of handling. The viewfinder can ‘flare’ in some instances making it impossible to focus. The bottom plate film loading is out of the Stone Age. Forget having to load in seconds, it’s going to take some time to learn to do this and it will never be quick.
There are also limitations using the rangefinder format. Lens focal length is best kept to 50mm and wider. Using a 90mm, the focusing patch is so small and the rangefinder length itself compromises the accuracy.
I used mine regularly for about 6 years. Diligently carrying it with me everywhere. But I never fell in love with it. I hated having to remove my eye from the viewfinder to see the shutter speed. I hated having to load film into it. Every time I had to wind a frame or release the shutter, I missed the precision and smoothness of my minolta XE.
While I did get many good shots, I also got as many over or under exposed images. I never checked but I am certain that the metering is center weighted, as opposed to being bottomed weighted which yields better results.
I also came to realize why SLR’s took over in the professional field. When you’re framing, you are actually looking through the picture taking lens, not an offset rangefinder.
I also found that when I carry a camera for grab shots, I liked the 40-50mm focal length best. The 45mm Rokkor pancake lens on my minolta XE-7 actually makes for a smaller package then the M6 with the 50mm Leitz Summircon attached. The minolta is also a much more enjoyable camera to use and the results are always perfect. Always.
So it was an easy camera for me to part with. Yes, I know some of you will die with your Leica M camera in your hands. I won’t. All in all the camera to me, was just another camera. While I do enjoy using rangefinder cameras, this one really failed me in the ‘magic’ department. It just didn’t have any.