Leica M6: Impressions

There is no doubt that Leica M6 is one of the most respected cameras in the world. It has gained such fame and adoration that a cult has formed around it.

I have to admit that I’ve shied away from writing about my Leica M6 for a long time. I do like to share my thoughts on the technology and cameras I currently use or even used in the past, but writing about Leica was somehow against me.

Perhaps, I didn’t want to look like another snob using expensive cameras or appear to be bragging about it. So in this article, I will try to be very objective and unbiased.

A front-side image of Leica M6 Classic
Leica M6 Classic

Leica and its cameras

Leica’s history dates back to the last century. The very first Leica camera was launched in 1925. The design and production were led by Oskar Barnack, who was the engineer behind the first revolutionary camera that allowed to use of the 35mm film format in a 2:3 aspect ratio.

Leica was surely not the first to shoot this format; however, it was the first to elevate it to the point where it is still one of the prevalent formats today.

Leica M6 “Classic” and other Leica M cameras

The Leica M series came after the models I, II, and III. It was introduced in 1954 with the first model — Leica M3. Leica M6 was launched in 1984, and its design was based on the earlier models; Leica M3 and M4 cameras.

Although Leica M6 was the first Leica M camera to have a built-in light meter, powered by two 3v SR44 batteries, it is an entirely mechanical camera.

The battery compartment is located on the front of the camera, where the older Leica models had a timer.

Another difference is a more straightforward film-loading mechanism and a faster lever to rewind the film into the canister, which the M6 model inherited from the M4 one.

My first impressions of Leica M6

Leica M6 is my first camera from the Leica manufacturer and their M series. I always wanted to have one. At least to try it out, at least to own it for a while. And when I finally managed to get one, I knew I wasn’t going to get rid of it that quickly. If at all!

Leica M6 Classic in Djibril's hands
The camera fits nicely in the hands.

The first two things that immediately impressed me were the softness of the winding lever and the quiet sound of the shutter. The winding is unbelievably smooth, and I have never experienced such smooth winding on any other camera.

The thickness of the body is just right, making the camera fit nicely in the palm of my hand. Moreover, the overall feeling of the design is more than satisfactory.

The body is solid, the materials are reliable, and the use is addictive.

What surprised me quite a bit was the weight of the M6. Many people often talk about how compact and small it is, so one automatically expects and idealises its size and weight internally.

But it doesn’t seem to be extra light when you hold it in your hand. It weighs as much as a classic SLR camera, and I didn’t feel much difference compared to my other favourite camera, Yashica Mat 124-G.

The ISO dial on Leica M6 Classic

And in terms of its size, it’s such a standard. However, it can be considered compact for a camera with interchangeable lenses.

The design of the camera

I am not going to lie if I say that Leica M6 is a very nice camera, and I’m certainly not exaggerating when I say that Leica M’s are one of the most attractive cameras ever.

The camera provides only the most critical settings — the exposure triangle settings: ISO dial, shutter dial, and aperture dial on the lens.

No time or aperture priority, exposure compensation, or any other functions. Just what you really need, and this keeps distractions to a minimum and lets you focus entirely on shooting.

Using Leica M6

Leica M6 is a rangefinder camera and uses the 35mm format film, so switching from a conventional SLR to this system takes a bit of getting used to.

What is a rangefinder?

A rangefinder is a type of camera with a viewfinder. The rangefinder mechanism inserts two images from two angles into the viewfinder, and a focusing ring on the lens provides focusing. This ring is used to combine the two images into one.

Admittedly, it’s effortless and precise, but the focus is visible in the whole viewfinder on a classic SLR camera. With a rangefinder, you can only see the focusing in the centre, where the so-called focusing patch is located.

Leica M6 Classic in Djibril's hands to show the ergonomics

The M6 can be used in any situation. Its compactness and high-quality workmanship make it excellent for documenting everyday life and making taking photos a gratifying experience. Whenever I come back to it after using other cameras, it always puts a smile on my face.

The camera handles exceptionally well despite its simple design. Everything seems to be in the right place.

What is left to convey?

The M6 is a great camera. But what matters most to me are the photographs it helps me create. Leica M6 has become a tool taken everywhere with me as it allows me to create personal photos no matter the place — whether it’s trips, family, or just documenting my everyday life.

Djibril smiling whilst holding his Leica M6 Classic
Whenever I come back to my Leica after using other cameras, it always puts a smile on my face.

Maybe that’s why I waited so long to write an article about it. I wanted to see if my initial enthusiasm would wear off. However, I can openly say that the M6 is an indispensable camera to me, and I understand entirely why other photographers love it so much.

It may not be the camera everyone wants, and it may not be for everyone either. But it has undoubtedly become the camera for my needs. And I look forward to seeing more photos and moments that I capture with this elegant yet still simple camera.