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.