- Rumors are mounting of an affordable Leica M-series camera.
- The M6 might be the best Leica ever made, in terms of practicality.
- Currently, the cheapest Leica M costs almost $6,000.
The M6 was perhaps Leica’s best camera in terms of usability and simply being a practical film camera. And now it could come back, sort of.
A second set of credible rumors points to a new, cheaper film camera from Leica. Nowadays, Leica is the camera equivalent of the Birkin bag: it may be a great tool, but it comes at an absurd price which, although part of the appeal, has very little to do with its practical value. But Leica was once a workhorse brand, no less affordable than today’s high-end professional cameras. And that may be a welcome throwback to that era.
“The idea behind a Leica was that it would always work because it was well designed and well built. No mangled film, no jammed advance levers, no unresponsive shutter buttons, no The M6 really embodies everything that makes a Leica so great, in terms of reliability and style,” Shawn Kenessey, professional photographer and editor of Learn Photography Skills, told Lifewire via email.
Like all Leica M-series film cameras up to that point, the M6 (manufactured 1984-2002) was fully manual. Manual focus, manual exposure and manual film advance. It had LED arrows in the viewfinder connected to the light meter, so you could set the exposure correctly, and a later variant, the M6 TTL, changed the direction of rotation of the shutter speed dial to match those arrows .
It might seem like a limited feature set, and it is, but it’s better than some of today’s Leica film cameras. Depending on the model you have chosen, you may not even have a light meter.
But those limits didn’t matter. Back then, people were used to using hand-held cameras. And once you got used to it, the M6 was super quick to use. Leica’s rangefinder focus remains the fastest way to focus manually.
The M6 truly embodies everything that makes a Leica so great.
In a rectangle in the center of the viewfinder, you see a second ghost image superimposed on the main view. When you turn the lens, this ghost image moves. Line it up with the main image, and you’re done. Once you get used to it, it’s absurdly fast.
The M6 has a few competitors if you’re looking for a 2022 model to redo. One is the M5, which had an upper matching needle exposure system instead of the M6’s binary up/down arrows. The other was the M7, which introduced aperture-priority autoexposure.
The problem with the M5 is that it deviates visually from typical Leica M designs. The problem with the M7 is that it required a battery to power the full range of shutter speeds, while the M6 only needed a battery for the light meter.
A modern remake
If you want to buy a new film camera today, and you don’t want a semi-disposable piece of plastic, you get a Leica; no one else mass-produces 35mm cameras. And the cheapest Leica film costs $5,595 without a lens.
Maybe Leica sees that its collectibles aren’t a sustainable business. Or perhaps he simply sees a way to divert money from the burgeoning second-hand market for usable Leicas. The M6 easily costs up to $3,000 to use. Unless that, a new M6, or a derivative of the M6, would fly off the shelves.
“[For a while now, the M6 has been] the hottest Leica film camera in online media. Leica could have just followed the ‘request’ here,” says Leica Retrofocus fan and user on photography forum Fred Miranda.
The beauty of this plan is that Leica wouldn’t need to change the design at all. The M6 is already at least as complete as those nearly $6,000 models. However, adding a matching needle for exposure would not be out of place.
I owned and used an M6 for several years, before the internet made second-hand prices absurd. It was fantastic, and I would consider buying another one if it didn’t cost a few months rent. I suspect a lot of people feel the same way.
If you’re into film photography, you have a choice of a Leica or a used camera, and those prices don’t come down either. If Leica does this correctly, it could clean up and make a lot of photographers very happy. Either way, we won’t have to wait long to find out. The Leica Rumors site expects an announcement in October.
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