The Leica M6 – A reflection
This isn’t a review of the Leica M6 as there are much more in depth reviews out there already by much better writers. This is a personal reflection on choosing to buy and use a Leica and how it’s changed my perception on both the brand of Leica and the way I seem to shoot at the moment.
When I bought the M6 and did a little research on it I was surprised at how relatively young it was. I think it’s the all manual build and design that made me think it was much older than it was so it was a pleasant surprise to see it’s young age. I was however a sceptical buyer.
I always feel a bit stupid saying I was a sceptical buyer of a Leica when it cost me around £1000 for the body and a cheap lens. It’s a lot of money to not be sure about a camera but one thing I had learnt from just looking at them is that they retain their value and sell easily. I knew if I disliked it as much as I anticipated I could simply sell it on and look at something else. At the moment nothing was beating my Olympus OM1-n for how much I enjoyed using a camera.
When I first picked up the camera the weight was a huge surprise given it’s relatively small size. I’m used to heavy cameras, using a 5D Mark III and a Mamiya Pro TL, but this was a lot more solid than I expected. It was also as quiet as people had said and just felt well built. It was certainly a good sign!
One thing I have to say here is the main reason I am sceptical of the Leica is due to using a rangefinder and generally disliking the experience and feeling that the idea of the rangefinder was overhyped and people justified their usefulness simply through the expense they had paid. I used a Canon P rangefinder for a short while and the build quality of the camera was great. It was a camera I wanted to love. I was desperate for it to be the camera I reached for and felt like an extra appendage but for me the experience was just clunky, awkward and slow. I know many people who get amazing results from this camera so I know the body is fine but I’d used SLR’s for so long I just couldn’t get to grips with focussing easily and the general guessing element.
This is where on even the first use with the Leica I was using something different. The first thing I had to do was get the right coupling adapter ring for the Voigtlander M39 lens I’d bought. I had to research what this was even about and this solved one of my main grips with the Canon P: frame lines. On the Canon P it had all the available framelines visible at all times which could be distracting or feel as though you were gussing and hoping for the best. With the Leica I was incredibly pleased that the frame lines changed to just the focal length you were using. This gave me a bright and clear viewfinder that is incredibly easy to use and rivalled that of a DSLR for clarity (infact I often find it much brighter than an SLRs viewfinder).
After my first outing I was hooked; the camera was simple yet complicated in what it helped with and made shooting a breeze. I felt an air of confidence with it as I could move easily around people without standing out like a sore thumb carrying a huge camera. It felt less intimidating when I asked to shoot people as the camera looks friendlier. It was so quiet and worked flawlessly everytime and I don’t feel as though I need to be gentle with it.
This has become my 35mm go to camera now and I don’t feel I’m doing it because I feel I should. There have been so many cameras I have wanted to love but haven’t such as the Hasselblad 500cm that I wanted for years and the Canon P which I was certain would cure my rangefinder obsession. I’d even go as far to say that if I had to have just one film camera this could be it, although the Mamiya is still up there.
I’m so happy with the Voigtlander lens I really haven’t felt the need to get any actual Leica glass, especially as my pockets aren’t that deep, so I’m probably not even getting the full Leica experience at this point. Would I recommend a Leica now? Absolutely! Are they for everyone and must you have a rangefinder? Absolutely not! I do enjoy the rangefinder style but for a specific purpose of just shooting on the fly. For more planned work I still prefer a mirrored system where I can see exactly how I have focussed the shot but for quicker compositions or for walking this is my favourite.