Home Film The new Leica film camera: Classic M6 or grown-up M6TTL?

The new Leica film camera: Classic M6 or grown-up M6TTL?

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Rumours continue to swirl around the new film camera, which is to be announced in Germany in the second half of next month. Leica Rumors is convinced it will be a faithful reproduction of the original “classic” M6, complete with Leitz red dot, as introduced to the world in 1984. That Leitz roundel lasted for three years before the substitution of the now familiar Leica badge. LR is almost certainly right, but…

The M6TTL was the immediate successor to the original M6 and came with a number of refinements, including an improved exposure display and a larger shutter-speed dial. This is the editor's camera, with a classic 50mm f/2 Summicron mounted
The M6TTL was the immediate successor to the original M6 and came with a number of refinements, including an improved exposure display and a larger shutter-speed dial. It is a few millimetres taller than the M6 to accommodate the additional electronics. This is the editor’s camera, with a classic 50mm f/2 Summicron (40 years older than the camera).

Yet, in all the conjecture, it seems no one has thought about the M6 that really ought to be chosen as the template for the newcomer. That’s the M6TTL, introduced in 1998, the year before the M6 “Classic” bit the dust. In my opinion, the TTL is a better camera than the M6, despite a couple of extra millimetres on the height and allegedly slightly inferior battery life.

The M6 is the best film camera ever made

— Thorsten Overgaard

TTL for flash

Just to clear up a common misunderstanding, the TTL suffix does not refer to metering, for both the M6 and M6TTL have through-the-lens metering. The TTL, in this case, refers to the flash control. Both the M6 and M6TTL are superb mechanical rangefinder cameras, but the refinements of the later TTL version tip the balance.

The small shutter-speed dial on the M6 and MP (as here, top) compared with the more modern larger dial on the M6TTL (below)
The small shutter-speed dial on the M6 and MP (as here, top) compared with the more modern larger dial on the M6TTL (below). Note that the MP, which is still in production, has no rewind lever, unlike the M6 “classic” and the M6TTL. Instead, the film is rewound by means of less-convenient a knurled knob

Chief among the differences is the larger shutter-speed dial, which, like that on modern digital cameras, can be operated more easily with the forefinger. The M6 had a smaller dial, much like that on the current MP, and it is more fiddly to adjust, often requiring a thumb-and-forefinger approach.

And that’s not all. The small speed dial on the M6 works in a back-to-front fashion, making it rather counter-intuitive to operate (especially if you are used to working with a later model).

The viewfinder of the M6 TTL sports a "correct exposure" dot between the adjustment triangles. On the M6 the central dot is missing. But it is present on the MP (copyright Mike Evans, reprodced from the M6TTL instructions manual)
The viewfinder of the M6 TTL sports a “correct exposure” dot between the adjustment triangles. On the M6, the central dot is missing. But it is present on the MP (copyright Mike Evans, reproduced from the M6TTL instructions manual)

On the M6TTL, the dial works in the “proper” manner so that the illumination of the exposure triangles in the viewfinder follows the direction of the dial. This sensible orientation of the shutter dial was carried through to the M7 and to all later digital rangefinders.

Lighting the way

Furthermore, the TTL model gains a third LED in the viewfinder exposure guide, a “correct exposure” dot between the two opposing adjustment triangles. So the TTL is easier to use and gives a greater level of information.

You might think it is a small point, but I find the TTL system more intuitive. This central dot is also present on the MP, although, in other respects, the camera is similar to the M6.

The M6TTL (or a reworked modern version) would be my choice over either of the two current models, the MP and the M-A. The M-A is a bare-bones basic camera (though beautifully made and of impeccable quality) without a lightmeter, designed to appeal to the M3 fancying hair-shirt brigade. And the rewind crank is an older design and less easy to use. It’s one for the purists.

The current MP, despite the allure of its brass top plate, suffers from that annoyingly small shutter-speed dial and doesn’t even possess a rewind lever. Instead, you have to struggle with the knurled knob of yesteryear.

Never throw away the packaging from a Leica. Here is the editor's M6TTL complete with boxes, instructions, warranty and, even, an unopened strap in its own little box.
Never throw away the packaging from a Leica. Here is the editor’s M6TTL, complete with boxes, instructions, warranty and even an unopened strap in its own little box. This is the sort of “as new” presentation that collectors appreciate. The box even contains the original cellophane wrap for the camera and the container for the papers

Happenstance

I confess to a preference born out of pure happenstance. I don’t own an M6. But back in 2015, I visited the Bièvres Photo Fair with the clear intention of grabbing a good example at the then-going price of around €800. Instead, my eyes lit upon a real beauty, a mint M6TTL, 0.72 magnification, complete with all the original documents and a receipt from a German dealer dated 2000.

The M6TT was manufactuted in 1999 and sold to its first owner in August 2000 for DM 4,648 (less part-exchange of DM 2,200.
The M6TT was manufactured in 1999 and sold to its first owner in August 2000 for DM 4,648 (less part-exchange of DM 2,200).

The camera was purchased new from Foto Koltzenburg in the Domhof, Osnabrück1, on 19 August 2000. It cost DM 4,648 (less DM 2,200 part-exchange), equivalent to €2,376 in new money.

Inflation

This is, without a doubt, a camera to treasure. I already owned a 2003 MP and had always been frustrated by that tiny shutter-speed dial, so the TTL’s amply proportioned helm came as a revelation. The M6TTL is definitely my preference over the “classic” M6.

Incidentally, as evidence of inflation in Leica film-body prices since 2015, I secured the M6TTL for the equivalent of £800. Now, seven years on, this camera would sell for around £3,000, possibly even a little more if the buyer set their heart on the boxed originality and the precise provenance of the set. Provenance is important to collectors, especially as the decades gather.

Resurrection

Would it be too much to expect the new Leica film camera to be a resurrection of the M6TTL, a thoroughly rounded and usable film camera? That would be the sensible choice, in my humble opinion. Sadly, I suspect Leica Rumors is right: we will get nostalgia in spades, a 1980s M6 makeover complete with fiddlesome shutter-speed dial but with a Leitz red dot to make up for it.

But can we take comfort from LR’s suggestion that it could cost much less than the MP and M-A? What do you think? Would you buy one? What is your favourite Leica film camera? Or have you said goodbye to film for good?

A minit-condition camera after 22 years. Note the 0.72 engraving in the rangefinder window and the prominent knurled shutter-speed dial which is easy to operate with the forefinger while holding the camera to the eye...
A mint-condition camera after 22 years. Note the 0.72 engraving in the rangefinder window and the prominent knurled shutter-speed dial, which is easy to operate with the forefinger while holding the camera to the eye…

Links

Leica M6 and M6TTL on Macfilos

Munkeat Ho on the Leica M6 v M6TTL


  1. A quick internet check shows no current reference to this store in Osnabrück. But Foto Koltzenburg branches are still open in Rheine and Bünde. If anyone has further information, please write to the editor.

32 COMMENTS

  1. I think this question is link to what leica was able to invest in term of new RD and factory capability in Portugal. The M7 was clearly the pinacle of the Leica film camera with a far more precise shutter who did not depend on regular CLA, a clearer +Telemeter, a fantastic mode A wich is still in all new M digital Leica. The body quality was improved.
    So if Leica has balls they will relauch the M7-2, with magnesium, and a different battery . Alas the MP, M-A was just finishing old parts with nearly no RD and I am affraid these new M6 will be rebadge MP with the different crank on the side, no more…and a lot of blabla to compensate NO INVESTMENT.
    I haD 20 Ms, nearly all of , sold all digital and I keep a black M—a (my second) as my ultimate M, but I will consider a new M7-2 for sure as it is easier with it to do better picture with the A mode.

    • I’d second that, an update to the M7 would be real progress. With full mechanical fall-back would be nice but not essential. As well as the A mode, some faster shutter speeds would be a bonus but not sure how feasible that would be.

      With film not being so readily available these days, I only tend buy what I can get hold of, which is usually ASA400 Portra or HP5+. Since using the M11 and the hybrid shutter, a whole new world of rangefinder potential has opened up with fast glass which I enjoy without the need for ND filters. Would be nice to get more use out of fast glass in daylight hours on a film camera. Maybe too much to ask 🙂

    • Francois, I agree with you on the M7. I just didn’t mention it because I know it wouldn’t be Leica’s choice. The M7 is an excellent camera and, as you say, is the pinnacle of the film range. I have one myself and find that it so near to the feel and operation of, say, the M10 and M11. Great camera, but not for resurrecting, I think.

  2. Mike

    My guess would be the M6TTL, since Leica discontinued the M6 because Seiko wanted to quit making the shutter mechanism. So regardless of the features I will guess the shutter used will be what is currently available.

    PaulB

    • What I didn’t really mention was that the new camera could include the refinements of the MP rather than going right back to 1980s-type internals.

  3. It will be interesting to see what Leica does for a new film camera.

    But for me, the MP will probably always be the best.

  4. I bought a Leica R6.2 and a Leica R8 recently. I considered Leica M, Leica R and Nikon F. I am still tempted by Nikon but I don’t have any glass (yet). I did already have both M and R glass but I gravitated towards the R mainly because of 1) cost 2) 1/1000s shutter speed limit of the M 3) closer minimum focus distance R glass. The M can be bought new (which is a big advantage) but it is simply never available in the US and the current exchange rate makes it about $1K more expensive than in Europe (the M11 is now $2K more expensive than in Europe…).

    • Surely when stocks are depleting, new arrivals to the US will be much cheaper. It’s just a matter of waiting, I think.

      • Leica added the Trump tax (10% across the board) but they never decreased their prices when Biden got rid of it, instead they frantically continued with their yearly price increases, last year even two, add the current exchange rate to that and you get a complete mess which Leica should urgently address.

  5. Another idea is making an already old camera, for instance with a cool 😎 serial number at a price of six or seven cero $. This way they have more benefits just by making one ☝️. Goood for these crisis times

    • PD If making the new (old) model Msix, they can make just 6, becoming then truly affordable in comparison

  6. On the subject of the new film camera, if it is indeed a (limited?) reissue of the M6 Classic I kind of fail to see the point. I personally would love a new Leica CM point & shoot type of camera with modern day autofocus. The Leica CM (w/ 40mm lens) sells for crazy money nowadays on eBay.

  7. I have two chrome M6TTLs, (0.85x versions) and I decided to hang on to them even though I’m more often using an SL2s these days with my M lenses. I bought them for a good price shortly before they were discontinued. Great cameras. I recently had Leica check the shutter speeds. They are a little out at 1/500 and 1/1000 sec. but I rarely use those speeds anyway and since I’m no longer using slide film I just compensate with the ISO dial.When I want to go old school and slow down I still enjoy using them sometimes.The feel and sound of the shutter mechanism is superb.
    I still say, if Leica wants to keep their film range of cameras going in the future, the best way to support interest and demand would be to manufacture an own brand film. Yes it would take investment, but they are quite capable of doing that. Leitz film anyone? I would love it if it could be a color film but I’d settle for black and white.

    • Hi Stephen,

      I was just reading your comments about Leica’s proposed new M film camera. In the last part of partial paragraph quote “If Leica wants to keep their film range of cameras going in he future, they should manufacture their own film.” I totally agree 100% and this is something that I have been thinking about prior to reading your just-now comment.

      I have thought about sending them an email in regards to this. Not only that, but to design and manufacture a desktop combination film/scanner device for E6, C41, and b&w film processing and digitization. The device will have built-in Leica high quality lens elements with SD card slots for transfer into digital image (24-60 megapixels). It will have slots for inserting the film canisters and film chemicals cartridges (eliminates film mixing mess). I am going to stop right here on this. I can go on and on. What are your respond thoughts on this?

  8. I bought my M6 TTL 0.85 in December 1999, as a millennium present to myself – it seemed unlikely even close family and friends were going to be so generous! It was (and is) everything I hoped it would be, and more besides, though doesn’t get as much exercise these days as it needs and deserves – blame availability of film as the main reason for that (at one point, it seemed to be easing, but nowadays it’s even tighter, maybe as a result of exchange rates and other mysteries). With Fuji Provia now having broken the £20 barrier in the UK, it automatically puts itself into the ‘very special occasion’ category, unless someone else is paying – yes, cheaper negative film (colour or B&W) would help maintain the camera’s exercise regime but my heart suggests only slide film does it justice, even with its contemporary glass. And sorry, but given Leica’s ambitious pricing policies, I don’t reckon their entry into the film supply business would do anything to help the situation.

    In terms of usability, I agree that the TTL is a big step forward from the original M6 – in fact, I’d always understood the later camera’s battery life was an improvement over the original’s, due to the ‘Off’ position on the shutter speed dial actually turning off the electronics rather than just putting them into limbo – but it’s quite possible I’ve ‘mis-remembered’! Having the middle blob in the TTL’s exposure read-out is certainly an advantage – but dare I perversely add that after my first M (an early M2 with MC meter), I actually found the later camera slower to use, as the intrusive viewfinder display meant you were forever chasing the blob by tweaking the exposure up o down a gnat’s, rather than taking a reading at the start of your session then using your inbuilt personal exposure meter to adjust up or down as necessary. I looked in vain for a control to turn down the brightness of the display – maybe there’s now scope to add one?

  9. Fascinating speculation – I don’t know the answer, so I can speculate that it will be an M6 Classic . . . at least on the outside, but the internals can’t be original, so I would expect that they would take the opportunity to make improvements (why wouldn’t they?!).
    This cannot be made out of spares, so I would speculate that as they have to make a new production line it will not be a limited edition.
    As for speculation that it’ll be cheaper . . . . there’s always that speculation, and it’s never been true in the past!
    all the best
    Jono

    • Thanks, Jonathan. I am never knowingly under-speculated. The point you make about updating the internals is logical. Presumably, the MP internals (with the improved exposure display) would be a good fit. But here I am, speculating again.

      Did you see the comment from Francois (below) where he suggests a remake of the M7 would have been a better bet? Perhaps they should never have discontinued the M7, but you will know about this better than any of us.

      Mike

      • I’ll go with Jono on the possibility of new electronics. The M6 is one of the most common Leica film cameras on the second hand market. The value of used M6s has doubled or trebled in the past 10 years. I suspect that Leica will fix the ‘wrong way’ arrows and add a dot for correct exposure. I cannot see Leica getting into the film market, unless they do a rebadging exercise which is the case with some film ‘brands’ these days. Back in the old days, Leica was happy to work with companies such as Agfa. I picked up a nice vintage 1930s Agfa-Leitz film cassette, in its original aluminium container, at the Leica Society AGM in Buxton last April. Which brings another thought. Could bulk film make a comeback in the upcoming era of austerity? I know some people who are still using bulk film.

        This camera won’t be for me, as I already have a large number of film Leicas. If one is not working, I just pick up another one.

        William

    • Whatever it turns out to be, I just think it’s a wonderful thing that in 2022 Leica still cares enough to manufacture a new film M camera.Who else?

  10. So, an M7 with different kind of battery (it’s just awful, in the case you still find the two instead of four units), and extended mechanical speeds.
    Wondering why people would spend about 5K in it (second hand sell for about nearly 4K). Crazy

  11. A simple reissue of the M6 would be most disappointing. Even with new meter electronics. It would show near zero commitment to film.
    A M6 with a new meter, and an updated shutter would be interesting.
    A M7 with all the bells & whistles of the M11 (as far as that could be translated to a film camera) would probably prompt a purchase by me.

    • I tend to agree, Hank. The M7 is a beautiful camera and much underrated possibly because if its appetite for batteries. But is a perfect complement to a typical digital camera such as the M11. Going between the two is seamless.

      • We’ve all become very used to carrying a spare battery around. The new M could have a rechargeable battery pack, which would make a lot of sense.

  12. The “uh fiddly” small dial was designed (originally) so that the coupled meter could be used easily. The M6 kept the form factor as to right way around, the speed dial on the M1-2-3-4-4/2/4/P MD MDa MD2 all turn the sea direction of the original M6, the TTL is annoyingly backwards

    • Thanks, Mark. It seems the TTL carried the “new” direction to the M7, M8 and all subsequent rangefinders. But I agree it would have been confusing at first.

  13. I own an M6 TTL and an M7 as well. I love the fact that all the dials turn in the same direction, even though the M6 TTL is locked centrally. I got them at fairly good prices when it seemed that film would disappear over night. Which evidently hasn’t happened. They both have required some maintenance, the M7 and I crashed when a wild bus driver decided to brake unexpectedly hard, the M6 had some lightmeter issues. For both I got a very convenient finder upgrade, getting rid of the flare. Since then used prices have skyrocketed. But I’m never tempted to sell, which would leave me cameraless.
    Following the advice “stick to one camera and you will handle it with eyes closed” I switch from these two to the digital M very smoothly. I focus on the pictures and the sense they make and love these “sisters”, which looked vintage already when they came out on the market over 20 years ago.

  14. However good the M7 may be estimates are that it will be finally available again in the US by 2027; and this ti fill back orders. A new film camera – probably in a limited edition will be either sold out immediately or never available. So the second hand market for the M6 and M6 TTL will still be needed for anyone who wants to work with Leica with film. My own preference is for the R series – great lenses and good baadies( very cheap right now) and the Leica/Minolta CL with M lenses. I have both and love them – though I have to admit to grabbing the Q2 as I go out the door in a hurry…. I’m with Slow Driver with my R7 and Minolta CLE.

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