Why Is the Leica M6 so Popular? Is It Overhyped?

Speaking as an owner, you’ll take my Leica M6 from my cold, dead hands. And even then, you’ll need to have a boss fight with my ghost for it. The Leica M6 is a fantastic camera that lots of photographers love. It’s incredibly popular among film shooters. A few years ago, photographers would’ve said that the Leica M4-P would’ve been Leica’s most popular camera ever. But arguably speaking, the Leica M6 is better. I’ve owned one for years now. Is it the perfect Leica M camera? Not at all. But in the film world, it’s pretty darned close.

Just an FYI, this isn’t a sponsored blog post. But Leica is a current advertiser on the site. We’re transparent about that in the sponsored posts. The idea for this blog post came from search data. Leica has even supported our vision of promoting lenses for the Leica M6.

Editor’s Note: Peer Kugler who wrote in to give corrections that I missed in my writing. The Leica MP has a mechanical shutter and has the old film rewind. The Leica MP is better, but more expensive. And for many of us, it’s not worth justifying the expense.

Understand this: after the Leica M6 came the Leica M7 and the Leica MP (not the Leica M-P). Both are good cameras. In fact, I think anyone could truly enjoy them. But the big issue with the M7 is with reliability. The M7 has an electronic shutter that can go faster than the Leica M6’s 1/1,000th. The Leica MP is at 1/1,000th. But M7 does this only because of electricity. That shutter require the cameras have a battery to work. For most film photographers, that’s enough to turn them off. It opens itself up to a host of problems, including possible repairs, reliability, etc. If the battery dies when you’re shooting, then the camera is useless, and you’ll need to replace the battery. 

“Using the Leica M6 TTL is pretty straightforward. If you’ve never used a Leica before, then so much about it may annoy you. But if you’re willing to understand the philosophy of why and how it works, you’ll discover that it’s wonderful. To use the Leica M6 TTL you simply load some film, set the ISO, half press the shutter, meter the scene, adjust your exposure, and shoot. Of course, you need to pre-focus and all that good stuff, but the process makes you much more a part of the image than most modern picture taking.”

Our Leica M6 review

Trust me, that sucks a whole lot more than it sounds.

The Leica M6, on the other hand, is the perfect bridge between worlds. The Leica M6 has an entirely mechanical shutter. The battery in the camera only powers the light meter. This is similar to the Leica MP, Leica CL and all the variants of those cameras. Sure, your Leica M6 isn’t going past 1/1000th. But you can stop the lens down instead or use an ND filter. And best of all, it will mean that the camera can continue operating reliably. If the battery dies, your Leica M6 basically turns into a Leica M4. In fact, the Leica M4 is pretty much the same camera as the Leica M6 except that there’s no light meter in the former. I’ve owned both. The Leica M4 is genuinely fantastic, but sometimes a light meter can be convenient.

Also, they are pretty affordable. It’s easy to find one reasonably priced on eBay.

The later Leica M7 has the aperture priority mode you probably really want. But the M6 makes you focus harder on what’s going on. And in all honesty, this is perhaps the extra beauty of the camera. You really, genuinely have to think and act carefully to get a good photo. It forces you to be much more calculating. And in the end, that makes you a better photographer. 

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.