Leica M6TTL: Why this is the film camera to go for
After all the scurrying around London with Adam Lee and our M3, M7 and III cameras, I slotted a film into the lovely, mint-condition M6TTL I bought at a bargain price at last year’s Bièvres Camera Fair in France. The camera reminds just what a gem this version of the M6 has always been. In many ways I prefer it to my rather tatty (but tatty brassing is ok, right?) 2005 MP.
The M6, particularly in silver as mine, is the quintessential Leica film camera. Sacrilegiously I even prefer it to the M3 (mutterings from Adam on this, I know, and, yes, the M3 does have a wonderfully large 50mm viewfinder setup).
It’s just that the M6TTL has a light meter (as does the classic M6, of course, not to mention the M5). Modernist I may be, but I find this confirmation of my finger-in-the-wind measurements somehow comforting. M3, M2 and M4 fans will be aghast.
But what I like most about the TTL is the large shutter speed dial that can be moved easily with the right forefinger, thus making juggling of aperture and speed a simpler task. The MP, as with the classic M6, has a smaller speed dial that needs to be gripped—I find myself using thumb and forefinger most times—and it is definitely less convenient than the dinner plate on the TTL.
A further advantage of this speed dial is that it turns in the right direction to harmonise with the instructions of the little triangles in the viewfinder when adjusting exposure. Both lens and speed dial on the TTL move in the direction you expect and not counter-intuitively as is the case with the classic M6.
The big selling point of the TTL upgrade was improved flash metering but I am not too worried about that; for me it's a side show and a classic M6 would suit just as well.
In comparison with its successor, the M7, the M6TTL charms with its basic simplicity and purity. The M7, with aperture priority and electronic helpers (not to mention a tendency to eat batteries), is somehow too close to the digital experience.
This, you will say, is pure poppycock, but it’s something I feel instinctively. Using the M7 will be exactly the same as wielding the newly introduced M-D, a camera which shares all its basic controls and abilities except that it replaces celluloid with a sensor. But we can forgive the M-D because it's a digital.
All this was just an excuse to show you a picture of the M6TTL. These cameras cost more on the used market that the M6 Classic but I think the extra is worth it.
In the picture: Leica M6TTL, originally sold in 2000, with a 1963 50mm Rigid Summicron, one of my favourite lenses both in terms of visual appeal and optical performance.
For a great review of the M6TTL read Michael Reichmann at Luminious Landscapes (may require a subscription of $1 per month).
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