How is the build quality of the Leica M6 TTL? – Johnny Martyr Thought & Photography

by Johnny Martir

My daughter and I check out the selection at the Leica Store Paris – photo by Stephanie Lee

Isaiah Hervé and I follow each other on Instagram. He took beautiful, serene landscape photos that blew me away. Her work is so fine and nuanced and nothing that I have the patience or skill for! So, big thanks to him for taking an interest in my bumbling photojournalism!

Anyway, Isaiah used to own an M6 Classic and was interested in moving to the more expensive M6 TTL.

“I’ve read your very cute article about the TTL version, and I wanted to get one because I prefer the bigger shutter speed dial. But there’s been a lot of discussion online about the more perfectly built classic m6 (I had one and had to sell it when I moved a year ago, but I’m ready to go back to Leica lol) and as someone who is only willing to make an investment this big because I plan to using this camera until it breaks… my question is – is the TTL version built to the same standard? Hopefully all the commotion online is misinformed people.

Below is my reply, unedited, directly from the DM:

Glad you enjoyed the M6TTL article, thanks for reading.

So here’s the deal. I don’t make cameras. Neither is anyone talking about things online.

So none of us really know what we’re talking about, do we?

I mean, look at your question. Can it not be clear anymore? This is not a blow against you. I’m just saying that unless you’re at least a repair professional, or someone who has used very rigorously and consistently controlled sample cameras, how can you really take comments from anyone who claims to have all the answers seriously?

I could write a whole other article about all the unsupported and stubborn opinions the Leica folks post about their equipment that I think are wrong with basic research.

But I understand your questions and concerns.

I just bought a second M6 TTL recently and paid more than double what I did for the first. I also want this camera to last me a lifetime and wouldn’t buy it if I didn’t think they would.

The fact is that 80 or 90% of people in this era will never use a Leica 35mm to shoot punishing paid work. But that’s what cameras did before MPs were made.

It’s TWINS! – two 1999 Leica M6 TTL 0.85 in black chrome with my M lens

The M6 ​​TTL is, in my opinion, the last Leica built for professional photography. Everything after that, it seems, was made for collectors and hobbyists alike, as very few people photograph heavy work on a Leica 35mm anymore. Leica may still make their cameras very well but realistically they don’t need to live up to M3 standards to impress anyone.

But this is all hypothetical. If you want to talk about nut and bolt construction, we have to start talking about which parts of the camera are made of brass, zinc, steel, plastic, and if they can or can’t handle the pressure exerted over a period of time. time.

My feeling is that the M6 ​​TTL is over-built for any hobbyist. And criticizing its build quality by comparing it to other Leicas is simply stupid!

But that’s just my personal opinion!

Tell me what’s on your mind!

Isaiah: “That’s a fair enough answer! I’m not using it to say, paid shoot but I do sell quite a few landscape prints and my camera faces some light elemental torment lol. I think if honesty makes me feel better about such a big purchase. I know you probably have more experience using it than most commenters and if you have a good experience using yours over time that’s more than enough for me!

Haha – yeah, it’s all funny when you think about it. Most people will be fine using a $50 Nikkormat for the rest of their lives, but they debate whether one professional grade camera or any other professional camera is durable enough to sit on a table in a fancy restaurant and pose next to a fancy drink for social media. .

Anyways yes, I’d say if you wanted an M6 TTL based on the specs and what you’ve researched, you’d be happy with it for a very long time.

I’ve had my first M6 TTL 0.85 since about 2010. It took me a while to get comfortable carrying it to weddings where guests sometimes bumped into me with drinks, or I literally had to throw my camera in my bag and they fell out. just like that and get hit from time to time. But the camera is fine. It took two pretty serious falls, one hard enough to tear the faux leather, and kept going.

The only issues I had were that the rangefinder was thrown slightly out of alignment on that worse fall, the frame selector once got stuck between settings (it literally only happened once) and the frame counter reset stuck a few times. I’ve had the camera serviced once for the viewfinder to be upgraded and once to be calibrated after that fall but Don Goldberg says it’s not going very far. [He also re-lubricated everything he could reach from removing the top plate during calibration which totally cured the frame counter reset thing also.]

My new M6 TTL has only had 8 rolls of film since it was made in 1999 and most of it is stored in a dry cupboard. I spent 12 rolls in my first weekend with it and then took both M6 TTLs to Europe. Both bodies performed and continue to perform flawlessly.

Among the old Barnacks is an M6 on display at Photo Vincent in Paris

So it’s probably more entertaining banter between friends than bullshit. For the blog, I’d like to wrap things up by addressing a more specific issue that people have when purchasing a Leica M6 TTL. I believe that there are three main concerns when it comes to durability.

Zinc Top Plate – While the old M6 Classic and some of the zinc top plates feature the Leica R as well, this is a major concern with any camera that has one. We’ve all seen eBay specials with rusty top plates. They look like they have a bad case of acne. I’ve even read about a few instances where the corrosion affected the operation of the controls and had to be filed away for the advanced lever to clean them. Really messy, right? But look, unless you keep your M6 in a genuine leather case and live in the tropics, I don’t believe corrosion to the zinc top plate is a realistic problem. For all the corroded M6s I’ve seen, I’ve probably seen hundreds more that weren’t. (I just had a quick look on eBay and found 3 out of 432 results indicating corrosionThe lowest priced M6 listed to date actually shows corrosion to a spotless brass and zinc area!😉 And I get the distinct impression from reading and talking to people and seeing the M6 ​​online and in stores that corrosion is a known problem now and there’s very little contemporary occurrence as people don’t keep these cameras in their cases anymore in different environments damp for a long time, which you shouldn’t do with any camera. I understand if one doesn’t want to take risks with zinc. But I also want to point out that zinc is not as much a cost-cutting tactic as collectors say it is. The zinc top plate doesn’t bend like brass (which is why only the top plate, not the bottom plate is zinc; the bottom plate needs to flex when installing and removing). A hit to the Leica MP hard enough to deform the top plate and damage the meter or rangefinder will, at worst, disable the focus calibration on the zinc M. The zinc top plate will protect all the delicate insides from damage in such a scenario. So if you want to use your camera hard and not live/work in a very humid area my money is still on the zinc. Here’s an old link where a productive zinc discussion had with Tom Abrahamsson.

Weaker Shutter Speed ​​Dial – This one isn’t talked about much. Actually this is probably the first place you read it. But look, if you didn’t know by now, Leica has been selling the M4-P dressed up as the M6, M6 TTL, MP, MA, and New M6 for several years now. So when they flipped the shutter speed dial on the M6 ​​TTL and M7, they weren’t designing an entirely new shutter speed control mechanism. They just added a “transmission” to the current mechanism, which is why the top plates of the M6 ​​TTL and M7 needed to be raised, to account for the additional gearing to reverse the SS rounds. So this is an “extra section”, right? And extra parts mean extra points of failure. In theory this makes sense but in practice, I’ve never personally witnessed or heard of any issues.

Unique Light Meter – Out of the above, the light meter is the only one that seriously concerns me. And frankly it’s not a serious problem. The M6 ​​TTL contained short-lived (only four years of production) electronics for which there were no drop-in replacements available. As Don Golberg explained to me, there are two circuit boards inside the M6 ​​TTL and they have to be programmed by Leica themselves to work. So even if you find a NOS meter board somewhere, you won’t be able to get it working unless you know how to program it because Leica support is long overdue. And the possibility of someone transplanting a working M6 TTL meter from the body of a dead M6 TTL might be similar to the meter that has me dead where I sit right now. But the whole thing is, hardly any vintage camera light meter is very serviceable. Most built-in camera metering systems from the 1960’s still work in my experience. And when my M6 TTL meter finally dies, the worst that will happen is that I will use a separate meter with it. However, some engineers like Alan Starkie are actually working on replacement meters for these cameras. And really, one can’t help but imagine that the meters of the new MP and M6 could be modified to match the M6 ​​TTL if enough people were to run into problems for the service to be profitable.

I think all of these things are worth discussing but not debating and stating one model is superior or inferior to another. The fact is that nothing in life is certain, not even a Leica.

Thanks for your interesting questions, reading my stuff and sharing your amazing photography of Isaiah Hervé! Be sure to visit his website and follow him on Instagram.

And thanks to YOU ​​for reading too. Happy shooting!

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