Happiness is a warm M6 (a tribute)

(I need a fix cause I’m going down)

It has been 2 years since I acquired my Leica M6. At the time I needed a fix for my M2 who had suffered the dreadful viewfinder blackout, I thought that I was going down in my long rangefinder  journey but it just happened that this lonely M6 was waiting for me at a (strangely) unnoticed auction at the bay.

A few words about the M6 in general.

The M6 is the 5th generation of the Leica M camera system. It was produced from 1984 to 1998, the longest production of any M body with more than 100,000 units made. It is also the generation with more “special editions” to the date, some of them are a true gem indeed.

The M6 “Classic” (to differentiate from the later TTL version) came in 3 viewfinder options: standard 0.72x, wide-angle 0.58x and accurate focus 0.85x. These numbers mean the magnification factor of the viewfinder in relation to the 100% (aka 1:1 or 1.0x) real life image that our eyes perceive. Each viewfinder magnification have its specific set of frame lines, the 0.85 has 35-135; 50-75 and 90 as a stand alone unlike the 0.72 which has the 28-90.

The M6 is the third Leica M body with TTL ambient light metering after the M5 and the CL, but the first one to incorporate these feature in the classic M3 body construction.

The particular M6 0.85

The M6 0.85 “Classic” is a relatively rare camera, only 3,130 units were made all black chrome. I acquired one made on November 17, 1997 from a batch of 2,000 units from serial number 2423001 to 2425000.

My precious

Specifications:

Viewfinder: 0.85 image magnification size.

Framelines: 0.85× (35-135, 50-75, 90)

Shutter speeds: Bulb, 1 sec., 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, (ghost 1/50 stop for flash synch), 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000

Film speed: 6–6400 ISO

Power supply: 2 silver oxide button cells (type SR44) or 1 lithium battery (1/3 N) (Which I have never found in my local battery supply store). Power supply is for exposure meter operation only, this means that even if you ran out of batteries you can keep on shooting guessing the exposure using the Sunny 16 rule.

Why the 0.85 magnification? A finder’s keeper’s tale (Sources CQ and KR)

The entire idea of Rangefinders is accurate focus. The longer the Range Finder Base and the larger the Image Magnification size, the longer the Effective Base Length.

RF x IM = EBL

The longer the EBL, the greater the Rangefinder and focus accuracy.

The M3 is the most accurate Leica M, being the M6 0.85 practically as accurate

Camera RangeFinder Base Image Magnification Effective Base Length Focus Accuracy
Leica M3 68.5 .91 62.33 100%
Leica M6 69.53 .85 59.1 95%

The 0.85 magnification viewfinder therefore provides easier focusing with long lenses and more accurate focusing with fast lenses. Focusing is equal accurate with wide angle lenses, you just need the proper external viewfinder for framing.

In addition, the viewfinder is really bright and clear (a joy to use while framing and focusing) and the rangefinder focusing patch is contrasty enough in most conditions. However the patch is prone to flare or fade in poor light conditions and facing directly to the light source. Apparently more modifications were made in the M6 to accommodate the meter, with the results of more flare under some lighting conditions than its previous M counterparts. (CQ). The rangefinder spot of the M6 flares because light leaks into it from the frameline illumination window. (KR)

For this reason I sent my M6 to DAG to install flare-free optics that will improve the flare up to the levels of MP viewfinder which has anti-reflection coating. I believe that Don knows what exactly Leica sacrificed in the M6, M4-2 viewfinder (due to budget and metering reasons) that the prior M3, M2, M4 viewfinders did had, and such improvement reincorporate.

That is the story behind the scenes of my Leica M6 .85 with improved view finder optics. I intend to keep this camera for as long as there is film in this world.

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2 comments
  1. Trevor said:

    I loved my M6 TTL 0.85, until glasses forced me to abandon it in favor of a 0.58 magnification :( I couldn’t see the framelines with my glasses on.

    • Dacnard said:

      True indeed. Unfortunately the 35mm frame lines on the 0.85 are kind of close to the view finder edges. The 0.58 provides a better option to glass wearers. Thanks for stopping by!

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