Common M6 Variants
The M6 was originally released in 1984 and underwent a number of enhancements and variations until it was discontinued in late 2002. Ignoring special limited-edition collector models, the following common M6 "flavours" exist:
Summary of M6 Variants
- The plain vanilla model, released in 1984 and manufactured until 1999. Also known as the "M6 Classic". Basically the same camera as the earlier M4-P except it has a built-in, two-LED display light meter. Note, on early versions of the M6 (prior to @ 1988) the display did not give a low-light blink warning. Also, all M6s also feature a (gasp) plastic film counter dial (you won't believe the amount of anguish this causes Wetzlar Snobs…).
- M6 Panda
- A chrome M6 with black shutter speed dial, film advance and rewind crank.
- M6 J
- A collectors item M6 / M3 hybrid, also very popular amongst actual shooters due to the greater magnification of the viewfinder (0.86 vs. 0.72). That was until the production-run HM versions became available. See elsewhere in the FAQ for more info on the M6J.
- M6 Titanium
- A standard M6 with its top and bottom shells given a thin layer of titanium plating. See elsewhere in the FAQ for a more detailed discussion.
- M6 HM
- Leica eventually realised the M6J was very popular amongst real-life shooters because of its higher magnification viewfinder, so the HM version was born. Basically a standard M6 with a higher magnification finder (0.85 vs. 0.72). Why the big deal with higher mag.? Because it gives a more accurate focus and provides a more life-size view.
- M6 LHSA
- A special black-paint version of the M6, especially commissioned by the Leica Historical Society of America. See elsewhere in the FAQ for more details.
- M6 TTL
- Discontinued Oct 2002. A few of the very last M6TTLs had brass top-plates — see a copy of Leica's announcement reproduced below. See also the summary of TTL features further down
- M6 TTL 0.85
- Discontinued Dec 2002. 0.85x finder magnification designed for longer 50mm-135mm lens use. See also notes at the end of this list
- M6 TTL 0.58
- Discontinued Dec 2002. 0.58x finder magnification designed for wide-angle lens use. Some users report that the wider finder lets you use the full viewfinder area to approximate the view of a 21mm and 24mm. Of course it won't be exact, but it's much easier than bouncing around between the rangefinder and accessory shoe VF. See also notes at the end of this list
- M6 TTL scripted-top
- Steven Gandy reported that from the end of 2001, for a small extra charge of DM 30, you could have fancy Leica script added to the otherwise spartan top cover of an M6, just like the good old days of the M3 or M4. Catch was, it was only available for the Japanese market and most importantly, the script was not engraved but merely printed on. In April '02 Leica offered this service to all Leica users for € 190 Euro (+P&H).
- In July 2001 wild rumours circulated on <Greenspun.com: #006HDN>, about a M6 digital back with a 6 MPixel full-frame capture CCD to be offered at Christmas 2001. Of course, Christmas came and went and nothing happened. These kind of rumours circulated for years prior to the release of the M8.
- An M6 with AE? Yes, a few of these were made as prototypes in the 1980s - see the Oct 2002 online discussion at <Photo.net: #003q86>. The camera was never released, instead it morphed into the Leica M7.
- After at least six months of rumours about a follow-up to the M6J, in Feb 2003 Leica announced the Leica MP, the M3-clone all-mechanical successor to the M6TTL. See this separate entry elsewhere in the FAQ.
Brass-body M6 TTLs
A few of the last M6 TTLs were made with the same brass top-plate as those used on the M7. Here's a copy of Leica's official announcement in late 2002:
Information No.: 61/2002
An alle Vertretungen / To all agencies
"Die letzten 999 M6" / The last 999 M6
Jean-Jacques Viau / Product Manager Business Unit Systems /
Tel. # 418 / Fax # 360 /
We now would like to make things official: from the end of December  on, we will stop delivering the LEICA M6 TTL! From January 2003, 1st on, the products with the order number 10436, 10466, 10474 and 10475 will not be available anymore. We will than be able to concentrate the capacity that we have on the very successful M7 cameras in order to best serve the orders that we have..
We would like to pay homage to the M6 myth by making a special series of the very last M6, which will leave Solms." Die letzten 999 M6" is a limited series of 999 M6 TTL bearing a special print "LEICA M6 1984 - 2002". The cameras will have a special serial number of the form 001/999. They will be delivered in a luxury wooden box with a black silk inlay and packaged in the new silver cardboard packaging. Each camera will come with a hand-signed certificate of both Mr. Cohn and Mr. Coenen.
The following version are available:
- 10542 M6 TTL "Die letzten 999 M6" black 0,58
- 10543 M6 TTL "Die letzten 999 M6" chrome 0,58
- 10544 M6 TTL "Die letzten 999 M6" black 0,85
- 10545 M6 TTL "Die letzten 999 M6" chrome 0,85
(Sarcastic aside - Leica users have dubbed this last batch of brass M6TTLs the "666" Leica!)
M6 / M6 TTL differences
- To save battery juice, the larger shutter speed dial of the TTL features an "OFF" setting to remind you to turn the lightmeter off when stowing the camera. Unlike the older M6, merely setting the dial to B still leaves the meter on
- The TTL s/speed dial rotation direction is opposite to that used on older Ms. A huge (and for some traumatic) change, this was done to let you turn the dial in the direction the lightmeter arrows point
- The TTL light meter is -1EV more sensitive
- The TTL lightmeter display has three red LEDs - under, correct, over. The older M6 only had a left arrow 'under' and right arrow 'over', which made it more difficult to judge how far you were from correct exposure
- The TTL model is approx 2mm taller to make room for extra electronics. It's easy to spot the difference - look at the space above the tiny rangefinder window next to the "M6" engraving. For older Ms, the window is almost flush with the camera top. With the TTL (and M7!), there's a small top border
- The TTL model dropped support for reloadable Leica film cassettes (although it's possible to use them if you replace the base-plate!)
- For SCA-3000-compatible flash units, TTL flash control
- The TTL model has the letters "TTL" and a lightning bolt engraved on the flash hotshoe (a dead give-away, no?)
- People who actually use the camera with a flash(!) report it won't fire the flash if the s/speed is higher than X (1/50), or if camera battery is dead or missing
1980 M6 Prototype
Amazing stuff - looks suspiciously like a cross between the Minolta CLE and the M5! See here for a (200 KB) photo and <Photo.net: #003aj6> for an Aug 2002 discussion on the Leica Forum. The re-use of the R Motordrive is really cool though - pity Leica didn't follow this up for the production versions.
Links to M6 Reviews
Here are a few of detailed online reviews of the M6 (and variants) from a photographer's perspective:
The first is by Kirk Tuck, see <photo.net/photo/leica/m6> - take time to browse through the comments at the bottom of the page. Some of the negative "I love my Nikon F4s better!" remarks are unintentionally hilarious.
The next M6 review is by Paul Butzi - <butzi.net/reviews/leicam6.htm>.
Then there is the M6 TTL review at <luminous-landscape.com/reviews/ cameras/leica_m6.shtml>
Finally, here are a few (historical) threads on greenspun.com. They're mainly about the impressions of new M6 users after years of using auto-everything SLRs: