This week Leica announced that they are re-introducing the film-driven M6 camera. It's not a special edition but will be available only in limited quantities. Apparently crafting a camera by hand with expert craftspeople is not quickly scalable. Go figure.
For a while in the 1990s I shot many, many corporate shows and events with a collection of three Leica M cameras and assorted M lenses. There was the .85 version (eyepiece magnification) which was great for 50mm and 90mm lenses. There were two of the .72 versions I used as "all arounders." The Leica M lenses were great performers and the rangefinder focusing was something I adapted to right away. But the bodies weren't without their issues.
The rose colored glasses of memory haven't completely blocked from my memory that one brand new M6 was delivered to me with a totally uncalibrated rangefinder. Just absolutely unusable. Right out of the box. Back it went and was replaced by another unit. Over time the rangefinders in the other two cameras slowly drifted out of compliance to the point that two of my three M6 cameras became zone focusing only models. Back in the 1990s service could be okay or it could be horrible depending on what repair was needed. If it was a rangefinder calibration you might have wanted to send the lens you used most with that body to be calibrated in tandem. If it was a shutter repair you might want to pretend you'd never get the camera back and just buy another one to take up the slack.
There were other issues. I guess the most limiting for a corporate event shooter was the 1/50th of a second flash sync. If you needed any sort of fill flash outdoors you were mostly out of luck. But back then even the Nikon F3 only got to 1/90th of a second for flash sync so it didn't seem as egregious.
Loading my M6s was a chore. I got really good at it because I shot a lot of film but that didn't make it any less time consuming. Or fraught.
I'm less inclined to glorify the M6 than some of the newer users who never got to shoot with something as glorious as the Leica M3 SS (single stroke) with a nice 50mm Summicron. That product absolutely defined the golden age of photography and I would conjecture that most of those cameras from the mid-1950s are still in use. They were actually built to last. And many a Leica shooter would tell you that their M3 was still banging out Kodachrome or Tri-X long after their newer M6 bit the dust and headed back to the repair haus.
I guess I feel the same way about the M6 film camera as I would if you showed up and replaced my fuel injection system on my Subaru with a carburetor or two. Or if I still had one of my air cooled Volkswagens that required me to crawl under the car and reset the valve clearances on a regular basis. I remember my Karmen Ghia and my Fastback with fondness but I'd never want to go back to cars that need maintenance every 1,500 miles and were bereft of air conditioning... Just not going back.
I predict that many will buy the new M6. Users will spend a year getting to know all the ins and outs of photographing with a rangefinder film camera. Then, a year later, all those new user M6s will hit the resale market in one prolonged rush. The owners finally figuring out that we've moved on and that the advantages of digital cameras far outweigh the nostalgia of M glory. Or the nostalgia for film for that matter.
But I'm a heavy frame user so that's just my opinion from my spot on the photography spectrum. If you are a careful worker and don't shoot too many frames your affinity for the old tech might be quite different. Your balance between quantity and love of film might be much different.
So, will I rush out and buy a new version Leica M6? No freakin way. You may have noticed that while I might change (digital) cameras systems frequently except for a Hasselblad tens years ago or so I have not acquired ANY new or used film cameras and have no intention of doing so. Too much work. Too little cheese.
The other camera I mentioned is a different story. I've had my eye on the Leica SLS-2 mirrorless sibling to the SL2 since, well, since it was introduced. It's got features I like such as breathtaking high ISO, noise free performance. It's a great video camera and has codecs that I like. The video files don't need to be line-skipped or downsampled as much or in the same way as the video files from the SL2 so that means sharper, more detailed video imaging. And.....it's digital. Once I buy it everything I do with it comes at no additional charge. Well, except for those pesky Leica batteries...
I've been keeping an eye on the used market for one but the announcement this week of the Reporter model sure stuck a hot pin in my acquisition gland. It's just like the Q2 reporter in that it the SL2-S Reporter sports the tough, matte green paint over the (all) metal chassis. It also has the Kevlar/Aramid covering where the stock units have leather or faux leather grippy material. The Reporter SL2-S just looks so cool and is only a couple hundred dollars more than a stock unit. I love the look. But every time my finger hovers near the "Pre-Order" button at the Leica Store Miami webpage for the SL2-S Reporter I reach for one of my original Leica SL cameras, cradle it in my hands, and it seems to assuage and defuse the rampant desire for the new camera.
But it's a dicey time. My birthday is near the end of this month and my track record of buying myself great birthday presents presages danger on the horizon. I guess I'm procrastinating to I can eventually venture back to their site and see the word's, "Sold Out" on that product thus saving me yet another bout of needless expenditure.
But at least at its core the SL2-S is a practical and useful tool for this age. Even if you get the one in Army Fatigue Green.....
Yes, I know. Your mileage will vary. But that doesn't make the Reporter version a bad choice for everyone.