Unboxing a Brand New, Never Opened, Leica M6 Classic – Video Feature

Unboxing a Brand New, Never Opened, Leica M6 Classic – Video Feature

2400 1350 Nelson Murray

Very rarely does one get to experience something old as though it were new. Instead, we search for the cleanest examples, the vintage gear with the lowest mileage, striving to get as close as possible to finding something untouched. When a camera store in Texas closed more than ten years ago, it was packed with unsold merchandise dating back decades further. After lying dormant for years, these new-but-unsold products were recently recategorized as “old stock” and auctioned off to, among other places, the Leica Store San Francisco. In the lot was a brand-new, never-opened Leica M6, and I bought it.

Based on the serial number, my new Leica M6 was manufactured in late 1985 and has never been touched. The skeptical reader may be thinking, “Rubber and lubricants that old have deteriorated. The camera might not even work!” No doubt, it was a bit of a gamble purchasing an unopened camera that’s two years older than I am, but in speaking to the staff at Leica SF I was reassured that any issues that the camera may have could certainly be addressed through a standard CLA. And with all of the half-century-old M3 bodies out there still dutifully clicking through proper exposures, I had faith in this comparatively young M6. 

Of all the cameras currently blazing a hype trail, the Leica M6 might be the one most talked about. Since its introduction in 1984, the M6 has occupied a sweet spot in Leica’s legendary line of rangefinders; it’s a beautiful, all-manual camera that’s approachable for all levels of shooters.

Key technological features (most notably a through-the-lens light meter with LED viewfinder display) and traditional M body styling finally mixed to create a successful and modernized Leica camera (sorry, M5). It’s a formula that worked when it was new, and the camera has only become more popular with age.

Beyond adding aperture-priority shooting in the later M7, Leica hasn’t seemed to find much in the way of improvements to the M6, at least in a rangefinder (I can hear steam shooting out of the ears of you Zeiss Ikon shooters). Even today, with the M7 now discontinued, Leica’s film rangefinders hold fast to the recipe introduced with the M6. The flagship MP is virtually identical, save for its brass (versus zinc) body.

[Words, images, and video – Nelson Murray.]

What was most startling when I opened the camera was just how great it looked (though in hindsight I’m not sure why I was surprised). I realize that this new M6 wasn’t exactly pulled from the sunken innards of the Titanic, but I admit to expecting a certain amount of age-related fade or creakiness. Yet even the packaging and paperwork felt crisp and new. The batteries, spewing ugly green, were the only items in the box that showed their age. The rest was simply stunning. 

After popping a battery from the 21st century into the body and clicking a 50mm Summilux lens onto the pristine mount, all that was left was to choose which film stock to run through the virgin camera. It only took me a moment. There’s really only one right answer, isn’t there? I loaded a fresh roll of Kodak Tri-X 400, threw on my trusty wrist strap, and headed out the door.   

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Nelson Murray

Nelson Murray is a director and producer currently leading video production at Square in San Francisco.

All stories by:Nelson Murray
7 comments
  • nataliesmartfilmphotography August 20, 2018 at 1:10 am

    Wow 😱

  • For those who might want to emulate Nelson’s excellent purchase, when I last looked, Fotopia in Hong Kong had some new/old stock M6’s for sale at not totally silly prices. When I have bought from them in the past, they were nice folk to deal with.

    M6 is the one to buy and not the M6-TTL. The circuit board on the M6-TTL is fragile and subject to time deterioration especially in high humidity locations. There are, in consequence, no new spares of this board available from Leica. With a dead board, you have a rather crippled camera. I understand that repairs to these boards have not to date, been successful, although I don’t know if anyone has sent a board to George Milton at Quality Light Metric in Hollywood, CA. He has resurrected the dead circuit board on my MR-4 Leicameter, which is not dissimilar technology to the M6-TTL board. I had a long think about buying an M6 as a more reliable back up to my M7 but in the end decided on a wholly mechanical M4-P, with M4-2 Winder on it. My main user M’s have to be motor drive, as my right thumb does not work very well for a lever wind. I have an M4 and M3 but you can’t fit motors to those easily. The M6-TTL board spares problem is plain silly, as Leica who will have the original specs and circuit diagrams plus at least one working example, could easily get these cloned and reverse engineered in the far east at a cost of just a few $ per copy. There are little companies in Guangzhou who do nothing else. If they can reverse engineer an iPhone, the M6TTL board would be child’s play.

    Wilson

    • Very good point about enabling some Chinese companies to create new light meter boards for the M6 ttl. For Leica to do nothing about this problem borders on disgraceful; Leica are better than that.

  • So glad you’re using it!

  • Nice find! The MP does have several notable improvements over the M6 apart from the brass outer construction. The zinc covers are prone to zinc bubbling through the finish, but this seems to happen more with the black vs chrome cameras. The VF/RF system is far less prone to flare (the M6 can be upgraded for $$$), the inner mechanics are built to higher tolerances (you can feel that in the film advance) and the meter has more sensitive readouts/display.
    As Wilson mentioned, the M6 is the one to get over the M6 TTL.
    It’s so unusual unearthing new old stock gear like this! The closest I have to that is a Zenit 12SD and Helios lens. But that is on a whole other level than a Leica!

  • Any need for CLA?

    • Thankfully no! There is the faintest hint of fogging in the viewfinder and that’s it. The advance lever, ASA selector wheel, and everything else about the camera is is excellent shape. I’ve shot a dozen or so rolls through it and everything functions perfectly. The gamble seems to have paid off!

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Nelson Murray

Nelson Murray is a director and producer currently leading video production at Square in San Francisco.

All stories by:Nelson Murray