A Visual Library on Leica M6J rangefinder camera model - MIR Image Library


Site Progress Update 30.10.2008 1st Draft

LEICA M6J 40th Jahre Leica-M Photography, 1994

In German, "Jahre" means Years. The "J" used in this model can mean "Jahre" or "Jubilee" where the latter term used is also appropriate as the camera model was meant to commemorate 40th Jubilee year since the LEICA-M was first introduced. I have read a reference where a Japanese site has indicated the "J" was for Japan as it was Japanese users group who had provided such a unique configuration for the M6J. Anyway, barring patriotism, Leica is a universal brand and since we think this interpretation has a more logical explanation, we will just accept the "J" means Jahre i.e. a uniquely-spec Leica M6 by Leica AG to commemorate the 40th years of Leica-M photography; full stop. The LEICA M6J has a very unique design philosophy. It was introduced roughly 10 years after the LEICA M6 was introduced, and over a decade, probably everyone has been already very familiar with the usual design of the M6. Prior to its release, we had witnessed a series a small quantity of Leica special releases in different configurations as well as the purposes for their introduction.
Most of these special issues were mainly introduced to entertain individual requests rather than official releases. There was one exception with Special Edition LEICA M6 Platinum to commemorate 150 years of photography and 75 years of Leica photography w/matching Platinum-finish Summilux-M 1.4/50mm issued back in 1989.
The 1,250 units Platinum M6 was the largest single-batch Special M6 edition issued by Leica AG after their earlier attempt in 1979 with the 1,000 units of LEICA M4-2 Oskar Barnack 100th year 1879~1979 Gold-plated limited edition, which was introduced 10 years before the M6 Platinum series. So, technically at the time of its introduction, this Special Edition of LEICA M6J with a total quantity of 1,640 units could be ranked as the largest single-batch release of a special commemorative rangefinder camera model.
  Even for the current LEICA M6 owners, the LEICA M6J would look very different from a standard production M6. For those who had a Leica M3 before, it would probably be somewhat familiar, because the M6J was like a hybrid between M3 and an M6. Judging by its technical specifications, it can also be regarded as a meterless M3 outfit merging with a modern M6 capabilities.

The camera was sold as a kit with an unusual matched optic, a collapsible Elmar-M 1:2.8/50mm lens. Standard component in the kit includes a wooden presentation box, a leather camera case and two smaller secondary leather cases as well as a metal lens hood and lens cap.
The M6J only was only being produced in silver chrome finish only and no known black version has surfaced so far. The original price for a complete kit was rather on a high side, and even today most of the units for sale with "nice numbers" can still fetch slightly above USD7,000-00. There were instances where they were being sold at USD4,500-00~US6,000-00, but that was not indicative of the whole batch price. Strictly speaking, the M6J has presumably a less glaring body spec than a comparable LEICA M6 Platinum and/or some of the Leica M6 collectibles such as Gold Edition bodies; it may make you wonder why would it be still having such an extra premium ? NOTE: Considering a typical standard LEICA M6 silver chrome model which typically retails between USD1,800-00 ~2,300-00, that is quite a difference.
Leica M6 chrome, 1992 top view   To be begin with, here are a few photos of a typical M6 Classic chrome and two early versions of LEICA M3 bodies. Despite all the years of LEICA-M development, most Leica faithful always have a soft spot in their heart for the classic M3. The M6 with its sleek, simple, elegant look and no frills controls, technically, is still a direct descendant of the earliest Leica designs. One way another, it gives you such a feeling of connection with the past. I guess all along, Leica AG always knew this strong attachment and had in mind what the users expected.
Top camera plate of a Leica M3 early double stroke unit with early S/N and Summicron 2/5cm
So when a commemorative theme for 40 years of Leica-M photography was considered, Leica didn't adopt the usual luxurious packaging for the planned release of a commemorative limited edition M6; instead, the eventually released M6J had surprised most people as it had a seemingly M3 look with core M6 features, with a few revised old features. Basically, the M6J shares same design aspiration and quality build as one of those Leica M's which appeared during the 50's and 60's, while it retains most operational convenience of a modern LEICA M6.

From the business point of view, the LEICA M6J was a tremendous success; so successful that some even thought the core design of the M6J would be used as the basis to replace the M6 design. But fortunately it didn't - because to me the entire edition was just using the string of sentimental reasons and brand loyalty as the main tool for marketing the series. Basically, there is nothing wrong with the M6 and it didn't make any sense to revert the design back to M3 look and expect the users to turn around and change their M6 back simply because it looked like the M3. Besides, I guess such a theme can only be used once, as the entire issued quantity was said to be 1640 units, with 40 units per year. I am not sure if my calculation was weak or what, and couldn't get the numbers right, 40x40 that only makes 1,600...unless it is 40 +1 = 1640.
LEICA M6J classic body with certification / letter of authentification

Sectional body viee, top left plate

Sectional view, top right plate
Film rewind crank Viewfinder/rangefinder with additional 0.85x magnification

Other than the usual elegant look, it the M6J offers some hybrid features / designs between an old M3 with a TTL capable M6. It was the first M6 Classic model before 1998 that has incorporated with a high magnification finder 0.86X. Built-in bright lines frames were affected in some ways, so it only caters for 35, 50, 90 & 135mm lenses; other focal lengths may have to make use of finder accessories

How to identify the serialized number for each unit ? Leica cleverly engraved each calendar year and followed by the production number i.e. 1960-xx; the arrangement created extra excitement among buyers who could choose the serial number based on individual preferences, such as year of birth or specific number of significant meaning to individual etc.

Each issued unit bears a unique number on the camera body, with the same number repeated on the matching Elmar-M 50/2.8 lens. Some serial numbers which carried unique meaning in relation to Leica can even fetch slightly higher premium in today's used equipment market. Well, I have to compliment Leica on how they came with a very innovative arrangement in this respect where they had managed to create something extra out of nothing from the conventional numbering method. However, unlike Special Editions, where sometimes users can request a special number, in this edition nobody knows how the distribution of Edition S/N works.

The selection of an ELMAR-M 1:2.8/50mm was debatable. It differs from the current ELMAR-M as it uses the old-style focusing tab but good point is, it uses a collapsible design which compliments the old classic feel of the M6J. A more original idea would be a f/2.0 50mm Summicron-M in similar collapsible design where it would also have been seen as Leica putting an extra effort in this special edition. Further, from practical usage point of view, f/2.8 is still relatively slow for a 50mm lens for wide scope of handheld available light photography.

When it is retracted, the collapsible ELMAR 50mm f/2.8 lens actually looks very tiny on the M6J, the only picture I can get from open source with such a view was HERE.

LEICA has a few lens accessories for the collapsible ELMAR 50/2.8. It was supplied with a metal lens hood (12549) as well as the old-style LEICA metal lens cap. The accompanying leather case can be used for the lens and other accessories. The lens has very well laid out features, especially the excellent illustrated depth of field scales engraved on the outer ring – which is a feature that has all but vanished on modern autofocus lenses.

Overall, the LEICA M6J is considered to be a very attractive option of a LEICA M6. The excessive price tag was the only negative issue, as even in well preserved, used condition it is still considered to be on a high side.
Original Leather case for LEICA M6J rangefinder camera model, 1994
Some may argue it has tremendous collectible value, but I am not sure if anyone has ever thought this model was just a basic, non-precious metal coated rangefinder camera. If your intention is just to have a rangefinder camera for personal photography, all you will ever need is just an “ordinary” M6, where you can literally get one at 1/3 of the price of this collectable model. But if your intention is to acquire an M6J and are hoping the price will appreciate in time to come, which I think it CERTAINLY WILL but not as fast you thought it will be. Reasons:- The M6J edition was issued in a rather large quantity and the market may take a little longer time to digest.
I am not sure if anyone has ever made any comparisons with an alternate Nikon SP Black Limited Edition with a W-Nikkor.C 35mm f/1.8, which can generally be found cheaper, at USD5,000 entry price. Anyway, a LEICA is a LEICA - the M6J is still ranked as one of the most beautifully engineered M6 designs in the recent years: its elegant look and rugged build quality added a touch of an old feel, which, with the usual unobtrusiveness factor, presents itself as an excellent and a very practical imaging tool. Well, I don't intend to dampen your high spirit as I guess it is something like a decision between the heart and the soul.

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Photo Showcase on Selective S/N for LEICA M6J Kit
1954~1959 | 1960~1969 | 1970~1979 | 1980~1989 | 1990~1994

Recommended External Links/Resources:
Stephan Gandy's
LEICA M6J resources | LEICA M6J Instruction Manual (6.3 MB) download (Summilux-net); Alternate Source:- Diplodocs.CN (6.3 MB)

Main Index Page - Leica M6-series models / Main Index Page - Leica-M Series Rangefinder camera Models

Standard Nomenclature / Main Reference Map for Leica M6 Standard Model(s) | Leica M6 TTL Model(s)
Other M6 Instruction Manuals:-
Leica M6 Classic in PDF (3.8mb) by Niels H. S. Nielsen; Leica M6 TTL 3.6 Mb PDF) by Joe Chan

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Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Peter Coeln from LEICA Shop®, Austria who also operates a popular Westlicht Auction House. Image Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.