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Leica R6 & R6.2: a review

When it was introduced in 1988, the R6 represented a departure from the general trend of adding new features and increasing automatization in Leica's reflex cameras. Its electronics were reduced to a minimum and no automatic exposure modes (program, aperture, shutter speed) were provided. This made the R6 the first fully mechanical, manual-exposure-only Leica reflex camera since the discontinuation of the Leicaflex SL2. Also, compared with its immediate predecessor, the Leica R5, which continued to be sold in parallel, the mechanical shutter of the R6 had a slower maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. However, this feature-retraction was corrected in 1992 with the launch of the Leica R6.2, whose top shutter speed amounted to 1/2000 sec – the same as found on the R5, R-E and R7. Both the R6 and the R6.2 are available in either black or chrome body finish.

Leica R6
Leica R6 (black) with Motor Drive and 35-70mm

The R6 and the R6.2 are functional without battery power. The only features that will not be available in this case are the metering and the self-timer. This tolerance for battery failure and independence of electrical power together with its solid built make the Leica R6 a good choice for extreme outdoors photography, as neither rain, nor heat or cold will bring the SLR down. This ruggedness certainly contributed to the choice of R6-cameras by renowned Brazilian reportage photographer Sebastião Salgado for many of his often adventurous shoots.

The R6 and R6.2 have a viewfinder with an eye-level, non-interchangeable prism, and a viewscreen that can be changed. The standard viewscreen has a coarse central microprism area with a central split-image focusing aid. The remainder of the screen consists of a matte focusing area. Viewing is at full aperture, with DOF preview. There are in-viewfinder displays for aperture, shutter speed, meter diodes, and meter pattern.

Leica R6.2
Leica R6.2 (chrome) with Summilux 50mm f/1.4[amoebahydra]

Four optional viewscreens are available for the R6: (i) a plain-ground glass screen for extreme close-up photography and shooting with very long focal lengths; (ii) a micro-prism screen to further facilitate composition; (iii) a full-field ground glass screen with a grip that is designed for architecture photography or document reproduction; and (iv) a clear-glass focusing screen for scientific photography, including astrophotography.

Leica R6/R6.2 Specifications

  • Leica R bayonet mount;
  • Mechanically-timed, vertical-travel shutter; 1/1000 (R6.2: 1/2000) to 1 sec plus B;
  • Manual exposure only;
  • TTL integrated or selective (7mm) exposure metering;
  • Ground glass, interchangeable viewfinder screen;
  • Hotshoe flash control; 1/100s, TTL-metering;
  • External controls for battery self-check, eyepiece shutter, multiple-exposure, DOF preview, self-timer;
  • Electronic self-timer (9 sec);
  • ISO range of 12 – 3200;
  • Film transport by manual lever; optional motor drive or winder;
  • Mirror lock-up;
  • Batteries: 2 x SR44 (LR44) cells or 1 x CR1/3N;
  • Dimensions: 138.5 x 88.1 x 62.2mm / 3.47 x 5.45 x 2.45in (width x height x depth);
  • Weight: 625g / 22.05 oz.

The R6 has two alternative metering modes: selective and integral. A switch beneath the shutter-release dial controls the choice. Full-field integral metering covers the entire view without any weighting of particular areas, while selective metering measures the incoming light only for the area that is indicated by the outer frame of the focusing circle.

Similar to professional cameras of the time from Canon or Nikon, the R6 has an eyepiece shutter. The latter blocks stray light entering through the eyepiece, if the photographer's eye is away from the viewfinder. Hence, the camera's metering is not affected by light coming in from the back side.

One difference to the earlier R5 is that the R6 and R6.2 offer the possibility to lock-up the mirror. Thus image blur from mirror slap during longer exposures can be avoided. The feature is activated by threading a remote cable-release into a small socket next to the lens mount.

The R6 offers TTL-flash control with an 1/100 sec X sync time. The camera has a flash hot shoe on top with contacts for SCA 350/351/550/551 compatible flash units. The Metz 32MZ3 or Metz 54MZ4 work well on the R6 and R6.2, while Leica's own SF-20, which was designed for the M6-TTL/M7, does not.

Leica R6 FAQ

While the R6 cameras are less prone than some other reflex cameras to electronic failures due to their mainly mechanical nature, they do not seem to be as reliable in the longer term as, for example, many M-series cameras. In particular, some users have reported problems of dials freezing (shutter dial, DOF dial) or the mirror jamming, which have required expert-repairs. Some additional issues and questions that have been encountered by Leica shooter's are listed below with corresponding responses or suggestions.

What are the Leica order numbers of the different R6-versions?

Leica R6 (chrome): 10072; Leica R6 (black): 10070; Leica R6.2 (black): 10074; Leica R6.2 (chrome): 10073 [leica-wiki].

How many R6 and R6.2 cameras did Leica produce?

About 24,000 R6 (20,000 black and 4,000 chrome) and about 21,000 R6.2 (11,900 black, 9,100 chrome) were produced and sold.

Is the faster top shutter speed the only difference between the R6.2 and the R6?

There are other, minor differences, such as the magnified and slightly relocated exposure counter.

Does the R6 offer any built-in diopter correction?

Yes, the camera features a small dial next to the viewfinder that makes it possible to adjust the eyepiece diopter from -2 to +2.

Do the R6 and R6.2 have a dedicated switch for multiple exposures?

No, multiple exposures are enabled by pushing down the rewind release button after taking a shot.

How can I turn the R6 completely off?

The R6 and R6.2 do not have an OFF switch. One can deactivate the metering by moving the metering selector all the way to the left, but the shutter remains cocked and could be triggered accidentally.

How long do the batteries on the R6 last?

With a fresh set of batteries, the R6 can take about 2,500 exposures (approximately 70 rolls of 36-exposure film).

Why are the Leica R6 and R6.2 almost as expensive on the used market as the much more advanced R8?

As fully mechanical cameras, the R6-series was always relatively expensive and continues to remain popular with enthusiast photographers.

Where can I get my R6 or R6.2 serviced and repaired?

Leica does no longer support R-system cameras. The company recommends to send cameras to Paepke-Fototechnik in Düsseldorf for any repairs.

Further Reading

Additional information on the R6 and R6.2 can be found in downloadable versions of the Leica user manuals. Moreover, a description of the evolution of all Leica reflex cameras is contained in the R-system camera compendium. A similar overview of R-lenses with their main physical specifications is equally available on this site.