Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/09/07

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Subject: [Leica] HEXAR RF vs. M5 vs. M6
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2000 13:10:03 -0500 (CDT)

Let me throw in my two cents on the Hexar RF and compare it to the M5 and
the M6. 

PART 1 --- HEXAR RF (vs. M5 vs. M6)

Before evaluating the Hexar RF, let me give my Leica background so that
everything is in context.  I am a serious amateur photographer and the
Leica M camera has been my primary photographic tool since 1963 or 64 (I
am 60 years old).  I started with an M2 and 50 F2.8 Elmar and have also
used the M3, 4, 5, and 6, as well as the CL and  the CLE.  Yes, Iıve used
SLRıs, but not very frequently.  The rangefinder way of seeing has always
appealed to me. 

My current system consists of Leica M5 (with a softie) and Hexar RF, used
with the15 Heliar, 35M Sumicron, 50 Wetzlar F2, and 90 Tele-Elmarit.  I
also have a classic Hexar (original), which has become my main camera for
indoor available light light in moderate size settings, the GR1, and a
Canon QL17-GIII (which always gets thrown in my suitcase as a backup and
gives nice images).  My SLR is a Canon Rebel S with a 35-70 zoom which I
havenıt used for several years.

Whatıs very important for me when using a camera is light weight and a
good viewfinder.   I also realize that EVERY camera is a compromise, so
whatıs important to me may not be to others.  Now, onto the 


My scale says that it weighs about an ounce more than an M6 and a couple
of ounces less than the M5.  It has a very good solid feel in my hands.
The control are very natural for a M user except that the location of the
shutter release is a little different.  The loading is easy and the
rewinding automatic.  With moderate background noise, I donıt hear the
camera rewinding, and when I try to take a picture and get no response I
can get momentarily confused. (The rewind on the classic Hexar is hard to
hear at any time.)

VIEWFINDER:  The RF viewfinder presents an interesting contrast with the
M2,4,5 (I will refrain from my usual tirade on the crummy M6 framelines).
I wear average thickness glasses.  With M5, I can almost see all of the
35mm frameline by jamming my glasses against the window.  The view is
large and gives an interesting sense of being part of the picture.  With
the RF, there is the whole 35 frame floating with space around it (but a
little smaller than the M). In fact I can see the 28 lines.  This is a
different feeling from the M and Iım not sure which I prefer; maybe it
will depend on the situation.  Framing accuracy is better with the 35 on
the RF.  The bigger 90 frameline on the M5 is a real plus.  The 90
framelines on an M6 is laughable (there I go again). The RF finder is a
little dimmer than an M, which doesnıt bother me.  Focusing was quite
easy, but I havenıt  tested the RF yet in a spontaneous low light

METERING (with B&W and color negative): I can manually meter with the best
of them and often do with the M5 and the classic Hexar.  But I like
aperture priority automatic as long as I have an exposure lock. The RF has
two automatic settings, AE and AEL.  In AE I think it meters until the
shutter starts to open.  AEL is like most cameras - when the shutter
release is pressed half way down, the exposure is locked in.  I canıt
understand why AE is even an option.  It seems utterly useless, especially
with the semi spot meter which I will get to next.  My exposure with 25
rolls of B&W and color neg taken outddors in the somewhat tricky light in
Greece was just fine. I only used AEL and never found a need for manual. 

The RF seems to have a very heavy centerweighted system, which may really
be a semi spot meter like the M6. The instruction book is very badly
written, but a diagram in the advertising literature seems to indicate
semi spot with a little spread (maybe like the Nikon F3???).  The RF meter
on AEL even worked very well when I had to shoot very fast with varied
lighting and no chance to choose what to meter on.  With the M5 I know
exactly what I am metering. When I meter in manual, I love the M5.

The 1/4000 shutter speed can be great, if you have too high a speed film
in the camera to shoot in the F5.6 - 11 range or when I want to
deliberately use the wonderful bokeh of Leica lenses.
Yes, I believe in bokeh, no matter what the engineers say.

MOTOR:  I am left eyed, so the motor is a godsend.  With any non motorized
camera, I have to take my eye from the viewfinder to wind the film.

The sound of the shutter and motor are a bit sharp compared to an M body,
but not objectionable so far - the classic Hexar is the best.  However, as
I said before, I havenıt  tested it in an intimate low light setting.
	As I was shooting the rear end of a burro (ugh) in Greece, he
clearly heard the sound (about 25 feet away) and turned to look, which
gave me a nice shot.

 If new rangefinder models appear, I will certainly be ready to consider
them, but I pray they will use my Leica lenses.  Iıd love to see a Bessa R
with an M mount (itıs so nice and light).


 My Hexar RF focuses a little past infinity, so I tested it very carefully
closeup at F2 with both the Konica 50 and the 50 Summicron. with basically
no depth of field, the focus was dead on. Yes it is annoying, but for all
practical purposes, it works just fine. I have now shot about 30 rolls of
film with it and no problems. The most annoying thing for me is not
understanding the exact area being metered. The Konica ad booklet and the
instruction book seem to contradict each other and the review in Pop
Photography was useless.  

PART 2 --- M5 vs. M6

I used them side by side for about six years and finally settled on the

A lot of it has to do with personal shooting style.   I like to work in
the aperture priority mode on my Mıs, i.e., choose the f-stop and depth of
field ( if Iım just walking around), and then use the meter to set the
shutter speed.  This is harder to do with the M6 since the meter doesnıt
work when the shutter is set at intermediate stops.

I also like to know what my settings are.  With the M5, I choose the
f-stop and I SEE the shutter speed in the viewfinder (except under
EXTREMELY low light levels).  Having the meter needles cross on a line is
very quick and sure.  Moreover, the overhanging meter dial can be moved
very easily with your shutter release finger.  With the M6, it takes a
while to balance the two red arrows although there are tricks which can
make it very fast, and you only know your setting by removing your eye
from the finder (similar annoyance with my classic Hexar).  Iıve never
used the M6 TTL with the middle stripe to tell you when you are right on.
Some people find the bright arrows on the M6 distracting in low light and
they can sometimes be very hard to see in very bright light.

The M5 has a narrower angle meter than the M6 and it is easier to know
exactly what you are metering.   Ever since I acquired behind the lens
metering, I also acquired the bad habit of metering every shot.  The M5 is
quicker for this.   
The M5 has the old style frameline, which are much better than the M6, but
maybe not so critical if you donıt go longer than the 50.

There is a much better way to load the M5 than the way Leica describes
(which often leads to misloading).  The M5 feels larger in the hand than
the M6 (it only weighs 3 ounces more) and some like or love it and others
hate it. Before deciding, try an M5  .

If the M6 had the M5 metering and overhanging shutter dial, I would give
up the M5 in a shot.  I love the feel of the classic M2,3,4.   

The M5 uses the old mercury batteries.  I still have a supply for myself.
I also have the MR-9 adapter which, is a tiny voltage regulator, this lets
you put a 76 battery inside it and cuts the power to 1.35 volts (costs
about $30).  Leica says that the Wien battery is better, but the adapter
seems to work fine. Maybe itıs more critical with slow slide film (which I
not longer use).

On a two week trip to Japan, I used the M5 and M6 on alternate days and
saw no difference in the results, but the M5 was handling was preferable.

Jay Goldman

P.S.  I will be away for a couple of days, so don't expect any responses
before Sunday.

Replies: Reply from "Simon Lamb" <> (Re: [Leica] HEXAR RF vs. M5 vs. M6)