Mailing out the M6

Mailing out cameras and lenses for maintenance can a harrowing experience.

On one hand, I’m excited to get equipment back to 100% but on the other, I get so nervous about loss or damage in the mail. Or just plain bad news from the repairer. And then, of course, I can’t keep using the camera while it’s gone, which is a real issue for one that I use frequently.

A while back, I was fiddling with my rangefinders and noticed that my M6 TTL was giving slightly different close focus measurements than my other cameras. I mounted a few different lenses and focused on a few different objects at different distances, hoping that I was mistaken. But it didn’t take long to verify that yes, the focus on the M6 had drifted.

I wasn’t totally surprised because my toddler had accidently dropped the camera onto a concrete floor recently and I haven’t had it serviced since Don Goldberg upgraded the viewfinder about 7 years ago. Probably many hundreds of rolls have been through it since. And there were other drops too!

Because business has been slow during the pandemic and mailing out gear stresses me out, I’ve just shot the M6 TTL stopped down and ignored the inaccuracy. But I recently I booked, what I expect to be an awesome wedding and certainly need one of my favorite cameras to document it.

Worried that it couldn’t be serviced in time, I contacted Don Goldberg straight away and explained that I needed the camera returned in a few weeks so as to check it before my shoot.

I bit my fingernails for the four days it took to for the M6 to ship via insured USPS Priority service from Maryland to Wisconsin. Sure enough though, I mailed it Friday and I got the notification that Don received my camera last Monday. I considered writing to Don to verify that aliens didn’t abduct him and sign for my Leica, which, they would naturally dismantle and destroy in some cartoonic Mars Attacks type insanity.

Then I figured, eh, don’t bother the guy with my personal paranoia!

But suddenly, only hours after USPS marked the package as delivered, Don emailed me to tell me that the camera was done! WOW!

Don originally quoted me $65 to calibrate the rangefinder. He found that the high shutter speeds were also a little off so he adjusted them as well. He said that he re-lubed what he could. I take this to mean that he didn’t re-lube the whole camera, just what he had access to while while doing the other work. Which is fine. All of that, on top of unexpectedly fast work and Don only added another $15 to my total! Needless to say, I tipped him for the effort.

I got the M6 back today, just a little more than a week since I mailed it out, and am pretty damn excited.

The viewfinder, framelines and patch are crisp and clean and appear to be accurate now. The shutter speed dial and advance feel noticeably smoother. It’s hard to be sure, but I do think that 500 and 1000 sound ever so slightly tighter/quicker also. You can really feel a difference in a camera that’s just been relubricated, like driving my car after a tune-up. It will be fun to go burn a roll of wide open test shots now!

It seems that my paranoid nightmares did not materialize. Honestly, I’ve had the most trouble with official Nikon repair shops than I have with small, one-man operations like DAG as he is famously nicknamed. If you are sitting on some Leica or rangefinder gear that needs to be sent out, check out my list of trusted repair shops. Don’t make anymore excuses! Stop procrastinating!

It’s all really amazing when you think about it.

We live in a culture where, at the first sign of trouble, most devices that have any age to them are simply replaced with something newer – the parts, effort or continued usefulness of the device deemed disproportionate to the benefits of an upgrade. And the stuff we buy is seldom an investment in and of itself, not made to be anything but trash tomorrow. We dispose of so much stuff and make so much work for ourselves learning to use new stuff and to pay for it both monetarily and environmentally. Yet film photographers are privileged enough to still be able to call on these amazing, professional repair folks like Mr. Goldberg to keep our old cameras working like new, serving our muscle memory and allowing us to forestall reinventing the wheel.

It’s really pretty amazing. My clients and I will be safe in the knowledge that my 22 year old camera has a new lease on life (and a 6 month warranty on the work done). The Leica M6 remains relevant and capable. So do two small businesses. Good vibes all the way around.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting!

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6 thoughts on “Mailing out the M6

  1. The folks at Midwest Camera Repair did a bang-up job on my Nikon FE. Came back feeling like it was new out of the box.

    Just so you know, your paranoia isn’t totally unwarranted. I sent my Yashica-Mat EM to Mark Hama for a CLA which he went above and beyond on – even replacing the leatherette on the entire camera.

    Well, he shipped it back with big red “FRAGILE” stickers on it, and the dipshits at UPS (pronounced, “oops”) managed to crush the box along one of the bottom edges. Thankfully, Mark’s skillful packing payed off and saved my beautiful Yashica from harm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whew! Glad things worked out with your Yashica! I often wonder if “fragile” labels read more like “kick me” signs to some folks! I shipped the Leica with insurance both ways, which was not cheap but even in the event that USPS owed me $, it would be a long wait I’m sure and terrible to see careful craftsmanship be destroyed. Nothing beats a good local repair guy!


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