LEICA M11 CAMERA OVERVIEW
A Legend Reinvented, that's what Leica is promising us! Familiar to previous Leica users, especially those in the M10 scope, this camera stays true to the iconic design. But as any long-awaited piece of fine equipment, some interesting changes can be spotted when looking closer at them. Yes, them, because black and silver are no longer just color-based buying decisions any more. Let's get closer to what the red dot brand has been cooking for us.
Unveiling the New Legend
The new Leica M11 is, no surprise, the successor of the glorious M10; a camera famous for tradition, design and quality. So there are some big shoes to be filled by the new M series from Leica. After 5 years, some minor design changes have been made while still delivering state of the art photographic performance for a rangefinder camera. Not that Leica's weren't already intuitive, but this model takes the professional photographic experience to a different level. With the M11, manual shooting combines with the creative freedom of focusing on what matters the most, the images that we are going to take.
Completely reinvented with modern engineering that allows everyone to shoot overwhelming images in a yet inconspicuous way. Explore your images on the go with the new 2.3M crystal-clear touch screen, and enjoy a software user experience inspired by Leica's full-frame cameras. A match made in heaven of both high-end line-ups from Leica. BSI CMOS sensor with triple resolution coped with a new filter technology working together to deliver 60, 36 or 18 Megapixels brilliant images with sharp and natural colors.
Coupled with an almost unlimited buffer memory, the already legendary Maestro III processor breezes through visual data at surpassing speeds. Fast and direct, the new M11 comes with a huge distinction from previous models. Although Q series users might feel the release button quite familiar, the bottom plate has been changed for a quick and easy battery and SD-card bay; also a USB-C port accompanies the bottom setup as well. And something we barely see in the camera world, internal memory of 64GB. To ensure that you'll keep loving your new M11 for years to come, stay tuned for firmware updates which should be published in no time.
Let's Crunch Down the M11 Technical Specs
As you might already know, this is a digital system camera with a rangefinder. A formidable feature that makes it an excellent option for not missing anything from the moment while pressing the shutter button. This benefit is way notorious when compared to cameras from the SLR and DSLR eras, and not so much nowadays with mirrorless camera systems with flawlessly built-in electronic viewfinders (EVFs).
Aside from the heavy reminiscence to the M10, black and silver-chrome models vary substantially from themselves. In short, the black edition weighs around 17% less (530g/1.2lbs) than the chrome version (640g/1.4lbs). Something that makes us wonder, why would anyone go with a heavier version anyway? Especially when they both share the same specs:
- 60MP Full-Frame BSI CMOS Sensor
- Triple Resolution Technology
- Optical 0.73x-Magnification Viewfinder
- 95" 2.3m-Dot Touchscreen LCD
- Internal 64GB Memory and SD UHS-II Slot
- ISO 64-50000, Up to 4.5-fps Shooting
- Wi-Fi & USB Type-C, Dedicated FOTOS App
- Lightweight Aluminum Top Plate
- Electronic Shutter, Multi-Field Metering
- Live View Stabilization
Over 50 Improvements Distinct the M11 from the M10
Not always do we need gigantic files, but sometimes we do. The new M-Sensor gives us the flexibility of choosing between three modes as mentioned before. Meaning that we can work with DNG and/or JPG files within 60, 36 or 18 Megapixel resolution. To achieve that in such a compact camera, Leica introduces an exclusively developed Full Frame BSI CMOS Sensor with Triple Resolution Technology. The M11 is the summit of imaging technology and renders spectacular images when coped with any of the legendary Leica M-lenses. Some might not like this, and some others will, for the first time, multi-field light metering while shooting in rangefinder mode is now available. This will allow Leica-M photographers to focus more on their subject, and less on light metering.
But no sensor works alone, and that's where the Maestro III Processor comes into the game. The fluid and responsive operations of this magnificent camera are in part thanks to the powerful imaging processor. Its advanced algorithm enables the Leica M11 to deliver images of the aforementioned different resolutions while using the full sensor's complete potential. In fact, the Maestro III allows us to, almost endlessly, shoot DNG files even at 36 Mp resolution.
With its Dual Pixel Gain technology, the M11 is outstanding in every lighting environment. Thanks to it, the camera offers a dynamic range of up to 15 stops at 64 ISO. Great sensitivity for sunny days on the streets and also for high-quality landscape shots! Every photo shows the finest tonal separations and very low noise with a natural and elegant look. The maximum sensitivity of the M11 (50,000 ISO) enables us to get images even in extremely low light situations, and they are usable. And thanks to the new electronic shutter, there are also more opportunities to shoot in very bright situations with fast lenses at shutter speeds up to 1/16,000s.
As with any other Leica from the M-Family, the iconic look and feel are very much present on the new Leica M11. Carefully designed, with the new scratch-resistant matte paint finish and high-quality aluminum for the top cover, the Leica M11 is focused on efficiency and ergonomics.
With 800 nits brightness and 100% sRGB color gamut, get a better glance of all your shots with the crystal clear 2.3 Million Pixel touch display. Also, the new status screen gives us direct access to all the essentials, and with an additional function button on the top plate, the Leica M11 supplies more options to customize the camera to our personal shooting needs and styles.
Thanks to users' feedback, the bottom redesign comes with another purpose beyond quick access to battery and SD-Card, a new and more powerful 1800 mAh battery with 64% more power than former models. Shoot longer with a single charge, and if needed, you can also charge the camera on the go via a USB-C port using most USB-C chargers or portable power banks. In addition to the UHS-II SD card slot, the Leica M11 is furnished with an internal storage capacity of 64 GB, letting photographers save image files simultaneously onto two different storage locations. Something worth considering by other camera brands for sure.
Certified Made for iPhone® and iPad® products, the Leica M11 offers a seamless direct cable connection to iPhones and iPads. Just plug in the M11 to an iPhone using the enclosed Leica FOTOS cable for fast photo download and control of your camera with the Leica FOTOS app. And for iPads with a USB-C connector, use the original USB-C cable of the device. The app also provides over-the-air software updates for upcoming support and easy updating to the new firmware.
Last but not least, get even closer to your subjects with the built-in Digital Zoom feature. Shoot in Live View in both JPG and DNG and choose between a 1.3x and 1.8x zoom-factor of the attached focal length. As expected, the DNG file will retain all image's data from the entire sensor area.
How Does the Leica M11 Feel?
Naturally, having a Leica M in our hands is an experience alone. It is just another way of experiencing the photographic act, and the M11 is not foreign to this tradition. The paradigm shift comes with the fact that it is like having three cameras in one, seriously. Each res-configuration comes with pros and cons, and for the classic shooter, this will be an interesting workflow incorporation.
In short, every Leica M camera is a clear statement that for taking photographs, just a few things need to be controlled for us. The chrome version feels heavier, yes, but that gives some photographers an extra level of ergonomics. Although, the swift and agile nature of the lighter black version is perfect for those photographers obsessed with candid shots.
Why not Go with an M10 Instead?
Leica M cameras hardly reduce much of their value, so you'll still find M10 and even M9 cameras at high prices. Unless they have been mistreated to shameful levels of course. The previous series reached 40 MP, which is quite respectable, but why not go with a newer 60Mp sensor for almost the same price of the few M10 that are still left on the shelves? Despite the name that the marketing folks over at Leica decided to call the sensor with, there's some curious thing going on thanks to pixel binning:
- Large DNG (60 MP): 70-120 MB with 14-bit color depth and a buffer capacity of 13-15 shots in DNG and 12-13 in DNG+jpeg and 14 steps of dynamic range. This setting is perfect for getting the finest detail and highest enlargements, as well as allowing cropping without significant loss of size.
- Medium DNG (38 MP): 40 MB with 14-bit color depth and a buffer capacity of 30 shots in DNG and 20 in DNG+jpeg and 15 steps of dynamic range. This is the sweet spot between size and dynamic range.
- Small DNG (18 MP): 20 MB with 14-bit Color Depth and unlimited buffer capacity and 15 steps of dynamic range. Perfect for keeping nasty noise under control.
Pixels are "grouped" as the size of the file gets reduced. Something which enables the camera to collect more information. The most noticeable change is seen in file size; and the additional step of dynamic range will be noticeable in complex lighting situations in which highlights and deep shadows get together in the frame.
Who Should Invest in the Leica M11?
Leica M is a design icon, period. And as such, not everyone has the means to access such a piece of machinery. But let's say that money wasn't an issue, there are still some things that had to be considered if one wants to use a Leica M on a regular basis.
One awesome fact about Leica's legacy is that one can keep on using lenses that were manufactured since 1954. Why? Because the M mount hasn't changed at all. In simple terms, it's a system that works, so why bother changing it.
Not changing the design, except in very specific points, means yielding numerous things that we find in all the cameras on the market. Flip screens, eye autofocus, artificial intelligence and so on. But Leica aims in a different direction. It allows its users to be the absolute creators of the images they capture.
Just like a fine watch, a serious commitment to quality and precision is present in these cameras. So if you can, and want to, invest in something you'll never regret. But only if you are certain that it will challenge you to take more and better photographs, and not just as some status charm.
Beyond being the instant image one gets after hearing the name "Leica", the M series stands for a long tradition of photographers that changed the world with their images while inspiring younger generations into becoming passionate about photography.
Wrapping it Up
The Leica M11 is no camera for modern times. So if you are seeking for tremendous speed and immediacy, there are some better cameras for you. Leica M offers not only a turn back to the basics, but an intimate relationship with both light and time; blended with the human ability to preserve these two in the form of a visual artifact. But all the precision in the world won't matter, if one isn't capable of getting close to things that deserve such high-quality levels of timeless preservation.
If one has such a precise tool, one is the only one responsible for getting things done right. With any Leica M, one simply can't blame the camera for not metering the light in the way it should have been nor that the camera got the image wrong due to back-focusing issues.