Review: Leica M11

The Leica M11 is the most modern M-camera. The camera has numerous small and large innovations, including a new sensor and processor. However, fans of the classic Leica can rest assured: the Leica M11 still looks and feels very traditional.

TEST RESULTS Leica M11:

PROS

CONS

  • 60-megapixel sensor

  • Improved screen

  • USB-C connection

  • New battery and base plate

  • More custom buttons

  • New Visoflex viewfinder

  • Battery lock

  • No stabilization

  • Hefty price

The M11 hardly seems to change compared to the M10, but appearance deceives.

IntroductiON: Leica M11

The Leica M11 is unmistakably a real Leica rangefinder. Outwardly, it is almost indistinguishable from its predecessor, the M10. Nevertheless, the M11 is a significant step forward in the development of the M-system. First of all, the camera has a new sensor and a new processor. The new BSI CMOS sensor has higher resolution. The M10 has 42 megapixels, the M11 60 megapixels. For photographers who don’t always need it, Leica offers the possibility to shoot at 36 megapixels or 18 megapixels, without a crop. These lower resolutions can be set independently for the DNG RAW files and the JPEGs. Incidentally, a crop can also be set in two positions. This gives you 39- and 18-megapixel output. The camera still records a complete 60-megapixel RAW file.

Another innovation that will hardly be noticeable to non-Leica users is the new construction of the base plate. You no longer need to unscrew it to replace the memory card or battery. With this, Leica breaks with nearly a century of tradition. The battery is of a new type and is part of the base plate, just like on the Leica Q cameras. Furthermore, the M11 has a USB-C connection. This allows the camera to be loaded and files to be written to a computer or a smartphone or tablet with iOS. The light meter on the sensor is now a multi-segment meter and can be used with the shutter open, even if you use the viewfinder for focusing. It is useful not to always switch off the camera after each shot, because the start-up time of the Leica M11 is quite long, just like on the M10. Fortunately, the battery lasts a long time, partly due to the lack of an electronic viewfinder.

BUILD AND OPERATION

The Leica M11 is available in two versions: silver and black. In this case, the choice of one or the other color is not only made because of the appearance. The silver version has a classic bronze camera housing; the black one is made of aluminum. You can’t see that, but you can feel it. The black one is 110 grams lighter. That’s a difference of about 20%. That’s a lot. At first glance, what is not striking, but what is a big step for Leica, is the different construction of the bottom.

The updated bottom of the M11, with the battery unlocked next to the tripod connector, the battery on the right and the USB-C connector on the far right at the corner.

With classic filming Leicas, you always had to unscrew the entire base plate to change the film cassette. Even on the Leica M10, this is the case if you want to replace the battery. On the Leica M11, the bottom plate no longer needs to be removed, but the battery itself is part of the bottom. Next to the battery is a slide to unlock the battery. Unfortunately, this is right next to the tripod connection. If you use a quick coupling plate, it will cover the battery release. The battery must also be removed if you want to replace the memory card. The M11 has an SD slot that is suitable for UHS-II cards. In addition, the M11 fortunately still has generous built-in memory. The M11 also has more options to adapt the camera to your own needs. The camera has two custom buttons, and the control dial on the back can now also be pressed. As a result, that wheel can have a dual function and both functions can be programmed by the user.

VIEWFINDER AND SCREEN

The viewfinder of the M11 is unchanged from the M10. The screen has been improved and now has 2.36 million pixels, compared to just over 1 million on the M10. As a result, images are clearly sharper and easier to assess on the rear screen. The screen is touch-sensitive and has been given an improved menu similar to that of the Leica Q series. At the same time, a new Visoflex viewfinder has been released with the M11, which has 3.96 million pixels. This electronic viewfinder can be placed on the flash shoe of the M11 and turns the M11 into a real mirrorless system camera. The Visoflex 2 can also be used with the M10. The Leica M11 does not have built-in image stabilization, but can display an electronically stabilized image on the screen. You then get an image that is zoomed in a bit. This electronic stabilization can help to better assess the image, but does not work for the shot itself.

IMAGE QUALITY

The 60-megapixel sensor has a new color filter that should ensure better color reproduction than on the M10. What also contributes to higher image quality is the lowest ISO value of 64. This allows the camera to record 2/3 stop more light than cameras with a lowest value of 100. In theory, this should ensure a better dynamic range. According to Leica, the range is 14 stops. The sensor is of the dual-gain type. At a higher ISO value, the signal from the sensor is additionally amplified, which increases the dynamic range. The ISO value at which this happens is 320 with the 60-megapixel Sony A7R IV. However, the A7R IV has a basic ISO of 100. If the sensor of the Leica M11 comes from Sony, we can assume that the second stage of the M11 is 2/3 stop below 320 ISO. So, 200 ISO.

The M11 has no built-in image stabilization. This means that achieving the highest image quality when shooting by hand is a real challenge. Thanks to this high-resolution sensor, you can see the slightest bit of vibration in your image. As a result, you will have to pay close attention to your shooting technique and use fast shutter speeds as much as possible. Another option is to use the electronic shutter. It switches off vibration from the shutter and has the additional advantage that you can use shutter speeds of up to 1/16,000th of a second. A disadvantage of the electronic shutter is that you can get “rolling shutter” if you move the camera with your subject at slower shutter speeds. Another option, of course, is to reduce the resolution to 36 megapixels, for example, when shooting by hand. That might also make sense if you use some older, non-apochromatic Leica lenses.

CONNECTIVITY AND INTERNAL MEMORY

The Leica M11 is the first M camera with a built-in USB-C port. As a result, the camera can be (quickly) charged from a power bank. This can be a solution for photographers who work a lot on a tripod and do not want to unscrew the camera completely to get to the battery. The M11 even comes with a USB-C to Lightning cable to write files directly to an Apple device with iOS.

Cameras with built-in memory have been released before, but the 64 Gb that the Leica M11 has on board as standard is quite unique. This allows you to take a lot of shots without having to use a memory card. This also allows you to use the SD card as a backup of the internal memory. This compensates for the lack of a second card slot. Another option is, for example, to write DNG files internally and JPEGs to the card, or vice versa. We’d like to see this on more cameras.

COMPARED TO THE COMPETITION

The M11 is a camera that actually only has competition from its own house. However, the M11 is in so many ways better than the M10 and in no way less, that we would rather choose the M11 than the M10, unless money is a consideration… There is no other brand that has a modern viewfinder camera with which you can shoot with compact and at the same time extremely good lenses on a sensor with the highest resolution that is currently available in full frame. However, there is also no brand that makes a full-frame camera in the price range of the M11. For the special capabilities of the M11, or that famous red dot, you have to have something left.

 Leica M11
 specifications
  
sensor60 Mp
videonet
ISO64-50,000 
max. series speed4.5 fps
storage media

1x UHS-2 and 64Gb internal

battery capacity 700 shots
dimensions139x80x39mm
weight (incl. battery)640 g (silver) 530g (black)
list price

€ 8350 (body)

importer

www.transcontinenta.nl

  
 rating
image quality
focusing
light metering
white balance
screen/viewfinder
price-to-quality
bonus
  
final score

ConclusiON test Leica M11

The M11 is a camera for pure photography, and it is very good for that.

The Leica M11 is not a camera for everyone. The price tag alone, or should we say: the Price Tag, ensures that the M11 is not within everyone’s reach. With all the innovations, the M11 is still a camera that is completely up to date, as long as you are not looking for a hybrid camera with which you can also film. The M11 is a camera for pure photography, and it is very good for that. The classic operation with an aperture ring on the lens and a shutter button on the camera is very intuitive and simple, just like the menus. It’s not so strange that the camera comes with a cable for Apple. You can see Leica as the Apple of the photo world: not cheap, but it works very well.