The Leica M11 Monochrom, also known as the Type 2416, is the fourth incarnation of Leica’s B&W-only digital rangefinder camera. It uses a similar full-frame 60MP sensor to the Leica M11, but it doesn’t have the usual RGGB Bayer filter array so it can’t capture colour images. Instead it records black and white images with greater detail than is possible with a regular digital camera.
A 60MP camera that only produces black and white images may seem a crazy idea to many, but for some it’s a dream camera. The Leica M11 Monochrome is about as stripped-back as a digital camera can be, it means you can concentrate on the essentials of photography – exposure, focus, composition and timing. Rangefinder focusing isn’t for everyone, but there’s no denying that the M11 Monochrome can produce beautiful images.
- Fabulous build quality
- Compatible with legendary optics
- Designed to create the best possible black and white images
- Rangefinder focusing seems very outdated
- High price
- Only suitable for recording black and white images
What is the Leica M11 Monochrom?
- Camera type: Digital rangefinder
- Announced: 13th April 2023
- Sensor: Full-frame (24 x 36mm) 60.3MP BSI CMOS
- Processor: Maestro III
- Lens mount: Leica M
- Viewfinder: Optical rangefinder type
- Screen: Fixed 2.95-inch LCD with 2,332,800 dots and Sapphire Glass touchscreen
- Sensitivity range: ISO 125-200,000
- Focusing: Manual (rangefinder)
- Maximum shooting rate: 4.5fps
- Video: N/A
- Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 139×38.5x80mm
- Weight: 540g with battery
Like the Leica M11, the M11 Monochrome 60MP sensor can use pixel binning to output full-width images at 36Mp or 18MP on those occasions when the full resolution isn’t required.
As there’s no colour filter array over the sensor, each pixel receives more light than those on the M11. Consequently, it has a sensitivity range of ISO 125-200,000. It’s also claimed to capture dynamic range of up to 15EV.
As a rangefinder camera, the M11 Monochrom doesn’t have automatic focusing. Instead, it uses manual rangefinder focusing. This means that there are two versions of a section of the scene visible in a rectangle in the centre of the direct-view optical viewfinder. When the focus ring on the lens is rotated, the two images move relative to each other and when they overlay each other perfectly, the subject is in focus.
Alternatively, it’s possible to use the Live View image on the 2.95-inch 2,332,800-dot screen on the back of the camera with the addition of focus peaking and a magnified view to help get the subject sharp.
One thing you won’t find on the Leica M11 Monochrom is a video mode, it’s a stills-only camera.
Unusually, the M11 Monochrom has 256GB of storage built-in, but there’s also a UHS-II SD card slot.
Build and handling
The Leica M11 Monochrom will seem very familiar to anyone who has used an M-series camera. It feels very robust and has a metal body that is sure to last a long time. In a change from previous Monochromes, the M11 Monochrom has an aluminium top cover and this helps to make it 120g lighter than its predecessor – it weighs just 540g.
The body is coated in scratch-resistant black and leather, and it has a sapphire glass display. Overall, the look is very minimalist and there are remarkably few controls for a modern digital camera.
The sensitivity dial on the left end of the top plate has markings for ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 3200, 6400, M and A, but there are settings in-between. As usual, A stands for automatic and the maximum value that will be used can be set via an option in the menu.
The M setting allows you to set a specific ISO value quickly. This is also set via the menu.
Over on the right side of the M10 Monochrom’s top-plate there’s a shutter speed dial which is marked in whole stops in the range 8-1/4000 sec. There are also markings for Bulb and Automatic.
Meanwhile, the aperture value is set using the ring on the lens.
As with all true rangefinder cameras, the M11 Monochrom’s viewfinder shows you a direct view of the scene through a small window rather than through the lens. This has two sets of bright lines visible to indicate the framing given by 35mm and 135mm, 28 and 90mm or 50mm and 75mm lenses. The camera selects the most appropriate pair of lines to use when a lens is mounted but you can see the other lines by flicking a switch on the front of the camera. This means that you can assess the framing offered by different focal length lenses without switching lens.
It’s important to remember that the view in the viewfinder doesn’t change when you swap lenses, only the bright lines change. It means that when you’re using a 135mm lens, only a fairly small section of the scene visible in the viewfinder will be captured. This has its drawback for focusing and composition, but it means you can see objects around the scene before they enter the frame.
Screen and Live View
Like the M11, the M11 Monochrom has a touch-sensitive screen, but the touch-control only works with the customisable Favourites (function) menu, not the main menu. Tapping on an option in the Favourites menu reveals the available settings which can be selected by a second tap.
The menu system is simple and easy to navigate. A single press of the Menu button brings up the Favourites menu while repeated presses toggle through the main menu.
I’ve been able to shoot briefly with the Leica M11 Monochrom but I haven’t yet been able to explore its full ISO range yet. However, it’s clear that at the lower end of the ISO range, images have impressive dynamic range and can be subjected to drastic brightening if necessary – still retaining plenty of detail.
Leica M11 Monochrom sample images
The follow the link to see Jpeg images direct from the Leica M11 Monochrom. Some look rather flat but that can be adjusted quickly in Adobe Photoshop or a similar editing package.
These images are processed DNG raw files from the Leica M11 Monochrom.
Leica M11 Monochrom processed DNG raw files
Leica M-series cameras are out of the price range of many photographers, and a Leica Monochrom that can only capture black and white images may seem a preposterous idea to some. However, it could be a dream camera for anyone who wishes to concentrate on black and white photography. The sensor design enables the camera to capture a huge range of tones while the lack of interpolation means that detail levels are even higher than you get from a standard 60MP camera.