Reviews |Leica M11

Leica M11 Review

Leica M11 review
Review

Price when reviewed

£7500

$10250

Our Verdict

We associate Leica with high quality lenses and it seems fitting that the company should introduce such a high-resolution camera that extract as much detail as possible from them. The Leica M11 seems a worthy upgrade on the M10-R, offering a 50% increase in resolution, two lower resolution full-frame shooting options along with the familiar high-quality build and excellent interface.

The M11’s additional connectivity and further integration with the Leica Fotos app is also an exciting development that will help photographers acres their images more easily.

For

  • Fabulous build quality
  • Compatible with legendary optics
  • High-resolution images

Against

  • Rangefinder focusing doesn't suit everyone
  • High price
  • Menu items not touch-selectable

What is the Leica M11?

The Leica M11, also known as the Leica Type 2416, is the latest generation of the Leica’s iconic M-series of rangefinder cameras. It replaces the 40.89Mp Leica M10-R as Leica’s highest-resolution digital M camera as it has a 60Mp full-frame sensor. However, it can also shoot 36Mp or 18Mp files.

Specification

  • Camera type: Digital rangefinder
  • Announced: 13th January 2022
  • Sensor: Full-frame (24 x 36mm) 60.3Mp CMOS
  • Processor: Maestro III
  • Lens mount: Leica M
  • Viewfinder: Optical rangefinder type
  • Screen: Fixed 2.96-inch touchscreen LCD with 2,332,800 dots and Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Sensitivity range: ISO 64-50,000
  • Shutter speed: 60min-1/4000sec
  • Focusing: Manual (rangefinder)
  • Video: N/A
  • Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II plus 64GB internal memory
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 139 x 38.5 x 80mm
  • Weight: Black: 530g/455g with/without battery, Silver: 640g/565g with/without battery
Leica M11 review

Features

Inside the Leica M11 is a 60Mp full-frame BSI CMOS sensor with Triple Resolution Technology, paired with a Maestro III processor that enables a maximum continuous shooting rate of 4.5fps (frames per second).

The sensor has a revised version of the RGGB Bayer Filter array and the camera employs pixel binning to enable the alternative capture resolutions of 36Mp and 18Mp. This means that the images is captured from the whole sensor without cropping.

Leica has given the M11 a sensitivity range of ISO 64 to 50,000, with ISO 64 being the base native value. According to Leica, it also offers 15 stops of dynamic range, the highest seen with a digital M camera. The Leica M10-R, for example, is rated at 13.5EV.

In a move to promote sharing of images the Leica M11 has new connectivity capabilities to enable users to make greater use of the Leica Fotos app. For example, following a firmware update in the second half of 2022, the M11 will be able to embed location data from a connected smartphone to an image and transfer images via a Bluetooth connection.

In addition, the Leica M11 will be a ‘Made for iPhone and iPad’ certified accessory and will come with the Leica Fotos cable.

While the M11 has an SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot, Leica has also given it 64GB of internal memory. This can be used to store images in parallel with the memory card and images can be transferred from the memory to a card. It means that you’ll always have storage if you forget to take a memory card (provided that you’ve cleared the internal memory) and there’s a convenient back-up in case of a card fault.

In a change from past Leica M cameras, even in rangefinder mode, the M11’s image sensor is used for light metering rather than measuring off the shutter. According to Leica, this should help produce more balanced exposures in tricky lighting conditions.

The Leica M11 accepts a 1800mAh battery, which is a 64% increase in the capacity in comparison with its predecessor. This battery can also be charged via a USB-C connection.

Like the Leica M10 and M10-R, the M11 isn’t capable of shooting video. Apparently, Leica M users have been very clear about the fact that they don’t want video capability on their cameras.

Leica Visoflex 2

Leica has announced the Visoflex 2, an optional 3.68Mp OLED viewfinder that can slot into the M11’s hotshoe to deliver a live view feed. This has a higher resolution than the original 2.4Mp Visoflex (Type 020) electronic viewfinder.

While it loses the swivel capability of the original, it can still be tilted upwards to 45° or 90° to give a clearer view of low-level subjects.

You can pre-order the Leica M11 from Adorama in the US and Wex Photo Video in the UK.

Leica M11 review

Build and handling

Overall the Leica M11 looks very similar to the M10, with iconic styling that we’ve come to expect. However, there are a few changes here and there. For example, the top-plate section is a little thinner, emphasising the rangefinder design from the front. On the back, the screen doesn’t cross the divide between the top-plate and the main body of the camera. It’s a subtle alteration but it gives the camera a subtlety cleaner look.

Leica has also relocated the button that appears on the front of the M10 to the top of the M11, again making the camera look a little cleaner.

In a change that will seem quite dramatic to some Leica M users, especially those with film cameras, the bottom plate is no longer removable to give access to the battery and memory card. Instead, there’s a switch which when flicked, triggers the battery to pop out a little. Pressing the battery in slightly releases the catch so that it can be removed from the camera and you get access to the card in the (single) SD card slot.

When the battery is pushed home, it locks in place, covering the SD card slot.

One frustration with this arrangement is that if you mount the camera on a tripod,  the release switch for the battery and card bay door is covered by the quick release plate. It means if you need to pop in a new card or change the battery, you have to remove quick release plate first.

Leica M11 review

Like its predecessor, the Leica M11 feels very robust and extremely well-made. However, the black version of the M11 is 20% lighter than the silver version. That’s because the black version has an aluminium top-plate while the silver one is made from the traditional brass.

As you’d expect, the M11 has traditional exposure controls with the aperture being set via a ring on the mounted lens and shutter speed set via the dedicated dial. This dial has markings running from 8 seconds to 1/4000sec in whole stops, plus a B for Bulb and A for automatic. Although the shutter speeds are marked in whole stops, the dial enables half-stop adjustments.

There’s also a sensitivity (ISO) dial on on the far left end of the top-plate. This has settings of 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, M and A. The value accessed via M may be set via the menu and the options go all the way up to the ISO 50,000 maximum.

Leica M11 review

It’s also possible to set the maximum ISO value available in the automatic setting via the menu.

The sensitivity dial must be pulled up before it can be rotated and it’s not the easiest to move, my finger and thumb slipped a few times.

If you want manual control over sensitivity and anticipate needing to change the value fairly frequently, the dial can be left up ready to rotate quickly. It rotates easily with a click between each stop.

Leica M11 review

Screen and Live View

In an upgrade on the M10, the M11’s screen is touch-sensitive. The touch-control doesn’t extend to the main menu, but you can use it with the customisable Favourites menu.

Pressing the Menu button once reveals the Favourites menu, pressing it again takes you to the first page of the main menu, and then repeated presses take you through the subsequent pages.

When the Favourites menu is showing, you just need to tap on any of the parameters to reveal the setting options and then tap again to select. It was sometimes a little laggy on the M11 that I used but it was a pre-production sample.

Leica M11 review

Viewfinder

As it’s a rangefinder camera, the Leica M11’s viewfinder gives a direct view of the scene and you don’t see the image through the lens.

At any one time, there are two sets of bright lines in the viewfinder that indicate the framing offered by 35mm and 135mm, 28 and 90mm or 50mm and 75mm lenses. The camera automatically selects the pair of bright lines that are closest to the mounted lens. It’s also possible to see the other bright lines by flicking the switch on the front of the camera, which is handy for judging the focal length that you want to use before swapping optics.

As the focal length of the mounted lens increases, the size of the are it covers in the viewfinder decreases. This can make it harder to assess composition and focus, but it can be useful for street and documentary photography because you can see subjects in the viewfinder before they enter the image frame.

Rangefinder focus will be very familiar to anyone who has used an M-series camera, but it can be tricky with some subjects as you need a clear line or defined area that you can be sure is in correct register after focusing.

Leica M11 review

Performance

As you’d expect, the Leica M11 is capable of capturing plenty of detail and is in line with what we’d anticipate from a 60Mp full-frame camera at the lower sensitivity settings. It maintains this well and noise only puts in appearance once the sensitivity gets to around ISO 1,000 – and then you have to look for it in images at 100% on a computer screen.

However, the top sensitivity setting of ISO 50,000 should be used with caution as there’s a lot of chroma noise visible in both the raw and Jpeg images. Dropping to ISO 250,000 makes a significant improvement in the amount of noise but there’s still coloured speckling in the shadows and this doesn’t appear to improved by shooting at the lower resolutions of 36Mp or 18Mp.

Despite its high resolution, the Leica M11 has a wide dynamic range which means that highlight and shadow detail isn’t lost too quickly and there are smooth, natural gradations.  Low-ISO raw files can also withstand hefty exposure adjustment of around 3EV or more before noise becomes more visible. So if you should need to brighten the shadows, you can do so without any major concern.

I used the Multi-Field metering throughout my time with the M11 and it generally behaved as I would expect, generally producing well-balanced exposures. That said, it tends towards protecting the highlights so if you’re not planning to do any post-capture image adjustment, you may need to dial in a little positive exposure compensation no and then.

On the whole, the M11 produces very natural-looking images with pleasant colours, however, in overcast conditions the Auto White Balance system has a habit being a bit too ‘correct’ so everything looks rather flat and drab. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to pep-up the DNG raw files to make them more interesting.

You can pre-order the Leica M11 from Adorama in the US and Wex Photo Video in the UK.

Leica M11 review

Leica M11 sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Leica M11. All images were shot using a pre-production camera, so may not be fully represent final image quality.

Leica Image Gallery

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Leica M11 – these images were shot using a full-production sample M11.

Leica M11 image gallery

Verdict

The Leica M11 builds on the M10-R with a higher resolution sensor and the ability to shoot at two lower resolutions. It’s everything we expect of a Leica M-series camera, robust, extremely well made and quiet.

While Leica’s decision to exclude video capability from the M11 may seem at odds with the rest of the photographic world, it understands the photographers that use its M-series cameras. By omitting unwanted features, Leica is able to keep the M11’s menu relatively short and streamlined. It doesn’t take long to find the features that you want.

Although the Leica M11 has the shape we expect of the M-series, it doesn’t offer a great deal of grip, making the strap essential. Leica also offers accessory grips, which I would seriously consider purchasing with the M11. And while there are legions of Leica fans who love rangefinder focusing, I would be inclined to purchase the Visoflex 2 to make more use of the live view system when focusing.

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