Leica M11 Review
|Full model name:||Leica M11 (Typ 2416)|
(36.0mm x 24.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 50,000|
|Extended ISO:||64 - 50,000|
|Shutter:||1/4000 - 60 sec|
5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in.
(139 x 80 x 39 mm)
|Full specs:||Leica M11 specifications|
Leica M11 Preview
Leica's classic digital rangefinder series gets a new 60MP BSI CMOS sensor
by Jeremy Gray | Posted 01/13/2022
Leica has been making M-series rangefinder cameras since the 1950s. Since then, a lot has changed in photography, but the Leica M series has retained the same basic styling and remained a consistent presence in the industry. Of course, much of what's inside the Leica M11 has changed compared to the Leica M10.
Perhaps the biggest change comes in the form of the image sensor. The Leica M10 utilized a 24MP full-frame CMOS image sensor. The Leica M10-R, released in 2020, upped the megapixel count to 40MP. Finally, the new M11 uses a 60MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. So, there's not only a big jump in resolving power but there's also the move to a backside-illuminated design.
|The Leica M11 retains classic Leica M styling and includes the iconic Leica red dot logo on the front above the classic M mount.|
Leica M11 key features and specs
- Manual focus digital rangefinder
- 60MP backside-illuminated full-frame CMOS image sensor
- Special IR + UV cut filter made of two thin, cemented layers of glass
- Native ISO range of 64-50,000
- 14-bit color depth
- Maestro III processor
- Max shooting speed of 4.5 frames per second
- 64GB internal memory plus an SD card slot
- Mechanical and electronic shutter
- 2.33M-dot rear touchscreen
- Does not record video
- Larger battery with 64% more capacity
- USB-C port for charging and data transfer
- Comes in silver (brass) and black (aluminum) body options
Camera body and design
The Leica M11 looks like pretty much every other Leica M-series camera, although looks can be deceiving as there are some noteworthy differences. The M11 ditches the M10's base plate that prevented direct access to the battery. The omission of the plate should make the camera more user-friendly while eschewing tradition. The bottom of the battery comprises the camera's bottom plate, so by flipping a release switch on the base of the M11, the battery pops out, and you can access the SD card slot. There's also a USB-C port next to the battery compartment.
Speaking of the battery, it's a new battery, the BP-SCL7. It has 64% more capacity than the M10's SCL5 battery. The M11 is rated for approximately 700 shots per charge, per CIPA standards. Leica performed in-house testing and got 1,700 shots, presumably using the camera's optical viewfinder.
|The bottom of the M11 includes an easily-accessible USB-C port for charging and data transfer. The battery can also be removed without the need of removing the additional base plate that was present on the Leica M10.|
The M10 lacked a function button on the top of the camera. The M11 brings it back, placing it next to the shutter release. Next to the shutter release is the shutter speed dial. Just beneath the top plate is a rear command dial, which can be used in conjunction with the function dial to access customizable functions of the camera. There isn't much else on the top of the camera. To the far left is an ISO dial, which includes an 'A' position for auto ISO. There's also a hot-shoe -- the M11 doesn't include a built-in flash.
The back of the camera is similarly simple in design. The optical viewfinder, which has 0.73x magnification, is to the far left. Beneath it are Play, Fn and Menu buttons. To the right of the display are a directional pad and the rear command dial. The 2.95" display has 2.3M dots and is a fixed touchscreen LCD. The camera includes a stabilized Live View mode, making precise focusing easier. It's a digital stabilization, by the way, and it's only applied to the live view preview, so there's no crop to your final image.
Considering the M11's storage, we already mentioned how the SD card slot is accessible after you remove the camera's battery. However, the M11 also includes 64GB of internal memory.
The Leica M11 comes in silver and black colorways. The cameras are different beyond color; however, they also use different materials. The black M11 has a lightweight aluminum top plate. The silver version instead has a classic brass top plate. The difference in materials results in different weights. The difference isn't just a few grams, either. The heavier silver version weighs 640 grams with its battery. The black M11 weighs 530g with its battery. The dimensions of the two colors are identical: 139 x 80 x 38.5mm (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5") (W x H x D).
A big part of Leica's appeal is the look and feel of its cameras. You don't pay $9,000 for just the camera's performance. While we haven't personally gone hands-on with the Leica M11, our colleague, Dan Havlik, published a hands-on First Look Review of the Leica M11 for Digital Photo Pro. Head there for insight into how the camera looks, feels and performs.
Image quality and shooting features
The Leica M11's big new feature is its new image sensor. The 60MP full-frame BSI image sensor includes a two-layer filter stack in front, as well, which is an interesting design that promises an impact on image quality. The filter includes two very thin bonded pieces of glass, which prevents light from hitting the sensor from a shallow angle from creating reflections. The M mount has a very short flange distance, so this filter design is important. Leica assures customers that the thin filter stack allows more light and produces more natural and accurate-looking colors.
The M11's 60MP sensor allows the camera to utilize an interesting adjustable resolution feature, dubbed Triple Resolution Technology. The camera can shoot RAW and JPEG images in a trio of resolutions: 60MP, 36MP and 18MP. Each image resolution uses the full image sensor, so by downscaling images (pixel binning), you can achieve more dynamic range – Leica says about an additional stop beyond the 14 stops promised at 60MP – and lower visible noise. Leica says that the 36MP resolution delivers the best balance of resolution and noise, although obviously, it's up to the user to decide what works best for them. You can also select the resolution of RAW images independently from JPEG images, which is interesting. If you want a cropped image, you can do that too. There's a 39MP mode that offers a 1.3x crop and an 18MP mode that is cropped 1.8x.
The camera has a mechanical shutter and offers an electronic shutter. The mechanical shutter ranges from 60 minutes to 1/4000s. The electronic shutter can go faster, up to 1/16,000s. The camera, powered by a Maestro III processor, can shoot at up to 4.5 frames per second. If you opt for a lower resolution setting, you can shoot for longer bursts, but it's certainly not an action camera.
As mentioned earlier, the M11 is a photo-only camera, so there are no video modes to worry about. The camera's metering is provided by the image sensor. Multi-field exposure metering is available, in addition to spot and center-weighted average metering modes. There's a Long Exposure Noise Reduction feature as well, which can be disabled to allow for faster operation (there's no need to wait for noise reduction processing to finish if you have it disabled, after all).
Pricing, availability and summary
The Leica M11 is a traditional rangefinder camera. This is perhaps both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness, depending upon your perspective. It's a manual focus camera that has a timeless design. That's either fantastically old-school or dreadfully antiquated. The camera is $9,000, body-only, making it either overpriced or priced for exclusivity. You don't buy a Leica M11 for its features and performance, although it does promise impressive quality and Leica M lenses are fantastic. You buy a Leica M11 because you value the brand and a camera built with exacting precision.
If the Leica M11 suits your fancy, the camera is available for preorder now for $8,995 in black (aluminum top plate) and silver (brass top plate) options. That's a lot of money, but the Leica M11 is undoubtedly a beautiful camera that promises significant image quality improvements over its predecessors.