The leg­endary Leica has released a new 60-megapix­el cam­era that claims to be the most advanced rangefind­er cam­era ever. How good is the new M11 — let’s fig­ure it out togeth­er.

The leg­endary rangefind­er is back. Pho­to: cnet.com

Design, ergonomics and control

Out­ward­ly, the Leica M11 is sim­i­lar to the old M10 — all the same strict “brick” in a clas­sic min­i­mal­ist style. How­ev­er, not every­thing is so sim­ple, because the M11 received a new met­al body design — for both the sil­ver and black mod­els.

The sil­ver chrome M11 is made of sol­id brass and weighs a cor­re­spond­ing­ly sol­id 640 grams. But the ver­sion in a black case, for real street nin­jas, is made of alu­minum and weighs sig­nif­i­cant­ly less — 530 grams. An inter­est­ing deci­sion — the choice of col­or affects not only the appear­ance, but also the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics that deter­mine the style of shoot­ing.

While the M11 should be famil­iar to all fans of the brand right off the bat thanks to its super­fi­cial resem­blance to the M10, there is anoth­er major design change to the cam­era.

Instead of the bot­tom pan­el, which was removed entire­ly to expose the bat­tery and mem­o­ry card, now there is a neat switch-open­er at the bot­tom. You press it, and the bat­tery leaves, at the same time open­ing access to the mem­o­ry card.

The bat­tery, by the way, is new, with an inte­grat­ed cap and with an excel­lent rat­ing of 700 shots on a sin­gle charge. This is a con­ve­nient sys­tem, but it still has the same prob­lem as in the pre­vi­ous design — the tri­pod plat­form inevitably blocks the switch. You can­not remove the battery/memory card while the cam­era is mount­ed on a tri­pod.

The sil­ver M11 is not only made of a dif­fer­ent mate­r­i­al, but also weighs 20% more than the “total black” ver­sion. Pho­to: digitalack.com

As for the mem­o­ry card, the nov­el­ty sup­ports fast UHS-II SD cards, which is good for con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing at such a pow­er­ful res­o­lu­tion. Also, the Leica M11 has a USB‑C port, which will great­ly increase the usabil­i­ty of the cam­era — the port allows you to recharge the cam­era on the go. For Apple users, Lei­ka has pre­pared a sep­a­rate pleas­ant sur­prise — a cable from USB‑C to Light­ing is placed in the box with the cam­era, so you can con­nect the cam­era direct­ly to your smart­phone. Android users were not giv­en such curt­sies.

The bat­tery now goes like this. Pho­to: Andrew Hoyle/cnet.com

Anoth­er improve­ment designed to mod­ern­ize the cam­era is a new rear dis­play. Now it’s a super-clear 2.3M-dot touch­pad. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the screen remained firm­ly attached to the case. Giv­en that street shoot­ing is the native ele­ment of such a cam­era, it would be nice to have an inclined dis­play for shoot­ing from the waist.

In the inter­face, Leica used a con­ve­nient trick — when you acti­vate the menu, you do not get direct­ly to the full list of set­tings, but to quick options that are easy to con­fig­ure with a touch­screen (some­thing sim­i­lar was in Q2). And if you real­ly need a com­plete sys­tem, you press the Menu but­ton again. In the full menu, the touch­screen is no longer avail­able.

The cam­era does not have a built-in elec­tron­ic viewfind­er — only the clas­sic Leica opti­cal rangefind­er. But you can pur­chase the new option­al 3.68 mil­lion-dot Visoflex tilt­ing viewfind­er. If buy­ing an addi­tion­al viewfind­er isn’t your plan, don’t wor­ry, the detailed rear dis­play lets you zoom in and check every­thing is in focus.

A quick menu with a touch­screen is one of the nice “good­ies” of the nov­el­ty. Pho­to: Andrew Hoyle/cnet.com

One of the main user com­plaints about the ergonom­ics of the M10 was the incon­ve­nient ISO disk — it was dif­fi­cult to lift it up to unlock it, and the disk itself was very small. In M11, the disk design has not changed, but a con­ve­nient alter­na­tive has appeared.

There are three cus­tom but­tons on the cam­era, and the rear dial now has an addi­tion­al press func­tion, mak­ing it the fourth cus­tom but­ton. You can use the cus­tom rear dial with­out press­ing it for expo­sure com­pen­sa­tion, for exam­ple, and when pressed, it can turn into an ISO adjust­ment dial, which is much more con­ve­nient than the stan­dard one.

Select­ing a func­tion for cus­tom but­tons is still easy. You need to press the but­ton and hold for a few sec­onds, and then select the appro­pri­ate func­tion in the menu.

Other features of the Leica M11

The cam­era turns on quite “thought­ful­ly” — it is ready for bat­tle with­in about two sec­onds after being turned on. This is a long time for street shoot­ing, but a capa­cious bat­tery allows you to walk around with the cam­era con­stant­ly on.

Sam­ple shot on Leica M11. Pho­to: leica-camera.com

Noth­ing has changed in the oper­a­tion of the shut­ter com­pared to the M10, it is just as qui­et and sta­ble. There is also an elec­tron­ic shut­ter, but with a pow­er­ful rolling shut­ter effect. But if you’re shoot­ing on a tri­pod and want absolute sta­bil­i­ty, an elec­tron­ic shut­ter looks like a good option. As well as for shoot­ing at an open aper­ture on a sun­ny day with­out fil­ters — shut­ter speeds up to 1/16000 sec­ond are avail­able for such cas­es.

The cam­era has 64 giga­bytes of inter­nal mem­o­ry. You can do with­out an SD card at all or use it sole­ly for back­up or safe­ty net, if you sud­den­ly run out of space. A cool fea­ture that many mod­ern cam­eras lack.

Option­al viewfind­er for those who don’t like the rangefind­er and rear dis­play. Pho­to: leicarumors.com

The Leica M10 can shoot bursts at 4.5 frames per sec­ond. If you shoot in RAW, then you have some­where around 14–15 frames before the buffer fills up, that is, about 3 sec­onds — a stan­dard fig­ure that you can expect from a cam­era like this.

In sin­gle play­er mode, there are small but notice­able delays between frames. It may make sense to keep the cam­era in low speed con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing mode, even for sin­gle shots.

Matrix and picture

The cam­era is equipped with a 60-megapix­el back-illu­mi­nat­ed sub-frame sen­sor, one won­ders if this is the same sen­sor that we have already seen in the Sony a7R IV, Sig­ma fp L and oth­er full-frame 60-megapix­el cam­eras that are on the mar­ket.

The sen­sor back­light­ing makes the M11 a very mod­ern cam­era in terms of image qual­i­ty: it cap­tures sig­nif­i­cant­ly more light than the stan­dard sen­sor, which means bet­ter low-light per­for­mance.

Sam­ple shot on Leica M11. Pho­to: leica-camera.com

The M11 sen­sor uses dual native ISO tech­nol­o­gy. With the native ISO val­ue, the cam­era does not affect the light sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the matrix in any way — the pic­ture is “clean”, with­out any noise and oth­er prob­lems that may arise when increas­ing or decreas­ing sen­si­tiv­i­ty.

Dual native ISO means that the sen­sor can oper­ate in nor­mal and high sen­si­tiv­i­ty mode, but at the same time, increased sen­si­tiv­i­ty does not lead to increased noise or image dete­ri­o­ra­tion.

The M11 has a base ISO of 64, and an increased val­ue is around 200. In oth­er full-frame “six­ties” the base ISO is 100, while the sec­ond native val­ue is 320. That is, Leica is at about the same lev­el, but cov­ers a slight­ly dif­fer­ent range of val­ues ISO. In the­o­ry, this should have affect­ed the dynam­ic range, but accord­ing to Leica, the cam­era trans­mits 14 stops of dynam­ic range — the same (very good) fig­ure as Sony with Sig­ma.

If 60-megapix­el shots seem too big for you in terms of file size and pro­cess­ing time, Leica lets you drop down to 36 or 18 megapix­els. More­over, flex­i­ble set­tings are avail­able for both RAW and JPEG.

Also, if you shoot at a low­er res­o­lu­tion, you get a bonus in dynam­ic range — it goes up to about 15 stops. You can also expect a slight improve­ment in image qual­i­ty in poor light­ing, although the dif­fer­ence becomes notice­able only if you peer at the pix­els at 100% zoom.

Leica M11 review summary

The leg­endary “red dot” is in place, which means that any price is jus­ti­fied. Pho­to: camerajabber.com

Well, now we have the Leica M series dig­i­tal rangefind­er with a crazy 60 megapix­el sen­sor, excel­lent dynam­ic range and good low-light per­for­mance.

When shoot­ing with flash or on a tri­pod, you can max­i­mize this sharp­ness — super-detailed shots will look just fine.

It should be not­ed that few peo­ple use these cam­eras in this way. M‑ki have always been con­sid­ered pre­cise­ly as elite cam­eras for street pho­tog­ra­phy. At the same time, Leica lux­u­ry rangefind­ers do not have built-in sta­bi­liza­tion. Most of the lens­es for this line do not have it either. There­fore, you will have to shoot at fast shut­ter speeds, although no mat­ter how good the shut­ter is, you will find it dif­fi­cult to get the full ben­e­fit of these 60 megapix­els. When shoot­ing hand­held in not very good light­ing, a lit­tle motion blur is inevitable, and it “eats” the excess detail. Plus, most clas­sic Leica lens­es, as well as mod­els from third-par­ty man­u­fac­tur­ers, fall a lit­tle short of such a high res­o­lu­tion sen­sor. Although the lat­est expen­sive Leica glass­es should be up to the task.

In any case, the Leica M11 is the most sophis­ti­cat­ed rangefind­er cam­era to date. With all the mod­ern good­ies, a cool screen, USB charg­ing and a cool bat­tery, the cam­era is very con­ve­nient and pleas­ant to use. And as always, in order to par­take of the “grace” of Leica, you will have to pay well — in Rus­sia the cam­era will cost 710 thou­sand rubles.

* when prepar­ing the arti­cle, mate­ri­als from the resource dpreview.com and leica-camera.com were used