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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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