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The Leica M11 A New benchmark for Rangefinders

2022 sees the arrival of the all-new Leica M11 rangefinder, which combines a timeless photographic experience with cutting edge, future-proof technology. We explore features, specifications, accessories along with sample photos and 100% crops for you to explore.

Leica M11 A New benchmark for Rangefinders

Recent Leica Camera Developments

Leica’s designers and engineers have been on a roll of late with the July 2020 release of the M10-R high resolution camera and the December 2021 Q2 Reporter Limited Edition. These were followed by the January 2022 announcement of this, the new Leica M11 in black and M11 Silver Chrome. This is rapid development for a company steeped in history such as Leica and the leap in technology which the Rangefinder incorporates is a massive leap.

Leica M11 in Silver Chrome

All-New Custom Designed Sensor for the M11

At the heart of the M11 is a new custom designed 60 megapixel full frame back-illuminated CMOS sensor. As apposed to cameras like the M10 Monochrom, the M11 captures full glorious sRGB colour, with a pixel pitch of 3.76 µm. We can see from these sample photos how natural and vibrant colour rendition is, particularly when paired with the amazing quality garnered from prime Leica Rangefinder lenses, of which there are plenty to choose from.

Naturally there is an immense amount of detail from this ultra high resolution. File sizes average 70-120MB in RAW 14 bit DNG, with a maximum 9528 x 6328 pixels recorded, making more precisely 60.3MP resolution. Leica simultaneously developed the ability to harness the entire sensor area for lower resolution images in a technology they refer to as Triple Resolution Technology. You can now also choose M-DNG with 36.5 MP at 7416 x 4928 pixels or S-DNG 18.4 MP with 5272 x 3498 pixels. Small, medium and large have a nice ring to them and this feature offers photographers the ability to shoot more quickly in different resolutions depending on their subjects and compositions.

M11 sample photo Camera settings: 20 sec, f/16, ISO 64

Sample photo 1 Nightscape, M11 with Leica Summilux M 21mm F/1.4 ASPH Lens. Camera settings: 20 sec, f/16, ISO 64 ©Oliver Vogler

The sensor comes with inclusions and exclusions – a new RGB colour filter and dual UV/IR filter are included, whereas there is no low-pass filter. The exclusion of the low pass filter is perhaps a nod towards subjects which Rangefinder camera users will most lean towards. There are no restrictions for subjects of course, other than your lens choice, however we often see Leica users shooting portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, street photography and reportage. These types of subjects are perhaps slightly less prone to moiré – and by removing the low-pass filter results will be a hair sharper than if one is included. Meanwhile the dual UV/IR filter blocks out higher frequency ultraviolet rays and lower frequency infrared light rays for sparkling clear results.

This is all geared towards gaining the largest resolution, most natural colours and sharpest files which has ever been possible from a digital Leica Rangefinder. The sensor also optimises Digital Zoom at 1.3x and 1.8x which are based on L-DNG or L-JPG files. This is a very nice feature for photographers using prime lenses with the Leica system, allowing them to digitally zoom into their subjects, broadening the focal width.

100 percent crop showing beautiful sun stars and clean low noise results

100% crop from sample photo 1 showing clean, noise-free results, incredible levels of sharp detail and some rather nice sunstars from the M21 f/1.4 lens at f/16

What Else Is New in The M11 Camera?

Aside from the new sensor with triple resolution, a new RGB colour filter and digital zoom, the M11 is powered by the latest Maestro III image processor. This makes for a responsive user experience, faster image processing and overall quick operation of the camera. This high speed processor is ported over from full frame mirrorless cameras – the SL2 and SL2-S. Along with the faster processor the menu system has been updated for quicker and more intuitive menu access. Similarly the very minimal button layout has been tweaked, adding an additional FN button for a more user-friendly experience.

For the first time, Leica includes Dual Memory, with Internal storage of 64GB and the ability to add a high speed SD Memory Card. On-board memory enables quick data storage as well as ensuring you can capture images even if you forget a memory card (we’ve all done it)! SD cards are accepted up to 2 TB with high speed UHS-II SDXC recommended to cater for large file sizes.

M11 Sample photo 2 bright vibrant colours which are highly natural

Sample photo 2, M11 with Leica APO-Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. Lens. Camera settings: 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 64 ©Oliver Vogler

Yet more upgrades found in the M11:

Enhanced Touch Display – 2.95 inch Active Matrix TFT. This includes customary Gorilla Glass 5 cover, 2,332,800 dots, 3:2, touch control. You can also get an optional Premium Hybrid Glass Protector (Size 4) to add a layer of protection for the display.

Better battery performance with 64% more capacity and efficient energy consumption from Leica Battery BP-SCL7 Black or Leica Battery BP-SCL7 Silver, depending on your camera colour. Both serve up to 700 photos on a single charge according to CIPA ratings, which is excellent durability in any camera.

100 percent crop from sample photo 2 and the M11 natural rendition

100% crop from sample 2 showing extremely high levels of detail along with natural, clear colours, great contrast and sharp rendition

Camera Connectivity

Leica has well and truly embraced the shoot and share ethos of today’s social media-driven world, with an accomplished and feature-rich free Leica FOTOS app for Apple or on the Google Play Store for Android. This connects with your smartphone, iPhone and iPad through WiFi or Bluetooth enabling control of the camera remotely, as well as picture review, sharing, galleries and much more. You can also GPS geotag images when using the App which is very nice for pinpointing your locations.

Furthermore the camera includes a high speed USB 3.1 Gen1 Typ-C port as well as WiFi in 5 GHz 11a/n/ac or 2.4 GHz 11b/g/n. Standard WLAN protocol requires the App to function.

Other features

Rangefinders aren’t necessarily know for high speed or for special effects shots, however the M11 has built-in bracketing, optional noise reduction and a 4.5fps high speed drive mode. You might be delighted to hear there are also focus assist functions including Magnification and Focus Peaking available, to help you absolutely nail your sharpness if you wish.

Which version to choose? Black or silver Leica M11?

M11 Body Designs

If you like the retro, minimalist uncluttered designs of Leica’s, you’ll love the M11 body design. It doesn’t stray far from classic styling which has been around for decades, but Leica has enhanced both models for this release.

  1. M11 Rangefinder Black Paint: full-metal housing made of magnesium and aluminium, leatherette cover and more scratch resistant deep black finish. It’s worth noting that the black version is 20% lighter at just 530g / 455 g (with / without battery).
  2. M11 Rangefinder Silver Chrome: full-metal housing made of magnesium and brass, leatherette cover with a brass top cover with silver chrome finish. 640g / 565g (with / without battery).

Both offer a familiar feeling in the hand for anyone accustomed to Rangefinders. What’s the word? Iconic. Beautiful? Classic? All of these adjectives are well suited. It’s definitely a case of love at first sight for many users and that’s sure to be the case with the M11. Both colour versions look gorgeous, feel solid and now have direct access to battery, SD-Card and the USB-C port.

Using the Visoflex 2 Leica M11 eyepiece accessory

Using the Visoflex 2 Leica M11 eyepiece accessory

M11 Accessories

Leica has developed a series of new accessories, some of which are exclusively for the M11 and others which are also compatible with other cameras. Here’s a table of accessories for the new model, and compatibility with other cameras at the time of launch:

Accessory

Compatibility

Leica Visoflex 2 Electronic Viewfinder

Leica M11 Handgrip Black

M11 both models

Leica M11 Thumb Rest Black

M11 both models

Leica Battery BP-SCL7 Black

M11 Black

Leica Battery BP-SCL7 Silver

M11 Silver

Leica BC-SCL7 Battery Charger

BP-SCL7 for both models and car charging

Leica FOTOS Cable

1m USB-C cable for M11 and MFi-certified Leica cameras

Leica Premium Hybrid Glass Protector Size 4

M11 both models

Leica Leather Carrying Strap Black

Standard eyelet for M11, Leica D-Lux 7, CL, Q2 and all M rangefinder cameras

Leica Leather Carrying Strap Cognac

Standard eyelet for M11, Leica D-Lux 7, CL, Q2 and all M rangefinder cameras

Leica Leather Carrying Strap Olive Green

Standard eyelet for M11, Leica D-Lux 7, CL, Q2 and all M rangefinder cameras

Leica M11 Leather Protector Black

M11 both models

Leica M11 Leather Protector Cognac

M11 both models

Leica M11 Leather Protector Olive Green

M11 both models

Even the Cognac half-case protector is gorgeously designed!

Even the Cognac half-case protector is gorgeously designed!

Leica M System lenses

For many photographers Leica is synonymous with photography. Their cameras and lenses have been used by world-renowned photographers of the highest calibre and much of this is down to their lens designs. The rendition, aspherical ground glass and resulting look and feel of images produced are entirely unique. The experience of shooting with a Rangefinder is of course very different – and not for everyone. Those who do enjoy the immersive experience often find a deep satisfaction accompanies their most successful images. You could perhaps put this down to the art of image making with resulting ‘Leica look’ - rather than resolution, aberration control, colour fringing or other technical aspects.

Camera settings: 1/320 sec, f/10, ISO 125

Sample photo 3, M11 with Leica APO-Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. Lens. Camera settings: 1/320 sec, f/10, ISO 125 ©Oliver Vogler

Regardless, the most popular primes tend to be in the 35mm or 50mm range, which are available with different apertures and individual characteristics. There are also superb options across virtually every focal width, although long telephoto options are limited. Third party options are also made by Voigtlander and ZEISS, both of whom bring their own unique flavour of imagery to the table.

Another essential benefit of Leica M System lenses is backwards compatibility. Not only does this keep residual values extremely high, safeguarding any investment in your glass, but it also means you can mount any Rangefinder lens onto any M camera, from the very first 1950’s models to today’s, all with full functionality.

100 percent crop with unbelievable details in the distance

100% crop from the image above

Conclusion

There’s no question that the latest Rangefinder Leica M11 combines a classic photographic experience with cutting-edge technology. It boasts one of the highest resolution sensors on the market, capable of rendering monumental levels of detail. The ability to shoot in different full sensor resolutions will certainly appeal to photographers who don’t always need such large files. The bright LCD screen, easy to navigate menus and to-die-for design all contribute to a future-proof camera which is tethered to a long and esteemed history.

Should you get one? If you have the budget and enjoy a slightly slower pace of rangefinder-style photography, the M11 is the most accomplished and user-friendly digital model to date.

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By Nick Dautlich on 13/01/2022

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