Leica’s new M11 gains resolution and loses weight
Leica has introduced the latest generation of its revered M rangefinder camera, the new M11. The M11 is very similar in appearance to the M10 line it replaces, with much of the claimed 40 new upgrades found inside. Leica says the M11 will be available starting today, January 13, 2022, for $8,995.
The biggest upgrade is a new 60-megapixel back-illuminated full-frame CMOS sensor that captures 14 stops of dynamic range at its full resolution. Uniquely, the M11 also allows photographers to capture RAW files at 36 or 18 megapixels, which unlocks another stop in dynamic range, provides better low-light performance, and enables longer burst shooting at the expense enlarged details. (The company says it uses pixel binning alongside a newly developed algorithm to create the lower resolutions, a similar technique used by many smartphone cameras.) File sizes range from 70-120MB for one file. 60 megapixel DNG RAW; the 18-megapixel setting can reduce that to 20MB per frame.
In addition to the new sensor, Leica uses a new ultra-fine UV filter, which the company says provides more natural color reproduction. The company claims the M11 captures the highest dynamic range of any digital M, including the black-and-white Monochrom models that have been praised for their ability to capture a wide range of tones. The M11’s ISO range starts at 64 and goes up to 50,000.
Externally, the main difference between the M11 and its predecessors is the absence of Leica’s signature bottom plate, which had to be removed to load film or swap memory cards and batteries on older cameras. The M11 adopts the Q2’s slick cartridge-style battery system instead, and so it’s much faster to swap out batteries or memory cards. According to Leica, the new battery is 64% larger than that of the M10 and can last up to 700 live shots on the rear screen or 1,700 shots with the rangefinder.
Next to the new battery slot is a USB-C port that can be used for data transfer (to a computer or to a phone – the M11 is actually Made For iPhone (MFi) certified for connecting to iOS devices and iPadOS) or for charging. 64GB of storage is built into the camera and you can choose to save images to it or an SD card in a variety of configurations.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference when using the M11 is its lightness. Leica replaced the brass top plate with an aluminum plate on the black model (the silver model retains the brass plate) and reduced its weight by 20% or about 100 grams. It’s immediately noticeable and makes the black M11 easier to carry and maneuver than previous M cameras, which were always heavier than most people would expect. Fortunately, the signature Leica build quality is still there, and the M11 feels no less durable than previous models. He probably won’t win the same brass plating or patina like the old models as he ages, however.
Despite its lighter weight, the M11 will feel immediately familiar to existing M-system photographers, and its overall shooting experience remains the same. Although the sensor has a higher resolution, the processor inside is faster and it has some new tricks, such as the ability to use multi-field metering even when shooting with the rangefinder, the M11 is still a fully manual camera designed for still photography. It doesn’t shoot video of any kind, its burst rate tops out at 4.5fps, and it requires manual focus and exposure of every shot, making it less than ideal for many disciplines. photographic, such as sports (or tracking with a fast-moving toddler). But these qualities are exactly why many Leica owners are willing to pay so much money to have one of these cameras, and it’s smart of Leica not to spoil the experience too much.
The M11 is the first in the new line of M-series cameras, and while the company is only announcing one model today, it will likely be followed by other variants in the future. If you want to buy one and have the padding in your bank account to afford it, it’s available to buy from authorized Leica dealers from today.