The long-talked-about Leica M11 is finally official – and the 60MP full-frame rangefinder packs some surprisingly innovative features into its classic retro body.
The M-series dates back to the 1950s and its cameras have generally been old-school in design and operation. But the Leica M11 inherits some modern features from its forward-thinking siblings like the TL series, including 64GB internal storage.
It’s the first time an M-series camera has included internal storage, which is still a surprisingly rare feature on modern mirrorless cameras. The advantage is that you can simultaneously store footage on an SD card and the M11’s internal storage – a real bonus for a camera with only one card slot.
Internal storage isn’t the only modern convenience hiding under the M11’s vintage shell. Its new 60MP full-frame BSI sensor, a big step up from the 40MP Leica M10-R, lets you shoot raw DNGs and JPEGs at 60MP, 36MP or 18MP resolutions, using the full sensor area.
This gives you the flexibility to choose between maximum detail in 60MP mode or smaller file sizes and better burst performance. Leica says lower resolution modes are achieved by pixel binning from the 60MP sensor (while maintaining 14-bit color depth), and a new color filter array also creates more natural color reproduction. .
Although the design of the Leica M11 may resemble its predecessors, there are a few changes that may prove controversial among die-hard fans. Firstly, the series’ traditional baseplate – which dates back to the Leica M3 in 1954 and had to be removed to access its battery or SD card – has now been replaced with a more practical design that reasonably gives you direct access to the two of these things.
Leica has also tweaked the M11’s rear buttons and touchscreen menus to match the Leica SL2 and Leica Q2, while its battery has now been boosted to 1,800mAh capacity from the 1,100mAh cells of his predecessors.
Because it is a rangefinder camera, the M11 has an optical viewfinder and a focusing system that involves manually aligning two images in the center of the frame. But if you fancy ruining its look with a modern electronic viewfinder, the new Visoflex 2 will be available as an option and will offer 3.7MP resolution.
With a sprinkling of other modern upgrades, including rangefinder mode multi-field metering (previously only available in Live View), USB-C charging, and the promise of enhanced connectivity features via a firmware upgrade in the second half of 2022, the Leica M11 is certainly a big step forward for a traditional camera. Unfortunately, its price is right in classic Leica territory, with the M11 available now for $8,995 / £7,500 (around AU$14,180).
Analysis: a clever but niche mix of old and new
Leica M-series cameras have always been an acquired taste – you’ll either love their rangefinder focus and classic designs, or see them as anachronistic indulgences with ridiculous price tags. But the Leica M11 looks like a smart attempt to appeal to a new crowd, while retaining the series’ distinctive charm.
Some M-series die-hards may lament the abandonment of the baseplate or the M11’s adoption of the controls seen on the Leica SL2 or Q2. But those fans probably already own an M-series camera, so Leica was wise to add new features like a new 60MP full-frame sensor and, most notably, 64GB internal storage.
On the other hand, the M11 still lacks several modern conveniences like in-body image stabilization, autofocus, and video recording – and you’ll need to be absolutely sure you’re happy with the focus of the rangefinder before shelling out that kind of money on a camera. For those with more typical budgets, alternatives like the Fujifilm X-Pro3 offer features like a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder for a much lower investment.
But like a Porsche 911, it’s fair to say the Leica M11 lives in a world of its own – and if the build quality and shooting experience are up to par with its predecessors, it’s got a good chance of winning. be another popular installment in a series that dates back almost 70 years.