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Leica M11 Review

Last Updated on April 5, 2022 by Devaun Lennox

Released in the spring of 2022, the Leica M11 (Typ 2416) comes to market as the successor to the M10, released five years prior. Like the M10, it’s a full-frame rangefinder that pairs digital photography with an analog experience that dates back to the original M3 released in 1954.

But, despite the similarities to the M10 at first glance, this latest edition comes packing a lot of changes.

On paper, it brings a brand new 60MP BSI CMOS sensor, making it among the highest resolution full-frame cameras on the market. Yet, Leica’s also added an expanded ISO range, an updated processor, a new battery, built-in storage, dedicated metering, and an updated touchscreen.

Thankfully, though, it still retains the classic look modeled from its film predecessors. So it looks like Leica’s keeping to the traditions and their understated design.

Still, how does it stack up to the already excellent M10 or the high-resolution M10-R? And are the updates justifiable given the starting price? Let’s find out.

editors-choice-badge

“Leica’s best rangefinder yet.”

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Leica M11?

Pros

Image Quality

It obtains a brand new 60.3 MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor and the updated Maestro III image processor. So gone is its predecessor 24 MP CMOS sensor and Maestro II processor. And it now stands as the highest resolution full-frame camera Leica offers, besting even the M10-R by 50%. Leica also added a dual-layer UV/IR filter, rather than just a traditional IR filter alone. And this combination helps absorb these wavelengths to improve the camera’s rendering and peripheral sharpness.

Overall, the image quality this camera delivers is outstanding and closely matches the leading premium full-frame cameras with such resolution. The 14-bit DNG (RAW) images offer an extraordinary level of detail, even after heavy cropping, with minimal compression artifacts and excellent latitude for post-processing.

Leica also claims the camera delivers upwards of 14 stops of working dynamic range. And indeed, with the updated base ISO of 64, images have natural highlight roll-offs and smooth tones. Yet, they also have that hard to describe film-like bokeh and natural color rendering Leica’s known for. As such, the M11 now stands as their best-performing camera to date as far as image quality is concerned.

Black-version-Leica-M11-camera

Leica’s added several resolution options for the camera’s DNG files, the 60 MP (L-DNG), 36 MP (M-DNG), and 18 MP (S-DNG). And, interestingly, they’ve chosen to create these smaller files by sampling the full sensor readout and downscaling rather than using line-skipping or a sub-sampling technique. Or, put another way, the camera combines multiple pixels to increase the overall light efficiency. The result is that images in these modes have a better signal-to-noise ratio and reduced moiré. They also improve the dynamic range (to 15 stops), increase the continuous shooting speeds and reduce the file sizes. So it’s quite a sensible option for photographers to avoid some of the storage demands with the 60 MP mode when not necessary.

The M11 also features an in-camera crop mode, useful in some situations for framing. But, it’s exclusive to the 60 MP (L-DNG) mode. Here the camera limits the Angle of View of the lens. And that results in a 1.3x crop at 36 MP or a 1.8x crop at 18 MP. And the camera displays the frame lines in Live View so that you can compensate accordingly.

Note: this crop applies to DNG and JPEG images, and it’s not a hard crop that deletes the pixels for DNG files. Instead, it’s a tag in the metadata so that you can override it later in post-processing. However, JPEGs are cropped permanently.

The Maestro III processor also brings Multi-Field (Matrix) metering through the rangefinder to the M-series for the first time. And the camera now uses its sensor rather than a discrete internal meter to measure light reflecting off the shutter. So now, it confidently performs exposure metering. And now you can focus on the subject and not hassle with metering the scene and fiddling with the exposure compensation.

Additionally, the M11 becomes the first M-series camera with an electronic shutter. And Leica added the new Hybrid mode, letting the camera automatically select either mechanical or electronic shutter depending on the shutter speed. But, you can shoot with the electronic shutter exclusively if you want to shoot silently. It’s also a great option if you’re going to shoot outdoors at wide-open apertures without resorting to an ND filter.

With the Maestro III processor, the camera gains a generous 3 GB buffer, up from 2 GB. And, given the high-resolution sensor and large file size, it offers reasonably competent continuous shooting performance. Granted, it’s not the intended way most photographers would likely use this camera. Nonetheless, it provides 4.5 FPS, delivering 15 DNG images at full resolution, 30 at 36 MP, or unlimited if you drop into the 18 MP crop mode.

Leica-M11-Battery

Battery Performance

The M11 gains a new battery, the BP-SCL7, rather than the older SCL5 used on its predecessor. This change yields a generous 233% increase in longevity. Now, the camera offers 700 shots per charge under regular use or 1,700 using the rangefinder exclusively, making it directly on par with some of the best cameras in this regard. So, it’s unlikely any users would have difficulty getting through a full-day shoot of heavy use.

The camera also supports charging via its USB-C port, helpful when traveling.

Low Light Performance

Low light performance on the M11 is excellent and on par with the best high-resolution cameras around. It features a native ISO range from ISO 64-50,000, extending the bottom range to a third stop lower than the M10. And photos show excellent detail with minimal noise up to ISO 3,200. At the mid-range ISOs, there’s some fine tightly patterned noise, which progressively gets rougher as you stop up. But, it’s not until after ISO 12,500 does the noise become distracting, with minor color artifacts and reduced sharpness. Still, even ISO 25,000 offers a fair bit of detail, so it’s usable when necessary.

Note: You can use the 36 MP and 18 MP capture modes to produce even less noise and correct for any color casts and false color artifacts.

Overall, in this regard, Leica has excelled. The M11’s refined sensor surprisingly delivers low light performance that closely matches the M10, yet it does so with nearly three times the pixel count. So not only do you get superior resolution, but you can also rely on this camera in challenging lighting. And that’s a massive win for Leica M shooters.

Focusing Performance

As a rangefinder, the M11 doesn’t offer autofocus. Instead, you’ll focus manually using the camera’s optical viewfinder and its smaller front-facing window using Split Image. And you’ll acquire focus by moving the focus lever until the subject overlay is aligned. This technique takes some getting used to, but it’s extremely accurate in practice.

However, the M11 does grab some helpful focusing aids from the M10 if you use the camera in Live View. Here you get Focus Magnification (available in 3x or 6x) and Peaking (available in red, green, blue, or white). You can also double-tap the screen to initiate Focus Magnification at the selected point, which is helpful. Plus Leica’s electronically stabilized Live View, smoothing out any jitters or camera motion, making things even easier there.

Note: the camera only applies electronic stabilization to the Live View feed, not the resulting images. So you’ll want to use proper camera techniques to mitigate any motion blur.

Overall, focusing on this camera is intuitive but does take time to master. Thankfully, once you master it, you’ll realize it’s faster than manually focusing on most mirrorless systems using Peaking, Microprism, or Split Image assists. The Live View experience is also entirely usable, although it doesn’t play to the camera’s core strengths.

Live View as a whole isn’t as accurate as using the viewfinder. So it’s better served as a general guide for acquiring focus. Still, having this functionality on a rangefinder does make it easier when working on a tripod or awkward angle, especially given that the camera has a larger screen and higher resolution than previous models. So it’s a nice crutch to have when needed.

Leica-M11-focus

Display & Viewfinder

It obtains the same optical viewfinder configuration as the M10. So it too features a 0.73x magnification and an integrated lens-coupled rangefinder using a Split field image to help focus accurately. With a 28mm equivalent Angle of View, the viewfinder also shows more of the surroundings when using a medium telephoto or longer lens, which is great for anticipating action.

Yet, it also houses a set of bright-line frames, LED overlays that show various Angles of View from different focal lengths (28/90 mm; 35/135 mm; 50/75 mm). These frame lines are easily visible, even in very dim or bright light. And they change automatically as you attach different M-Mount lenses so that you can compose accurately. Otherwise, the viewfinder also has a digital display that indicates both shutter speed and ISO in red symbols, similar to how it works on Leica’s film cameras.

Leica-M11-viewfinder

Overall, the rangefinder implementation is excellent and follows the M10 nicely. It offers outstanding clarity, a wide Angle of View, and a comfortable working magnification. The result is an incredibly precise focusing and viewing experience in most situations.

Otherwise, the M11 also features a 3.0 inch rear touchscreen LCD with a Gorilla Glass coating, like the M10. But, it offers more than double the resolution. In this case, 124%, to be exact. And it now stands at 2.33M dots, up from 1.04M.

The LCD offers striking colors, which are both rich and deep. It’s also bright enough to use outdoors comfortably. And it’s very capable of displaying the images taken with the M11’s high-end sensor.

The LCD also obtains touchscreen support from the M10. And it grabs many common gestures, including double-tap to zoom, pinch to zoom, dragging and swiping within playback, or adjusting the quick menu.

Overall, the display is excellent and leaves little room for complaints.

Leica-M11-screen

User Interface

It obtains a similar main menu system as the SL2 and Q2 models, organized into five pages with six settings, totaling a mere 26 options. And this menu is accessible by double-clicking the Menu button or tapping the three-bar icon in the bottom right of the Status Screen. Speaking of the Status Screen, it’s Leica’s version of a Quick Menu. And this single page houses 12 of the most common options, like Metering, Drive, File Format, and much more.

Nevertheless, since the M11 is a photography-oriented camera, the menu is rather bare-bones. But, in typical Leica fashion, the organization, hierarchy, and naming conventions are all immediately clear. And the overall user experience on this camera is excellent. The menus are clean, modern, and easy to navigate, especially compared to the complex designs offered by other manufacturers. So newcomers to this system should find this camera refreshing, easy to navigate, and quick to master.

It also obtains the programmable Favorites Menu, a customizable menu page that houses all your most-used settings. And double-tapping the Menu button recalls this menu first.

Physical Layout & Ergonomics

Externally, the M11 has a broadly similar design to the M10 with nearly identical dimensions. With that, it has a top-mounted ISO dial, with settings from ISO 64-6,400, and a Shutter Speed dial, with settings from 1/4000 to Bulb. Due to their size, though, some of the incremental settings for ISO aren’t available on the dial. But you can access the 1/3rd stop increments using the Status Screen and the M option on the dial. Either way, having access to all exposure settings makes for an immediate and direct shooting experience.

Leica-M11-with-lens

Otherwise, the camera also obtains the M10’s front-facing Image Field Selector to adjust the bright-line frame pairs. And it also keeps the M10’s three-button rear layout and rear command dial integrated into the thumb rest. But the rear dial now supports a push-in function, which you can customize to act as a third custom button.

However, Leica did add a new unlabeled function button on the right corner by the shutter release. And you can customize this button to one of 28 different settings available in the Main Menu. But, gone is the front-facing custom button on the M10, so it’s more of a location change, if anything. Still, this new positioning is superior to the old and easier to access when shooting.

Leica-M11-screen-and-viewfinder

Leica also removed the camera’s base plate, a controversial move to some long-time fans. Instead, it obtains the same bottom design from the SL and Q ranges. Nevertheless, it does provide more direct access to the battery and SD card (UHS-II), which you can access by pulling the bottom lever. And this design simplifies the process and inevitably speeds up the workflow of changing either component since you don’t have to unscrew the base plate first.

Internally, the M11 features a brass or aluminum top plate, depending on the color, and a magnesium alloy chassis. But, both models are wrapped in a sleek leatherette covering. Granted, the black model does weigh 110g less, standing at 455g without the battery. So that color has the advantage there. Otherwise, both models feature rubber seals internally to help protect against some adverse elements. But, the M11 isn’t officially dust or weather sealed. Nevertheless, the construction is comprehensive and outstandingly durable. And it feels pretty weighty and solid in hand but surprisingly comfortable.

Leica-M11-black-camera

Leica also released a dedicated Handgrip for the camera with a large front grip, which will improve its handling. But, crucially, it also has an integrated Arca Swiss thread to attach these types of tripod heads without needing a quick-release plate. The grip also maintains unrestricted access to the battery compartment and USB-C port. So it’s an accessory to consider if you have large hands.

The shutter release button is threaded, so you can attach a soft release button or a traditional screw-in cable if desired.

Leica-M11-shutter-release

Like the M10, it too has a hot shoe that interfaces with flashes up to a sync speed of 1/180 sec. And Leica added this setting to the physical Shutter Speed dial.

Niche Features/Extras

It features built-in dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4/5 GHz) and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, letting you connect wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet through the free Leica FOTOS companion app. There, you can geotag images using the camera’s Bluetooth connection. Or you can transfer photos and enable Live View shooting, where you can adjust ISO, file format, metering, and shutter speed. The design of the app is clean, simple, and direct. Plus, the connection is very consistent with minimal lag, so it’s powerful enough to act as a secondary screen. And it’s a great tool if you’re shooting on a tripod and need more flexibility.

It features 64 GB of built-in storage, supporting redundancy, overflow, and individual recording. You can also transfer images from the internal storage to the SD card at any time, without a computer, and configure it freely through the menus. This level of flexibility is excellent, especially in moments when you forget an SD card at home.

Leica-M11-app-connection

It also features a USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen1) port that supports both image transfer and USB charging. Leica also includes an MFI certified Lightning Cable, letting you connect the camera to an iPhone or iPad directly. Interestingly, this connection automatically opens the Leica FOTOS app. Still, this wired connection is an excellent means to transfer photos without relying on Wi-Fi, perfect for a mobile-first workflow. Yet, you’ll get superior reliability and better transfer speeds.

Note: the Lightning cable included with this camera doesn’t support charging or syncing other Apple devices.

It obtains the Level Gauge, a digital level, used to correct the horizon.

It obtains Exposure Clipping, and you can customize the upper limits to better gauge your exposure in Live View.

It has Interval Shooting to create time-lapses. And you can customize the number of frames, the interval between them, and the countdown.

Like the M10, it also features Exposure Bracketing, customizable between 3 or 5 shots and 1 to 3 EV stops.

Also like the M10, it obtains several unique minimum shutter speeds for Auto ISO. In this case, 1/f, 1/2f, or 1/4f. In these settings, the camera detects the focal length of the attached lens, then uses that to create the minimum shutter speed. So, for example, using a 75mm lens changes the minimum shutter speed to either 1/75th, 1/150th, or 1/300 sec. And it’s a clever and unique option that’ll guarantee you avoid camera shake regardless of the lens used.

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Photo taken with the Leica M11

Cons

Image Quality

Unfortunately, this camera has quite a long start-up time, which averages around 4 seconds. That’s 4 seconds of patiently waiting from the M11 to boot before taking a picture. And, while that sounds small on paper, that could very well mean you miss a decisive moment when shooting photojournalism or street photography. I didn’t notice this while using the camera at first. But when later compared to the X100V, the poor man’s rangefinder-inspired mirrorless camera, the difference is enormous. So keep this in mind beforehand.

The electronic shutter on this camera, while silent, also doesn’t scan particularly fast. So you’ll see rolling shutter distortion when capturing pictures of subjects moving across the frame. In those situations, using the mechanical shutter is best. And, instead, use the electronic shutter for a more static medium where you want to reduce the ambient light.

It’s important to note that with 60 megapixels, this camera will really test your shooting style. And the resolution it has will highlight any downsides of poor technique. So if your focus is off or there’s camera shake during the shot, you’ll quickly see those mistakes in post-processing.

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Photo taken with the Leica M11

Video Capabilities

Like the M10, this camera also lacks video capabilities outright. And it’s strictly a photographer’s camera.

Autofocus Performance

As a rangefinder, this camera lacks any autofocus functionality. Instead, you will focus manually through the optical viewfinder or Live View.

But, it’s important to highlight that achieving precise focus can be tricky, especially if you use a telephoto lens or a wide aperture value. It’s also challenging to focus on a subject if they’re not dead center in the frame since that’s where the rangefinder patch lies. And a mechanically coupled rangefinder is only so accurate in these situations.

The result is that you’ll rely heavily on the focus recomposing technique. The problem is that recomposing ends up shifting the focus plane and usually results in soft, slightly out-of-focus images.

And with a 60MP sensor, you’ll definitely see that lack of detail since this amount of resolution makes this problem obvious. So you’ll have to continually make a trade-off between tack-sharp photos or those with a more interesting composition. Not ideal. Nevertheless, focusing through the optical viewfinder is far more accurate that Live View. So, it’s still the best option despite these shortcomings.

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Photo taken with the Leica M11

Display

Like the M10, it too lacks a tilting display. Instead, it’s fixed onto the rear plate, which isn’t particularly helpful when shooting at a high or low angle. So be prepared to squat and get dirty.

Like the M10, it too lacks an electronic viewfinder, and it isn’t integrated into the optical viewfinder as Fujifilm has done with the X100 lineup. So if you want any EVF functionality, you’ll have to purchase the optional Visoflex 2 viewfinder. This accessory connects to the camera’s hot shoe. But it does tilt and offers a 3.7M dot resolution, adding much-needed versatility when working at low angles. However, it does take away much of the joy in a rangefinder experience, and it’s also quite expensive. So keep that in mind.

Note: the optical viewfinder on this camera has an equivalent Angle of View of 28mm. So you’ll have to use Live View or purchase the Visoflex 2 to use ultra wide-angle lenses; neither is ideal.

It’s also important to point out that while the eye relief on the viewfinder is good, you may have difficulty seeing all the frame lines with a wide-angle lens. So if you want perfect framing, then you may want to switch to Live View after acquiring focus.

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Photo taken with the Leica M11

Menus

Like the M10, the touch screen still doesn’t support menu navigation, so you’ll still have to use the D-pad. This continues to be strange since the touchscreen works perfectly with the Status Screen menu.

Ergonomics

This camera doesn’t have a front grip, so you’ll need a neck strap for longer outings to reduce hand fatigue.

Leica-M11-iso-button

Like the M10, it offers a top-mounted ISO dial, mimicking an old-school film rewind knob. But, it too is stiff, making it difficult to grip and pop out. It also requires a particular technique, so it’s quite a hassle when you want to change this setting quickly.

Standard tripod plates will also block the release lever for the battery compartment. So you’ll first have to remove the camera from the plate to access these components. And that’s a tedious process.

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Photo taken with the Leica M11

Lacking Features

It lacks official weather sealing, which is a shame considering the camera’s price point and target audience. Of course, it’s hard to argue that it’s masterfully built-in and incredibly rugged, but without proper weather sealing, you’re still risking it during a sudden downpour.

  • It lacks in-body image stabilization.
  • It lacks a microphone input.
  • It lacks a headphone output.
  • It lacks an HDMI port.
  • It lacks in-camera HDR.

Is this a good beginner camera?

No.

This camera is too expensive for beginners. If you’re a beginner and still want a Leica, consider the Leica T camera instead.

What are the best lenses for the Leica M11?

General Photography

Landscape & Astrophotography Photography

Portrait Photography

Sports & Wildlife Photography

Product & Still Life Photography

Extra Batteries

SD Cards

Tripods & Gimbals

Is this a good camera for you?

Yes.

Current Leica M10 (or later) owners should consider upgrading. The M11 combines all of the already excellent features in the M10. Yet it brings dedicated metering and a much better sensor that outperforms both the M10 and M10-R. These features alone make it a fantastic upgrade.

In the end, Leica’s M11 continues to blur the line between analog and digital. And it melds a high-end design with a traditional photographic experience that pays its due to the original Leica M film cameras. Yet, it also modernizes the lineup with a high-resolution sensor that brings outstanding image quality and low light power.

Plus, it boasts incredible battery life, built-in storage, revamped metering, and superb wireless connectivity. As such, the M11 brings a complete range of features and unmatched flexibility that make it the ultimate M. So if you’re in the market for a timeless rangefinder experience with the comforts of digital photography, here is your camera.

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
4.7

Summary

Like all Leica’s, the M11 targets a small niche of hardcore photographers who value a more thoughtful and slower approach to shooting or those wanting a timeless experience and an iconic design. But, the changes Leica made this go-round have greatly refined the M lineup while staying true to the core ethos. And while it’s unlikely to expand the user base, it’s the best Leica M camera to date and will surely be a hit with existing customers.

Photo of author

Devaun Lennox

I'm a fashion, beauty, and commercial photographer turned impromptu photojournalist. Based in Las Vegas, my images are graphic, bold, and full-on contrast.