5 years is not a very long time in Leica-land, however the pictures world has been turned the wrong way up because the Leica M10 landed in January 2017. Since then, computational pictures and AI enhancing have reworked novice snapping – and that is why the brand new Leica M11 now stands out as a relic from a bygone age.
But the truth that the Leica M11 is an entire anachronism – a steam prepare in a world of Virgin Hyperloops – solely heightens its attraction. This can be a digicam with no autofocus, not to mention busy little algorithms piecing collectively the perfect bits out of your burst of pictures. However its manual-only taking pictures and rangefinder focusing protect a method of taking pictures that is the polar reverse of, say, Google’s Magic Eraser.
Some will argue that Leica’s M-series cameras are overpriced trophies for nostalgists, or badges of honor for rich digicam snobs. However whereas it is onerous to disagree that the Leica M11 is overpriced at $8,995 / £7,500, it is also potential to understand that it exists. I am going to most likely solely ever personal quartz watches, however that does not imply I am unable to dream of shopping for a hand-wound Tag Heuer Carrera.
The distinction between the Leica M11 and loads of different classic tech is that its nostalgia attraction is not simply skin-deep. It is a perfectly-evolved instrument that provides trendy conveniences in simply the correct locations, and gives one thing genuinely totally different from the rest on the market. And with a direct lineage that stretches again to the Leica M3 in 1954, it is also fairly distinctive on the planet of shopper tech.
So what makes the Leica M11 particular? Full disclaimer: we’ve not but totally examined one, so we won’t but touch upon the efficiency of its new 61MP full-frame sensor. However the attraction of the M-series idea is in its dimension, rangefinder focusing and ease, and all of these are nonetheless intact on Leica’s new mannequin.
Like its predecessors, the M11 gives a basic rangefinder expertise with an optical viewfinder. Reasonably than utilizing an autofocus system to lock onto your topic, its viewfinder has a central window that brings collectively two ghost photos. Flip the main target ring to deliver these two photos collectively, and once they line up completely, you are in focus.
This sounds difficult, however it rapidly turns into second nature – and it brings a few benefits. First, the optical viewfinder enables you to see across the edges of your body, which might make you are feeling extra linked to a scene in comparison with staring down the barrel of an EVF. Additionally, because of the lens’s depth-of-field scale, you need to use ‘zone focusing’ that can assist you shoot rapidly with no need to focus in any respect.
It is a extra advanced point-and-shoot expertise than a telephone, however it prompted legendary road photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson to name his Leica rangefinder “the extension of my eye”. The M-series strips away buttons, settings, distractions and automations, whereas maintaining you linked to the standard photo-making course of – it is good to see that survive in a world of computational pictures, regardless of the M11’s prohibitive price ticket.
And the M11 is far more than only a fusty throwback; in spite of everything, you might simply purchase a second-hand Canon AE-1 movie digicam for a very classic expertise. For the primary time on an M-series digicam, the M11 comes with 64GB inside storage – a characteristic that continues to be unusually missing on most mirrorless cameras – which helps to compensate for its lack of a second card slot. Its new 61MP sensor additionally provides it a really excessive decision for a digicam of this dimension, and offers you the choice of taking pictures 36MP or 18MP snaps utilizing the complete sensor space (albeit with pixel binning).
The opposite advantage of the Leica M11’s manual-only method is dimension. As a result of Leica’s rangefinder lenses lack autofocus motors, and since the digicam itself would not have options like in-body picture stabilization, it is very compact for a full-frame digicam. The scale distinction is not fairly as noticeable in comparison with in the present day’s mirrorless cameras because it was again within the SLR days, however the M11 continues to be half the thickness of a Sony A7 IV, with a lot smaller lenses.
This makes it about the identical dimension because the Nikon Z fc, one other retro digicam with a extra wise price ticket, however one which has a smaller APS-C sensor and inferior lenses. A giant a part of the Leica M11’s attraction is undoubtedly its beautiful, but powerful, design, however this once more serves a sensible goal – it is supreme for road and reportage pictures.
Whereas the Leica M11 is undoubtedly an indulgence, that price ticket can at the very least partially be rationalized with the data that it is a digicam that is been constructed to final a lifetime. The one odd factor is that the black model’s housing is partly product of aluminum, as opposed the silver mode’s basic brass-and-magnesium building, but the 2 fashions value the identical.
Regardless of this oddity, the M11’s heritage makes it fairly distinctive on the planet of shopper tech. There are only a few present traces with a lineage that stretches instantly again to the 1950s – a fast ballot of the TechRadar group raised the Braun LE01 wi-fi speaker (a resurrection of its LE audio system from the 50s), the B&O Beolit 20 (based mostly on the Beolit radios of the 1930s), and the Klipsch Heritage Heresy IV (a successor to the 1957 loudspeaker) as related examples. But none of these are fairly as iconic because the Leica M-series.
Retaining the handbook flag flying
Does this imply we suggest shopping for a Leica M11? No – that will be ridiculous given its price ticket, and as talked about we’ve not but put it by way of its paces on the streets. Realistically, the good choice for anybody who desires to benefit from the rangefinder expertise with trendy conveniences is the Fujifilm X-Pro3 – you should buy 5 of these for the worth of an M11, and the X-series has some beautiful prime lenses.
However this additionally does not imply that, in a world of falling digicam gross sales and more and more homogenous taking pictures experiences, we won’t have fun the existence of the Leica M11. Positive, it is solely in a position to justify its existence by mining its luxurious model and heritage, however it’s no cynical cash-in both. It is a subtly-evolved pictures instrument that also has benefit in 2022, nearly 70 years on from its arrival.
In some ways, this all makes the M11 the anti-Google Pixel. From the Google Pixel four in 2019, Google pioneered a type of computational pictures, with options like Night time Mode, that fully automates the snapping expertise.
In the present day’s digicam telephones are good instruments for most individuals, however that needn’t be on the expense of area of interest classics which might be far more difficult to grasp, and much more satisfying. Regardless of its barely ridiculous price ticket, it is good to see that the Leica M11 stays a torch-bearer for that type of taking pictures expertise.