What I Love Most About The Leica M11
Reflecting on two wild years with my daily carry.
The Leica M11 has been my go-to camera for the last two years and I take it with me everywhere I go. From Rajasthan to Rick Ross—with a Summicron or Summilux—I’ve managed to rack up 22,007 images since this camera became available and like I’ve said in the past, if I could only have one camera by my side it’d be this one right here.
After taking this rangefinder for a second lap around the sun, I wanna share with you what I’ve come to appreciate most, some of the ways the experience can get better, and the single biggest way this little camera changed my entire photography.
Building an Iconic Design
In 2022, I sat down with Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Leica Camera AG, and he told me the that one of the things that Leica would never compromise on is what a Leica product should look and feel like. It’s this level of commitment that I’ve come to really appreciate with the Leica M11.
When you have an imaging tool that integrates some of the best in sensor and imaging technology into something that can sit so comfortably in one hand—with with a lens attached—you want take it everywhere. It unlocks this creative experience that you just don’t find in many other products. The pursuit of capturing an image on a camera like this creates a unique feedback loop that most manufacturers would love to emulate. But it’s not just the size of these cameras that’s impressive.
These cameras are built differently too. You pick one up and suddenly you look at your mom and dad and wonder why they’ve never shown you this kind of love before. There’s a weight and attention to detail here that feels considered.
Now look, the physical experience is one great feature about the Leica M series but you need at least two more to create a home run product.
Let’s Talk About Glass
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the M mount and with that comes a ton of lens options to choose from. This my friends, is the one of the major differentiators for the M system.
And I know that some of you may be wondering, “Gajan! Can’t you take these lenses and adapt them to any other modern photography solutions” Absolutely. And you can put almond milk in your coffee, eat gluten-free pizza, and spend your life savings on NFTs. What I mean to say, is that sometimes the original just feels better.
Owning an M camera is a unique place to be where you can tap into some of the company’s most cutting edge options. Like the new Summilux 50mm F1.4 which lets you capture lots of detail at high resolution and swim in this incredible bokeh, all at the same time. Modern options like this can be sharp where they need to be and then change rapidly and non-linearly to accentuate other characteristics. For example, look at the image below. You can land a thread in focus and just see everything else melt away more than the F1.4 on the aperture ring would indicate.
You can also take this modern Leica and dig in the archives to get older lenses for an entirely different look, like the Summarit 50mm F1.5. Use something like this and suddenly your photos are transported to an entirely different world where the results feel vintage. As a creative—especially when you're making a living producing images—you can start to think about a deeper relationship to glass and the message you’re trying to convey with your art.
It’s a rare and fascinating place to be. Owning an M11 allows you to really take advantage of Leica’s rich catalog of optical design. It allows you to hone your taste even further to differentiate your work.
Now, the third thing I’m gonna mention is sure to piss off some people—including a few Leica owners—but I think it’s something that isn’t admitted enough in public.
The “E” Word
There’s an emotional element to investing in Leica that you just don’t see in many other imaging brands. With most photography tools, you weigh out how the specs will influence your work and make a pretty utilitarian decision. They feel great to get but at some point they fade into “just” a tool, where it sort of looks and feels like everything else. Kinda like a smart watch.
This is where the Leica M series really breaks the mould. For most people, including myself, getting one feels like an achievement in itself. But even after the honeymoon phase, there’s this lasting romance to an M that keeps you coming back. You can’t help but admire it. Like saving up for that retirement Rolex, a Leica feels like something you earn. And something I’ll tell anyone, you continue to pay your dues by shooting the hell outta it.
It’s not just me. This is a sentiment shared by Matthias Harsch, the CEO of Leica AG. When I spoke with him last year, he stressed how buying a Leica camera has a rational component but there’s an important emotional component for most people. This is incredibly rare in the photography space, often reserved for family or film cameras.
Even after the release of the first Leica M3 in 1954, the emotional power of an M camera feels stronger than ever. And as much as some people wanna knock it, this is a feature. And one that you just can’t fake.
Why the M11?
Alright, for those of you still reading, you might be thinking, “A lot this could be applied to several M cameras. So Gajan, what is it about this M11 that has you bought in after all this time?”
This sensor captures incredible detail at 60MP, with a ton of dynamic range and a very neutral colour profile. I love that I can maneuver through these tight spaces all over the world and still capture such an incredible file as my starting point. It’s this combination of detail, dynamic range, and colour that make the M11 so compelling.
The battery life on the M11 is phenomenal. Even when purists were lamenting the removal of the M10 baseplate, I was adamant that this battery change would be huge. And it was. Being able to shoot for multiple days and charge via USB-C when needed is just incredible. Many cameras can do the latter, but only a few can do the former. And yea, there’s gonna be somebody that wants to put their hand up and say, “How hard is it to just charge your batteries at night?”
To them I ask, what’s it like being it the most annoying person in your friend group?
In all seriousness, when you’re in the field shooting day after day, for weeks at a time, you may not have the luxury to prepare as much as you normally do. And this is what leads me to the next point about the Leica M11… The internal storage!
Imagine shooting 500 to 1,000 shots a day, for 20 days straight, with minimal sleep, a questionable diet, and the existential threat of whether any of the work you’re doing actually matters. It’s in times like these where a camera with incredible battery life and internal storage really come in handy. For the off chance that you didn’t charge or didn’t replace your memory card, you have this safety net that just might save the day. And for me, it saved my ass more than once.
Lastly, I love how much attention the software on the Leica M11 has gotten. We saw five updates in the first year. Last year, we saw three major updates that introduced features like a better self timer, tethering for Capture One, extended dynamic range for JPEG files, three customizable characters for file names, closing the shutter for lens changes, improvements to Fotos connectivity, upgrades in the exposure reading, and the most important one: fixing that freezing issue that several users experienced.
The software team works incredibly hard to keep these tools not only working, but improving over time. I love how this camera just gets better each year.
Can It Get Better?
Now look, I’m sure you’re wondering, “Gajan, don’t you have any complaints about this camera?” Well, I generally don’t own or review products that I have major complaints about. I leave that to the professional reviewers. If you’re familiar with my style, you know I always try to point out how things can improve for the user. So, with that in mind, how can this camera get better?
The most important update we need are more bug fixes. You see, while I’ve had really good luck with my M11 and many others have seen their issues go away, it still feels like there’s several key bugs that need to be ironed out. We’re going into the third year of this camera and it’s unacceptable that there’s people out there—however big or small that audience may be—still having issues with the camera freezing on them in the field. It’s an issue that’s still being shared regularly in groups and forums so yea, let’s look to fix this once and for all.
I’d love to see an update that introduces a mass storage mode when the Leica M11 is plugged into a laptop so we can drag and drop files.
For tethered shooting, it’d be awesome to have one file write to the internal storage while the another RAW file is sent to the laptop. Tricky but useful.
Having the top function button introduce a double-tap feature that can be customized would be awesome. Imagine double tapping that button to put your camera in and out of sleep mode.
I know this is very niche but introducing some custom frame lines in a JPEG profile would be valuable for those like me that have this around our neck when we’re directing or filming. This camera can effectively become a viewfinder tool in the field. This was done with the ASC special edition and I think it would be welcomed by many more here.
Speaking of the ASC edition, can we please get access to those custom cinema looks? Leica as a brand is getting more and more serious with video production and this would be a great addition for M11 users that want a filmic look straight out of the camera.
I don’t use focus peaking but maybe it was a bit more finely tuned, I would use it? It just feels a little off with these modern lenses and I think it can be improved.
And the craziest request of all? What if M11 users had the option to send their M11 in and have their internal storage upgraded? I know I’m in the minority but look, I plan on using this camera for the decade and perhaps longer if its passed down. Giving it a bit more storage would just feel like giving great tool even more life for the years to come.
Now, that’s a big list! So, to the hardworking engineering team at Leica… good luck!
The Most Important Point…
We’re entering the 70th anniversary of the M system and Leica feels more relevant than ever. The product catalog has never been wider, with new additions introduced every year. I’ve taken this M11 of mine all over the world and what was hard to admit was how much better my work got after I made my transition to this ecosystem. It’s just a weird, conflicting, boisterous thing to say out loud.
Was it the cameras? Maybe, but it can’t just be that. Was it the glass? Perhaps, but that still feels too simple. Was is the shooting experience? That’s a better argument but it doesn’t seem to encompass exactly what I was feeling.
I thought about this a lot over the last few months and it wasn’t until a recent flight back from India that it finally hit me: I’m just having way more fun. The Leica M11 didn’t make me a better photographer. It just made me enjoy photography more than before! And that started to show in the results.
I don’t say this to say that everyone needs an M11. Of course not. All I’m saying is that there’s something to be said about finding the perfect tool for your journey. The photography space has become so commodified where everything has to be measured and ranked, and we “have to” have one clear winner. This makes no sense. And what’s often lost in these conversations are the intangibles and nuance; the feel of something.
So, if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this post is that the most important thing your camera should do is make you want to use it. And after two years with the Leica M11, I can’t imagine a better tool that does that for me than this one right here.
December Contest Winners…
Last month, I had over $21,000 in Moment shop credit up for grabs, with three grand prizes. Congratulations to these winners that’ll see $500 in their Moment account this month:
I’ll be connecting with you directly about your credits. For the rest that entered the contest, you’ll see a $20 Moment credit applied to your account this month. Enjoy!
New January Contest!
Each month, I run a contest for the Church & Street Foto Club and try to feature something that I believe people will appreciate.
For January, I’ll be giving away the Moment Ultimate Cinebloom Bundle. It’s a collection of lens diffusion filters that help tame that sharp bite that modern digital cameras tend to have. It’s a really cool piece of gear that I keep with me, especially for client work. And I think you’d find value in them too.
How am I picking the winner? All you have to do is be a member of this community and leave a comment on this post. As with every contest, I’ll be randomly picking one person, confirming they meet the requirements and then contacting them directly before announcing the winner publicly.
Once again, this contest is void where prohibited by law. Good luck!
My thanks to the team at Moment! Not only for this contest but for being the longest supporter of my work online. They’re a lean team of passionate creators that truly believe in supporting other creators on their journey. Whether it’s a new camera, lens, workshop, or just some great articles, visit ShopMoment.com today.
Looks like February is gonna be busy where I’ll likely be moving between four countries across four weeks. Which means I’ll have plenty of flight time to sit down and write. I’ve tentatively mapped out all the topics for this year but if there’s something specific you’d like to read, please let me know in the comments.
Anyway, that’s enough for this week. See ya next time!