Yes, I am upgrading to the Leica M11
This post has the Leica M11 in its title and yet the first image that comes up first is my Leica M10-R. Seems nonsensical but please bear with me for a few paragraphs. When my wife is asked what her husband does for a living she always says “My husband sells cameras that makes photographers weak in the knees.” I have always loved this as it’s a humorous way to say that Capture Integration sells the world’s finest still photographic equipment. Our shelves are full of every single medium format sensor and each manufacturer’s highest quality product in their lineup.
To be good at what we do here at CI, we need to know these products cold. One of the perks of being an employee is that you can bring home a different camera every weekend and learn its nuances. It’s Hasselblad this weekend and Fuji GFX next weekend! And why go to the trouble of explaining this? Because the worlds best cameras are an arms length away from me, and yet I still only shoot with two systems. Those systems are the Phase One IQ4 150 and the Leica M10-R. I think that is a significant statement.
Why do I shoot these two systems?
It’s very simple.
- I appreciate quality craftsmanship
- I want a simple manual photographic process in a timeless design
- I demand the finest optics
- I want historic backwards compatibility with lenses
I am only on my second pair of LL Bean winter boots. The first pair lasted me 20+ years and the second pair might be my last. When I was younger, I purchased a watch based on my budget and I replaced that watch every 3 years or so. Today my watches will far outlast me. As I have aged, I now can see the dramatic advantage in making a purchase based on quality craftsmanship and not price. How many times have you heard from a friend or an acquaintance that they are using their father’s or grandfather’s Leica? I hear it all the time. And the thought of it brings a smile to my face.
When you are holding a hand-crafted Leica M made of brass and not molded plastic you know it. The design of the system has evolved over the last 100+ years. How many products do you know that are still being handmade? And how many products also have 100 years of design improvements yet still look strikingly similar to the original? This means the product was designed properly from its outset.
“A Leica M has over 1,100 individual pieces and takes over 14 hours to hand assemble.”
Personally, I love the weight, balance, and feel of shooting the Leica M. It brings me back to the manual cameras of my youth. And as photographers, we all need to shoot more. If you don’t have a camera that inspires you to pick it up and shoot, then change your system and get one. The Leica M, in my eyes, is photographic perfection that gives me a reason to grab it and use it. Isn’t that what we should want?
Simple and Timeless Design
If you ask me, the majority of cameras made today have no soul. Is that an extreme statement? When you are forced to know all the products on the market, I don’t think so. So many new cameras today are plastic future throwaways that try to be everything to every photographer. I am sorry but that is not my personality. I don’t want a PHD camera (Push Here Dummy). I want to create images with a system that makes me use my photographic knowledge and expertise. I don’t want an EVF, IBIS, AF, Auto anything….. I don’t want a crutch. I want to force myself to be in a place where I’m shooting and creating with my talent, my eye, and my creativity. It forces me to be a better photographer. If you prefer a camera that will make all the difficult decisions for you, then the Leica M is not for you. For all the rest, let’s keep talking.
I can’t tell you how many times when I am testing a new camera I unknowingly press a small button and change a setting. My focus changed, it switched to motion capture, It is no longer synching….. regardless of the change, I am forced to stop, figure out what I have done, and fix this error. Same with showing a new camera to a client. I hand it to the photographer, their nose changes a setting and they become frustrated. It changes the whole user experience.
“Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau
Leica gives me ease of use and simplicity. If I change from a Q to an SL to an M, they all have the same interface and menu system. This may seem logical but you wouldn’t believe how many great cameras have a completely different GUI and menus in the same camera family. Secondly, the Leicas have a simple 3 button design. YES, 3 buttons….not 33 buttons! Simple, reliable, and repeatable. And when I upgrade, I know that I can upgrade and within an hour feel very comfortable with the new features and the thoughtful design. It’s simple and timeless.
Optics that I can grow with
I have been testing Canon systems this week for a corporate customer and as always with Canon glass, the sensors out resolve most of the lenses in our inventory. I don’t have a problem putting this in writing. My clients know how I feel. And I have test after test after test where even the best canon glass fails at 50mp or more. When I buy a lens, I want to invest in a lens for the future. I want that lens to grow with me while my sensors change on the backside. I want to feel comfortable that with the next resolution upgrade, I will NOT need to upgrade the front of my camera as well. And the optics are a huge strength of the M system. Compact, Aspherical, fast, and balanced.
A few weeks ago, I shot my 65-year-old Summarit with my M10 monochrom. I would love to have the conversation over some bourbon sometime about what products we can still use today with parts made more than 6 decades ago. I can’t think of many. Maybe with an Old Fashioned or two, we could come up with some!
One of my biggest frustrations with manufacturers is when they intentionally lock me out of their product line. They add firmware where it intentionaly makes backward compatibility impossible and they do this on purpose. They are looking for a quick profit center forcing us to upgrade rather than creating a long-term customer. How many times does this need to happen before you give up and move on to another product?
I love the idea of shooting with my grandfather’s lenses. I love a company that creates a customer’s loyalty by keeping its products consistent and compatible. I love the idea that I am shooting with the same basic camera that my idols, Cartier-Bresson and Erwitt, used themselves.
What I am excited about seeing in the Leica M11
Dynamic Range and Resolution in that order
Moving to a Back Side Illuminated sensor opens the door for many feature upgrades. We have had a BSI sensor in the Phase One IQ4 150 for years now. BSI technology has yielded cleaner files with an improved dynamic range. And this has always been my one complaint with any camera after using a Phase One. None of them compare to the DR and highlight recovery in my medium format camera. The Leica M11 will now give me 14 stops of DR in full 60mp resolution and 15 stops of DR in the pixel binned smaller resolutions. I have not tested it yet but I am very much looking forward to putting it to the test and will update this blog when I do.
When it comes to resolution, I will always want more. I can’t always stand where I want when I shoot. I don’t always have the longer lens that I need. Or sometimes I just change my mind aesthetically after I take the shot. With 60mp resolution, I will now get 50% more options to change my crop when I get back to my computer. And I don’t want to hear “no one needs more than that.” Sorry, I want it. When you shoot with 150mp you know what you are missing when you shoot anything else. I will always shoot my M body but I will always want bigger files.
The BSI sensor gives us the ability to “pixel bin” which will give us 36mp and 18mp raw files options as well. There are a few instances where this comes in handy. It’s a nice option to have in the bag but not one that would push me to upgrade alone.
Larger Battery Capacity and Baseplate Elimination
The Leica M11 will now ship with a BP-SCL7 1800mAp battery. This is a big step up from the current 1100mAp BP-SCL5. This will allow us to get 60% more shooting time without the need to change batteries. While I am not thrilled to lose all my backup BP-SCL5’s in my bag, this is actually a nice upgrade in more ways than just power. Just mathematically, the battery in the camera and one backup will last longer than 3.5 batteries in the M10-R. If you use a leather body protection as I do, the hassle of taking it all apart and replacing a battery is an annoyance.
However, on top of the larger capacitance, the body has been redesigned eliminating the baseplate to match its sister cameras, the SL and Q. Not only will I not have to change batteries as much, I now no longer have to disassemble my system in order to change an SD card or battery. Thank you! And as you can see the SD card now fits in under a lip on the new battery.
64GB of Internal Memory, USB Connectivity, and Charging
No, it does not have a second SD card slot but it has something better. The Leica M11 now comes with 64GB of internal memory. Forgot your SD card or have had one go down one location? You can use the body without a memory card. Or you can use the internal memory as a backup to your SD. There have been many times where I wished I had this ability in the past and I can see it coming in handy in the future.
Forgot your charger at the office? Traveling and don’t have the right AC adapter for that country? Now you can charge your battery in the body directly from your computer or USB battery back up. With the USB connectivity, we can also transfer images from the SD card or the onboard storage. And who knows, maybe tethering to Capture One will also be in our future.
As a quick note, the M11 will be compatible with UHS-II SD cards and will have 3GB of buffer for faster capture and sustained continuous shooting.
4x Shutter Speed Improvements and Electronic Shutter Capability
Let’s just look at the change in exposures times between the two cameras:
|Long Exposure||960 seconds||1 hour|
These times are a direct effect of adding the BSI sensor. The improved sensor will now give us the ability to achieve longer exposures due to the clean files of this sensor technology. The hour-long exposure will be achieved with the mechanical shutter. And with the way the BSI pulls information off the sensor, we will also be able to use an electronic 1/16,000th of a second capture with a “rolling shutter” capability of this technology.
Other quick improvements that you might find valuable
- The Black-Finish will be an aluminum scratch resistant body that makes it 20% lighter than the Silver Chrome
- Multi Field Metering
- 3 customizable function buttons allow you to get to your important menu settings faster
- It is a “made for iPhone and iPad” product. And even includes a USB-C to lightning cable for direct transfers
- Live View Stabilization for better live view focus control
- Black frame capture – LENR – can be turned on/off for long exposures
- New Visoflex 2 – 3.7MP resolution, tilt, -4 to +3 diopter range
- New Ultra Thin Absorption Dual Layer IR/UV Block Filter Glass on Sensor
The Leica M11 is shipping now!
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Steve Hendrix – 404.543.8475 – Steve@Captureintegration.com
Chris Snipes – 813.335.2473 – Chris@Captureintegration.com
Dave Gallagher – 770.846.5223 – Dave@Captureintegration.com
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