The Leica M11 is the latest in a long, venerable line of luxury-grade cameras of the sort typically bought by people with plenty of disposable income. They are as much jewelry as photographic tools, yet the M11 has some impressive capabilities that beg the question, should you buy one?
Incredible image quality
There are few cameras on the market that can equal the M11 in terms of sheer resolution. This camera packs a whopping 60 megapixels (MP). That means some enormous, hard-drive-hogging files as a result, but Leica is calling the M11’s sensor “triple resolution,” meaning that it can also shoot at 36MP and 12MP while still using the full area of the sensor.
An added bonus is that at lower resolutions, the M11 gets better dynamic range. A further boon to image quality is the unique infrared and ultraviolet cut filter that helps the camera render more accurate colors. The result of all this tech is a camera capable of capturing the absolute best photos possible.
A joy to use
Between the rangefinder design, impeccable physical control dials, and small form factor, the Leica M11 is a fun camera to use. It immerses you in the craft of photography without getting in the way like the bulky, plastic monsters that make up the bulk of the modern camera market. Despite its beautiful design, it cuts the fat of unnecessary distractions from your photography.
An ongoing value
Where most digital cameras precipitously decline in value as soon as you take them out of the box, a Leica M series camera may be sold years later after heavy use for a hefty percentage of its original purchase price. The M10, for example, now five years old, still sells on eBay for as much as or more than it did in 2017, depending on its condition.
A factor in this longevity is the high build quality that cameras in this series possess. They are built like tanks, and are actually designed to age gracefully like fine wine. For example, the ones made out of brass are made so that as the exterior paint is worn away over time, the camera will develop a unique and attractive patina.
Carry the M11 around, and your fellow photographers will almost certainly turn green with envy. Even if you’re not much of a photographer, you can compensate for much of your lack of skill or talent because people will assume anyone willing to drop that much on a camera must know what they’re doing! Just swagger into your local gallery with your handful of drab snapshots and your M11 hanging around your neck and you will surely become a hit in no time flat.
Leica lenses are legendary — and for good reason. They are as close to optical perfection as it is possible to get. Not only are lenses such as the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 f/2 ASPH among the sharpest ever made, with a distinctive character all their own, they are also shockingly compact compared to lenses with similar focal lengths and apertures from other manufacturers.
There’s no sugarcoating the fact that the Leica M11 will set you back $8,995. Think of all the other things you could do with that kind of cash. You could buy a used car, or a high-end Nikon setup and have money left over to go on vacation with your new camera. It’s several thousand more than Nikon, Canon, or Sony’s most expensive new mirrorless cameras, and that’s not even including a lens.
Remember that Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 f/2 ASPH lens? Well, if you want that little beauty, be prepared to pay up $8,995 all over again because as expensive as Leica camera bodies are, they represent only the tip of the iceberg for what you must expect to spend. However, if $18,000 for a new camera and lens scares you, then you aren’t the intended market for the M11. If you’re seriously considering this camera, it’s probably to complement that shiny new Lamborghini you’ve got parked in one of your garages.
Lacks modern features
Despite that mind-boggling mountain of money you’ve got to fork over for the M11, it’s really rather antiquated in many ways. There’s no in-body image stabilization, and it doesn’t even have autofocus. Though this camera exists in the luxury tier of the market, it’s one of the most bare-bones cameras you can buy, and that no-frills style is exactly what Leica photographers want.
Can’t shoot video
In terms of things Leica photographers have made it clear they don’t want, video is right up there at the top of the list, and thankfully for them, the M11 doesn’t even give you the option to shoot video. This is a stills-only camera, so look elsewhere if you’re planning on doing any filmmaking.
Pretentious and unnecessary
There’s no polite way of saying this, but Leica cameras are cameras whose target audience is made up of pretentious snobs. I’m allowed to say this, because if I were more wealthy, I too would be a pretentious, Leica-owning snob. Like a fancy watch, a diamond necklace, or lately — a Netflix subscription — the M11 is overpriced, and there are similar products out there that can do almost everything it can for a fraction of the cost.
Don’t kid yourself that you need the M11; it’s something you want, and so long as you acknowledge that, you can go ahead and enjoy this pretentious, unnecessary, and wonderful device.
You’ll be afraid to shoot with it
The problem with buying very nice and very expensive items designed to perform a practical task is that you may well be reluctant to risk wear and tear, not to mention damage and theft. If you’re stretching a tight budget to buy this insanely expensive camera, you may not be able to truly enjoy owning it.
At the end of the day, the Leica M11 is ideally suited to its target audience of photographers who can afford an extremely expensive piece of art that is also capable of capturing gorgeous photographs. Don’t get me wrong, this is an incredibly powerful camera, capable of delivering unique and compelling images. However, for most hobbyists and working professionals, more practical devices are available at a third of the price.
If you’re a Leica enthusiast, you have probably already ordered the M11. If you’re someone with deep enough pockets that spending nearly ten grand on a camera is an impulse buy, you should buy the M11. If you’re a highly successful professional photographer who wants to add the “Leica Look” to their portfolio, then you should buy the M11. If you’re anyone other than this tiny, tiny portion of the population, then you’re better off buying almost any other camera.
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