Leica M11 body in black paint matte finish with a chrome finish 50mm summilux attached.
News,  Opinion

Thoughts on the up-coming Leica M11 – Updated

Update, January 7th: two new videos feature the new Leica M11 have leaked, see here for more details.

Nokishita Camera, the principal source of most camera leaks on the net today, published the first picture of the Leica M11 (shown above) last week, allegedly ’taken’ from Leica’s Japan-based site. As it has shown up there it’s genuine, and coming soon. Although the press get advanced warning of cameras I’ve not heard anything officially (or unofficially, either), so this is just what I would like to see featured. 

It’s been long rumoured that the M11 will differ greatly from the M10, however as the leaked photo reveals there are only some slight differences externally over the M10 (shown immediately above). 

Leica M11 body in black paint matte finish with a chrome finish 50mm summilux attached.
The as yet unannounced Leica M11, showing a high ‘waist’, small button to the left of the shutter release and missing the ‘Focus’ button.

First off the viewfinder looks unchanged over the M10, that’s to say it remains the same large durable optical finder with a rangefinder, quelling the rumour that it would be replaced by an EVF (though, I’m sure we’ll see a vastly improved optional Visoflex, if the power issues have been resolved – and perhaps they have as a new battery is also rumoured).

Next up is the removal of the Focus-confirmation button on the front – it looks to have been moved to the top plate (to the left of the shutter release in the photo, at the head of the page). Hopefully, Leica has aligned operation with the Q2 (and if I recall accurately the SL2), with it being a programmable button allowing immediate access to numerous key functions (on the Q2 it’s a large button within the knurled wheel but I would be happy that the much smaller button on the M11 replicated that). It’s the best of its type currently of any camera (other makers please take note) as it allows you to select one from eight functions at a time using the thumbwheel but also, crucially, replace them with others on the fly and then adjust those. It sounds more complicated than it is.

Leica M10 showing the black ‘Focus’ button, just under the small rangefinder window.
to be seen
Leica M10 rear shows how the screen sits proud of the body and the top plate. It is expected to sit flush on the Leica M11

On the Q2 there’s a second FN button on the back which works in the same manner (albeit without the on-the-fly re-programmability) and means between the two you hardly ever need to go into the main menu. Let’s hope the M11 has both of those features. I’ve had several emails saying the rear might be devoid of buttons and the direction-pad but I think that’s unlikely. 

If you look at the high waist of the M11 (compared to the M10) it can really only mean that was done to achieve a completely flush rear screen, again like the Leica Q2. The flush bottom plate appears to support another rumour – that access to the battery and memory card slot adopts the same modus operandi as the Q2. I’m in two minds about the card slot emulating the Q2 – it’s a bit tricky to open and close but I recall a senior Leica spokesperson saying they didn’t want to ‘break’ into the body of the M from the side on the M240, so who knows?

But do all those changes equate to a very different model? Maybe. Leica is quite conservative when it comes to the M. 

However, it’s possible (but not all that likely) that this model is the first M without a mechanical shutter. We know the current full-frame Ms use a modified vertical-running shutter from the Leica R8/9 and there’s little room inside the chassis, which is one of the reasons why the M10-R used a different (physically thinner) sensor to the Q2 and SL2 and can’t accommodate IBIS. For that, you have to have an oversized shutter to accommodate the lateral and vertical sensor movements. 

As a result, I can’t see the M11 featuring IBIS but a BSI CMOS sensor with a fully-electronic shutter, like that found on the Sigma fp and fp L models, still makes a lot of sense: noiseless, vibration-free, and high shutter speeds in excess of 1/4000sec are easily accommodated. It would also make video another option with the optional Visoflex (EVF) but that would start to challenge the SLs, so video of any kind is unlikely.

Even if that’s not the case and the M11 features the same mechanical shutter as the M10, I’m still expecting a BSI-type sensor at the very least if only to mitigate corner- and colour-shading. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the initial M11 was based around a 24 or 33MP sensor, with a second high-res variant, the M11-R, being based on a 60MP sensor – the latter perhaps might even feature the long-rumoured EVF. But that’s just wild speculation from me; it’s certainly a great way for Leica to encourage M-users, like myself, to invest in different versions for different tasks.

I don’t know when the M11 will be launched but the fact Nokishita has mentioned it already means it can’t be too far away. I expect to hear something in January.