Leica M11 Long-Term Review: The Best M Camera To Date

Simply put, it's the best photography camera I've ever used. Watch the video and read more to find out why.

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I've owned the Leica M11 for over a year, and in that time, I've shot over 13,000+ images. While most of these will never see the light of day, a handful of pictures helped solidify something significant — this is the best photo camera I've ever used.

And hear me out because I won't sit here and tell you this is objectively the best photo camera on the market. Instead, I want to illuminate what I've valued most after using this camera for over 12 months.

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Leica M11 Best Features

To begin — the battery life is insane. Its increased capacity and intelligent camera software make the M11 feel less like a digital camera because you forget you need to charge it. Even on the longest, most demanding days, I would still retain roughly 10% juice when I returned to my desk. This camera allows me to keep shooting in a way that most cameras I've used and tested don't.

Next, the menu system is a breath of fresh air. The separation of a quick menu, favorites menu and five easy-to-navigate standard pages make this the most straightforward digital design on a modern camera. As a professional, this translated to less time trying to remember where a specific setting was. You get where you need much more efficiently. Why don't other companies copy this?

The fact that the shutter curtain comes down when the camera is off to protect your sensor during a lens swap is clutch, especially when you catch yourself in dusty environments. Being able to tweak your JPG settings to make these great Leica profiles land a beautiful shot right out of the camera made me forget about Film Simulations.

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The camera's ability to have internal storage is incredible. In my initial review, I mentioned that users aren't necessarily clamoring for two memory card slots as much as they ask for redundancy and peace of mind. This system is much cleaner. You have one card to manage but two storage solutions, so if you forget a card, you can still keep shooting. As much as I hate to admit it, there were two times last year I forgot to confirm a memory card was in the camera. That's record for me, folks, and it turned out to be a non-issue because the M11 and its internal 64gb saved my ass.

To put it bluntly — the files you get with this sensor, especially when you pair it with a premium Leica lens, are phenomenal. I've shot with many cameras and lenses over the years, but the M11 with a modern Summilux gave me more of these 'OH SHIT!' moments for my clients and me. In times like this, the specs fade, and shooting becomes more about photography as an art. You have this beautiful moment in time that feels like any other solution couldn't have done it justice.

Will most people see the difference between this and another premium mirrorless camera? Probably not. But as a user, you will. And when you do, you must ask yourself, is the juice worth the squeeze?

Lastly, this camera gives you a rangefinder experience, not a pretend one. And because of that, it's challenging and something most people won't enjoy. There's no autofocus to save you; you must work for a solid frame. That isn't objectively a good customer experience, but — it's a more rewarding experience. Shooting with a rangefinder camera, where you have to align two boxes to focus or range focus by estimating the distance of your subject, feels like a more involved photographic experience.

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M11 Rangefinder Camera - Black


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Leica M11 Surprises

First, the Leica Fotos app works flawlessly. I could reliably connect to my device and transfer files within minutes. While this sounds like a simple enough thing to do, every other camera brand struggles with this functionality. The experience is messy, convoluted, or the transfer fails. Every modern camera should be able to transfer a photo to your mobile device like Leica's.

The firmware updates are also worth noting. Users saw five major updates in the first year alone, introducing features such as perspective control, highlight-weighted metering, energy-saving options, geotagging, high-speed sync, and multiple bug fixes. The most significant bug fixes resolved this error where the camera could lock up after several dozen shots, where you would have to do a battery pull to restart. I'd rather have a company put out the best product they can and listen to the consumers to improve it regularly over time than one that makes a great product and hoard new features for the next model.

Lastly, I was surprised how this camera altered how I approach shooting. I love the flexibility of a 35mm lens and its perspective, but using the M11, I started to grow an affinity for the 28mm look. I'd punch into the environment more and build more involved frames. If I had to pick, I'd still take a 35mm over a 28mm, but the slightly broader perspective of a 28mm is something that I'm reaching for more and more.

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Leica M11 Challenges

Just because this is the camera I've been enjoying the most doesn't mean it can't get better. I'd love to see Leica continue the firmware updates in the years to come and add features like custom sleep/standby times, more robust file name support, and the option to convert a DNG with your Leica profile into a TIFF file when transferring to your phone.

A double exposure mode in the camera may require more development, but it would be an outstanding feature. I'm sure there's a collection of Leica purists that dropped their monocles and scoffed at the notion of adding more tech and smarts to this M camera, but more users would appreciate this feature than not. It's another great-results-in-the-moment addition that would make this M11 even more impressive.

Furthermore, there's the topic of color from this sensor versus previous models, as well as this camera having more functionality and thus feeling less like a traditional Leica M product. Color is entirely subjective; some find the M11 needs to be revised to their standards. If you believe M-series cameras should be more straightforward and less advanced, this camera isn't for you. I enjoy where the color is now and appreciate how updated features make the camera more usable in more environments.

I'd be doing a disservice if I didn't bring up the production issues that some people met with this camera. For whatever reason, many people I spoke to needed help with their M11. Some were more serious than others, but it struck me odd that customer satisfaction was a mixed bag for a camera at this price. Although this is anecdotal, and I found more people with little to no issues than significant repairs, that's not an excuse. With that said, Leica also took this seriously, where anyone with problems with their M11 was getting expedited service.

Did I have any significant issues? None. This camera traveled over 50,000 KM with me the last year and has plenty of love marks to show it. In that time, I've never had a substantial issue. While I had to pull the battery every few hundred or so shots early in the year, this thing feels impeccable now after a few firmware updates.

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What We Rate

    • Just getting started
    • Understands manual settings
    • Shoots regularly
    • Professional

    • Passable
    • Pretty Good
    • Really good
    • Best Out There

    • Very noisy.
    • Average
    • Clean
    • Crisp And Clean

    • Sucks
    • Not bad
    • Good
    • Really Good

    • Leave it in the studio
    • Daily Carry
    • Traveler
    • Mountain Goat

    • Cheap
    • What You’d Expect
    • Solid
    • Top of the Line

Leica M11 Settings

Let's talk about how I've been using this camera. This camera typically sits in aperture priority mode, where the camera will decide the ISO and shutter speed for me. When the light starts to dip, I may fix the shutter speed to 1/125 to get the shot I'm looking for and let the ISO respond as needed.

On top of this, I've set up several custom profiles that I can tap into depending on where I'm using this camera. Whether it's bright outside, overcast, off-camera flash, or in the cover of night, I customize settings like ISO ceiling, exposure mode, JPEG profile, and even sensor resolution to work best for where I'm capturing.

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My first addition to the camera was a screen protector and an additional battery for more peace of mind. Next was a leather strap from ONA, which I love because it's lightweight and rugged enough for extended use.

Next up was the Leica thumb rest, which is entirely my friend's fault. I didn't know I needed one until I used his; the rest is history. Something about this makes the entire camera feel more secure on my hand, and I hate that I love it so much now. And lastly, I brought over the now-discontinued EF-X20 flash from Fujifilm, which is small and runs off 2 AAA batteries. It's a great little flash unit that works incredibly well, albeit in manual mode, and can give you more versatility in the field.

With all this said — I would give them all away for the best accessory to this Leica M11, and that's one holy grail lens: the Leica Summilux 35mm F1.4 ASPH. If you want to know why this is the best accessory I've ever invested in, you can watch my full review, where I explain at length and include some Easter eggs from some Leica experts.

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The Conclusion

This camera has over-delivered for me where the glass, the results, and the experience have all come together to raise the ceiling for what I could do as a photographer.

Sometimes you just know that a camera is right for you.

You go down this journey as a creative where you stumble; you pick yourself up, you fail, you learn, you fail harder, you learn harder, you grow, you develop, you travel, you struggle, you thrive, and — you just know. With over 13,000+ images later, I still find myself picking up the M11 and just appreciating the craft of this little guy. I still find myself taken aback by the results in the field and enjoy that this camera makes you concentrate.

If you're asking me, this is the best M camera to date.

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