Leica M11 - 3 Months Later
To start, this isn't the kind of review you might be seeking. Plenty of traditional reviews of specs, technical usage, comparisons, and such can give you all that info. That said, feel free to proceed.
Leica. The name conjures images of refinement, excellence in optics, reliability, perfection, compactness, and a gold standard in image capture. It also invokes high dollar signs and leaves most with the feeling this particular tool is unobtainable. Rightly so, too. There is no doubt we are talking about expensive equipment. Most professional bodies exceed $6,000 with equally pricey glass. Now that's not to say it's all overpriced. You get what you pay for, in my experience. However, your mileage may vary.
Like any artist, we are concerned enough that our tools are essential. However, the finest camera in the world does not make a perfect (chef's kiss) picture alone. The photographer has to account for something, right? Maybe a little curiosity and skill to boot? Photography is an expensive endeavor regardless of the format; owning the "finest camera in the world" doesn't mean you're an artist. It just means you own one. Congrats! You've got an INSANELY expensive paperweight.
I have been a Fuji shooter with no complaints. None since 2015. I love their cameras. Quality, ergonomics, retro look and feel, and the type of camera that made me excited to use it. I also love their color science, but I won't go down that rabbit hole now. Suffice it to say, Fuji is my jam. Now and again, I wanted a little more resolution. Perhaps a slight increase in sensor size? I didn't care about the "crop is crap" argument. I just wanted a little more meat on the bones, but I was not prepared to drop all that cheddar for their medium format camera system.
But Austin, didn't you just switch to a Leica system? Don't get ahead of me, self.
As I mentioned, I dropped some serious dough on this tool and wasn't disappointed. The anxiety was a real thing, though. I'm better now. Thanks for asking. Again, I digress.
Though it was brief, I tested the M11 before I purchased it. My first impressions were that it felt good in the hands, solid weight in compact form. This camera type can go with you anywhere because it almost fits in your pocket - with a lens. (For those with more form-fitting fashion sense, you might want to carry a bag.) Anyway, I was instantly on board. It reminded me of the cameras I used as a child, except with a digital sensor and triple resolution. (rubs hands together) That resolution, though. (two chef's kisses).
Here's the thing: Does one need a beast of a camera like this to be a photographer or artist? No. I didn't need the camera - I wanted it. I had no idea how drastically it would change my work, though—the camera's simplicity. Shutter, aperture and ISO are where you would expect. No crazy menus to dive down as you hunt for crazy auto features you rarely use or don't even need. The camera is everything you need and nothing you don't. At least for me. Your mileage may vary. The beauty of being an artist is that it's not about the tools you use but the art you create. Or it's supposed to be. Inevitably, most of us go down the gear rabbit hole.
That resolution, though. And don't forget the beautiful glass. (sigh). This system works for me. It checks off so many boxes. Compact, resolution (did I mention that before?), color science, and the redonkulous massive pool of m-mount lenses in the market make this a match made in heaven. Using it makes me feel like I can create the work I imagine because I'm not concerned about my gear. There aren't any bells and whistles. It doesn't record video. Why would it? Why does a Leica M need to record video if form follows function? I want to use this camera to capture stills and do it well. There are better models and brands suited for that function. This manual wonder is the Cadillac of capture, but it's not for everyone. It is, however, for me.
The lack of extra features makes this appear, at first, as an overpriced and underqualified option when compared to most modern cameras. You won't be shooting any video with the M11. Why? Because you don't need to! It is just a tool. Understanding how to use a camera means you can use any camera. The rest is just menus, knobs, and buttons. The simplicity of the M11 forces me to be concerned less with what it can do and more with how I can capture it. I have to consider how an image is captured, any image, regardless of genre or subject. Somehow, doing so helps relieve some of the pressure to shoot well. All I'm concerned about are the basics - shutter, aperture, iso. There's literally nothing else to get in the way. Coincidently, I am becoming incredibly fast at manual focus.
But is it worth it to you? I don't know. Honestly, I don't care. Here's why - I'm not you. You have to figure out what works for you. Your mileage may vary. Ultimately, I don't care what camera shot what. I care about what is created. I do love to geek out on gear, though.
After using the Leica M11 for the last few months, I honestly need nothing else. It does what I need and fits my style of shooting. It feels like an extension of my arm and is easy to keep with me at all times. It inspires me to create and excites me while using it.
Who cares about labels? Grab your tools and start creating! (Yes, I know entirely how that sounds.)