Leica’s much anticipated and much leaked M11 should be released today. It combines a traditional shape and build with innovative tech and high-resolution. Philippe and Pascal ask: Why?
The Leica M 11 : continuity, renewal or batrayal ?
No camera in the history of photography is more iconic -some say more important- than the Leica M series. So when Leica see fit to release a new version, it matters. For it to be released just one week after the chairman of Canon announced that the company would no longer develop DSLRs, even though it leads the world in this camera category, speaks volumes.
This leads me to a question:
The Leica M11 is therefore very much the photographic version of the Porsche 911. Lasting well beyond its years. Always new and always the same. Extolling virtues that are more than skin deep. Exhilarating beyond what lap times indicate. Succeeding despite its flying in the face of fashion. Appealing to a narrow, wealthy segment of people that value difference over conformance, and for whom the passage of time is merely an inconvenience.
For all these reasons, it is sooo good that there is a new-and-bright M. That camera, at least, has a soul. Or, in proper German, a Gestalt !
It feels strangely good to be talking about gear again. Jumping off the systematic-review wagon allows me to focus on momentous events and products that speak to me. The M11 launch appears to be one such occasion.
Philippe broke the news of it to me only yesterday as we discussed the future of my ageing X1D.
There aren’t that many potential successors to what I personally consider to be the best camera ever to stay with me. In fact, the start of the discussion was that I could see none at all.
Philippe then dropped the L word, which I’d considered, but rejected because of a pesky medieval torture instrument called a rangefinder. Philippe then dropped two words: Visoflex bolt-on EVF and large rear-screen live view. Okay, impressive, but I’d like a little bit more res than 24Mp. Philippe then dropped 60 000 000 words: pixel. The ping-pong game continued for some time: fiddly base plate (sorry, fans)? Gone. More digital, so more buttons? Nope, possibly the opposite. Silent shutter? Yup.
Dang! What stirs in Wetzlar?
On top of great colour science, native DNG (worthy of a Peace Nobel Prize), confidence-inspiring build quality, and drool-pool glass collections, all of this might go some way towards hiding the mind-bending asking price. Thinking cap on.
Coz there’s lots to think about.
In a less quantitative culture, Hasselblad wouldn’t be in financial danger. More photographers would recognize what an extraordinary bargain the pocket view camera X1-D really is compared to barely cheaper mainstream stuff you replace every 18 months, and I wouldn’t be worrying about the long-term security of my heavy 5-lens 1-body investment in the brand.
But in this social-media fed, one-dimensional quanti world(*) where more is synonymous with better, the thought that you must wait 4 seconds for it to boot up (gosh, what if that mountain runs away or my babies grow old before it’s done), and put up with its lowly realistic max ISO of 3200 and 50M pixels largely overpowers the fact that, in real life, I can hand hold the beast to 5/f speeds (or better on sober days) then blow the file to 60 inches with colours and tone subtlety that all but a carpenter’s handful of models can even dream of matching.
(*) Want an illustration of this? My SEO tool just had a hissy fit because the above sentence is too long. Ugh 😉 😉 😉
So Hassy is surviving on chinese phone camera lenses like Voldemort on unicorn blood and I’m worrying about what happens when beloved steed finally boots the scuttle. Vorsprung roter punkt to the rescue? Oh Dang again!
There’s no chance whatsoever Leica will send us one for review. Partly because I’m too lazy to ask, partly because, in this quanti world, DS is but a fly on their PR’s windscreen. Shame, I can’t help feelling I’d honour it far more than most. It would not be flavour of the week for me.
A leaked promotional video gives fascinating clues about the strategy set out to conquer new users (sorry old timers) and shooting situations without losing the Leica soul. Very exciting.
Whatever the reviews find out about this potentially epoch-making camera (quanti abundance, with no quali compromise!!), I am super pumped that it’s arriving on the market (that’s me practicing my youtuber lingo, super pumped.) While eleven is a tough word to say without laughing, ya coo, I can tell you with a straight face that the M11 is a camera I am seriously looking forward to.
There are three ways of dealing with modernity, its benefits and its shortcomings : (1) ignore (2) follow blindly (3) let your DNA direct your evolution, in order to bring something noteworthy with you. The M11 gives me the distinct feeling Leica is jumping from 1 to 3 without getting remotely close to 2. Kudos Wetzlar.
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