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Leica M11 Lens Detection: Uncoded Lenses Hang Camera if Lens Detection = Off. Also Permanently Damages Raw Files

I’m loving the image quality and sharpness I’m getting with the Leica M11. But fantastic image quality has a bitter overtone what with sloppy firmware bugs, which are not just a hassle, but actively DAMAGING my captures.

How to make the M11 hang upon startup, forever, until you swap on a coded lens?

It’s unbelievable that Leica can ship this defective firmware to customers. Actually, that’s not true: it’s very believable, perhaps even probable and predictable, because my Leica M240 took two years to gain stability.

Leica M11: Lens Detection, Hangs Camera, Makes Uncoded Lenses Unusable

I am sure that someone out there is going to write and say “works for me”. To that person I say: “how do you think I shot this series?”. Because it worked for me the first time too, until the M11 brain-farted—and stayed that way. I think I have the steps noted to reproduce it in Bug #3 on the page above.

I can no longer use the Voigtlander M 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar (an uncoded lens) without being forced to use a lens coding, because the M11 will hang after power-on 100% of the time—no menus, no shutter, no Live View, just a “dead” camera that will not operate in any way. Until I mount a coded lens and then go through the steps I detail, no number of power off/on cycles will unbrick it for use with an uncoded lens.

I also verified that the same problem exists with another uncoded lens (Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon). What a disaster for anyone using uncoded lenses. An untested science fair project.

The Leica M11 delivers delightful performance far beyond prior M cameras. What a shame that it cannot get the basics right.

CLICK TO VIEW: Leica M11 and Best Lenses

And it gets stupider...

The most brain dead thing of all is that the Leica M11 (and Leica M10-R/M) will not even list lens codes for any lens except older ones that originally shipped without a 6-bit code. So you cannot for example manually choose “Leica 50/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH” for the Voigtlander 50/2 APO-Lanthar. It’s almost as if Leica prefers to make it difficult for their customers to use their cameras with anything but Leica-brand lenses?

Thus the only way to code a Voigtlander M 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar as a Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH is to physically modify the lens to have the 6-bit code for the Leica 50/2 APO. I tried the Match Technical Coder Kit, and the M11 failed to recognize it, possibly because of the wrong marker density and reflectance (?). I would not want to swap out the lens flange to try to make it work, which is how one user has done it.

WAIT—it gets EVEN STUPIDER and DAMAGING TOO

I’ve added a 3rd bug to the page above: when an uncoded lens is set to use a specific lens coding, the M11 forgets that coding every time the camera is turned off and back on, choosing some other profileguaranteeing permanent and irrevocable alteration to your raw file files every time you forget turn the camera on and forget to reset the lens profile. Can you remember every time 100 times in a row? Even if you can, it makes using the camera a chore.

Since I turn the camera off/on constantly to save battery power, this is an ongoing train-wreck, with no solution. About 90% of my Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 images were altered permanently in this way, by being coded for a Leica 50mm f/2. Just because I powered the camera off and back on again.

Reader comments

Roy P writes:

Jeeze. Leica is strangely tone deaf and clueless as to what is happening outside its own echo chambers. It’s amazing they can put out a camera without such basic testing, considering they have a lot of their own legacy lenses without the 6-bit coding. It looks like the guy who was making after-market 6-big coding kits for M mount lenses hung up his shingle too soon. He should restart his business and double his prices – I think there’s a market for it.

I had all kinds of problems using a Sony SD tough card on my Leica M10 Monochrom, which seemed like a shutter release button problem, so my camera got sent to New Jersey… twice to get it “fixed”, and I still had the problem, which is when I realized it had to do with my memory card! The camera apparently worked just fine, except that the shutter release button wouldn’t work. My camera was away for 3 months in total, because they were too dumb to simply put out a message like “Card error – unable to write”. Even that would have been a problem, since the card works just fine in other cameras, including the Leica SL2. Very frustrating.

DIGLLOYD: I was a software engineer for 30 years. Done right, you have unit tests and manual tests (“do 1/2/3...), etc. And like making sausage, you come to see how the sloppy crowd (most) do their jobs: they skip testing by and large.

And Roy P continues:

Common sense says Leica should have one 6-bit code (e.g., all white / 111111 or all black / 000000) for “Do nothing”. With 6 bits, they can only have a max of 64 M lenses, which itself makes no sense.

Even better, they can hugely expand the universe of these codes. I don’t know what they use inside the camera to see these bits, but they are really fat bits. Surely, the bit-reader inside the camera could be made more sensitive than reading bits that are like 1/8th of an inch thick. Leica should put a bit-reader in the camera that’s 2x more sensitive than the current bit-reader that would instantly make it a 12-bit space that would expand the current universe of 64 different lens codes to 4096 different lens codes. It would be trivial to deal with the current lenses that already have the coarse codes painted on them – just read each bit as a double bit, i.e., a 1 is read as a 11, and a zero is read as a 00

And if Leica could improve the bit-reader sensitivity by 3x, which should NOT be hard to do, they could create an 18-bit space, which would support 256,000+ different lens codes. So Leica could license a bank of numbers to each lens manufacturer, so CV would have its own budget of say, 4096 different lenses and they could use them to encode their own lenses with not just a number to represent a lens, but different exact versions of that lens, so precise profile can be captured.

But it starts with a bad presumption: Common sense!

DIGLLOYD: yep. But Leica is not in the business of supporting anything other than their own lenses—foolish given that ecosystem support sells more gear for all.

Eeraj Q writes:

Eagerly awaiting further results from your M11 testing. VM 50 APO seems like a no brainer based on your tests. My own experience with this lens, though not on M11, suggests the same - it is a jewel at an unbelievable price

Would like to see how the Zeiss ZM 35 F1.4 fares if you still have that lens. It seems the best lenses for M mount are from Voigtlander and Zeiss. As an aside, I bought the ZM 34 F1.4 based on your tests years ago. It is now my "never sell this" lens - hard to fault this lens.

Anyone considering "investing" in Leica (if it can be called an investment) would do well to read your in-depth tests in your Leica section. To date, I have not seen anyone else show the nuances of lens behavior like focus shift, optimal focus placement and other considerations to extract the most out of the optics.

Contrary to the popular opinion on some forums that "Lloyd is a Leica hater", I find your observations objective and backed by data and imagery. Can't say the same of other arm-chair "reviewers".

DIGLLOYD: most of my top picks for Leica M are not Leica-brand lenses, the exception being the very difficult-to-find new Leica 35mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH.

Lieu H writes:

I read your blog post and I have the exact same issue with 3rd party lenses. I just update my M11 FW when I switch back on it gave me black screen, I thought I screw up the update, turn out it was the lens detection hang my entire camera, not a single button response unless I do trick take lens out and put it in again right away, the camera shutter release and I able to access menu.

I test other 3rd party lens and non 6 bit coding Leica lens, most of them have issue when lens detection turn off which is annoying, the only weird thing is my 35mm 2.8 Summaron Goggle work fine, the M11 turn on and work entire time with lens detection off, which is weird, most of my 50mm without 6 bit coding 90% won't turn on.

DIGLLOYD: I like responsive companies that quickly fix bad bugs. What the hell is Leica doing? Has Leica even bothered to acknowledge the bug?

Not in stock at B&H? Voigtlander VM 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar Aspherical @AMAZON


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