Home Accessories Review: Arte di Mano half-case for Leica M11

Review: Arte di Mano half-case for Leica M11

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A sample of the Arte di Mano half-case for the Leica M11 has arrived at Macfilos Towers for evaluation. We have long been proponents of Sejun Kim’s craftsmanship and first impressions are that this case is exquisite and fully lives up to the company’s reputation.

Every variation of the historic Leica M creates a new headache for case makers. Bottom plates come and go, buttons move, screens get larger, bodies get fatter and slimmer, and framing the bits and pieces becomes a challenge.

The review case is in standard black leather with black stitching. Traditional and extremely handsome. Camera strap by Harry Benz of Toronto

Requirements

The new M11 is no exception and provided its own set of needs for case makers to follow. The M10 version of this case is fixed to the camera with the bottom plate removed, thus permitting access to the card and battery without the need to remove the case (and bottom plate).

Now, with the traditional bottom plate consigned to history, Sejun has adopted a completely new approach. The M11 case is available in three variations. One has a solid base with press-stud fixing above the lugs, necessitating case removal to access the camera bottom.

The second has one flap covering both battery door and USB-C port and is secured by a tripod-mount screw. Finally, the full-house version, as delivered, features a two-stage flap. The first section provides access to the USB-C port, while the larger flap opens for battery and SD-card access.

It seems to me that this arrangement is the most convenient and the one to go for. Increasingly, I am using in-camera charging (I have only one M11 battery and my backup is a cheap Amazon USB-C battery), so quick access to the port is essential.

Framing the controls

The second challenge is in framing the rear screen and controls. It’s a precise art since the slightest deviation can look ugly and immediately draws in the eye.

Complementing the curves and straight lines of the M11 back is no mean feat. But Arte di Mano’s crafts people have mastered the art

The supplied case is absolutely perfect in this respect. The leather frame alignment at the bottom of the screen is exemplary, as it should be, and the three bottoms and four-way pad are skirted in a professional manner.

Smooth curves, even stitching and protection for the edge of the leather: All combine to create a professional appearance

The edges of the leather are finished in a shiny coating which, as I know from previous experience, stands up well to wear.

Precision

Skirting the lens mount and release button, as well as the frame lever, requires equal precision and the perfect curves are a hallmark of Arte di Mano craftsmanship. I’ve seen some horrible attempts at alignment on other cases in the past.

There is a standard shallow finger grip built into the front of the case and I find this an asset in handling the camera. You wouldn’t call it a proper handgrip, of course, but the company can incorporate a deeper grip (the Avantino) as a $100 extra when ordering the case.

The deeper-profile Avantino grip (shown here on an M10-P case with press-stud fixing) can be specified for the M11 case at an additional cost of $100
The deeper-profile Avantino grip (shown here on an M10-P case with press-stud fixing) can be specified for the M11 case at an additional cost of $100

You pays your money and…

Arte di Mano cases come in a wide variety of colours, leather finishes and contrast stitching. I once ordered a black case with red stitching and promptly regretted the choice when it arrived. Since then, I’ve been of a more traditional frame of mind, choosing either an antique brown leather with brown stitching or, as in the case of this latest confection, standard black leather with black stitching.

This all-black approach works exceptionally well with the matte “black paint” finish of the camera. The term bee’s knees springs to mind as I gaze on the encased M11 sitting on my desk.

Apart from looking the part, the case demonstrates exceptional precision in fit and finish which is typical of Arte di Mano. It fits like the proverbial glove and all the cutouts, especially those for the strap lugs, are perfectly placed.

You should note that these cases feature a solid base for rigidity and this around 4mm to the height of the camera.

Enthusiast

Arte di Mano cases are among the best you can buy for Leica cameras. Sejun is both a Leica enthusiast and a perfectionist, so your case is in good hands. This is an expensive product, of course, but you don’t want to be squeezing your M11 into a mass-produced case from eBay, do you? If you do, read no further.

The good thing with Arte di Mano is that you have complete control over the design of your case. There are perhaps too many options, which can be confusing, but our demonstrator case is deliberately chosen as a logical companion for the M11. You can get creative (I was attracted by the bottle-green leather but chickened out at the last minute) but sometimes it’s better to go for simplicity.

The supplied case with Minerva leather and the Advanced Battery Door option (two-part opening for USB-C port and then the battery compartment) costs US$539 with a world-wide shipping fee of $41. The basic model, with press-stud fixing and no flaps, is available for $399, while the case with a simple battery door and tripod-screw fixing is $489.

Let the fancy take you. I was taken with this green case but eventually asked Sejun to make a totally vanilla black case with black stitching. Note that this case is the standard design with no bottom flap and is secured to the camera with two press-stud "ears" above the strap lugs
Let the fancy take you. I was taken with this green case but eventually asked Sejun to make a totally vanilla black case with black stitching. Note that this case is the standard design with no bottom flap and is secured to the camera with two press-stud “ears” above the strap lugs
A more traditional distressed leather cuts the mustard for many Leica fans. This case is secured to the camera by means of a tripod screw and incorporates the bottom flap for instant access to the battery compartment. Note the Summaron, the sign of a true enthusiast!
A more traditional distressed leather cuts the mustard for many Leica fans. This case is secured to the camera by means of a tripod screw and incorporates the bottom flap for instant access to the battery compartment. Note the Summaron, the sign of a true enthusiast!

When you make your choice of leather and trim you will need to pay for the case in full (ideally via PayPal) and it will then be made specifically to your requirements. I have been dealing with Arte di Mano for many years and in my experience the order, payment and delivery process is reliable. I have never experienced any problems.

Here is a link to the order page. You can also view all Leica cases here. The company also makes cases for Hasselblad, Fujifilm and some other marques (see the company website).

Arte di Mano cases aren’t cheap. But then neither is the M11. In relation to the cost of the camera, you could argue that one of these cases is a mere Corinthian bagatelle, a trifling accessory. You are convinced, aren’t you?

Questions

Are you fan of leather cases for your camera or do you prefer the naked metal? The half-case has been a valued accessory since the days of the Barnack Leica and it seems to complement the M format in particular.

Is it a fad, a fetish or a blessing? Let’s discuss. And let us have your recommendations for the best Leica cases on the market.

Read more Arte di Mano reviews here


15 COMMENTS

      • When it was first rumoured, I wrote an article comparing it to a shipping crate on the deck of a cargo ship. But I have partly changed my mind since then. The angular styling, I am sure, is deliberate and in an odd sort of way does complement the lines of the M11. The haptics are quite good, too. But I agree, I wouldn’t call it pretty.

  1. oh I have been tempted so many times and have hovered over the pay button but as yet have not succumbed… but you have made the worm turn once again ;-). Am I right in thinking import tax and VAT would be on top, thus making it a more difficult decision.
    All the best
    Des

    • That was my experience buying in UK, and a ‘admin fee’ of £25 to collect the taxes. Sejun tries to help by putting “Sample” on the Customs form and a lower figure, but there is still some charges if you are unlucky, like me,twice!

      • It’s a matter of pot luck. I once checked customs rates and leather goods from Korea have zero import duties. But there’s VAT to contend with abs, if you are unlucky, the agents handling fee.

  2. Beautiful cases they are, too beautiful for my use. I scuff up the cases and found the Leica cases to be improving from the days of the M9 with better materials and function. Alternatively Artisan and Artist makes cases that protect the sides with their over the strap attachment, easily slid off for access to battery and card. Oddly, I miss the bottom plate with the M11 and I’m sure I can adapt at my advancing age, difficult as it is proving to be. However, there’s a certain joy in disassembling the case, bottom plate, removing card, battery and reassembly. The fingerprints are then removed from all windows and the camera again sits gleaming and ready for use. I could go on but won’t, enjoy your encased camera, fine craftsmanship such as these two manufacturers provide is wonderful.

    • Thanks Daryl. It’s worth mentioning that this case can be ordered with press-stud “ears” that fix over the strap lug. I prefer the earless design, but as with everything it’s a matter of personal taste.

  3. I’ve had one of these cases on my M9M since 2016 and after thousands and thousands of photos I’m still waiting for it to loosen up so I don’t have to pry it off the camera. It’s incredibly difficult to remove. Great case which has held up astonishingly well, however.

    • Hi Ken, I purchased one of their cases for my M9 about 4 years ago. It has been a challenge to remove every time I have to change the battery. It has never loosened up but it is a gorgeous case.

      I have their case for multiple other cameras and they fit beautifully and are great for resale value.

      • Resale is a very important point which I didn’t emphasise in the article. They do hold their value exceedingly well.

        • That has been my experience. I should have said enhance and hold the value exceeding well.

          I always order the case before my camera arrives. My camera looks new when sold and the ergonomics of holding the camera are greatly improved. But wait there is more; the metal camera does not feel cold in chilly or cold weather. Plus I get a lot of my case value back on resale. Could not be happier.

          Actually, I would not need a therapist if I had focus lock.

      • Perhaps it’s just the M9 cases that are tight. I agree it’s a beautiful and well designed case. It’s even given my camera some patina where the case is super tight. A little character never hurt anyone 🙂

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