M11 Black Dot Conversion

Friday, 5 January 2024 12:30

Since July last year, I’ve been trying to get a replacement red dot for my M11. I have been meaning to remove the camer’s red dot to stain or paint it black, in order to homogonise the look of the camera to be more black. I’ve already filled in with black the engraved and white "Leica M11” lettering on the hot shoe. Now I wanted a black dot, but I wasn’t going to attempt this without an option to revert this to factory standard, hence the replacement dot.

Late december the red dot finally arrived. Of all things Leica, this item was cheaper than expected, so that was at least one positive outcome for the long wait. The red dot on the camera came off easily with a twist using two wooden toothpicks. The hardest part was removing the red paint, which took a while to dissolve in paint thinners and then scratch out the remaining bits between the fine lettering using bit or toothpicks and a toothbrush.

After removing the paint, I gave the steel dot a short bath in phosphoric acid (rust remover) which usually darkens and prepairs steel surfaces for paint. Then a quick wash in acetone and isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining acid and other contaminants. Now the surface was sufficiently prepaired, so the next step was a few coats of primer followed by some matt black spray paint. I chose matt finish paint in hopes it would be a better match with the M11’s matt surface finish than normal glossy paint. 

My first attempt at spray paint didn’t go too well. I sprayed from a litte too far (approx 40-50cm), and my three coats of primer didn’t fully coat the dot. This caused the black paint to be a little flaky on some of the sharper edges. A quick clean and a second attempt at painting did the trick. Three good coats of primer, and about four coats of black paint. Then a 30min dry in the oven at 90ºC. The only downside of so many coatings, and on top of that keeping the letter surface black, is that the font edges are a little less crisp than before. It's only really noticable at very close inspection.

I think the new black dot looks pretty good. I left the raised lettering black, as that suits the overall look of the camera better. I think any shiny silver lettering would be a little too bright and contrasty. It's amusing to read different forum threads regarding the intentions behind masking or blacking out the red dot. Discretion, stealth or reduced distraction are probably the largest motivators. I really doubt removing a small red dot on a camera makes it more discrete. Likewise, the red dot is not a distraction to a subject, nor a marker for theives to steal your camera. I think thieves already know the clearly obvious markers of a Leica camera that a black dot will in no shape or form conceal.

Its a real easy thing to do. The red dot is held in place with thin double-sided tape, and is easily twisted off with soft tools like two toothpicks. Even if it’s just to adjust the rangefinder vertical alignment, the dot is easily removed and replaced. One would need to remove the old tape from behind the dot and cut out a new dot. Not too hard and easily a DIY job. Here is a pic of the rangefinder adjuster for the vertical alignment.